The Sunless City/Chapter 28

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The Sunless City by James Edward Preston Muddock
Chapter XXVIII

The Trial

In this thought, however, Flin was greatly mistaken. The Princess was not of that mind. Not that she as a woman looked favourably upon his offence. On the contrary, she really felt that his crime was one which merited the severest punishment, viewed politically. For she, in common with the rest of her sex, and young as she was, was too fond of commanding to brook anything like an innovation from a male. The only male authority she had hitherto recognised had been that of her father, and only then because he was her father. But the fact is that, though an Esnesnonite, she was a woman, and that is saying much. It seems that woman's nature is very much alike all over the world. As a consequence of this, she felt a good deal of warmth for Flin. I don't know whether I should be justified in saying love at this time; but she certainly looked upon him with much favour, and in the corner of her heart perhaps there was real affection, that time would develop; and again, Mrs. Ytidrusba was her enemy. This lady, for some reason that only a woman could explain, had taken a great dislike to the Princess (women do take dislikes to each other in such an unaccountable manner). She said that she was wild, and a great flirt, and ought to be curbed; and had repeatedly spoken to the King; but one of the laws of Esnesnon was, that up to a certain age, when the mother was dead, the father had absolute control over his daughters.

The Princess therefore --- as what young girl would not --- felt extremely irritated by the meddlesome interference, and had once gone so far as to tell Mrs. Ytidrusba to mind her own business.

This had led to open rupture; and from that moment the ladies became sworn enemies. The Princess therefore felt that in indicting Flin Mrs. Ytidrusba had been actuated by personal animosity against her Royal enemy, and so far had succeeded in playing a trump card.

"But I will thwart her," thought her Royal Highness; and then turning to Flonatin she said, "It is most unfortunate that you have got into such a pitiable mess, and I shall have the greatest possible difficulty getting you out of it. The very best counsel in Esnesnon shall be engaged, and though I think it will be a hard fight, we may succeed in defeating the plans of our enemies."

"This most gracious condescension on the part of your Highness," answered Flin, "begets in me a gratitude that I cannot find words to express. But I will take this opportunity to say that, should I survive to return to my native country, all America shall know how well you have served one of her sons."

"And is that all?" sighed the Princess, taking his hand and looking him full in his face.

"That all!" repeated Flin in astonishment, and not understanding her. "What else can I do for your Highness?"

"Much," she answered; "but this is not the time to speak of it. The future shall reveal to you what I desire. In the meantime your defence must be prepared, for the ablest State lawyers will prosecute you, and as they are nearly all very old women, I fear I can look for little mercy from them. But keep your heart up, and it is very likely we shall come off triumphant."

"I hope so, I hope so," was Flin's answer. The Princess squeezed his hand and kissed him, and in a few minutes he was left to his own reflections again.

Flin's trial commenced on the following morning, and there was intense excitement in consequence. The circumstances of the case were so romantic and peculiar. A person from an unknown world had come down to Esnesnon, and then, in return for the hospitality shown him, he had endeavoured to raise a revolt. The thing was altogether unparalleled, so the people said, and people here will admit that it was.

Through the instrumentality of the Princess, some most able counsel for the defence had been engaged. One of these was a young woman named Hturtehteraps. She had already greatly distinguished herself in her profession, and the success of many of the causes celŠbres of Esnesnon was entirely due to her eloquence and skill.

The Court where the trial was held was an immense place. It was built in the form of an amphitheatre, and was surmounted with a doomed roof that was elaborately carved and set with ornamental, or as we call them, precious stones of immense size.

The floor of the theatre was occupied by the professional ladies and the reporters for the public papers, while the judges sat beneath a magnificent canopy on one side of the circle. There was no jury as in our own country. But Esnesnon was composed of twenty-seven provinces, and each province had a judge. In great trials every province sent its judge. And all the judges were ladies noted for uprightness of conduct no less than their great ability.

Flin Flon occupied a position on a raised seat placed on the floor of the theatre, and as he surveyed the scene, its vastness and magnificence, as well as the novel arrangements, stuck him with amazement, more especially when he contrasted it with the cramped-up, miserable places used as courts of law in his own country. There the prevailing characteristics were foetid atmosphere, murkiness, foul odours, bad acoustic properties and general inconvenience. But here, in this circular and lofty building, not only were an immense number of the public accommodated with seats, but every word that was uttered could be distinctly heard. The air was pure and refreshing. The judges were comfortably disposed, and the lawyers and pleaders were provided with every accommodation and convenience for transacting their business.

From the floor up to the very dome the building was packed with an eager and excited throng, and the women were far in excess of the men, for large numbers of the latter had been ordered by their wives to remain at home and look after the children. The buzzing of the female voices was like the whirl of a thousand spinning looms, and almost deafening. But when the judges had taken their seats, and the Court was ordered to be silent, there was silence instantly. Then the indictment was read over. It was a most voluminous document; but I will not weary the reader by printing it. It set forth that the crime with which the accused stood charged was one punishable with death, and Flin was asked if he pleaded guilty or not.

By the advice of his lawyer he simply said, "Not guilty," and then the trial proceeded.

It was evident from the first that the struggle would be a severe one, for there was an amount of animus infused into the opening address that was astonishing; and it was hinted that Mrs. Ytidrusba, having heard that Princess Yobmot was interesting herself in the case, grew very excited, and made use of language not at all polite, and she had stated without reserve, that not a stone should be left unturned that could possibly help her to gain a triumph.

The prosecution was infected with the lady's spirit, and seemed equally determined to secure a conviction. The leading counsel for the Crown spoke in a most contemptuous manner of Flin, and said that his guilt was too clear to admit of any doubt as to what the issue would be, but when considered it was paying him an undeserved honour to try him at all. "A person who was so inexpressibly insignificant as he was ought to have been dealt with summarily, for nothing could be possibly clearer than that he was a miserable, wretched barbarian and adventurer, whose sole object in intruding upon that peaceful city was to stir up revolution and anarchy. Such a thing could not be tolerated. This human wretch had had the daring to tamper with one of the highest ladies in the land. Not only had he tried to corrupt her, but he had spoken in the most scurrilous tones of the grand old institution of woman rule, a rule that had made Esnesnon the happy, peaceful, wealthy city it was --- a rule that could not be surpassed for gentleness, suavity and mercy --- a rule that had left nothing undone --- that was just and equitable alike to rich and poor. There had been a few restless spirits who had expressed dissatisfaction with this grand old institution, and they had endeavoured to inflame the minds of others, but in this they had ignominiously failed. Esnesnonites were too peaceful, too law-abiding, too fond of those who governed them, too happy, and too well cared for, to listen to seditious language. (Flin would have liked to have heard what the people themselves had to say about this.) Woman had ever been powerful in the land, and when she ceased to be powerful the end of Esnesnon would have come. (At this there was considerable applause, which was with difficulty suppressed.) In her rule she had left nothing to be desired. Her ears were ever open to the cry of pity, her heart to the wail of distressed males. It was true there had been males who, possessed of a boldness that was awful to contemplate, had attempted to gain some power and supplant woman, but the end of all such persons had been so indescribably terrible as to serve as a salutary warning to others who would attempt to follow in their footsteps; and if ever the day should come when males gained power in the land, it would be a sorry day indeed for Esnesnon. The crime of this miserable, degenerated being, who, it had been suggested, had come from the infernal regions --- and for her part she was very strongly inclined to believe it --- was of the blackest description; and one that, in the interest of justice and the general peace, should shut him out from all mercy. He was deserving of none; he should have none shown to him. It was hard for her to have to speak in that way even of one so low in the human scale as he obviously was. But the enormity of the offence caused her to close her eyes to sympathy, and open them only to a stern sense of duty. And it was that very sense of duty which made her, even against her will, speak in the way she had done. When she had been instructed to take up the case she had examined into it very carefully to see if she could discover any palliation. But she regretted to say she had looked in vain. She regretted it the more because the offender was a stranger; and had it been possible to have found any excuse she would have liked to have done so on that account. But there was none to be found. The fearful nature of the crime must have sent a thrill of horror through the breast of every peacefully-disposed person in the realm. He would have remorselessly aroused the Demon of Revolt, and have let it loose to prey upon the vitals of a ruler- fearing and woman-respecting community. He would have thrown the whole social machinery of the country out of gear. He would have raised a whirlwind of desolation, and cast the electric bolt of dissatisfaction at the great throbbing heart of a happy people. (These similes were very fine.) But he had been foiled. The great lady whose loyalty he had attempted to assail was staunch and true. Her honour was impregnable. Painful though it was for her to have to do so, she did not shrink from her duty and ordering the instant arrest of the dastard who had thus attempted to tamper with the State. This lady's truth is unimpeachable. Therefore, my ladies, you cannot fail to convict the miserable being of the crime for which he stands charged--the crime of treason. For what sane woman can doubt for a single moment that he has been guilty of treason? and that having been so, that he is deserving of death. In conclusion, my ladies, I would venture to remark that the eyes of the world are upon you, and that the action you take in this matter will be watched with the most jealous interest by every woman in the realm."

As this lady resumed her seat the female portion of the audience applauded rapturously, but a few hisses were mingled with the applause, and it was very evident that they came from male throats. At this the learned counsel sprang to her feet again, and with a great deal of bitterness in her tone said she hoped the chief judge would order every male to leave the Court if such a disgraceful uproar should occur again.

There was an uneasy movement amongst the males as this was said, for they knew from the stern look on the judge's face that she would not hesitate to do as desired. This judge was very old, and had never been married. She had been heard to say that she hated males, and if she could do as she liked she would exterminate them.

It will be seen from this little incident how terrible was the lot of the males of Esnesnon, and how they must have groaned and sweated under the tyrannical rule of the females.

Flin's blood boiled as he saw to what a terrible depth of serfdom his unfortunate sex were reduced in this so-called "happy city," and his great and good heart panted to strike a blow for freedom. Much as he loved woman, he felt that he could not brook her rule as she ruled there, and sooner than submit to it he would gladly die.