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Chapter 62
THIS advice, besides being obviously sensible, would end in saving Ernest both time and suspense of mind, so we had no hesitation in adopting it. The case was called on about eleven o’clock, but we got it adjourned till three, so as to give time for Ernest to set his affairs as straight as he could, and to execute a power of attorney enabling me to act for him as I should think fit while he was in prison.

Then all came out about Pryer and the College of Spiritual Pathology. Ernest had even greater difficulty in making a clean breast of this than he had had in telling us about Miss Maitland, but he told us all, and the upshot was that he had actually handed over to Pryer every halfpenny that he then possessed with no other security than Pryers I.O.U.’s for the amount. Ernest, though still declining to believe that Pryer could be guilty of dishonourable conduct, was becoming alive to the folly of what he had been doing; he still made sure, however, of recovering, at any rate, the greater part of his property as soon as Pryer should have had time to sell. Towneley and I were of a different opinion, but we did not say what we thought.

It was dreary work waiting all the morning amid such unfamiliar and depressing surroundings. I thought how the Psalmist had exclaimed with quiet irony, “One day in thy courts is better than a thousand,” and I thought that I could utter a very similar sentiment in respect of the courts in which Towneley and I were compelled to loiter. At last, about three o’clock the case was called on, and we went round to the part of the court which is reserved for the general public, while Ernest was taken into the prisoner’s dock. As soon as he had collected himself sufficiently he recognised the magistrate as the old gentleman who had spoken to him in the train on the day he was leaving school, and saw, or thought he saw, to his great grief, that he too was recognised.

Mr. Ottery, for this was our attorney’s name, took the line he had proposed. He called no other witnesses than the rector, Towneley and myself, and threw himself on the mercy of the magistrate. When he had concluded, the magistrate spoke as follows: “Ernest Pontifex, yours is one of the most painful cases that I have ever had to deal with. You have been singularly favoured in your parentage and education. You have had before you the example of blameless parents, who doubtless instilled into you from childhood the enormity of the offence which by your own confession you have committed. You were sent to one of the best public schools in England. It is not likely ............
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