Mrs. Sprowl had been summoned, and appeared in all the magnificence of accumulated rings, bracelets, necklaces, and watch-chains. Helter hoped to make good use of her.
“Did you on a certain occasion go to the person in whose employ the prisoner was, and, by means of certain representations with regard to the prisoner’s antecedents, become the cause of her dismissal?”
“I did. I told all I knew about her, and I consider I’d a right to do so.”
Mrs. Sprowl was not to be robbed of her self-assurance by any array of judicial dignity.
“What led you to do this?”
“A good enough one, I think. She’d been imposed on Mr. Casti and his wife as a respectable character, and she was causing trouble between them. She had to be got rid of somehow, and this was one step to it.”
“Was Mrs. Casti aware of your intention to take this step?”
“No, she wasn’t.”
“But you told her when you had done it?”
“Yes, I did.”
The frankness of all this had its effect, of course. The case was attracting much interest in court, and the public seats were quite full. Mrs. Sprowl looked round in evident enjoyment of her position. There was a slight pause, and then the examination continued.
“Of what nature was the trouble you speak of, caused by the prisoner between this lady and her husband?”
“Mr. Casti began to pay a good deal too much attention to her.”
There was a sound of whispers and a murmuring.
“Did Mrs. Casti impart to you her suspicions of the prisoner as soon as she missed the first of these articles alleged to be stolen?”
“Yes, she did.”
“And did you give any advice as to how she should proceed?”
“I told her to be on the look-out.”
“No doubt you laid stress on the advantage, from a domestic point of view, of securing this prisoner’s detection?”
“Certainly I did, and I hoped and prayed as she might caught!”
Mrs. Sprowl was very shortly allowed to retire. For the defence there was but one witness, and that was the laundress who had employed Ida. Personal fault with Ida she had one at all to find; the sole cause of her dismissal was the information given by Mrs. Sprowl. Perhaps she had acted hastily and unkindly, but she had young girls working in the laundry, and it behoved her to be careful of them.
Julian’s part in the trial had been limited to an examination as to his knowledge of Ida’s alleged thefts. He declared that he knew nothing save from his wife’s statements to him. He had observed nothing in the least suspicious.
A verdict was returned of “Guilty.”
Had the prisoner anything to say? Nothing whatever. There was a pause, a longer pause than seemed necessary. Then, without remark, she was sentenced to be imprisoned for six months with hard labour.
Waymark had been drawn to the court in spite of himself. Strangely quiet hitherto, a fear fell upon him the night be fore the trial. From an early hour in the morning he walked about the streets, circling ever nearer to the hateful place. All at once he found himself facing Mr. Woodstock. The old man’s face was darkly anxious, and he could not change its expression quickly enough.