By Advice of Counsel (Arthur Train)/You're Another
"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, née 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 H. 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
"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.