Silence is white

by Anton Wills-Eve


Nine year old Amanda was almost an Alice in Wonderland little girl. Only child of wealthy parents she lived in a huge house with lovely gardens and some thirty four rooms, but she suffered dreadfully from lack of friends of her own age.Her parents paid for her to go to an exclusive preparatory school where all the pupils were of her own social order, but she never really got on with them and much preferred playing in her own garden by herself.

One side of the garden bordered on a public park and although it was walled in with a nine foot high hedge and a strong wooden fence, members of the public often used to try to climb up and peep into the grounds of Amanda’s house. She would wave to them but never speak. Her mother had warned her not to talk to strangers. And people did not come stranger than Jack the unfortunate deaf and dumb sixteen year old son of a local farm labourer. He often used to climb up and wave to Amanda and she often waved back. That is until that terrible summer’s day when Jack actually scaled the hedge and got into the garden.

Amanda was more curious than scared. The well brought up rich boys at school were nice enough but she seldom played with them, so when Jack walked towards her and tried to communicate in sign language she thought nothing of it. She made similar signs back and giggled at Jack, but she never said a word. That was not allowed. The only thing she found strange about him was that he was a lot bigger than most boys she knew. That was when her nanny came running out of the house and in an apparent panic snatched her up and hurried into the house with her not heeding her cries of protest.

A few moments later her father, stick in hand, stormed into the garden and strode up to Jack shouting. “What are you doing molesting my little girl in her own garden? Eh? Eh? Well answer me boy!”

Jack tried to use his sign language to signal that he did not understand the angry gentleman. But Amanda’s father grabbed him by the arm, pulled him indoors and telephoned the police.

The magistrate that day was Dame Celia, staunch defender of women’s rights, and in the eyes of many of the men whom she had fined or imprisoned, also women’s wrongs. She had virtually found Jack guilty before the case opened. The court official read out the charge against Jack…..“and then did attempt to sexually assault the aforesaid Amanda ….”.

The case against poor Jack, unbelievably fabricated by the prejudiced prosecution lawyers, included four witness statements from people who had been coerced by various means to say what they had seen him try to do to the poor little girl, screaming in terror. But throughout the case against his client Jack’s solicitor declined to cross examine anyone. He merely sat there and smiled.

Finally it was the defence’s turn to find some mitigating reasons for Jack’s apparent behaviour because by now the whole court assumed he was very definitely guilty. He rose and, addressing Dame Celia, asked if he might first call Miss Amanda to give testimony. He was quite aware she had been primed by the prosecution and nobody could understand why he had called her. But Dame Celia had asked Amanda, as permitted given her age, before the hearing if she both understood the charges and was happy to be questioned. She answered ‘yes’ to both questions. So the solicitor began,

“Amanda could you please tell the court what the accused said to you as he approached you.” Amanda raised both arms in the air and putting her hands out before her waggled her fingers around madly for about a minute before stopping for breath. Everybody just gaped at her. The solicitor asked her if she was feeling unwell.

“Oh no, Sir. You see Jack is deaf and dumb and he could only speak in sign language. I was trying to imitate him but my own sign language is not that good yet. I’ve only been having lessons for a couple of years. It’s so I can talk to one of my deaf friends at school. I think Jack was just asking me my name, but he seemed confused by my answer. I think I got it wrong. But it was only a white lie, not like the ones told by all those awful witness people daddy paid to blacken poor Jack’s name. He never came near me!”