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The Bar of Public Opinion

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As soon as she had shut the door, Sylvia asked. 'Don't you feel as if it's just beginning to be real?'

Her tone was deceptively light. Eiluned said, with great care, 'I think I know what you mean.'

Sylvia flung hat and coat on the packing case and sat down. 'I couldn't believe it, not really. Not until today. It was a shock when she was arrested, but today, seeing her there, in the dock, and that horrible judge...'

Eiluned drew the curtains and set the kettle to boil on the spirit lamp. 'Yes. All those awful men, thinking they know better, and Harriet all on her own. It was ghastly.'

'But what can one do?' Sylvia asked. 'There isn't anything. Go and see her, and try to keep her spirits up, and all of that, but it doesn't make any difference, does it?'

'I know,' Eiluned said. 'I wish there were something that would.'

'It seems so unfair!' Sylvia burst out. 'You heard it all. She's on trial for all of us. It's not for killing Philip.'

'I wish I'd done that myself,' Eiluned observed, lighting a cigarette while she waited for the kettle to boil.

'But don't you see? That's just an excuse. Listening to the prosecution, you'd think that Harriet isn't not on trial for murdering Philip, she's on trial for living with him. And it's not fair, because she didn't want to live with him in the first place, it's only because he badgered her into it.'

Eiluned made a face. 'I know,' she said again.

'It's for all of us. Conventional morality versus bohemian idealism, or decadence, depending on which way you care to look at it. So why does poor Harriet have to be the scapegoat?'

'Why did that wretched Boyes have to get himself murdered?' Eiluned retorted. 'If, in fact, he did. It would be just like him to have done himself in and forgotten to mention the fact. But then he always was an inconsiderate beast.'

For the first time that day, Sylvia laughed. 'But you see my point.'

'You might have something,' Eiluned admitted. 'But what do you intend to do about it?' That was the question, and one of them had to ask it, at least, if Sylvia was going to insist on continuing to talk about it at all.

'Well, everything I can to help get Harriet acquitted, of course – if there is anything. Apart from that, what can I do?'

Eiluned said nothing. She could not think of anything to say.

Sylvia was silent, pleating the loose cuff of her shirt between the fingers of her other hand. 'It's awful,' she said, after a little while, 'feeling so helpless. And if it's like this for us, how must Harriet be feeling? She doesn't even have the satisfaction of thinking she was right. The terrible thing is, she is right, the principle's entirely sound, but to have to stand by it for such a pill as Philip Boyes...! No, my dear, I think that the only thing is to stand by our own principles, for as long as ever we can. Hobgoblin nor foul fiend, and all that. Live our lives. Sleep in our own bed.'

Eiluned nodded. 'Drink our coffee?' She handed a cup to Sylvia.

'Yes,' Sylvia said. 'Yes. I suppose so.'

'One might as well,' Eiluned said. 'It isn't much, and it doesn't do anything for Harriet, but then, on the other hand, neither does not drinking it.'

Sylvia smiled wearily and raised her cup as if it held champagne. 'That's the spirit,' she said. 'Now, look, can you think of anything that we might have forgotten...?'