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The Old Man in the Corner

XXVI. A Sensation
"I can assure you that the situation was quite dramatic," continued the man in the corner,
whilst his funny, claw-like hands took up a bit of string with renewed feverishness.
"In answer to further questions from the magistrate, she declared that she had never seen
the accused; he might have been the go-between, however, that she could not say. The
letters she received were all typewritten, but signed 'Armand de la Tremouille,' and
certainly the signature was identical with that on the letters she used to receive from him
years ago, all of which she had kept.
"'And did it _never_ strike you,' asked the magistrate with a smile, 'that the letters you
received might be forgeries?'
"'How could they be?' she replied decisively; no one knew of my marriage to the Comte
de la Tremouille, no one in England certainly. And, besides, if some one did know the
Comte intimately enough to forge his handwriting and to blackmail me, why should that
some one have waited all these years? I have been married seven years, your Honour.'
"That was true enough, and there the matter rested as far as she was concerned. But the
identity of Mr. Francis Morton's assailant had to be finally established, of course, before
the prisoner was committed for trial. Dr. Mellish promised that Mr. Morton would be
allowed to come to court for half an hour and identify the accused on the following day,
and the case was adjourned until then. The accused was led away between two
constables, bail being refused, and Brighton had perforce to moderate its impatience until
the Wednesday.
"On that day the court was crowded to overflowing; actors, playwrights, literary men of
all sorts had fought for admission to study for themselves the various phases and faces in
connection with the case. Mrs. Morton was not present when the prisoner, quiet and self-
possessed, was brought in and placed in the dock. His solicitor was with him, and a
sensational defence was expected.
"Presently there was a stir in the court, and that certain sound, half rustle, half sigh, which
preludes an expected palpitating event. Mr. Morton, pale, thin, wearing yet in his hollow
eyes the stamp of those five days of suffering, walked into court leaning on the arm of his
doctor--Mrs. Morton was not with him.
"He was at once accommodated with a chair in the witness-box, and the magistrate, after
a few words of kindly sympathy, asked him if he had anything to add to his written
statement. On Mr. Morton replying in the negative, the magistrate added:
"'And now, Mr. Morton, will you kindly look at the accused in the dock and tell me
whether you recognize the person who took you to the room in Russell House and then
assaulted you?'
 
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