Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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PANEL I

In answer to that piece of paper, I presented myself at the proper place in due course and with a certain trepidation.  What was it that I was about to do?  For I had no experience of these things.  And, being too early, I walked a little to and fro, looking at all those my partners in this matter of the purification of Society.  Prosecutors, witnesses, officials, policemen, detectives, undetected, pressmen, barristers, loafers, clerks, cadgers, jurymen.  And I remember having something of the feeling that one has when one looks into a sink without holding one’s nose.  There was such uneasy hurry, so strange a disenchanted look, a sort of spiritual dirt, about all that place, and there were—­faces!  And I thought:  To them my face must seem as their faces seem to me!

Soon I was taken with my accomplices to have my name called, and to be sworn.  I do not remember much about that process, too occupied with wondering what these companions of mine were like; but presently we all came to a long room with a long table, where nineteen lists of indictments and nineteen pieces of blotting paper were set alongside nineteen pens.  We did not, I recollect, speak much to one another, but sat down, and studied those nineteen lists.  We had eighty-seven cases on which to pronounce whether the bill was true or no; and the clerk assured us we should get through them in two days at most.  Over the top of these indictments I regarded my eighteen fellows.  There was in me a hunger of inquiry, as to what they thought about this business; and a sort of sorrowful affection for them, as if we were all a ship’s company bound on some strange and awkward expedition.  I wondered, till I thought my wonder must be coming through my eyes, whether they had the same curious sensation that I was feeling, of doing something illegitimate, which I had not been born to do, together with a sense of self-importance, a sort of unholy interest in thus dealing with the lives of my fellow men.  And slowly, watching them, I came to the conclusion that I need not wonder.  All with the exception perhaps of two, a painter and a Jew looked such good citizens.  I became gradually sure that they were not troubled with the lap and wash of speculation; unclogged by any devastating sense of unity; pure of doubt, and undefiled by an uneasy conscience.

But now they began to bring us in the evidence.  They brought it quickly.  And at first we looked at it, whatever it was, with a sort of solemn excitement.  Were we not arbiters of men’s fates, purifiers of Society, more important by far than Judge or Common Jury?  For if we did not bring in a true bill there was an end; the accused would be discharged.

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