Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE PLAYS OF JOHN GALSWORTHY--SECOND SERIES
By John Galsworthy
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
JAMES HOW, solicitor
WALTER HOW, solicitor
ROBERT COKESON, their managing clerk
WILLIAM FALDER, their junior clerk
SWEEDLE, their office-boy
WISTER, a detective
COWLEY, a cashier
MR. JUSTICE FLOYD, a judge
HAROLD CLEAVER, an old advocate
HECTOR FROME, a young advocate
CAPTAIN DANSON, V.C., a prison governor
THE REV. HUGH MILLER, a prison chaplain
EDWARD CLEMENT, a prison doctor
WOODER, a chief warder
RUTH HONEYWILL, a woman
A NUMBER OF BARRISTERS, SOLICITERS, SPECTATORS, USHERS, REPORTERS,
JURYMEN, WARDERS, AND PRISONERS
TIME: The Present.
ACT I. The office of James and Walter How. Morning. July.
ACT II. Assizes. Afternoon. October.
ACT III. A prison. December.
SCENE I. The Governor's office.
SCENE II. A corridor.
SCENE III. A cell.
ACT IV. The office of James and Walter How. Morning.
March, two years later.
CAST OF THE FIRST PRODUCTION
AT THE DUKE OF YORK'S THEATRE, FEBRUARY 21, 1910
James How MR. SYDNEY VALENTINE
Walter How MR. CHARLES MAUDE
Cokeson MR. EDMUND GWENN
Falder MR. DENNIS EADIE
The Office-boy MR. GEORGE HERSEE
The Detective MR. LESLIE CARTER
The Cashier MR. C. E. VERNON
The Judge MR. DION BOUCICAULT
The Old Advocate MR. OSCAR ADYE
The Young Advocate MR. CHARLES BRYANT
The Prison Governor MR. GRENDON BENTLEY
The Prison Chaplain MR. HUBERT HARBEN
The Prison Doctor MR. LEWIS CASSON
Wooder MR. FREDERICK LLOYD
Moaney MR. ROBERT PATEMAN
Clipton MR. O. P. HEGGIE
O'Cleary MR. WHITFORD KANE
Ruth Honeywill Miss EDYTH OLIVE
The scene is the managing clerk's room, at the offices of James
and Walter How, on a July morning. The room is old fashioned,
furnished with well-worn mahogany and leather, and lined with
tin boxes and estate plans. It has three doors. Two of them
are close together in the centre of a wall. One of these two
doors leads to the outer office, which is only divided from the
managing clerk's room by a partition of wood and clear glass;
and when the door into this outer office is opened there can be
seen the wide outer door leading out on to the stone stairway of
the building. The other of these two centre doors leads to
the junior clerk's room. The third door is that leading to the
The managing clerk, COKESON, is sitting at his table adding up
figures in a pass-book, and murmuring their numbers to himself.
He is a man of sixty, wearing spectacles; rather short, with a
bald head, and an honest, pugdog face. He is dressed in a
well-worn black frock-coat and pepper-and-salt trousers.
COKESON. And five's twelve, and three--fifteen, nineteen,
twenty-three, thirty-two, forty-one-and carry four. [He ticks the
page, and goes on murmuring] Five, seven, twelve, seventeen,
twenty-four and nine, thirty-three, thirteen and carry one.
He again makes a tick. The outer office door is opened, and
SWEEDLE, the office-boy, appears, closing the door behind him.
He is a pale youth of sixteen, with spiky hair.
COKESON. [With grumpy expectation] And carry one.
SWEEDLE. There's a party wants to see Falder, Mr. Cokeson.
COKESON. Five, nine, sixteen, twenty-one, twenty-nine--and carry
two. Send him to Morris's. What name?
COKESON. What's his business?
SWEEDLE. It's a woman.
COKESON. A lady?
SWEEDLE. No, a person.
COKESON. Ask her in. Take this pass-book to Mr. James. [He closes
SWEEDLE. [Reopening the door] Will you come in, please?
RUTH HONEYWILL comes in. She is a tall woman, twenty-six years
old, unpretentiously dressed, with black hair and eyes, and an
ivory-white, clear-cut face. She stands very still, having a
natural dignity of pose and gesture.
SWEEDLE goes out into the partners' room with the pass-book.
COKESON. [Looking round at RUTH] The young man's out.
[Suspiciously] State your business, please.
RUTH. [Who speaks in a matter-of-fact voice, and with a slight
West-Country accent] It's a personal matter, sir.
COKESON. We don't allow private callers here. Will you leave a
RUTH. I'd rather see him, please.
She narrows her dark eyes and gives him a honeyed look.
COKESON. [Expanding] It's all against the rules. Suppose I had my
friends here to see me! It'd never do!
RUTH. No, sir.
COKESON. [A little taken aback] Exactly! And here you are wanting
to see a junior clerk!
RUTH. Yes, sir; I must see him.
COKESON. [Turning full round to her with a sort of outraged
interest] But this is a lawyer's office. Go to his private address.
RUTH. He's not there.
COKESON. [Uneasy] Are you related to the party?
RUTH. No, sir.
COKESON. [In real embarrassment] I don't know what to say. It's no
affair of the office.
RUTH. But what am I to do?
COKESON. Dear me! I can't tell you that.
SWEEDLE comes back. He crosses to the outer office and passes
through into it, with a quizzical look at Cokeson, carefully
leaving the door an inch or two open.
COKESON. [Fortified by this look] This won't do, you know, this
won't do at all. Suppose one of the partners came in!
An incoherent knocking and chuckling is heard from the outer
door of the outer office.
SWEEDLE. [Putting his head in] There's some children outside here.
RUTH. They're mine, please.
SWEEDLE. Shall I hold them in check?
RUTH. They're quite small, sir. [She takes a step towards COKESON]
COKESON. You mustn't take up his time in office hours; we're a clerk
short as it is.
RUTH. It's a matter of life and death.
COKESON. [Again outraged] Life and death!
SWEEDLE. Here is Falder.
FALDER has entered through the outer office. He is a pale,
good-looking young man, with quick, rather scared eyes. He
moves towards the door of the clerks' office, and stands there
COKESON. Well, I'll give you a minute. It's not regular.
Taking up a bundle of papers, he goes out into the partners'
RUTH. [In a low, hurried voice] He's on the drink again, Will. He
tried to cut my throat last night. I came out with the children
before he was awake. I went round to you.
FALDER. I've changed my digs.
RUTH. Is it all ready for to-night?
FALDER. I've got the tickets. Meet me 11.45 at the booking office.
For God's sake don't forget we're man and wife! [Looking at her with
tragic intensity] Ruth!
RUTH. You're not afraid of going, are you?
FALDER. Have you got your things, and the children's?
RUTH. Had to leave them, for fear of waking Honeywill, all but one
bag. I can't go near home again.
FALDER. [Wincing] All that money gone for nothing.
How much must you have?
RUTH. Six pounds--I could do with that, I think.
FALDER. Don't give away where we're going. [As if to himself] When
I get out there I mean to forget it all.
RUTH. If you're sorry, say so. I'd sooner he killed me than take
you against your will.
FALDER. [With a queer smile] We've got to go. I don't care; I'll
RUTH. You've just to say; it's not too late.
FALDER. It is too late. Here's seven pounds. Booking office 11.45
to-night. If you weren't what you are to me, Ruth----!
RUTH. Kiss me!
They cling together passionately, there fly apart just as
COKESON re-enters the room. RUTH turns and goes out through the
outer office. COKESON advances deliberately to his chair and
COKESON. This isn't right, Falder.
FALDER. It shan't occur again, sir.
COKESON. It's an improper use of these premises.
FALDER. Yes, sir.
COKESON. You quite understand-the party was in some distress; and,
having children with her, I allowed my feelings----[He opens a
drawer and produces from it a tract] Just take this! "Purity in the
Home." It's a well-written thing.
FALDER. [Taking it, with a peculiar expression] Thank you, sir.
COKESON. And look here, Falder, before Mr. Walter comes, have you
finished up that cataloguing Davis had in hand before he left?
FALDER. I shall have done with it to-morrow, sir--for good.
COKESON. It's over a week since Davis went. Now it won't do,
Falder. You're neglecting your work for private life. I shan't
mention about the party having called, but----
FALDER. [Passing into his room] Thank you, sir.
COKESON stares at the door through which FALDER has gone out;
then shakes his head, and is just settling down to write, when
WALTER How comes in through the outer Office. He is a rather
refined-looking man of thirty-five, with a pleasant, almost
WALTER. Good-morning, Cokeson.
COKESON. Morning, Mr. Walter.
WALTER. My father here?
COKESON. [Always with a certain patronage as to a young man who
might be doing better] Mr. James has been here since eleven o'clock.
WALTER. I've been in to see the pictures, at the Guildhall.
COKESON. [Looking at him as though this were exactly what was to be
expected] Have you now--ye--es. This lease of Boulter's--am I to
send it to counsel?
WALTER. What does my father say?
COKESON. 'Aven't bothered him.
WALTER. Well, we can't be too careful.
COKESON. It's such a little thing--hardly worth the fees. I thought
you'd do it yourself.
WALTER. Send it, please. I don't want the responsibility.
COKESON. [With an indescribable air of compassion] Just as you
like. This "right-of-way" case--we've got 'em on the deeds.
WALTER. I know; but the intention was obviously to exclude that bit
of common ground.
COKESON. We needn't worry about that. We're the right side of the
WALTER. I don't like it,
COKESON. [With an indulgent smile] We shan't want to set ourselves
up against the law. Your father wouldn't waste his time doing that.
As he speaks JAMES How comes in from the partners' room. He is
a shortish man, with white side-whiskers, plentiful grey hair,
shrewd eyes, and gold pince-nez.
JAMES. Morning, Walter.
WALTER. How are you, father?
COKESON. [Looking down his nose at the papers in his hand as though
deprecating their size] I'll just take Boulter's lease in to young
Falder to draft the instructions. [He goes out into FALDER'S room.]
WALTER. About that right-of-way case?
JAMES. Oh, well, we must go forward there. I thought you told me
yesterday the firm's balance was over four hundred.
WALTER. So it is.
JAMES. [Holding out the pass-book to his son] Three--five--one, no
recent cheques. Just get me out the cheque-book.
WALTER goes to a cupboard, unlocks a drawer and produces a
JAMES. Tick the pounds in the counterfoils. Five, fifty-four,
seven, five, twenty-eight, twenty, ninety, eleven, fifty-two,
WALTER. [Nodding] Can't understand. Made sure it was over four
JAMES. Give me the cheque-book. [He takes the check-book and cons
the counterfoils] What's this ninety?
WALTER. Who drew it?
WALTER. [Taking the cheque-book] July 7th? That's the day I went
down to look over the Trenton Estate--last Friday week; I came back
on the Tuesday, you remember. But look here, father, it was nine I
drew a cheque for. Five guineas to Smithers and my expenses. It
just covered all but half a crown.
JAMES. [Gravely] Let's look at that ninety cheque. [He sorts the
cheque out from the bundle in the pocket of the pass-book] Seems all
right. There's no nine here. This is bad. Who cashed that
WALTER. [Puzzled and pained] Let's see! I was finishing Mrs.
Reddy's will--only just had time; yes--I gave it to Cokeson.
JAMES. Look at that 't' 'y': that yours?
WALTER. [After consideration] My y's curl back a little; this
JAMES. [As COKESON re-enters from FALDER'S room] We must ask him.
Just come here and carry your mind back a bit, Cokeson. D'you
remember cashing a cheque for Mr. Walter last Friday week--the day
he went to Trenton?
COKESON. Ye-es. Nine pounds.
JAMES. Look at this. [Handing him the cheque.]
COKESON. No! Nine pounds. My lunch was just coming in; and of
course I like it hot; I gave the cheque to Davis to run round to the
bank. He brought it back, all gold--you remember, Mr. Walter, you
wanted some silver to pay your cab. [With a certain contemptuous
compassion] Here, let me see. You've got the wrong cheque.
He takes cheque-book and pass-book from WALTER.
WALTER. Afraid not.
COKESON. [Having seen for himself] It's funny.
JAMES. You gave it to Davis, and Davis sailed for Australia on
Monday. Looks black, Cokeson.
COKESON. [Puzzled and upset] why this'd be a felony! No, no!
there's some mistake.
JAMES. I hope so.
COKESON. There's never been anything of that sort in the office the
twenty-nine years I've been here.
JAMES. [Looking at cheque and counterfoil] This is a very clever
bit of work; a warning to you not to leave space after your figures,
WALTER. [Vexed] Yes, I know--I was in such a tearing hurry that
COKESON. [Suddenly] This has upset me.
JAMES. The counterfoil altered too--very deliberate piece of
swindling. What was Davis's ship?
WALTER. 'City of Rangoon'.
JAMES. We ought to wire and have him arrested at Naples; he can't be
COKESON. His poor young wife. I liked the young man. Dear, oh
dear! In this office!
WALTER. Shall I go to the bank and ask the cashier?
JAMES. [Grimly] Bring him round here. And ring up Scotland Yard.
He goes out through the outer office. JAMES paces the room. He
stops and looks at COKESON, who is disconsolately rubbing the
knees of his trousers.
JAMES. Well, Cokeson! There's something in character, isn't there?
COKESON. [Looking at him over his spectacles] I don't quite take
JAMES. Your story, would sound d----d thin to any one who didn't
COKESON. Ye-es! [He laughs. Then with a sudden gravity] I'm sorry
for that young man. I feel it as if it was my own son, Mr. James.
JAMES. A nasty business!
COKESON. It unsettles you. All goes on regular, and then a thing
like this happens. Shan't relish my lunch to-day.
JAMES. As bad as that, Cokeson?
COKESON. It makes you think. [Confidentially] He must have had
JAMES. Not so fast. We haven't convicted him yet.
COKESON. I'd sooner have lost a month's salary than had this happen.
JAMES. I hope that fellow will hurry up.
COKESON. [Keeping things pleasant for the cashier] It isn't fifty
yards, Mr. James. He won't be a minute.
JAMES. The idea of dishonesty about this office it hits me hard,
He goes towards the door of the partners' room.
SWEEDLE. [Entering quietly, to COKESON in a low voice] She's popped
up again, sir-something she forgot to say to Falder.
COKESON. [Roused from his abstraction] Eh? Impossible. Send her
JAMES. What's that?
COKESON. Nothing, Mr. James. A private matter. Here, I'll come
myself. [He goes into the outer office as JAMES passes into the
partners' room] Now, you really mustn't--we can't have anybody just
RUTH. Not for a minute, sir?
COKESON. Reely! Reely! I can't have it. If you want him, wait
about; he'll be going out for his lunch directly.
RUTH. Yes, sir.
WALTER, entering with the cashier, passes RUTH as she leaves the
COKESON. [To the cashier, who resembles a sedentary dragoon]
Good-morning. [To WALTER] Your father's in there.
WALTER crosses and goes into the partners' room.
COKESON. It's a nahsty, unpleasant little matter, Mr. Cowley. I'm
quite ashamed to have to trouble you.
COWLEY. I remember the cheque quite well. [As if it were a liver]
Seemed in perfect order.
COKESON. Sit down, won't you? I'm not a sensitive man, but a thing
like this about the place--it's not nice. I like people to be open
and jolly together.
COWLEY. Quite so.
COKESON. [Buttonholing him, and glancing toward the partners' room]
Of course he's a young man. I've told him about it before now--
leaving space after his figures, but he will do it.
COWLEY. I should remember the person's face--quite a youth.
COKESON. I don't think we shall be able to show him to you, as a
matter of fact.
JAMES and WALTER have come back from the partners' room.
JAMES. Good-morning, Mr. Cowley. You've seen my son and myself,
you've seen Mr. Cokeson, and you've seen Sweedle, my office-boy. It
was none of us, I take it.
The cashier shakes his head with a smile.
JAMES. Be so good as to sit there. Cokeson, engage Mr. Cowley in
conversation, will you?
He goes toward FALDER'S room.
COKESON. Just a word, Mr. James.
COKESON. You don't want to upset the young man in there, do you?
He's a nervous young feller.
JAMES. This must be thoroughly cleared up, Cokeson, for the sake of
Falder's name, to say nothing of yours.
COKESON. [With Some dignity] That'll look after itself, sir. He's
been upset once this morning; I don't want him startled again.
JAMES. It's a matter of form; but I can't stand upon niceness over a
thing like this--too serious. Just talk to Mr. Cowley.
He opens the door of FALDER'S room.
JAMES. Bring in the papers in Boulter's lease, will you, Falder?
COKESON. [Bursting into voice] Do you keep dogs?
The cashier, with his eyes fixed on the door, does not answer.
COKESON. You haven't such a thing as a bulldog pup you could spare
me, I suppose?
At the look on the cashier's face his jaw drops, and he turns to
see FALDER standing in the doorway, with his eyes fixed on
COWLEY, like the eyes of a rabbit fastened on a snake.
FALDER. [Advancing with the papers] Here they are, sir!
JAMES. [Taking them] Thank you.
FALDER. Do you want me, sir?
JAMES. No, thanks!
FALDER turns and goes back into his own room. As he shuts the
door JAMES gives the cashier an interrogative look, and the
JAMES. Sure? This isn't as we suspected.
COWLEY. Quite. He knew me. I suppose he can't slip out of that
COKESON. [Gloomily] There's only the window--a whole floor and a
The door of FALDER'S room is quietly opened, and FALDER, with
his hat in his hand, moves towards the door of the outer office.
JAMES. [Quietly] Where are you going, Falder?
FALDER. To have my lunch, sir.
JAMES. Wait a few minutes, would you? I want to speak to you about
FALDER. Yes, sir. [He goes back into his room.]
COWLEY. If I'm wanted, I can swear that's the young man who cashed
the cheque. It was the last cheque I handled that morning before my
lunch. These are the numbers of the notes he had. [He puts a slip
of paper on the table; then, brushing his hat round] Good-morning!
JAMES. Good-morning, Mr. Cowley!
COWLEY. [To COKESON] Good-morning.
COKESON. [With Stupefaction] Good-morning.
The cashier goes out through the outer office. COKESON sits down
in his chair, as though it were the only place left in the
morass of his feelings.
WALTER. What are you going to do?
JAMES. Have him in. Give me the cheque and the counterfoil.
COKESON. I don't understand. I thought young Davis----
JAMES. We shall see.
WALTER. One moment, father: have you thought it out?
JAMES. Call him in!
COKESON. [Rising with difficulty and opening FALDER'S door;
hoarsely] Step in here a minute.
FALDER. [Impassively] Yes, sir?
JAMES. [Turning to him suddenly with the cheque held out] You know
this cheque, Falder?
FALDER. No, sir.
JADES. Look at it. You cashed it last Friday week.
FALDER. Oh! yes, sir; that one--Davis gave it me.
JAMES. I know. And you gave Davis the cash?
FALDER. Yes, sir.
JAMES. When Davis gave you the cheque was it exactly like this?
FALDER. Yes, I think so, sir.
JAMES. You know that Mr. Walter drew that cheque for nine pounds?
FALDER. No, sir--ninety.
JAMES. Nine, Falder.
FALDER. [Faintly] I don't understand, sir.
JAMES. The suggestion, of course, is that the cheque was altered;
whether by you or Davis is the question.
COKESON. Take your time, take your time.
FALDER. [Regaining his impassivity] Not by me, sir.
JAMES. The cheque was handed to--Cokeson by Mr. Walter at one
o'clock; we know that because Mr. Cokeson's lunch had just arrived.
COKESON. I couldn't leave it.
JAMES. Exactly; he therefore gave the cheque to Davis. It was
cashed by you at 1.15. We know that because the cashier recollects
it for the last cheque he handled before his lunch.
FALDER. Yes, sir, Davis gave it to me because some friends were
giving him a farewell luncheon.
JAMES. [Puzzled] You accuse Davis, then?
FALDER. I don't know, sir--it's very funny.
WALTER, who has come close to his father, says something to him
in a low voice.
JAMES. Davis was not here again after that Saturday, was he?
COKESON. [Anxious to be of assistance to the young man, and seeing
faint signs of their all being jolly once more] No, he sailed on the
JAMES. Was he, Falder?
FALDER. [Very faintly] No, sir.
JAMES. Very well, then, how do you account for the fact that this
nought was added to the nine in the counterfoil on or after Tuesday?
COKESON. [Surprised] How's that?
FALDER gives a sort of lurch; he tries to pull himself together,
but he has gone all to pieces.
JAMES. [Very grimly] Out, I'm afraid, Cokeson. The cheque-book
remained in Mr. Walter's pocket till he came back from Trenton on
Tuesday morning. In the face of this, Falder, do you still deny that
you altered both cheque and counterfoil?
FALDER. No, sir--no, Mr. How. I did it, sir; I did it.
COKESON. [Succumbing to his feelings] Dear, dear! what a thing to
FALDER. I wanted the money so badly, sir. I didn't know what I was
COKESON. However such a thing could have come into your head!
FALDER. [Grasping at the words] I can't think, sir, really! It was
just a minute of madness.
JAMES. A long minute, Falder. [Tapping the counterfoil] Four days
FALDER. Sir, I swear I didn't know what I'd done till afterwards,
and then I hadn't the pluck. Oh! Sir, look over it! I'll pay the
money back--I will, I promise.
JAMES. Go into your room.
FALDER, with a swift imploring look, goes back into his room.
There is silence.
JAMES. About as bad a case as there could be.
COKESON. To break the law like that-in here!
WALTER. What's to be done?
JAMES. Nothing for it. Prosecute.
WALTER. It's his first offence.
JAMES. [Shaking his head] I've grave doubts of that. Too neat a
piece of swindling altogether.
COKESON. I shouldn't be surprised if he was tempted.
JAMES. Life's one long temptation, Cokeson.
COKESON. Ye-es, but I'm speaking of the flesh and the devil, Mr.
James. There was a woman come to see him this morning.
WALTER. The woman we passed as we came in just now. Is it his wife?
COKESON. No, no relation. [Restraining what in jollier
circumstances would have been a wink] A married person, though.
WALTER. How do you know?
COKESON. Brought her children. [Scandalised] There they were
outside the office.
JAMES. A real bad egg.
WALTER. I should like to give him a chance.
JAMES. I can't forgive him for the sneaky way be went to work--
counting on our suspecting young Davis if the matter came to light.
It was the merest accident the cheque-book stayed in your pocket.
WALTER. It must have been the temptation of a moment. He hadn't
JAMES. A man doesn't succumb like that in a moment, if he's a clean
mind and habits. He's rotten; got the eyes of a man who can't keep
his hands off when there's money about.
WALTER. [Dryly] We hadn't noticed that before.
JAMES. [Brushing the remark aside] I've seen lots of those fellows
in my time. No doing anything with them except to keep 'em out of
harm's way. They've got a blind spat.
WALTER. It's penal servitude.
COKESON. They're nahsty places-prisons.
JAMES. [Hesitating] I don't see how it's possible to spare him. Out
of the question to keep him in this office--honesty's the 'sine qua
COKESON. [Hypnotised] Of course it is.
JAMES. Equally out of the question to send him out amongst people
who've no knowledge of his character. One must think of society.
WALTER. But to brand him like this?
JAMES. If it had been a straightforward case I'd give him another
chance. It's far from that. He has dissolute habits.
COKESON. I didn't say that--extenuating circumstances.
JAMES. Same thing. He's gone to work in the most cold-blooded way
to defraud his employers, and cast the blame on an innocent man. If
that's not a case for the law to take its course, I don't know what
WALTER. For the sake of his future, though.
JAMES. [Sarcastically] According to you, no one would ever
WALTER. [Nettled] I hate the idea of it.
COKESON. That's rather 'ex parte', Mr. Walter! We must have
JAMES. This is degenerating into talk.
He moves towards the partners' room.
WALTER. Put yourself in his place, father.
JAMES. You ask too much of me.
WALTER. We can't possibly tell the pressure there was on him.
JAMES. You may depend on it, my boy, if a man is going to do this
sort of thing he'll do it, pressure or no pressure; if he isn't
nothing'll make him.
WALTER. He'll never do it again.
COKESON. [Fatuously] S'pose I were to have a talk with him. We
don't want to be hard on the young man.
JAMES. That'll do, Cokeson. I've made up my mind. [He passes into
the partners' room.]
COKESON. [After a doubtful moment] We must excuse your father. I
don't want to go against your father; if he thinks it right.
WALTER. Confound it, Cokeson! why don't you back me up? You know
COKESON. [On his dignity] I really can't say what I feel.
WALTER. We shall regret it.
COKESON. He must have known what he was doing.
WALTER. [Bitterly] "The quality of mercy is not strained."
COKESON. [Looking at him askance] Come, come, Mr. Walter. We must
try and see it sensible.
SWEEDLE. [Entering with a tray] Your lunch, sir.
COKESON. Put it down!
While SWEEDLE is putting it down on COKESON's table, the
detective, WISTER, enters the outer office, and, finding no one
there, comes to the inner doorway. He is a square, medium-sized
man, clean-shaved, in a serviceable blue serge suit and strong
COKESON. [Hoarsely] Here! Here! What are we doing?
WISTER. [To WALTER] From Scotland Yard, sir. Detective-Sergeant
WALTER. [Askance] Very well! I'll speak to my father.
He goes into the partners' room. JAMES enters.
JAMES. Morning! [In answer to an appealing gesture from COKESON]
I'm sorry; I'd stop short of this if I felt I could. Open that door.
[SWEEDLE, wondering and scared, opens it] Come here, Mr. Falder.
As FALDER comes shrinkingly out, the detective in obedience to a
sign from JAMES, slips his hand out and grasps his arm.
FALDER. [Recoiling] Oh! no,--oh! no!
WALTER. Come, come, there's a good lad.
JAMES. I charge him with felony.
FALTER. Oh, sir! There's some one--I did it for her. Let me be
JAMES motions with his hand. At that sign of hardness, FALDER
becomes rigid. Then, turning, he goes out quietly in the
detective's grip. JAMES follows, stiff and erect. SWEEDLE,
rushing to the door with open mouth, pursues them through the
outer office into the corridor. When they have all disappeared
COKESON spins completely round and makes a rush for the outer
COKESON: [Hoarsely] Here! What are we doing?
There is silence. He takes out his handkerchief and mops the
sweat from his face. Going back blindly to his table, sits
down, and stares blankly at his lunch.
The curtain falls.
A Court of Justice, on a foggy October afternoon crowded with
barristers, solicitors, reporters, ushers, and jurymen. Sitting in
the large, solid dock is FALDER, with a warder on either side of him,
placed there for his safe custody, but seemingly indifferent to and
unconscious of his presence. FALDER is sitting exactly opposite to
the JUDGE, who, raised above the clamour of the court, also seems
unconscious of and indifferent to everything. HAROLD CLEAVER, the
counsel for the Crown, is a dried, yellowish man, of more than middle
age, in a wig worn almost to the colour of his face. HECTOR FROME,
the counsel for the defence, is a young, tall man, clean shaved, in a
very white wig. Among the spectators, having already given their
evidence, are JAMES and WALTER HOW, and COWLEY, the cashier. WISTER,
the detective, is just leaving the witness-box.
CLEAVER. That is the case for the Crown, me lud!
Gathering his robes together, he sits down.
FROME. [Rising and bowing to the JUDGE] If it please your lordship
and gentlemen of the jury. I am not going to dispute the fact that
the prisoner altered this cheque, but I am going to put before you
evidence as to the condition of his mind, and to submit that you
would not be justified in finding that he was responsible for his
actions at the time. I am going to show you, in fact, that he did
this in a moment of aberration, amounting to temporary insanity,
caused by the violent distress under which he was labouring.
Gentlemen, the prisoner is only twenty-three years old. I shall call
before you a woman from whom you will learn the events that led up to
this act. You will hear from her own lips the tragic circumstances
of her life, the still more tragic infatuation with which she has
inspired the prisoner. This woman, gentlemen, has been leading a
miserable existence with a husband who habitually ill-uses her, from
whom she actually goes in terror of her life. I am not, of course,
saying that it's either right or desirable for a young man to fall in
love with a married woman, or that it's his business to rescue her
from an ogre-like husband. I'm not saying anything of the sort. But
we all know the power of the passion of love; and I would ask you to
remember, gentlemen, in listening to her evidence, that, married to a
drunken and violent husband, she has no power to get rid of him; for,
as you know, another offence besides violence is necessary to enable
a woman to obtain a divorce; and of this offence it does not appear
that her husband is guilty.
JUDGE. Is this relevant, Mr. Frome?
FROME. My lord, I submit, extremely--I shall be able to show your
lordship that directly.
JUDGE. Very well.
FROME. In these circumstances, what alternatives were left to her?
She could either go on living with this drunkard, in terror of her
life; or she could apply to the Court for a separation order. Well,
gentlemen, my experience of such cases assures me that this would
have given her very insufficient protection from the violence of such
a man; and even if effectual would very likely have reduced her
either to the workhouse or the streets--for it's not easy, as she is
now finding, for an unskilled woman without means of livelihood to
support herself and her children without resorting either to the Poor
Law or--to speak quite plainly--to the sale of her body.
JUDGE. You are ranging rather far, Mr. Frome.
FROME. I shall fire point-blank in a minute, my lord.
JUDGE. Let us hope so.
FROME. Now, gentlemen, mark--and this is what I have been leading up
to--this woman will tell you, and the prisoner will confirm her,
that, confronted with such alternatives, she set her whole hopes on
himself, knowing the feeling with which she had inspired him. She
saw a way out of her misery by going with him to a new country, where
they would both be unknown, and might pass as husband and wife. This
was a desperate and, as my friend Mr. Cleaver will no doubt call it,
an immoral resolution; but, as a fact, the minds of both of them were
constantly turned towards it. One wrong is no excuse for another,
and those who are never likely to be faced by such a situation
possibly have the right to hold up their hands--as to that I prefer
to say nothing. But whatever view you take, gentlemen, of this part
of the prisoner's story--whatever opinion you form of the right of
these two young people under such circumstances to take the law into
their own hands--the fact remains that this young woman in her
distress, and this young man, little more than a boy, who was so
devotedly attached to her, did conceive this--if you like--
reprehensible design of going away together. Now, for that, of
course, they required money, and--they had none. As to the actual
events of the morning of July 7th, on which this cheque was altered,
the events on which I rely to prove the defendant's irresponsibility
--I shall allow those events to speak for themselves, through the
lips of my witness. Robert Cokeson. [He turns, looks round, takes
up a sheet of paper, and waits.]
COKESON is summoned into court, and goes into the witness-box,
holding his hat before him. The oath is administered to him.
FROME. What is your name?
COKESON. Robert Cokeson.
FROME. Are you managing clerk to the firm of solicitors who employ
FROME. How long had the prisoner been in their employ?
COKESON. Two years. No, I'm wrong there--all but seventeen days.
FROME. Had you him under your eye all that time?
COKESON. Except Sundays and holidays.
FROME. Quite so. Let us hear, please, what you have to say about
his general character during those two years.
COKESON. [Confidentially to the jury, and as if a little surprised
at being asked] He was a nice, pleasant-spoken young man. I'd no
fault to find with him--quite the contrary. It was a great surprise
to me when he did a thing like that.
FROME. Did he ever give you reason to suspect his honesty?
COKESON. No! To have dishonesty in our office, that'd never do.
FROME. I'm sure the jury fully appreciate that, Mr. Cokeson.
COKESON. Every man of business knows that honesty's 'the sign qua
FROME. Do you give him a good character all round, or do you not?
COKESON. [Turning to the JUDGE] Certainly. We were all very jolly
and pleasant together, until this happened. Quite upset me.
FROME. Now, coming to the morning of the 7th of July, the morning on
which the cheque was altered. What have you to say about his
demeanour that morning?
COKESON. [To the jury] If you ask me, I don't think he was quite
compos when he did it.
THE JUDGE. [Sharply] Are you suggesting that he was insane?
COKESON. Not compos.
THE JUDGE. A little more precision, please.
FROME. [Smoothly] Just tell us, Mr. Cokeson.
COKESON. [Somewhat outraged] Well, in my opinion--[looking at the
JUDGE]--such as it is--he was jumpy at the time. The jury will
understand my meaning.
FROME. Will you tell us how you came to that conclusion?
COKESON. Ye-es, I will. I have my lunch in from the restaurant, a
chop and a potato--saves time. That day it happened to come just as
Mr. Walter How handed me the cheque. Well, I like it hot; so I went
into the clerks' office and I handed the cheque to Davis, the other
clerk, and told him to get change. I noticed young Falder walking up
and down. I said to him: "This is not the Zoological Gardens,
FROME. Do you remember what he answered?
COKESON. Ye-es: "I wish to God it were!" Struck me as funny.
FROME. Did you notice anything else peculiar?
COKESON. I did.
FROME. What was that?
COKESON. His collar was unbuttoned. Now, I like a young man to be
neat. I said to him: "Your collar's unbuttoned."
FROME. And what did he answer?
COKESON. Stared at me. It wasn't nice.
THE JUDGE. Stared at you? Isn't that a very common practice?
COKESON. Ye-es, but it was the look in his eyes. I can't explain my
meaning--it was funny.
FROME. Had you ever seen such a look in his eyes before?
COKESON. No. If I had I should have spoken to the partners. We
can't have anything eccentric in our profession.
THE JUDGE. Did you speak to them on that occasion?
COKESON. [Confidentially] Well, I didn't like to trouble them about
prime facey evidence.
FROME. But it made a very distinct impression on your mind?
COKESON. Ye-es. The clerk Davis could have told you the same.
FROME. Quite so. It's very unfortunate that we've not got him here.
Now can you tell me of the morning on which the discovery of the
forgery was made? That would be the 18th. Did anything happen that
COKESON. [With his hand to his ear] I'm a little deaf.
FROME. Was there anything in the course of that morning--I mean
before the discovery--that caught your attention?
COKESON. Ye-es--a woman.
THE JUDGE. How is this relevant, Mr. Frome?
FROME. I am trying to establish the state of mind in which the
prisoner committed this act, my lord.
THE JUDGE. I quite appreciate that. But this was long after the
FROME. Yes, my lord, but it contributes to my contention.
THE JUDGE. Well!
FROME. You say a woman. Do you mean that she came to the office?
FROME. What for?
COKESON. Asked to see young Falder; he was out at the moment.
FROME. Did you see her?
COKESON. I did.
FROME. Did she come alone?
COKESON. [Confidentially] Well, there you put me in a difficulty.
I mustn't tell you what the office-boy told me.
FROME. Quite so, Mr. Cokeson, quite so----
COKESON. [Breaking in with an air of "You are young--leave it to
me"] But I think we can get round it. In answer to a question put
to her by a third party the woman said to me: "They're mine, sir."
THE JUDGE. What are? What were?
COKESON. Her children. They were outside.
THE JUDGE. HOW do you know?
COKESON. Your lordship mustn't ask me that, or I shall have to tell
you what I was told--and that'd never do.
THE JUDGE. [Smiling] The office-boy made a statement.
FROME. What I want to ask you, Mr. Cokeson, is this. In the course
of her appeal to see Falder, did the woman say anything that you
COKESON. [Looking at him as if to encourage him to complete the
sentence] A leetle more, sir.
FROME. Or did she not?
COKESON. She did. I shouldn't like you to have led me to the
FROME. [With an irritated smile] Will you tell the jury what it
COKESON. "It's a matter of life and death."
FOREMAN OF THE JURY. Do you mean the woman said that?
COKESON. [Nodding] It's not the sort of thing you like to have said
FROME. [A little impatiently] Did Falder come in while she was
there? [COKESON nods] And she saw him, and went away?
COKESON. Ah! there I can't follow you. I didn't see her go.
FROME. Well, is she there now?
COKESON. [With an indulgent smile] No!
FROME. Thank you, Mr. Cokeson. [He sits down.]
CLEAVER. [Rising] You say that on the morning of the forgery the
prisoner was jumpy. Well, now, sir, what precisely do you mean by
COKESON. [Indulgently] I want you to understand. Have you ever
seen a dog that's lost its master? He was kind of everywhere at once
with his eyes.
CLEAVER. Thank you; I was coming to his eyes. You called them
"funny." What are we to understand by that? Strange, or what?
COKESON. Ye-es, funny.
COKESON. [Sharply] Yes, sir, but what may be funny to you may not
be funny to me, or to the jury. Did they look frightened, or shy, or
fierce, or what?
COKESON. You make it very hard for me. I give you the word, and you
want me to give you another.
CLEAVER. [Rapping his desk] Does "funny" mean mad?
CLEAVER. Not mad, fun----
CLEAVER. Very well! Now you say he had his collar unbuttoned? Was
it a hot day?
COKESON. Ye-es; I think it was.
CLEAVER. And did he button it when you called his attention to it?
COKESON. Ye-es, I think he did.
CLEAVER. Would you say that that denoted insanity?
He sits downs. COKESON, who has opened his mouth to reply, is
FROME. [Rising hastily] Have you ever caught him in that dishevelled
COKESON. No! He was always clean and quiet.
FROME. That will do, thank you.
COKESON turns blandly to the JUDGE, as though to rebuke counsel
for not remembering that the JUDGE might wish to have a chance;
arriving at the conclusion that he is to be asked nothing
further, he turns and descends from the box, and sits down next
to JAMES and WALTER.
FROME. Ruth Honeywill.
RUTH comes into court, and takes her stand stoically in the
witness-box. She is sworn.
FROME. What is your name, please?
RUTH. Ruth Honeywill.
FROME. How old are you?
FROME. You are a married woman, living with your husband? A little
RUTH. No, sir; not since July.
FROME. Have you any children?
RUTH. Yes, sir, two.
FROME. Are they living with you?
RUTH. Yes, sir.
FROME. You know the prisoner?
RUTH. [Looking at him] Yes.
FROME. What was the nature of your relations with him?
RUTH. We were friends.
THE JUDGE. Friends?
RUTH. [Simply] Lovers, sir.
THE JUDGE. [Sharply] In what sense do you use that word?
RUTH. We love each other.
THE JUDGE. Yes, but----
RUTH. [Shaking her head] No, your lordship--not yet.
THE JUDGE. 'Not yet! H'm! [He looks from RUTH to FALDER] Well!
FROME. What is your husband?
FROME. And what was the nature of your married life?
RUTH. [Shaking her head] It don't bear talking about.
FROME. Did he ill-treat you, or what?
RUTH. Ever since my first was born.
FROME. In what way?
RUTH. I'd rather not say. All sorts of ways.
THE JUDGE. I am afraid I must stop this, you know.
RUTH. [Pointing to FALDER] He offered to take me out of it, sir.
We were going to South America.
FROME. [Hastily] Yes, quite--and what prevented you?
RUTH. I was outside his office when he was taken away. It nearly
broke my heart.
FROME. You knew, then, that he had been arrested?
RUTH. Yes, sir. I called at his office afterwards, and [pointing
to COKESON] that gentleman told me all about it.
FROME. Now, do you remember the morning of Friday, July 7th?
RUTH. My husband nearly strangled me that morning.
THE JUDGE. Nearly strangled you!
RUTH. [Bowing her head] Yes, my lord.
FROME. With his hands, or----?
RUTH. Yes, I just managed to get away from him. I went straight to
my friend. It was eight o'clock.
THE JUDGE. In the morning? Your husband was not under the influence
of liquor then?
RUTH. It wasn't always that.
FROME. In what condition were you?
RUTH. In very bad condition, sir. My dress was torn, and I was half
FROME. Did you tell your friend what had happened?
RUTH. Yes. I wish I never had.
FROME. It upset him?
FROME. Did he ever speak to you about a cheque?
FROZE. Did he ever give you any money?
FROME. When was that?
RUTH. On Saturday.
FROME. The 8th?
RUTH. To buy an outfit for me and the children, and get all ready to
FROME. Did that surprise you, or not?
RUTH. What, sir?
FROME. That he had money to give you.
Ring. Yes, because on the morning when my husband nearly killed me
my friend cried because he hadn't the money to get me away. He told
me afterwards he'd come into a windfall.
FROME. And when did you last see him?
RUTH. The day he was taken away, sir. It was the day we were to
FROME. Oh, yes, the morning of the arrest. Well, did you see him at
all between the Friday and that morning? [RUTH nods] What was his
RUTH. Dumb--like--sometimes he didn't seem able to say a word.
FROME. As if something unusual had happened to him?
FROME. Painful, or pleasant, or what?
RUTH. Like a fate hanging over him.
FROME. [Hesitating] Tell me, did you love the prisoner very much?
RUTH. [Bowing her head] Yes.
FROME. And had he a very great affection for you?
RUTH. [Looking at FALDER] Yes, sir.
FROME. Now, ma'am, do you or do you not think that your danger and
unhappiness would seriously affect his balance, his control over his
FROME. His reason, even?
RUTH. For a moment like, I think it would.
FROME. Was he very much upset that Friday morning, or was he fairly
RUTH. Dreadfully upset. I could hardly bear to let him go from me.
FROME. Do you still love him?
RUTH. [With her eyes on FALDER] He's ruined himself for me.
FROME. Thank you.
He sits down. RUTH remains stoically upright in the witness-
CLEAVER. [In a considerate voice] When you left him on the morning
of Friday the 7th you would not say that he was out of his mind, I
RUTH. No, sir.
CLEAVER. Thank you; I've no further questions to ask you.
RUTH. [Bending a little forward to the jury] I would have done the
same for him; I would indeed.
THE JUDGE. Please, please! You say your married life is an unhappy
one? Faults on both sides?
RUTH. Only that I never bowed down to him. I don't see why I
should, sir, not to a man like that.
THE JUDGE. You refused to obey him?
RUTH. [Avoiding the question] I've always studied him to keep
THE JUDGE. Until you met the prisoner--was that it?
RUTH. No; even after that.
THE JUDGE. I ask, you know, because you seem to me to glory in this
affection of yours for the prisoner.
RUTH. [Hesitating] I--I do. It's the only thing in my life now.
THE JUDGE. [Staring at her hard] Well, step down, please.
RUTH looks at FALDER, then passes quietly down and takes her
seat among the witnesses.
FROME. I call the prisoner, my lord.
FALDER leaves the dock; goes into the witness-box, and is duly
FROME. What is your name?
FALDER. William Falder.
FROME. And age?
FROME. You are not married?
FALDER shakes his head
FROME. How long have you known the last witness?
FALDER. Six months.
FROME. Is her account of the relationship between you a correct one?
FROME. You became devotedly attached to her, however?
THE JUDGE. Though you knew she was a married woman?
FALDER. I couldn't help it, your lordship.
THE JUDGE. Couldn't help it?
FALDER. I didn't seem able to.
The JUDGE slightly shrugs his shoulders.
FROME. How did you come to know her?
FALDER. Through my married sister.
FROME. Did you know whether she was happy with her husband?
FALDER. It was trouble all the time.
FROME. You knew her husband?
FALDER. Only through her--he's a brute.
THE JUDGE. I can't allow indiscriminate abuse of a person not
FROME. [Bowing] If your lordship pleases. [To FALDER] You admit
altering this cheque?
FALDER bows his head.
FROME. Carry your mind, please, to the morning of Friday, July the
7th, and tell the jury what happened.
FALDER. [Turning to the jury] I was having my breakfast when she
came. Her dress was all torn, and she was gasping and couldn't seem
to get her breath at all; there were the marks of his fingers round
her throat; her arm was bruised, and the blood had got into her eyes
dreadfully. It frightened me, and then when she told me, I felt--I
felt--well--it was too much for me! [Hardening suddenly] If you'd
seen it, having the feelings for her that I had, you'd have felt the
same, I know.
FALDER. When she left me--because I had to go to the office--I was
out of my senses for fear that he'd do it again, and thinking what I
could do. I couldn't work--all the morning I was like that--simply
couldn't fix my mind on anything. I couldn't think at all. I seemed
to have to keep moving. When Davis--the other clerk--gave me the
cheque--he said: "It'll do you good, Will, to have a run with this.
You seem half off your chump this morning." Then when I had it in my
hand--I don't know how it came, but it just flashed across me that if
I put the 'ty' and the nought there would be the money to get her
away. It just came and went--I never thought of it again. Then
Davis went out to his luncheon, and I don't really remember what I
did till I'd pushed the cheque through to the cashier under the rail.
I remember his saying "Gold or notes?" Then I suppose I knew what
I'd done. Anyway, when I got outside I wanted to chuck myself under
a bus; I wanted to throw the money away; but it seemed I was in for
it, so I thought at any rate I'd save her. Of course the tickets I
took for the passage and the little I gave her's been wasted, and
all, except what I was obliged to spend myself, I've restored. I
keep thinking over and over however it was I came to do it, and how I
can't have it all again to do differently!
FALDER is silent, twisting his hands before him.
FROME. How far is it from your office to the bank?
FALDER. Not more than fifty yards, sir.
FROME. From the time Davis went out to lunch to the time you cashed
the cheque, how long do you say it must have been?
FALDER. It couldn't have been four minutes, sir, because I ran all
FROME. During those four minutes you say you remember nothing?
FALDER. No, sir; only that I ran.
FROME. Not even adding the 'ty' and the nought?'
FALDER. No, sir. I don't really.
FROME sits down, and CLEAVER rises.
CLEAVER. But you remember running, do you?
FALDER. I was all out of breath when I got to the bank.
CLEAVER. And you don't remember altering the cheque?
FALDER. [Faintly] No, sir.
CLEAVER. Divested of the romantic glamour which my friend is casting
over the case, is this anything but an ordinary forgery? Come.
FALDER. I was half frantic all that morning, sir.
CLEAVER. Now, now! You don't deny that the 'ty' and the nought were
so like the rest of the handwriting as to thoroughly deceive the
FALDER. It was an accident.
CLEAVER. [Cheerfully] Queer sort of accident, wasn't it? On which
day did you alter the counterfoil?
FALDER. [Hanging his head] On the Wednesday morning.
CLEAVER. Was that an accident too?
FALDER. [Faintly] No.
CLEAVER. To do that you had to watch your opportunity, I suppose?
FALDER. [Almost inaudibly] Yes.
CLEAVER. You don't suggest that you were suffering under great
excitement when you did that?
FALDER. I was haunted.
CLEAVER. With the fear of being found out?
FALDER. [Very low] Yes.
THE JUDGE. Didn't it occur to you that the only thing for you to do
was to confess to your employers, and restore the money?
FALDER. I was afraid. [There is silence]
CLEAVER. You desired, too, no doubt, to complete your design of
taking this woman away?
FALDER. When I found I'd done a thing like that, to do it for
nothing seemed so dreadful. I might just as well have chucked myself
into the river.
CLEAVER. You knew that the clerk Davis was about to leave England
--didn't it occur to you when you altered this cheque that suspicion
would fall on him?
FALDER. It was all done in a moment. I thought of it afterwards.
CLEAVER. And that didn't lead you to avow what you'd done?
FALDER. [Sullenly] I meant to write when I got out there--I would
have repaid the money.
THE JUDGE. But in the meantime your innocent fellow clerk might have
FALDER. I knew he was a long way off, your lordship. I thought
there'd be time. I didn't think they'd find it out so soon.
FROME. I might remind your lordship that as Mr. Walter How had the
cheque-book in his pocket till after Davis had sailed, if the
discovery had been made only one day later Falder himself would have
left, and suspicion would have attached to him, and not to Davis,
from the beginning.
THE JUDGE. The question is whether the prisoner knew that suspicion
would light on himself, and not on Davis. [To FALDER sharply] Did
you know that Mr. Walter How had the cheque-book till after Davis
THE JUDGE. Now speak the truth-yes or no!
FALDER. [Very low] No, my lord. I had no means of knowing.
THE JUDGE. That disposes of your point, Mr. Frome.
[FROME bows to the JUDGE]
CLEAVER. Has any aberration of this nature ever attacked you before?
FALDER. [Faintly] No, sir.
CLEAVER. You had recovered sufficiently to go back to your work that
FALDER. Yes, I had to take the money back.
CLEAVER. You mean the nine pounds. Your wits were sufficiently keen
for you to remember that? And you still persist in saying you don't
remember altering this cheque. [He sits down]
FALDER. If I hadn't been mad I should never have had the courage.
FROME. [Rising] Did you have your lunch before going back?
FALDER. I never ate a thing all day; and at night I couldn't sleep.
FROME. Now, as to the four minutes that elapsed between Davis's
going out and your cashing the cheque: do you say that you recollect
nothing during those four minutes?
FALDER. [After a moment] I remember thinking of Mr. Cokeson's face.
FROME. Of Mr. Cokeson's face! Had that any connection with what you
FALDER. No, Sir.
FROME. Was that in the office, before you ran out?
FALDER. Yes, and while I was running.
FROME. And that lasted till the cashier said: "Will you have gold or
FALDER. Yes, and then I seemed to come to myself--and it was too
FROME. Thank you. That closes the evidence for the defence, my
The JUDGE nods, and FALDER goes back to his seat in the dock.
FROME. [Gathering up notes] If it please your lordship--Gentlemen
of the Jury,--My friend in cross-examination has shown a disposition
to sneer at the defence which has been set up in this case, and I am
free to admit that nothing I can say will move you, if the evidence
has not already convinced you that the prisoner committed this act in
a moment when to all practical intents and purposes he was not
responsible for his actions; a moment of such mental and moral
vacuity, arising from the violent emotional agitation under which he
had been suffering, as to amount to temporary madness. My friend has
alluded to the "romantic glamour" with which I have sought to invest
this case. Gentlemen, I have done nothing of the kind. I have
merely shown you the background of "life"--that palpitating life
which, believe me--whatever my friend may say--always lies behind the
commission of a crime. Now gentlemen, we live in a highly, civilized
age, and the sight of brutal violence disturbs us in a very strange
way, even when we have no personal interest in the matter. But when
we see it inflicted on a woman whom we love--what then? Just think
of what your own feelings would have been, each of you, at the
prisoner's age; and then look at him. Well! he is hardly the
comfortable, shall we say bucolic, person likely to contemplate with
equanimity marks of gross violence on a woman to whom he was
devotedly attached. Yes, gentlemen, look at him! He has not a
strong face; but neither has he a vicious face. He is just the sort
of man who would easily become the prey of his emotions. You have
heard the description of his eyes. My friend may laugh at the word
"funny"--I think it better describes the peculiar uncanny look of
those who are strained to breaking-point than any other word which
could have been used. I don't pretend, mind you, that his mental
irresponsibility--was more than a flash of darkness, in which all
sense of proportion became lost; but to contend, that, just as a man
who destroys himself at such a moment may be, and often is, absolved
from the stigma attaching to the crime of self-murder, so he may, and
frequently does, commit other crimes while in this irresponsible
condition, and that he may as justly be acquitted of criminal intent
and treated as a patient. I admit that this is a plea which might
well be abused. It is a matter for discretion. But here you have a
case in which there is every reason to give the benefit of the doubt.
You heard me ask the prisoner what he thought of during those four
fatal minutes. What was his answer? "I thought of Mr. Cokeson's
face!" Gentlemen, no man could invent an answer like that; it is
absolutely stamped with truth. You have seen the great affection
[legitimate or not] existing between him and this woman, who came
here to give evidence for him at the risk of her life. It is
impossible for you to doubt his distress on the morning when he
committed this act. We well know what terrible havoc such distress
can make in weak and highly nervous people. It was all the work of a
moment. The rest has followed, as death follows a stab to the heart,
or water drops if you hold up a jug to empty it. Believe me,
gentlemen, there is nothing more tragic in life than the utter
impossibility of changing what you have done. Once this cheque was
altered and presented, the work of four minutes--four mad minutes
--the rest has been silence. But in those four minutes the boy
before you has slipped through a door, hardly opened, into that great
cage which never again quite lets a man go--the cage of the Law. His
further acts, his failure to confess, the alteration of the
counterfoil, his preparations for flight, are all evidence--not of
deliberate and guilty intention when he committed the prime act from
which these subsequent acts arose; no--they are merely evidence of
the weak character which is clearly enough his misfortune. But is a
man to be lost because he is bred and born with a weak character?
Gentlemen, men like the prisoner are destroyed daily under our law
for want of that human insight which sees them as they are, patients,
and not criminals. If the prisoner be found guilty, and treated as
though he were a criminal type, he will, as all experience shows, in
all probability become one. I beg you not to return a verdict that
may thrust him back into prison and brand him for ever. Gentlemen,
Justice is a machine that, when some one has once given it the
starting push, rolls on of itself. Is this young man to be ground to
pieces under this machine for an act which at the worst was one of
weakness? Is he to become a member of the luckless crews that man
those dark, ill-starred ships called prisons? Is that to be his
voyage-from which so few return? Or is he to have another chance, to
be still looked on as one who has gone a little astray, but who will
come back? I urge you, gentlemen, do not ruin this young man! For,
as a result of those four minutes, ruin, utter and irretrievable,
stares him in the face. He can be saved now. Imprison him as a
criminal, and I affirm to you that he will be lost. He has neither
the face nor the manner of one who can survive that terrible ordeal.
Weigh in the scales his criminality and the suffering he has
undergone. The latter is ten times heavier already. He has lain in
prison under this charge for more than two months. Is he likely ever
to forget that? Imagine the anguish of his mind during that time.
He has had his punishment, gentlemen, you may depend. The rolling of
the chariot-wheels of Justice over this boy began when it was decided
to prosecute him. We are now already at the second stage. If you
permit it to go on to the third I would not give--that for him.
He holds up finger and thumb in the form of a circle, drops his
hand, and sits dozen.
The jury stir, and consult each other's faces; then they turn towards
the counsel for the Crown, who rises, and, fixing his eyes on a spot
that seems to give him satisfaction, slides them every now and then
towards the jury.
CLEAVER. May it please your lordship--[Rising on his toes] Gentlemen
of the Jury,--The facts in this case are not disputed, and the
defence, if my friend will allow me to say so, is so thin that I
don't propose to waste the time of the Court by taking you over the
evidence. The plea is one of temporary insanity. Well, gentlemen, I
daresay it is clearer to me than it is to you why this rather--what
shall we call it?--bizarre defence has been set up. The alternative
would have been to plead guilty. Now, gentlemen, if the prisoner had
pleaded guilty my friend would have had to rely on a simple appeal to
his lordship. Instead of that, he has gone into the byways and
hedges and found this--er--peculiar plea, which has enabled him to
show you the proverbial woman, to put her in the box--to give, in
fact, a romantic glow to this affair. I compliment my friend; I
think it highly ingenious of him. By these means, he has--to a
certain extent--got round the Law. He has brought the whole story of
motive and stress out in court, at first hand, in a way that he would
not otherwise have been able to do. But when you have once grasped
that fact, gentlemen, you have grasped everything. [With
good-humoured contempt] For look at this plea of insanity; we can't
put it lower than that. You have heard the woman. She has every
reason to favour the prisoner, but what did she say? She said that
the prisoner was not insane when she left him in the morning. If he
were going out of his mind through distress, that was obviously the
moment when insanity would have shown itself. You have heard the
managing clerk, another witness for the defence. With some
difficulty I elicited from him the admission that the prisoner,
though jumpy [a word that he seemed to think you would understand,
gentlemen, and I'm sure I hope you do], was not mad when the cheque
was handed to Davis. I agree with my friend that it's unfortunate
that we have not got Davis here, but the prisoner has told you the
words with which Davis in turn handed him the cheque; he obviously,
therefore, was not mad when he received it, or he would not have
remembered those words. The cashier has told you that he was
certainly in his senses when he cashed it. We have therefore the
plea that a man who is sane at ten minutes past one, and sane at
fifteen minutes past, may, for the purposes of avoiding the
consequences of a crime, call himself insane between those points of
time. Really, gentlemen, this is so peculiar a proposition that I am
not disposed to weary you with further argument. You will form your
own opinion of its value. My friend has adopted this way of saying a
great deal to you--and very eloquently--on the score of youth,
temptation, and the like. I might point out, however, that the
offence with which the prisoner is charged is one of the most serious
known to our law; and there are certain features in this case, such
as the suspicion which he allowed to rest on his innocent fellow-
clerk, and his relations with this married woman, which will render
it difficult for you to attach too much importance to such pleading.
I ask you, in short, gentlemen, for that verdict of guilty which, in
the circumstances, I regard you as, unfortunately, bound to record.
Letting his eyes travel from the JUDGE and the jury to FROME, he
THE JUDGE. [Bending a little towards the jury, and speaking in a
business-like voice] Gentlemen, you have heard the evidence, and the
comments on it. My only business is to make clear to you the issues
you have to try. The facts are admitted, so far as the alteration of
this cheque and counterfoil by the prisoner. The defence set up is
that he was not in a responsible condition when he committed the
crime. Well, you have heard the prisoner's story, and the evidence
of the other witnesses--so far as it bears on the point of insanity.
If you think that what you have heard establishes the fact that the
prisoner was insane at the time of the forgery, you will find him
guilty, but insane. If, on the other hand, you conclude from what
you have seen and heard that the prisoner was sane--and nothing short
of insanity will count--you will find him guilty. In reviewing the
testimony as to his mental condition you must bear in mind very
carefully the evidence as to his demeanour and conduct both before
and after the act of forgery--the evidence of the prisoner himself,
of the woman, of the witness--er--COKESON, and--er--of the cashier.
And in regard to that I especially direct your attention to the
prisoner's admission that the idea of adding the 'ty' and the nought
did come into his mind at the moment when the cheque was handed to
him; and also to the alteration of the counterfoil, and to his
subsequent conduct generally. The bearing of all this on the
question of premeditation [and premeditation will imply sanity] is
very obvious. You must not allow any considerations of age or
temptation to weigh with you in the finding of your verdict. Before
you can come to a verdict of guilty but insane you must be well and
thoroughly convinced that the condition of his mind was such as would
have qualified him at the moment for a lunatic asylum. [He pauses,
then, seeing that the jury are doubtful whether to retire or no,
adds:] You may retire, gentlemen, if you wish to do so.
The jury retire by a door behind the JUDGE. The JUDGE bends
over his notes. FALDER, leaning from the dock, speaks excitedly
to his solicitor, pointing dawn at RUTH. The solicitor in turn
speaks to FROME.
FROME. [Rising] My lord. The prisoner is very anxious that I should
ask you if your lordship would kindly request the reporters not to
disclose the name of the woman witness in the Press reports of these
proceedings. Your lordship will understand that the consequences
might be extremely serious to her.
THE JUDGE. [Pointedly--with the suspicion of a smile] well, Mr.
Frome, you deliberately took this course which involved bringing her
FROME. [With an ironic bow] If your lordship thinks I could have
brought out the full facts in any other way?
THE JUDGE. H'm! Well.
FROME. There is very real danger to her, your lordship.
THE JUDGE. You see, I have to take your word for all that.
FROME. If your lordship would be so kind. I can assure your
lordship that I am not exaggerating.
THE JUDGE. It goes very much against the grain with me that the name
of a witness should ever be suppressed. [With a glance at FALDER,
who is gripping and clasping his hands before him, and then at RUTH,
who is sitting perfectly rigid with her eyes fixed on FALDER] I'll
consider your application. It must depend. I have to remember that
she may have come here to commit perjury on the prisoner's behalf.
FROME. Your lordship, I really----
THE JUDGE. Yes, yes--I don't suggest anything of the sort, Mr.
Frome. Leave it at that for the moment.
As he finishes speaking, the jury return, and file back into the
CLERK of ASSIZE. Gentlemen, are you agreed on your verdict?
FOREMAN. We are.
CLERK of ASSIZE. Is it Guilty, or Guilty but insane?
The JUDGE nods; then, gathering up his notes, sits looking at
FALDER, who stands motionless.
FROME. [Rising] If your lordship would allow me to address you in