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No Defense, Volume 1_ By Gilbert Parker Characters: 8537

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

In vain Dyck's lawyer, Will McCormick, urged him to deny absolutely the killing of Erris Boyne. Dyck would not do so. He had, however, immediately on being jailed, written to the government, telling of the projected invasion of Ireland by the French fleet, and saying that it had come to him from a sure source. The government had at once taken action.

Regarding the death of Boyne, the only thing in his favour was that his own sword-point was free from stain. His lawyer made the utmost of this, but to no avail. The impression in the court was that both men had been drinking; that they had quarrelled, and that without a duel being fought Dyck had killed his enemy.

That there had been no duel was clear from the fact that Erris Boyne's sword was undrawn. The charge, however, on the instigation of the Attorney-General, who was grateful for the information about France, had been changed from murder to manslaughter; though it seemed clear that Boyne had been ruthlessly killed by a man whom he had befriended.

On one of the days of the trial, Dyck's father, bowed, morose, and obstinate, came to see him. That Dyck and Boyne had quarrelled had been stated in evidence by the landlord, Swinton, and Dyck had admitted it. Miles Calhoun was bent upon finding what the story of the quarrel was; for his own lawyer had told him that Dyck's refusal to give the cause of the dispute would affect the jury adversely, and might bring him imprisonment for life. After the formalities of their meeting, Miles Calhoun said:

"My son, things are black, but they're not so black they can't be brightened. If you killed Erris Boyne, he deserved it. He was a bad man, as the world knows. That isn't the point. Now, there's only one kind of quarrel that warrants non-disclosure."

"You mean about a woman?" remarked Dyck coldly.

The old man took a pinch of snuff nervously. "That's what I mean. Boyne was older than you, and perhaps you cut him out with a woman."

A wry smile wrinkled the corners of Dyck's mouth. "You mean his wife?" he asked with irony. "Wife-no!" retorted the old man. "Damn it, no! He wasn't the man to remain true to his wife."

"So I understand," remarked Dyck; "but I don't know his wife. I never saw her, except at the trial, and I was so sorry for her I ceased to be sorry for my self. She had a beautiful, strange, isolated face."

"But that wouldn't influence Boyne," was the reply. "His first wife had a beautiful and interesting face, but it didn't hold him. He went marauding elsewhere, and she divorced him by act of parliament. I don't think you knew it, but his first wife was one of your acquaintances- Mrs. Llyn, whose daughter you saw just before we left Playmore. He wasn't particular where he made love-a barmaid or a housekeeper, it was all the same to him."

"I hope the daughter doesn't know that Erris Boyne was her father," said


"There's plenty can tell her, and she'll hear it sooner or later."

Miles Calhoun looked at his son with dejection.

His eyes wandered over the grimly furnished cell. His nose smelled the damp of it, and suddenly the whole soul of him burst forth.

"You don't give yourself a chance of escape, Dyck You know what Irish juries are. Why don't you tell the truth about the quarrel? What's the good of keeping your mouth shut, when there's many that would profit by your telling it?"

"Who would profit?" asked Dyck.

"Who would profit!" snarled the old man. "Well, you would profit first, for it might break the dark chain of circumstantial evidence. Also, your father would profit. I'd be saved shame, perhaps; I'd get relief from this disgrace. Oh, man, think of others beside yourself!

"Think of others!" said Dyck, and a queer smile lighted his haggard face. "I'd save myself if I honourably could."

"The law must prove you guilty," the old man went on. "It's not for you to prove yourself innocent. They haven't proved you guilty yet."

The old man fumbled with a waistcoat button. His eyes blinked hard.

"You don't see," he continued, "the one thing that's plain to my eyes, and it's this-that your only chance of escape is to tell the truth about the quarrel. If the truth were told, whatever it is, I believe it would be to your credit-I'll sa

y that for you. If it was to your credit, even if they believe you guilty of killing Erris Boyne, they'd touch you lightly. Ah, in the name of the mother you loved, I ask you to tell the truth about that quarrel! Give it into the hands of the jury, and let them decide. Haven't you got a heart in you? In the name of God-"

"Don't speak to me like that," interrupted Dyck, with emotion. "I've thought of all those things. I hold my peace because-because I hold my peace. To speak would be to hurt some one I love with all my soul."

"And you won't speak to save me-your father-because you don't love me with all your soul! Is that it?" asked Miles Calhoun.

"It's different-it's different."

"Ah, it's a woman!"

"Never mind what it is. I will not tell. There are things more shameful than death."

"Yes," snarled the other. "Rather than save yourself, you bring dishonour upon him who gave you birth."

Dyck's face was submerged in colour.

"Father," said he, "on my honour I wouldn't hurt you if I could help it, but I'll not tell the world of the quarrel between that man and myself. My silence may hurt you, but some one else would be hurt far more if I told."

"By God, I think you're some mad dreamer slipped out of the ancient fold! Do you know where you are? You're in jail. If you're found guilty, you'll be sent to prison at least for the years that'll spoil the making of your life; and you do it because you think you'll spare somebody. Well, I ask you to spare me. I don't want the man that's going to inherit my name, when my time comes, to bring foulness on it. We've been a rough race, we Calhouns; we've done mad, bad things, perhaps, but none has shamed us before the world-none but you."

"I have never shamed you, Miles Calhoun," replied his son sharply. "As the ancients said, 'alis volat propriis'-I will fly with my own wings. Come weal, come woe, come dark, come light, I have fixed my mind, and nothing shall change it. You loved my mother better than the rest of the world. You would have thought it no shame to have said so to your own father. Well, I say it to you-I'll stand by what my conscience and my soul have dictated to me. You call me a dreamer. Let it be so. I'm Irish; I'm a Celt. I've drunk deep of all that Ireland means. All that's behind me is my own, back to the shadowy kings of Ireland, who lost life and gave it because they believed in what they did. So will I. If I'm to walk the hills no more on the estate where you are master, let it be so. I have no fear; I want no favour. If it is to be prison, then it shall be prison. If it is to be shame, then let it be shame. These are days when men must suffer if they make mistakes. Well, I will suffer, fearlessly if helplessly, but I will not break the oath which I have taken. And so I will not do it-never-never-never!"

He picked up the cloak which the old man had dropped on the floor, and handed it to him.

"There is no good in staying longer. I must go into court again to-morrow. I have to think how my lawyer shall answer the evidence given."

"But of one thing have you thought?" asked his father. "You will not tell the cause of the quarrel, for the reason that you might hurt somebody. If you don't tell the cause, and you are condemned, won't that hurt somebody even more?"

For a moment Dyck stood silent, absorbed. His face looked pinched, his whole appearance shrivelled. Then, with deliberation, he said:

"This is not a matter of expediency, but of principle. My heart tells me what to do, and my heart has always been right."

There was silence for a long time. At last the old man drew the cloak about his shoulders and turned towards the door.

"Wait a minute, father," said Dyck. "Don't go like that. You'd better not come and see me again. If I'm condemned, go back to Playmore; if I'm set free, go back to Playmore. That's the place for you to be. You've got your own troubles there."

"And you-if you're acquitted?"

"If I'm acquitted, I'll take to the high seas-till I'm cured."

A moment later, without further words, Dyck was alone. He heard the door clang.

He sat for some time on the edge of his bed, buried in dejection. Presently, however, the door opened. "A letter for you, sir," said the jailer.

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