When the hour for the trial arrived Gwen insisted on accompanying us to the court-room. She had a great deal of confidence in George and felt sure that, as he expressed a strong doubt of the prisoner’s guilt, he would triumph in proving him innocent. She determined, therefore, to be present at the trial, even before her attendance should be required as a witness.
M. Latour, when he was led into the prisoner’s box, seemed to have aged greatly during his incarceration. It was with a marked effort that he arose and straightened himself up as the indictment was read to him. When the words: “Are you guilty or not guilty?” were addressed to him every eye was turned upon him and every ear listened to catch the first sound of his voice, but no sound came. The question was repeated more loudly, “Are you guilty or not guilty?” Like one suddenly awakened from a reverie M. Latour started, turned toward his questioner, and in a full, firm voice replied: “Guilty!” I was so dumfounded that I could offer Gwen no word of comfort to alleviate this sudden shock. Maitland and Godin seemed about the only ones in the court-room who were not taken off their feet, so to speak, by this unexpected plea, and George was at Gwen’s side in a moment and whispered something to her which I could not hear, but which I could see had a very beneficial effect upon her. We had all expected a long, complicated trial, and here the whole matter was reduced to a mere formality by M. Latour’s simple confession, “Guilty!” Is it any wonder, therefore, that we were taken aback?
While we were recovering from our surprise at this sudden turn of affairs, Maitland was engaged in private conversation with the Judge, with whom, he afterward told me, he had become well acquainted both in his own cases and in those of other lawyers requiring his services as an expert chemist. He never told me what passed between them, nor the substance of any of the brief interviews which followed with the prosecuting attorney, his associate counsel, and other legal functionaries. All I know is that when the case was resumed M. Latour’s senior counsel, Jenkins, kept carefully in the background, leaving the practical conduct of the case in Maitland’s hands.