At last the real trial began. Carton had been careful to see that none of the witnesses for the people should be “stiffened” as the process was elegantly expressed by those of Dopey Jack’s class—in other words, intimidated, bribed, or otherwise rendered innocuous. One after another, Carton rammed home the facts of the case, the fraudulent registration and voting, the use of the names of dead men to pad the polling lists, the bribery of election officials at the primaries—the whole sordid, debasing story of how Dopey Jack had intimidated and swung one entire district.
It was clever, as he presented it, with scarcely a reference to the name of Murtha, the beneficiary of such tactics—as though, perhaps, Murtha’s case was in his mind separate and would be attended to later when his turn came.
Rapidly, concisely, convincingly, Carton presented the facts. Now and then Kahn would rise to object to something as incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial. But there was lacking something in his method. It was not the old Kahn. In fact, one almost felt that Carton was disappointed in his adversary, that he would have preferred a stiff, straight from the shoulder, stand-up fight.
Now and then we could hear a whisper circulating about among the spectators. What was the matter with Kahn? Was he ill? Gangdom was in a daze itself, little knowing the smooth stone that Carton had slung between the eyes of the great underworld Goliath of the law.
At last Carton’s case was all in, and Kahn rose to present his own, a forced smile on his face.
There was an attempt at a demonstration, but Judge Pomeroy rapped sharply for order, and alert court attendants were about to nip effectively any such outburst. Still, it was enough to show the undercurrent of open defiance of the court, of law, of the people.
What it was no one but ourselves knew but Kahn was not himself. Others saw it, but did not understand. They had waited patiently through the sledge-hammer pounding of Carton, waiting expectantly for Kahn to explode a mine that would demolish the work of the District Attorney as if it had been so much paper. Carton had figuratively dampened the fuse. It sputtered, but the mine did not explode.
Once or twice there were flashes of the old Kahn, but for the most part he seemed to have crumpled up. Often I thought he was not the equal of even a police court lawyer. The spectators seemed to know that something was wrong, though they could not tell just what it was. Kahn’s colleagues whispered among themselves. He made his points, but they lacked the fire and dash and audacity that once had caused the epigram that Kahn’s appearance in court indicated two things—the guilt of the accused and a verdict of acquittal.
Even Justice Pomeroy seemed to notice it. Kahn had tried many a case before him and the old judge had a wholesome respect for the wiley lawyer. But to-day the court found nothing so grave as the strange dilatoriness of the counsel.