“–And to him,” added Mr. Tutt solemnly. “The fact that this wish is not expressed in such a way as to be legally obligatory makes it all the more binding. In a way, I suppose, that is your hard luck. You might, perhaps, fight a provision in the will. You can’t fight this–or disregard it, either.”
“I don’t exactly see why this is any _more_ binding than a provision in the will itself!” protested Payson.
Mr. Tutt threw his stogy into the fire and fumbled for another in the long box on the library table.
“Maybe it isn’t,” he conceded, “but I’ve always liked that specious anecdote attributed to Sheridan who paid his gambling debts and let his tailor wait. You remember it, of course? When the tailor demanded the reason for this Sheridan told him that a gambling debt was a debt of honor and a tailor’s bill was not, since his fortunate adversary at the card table had only his promise to pay, whereas the tailor possessed an action for an account which he could prosecute in the courts.
“‘In that case!’ declared the tailor, ‘I’ll tear up my bill!’ which he did, and Sheridan thereupon promptly paid him. Have another nip of brandy?”
“No, thank you!” answered Payson. “It’s getting late and I must be going. I’ve–I’ve had a perfectly–er–ripping time!”
“You must come again soon!” said Mr. Tutt warmly, from the top of the steps outside.
As Payson reached the sidewalk he looked back somewhat shamefacedly and said:
“Do you think it makes any difference what sort of a person this Sadie Burch is?”
In the yellow light of the street lamp it seemed to the collegian as if the face of the old man bore for an instant a fleeting resemblance to that of his father.
“Not one particle!” he answered. “Good night, my boy!”
But Payson Clifford did not have a good night by any manner of means. Instead of returning to his hotel he wandered aimless and miserable along the river front. He no longer had any doubt as to his duty. Mr. Tutt had demolished Tutt in a breath,–and put the whole proposition clearly. Tutt had given, as it were, and Mr. Tutt had taken away. However, he told himself, that wasn’t all there was to it; the money was his in law and no one could deprive him of it. Why not sit tight and let Mr. Tutt go to the devil? He need never see him again! And no one else would ever know! Twenty-five thousand dollars? It would take him years to earn such a staggering sum! Besides, there were two distinct sides to the question. Wasn’t Tutt just as good a lawyer as Mr. Tutt? Couldn’t he properly decide in favor of himself when the court was equally divided? And Tutt had said emphatically that he would be a fool to surrender the money. As Payson Clifford trudged along the shadows of the docks he became obsessed with a curious feeling that Tutt and Mr. Tutt were both there before him; Mr. Tutt–a tall, benevolent figure carrying a torch in the shape of a huge, black, blazing stogy that beckoned him onward through the darkness; and behind him Tutt–a little paunchy red devil with horns and a tail–who tweaked him by the coat and twittered, “Don’t throw away twenty-five thousand dollars! The best way is to leave matters as they are and let the law settle everything. Then you take no chances!”
But in the end–along about a quarter to seven A.M.–Mr. Tutt won. Exhausted, but at peace with himself, Payson Clifford stumbled into the Harvard Club on Forty-fourth Street, ordered three fried eggs done on one side, two orders of bacon and a pot of coffee, and then wrote a letter which he dispatched by a messenger to Tutt & Tutt.
“Gentlemen,” it read: “Will you kindly take immediate steps to find Miss Sarah Burch and pay over to her twenty-five thousand dollars from my father’s residuary estate. I am entirely satisfied that this was his wish. I am returning to Cambridge to-day. If necessary you can communicate with me there.
“Yours very truly,
* * * * *
One might suppose that a legatee to twenty-five thousand dollars could be readily found; but Miss Sadie Burch proved a most elusive person. No Burches grew in Hoboken–according to either the telephone or the business directory–and Mr. Tutt’s repeated advertisements in the newspapers of that city elicited no response. Three months went by and it began to look as if the lady had either died or permanently absented herself–and that Payson Clifford might be able to keep his twenty-five thousand with a clear conscience. Then one day in May came a letter from a small town in the central part of New Jersey from Sadie Burch. She had, she said, only just learned entirely by accident that she was an object of interest to Messrs. Tutt & Tutt. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for her to come to New York City, but if she could be of any service to them she would be pleased, etc.
“I think I’ll give the lady the once-over!” remarked Mr. Tutt, as he looked across the glittering bay to the shadowy hills of New Jersey. “It’s a wonderful day, and there isn’t much to do here….”
* * * * *
“Sadie Burch? Sadie Burch? Sure, I know her!” answered the lanky man driving the flivver tractor nearby, as he inspected the motor carrying Mr. Tutt. “She lives in the second house beyond the big elm–” and he started plowing again with a great clatter.
The road glared white in the late afternoon sun. On either side stretched miles of carefully cultivated fields, the country drowsed, the air hot, but sweet with magnolia, lilac and apple blossoms. Miss Burch had obviously determined that when she retired from the world of men she would make a thorough job of it and expose herself to no temptation to return–eight miles from the nearest railroad. Just beyond the elms they slowed up alongside a white picket fence enclosing an old-fashioned garden whence came to Mr. Tutt the busy murmur of bees. Then they came to a gate that opened upon a red-tiled, box-bordered, moss-grown walk, leading to a small white house with blue and white striped awnings. A green and gold lizard poked its head out of the hedge and eyed Mr. Tutt rather with curiosity than hostility.
“Does Miss Sadie Burch live here?” asked Mr. Tutt of the lizard.
“Yes!” answered a cheerful female voice from the veranda. “Won’t you come up on the piazza?”
The voice was not the kind of voice Mr. Tutt had imagined as belonging to Sadie Burch. But neither was the lady on the piazza that kind of lady. In the shadow of the awning in a comfortable rocking chair sat a white-haired, kindly-faced woman, knitting a baby jacket. She looked up at him with a friendly smile.
“I’m Miss Burch,” she said. “I suppose you’re that lawyer I wrote to? Won’t you come up and sit down?”
“Thanks,” he replied, drawing nearer with an answering smile. “I can only stay a few moments and I’ve been sitting in the motor most of the day. I might as well come to the point at once. You have doubtless heard of the death of Mr. Payson Clifford, Senior?”
Miss Burch laid down the baby-jacket and her lips quivered. Then the tears welled in her faded blue eyes and she fumbled hastily in her bosom for her handkerchief.
“You must excuse me!” she said in a choked voice. “–Yes, I read about it. He was the best friend I had in the world,–except my brother John. The kindest, truest friend that ever lived!”
She looked out across the little garden and wiped her eyes again.
Mr. Tutt sat down upon the moss-covered door-step beside her.
“I always thought he was a good man,” he returned quietly. “He was an old client of mine–although I didn’t know him very well.”
“I owe this house to him,” continued Miss Burch tenderly. “If it hadn’t been for Mr. Clifford I don’t know what would have become of me. Now that John is dead and I’m all alone in the world this little place–with the flowers and the bees–is all I’ve got.”
They were silent for several moments. Then Mr. Tutt said:
“No, it isn’t all. Mr. Clifford left a letter with his will in which he instructed his son to pay you twenty-five thousand dollars. I’m here to give it to you.”
A puzzled look came over her face, and then she smiled again and shook her head.
“That was just like him!” she remarked. “But it’s all a mistake. He paid me back that money five years ago. You see he persuaded John to go into some kind of a business scheme with him and they lost all they put into it–twenty-five thousand apiece. It was all we had. It wasn’t his fault, but after John died Mr. Clifford made me–simply made me–let him give the money back. He must have written the letter before that and forgotten all about it!”
“We have strict statutes, and most biting laws.” Measure for Measure, Act I, Scene 4.
“I am further of opinion that it would be better for us to have [no laws] at all than to have them in so prodigious numbers as we have.”
Montaigne. Of Experience, Chapter XIII.
Mrs. Pierpont Pumpelly, lawful spouse of Vice President Pumpelly, of Cuban Crucible, erstwhile of Athens, Ohio, was fully conscious that even if she wasn’t the smartest thing on Fifth Avenue, her snappy little car was. It was, as she said, a “perfec’ beejew!” The two robes of silver fox alone had cost eighty-five hundred dollars, but that was nothing; Mrs. Pumpelly–in her stockings–cost Pierpont at least ten times that every year. But he could afford it with Cruce at 791. So, having moved from Athens to the metropolis, they had a glorious time. Out home the Pierpont had been simply a P. and no questions asked as to what it stood for; P. Pumpelly. But whatever its past the P. had now blossomed definitely into Pierpont.
Though the said Pierpont produced the wherewithal, it was his wife, Edna, who attended to the disbursing of it. She loved her husband, but regarded him socially as somewhat of a liability, and Society was now, as she informed everybody, her “meal yure.”
She had eaten her way straight through the meal–opera box, pew at St. Simeon Stylites, Crystal Room, musicales, Carusals, hospital entertainments, Malted Milk for Freezing France, Inns for Indigent Italians, Biscuits for Bereft Belgians, dinner parties, lunch parties, supper parties, the whole thing; and a lot of the right people had come, too.
The fly in the ointment of her social happiness–and unfortunately it happened to be an extremely gaudy butterfly indeed–was her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Rutherford Wells, who obstinately refused to recognize her existence.
At home, in Athens, Edna would have resorted to the simple expedient of sending over the hired girl to borrow something. But here there was nothing doing. Mrs. Rutherford had probably never seen her own chef and Mrs. Pumpelly was afraid of hers. Besides, even Edna recognized the lamentable fact that it was up to Mrs. Wells to call first, which she didn’t. Once when the ladies had emerged simultaneously from their domiciles Mrs. Pumpelly had smilingly waddled forward a few steps with an ingratiating bow, but Mrs. Wells had looked over her head and hadn’t seen her.
Thereupon the iron had entered into Mrs. Pumpelly’s soul and her life had become wormwood and gall, ashes in her mouth and all the rest of it. She proposed to get even with the cat at the very first chance, but somehow the chance never seemed to come. She hated to be living on the same street with that kind of nasty person. And who was this Wells woman? Her husband never did a thing except play croquet or something at a club! He probably was a drunkard–and a roo-ay. Mrs. Pumpelly soon convinced herself that Mrs. Wells also must be a very undesirable, if not hopelessly immoral lady. Anyhow, she made up her mind that she would certainly take nothing further from her. Even if Mrs. Wells should have a change of heart and see fit to call, she just wouldn’t return it! So when she rolled up in the diminutive car and found Mrs. Wells’ lumbering limousine blocking the doorway she was simply furious.
“Make that man move along!” she directed, and Jules honked and honked, but the limousine did not budge.
Then Mrs. Pumpelly gave way to a fit of indignation that would have done her proud even in Athens, Ohio. Fire-breathing, she descended from her car and, approaching the limousine, told the imperturbable chauffeur that even if he did work for Mrs. Rutherford Wells, Mrs. Rutherford Wells was no better than anybody else, and that gave him no right to block up the whole street. She spoke loudly, emphatically, angrily, and right in the middle of it the chauffeur, who had not deigned to look in her direction, slyly pressed the electric button of his horn and caused it to emit a low scornful grunt. Then a footman opened the door of the Wells mansion and Mrs. Rutherford Wells herself came down the steps, and Mrs. Pumpelly told her to her face exactly what she thought of her and ordered her to move her car along so her own could get in front of the vestibule.
Mrs. Wells ignored her. Deliberately–and as if there were no such person as Mrs. Pumpelly upon the sidewalk–she stepped into her motor and, the chauffeur having adjusted the robe, she remarked in a casual, almost indifferent manner that nevertheless made Mrs. Pumpelly squirm, “Go to Mr. Hepplewhite’s, William. Pay no attention to that woman. If she makes any further disturbance call a policeman.”
And the limousine rolled away with a sneer at Mrs. Pumpelly from the exhaust. More than one king has been dethroned for far less cause!
* * * * *
“You telephone Mr. Edgerton,” she almost shrieked at Simmons, the butler, “that he should come right up here as fast as he can. I’ve got to see him at once!”
“Very good, madam,” answered Simmons obsequiously.
And without more ado, in less than forty minutes, the distinguished Mr. Wilfred Edgerton, of Edgerton & Edgerton, attorneys for Cuban Crucible and hence alert to obey the behests of the wives of the officers thereof, had deposited his tall silk hat on the marble Renaissance table in the front hall and was entering Mrs. Pumpelly’s Louis Quinze drawing-room with the air of a Sir Walter Raleigh approaching his Queen Elizabeth.
“Sit down, Mr. Edgerton!” directed the lady impressively. “No, you’ll find that other chair more comfortable; the one you’re in’s got a hump in the seat. As I was saying to the butler before you came, I’ve been insulted and I propose to teach that woman she can’t make small of me no matter what it costs–and Pierpont says you’re no slouch of a charger at that.”
“My dear madam!” stammered the embarrassed attorney. “Of course, there are lawyers and lawyers. But if you wish the best I feel sure my firm charges no more than others of equal standing. In any event you can be assured of our devotion to your interests. Now what, may I ask, are the circumstances of the case?”
“Mr. Edgerton,” she began, “I just want you should listen carefully to what I have to say. This woman next door to me here has–“
At this point, as paper is precious and the lady voluble, we will drop the curtain upon the first act of our legal comedy.
* * * * *
“I suppose we’ll have to do it for her!” growled Mr. Wilfred Edgerton to his brother on his return to their office. “She’s a crazy idiot and I’m very much afraid we’ll all get involved in a good deal of undesirable publicity. Still, she’s the wife of the vice president of our best paying client!”
“What does she want us to do?” asked Mr. Winfred, the other Edgerton. “We can’t afford to be made ridiculous–for anybody.”
This was quite true since dignity was Edgerton & Edgerton’s long suit, they being the variety of Wall Street lawyers who are said to sleep in their tall hats and cutaways.
“If you can imagine it,” replied his brother irritably, “she insists on our having Mrs. Wells arrested for obstructing the street in front of her house. She asked me if it wasn’t against the law, and I took a chance and told her it was. Then she wanted to start for the police court at once, but as I’d never been in one I said we’d have to prepare the papers; I didn’t know what papers.”
“But we can’t arrest Mrs. Wells!” expostulated Mr. Winfred Edgerton. “She’s socially one of our most prominent people. I dined with her only last week!”
“That’s why Mrs. Pumpelly wants to have her arrested, I fancy!” replied Mr. Wilfred gloomily. “Mrs. Wells has given her the cold shoulder. It’s no use; I tried to argue the old girl out of it, but I couldn’t. She knows what she wants and she jolly well intends to have it.”
“I wish you joy of her!” mournfully rejoined the younger Edgerton. “But it’s your funeral. I can’t help you. I never got anybody arrested and I haven’t the least idea how to go about it.”
“Neither have I,” admitted his brother. “Luckily my practise has not been of that sort. However, it can’t be a difficult matter. The main thing is to know exactly what we are trying to arrest Mrs. Wells for.”
“Why don’t you retain Tutt & Tutt to do it for us?” suggested Winfred. “Criminal attorneys are used to all that sort of rotten business.”
“Oh, it wouldn’t do to let Pumpelly suspect we couldn’t handle it ourselves. Besides, the lady wants distinguished counsel to represent her. No, for once we’ve got to lay dignity aside. I think I’ll send Maddox up to the Criminal Courts Building and have him find out just what to do.”
It may seem remarkable that neither of the members of a high-class law firm in New York City should ever have been in a police court, but such a situation is by no means infrequent. The county or small-town attorney knows his business from the ground up. He starts with assault and battery, petty larceny and collection cases and gradually works his way up, so to speak, to murder and corporate reorganizations. But in Wall Street the young student whose ambition is to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States in some constitutional matter as soon as possible is apt to spend his early years in brief writing and then become a specialist in real estate, corporation, admiralty or probate law and perhaps never see the inside of a trial court at all, much less a police court, which, to the poor and ignorant, at any rate, is the most important court of any of them, since it is here that the citizen must go to enforce his everyday rights.
Mr. Wilfred Edgerton suspected that a magistrate’s court was a dirty sort of hole, full of brawling shyster lawyers, and he didn’t want to know any more about such places than he could help. Theoretically he was aware that on a proper complaint sworn to by a person supposing himself or herself criminally aggrieved the judge would issue a warrant to an officer, who would execute it on the person of the criminal and hale him or her to jail. The idea of Mrs. Wells being dragged shrieking down Fifth Avenue or being carted away from her house in a Black Maria filled him with dismay.
Yet that was what Mrs. Pumpelly proposed to have done, and unfortunately he had to do exactly what Mrs. Pumpelly said; quickly too.
“Maddox,” he called to a timid youth in a green eye-shade sitting in lonely grandeur in the spacious library, “just run up to the–er–magistrate’s court on Blank Street and ascertain the proper procedure for punishing a person for obstructing the highway. If you find an appropriate statute or ordinance you may lay an information against Mrs. Rutherford Wells for violating it this afternoon in front of the residence next to hers; and see that the proper process issues in the regular way.”
To hear him one would have thought he did things like that daily before breakfast–such is the effect of legal jargon.
“Yes, sir,” answered Maddox respectfully, making a note. “Do you wish to have the warrant held or executed?”
Mr. Wilfred Edgerton bit his mustache doubtfully.
“We-ell,” he answered at length, perceiving that he stood upon the brink of a legal Rubicon, “you may do whatever seems advisable under all the circumstances.”
In his nervous condition he did not recall what, had he stopped calmly to consider the matter, he must have known very well–namely, that no warrant could possibly issue unless Mrs. Pumpelly, as complainant, signed and swore to the information herself.
“Very well, sir,” answered Maddox, in the same tone and manner that he would have used had he been a second footman at Mrs. Pumpelly’s.
Thereafter both Edgertons, but particularly Wilfred, passed a miserable hour. They realized that they had started something and they had no idea of where, how or when what they had started would stop. Indeed they had terrifying visions of Mrs. Wells being beaten into insensibility, if not into a pulp, by a cohort of brutal police officers, and of their being held personally responsible. But before anything of that sort actually happened Maddox returned.
“Well,” inquired Wilfred with an assumption of nonchalance, “what did you find out?”
“The magistrate said that we would have to apply at the court in the district where the offense occurred and that Mrs. Pumpelly would have to appear there in person. Obstructing a highway is a violation of Section Two of Article Two of the Police Department Regulations for Street Traffic, which reads: ‘A vehicle waiting at the curb shall promptly give way to a vehicle arriving to take up or set down passengers.’ It is not usual to issue a warrant in such cases, but a summons merely.”
“Ah!” sighed both Edgertons in great relief.
“Upon which the defendant must appear in default of fine or imprisonment,” continued Maddox.
The two lawyers looked at one another inquiringly.
“Did they treat you–er–with politeness?” asked Wilfred curiously.
“Oh, well enough,” answered the clerk. “I can’t say it’s a place I hanker to have much to do with. It’s not like an afternoon tea party. But it’s all right. Do you wish me to do anything further?”
“Yes!” replied Wilfred with emphasis, “I do. I wish you would go right up to Mrs. Pumpelly’s house, conduct that lady to the nearest police court and have her swear out the summons for Mrs. Wells herself. I’ll telephone her that you are coming.”
Which was a wise conclusion, in view of the fact that Edna Pumpelly, nee Haskins, was much better equipped by nature to take care of Mr. Wilfred Edgerton in the hectic environs of a police court than he was qualified to take care of her. And so it was that just as Mrs. Rutherford Wells was about to sit down to tea with several fashionable friends her butler entered, bearing upon a salver a printed paper, which he presented to her, in manner and form the following:
CITY MAGISTRATE’S COURT, CITY OF NEW YORK
In the name of the people of the State of New York To “Jane” Wells, the name “Jane” being fictitious:
You are hereby summoned to appear before the —— District Magistrate’s Court, Borough of Manhattan, City of New York, on the eighth day of May, 1920, at ten o’clock in the forenoon, to answer the charge made against you by Edna Pumpelly for violation of Section Two, Article Two of the Traffic Regulations providing that a vehicle waiting at the curb shall promptly give way to a vehicle arriving to take up or set down passengers, and upon your failure to appear at the time and place herein mentioned you are liable to a fine of not exceeding fifty dollars or to imprisonment of not exceeding ten days or both.
Dated 6th day of May, 1920.
JAMES CUDDAHEY, Police Officer,
Police Precinct ——, New York City.
Attest: JOHN J. JONES, Chief City Magistrate.
“Heavens!” cried Mrs. Wells as she read this formidable document. “What a horrible woman! What shall I do?”
Mr. John De Puyster Hepplewhite, one of the nicest men in New York, who had himself once had a somewhat interesting experience in the criminal courts in connection with the arrest of a tramp who had gone to sleep in a pink silk bed in the Hepplewhite mansion on Fifth Avenue, smiled deprecatingly, set down his Dresden-china cup and dabbed his mustache decorously with a filigree napkin.
“Dear lady,” he remarked with conviction, “in such distressing circumstances I have no hesitation whatever in advising you to consult Mr. Ephraim Tutt.”
* * * * *
“I have been thinking over what you said the other day regarding the relationship of crime to progress, Mr. Tutt, and I’m rather of the opinion that it’s rot,” announced Tutt as he strolled across from his own office to that of his senior partner for a cup of tea at practically the very moment when Mr. Hepplewhite was advising Mrs. Wells. “In the vernacular–bunk.”
“What did he say?” asked Miss Wiggin, rinsing out with hot water Tutt’s special blue-china cup, in the bottom of which had accumulated some reddish-brown dust from Mason & Welsby’s Admiralty and Divorce Reports upon the adjacent shelf.
“He made the point,” answered Tutt, helping himself to a piece of toast, “that crime was–if I may be permitted to use the figure–part of the onward urge of humanity toward a new and perhaps better social order; a natural impulse to rebel against existing abuses; and he made the claim that though an unsuccessful revolutionary was of course regarded as a criminal, on the other hand, if successful he at once became a patriot, a hero, a statesman or a saint.”
“A very dangerous general doctrine, I should say,” remarked Miss Wiggin. “I should think it all depended on what sort of laws he was rebelling against. I don’t see how a murderer could ever be regarded as assisting in the onward urge toward sweetness and light, exactly.”
“Wouldn’t it depend somewhat on whom you were murdering?” inquired Mr. Tutt, finally succeeding in his attempt to make a damp stogy continue in a state of combustion. “If you murdered a tyrant wouldn’t you be contributing toward progress?”
“No,” retorted Miss Wiggin, “you wouldn’t; and you know it. In certain cases where the laws are manifestly unjust, antiquated or perhaps do not really represent the moral sense of the community their violation may occasionally call attention to their absurdity, like the famous blue laws of Connecticut, for example; but as the laws as a whole do crystallize the general opinion of what is right and desirable in matters of conduct a movement toward progress would be exhibited not by breaking laws but by making laws.”
“But,” argued Mr. Tutt, abandoning his stogy, “isn’t the making of a new law the same thing as changing an old law? And isn’t changing a law essentially the same thing as breaking it?”
“It isn’t,” replied Miss Wiggin tartly. “For the obvious and simple reason that the legislators who change the laws have the right to do so, while the man who breaks them has not.”
“All the same,” admitted Tutt, slightly wavering, “I see what Mr. Tutt means.”
“Oh, I see what he means!” sniffed Miss Wiggin. “I was only combating what he said!”
“But the making of laws does not demonstrate progress,” perversely insisted Mr. Tutt. “The more statutes you pass the more it indicates that you need ’em. An ideal community would have no laws at all.”
“There’s a thought!” interjected Tutt. “And there wouldn’t be any lawyers either!”
“As King Hal said: ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,'” commented Mr. Tutt.
“Awful vision!” ejaculated Miss Wiggin. “Luckily for us, that day has not yet dawned. However, Mr. Tutt’s argument is blatantly fallacious. Of course, the making of new laws indicates an impulse toward social betterment–and therefore toward progress.”
“It seems to me,” ventured Tutt, “that this conversation is more than usually theoretical–not to say specious! The fact of the matter is that the law is a part of our civilization and the state of the law marks the stage of our development–more or less.”
Mr. Tutt smiled sardonically.
“You have enunciated two great truths,” said he. “First, that it is a ‘part’; and second, ‘more or less.’ The law is a very small part of our protection against what is harmful to us. It is only one of our sanctions of conduct, and a very crude one at that. Did you ever stop to think that compared with religion the efficacy of the law was almost _nil_? The law deals with conduct, but only at a certain point. We are apt to find fault with it because it makes what appear to us to be arbitrary and unreasonable distinctions. That in large measure is because law is only supplementary.”
“How do you mean–supplementary?” queried Tutt.
“Why,” answered his partner, “as James C. Carter pointed out, ninety-nine per cent of all law is unwritten. What keeps most people straight is not criminal statutes but their own sense of decency, conscience or whatever you may choose to call it. Doubtless you recall the famous saying of Diogenes Laertius: ‘There is a written and an unwritten law. The one by which we regulate our constitutions in our cities is the written law; that which arises from custom is the unwritten law.’ I see that, of course you do! As I was saying only the other day, infractions of good taste and of manners, civil wrongs, sins, crimes–are in essence one and the same, differing only in degree. Thus the man who goes out to dinner without a collar violates the laws of social usage; if he takes all his clothes off and walks the streets he commits a crime. In a measure it simply depends on how many clothes he has on what grade of offense he commits. From that point of view the man who is not a gentleman is in a sense a criminal. But the law can’t make a man a gentleman.”
“I should say not!” murmured Miss Wiggin.
“Well,” continued Mr. Tutt, “we have various ways of dealing with these outlaws. The man who violates our ideas of good taste or good manners is sent to Coventry; the man who does you a wrong is mulcted in damages; the sinner is held under the town pump and ridden out of town on a rail, or the church takes a hand and threatens him with the hereafter; but if he crosses a certain line we arrest him and lock him up–either from public spirit or for our own private ends.”
“Hear! Hear!” cried Tutt admiringly.
“Fundamentally there is only an arbitrary distinction between wrongs, sins and crimes. The meanest and most detestable of men, beside whom an honest burglar is a sympathetic human being, may yet never violate a criminal statute.”
“That’s so!” said Tutt. “Take Badger, for instance.”
“How often we defend cases,” ruminated his partner, “where the complainant is just as bad as the prisoner at the bar–if not worse.”
“And of course,” added Tutt, “you must admit there are a lot of criminals who are criminals from perfectly good motives. Take the man, for instance, who thrashes a bystander who insults his wife–the man’s wife, I mean, naturally.”
“Only in those cases where we elect to take the law into our own hands we ought to be willing to accept the consequences like gentlemen and sportsmen,” commented the senior partner.
“This is all very interesting, no doubt,” remarked Miss Wiggin, “but as a matter of general information I should like to know why the criminal law doesn’t punish the sinners–as well as the criminals.”
“I guess one reason,” replied Tutt, “is that people don’t wish to be kept from sinning.”
“Thou hast spoken!” agreed Mr. Tutt. “And another reason is that the criminal law was not originally devised for the purpose of eradicating sin–which, after all, is the state into which it is said man was born–but was only intended to prevent certain kinds of physical violence and lawlessness–murder, highway robbery, assault, and so on. The church was supposed to take care of sin, and there was an elaborate system of ecclesiastical courts. In point of fact, though there is a great deal of misconception on the subject, the criminal law does not deal with sin as sin at all, or even with wrongs merely as wrongs. It has a precise and limited purpose–namely, to prevent certain kinds of acts and to compel the performance of other acts.
“The state relies on the good taste and sense of decency, duty and justice of the individual citizen to keep him in order most of the time. It doesn’t, or anyhow it shouldn’t, attempt to deal with trifling peccadillos; it generally couldn’t. It merely says that if a man’s conscience and idea of fair play aren’t enough to make him behave himself, why, then, when he gets too obstreperous we’ll lock him up. And different generations have had entirely different ideas about what was too obstreperous to be overlooked. In the early days the law only punished bloodshed and violence. Later on, its scope was increased, until thousands of acts and omissions are now made criminal by statute. But that explains why the fact that something is a sin doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a crime. The law is artificial and not founded on any general attempt to prohibit what is unethical, but simply to prevent what is immediately dangerous to life, limb and property.”
“Which, after all, is a good thing–for it leaves us free to do as we choose so long as we don’t harm anybody else,” said Miss Wiggin.
“Yet,” her employer continued, “unfortunately–or perhaps fortunately from our professional point of view–our lawmakers from time to time get rather hysterical and pass such a multiplicity of statutes that nobody knows whether he is committing crime or not.”
“In this enlightened state,” interposed Tutt, “it’s a crime to advertise as a divorce lawyer; to attach a corpse for payment of debt; to board a train while it is in motion; to plant oysters without permission; or without authority wear the badge of the Patrons of Husbandry.”
“Really, one would have to be a student to avoid becoming a criminal,” commented Miss Wiggin.
Mr. Tutt rose and, looking along one of the shelves, took down a volume which he opened at a point marked by a burned match thrust between the leaves.
“My old friend Joseph H. Choate,” he remarked, “in his memorial of his partner, Charles H. Southmayde, who was generally regarded as one of the greatest lawyers of our own or any other generation, says, ‘The ever-growing list of misdemeanors, created by statute, disturbed him, and he even employed counsel to watch for such statutes introduced into the legislature–mantraps, as he called them–lest he might, without knowing it, commit offenses which might involve the penalty of imprisonment.'”
“We certainly riot in the printed word,” said Miss Wiggin. “Do you know that last year alone to interpret all those statutes and decide the respective rights of our citizens the Supreme Court of this state wrote five thousand eight hundred pages of opinion?”
“Good Lord!” ejaculated Tutt. “Is that really so?”
“Of course it is!” she answered.
“But who reads the stuff?” demanded the junior partner. “I don’t!”
“The real lawyers,” replied Miss Wiggin innocently.
“The judges who write them probably read them,” declared Mr. Tutt. “And the defeated litigants; the successful ones merely read the final paragraphs.”
“But coming back to crime for a moment,” said Miss Wiggin, pouring herself out a second cup of tea; “I had almost forgotten that the criminal law was originally intended only to keep down violence. That explains a lot of things. I confess to being one of those who unconsciously assumed that the law is a sort of official Mrs. Grundy.”
“Not at all! Not at all!” corrected Mr. Tutt. “The law makes no pretense of being an arbiter of morals. Even where justice is concerned it expects the mere sentiment of the community to be capable of dealing with trifling offenses. The laws of etiquette and manners, devised for ‘the purpose of keeping fools at a distance,’ are reasonably adapted to enforcing the dictates of good taste and to dealing with minor offenses against our ideas of propriety.”
“I wonder,” hazarded Miss Wiggin thoughtfully, “if there isn’t some sociological law about crimes, like the law of diminishing returns in physics?”
“The law of what?”
“Why, the law that the greater the force or effort applied to anything,” she explained a little vaguely, “the greater the resistance becomes, until the effort doesn’t accomplish anything; increased speed in a warship, for instance.”
“What’s that got to do with crime?”
“Why, the more statutes you pass and more new crimes you create the harder it becomes to enforce obedience to them, until finally you can’t enforce them at all.”
“That is rather a profound analogy,” observed Mr. Tutt. “It might well repay study.”
“Miss Wiggin has no corner on analogies,” chirped Tutt. “Passing statutes creating new crimes is like printing paper money without anything back of it; in the one case there isn’t really any more money than there was before and in the other there isn’t really any more crime either.”
“Only it makes more business for us.”
“I’ve got another idea,” continued Tutt airily, “and that is that crime is a good thing. Not because it means progress or any bunk like that, but because unless you had a certain amount of crime, and also criminal lawyers to attack the law, the state would never find out the weaknesses in its statutes. Therefore the more crime there is the more the protective power of the state is built up, just as the fever engendered by vaccine renders the human body immune from smallpox! Eh, what?”
“I never heard such nonsense!” exclaimed Miss Wiggin. “Do let me give you some more tea! Eh, what?”
But at that moment Willie announced that Mr. Rutherford Wells was calling to see Mr. Tutt and tea was hastily adjourned. Half an hour later the old lawyer rang for Bonnie Doon.
“Bonnie,” he said, “one of our clients has been complained against by her next-door neighbor, a got-rich-quick lady, for obstructing the street with her motor. It’s obviously a case of social envy, hatred and malice. Just take a run up there in the morning, give Mrs. Pierpont Pumpelly and her premises the once-over and let me know of any violations you happen to observe. I don’t care how technical they are, either.”
“All right, Mr. Tutt,” answered Bonnie. “I get you. Isn’t there a new ordinance governing the filling of garbage cans?”
“I think there is,” nodded Mr. Tutt. “And meantime I think I’ll drop over and see Judge O’Hare.”
* * * * *
“I’ll settle her hash for her, the hussy!” declared Mrs. Pumpelly to her husband at dinner the following evening. “I’ll teach her to insult decent people and violate the law. Just because her husband belongs to a swell club she thinks she can do as she likes! But I’ll show her! Wait till I get her in court to-morrow!”
“Well, of course, Edna, I’ll stand back of you and all that,” Pierpont assured her. “No, thank you, Simmons, I don’t wish any more ‘voly vong.’ But I’d hate to see you get all messed up in a police court!”
“Me–messed up!” she exclaimed haughtily. “I guess I can take care of myself most anywheres–good and plenty!”
“Of course you can, dearie!” he protested in a soothing tone. “But these shyster lawyers who hang around those places–you ‘member Jim O’Leary out home to Athens? Well, they don’t know a lady when they see one, and they wouldn’t care if they did; and they’ll try and pry into your past life–“
“I haven’t got any past life, and you know it too, Pierpont Pumpelly!” she retorted hotly. “I’m a respectable, law-abidin’ woman, I am. I never broke a law in all my days–“
“Excuse me, madam,” interposed Simmons, with whom the second footman had just held a whispered conference behind the screen, “but James informs me that there is a police hofficer awaiting to see you in the front ‘all.”
“To see me?” ejaculated Mrs. Pumpelly.
“I suppose it’s about to-morrow. Tell him to call round about nine o’clock in the morning.”
“‘E says ‘e must see you to-night, ma’am,” annotated James excitedly. “And ‘e acted most hobnoxious to me!”
“Oh, he acted obnoxious, did he?” remarked Mrs. Pumpelly airily. “What was he obnoxious about?”
“‘E ‘as a paper ‘e says ‘e wants to serve on you personal,” answered James in agitation. “‘E says if you will hallow ‘m to step into the dining-room ‘e won’t take a minute.”
“Perhaps we’d better let him come in,” mildly suggested Pierpont. “It’s always best to keep on good terms with the police.”
“But I haven’t broken any law,” repeated Mrs. Pumpelly blankly.
“Maybe you have without knowin’ it,” commented her husband.
“Why, Pierpont Pumpelly, you know I never did such a thing!” she retorted.
“Well, let’s have him in, anyway,” he urged. “I can’t digest my food with him sitting out there in the hall.”
Mrs. Pumpelly took control of the situation.
“Have the man in, Simmons!” she directed grandly.
And thereupon entered Officer Patrick Roony. Politely Officer Roony removed his cap, politely he unbuttoned several yards of blue overcoat and fumbled in the caverns beneath. Eventually he brought forth a square sheet of paper–it had a certain familiarity of aspect for Mrs. Pumpelly–and handed it to her.
“Sorry to disturb you, ma’am,” he apologized, “but I was instructed to make sure and serve you personal.”
“That’s all right! That’s all right!” said Pierpont with an effort at bonhomie. “The–er–butler will give you a highball if you say so.”
“Oh, boy, lead me to it!” murmured Roony in the most approved manner of East Fourteenth Street. “Which way?”
“Come with me!” intoned Simmons with the exalted gesture of an archbishop conducting an ecclesiastical ceremonial.
“What does it say?” asked her husband hurriedly as the butler led the cop to it.
“Sh-h!” warned Mrs. Pumpelly. “James, kindly retire!”
James retired, and the lady examined the paper by the tempered light of the shaded candles surrounding what was left of the “voly vong.”
“Who ever heard of such a thing?” she cried. “Just listen here, Pierpont!”
“CITY MAGISTRATE’S COURT, CITY OF NEW YORK
“In the name of the people of the State of New York
“To ‘Maggie’ Pumpelly, the name ‘Maggie’ being fictitious:
“You are hereby summoned to appear before the —— District Magistrate’s Court, Borough of Manhattan, City of New York, on the tenth day of May, 1920, at ten o’clock in the forenoon, to answer to the charge made against you by William Mulcahy for violation of Section One, Article Two, of the Police Traffic Regulations in that on May 7, 1920, you permitted a vehicle owned or controlled by you to stop with its left side to the curb on a street other than a one-way traffic street; and also for violation of Section Seventeen, Article Two of Chapter Twenty-four of the Code of Ordinances of the City of New York in that on the date aforesaid, being the owner of a vehicle subject to Subdivision One of said section and riding therein, you caused or permitted the same to proceed at a rate of speed greater than four miles an hour in turning corner of intersecting highways, to wit, Park Avenue and Seventy-third Street; and upon your failure to appear at the time and place herein mentioned you are liable to a fine of not exceeding fifty dollars or to imprisonment of not exceeding ten days or both.
“Dated 7th day of May, 1920.
“PATRICK ROONY, Police Officer,
“Police Precinct —-,
“New York City.
“Attest: JOHN J. JONES,
“Chief City Magistrate.”
“Well, I never!” she exploded. “What rubbish! Four miles an hour! And ‘Maggie’–as if everybody didn’t know my name was Edna!”
“The whole thing looks a bit phony to me!” muttered Pierpont, worried over the possibility of having wasted a slug of the real thing on an unreal police officer. “Perhaps that feller wasn’t a cop at all!”
“And who’s William Mul-kay-hay?” she continued. “I don’t know any such person! You better call up Mr. Edgerton right away and see what the law is.”
“I hope he knows!” countered Mr. Pumpelly. “Four miles an hour–that’s a joke! A baby carriage goes faster than four miles an hour. You wouldn’t arrest a baby!”
“Well, call him up!” directed Mrs. Pumpelly. “Tell him he should come right round over here.”
The summons from his client interrupted Mr. Edgerton in the middle of an expensive dinner at his club and he left it in no good humor. He didn’t like being ordered round like a servant the way Mrs. Pumpelly was ordering him. It wasn’t dignified. Moreover, a lawyer out of his office was like a snail out of its shell–at a distinct disadvantage. You couldn’t just make an excuse to step into the next office for a moment and ask somebody what the law was. The Edgertons always kept somebody in an adjoining office who knew the law–many lawyers do.
On the Pumpelly stoop the attorney found standing an evil-looking and very shabby person holding a paper in his hand, but he ignored him until the grilled iron _cinquecento_ door swung open, revealing James, the retiring second man.
Then, before he could enter, the shabby person pushed past him and asked in a loud, vulgar tone: “Does Edna Pumpelly live here?”
James stiffened in the approved style of erect vertebrata.
“This is Madame Pierpont Pumpelly’s residence,” he replied with hauteur.
“Madam or no madam, just slip this to her,” said the shabby one. “Happy days!”
Mr. Wilfred Edgerton beneath the medieval tapestry of the Pumpelly marble hall glanced at the dirty sheet in James’ hand and, though unfamiliar with the form of the document, perceived it to be a summons issued on the application of one Henry J. Goldsmith and returnable next day, for violating Section Two Hundred and Fifteen of Article Twelve of Chapter Twenty of the Municipal Ordinances for keeping and maintaining a certain bird, to wit, a cockatoo, which by its noise did disturb the quiet and repose of a certain person in the vicinity to the detriment of the health of such person, to wit, Henry J. Goldsmith, aforesaid, and upon her failure to appear, and so on.
Wilfred had some sort of vague idea of a law about keeping birds, but he couldn’t exactly recall what it was. There was something incongruous about Mrs. Pierpont Pumpelly keeping a cockatoo. What did anybody want of a cockatoo? He concluded that it must be an ancestral hereditament from Athens, Ohio. Nervously he ascended the stairs to what Edna called the saloon.
“So you’ve come at last!” cried she. “Well, what have you got to say to this? Is it against the law to go round a corner at more than four miles an hour?”
Now, whereas Mr. Wilfred Edgerton could have told Mrs. Pumpelly the “rule in Shelly’s case” or explained the doctrine of _cy pres_, he had never read the building code or the health ordinances or the traffic regulations, and in the present instance the latter were to the point while the former were not. Thus he was confronted with the disagreeable alternative of admitting his ignorance or bluffing it through. He chose the latter, unwisely.
“Of course not! Utter nonsense!” replied he blithely. “The lawful rate of speed is at least fifteen miles an hour.”
“Excuse me, madam,” said James, appearing once more in the doorway. “A man has just left this–er–paper at the area doorway.”
Mrs. Pumpelly snatched it out of his hand.
“Well, of all things!” she gasped.
“To ‘Bridget’ Pumpelly,” it began, “said first name ‘Bridget’ being fictitious:
“You are hereby summoned to appear … for violating Section Two Hundred and Forty-eight of Article Twelve of Chapter Twenty of the Health Ordinances in that you did upon the seventh day of May, 1920, fail to keep a certain tin receptacle used for swill or garbage, in shape and form a barrel, within the building occupied and owned by you until proper time for its removal and failed to securely bundle, tie up and pack the newspapers and other light refuse and rubbish contained therein, and, further, that you caused and permitted certain tin receptacles, in the shape and form of barrels, containing such swill or garbage, to be filled to a greater height with such swill or garbage than a line within such receptacle four inches from the top thereof.”
“Now what do you know about that?” remarked the vice president of Cuban Crucible to the senior partner of Edgerton & Edgerton.
“I don’t know anything about it!” answered the elegant Wilfred miserably. “I don’t know the law of garbage, and there’s no use pretending that I do. You’d better get a garbage lawyer.”
“I thought all lawyers were supposed to know the law!” sniffed Mrs. Pumpelly. “What’s that you got in your hand?”
“It’s another summons, for keeping a bird,” answered the attorney.
“A bird? You don’t suppose it’s Moses?” she exclaimed indignantly.
“The name of the bird isn’t mentioned,” said Wilfred. “But very likely it is Moses if Moses belongs to you.”
“But I’ve had Moses ever since I was a little girl!” she protested. “And no one ever complained of him before.”
“Beg pardon, madam,” interposed Simmons, parting the Flemish arras, upon which was depicted the sinking of the Spanish Armada. “Officer Roony is back again with two more papers. ‘E says it isn’t necessary for him to see you again, as once is enough, but ‘e was wondering whether being as it was rather chilly–“
“Lead him to it!” hastily directed Pierpont, who was beginning to get a certain amount of enjoyment out of the situation. “But tell him he needn’t call again.”
“Give ’em here!” snapped Mrs. Pumpelly, grasping the documents. “This is a little too much! ‘Lulu’ this time. Fictitious as usual. Who’s Julius Aberthaw? He says I caused a certain rug to be shaken in such place and manner that certain particles of dust passed therefrom into the public street or highway, to wit, East Seventy-third Street, contrary to Section Two Hundred and Fifty-three of Article Twelve of Chapter Twenty of the Municipal Ordinances. Huh!”
“What’s the other one?” inquired her husband with a show of sympathy.
“For violating Section Fifteen of Article Two of Chapter Twenty, in that on May 7, 1920, I permitted a certain unmuzzled dog, to wit, a Pekingese brown spaniel dog, to be on a public highway, to wit, East Seventy-third Street in the City of New York. But that was Randolph!”
“Was Randolph muzzled?” inquired Mr. Edgerton maliciously.
“Of course not! He only weighs two pounds and a quarter!” protested Mrs. Pumpelly.
“He can bite all right, just the same!” interpolated Pierpont.
“But what shall I do?” wailed Mrs. Pumpelly, now thoroughly upset.
“Guess you’ll have to take your medicine, same’s other violators of the law,” commented her husband.
“I never heard of such ridiculous laws!”
“Ignorance of the law excuses no one!” murmured Wilfred.
“It don’t excuse a lawyer!” she snorted. “I have an idea you don’t know much more about the law–this kind of law, anyway–than I do. I bet it is against the law to go round a corner at more than four miles! Do you want to bet me?”
“No, I don’t!” snapped Edgerton. “What you want is a police-court lawyer–if you’re goin’ in for this sort of thing.”
“My Lord! What’s this now, Simmons?” she raved as the butler deprecatingly made his appearance again with another paper.
“I think, madam,” he answered soothingly, “that it’s a summons for allowing the house man to use the hose on the sidewalk after eight A.M. Roony just brought it.”
“H’m!” remarked Mr. Pumpelly. “Don’t lead him to it again!”
“But I wouldn’t have disturbed you if it hadn’t been for a young gentleman who ‘as called with another one regardin’ the window boxes.”
“What about window boxes?” moaned Mrs. Pumpelly.
“‘E says,” explained Simmons, “‘e ‘as a summons for you regardin’ the window boxes, but that if you’d care to speak to him perhaps the matter might be adjusted–“
“Let’s see the summons!” exclaimed Wilfred, coming to life.
“‘To Edna Pumpelly,'” he read.
“They’re gettin’ more polite,” she commented ironically.
“‘For violating Section Two Hundred and Fifty of Article Eighteen of Chapter Twenty-three in that you did place, keep and maintain upon a certain window sill of the premises now being occupied by you in the City of New York a window box for the cultivation or retention of flowers, shrubs, vines or other articles or things without the same being firmly protected by iron railings–‘”
“Heavens,” ejaculated Mr. Pumpelly, “there’ll be somebody here in a minute complaining that I don’t use the right length of shaving stick.”
“I understand,” remarked Mr. Edgerton, “that in a certain Western state they regulate the length of bed sheets!”
“What’s that for?” asked Edna with sudden interest.
“About seeing this feller?” hurriedly continued Mr. Pumpelly. “Seems to me they’ve rather got you, Edna!”
“But what’s the use seein’ him?” she asked. “I’m summoned, ain’t I?”
“Why not see the man?” advised Mr. Edgerton, gladly seizing this possibility of a diversion. “It cannot do any harm.”
“What is his name?”
“Mr. Bonright Doon,” answered Simmons encouragingly. “And he is a very pleasant-spoken young man.”
“Very well,” yielded Mrs. Pumpelly.
Two minutes later, “Mr. Doon!” announced Simmons.
Though the friends of Tutt & Tutt have made the acquaintance of Bonnie Doon only casually, they yet have seen enough of him to realize that he is an up-and-coming sort of young person with an elastic conscience and an ingratiating smile. Indeed the Pumpellys were rather taken with his breezy “Well, here we all are again!” manner as well as impressed by the fact that he was arrayed in immaculate evening costume.
“I represent Mr. Ephraim Tutt, who has been retained by your neighbor, Mrs. Rutherford Wells, in connection with the summons which you caused to be issued against her yesterday,” he announced pleasantly by way of introduction. “Mrs. Wells, you see, was a little annoyed by being referred to in the papers as Jane when her proper name is Beatrix. Besides, she felt that the offense charged against her was–so to speak–rather trifling. However–be that as it may–she and her friends in the block are not inclined to be severe with you if you are disposed to let the matter drop.”
“Inclined to be severe with me!” ejaculated Mrs. Pumpelly, bristling.
“Edna!” cautioned her husband. “Mr. Doon is not responsible.”
“Exactly. I find after a somewhat casual investigation that you have been consistently violating a large number of city ordinances–keeping parrots, beating rugs, allowing unmuzzled dogs at large, overfilling your garbage cans, disregarding the speed laws and traffic regulations, using improperly secured window boxes–“
“Anything else?” inquired Pierpont jocularly. “Don’t mind us.”
Bonnie carelessly removed from the pocket of his dress coat a sheaf of papers.
“One for neglecting to have your chauffeur display his metal badge on the outside of his coat–Section Ninety-four of Article Eight of Chapter Fourteen.
“One for allowing your drop awnings to extend more than six feet from the house line–Section Forty-two of Article Five of Chapter Twenty-two.
“One for failing to keep your curbstone at a proper level–Section One Hundred and Sixty-four of Article Fourteen of Chapter Twenty-three.
“One for maintaining an ornamental projection on your house–a statue, I believe, of the Goddess Venus–to project more than five feet beyond the building line–Section One Hundred and Eighty-one of Article Fifteen of Chapter Twenty-three.
“One for having your area gate open outwardly instead of inwardly–Section One Hundred and Sixty-four of Article Fourteen of Chapter Twenty-three.
“And one for failing to affix to the fanlight or door the street number of your house–Section One Hundred and Ten of Article Ten of Chapter Twenty-three.
“I dare say there are others.”
“I’d trust you to find ’em!” agreed Mr. Pumpelly. “Now what’s your proposition? What does it cost?”
“It doesn’t cost anything at all! Drop your proceedings and we’ll drop ours,” answered Bonnie genially.
“What do you say, Edgerton?” said Pumpelly, turning to the disgruntled Wilfred and for the first time in years assuming charge of his own domestic affairs.
“I should say that it was an excellent compromise!” answered the lawyer soulfully. “There’s something in the Bible, isn’t there, about pulling the mote out of your own eye before attempting to remove the beam from anybody’s else?”
“I believe there is,” assented Bonnie politely. “‘You’re another’ certainly isn’t a statutory legal plea, but as a practical defense–“
“Tit for tat!” said Mr. Edgerton playfully. “Ha, ha! Ha!”
“Ha, ha! Ha!” mocked Mrs. Pumpelly, her nose high in air. “A lot of good you did me!”
“By the way, young man,” asked Mr. Pumpelly, “whom do you say you represent?”
“Tutt & Tutt,” cooed Bonnie, instantly flashing one of the firm’s cards.
“Thanks,” said Pumpelly, putting it carefully into his pocket. “I may need you sometime–perhaps even sooner. Now, if by any chance you’d care for a highball–“
“Lead me right to it!” sighed Bonnie ecstatically.
“Me, too!” echoed Wilfred, to the great astonishment of those assembled.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
“For twelve honest men have decided the cause, Who are judges alike of the fact and the laws.” –The Honest Jury.
“Lastly,” says Stevenson in his Letter to a Young Gentleman Who Proposes to Embrace the Career of Art, “we come to those vocations which are at once decisive and precise; to the men who are born with the love of pigments, the passion of drawing, the gift of music, or the impulse to create with words, just as other and perhaps the same men are born with the love of hunting, or the sea, or horses, or the turning lathe. These are predestined; if a man love the labor of any trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him.”
Had anybody told Danny Lowry that the gods had called him he would have stigmatized his informant as a liar–yet they had. For apart from any question of success or fame he had loved horses from the day when as a baby he had first sprawled in the straw of his Uncle Mike Aherne’s livery and hitching stable in Dublin City. He had grown up to the scrape and whiffle of the currycomb, breathing ammonia, cracking the skin of his infantile knuckles with harness soap. Out of the love that he bore for the beautiful dumb brutes grew an understanding that in time became almost uncanny. All the jockeys and hostlers said there was magic in the lad’s hands. He could ride anything on hoofs with a slack rein; and the worst biter in the stable would take a bridle from him as it were an apple.
“Oft, now, I hear him talkin’ to ’em, so I do.” Mike Aherne was wont to say between spits. “An’ they know what he says, I’m tellin’ ye. He’s a charmer, he is; like the Whisperin’ Blacksmith. You’ve heard tell of him, belike? Well, Danny can spake to ’em widout even a whisper, so he can that!”
That was near seventy years agone, and now Danny was a shrunken little white-haired old wastrel who haunted Mulqueen’s Livery over on Twenty-fourth Street near Tenth Avenue, disappearing in and out of the cellar and loft and stalls like a leprechaun haunts a hollow tree. Nobody knew where he had come from or where he lived except that he could always be found wherever there was a suffering animal, be it dog, cat or squirrel, and the rest of the time at Mulqueen’s, with whom he had an understanding about the telephone. He was short, wiry, unshaven, with the legs of a jockey; and when he could get it he drank. That, however, was not why he had left Ireland, which had had something to do with Phoenix Park; nor was it the cause of the decline of his fortunes, which had been the coming of the motor.
Some day a story must be written called The Hitching Post, about those thousands of little cast-iron negro boys who stand so patiently on the green grass strips along village streets waiting to hold long-forgotten bridle reins. They lost their usefulness a decade or more ago, and so, by the same token and at the same time, did all that army of people who lived and moved and had their being by ministering to the needs of the horse. The gas engine was to them what the mechanical bobbin was to the spinners of Liverpool and Belfast. With the coming of the motor the race of coachmen, grooms and veterinaries began to perish from the earth. Among the last was Danny Lowry, at the very zenith of his fortunes an unofficial vet to most of the swell stables belonging to the carriage people of Fifth Avenue. One by one these stables had been converted into garages, and the broughams and C-spring victorias, the landaus and basket phaetons had been dragged to the auction room or shoved into dim corners to make room for snappy motors; and the horses Danny knew and loved so well had been sold or turned out to grass.
But there was nobody to turn Danny out to grass. He had to keep going. So he had drifted lower and lower, passing from the private stable to the trucking stable, and from the trucking stable to the last remaining decrepit boarding and liveries of the remote West Side. The tragedy of the horse is the tragedy of all who loved them. Danny was one of these tragedies, but he still picked up a precarious living by doing odd jobs at Mulqueen’s and acting as a veterinary when called upon, and he could generally be found either loafing in the smelly little office or smoking his T D pipe on the steps outside.
He and Mr. Ephraim Tutt, the lawyer, who lived in the rickety old house with the tall windows and piazzas protected by railings of open ironwork round which twisted the stems of extinct wistarias, had long been friends. Many a summer evening the two old men had sat together and discoursed of famous jockeys and still more famous horses, of Epsom and Ascot, until Mr. Tutt’s cellaret was empty and never a stogy left in the box at all. Probably no one save the odd lanky old attorney, who himself seemed to belong to a bygone era, knew the story of Danny’s glorious past–how he had risen from his Uncle Aherne’s livery in Dublin first to being paddock groom to Lord Ashburnham and then to jockey, finally to ride the Derby under the Farringdon gold and crimson, and to carry away Katherine Brady, the second housemaid, as Mrs. Lowry when he went back to Dublin with a goodly pile of money to take over his uncle’s business; and how thereafter had come babies, and fever, and the epizootic, and hard times; and Danny, a heartbroken man, had fled from bereavement and pauperism and possibly from prison to seek his fortune in America. And then the motor! Lastly, now, a hand-to-mouth, furtive, ignorant old age, a struggle for bare existence and to keep the tiny flat going for his seventeen-year-old granddaughter, Katie, who kept house for him and of whose existence few, even of Danny’s friends, were aware excepting Mr. Tutt.
There was, in fact, a striking parallel between these two old men, the one so ignorant, the other so essentially a man of culture, in that they were both humanitarians in a high sense. It is improbable that Ephraim Tutt was conscious of what drew him to Danny Lowry, but drawn he was; and the reason for it was that the fundamental mainspring of the life of each was love–in the case of the man of law for those of his fellow men who suffered through foolishness or poverty or weaknesses or misfortune; and in that of his more humble counterpart, whose limitations precluded his understanding of more endowed human beings, for the dumb animals, who must mutely suffer through the foolishness or poverty or weakness or misfortune of their owners and masters.
Danny had sat up all night with only a horse blanket drawn over his legs, taking care of a roan mare with the croup. The helpless thing had lain flat on her side in the straw struggling for breath, and Danny, his heart racked with pity, had sat in the stall beside her, every hour giving her steam and gently pouring his own secret mixture down her throat. Nobody but Danny cared what became of the mare, left there two weeks before by a stranger who had not returned for it; stolen, probably. Cramped, stiff with rheumatism, half dead from fatigue and suffering from a bad cough himself, he left the stable at eight o’clock next morning, hopeful that the miserable beast would pull through, and stepped round to Salvatore’s lunch cart for a bowl of coffee and a hot dog. He was just lighting his pipe preparatory to going back to the stable when a stranger pulled up to the curb in a mud-splashed depot wagon.
“‘Morning,” he remarked pleasantly. “Can you tell me if Mulqueen’s livery stable is anywhere about here?”
Danny removed his pipe and spat politely.
“Sure,” he replied, taking in the horse, which besides being lame and having a glaring spavin on its off hind leg was a mere bone bag fit only for the soap factory. “‘Tis just forninst the corner. I’m after goin’ there meself.”
The stranger, a heavy-faced man with a thick neck, nodded.
“All right. You go along and I’ll follow.”
Mulqueen was not yet at the stable and Danny helped unharness the animal, which, as soon as relieved of the shafts, hung its head between its legs, evidently all in. The stranger handed Danny a cigar.
“I’m lookin’ for a vet,” said he. “My horse ought to have something done for him.”
“I can well see that!” agreed Danny. “He needs a poultice and hot bandages. A bit of rest wouldn’t do him no harm, neither.”
“Well, I’m no vet,” returned the stranger with an apologetic grin, “but it don’t take much to know that he’s a sick horse. I’m a doctor, myself, but not a horse doctor. Have you got one here?”
“Some calls me a horse doctor,” modestly answered Danny. “I can treat a spavin and wind a bandage as well as the next. How long will you be leavin’ him?”
“Oh, a day or two, I guess. Well, if you’re a veterinary I leave him in your care. My name’s Simon–Dr. Joseph R. Simon, of Hempstead, Long Island.”
Danny worked all the morning over the horse, doing his best to make it comfortable. Indeed, before he had concluded his treatment the animal was probably more comfortable than he, for the night in the cold stall had given him a chill and when he left the stable to go home for lunch he was in a high fever. Doctor Simon was outside on the sidewalk talking to Mulqueen.
“Well, doctor,” said he, “what did you find was the matter with my horse?”
“Spavin, lame in three legs, sore eyes, underfed,” replied Danny, shivering. “Sure an’ he’s a sick animal.”
“How much do I owe you?” inquired Doctor Simon.
Danny was about to answer that a couple of dollars would be all right when the thought occurred to him that here was an opportunity to secure medical treatment for himself.
“If you’ll give me something to stop a fever we’ll call it even,” he suggested.
“That’s easy!” returned Doctor Simon heartily. “Come into the office and I’ll take your temperature and write you out a prescription.”
So they sat down by the stove and the doctor took Danny’s pulse and put a thermometer under his tongue, chatting amicably meanwhile, and when he had completed his examination he wrote something on a piece of paper.
“How long have you been practicing veterinary medicine?” he inquired.
“All my life,” answered Danny truthfully. “But I don’t get near so much to do as I used. These be hard times for those as have to do with horses.”
He got up painfully.
“Well, now,” said Doctor Simon, “I’d feel better if I paid you for treating my horse. Just put this five-dollar bill in your pocket. I guess you need it more than I do.”
Danny shook his head. “That’s all right!” he said weakly, for he was feeling very ill. “It’s a stand-off.”
“Oh, go ahead, take it!” urged Doctor Simon, shoving the bill into the pocket of Danny’s overcoat. “By the way, have you got your card? I might be able to send a little business your way.”
When his magic skill with horses was matter of common knowledge among the upper circle of Long Island grooms and coachmen Danny had had a few cards struck off by a friendly printer. A couple of fly-blown specimens still lingered in the drawer of Mulqueen’s desk. Danny searched until he found one:
212 WEST 53D STREET
NEW YORK CITY
“Here, sor,” said he, his head swimming, “that’s my name, but the address is wrong.”
Doctor Simon put it in his pocketbook.
“Thanks,” he remarked. “Much obliged for fixing up my horse.” Then in a businesslike manner, he threw back his coat and displayed a glittering badge. “Now,” he added brusquely, “I must arrest you for practising veterinary medicine without a license. Just come along with me to the nearest police station.”
* * * * *
When Mr. Tutt returned home that evening after attending one of the weekly sessions at the Colophon Club, where he had reluctantly contributed the sum of fifty-seven dollars to relieve the immediate needs of certain impecunious persons gathered there about a green-baize-covered table in a remote corner of the card room, he perceived by the light of an adjacent street lamp that someone was sitting upon the top of the steps leading to his front door.
“Are you Mr. Tutt?” inquired Katie Lowry, getting up and making a timid curtsy. “The great lawyer?”
“That is my name, child,” he answered. “What do you want of me?”
She was but a wisp of a girl and her eyes shone like a cat’s from under a gray shawl gathered over a pair of narrow, pinched shoulders.
“They’ve taken grandfather away to prison,” she replied with a catch in her throat. “He didn’t come in to lunch nor to supper, and when I went to the stable Mr. Mulqueen said a detective had arrested grandfather for doctoring horses without a license and he had pleaded guilty and they’d locked him up. I went to the police station, but they said he wasn’t there any more, but that he was in the Tombs.”
“Who is your grandfather?” demanded Mr. Tutt as he unlocked the door.
“Danny Lowry,” she replied. “Oh, sir, won’t you try to do something for him, sir? He thinks so much of you! He often has told me what a grand man you were and so kind, besides being such a clever lawyer and all the judges afraid of you!”
“Danny Lowry in the Tombs!” cried Mr. Tutt. “What an outrage! Of course I’ll do what I can for him. But first come inside and warm yourself. Miranda!” he shouted to the colored maid of all work. “Make us some hot toast and tea and bring it up to the library. Now, my dear, take off your shawl and sit down and tell me all about it.”
So with her frayed kid shoes upturned on the fender, little Katie Lowry, confident that she had found an all-powerful friend in this queer long man who smoked such queer long cigars, sipping her tea only when she had to pause for breath, poured out the story of her grandfather’s fight with poverty and misfortune, while her auditor’s wrinkled face grew soft and hard by turns as he watched her through the gray clouds from his stogy. An hour later he left her at the door of her flat, happy and encouraged, with a twenty-dollar bill crumpled in her hand.
* * * * *
“But what do you expect me to do about it?” retorted District Attorney Peckham in his office next morning when Mr. Tutt had explained to him the perversion of justice to accomplish which the law had been invoked. “I’m sorry! No doubt he’s a good feller. But he’s guilty, isn’t he? Admitted it in the police court, didn’t he?”
“I expect you to temper justice with mercy,” replied Mr. Tutt earnestly. “This old man’s whole life has been devoted to relieving the sufferings of animals. He’s a genuine Samaritan.”
“That’s like saying that a thief has done good with his plunder, isn’t it?” commented Peckham. “Look here, Tutt, of course I hope you get your man off and all that, but if I personally threw the case out I’d have all the vets in the city on my neck. You see the motors have pretty nearly put ’em all out of business. There aren’t enough sick horses to go round, so they’ve been conducting a sort of crusade. Tough luck–but the law is the law. And I have to enforce it–ostensibly, anyway.”
“Very well,” answered the old lawyer amiably but defiantly. “Then if you’ve got to enforce the law against a fine old chap like that I’ve got to do my darnedest to smash that law higher than a kite. And I’ll tell you something, Peckham–which is that the human heart is a damn sight bigger than the human conscience.”
* * * * *
Danny Lowry had lived for years in fear of the blow which had so suddenly struck him down, for there had never been any blinking of the obvious fact that in acting as an unlicensed veterinary he was brazenly violating the law. On the other hand, not being able to read or write, and having no technical knowledge of medicine, all his experience, all his skill, all his love of animals could avail him nothing so far as securing a license was concerned. He could not read an examination paper, but he could interpret the symptoms seen in a trembling neck and a lack-luster eye. Danny had no choice but to break the law or abandon the only career for which he had an aptitude, or by which he could hope to earn a living at his age. His crime was _malum prohibitum_, not _malum in se_, but it was, nevertheless, a violation of a most necessary law. Certainly none of us wish to be doctored by tyros or humbugs, or to have our animals treated by them. Only Danny was neither a tyro nor a humbug, and had he not been a lawbreaker the world would have been to some extent the loser.
Yet by all the canons of ethics and justice it was most improper for Mr. Tutt to hurry off to the Tombs and bail out old Danny Lowry, a self-confessed lawbreaker, giving his own bond and the house on Twenty-third Street as security. Still more so, as more unblushingly ostentatious, was his taking the criminal over to Pont’s and giving him the very best dinner that Signor Faccini, proprietor of that celebrated hostelry, could purvey.
Hard cases are said to make bad law; I wonder if they make bad people. If “conscience makes cowards of us all” does human sympathy play ducks and drakes with conscience? Does it blind the eye of reason? Rather, does it not illumine and expose the fallacies of logic and the falsities of the syllogism? Do two and two make four in human polity as in mathematics? Sometimes it would not seem so.
Certainly you would have picked Mr. Bently Gibson, of The Gibson Woolen Mills, as a model juror. One look at him as a prospective talesman in a murder case and you would have unhesitatingly murmured, “The defense challenges peremptorily!” His broad forehead, large well-shaped nose, firm chin and clear calm eye evidenced his common sense, his conscientiousness and his uncompromising adherence to principle. His customs declarations were complete to the smallest item, his income-tax returns models of self-sacrifice, he was patriotic and civic, he belonged to the Welfare League and the Citizens’ Union, and–I hesitate to confess it–he subscribed to the annual deficit of the Society for the Suppression of Sin. On the face of it, he was the kind of man the district attorney tries to select as foreman of a jury when he has to prosecute a woman who had kidnaped her own child out of a foundling asylum.
The heelers and hangers-on of the criminal courts would have described him as a highbrow and as a holier-than-thou; perhaps he might in a moment of jocularity have even so described himself–for he had his human–perhaps I should have said, his weaker–side. Surely he seemed human enough when he kissed Eleanor good-by at the door of their country place on the Sound the morning he had been subpoenaed to serve as a juryman in Part Five of the General Sessions. He had planned to take a week’s holiday that spring, and he had gone to infinite trouble to arrange his business in order to have it, for they had become engaged eleven years before at the moment when the apple blossoms and the dogwoods were at the height of their glory, even as they were now.
When, however, he found the brown subpoena at his office directing him to present himself for service the following Monday he simply gave a half sigh, half grunt of disgust, and let the longed-for vacation go; for one of his pet theories was that the jury system was the chief bulwark of the Constitution, the cornerstone of liberty. Had he only been disingenuous enough he need never have served on any jury, for no lawyer for the defense hearing him enlarge on what he considered the duties of a juryman to be, would ever have allowed him in the box. But when other chaps on the panel presented their excuses to the judge and managed to persuade him of the imperative needs of family or business, and slipped–grinning discreetly–out of the court room, he merely inaudibly called them welshers and pikers. No, he regarded jury service as a duty and a privilege, one not to be lightly avoided–the one common garden governmental function in which Uncle Sam expected every citizen to do his duty.
“I won’t let any of the rogues get by me!” he shouted gaily to his wife over the back of the motor. “And anyhow I shan’t be locked up all night. There aren’t any murder cases on the calendar. I’ll be out on the five-fifteen as usual.”
Alas, poor Bently! Alas for human frailty and all those splendid visions in which he pictured himself as the anchor of the ship of justice, a prop and stay of the structure of democracy.
His train was a trifle late and the roll of the jury had already been called, and the perennial excuses heard, when he entered the court room; but the clerk, who knew him, nodded in a welcoming manner, checked him off as present and dropped his name card in the revolving wheel. It was a well-known scene to Bently, a veteran of fifteen years’ service. Even the actors were familiar friends–the pink-faced judge with his snow-white whiskers, who at times suggested to Bently an octogenarian angel, and, at others, a certain ancient baboon once observed in the Primates cage at the Bronz Zoo; the harried, anxious little clerk with his paradoxically grandiloquent intonation; the comedy assistant district attorney with his wheezy voice emanating from a Falstaffian body, who suffered from a soporific malady and was accustomed to open a case and then let it take care of itself while he slumbered audibly beneath the dais; even Ephraim Tutt, the gaunt, benignly whimsical-looking attorney, in his rusty-black frock coat and loose-hanging tie; his rotund partner, whose birdlike briskness and fat paunch inevitably brought to mind a distended robin in specs; and the _degage_ Bonnie Doon in his cut-in-at-the-waist checked suit–he knew them all of old.
“Well, call your first case, Mister District Attorney!” directed the judge, nodding encouragingly at Bently, well knowing that in him he had a staunch upholder of the law-as-it-is, who could be depended upon to bolster up his weaker or more sentimental brother talesmen into the proper convicting attitude of mind.
Then–as per the schedule in force for at least an epoch–good-natured, pot-bellied Tom Hingman, the oldest A.D.A. in the office, rose heavily, fumbled with his stubby fingers among the blue indictments on the table, drew one forth, panted a few times, gasped out “People against Daniel Lowry,” and looked round in a pseudo-helpless way as if not knowing exactly what to do.
There was a slight stir, and from the back of the court room came forward a funny little bow-legged old man, carrying in both hands a funny little flat-topped derby hat, and took his seat timidly at the bar of justice beside Mr. Tutt, who smiled down at him affectionately and put his arm about the threadbare shoulders as if to protect him from the evils of the world. They made a quaint and far from unpleasing picture, thought Bently Gibson, the ideal juror, and he wondered what the poor old devil could be up for.
A jury was impaneled, Bently among them; the balance of the panel was excused until two o’clock; the court room was cleared of loafers; the judge perused the indictment with a practised eye; Tom Hingman rose again, wheezed and grinned at the embattled jury; and the mill of justice began to grind.
Now the mill of justice, at least in the General Sessions of New York County, grinds exceeding fine, so far as the number of convictions is concerned. Of those brought to the bar for trial few escape; for modern talesmen, being hard-headed men, regard the whole thing as a matter of business and try to get through with it as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The bombastic spread-eagle orator, the grandiloquent gas bag, the highfaluting stump speaker gain few verdicts and win small applause except from their clients. And district attorneys who ape the bloodhound in their mien and tactics win scant approval and less acquiescence from the bored gentlemen who are forced to listen to them. Nowadays–whatever may have been the case two generations ago–each side briefly states its claims and tries to win on points.
People were apt to wonder why each succeeding administration inevitably retained stuffy old Tom Hingman at seventy-five hundred dollars a year to handle the calendar in Part Five. Yet those on the inside knew why very well. It was because Tom long ago, in his prehistoric youth, had learned that the way to secure verdicts was to appear not to care a tinker’s dam whether the jury found the defendant guilty or not. He pretended never to know anything about any case in advance, to be in complete ignorance as to who the witnesses might be and to what they were going to testify, and to be terribly sorry to have to prosecute the unfortunate at the bar, though he wasn’t to blame for that any more than the jury were for having to find him guilty if proven to be so, which, it seemed to him, he had been clearly proven to be. I say Tom pretended all this, yet it was more than half true, for Tom was a kind-hearted old bird. But the point was that, whether true or not, it got convictions. The jury sucking it all up in its entirety felt sorrier for the simple-minded old softy of a Tom, which they believed him to be, than they did for the defendant, who they concluded was a good deal cleverer than the assistant district attorney.
In a word, it put them on their honor as public officers not to let the administration of justice suffer merely because the A.D.A. was too old and easy-going and generally slab-sided to be really on his job. Thus, they became prosecuting attorneys themselves–in all, thirteen to one. So Tom, having thus delegated his functions to the jury, calmly left it all to them and went to sleep, which was the best thing that he did. Worth seventy-five hundred a year? Rather, seventy-five thousand!
“Gentlemen of the jury,” he began haltingly, “this defendant seems to have been indicted for the crime of practising medicine without a license–a misdemeanor. I don’t see exactly how he gets into this court, which is supposed to try only felony cases, but I assume my old friend Tutt made a motion to transfer the case from the Special to the General Sessions on the theory that he would stand more chance with a jury than three–er–hardened judges. Well, maybe he will–I don’t know! I gather from the papers that Mr. Lowry here, after holding himself out to be a properly licensed veterinary, treated a horse belonging to the complainant. It is not a very serious offense, and you and I have no great interest in the case, but of course the public has got to be protected from charlatans, and the only way to do it is to brand as guilty those who pretend they are duly licensed to practise medicine when they are not. If you had a sick baby, Mr. Foreman, and you saw a sign ‘A.S. Smith, M.D., Children’s Specialist,’ you would want to be sure you were not going to hire a plumber, eh? You see! That’s all there is to this case!”
“All there is to this case!” murmured Mr. Tutt audibly, raising his eyes ceilingward.
“Step up here, Mr. Brown.”
Mr. Brown, the supposed Doctor Simon whose horse Danny had attended, seated himself complacently in the witness chair and bowed to the jury in a professional manner. He had, he told them, been a detective employed by the state board of health for over sixteen years. It was his duty to go round and arrest people who pretended to be licensed practitioners of medicine and assumed to doctor other people and animals. There were a lot of ’em, too; the jury would be surprised–
Mr. Tutt objected to their surprise and it was stricken out by order of the court.
“I’ll strike out ‘and there are a lot of ’em, too,’ if you say so, Mr. Tutt,” offered the court, smiling, but Mr. Tutt shook his head.
“No; let it stand!” said he significantly. “Let it stand!”
“Well, anyway,” continued Mr. Brown, “this here defendant Lowry, as he calls himself, is well known–“
Objected to and struck out.
“Well, this here defendant makes a practise–“
“Strike it out! What did he do?” snapped the octogenarian baboon on the bench.
“I’m tellin’ you, judge,” protested Brown vigorously. “This here defendant–“
“You’ve said that three times!” retorted the baboon. “Get along, can’t you? What did he do?”
“He treated my horse for spavin here in New York at 500 West 24th Street at my request on the twentieth of last March and I paid him five dollars. He said he was a licensed veterinary and he gave me his card. Here it is.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so before?” remarked the judge more amiably. “Let me see the card. All right! Anything more, Mr. Hingman?”
But Mr. Hingman had long before this subsided into his chair and was emitting sounds like those from a saxophone.
“That is plain, simple testimony, Mr. Tutt,” remarked the judge. “Go ahead and cross-examine.”
Ephraim Tutt slowly unjointed himself, the quintessence of affability, though Mr. Brown clearly held him under suspicion.
“How long have you earned your living, my dear sir, by going round arresting people?”
“Under what name–your own?”
“I use any name I feel like.”
Mr. Tutt nodded appreciatively.
“Let us see, then. You go about pretending to be somebody you are not?”
“Put it that way, if you choose.”
“And pretending to be what you are not?”
Mr. Brown eyed Mr. Tutt savagely. “What do you mean by that?”
“Didn’t you tell this old gentleman beside me that you were a doctor of medicine but not a doctor of veterinary medicine–and beg him to treat your horse for that reason?”
“Sure I did. Certainly.”
“Well, are you a licensed medical practitioner?”
“Look here! What’s that got to do with it?” snarled Mr. Brown, looking about for aid from the sleeping Hingman.
“The question is a proper one. Answer it,” directed the judge.
“No, I’m not a licensed doctor.”
“Well, didn’t you treat Mr. Lowry?”
The jury by this time had caught the drift of the examination and were listening with intent appreciation.
Mr. Brown leaned forward, a sickening smile of sneering superiority curling about his yellow molars.
“Ah!” he cried. “That’s where I have you, sir! I only pretended to treat him. I didn’t really. I only scribbled something on a piece of paper.”
“You knew he couldn’t read, of course?”
Mr. Tutt turned to the uplifted faces of the twelve. “So,” he retorted, pursing his wrinkled lips and placing his fingers together in that attitude of piety which we frequently observe upon effigies of defunct ecclesiastics–“so you did the very thing for which you threw this old man at my side into jail–and for which he is now on trial! You lied to him about being a doctor! You deceived him about giving him the medical treatment he so much needed! And you arrested him after he had worked for hours to relieve the sufferings of a sick animal. By the way, it was a sick animal, wasn’t it?”
“The sickest I could find,” replied Brown airily.
“And he did relieve its sufferings, did he not?” continued Mr. Tutt gently.
“Very likely. I wasn’t particularly interested in that end of it.”
Mr. Tutt’s meager frame seemed suddenly to expand until he hung over the witness chair like the genii who mushroomed so unexpectedly out of the fisherman’s bottle in the Arabian Nights Entertainments.
“You were not interested in ministering to a poor horse, so sick it could hardly stand! You were only interested in imprisoning and depriving of his only form of livelihood this old man whose heart was not hardened like yours! May I ask at whose instance you went and lied to him?”
“Mr. Tutt! Mr. Tutt!” interjected the octogenarian angel. “Your examination is exceeding the bounds of judicial propriety.”
Ephraim Tutt bowed low.
“A thousand pardons, Your Honor! My emotions swept me away! I most humbly apologize! But when this witness so unblushingly confesses how he played the scoundrel’s part, aged case hardened practitioner as I am, my heart cries out against such infamous treachery–“
Bang! went the judge’s gavel.
“You are only making it worse!” declared the court severely. “Proceed with your examination.”
“Very well, Your Honor!” replied Mr. Tutt, his lips trembling with well-simulated indignation. “Now, sir, who instigated this miserable deception–I beg Your Honor’s pardon! Who put you up to this game–I mean, this course of conduct?”
“Nobody,” replied Brown in a surly tone.
“Did you ever hear of the United Association of Veterinaries of the Greater City of New York–sometimes referred to as The Horse Leeches’ Union?” asked Mr. Tutt insinuatingly.
Mr. Brown hesitated.
“I’ve heard of some such organization,” he admitted. “But I never heard it was called a Horse Leeches’ Union.”
“Didn’t one of its officers come to you and say that unless something was done to reduce competition they’d have to go out of business–owing to the decrease in horses in New York?”
“I don’t remember,” answered Brown slowly. “One of ’em may have said something of the sort to me. But that’s my business!”
“Yes!” roared Mr. Tutt suddenly. “It’s your business to pretend you’re a doctor when you’re not, and you walk the streets a free man; and you want to send my client to Sing Sing for the same offense! That is all! I am done with you! Get down off the stand! Do not let me detain you from the practise of your unlicensed profession!”
“Mr. Tutt!” again admonished His Honor as the lawyer threw himself angrily into his chair. “This really won’t do at all!”
“I beg Your Honor’s pardon–a thousand times!” said Mr. Tutt in tones so humble and sincere that he almost made the angel-faced baboon believe him.
I should like to go on and describe the whole course of Danny Lowry’s trial item by item, witness by witness, and tell what Mr. Tutt did to each. But I can’t; there isn’t room. I can only dwell upon the tactics of Mr. Tutt long enough to state that at the conclusion of the case against Daniel Lowry, wherein it was clearly, definitely and convincingly established that Danny had been practising veterinary medicine for a long time without the faintest legal right, the lawyer rose and declared emphatically to the jury that his client was absolutely, totally and unquestionably innocent, as they would see by giving proper attention to the evidence he would produce–so that he would not take up any more of their valuable time in talk.
And having made this opening statement with all the earnestness and solemnity of which he was capable Mr. Tutt called to prove the defendant’s good reputation, first, Father Plunkett, the priest to whom Danny made his monthly confession and who told the jury that he knew no better man in all his parish; second, Mulqueen, who described Danny’s love of horses, his knowledge of them, his mysterious intuition concerning their hidden ailments, which, being as they could not speak, it was given to few to know, and how night after night he would sit up with a sick or dying animal to relieve its pain without thought of himself or of any earthly reward; then, man after man and woman after woman from the neighborhood of West Twenty-third Street who gave Danny the best of characters, including policemen, firemen, delicatessens, hotel keepers, and Salvatore, the proprietor of the night lunch frequented by Mr. Tutt.
And last of all little Katie Lowry. It was she who found the crack in Bently’s moral armor. For Eleanor his wife was of Irish ancestry and of the colleen type, like Katie; and Bently had always played up to her Irish side when courting her as a humorous short cut to a quasi familiarity, for you may call a girl “acushla” and “Ellin darlint” when otherwise you are fully aware, but for the Irish of it, she would have to be referred to as Miss Dodworth. And this wisp of a girl with her big black-fringed gray eyes peering up and out over her gray knitted shawl, but for the holes in her white stockings and the fact that the alabaster of her neck was a shade off color–faith, an’ it might have been Eleanor hersilf! It is obvious that any juryman who allows his mind to be influenced by the mere fact that one of the witnesses for the defense is a pretty woman–even if she recalls to him his wife or sweet-heart–is a poor weakling, a silly ass.
Otherwise all a crook need do would be to hire a half dozen of Ziegfeld’s midnight beauties to testify for him by day; and the slender darlings could work in double shifts and be whisked in auto busses from roof garden to court room. Bently was no weakling, but Katie–perhaps because it was the moment of apple blossoms and dogwood and the anniversary of his wedding day–Katie got him. Kathleen Mavourneen, and all! No man could have brought up a fatherless and motherless girl like that and keep her so simple, frank and innocent unless there was something fine about him. You see, highbrows and lowbrows are all alike below the collar bone.
And here’s the catch in it. Bently had told Eleanor that very morning that none of the rogues would get by him, and he had meant it. None of them ever had–in all his years of jury service. Time and again he had been the one stubborn man to hang out all night for a verdict of guilty against eleven outraged and indignant fellow talesmen who wanted to acquit. But quite unconsciously he found himself saying that this old fellow at the bar wasn’t a rogue at all. If he was a criminal he was so at most only in a Pickwickian sense. All the previous cases in which he had sat had been for murder or arson, robbery or theft, burglary, blackmail or some other outrageous offense against common morals or decency. But here was a man who had never done anything but good in his life, and was at the bar of justice charged with crime merely because some cold-blooded mercenaries thought he was interfering with their business! Bently was in a recalcitrant and indignant frame of mind against the prosecution long before the defense began. The whole proceeding seemed to him an outrageous farce. That wasn’t what they were there for at all! So swiftly does the acid of sympathy corrode and weaken the stoutest conscience, the most logical of minds!
Mr. Tutt did not put Danny on the stand–why should he?–and the octogenarian judge declared the case closed on both sides. Then everybody made a speech, in which he told the jury to disregard everything everybody else said.
Mr. Tutt spoke first. He thanked the gaping jury for their attention and courtesy and kindness and intelligence and for taking the trouble to listen to him. He told them what a wise and upright judge the old baboon on the bench was; and what a sterling, honest, kindly chap the fat assistant district attorney really was. They were the highest type of public officers–but paid–he accentuated the “paid” very slightly–to do their duty as they interpreted it. Now, Mr. Hingman would have to claim that Danny Lowry was a criminal; whereas, thank heaven! they all of them–every man of them–knew he was nothing of the kind! Criminal–that old man? Mr. Tutt raised his eyes and his arms to heaven in protest. Why, one look at him would create a reasonable doubt! But the case against him failed absolutely for the following reasons:
Daniel Lowry had not practised veterinary medicine without a license in taking care of Brown’s sick horse, because he had not claimed to be a veterinary; he had not been paid for his services; and because all he had done was to help a suffering animal, as any man who called himself a Christian and had a heart would have done, and as it was his duty to do.