|Chapter Title||Fiat Justicia Ruat Coelum.|
|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)|
|Trove Title||From Convict to Countess|
CHAPTER. IV. ,
"Fiat Justicia Huât Coelum." . J
The charge brought by the Countess against Alma was heard at the Petty Sessions, the evidence of Johnston, Bnrton, nnd Armstrong, as to the find- ing of tlie lost property in tho possession bf the accused was clear and unanimous, and the Magistrates, ?with many shakes of their wise heads; committed tho governess for trial a fortnight later on. Tho unfortunate girl made no defence, indeed tho shock had effected her brain. ? She heard indeed what was said-hut did not follow tho menning, sho repented over and over again.
" You. are a thief ; Officer, arrest that girl." Nb one came to seo her, for she had no friends at hnnd ; her clergyman at Budleigh had gone for a month's holiday, and would not be back until after her trial.
Half. of the fortnight had passed away, when a' visitor called to see hpr ¡ he proved to bo a broken-down solicitor touting.for a case. He in- duced Alma to employ him in her defence-after he had ascertained that a quarter's salary was duo to her. And he got Alma to sign an order upon tho Countess for tho payment of tho amount to him, promising to expend it carefully, and to pay the balance to her when she was acquitted.
"You. see," .Miss Groy, " it is essential that your solicitor should havo your confidence ; tell mo, there- fore, all you can as to your relations, commercial, friendly, or social, with tho liudleighs ?"
Alma reflected as well na her dulled faculties would permit her that tho family compact was broken by tho action of the Countess, and that her duty to her own character, and to Eric, justified her in revealing ; lier engagement, so she replied :
" I was employed ns a governess I was ongaged to tho Earl.' ' We were to hare been married in two years
"Can this be proved," said the solicitor, " it would remove prejudice and destroy all motive for such, a ciïmo !'' . - '.'.'
" I do not know," said Alma. .
" Who could prove your engage-
"Only tho prosecutor; the Earl
is abroad." . ?
" But from tho look of the enso the
Countess would be more likely to dis- prove than provo it." After n moment ho asked : " The Earl is abroad," you say. "1 supposé, ' then, you barb hud letters from him."
" Yes, I have had two." " Whore are they ?" " In my trunk." "Whore is it?"
" I do not know."
" It does not matter, I can find out. j I will go now, foi- I must get those ' letters, but I will seo you to-morrow." j
Ho como back noxt day vory crest- fallen. : " I collected the amount duo to you. With extreme diiliculty I obtained an - interview with tho Countess. When I- sounded her about
your engagement Bho had mo shown out. : But a worse thing still is timi your letters from the Earl have dis- appeared. It seems that when John ' sion had taken you into custody, aud was just nbout to start with you from tho Castle, that a footman brought your luggage to tho carriage,. and it wns sent on here, and is now in chnrgo of tho warder--but it contains no letters. If tho Countess will not prove tho engagement, and I do not think you will get any help from that quarter, and the letters are not forth- coming, then your defence will be weak. Still, I may' recover thom
"before tho trial."
But ho did not.
In stupified misery. Alma passed the days remaining before her trial. In duo courso the case wus called on, and a turnkey conducted Alma' through vai'ious corridors to the- court and placed her in the dock.
Tho crowded court seemed to move liko a kaleidoscope boforo her sight, as it dazzled hor byes accustomed to tho grey light of tho cell. Beforo she lind quito collected herself tho jury was empanelled and sworn in-then she heard tho cold, unimpassioned voico of tho judge addressing her.
" Baise your veil, prisoner."
She did so, nnd a buzz of admiration ran round tho court as'the palo and lovely face of Alma became visible to tho eyes of tho spectators.
<?" How will you bo tried, prisoner ?"
"By God and my country," she replied.
" How do yon plead ?" , " Not guilty, my lord."
" Proceed," said the judge,
. Tho "counsel for tho prosecution
arose, and it soon "became evident that he would press for a conviction.
"I snail not," he. said, " seek long to occupy the time of tho court. I shall deal as briefly with tho facts of tho case as possible. The prisoner at the bar, my lord and gentlemen of the jory, was employed by the: Dowager Countess o£ Budleigh as^ governess to her two daughters. Tri process of time articles of considerable vnluo have been missed by the Coun- tess, and a watch was set without success. Finally the police were called, in, with the result that a part of the> lost property, namely, a diamond bracelet and a valuable piece of lace,, was recovered by them, concealed in the prisonex-'s luggage among her clothing.. Tho Countess identified her property on tho spot, and ,the prisoner was. arrested at her direction by Inspector Johnston. I will now proceed to> establish my case by calliug ruy witnessos."
" Call Inspector Johnston."
That officer took his place in thc witness box, and was duly sworn. He? deposed that his. ijamo; was Chnrles Johuston, Inspector o£ Police, and thnt. iu consequence of information received, he proceeded to' Budleigh Court,, accompanied by Constables Burton and Armstrong, on the afternoon of May 80th. And that after tho. gover- ness, Alma Grey, had identified a. certain trunk as her property, it wns scarchod' by Constable Burton, anet tho stolen goods now produced were found. Ho charged , her with the "crime, . and. arrested her after giving-., berthe usual caution. The "prisoner* inndo no statement, as shc.immediatoly fainted. . ;
, This evidence was corroborated by Barton and Armstrong, and cross^ examination failed to shako their evidence br throw any new light upon
Duke Yonge, tho prisoner's counsel,, rose for tho defence. He tried to 1 make tho best of a weak case. He*
dwelt for somo time . on Alma's, parentage and attainments. " It iss monstrous to assume, gentlemen, that; a Indy of Miss Grey's position, who lins enjoyed tho confidence and friend- ship of people in tho highest society,, one whoso principles and clmiacter liavo been abovo suspicion, should have boen guilty of the urime laid to- iler charge; ' If property lins bceu found concealed in her clothing-while?' wo admit this circumstance, tho prisoner solemnly denies all knowledge of how or where it had been so placed,,
and she has desired mo to state that
she protests her innocence beforó God.
- ; " I must say," gontlemon, " thatthet careless, conduct of .the police in con- nection with this enso ' deserves the>" strongest censure, for two letters, belonging to Miss Grey, letters which, were known to have boon placed in> tho trunk of my client only tho night bofore, letters, .written to her hythe Earl- of Budleigh; who is at the present, time now absent from England, and. which are 'vitally important to her defenco, have disappeared, and ina spite of :the most, strenous efforts to trace , them, they cannot be found p these have apparently been lost since? my client's property ' come into tho bauds of tho police. Tho chief witness, for tho defence is unfortunately nbroad,. and' the remaining witness is the prosecutor herself, who is hostile and probably prejudiced against my client.. I um convinced, gentlemen, ho said in. conclusion, that the stolen property wns placed in tho trunk belonging to» Miss Groy by some hostile or envious; person, who desired for thoir , own.« ends or aims to ruin my beautiful and. unfortunate client, >and who wished', to cast her ont of all society, andi
render hov unfit for intercourse or
friendship with honourable men, and1., it has boen, dono by persons whom I', am not in a position to name."
" Call the Dowager Countess, ot Budleigh." ' .
To be continued in Saturday s issue..