"As to the parties themselves, it is curious how they impersonated, so to speak, their respective lines of argument. The representative of evidence and sound reasoning, though accused of insanity, was precise, frank, rational and dignified in the witness-box; and I think you must have noticed his good temper. The party, who relied on hearsay and conjecture, was as feeble as they are; he was almost imbecile, as you observed; and, looking at both parties, it really seems monstrous that the plaintiff should be the one confined as a lunatic, and the defendant allowed to run wild and lock up his intellectual superiors. If he means to lock them _all_ up, even you and I are hardly safe. (Laughter.) The only serious question, I apprehend, is on what basis the damages ought to be assessed. The plaintiffs counsel has made a powerful appeal to your passions, and calls for vengeance. Now I must tell you, you have no right to make yourselves ministers of vengeance, nor even to punish the defendant, in a suit of the kind: still less ought you to strike the defendant harder than you otherwise would--in the vague hope of punishing indirectly the true mover of the defendant and the other puppets. I must warn you against that suggestion of the learned counsel's. If the plaintiff wants vengeance, the criminal law offers it. He comes here, not for vengeance, but for compensation, and restoration to that society which he is every way fitted to adorn. More than this--and all our sympathies--it is not for us to give him. But then the defendant's counsel went too far the other way. His client, he says, is next door to an idiot, and so, forsooth, his purse must be spared entirely. This is all very well if it could be done without ignoring the plaintiff and his just claim to compensation. Why, if the defendant, instead of being weak-minded, were an idiot or a lunatic, it would protect him from punishment as a felon, but not from damages in a suit. A sane man is not to be falsely imprisoned by a lunatic without full compensation from the lunatic or his estate: _a fortiori,_ he is not to be so imprisoned by a mere fool without just compensation. Supposing your verdict, then, to be for the plaintiff, I think vindictive damages would be unfair, on this feeble defendant, who has acted recklessly, but under an error, and without malice, or bad faith. On the other hand, nominal or even unsubstantial damages would be unjust to the plaintiff; and perhaps leave in some minds a doubt that I think you do not yourselves entertain, as to the plaintiff's perfect sanity during the whole period of his life."
As soon as his lordship had ended, the foreman of the jury said their minds were quite made up long ago.
"We find for the plaintiff, with damages three thousand pounds."
The verdict was received with some surprise by the judge, and all the lawyers except Mr. Colt, and by the people with acclamation; in the midst of which Mr. Colt announced that the plaintiff had just gained his first class at Oxford. "I wish him joy," said the judge.
THE verdict was a thunder-clap to Richard Hardie: he had promised Thomas to bear him blameless. The Old Turks, into which he had bought at 72, were down to 71, and that implied a loss of five thousand pounds. On the top of all this came Mr. Compton's letter neatly copied by Colls: Richard Hardie was doubly and trebly ruined.
Then in his despair and hate he determined to baffle them all, ay, and sting the hearts of some of them once more.
He would give Peggy his last shilling; write a line to Alfred, another to Julia, assuring them he had no money, and they had killed him. And with that leave them both the solemn curse of a dying father, and then kill himself.
Not to be interrupted in his plan, he temporised with Mr. Compton; wrote that, if the Receipt was really signed by his agent, of course the loss must fall on him; it was a large sum, but he would sell out and do his best, in ten days from date. With this he went and bought a pistol, and at several chemist's shops a little essential oil of almonds: his plan was to take the poison, and, if it killed without pain, well and good; but if it tortured him, then he would blow his brains out at once.