|June 13, 1893 - December 17, 1957|
So in honor of Dorothy Leigh Sayers birthday here's an excerpt from Chapter one of Strong Poison.
There were crimson roses on the bench: they looked like splashes of blood.
The judge was an old man; so old, he seemed to have outlived time and change and death. His parrot-face and parrot-voice were dry, like his old, heavily-veined hands. His scarlet robe clashed harshly with the crimson of the roses. He had sat for three days in the stuffy court, but he showed no sign of fatigue.
He did not look at the prisoner as he gathered his notes into a neat sheaf and turned to address the jury, but the prisoner looked at him. Her eyes, like dark smudges under the heavy square brows, seemed equally without fear and without hope. They waited.
"Members of the jury..."
The patient old eyes seemed to sum them up and take stock of their united intelligence. Three respectable tradesmen--a tall, argumentative one, a stout, embarrassed one with a drooping moustache, and an unhappy one with a bad cold; a director of a large company anxious not to waste valuable time; a publican, incongruously cheerful; two youngish men of the artisan class; a non descript, elderly man, of educated appearance, who might have been anything; an artist with a red beard disguising a weak chin; three women--an elderly spinster, a stout capable woman who kept a sweet shop and a harassed wife and mother whose thoughts seemed to be continually straying to her abandoned hearth.
"Members of the jury--you have listened with great patience and attention to the evidence in this very distressing case, and it is now my duty to sum up the facts and arguments which have been put before you by the learned Attorney-General and by the learned Counsel for the Defence, and to put them in order as clearly as possible, so as to help you in forming your decision.
"But first of all, perhaps I ought to say a few words with regard to that decision itself. You know, I am sure, that it is a great principle of English law that every accused person is held to be innocent unless and until he is proved otherwise. It is not necessary for him, or her, to prove innocence; it is, in the modern slang phrase 'up to' the Crown to prove guilt, and unless you are quite satisfied that the Crown has done this beyond all reasonable doubt, it is your duty to return a verdict of 'Not Guilty.' That does not necessarily mean that the prisoner has established her innocence by proof; it simply means that the Crown has failed to produce in your minds an undoubted conviction of her guilt."
Salcombe Hardy, lifted her drowned violet eyes for a moment from his reporter's note book, scribbled two words on a slip of paper and pushed them over to Waffles Newton. "Judge hostile." Waffles nodded. They were old hounds on this blood trail.
Here is a complete list of her works. Join me in honoring Dorothy Sayers and read one of her works this month.
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