Presentations at Court  (1896) 
by W. Pett Ridge

Extracted from the Idler magazine, vol. 9, 1896; pp. 442-445. Accompanying illustrations by Ernest Goodwin omitted.



London Police Court, 10.30 a.m. One or two bare-headed policemen lounge in stalls; reporter in stage-box adjusts his carbonic paper; Stout usher with pen over ear prepares to introduce applicants. Crowd for pit not yet admitted. Magistrate, genial youngish person, enters.

Magistrate (breezily). Morning! morning! Now then, Barton, let's have the applications. Many of them?

(Seats himself on chair, and crosses legs comfortably.)

Usher. Only a few, your worship. Plenty of the fair sect as usual. (To doorway) Come along, ma'am, you first.

(Dusty lady in crape bonnet with bald fur hand-bag enters.)

Dusty Lady. Good morning, your worship, its queer sort of weather we're 'aving, isn't it, and it does somehow play the very—well, (apologetically) I was going to say devil, but I musn't with my poor chest, and if I get anything the leastest bit——

Usher (persuasively). Now, tell the magistrate what you want, there's a good soul.

Dusty Lady (coldly). Pardon me, young man. (Shivers with pride.) I'm addressing myself to the judge, not to you. Speak when you're spoke to is what my poor mother used to say, and a very good motto it is, too, and——

Usher. Never you mind about mottoes. Put your question to his worship.

Dusty Lady. Well, me lord, what I wanted to ask was this. I warn a summons against a person—I can't call her a woman—she's nothing more or less than a person—and she's been taking my character away like anything and (banging witness-box with dilapidated hand-bag) I'm going to put a stop to it if I 'ave to go to the 'Ouse of Lords to do it.

Magistrate. What has she been saying?

Dusty Lady (indignant). What hasn't she been saying you ought to ask. I can assure you, sir—I mean, your honour, the words that woman puts her tongue to I wouldn't lower meself by repeating (shocked). I never knew there was such language till I 'eard her start. And I've made up my mind that I won't stand it any longer, and so long as there's a law left in England——

Magistrate. What is the other woman's name? (Dusty lady gives information with a snap.)

Sergeant (stepping forward). Pardon me, your worship. Both parties been here before. Live in the same house, and always slanging each other. This old lady's rather the worse of the two.

Dusty Lady (explosively). Oh, you adjective liar. I've never in all me life——

Magistrate (sternly). Go away at once. Don't come before me with your quarrels, or else I shall punish the whole lot of you.

Dusty Lady (bitterly, gathering up bag and parcel). And they call this 'appy England, the 'ome of the free. If anybody asks me, I should say it was the——

Usher (definitely). Now, then! Tell 'em outside. Next please. Come along, miss.

(Bonnetless, breathless damsel enters.)

Breathless Damsel. You'll pardon me, your worship, takin' up your time, but my landlady wants to get rid of me and I don't want to leave where I am because——

Magistrate. What is her reason?

Breathless Damsel. Gaud in 'Eaven only knows, your worship, I'm sure I don't. I've always been amyble enough with the woman, and lent her a tea-cup when she's wanted it and all that, but (vaguely) somehow she's took a dislike to me, and now nothing will satisfy her but that I must go, and it's very 'ard——

Magistrate. Sure there's no reason?

Breathless Damsel. Well, sir, I should be the first to acknowledge if there was the leastest cause, but——

Magistrate (sharply). Have you paid up your rent?

Breathless Damsel. As a matter of fact (frankly), I am a bit behind 'and, sir, with me rent; there's about two months and a 'alf owing—not more, I'll take my solim oath, and she ought to know the money's right enough because——

Magistrate (deliberately). If you don't pay your rent, my good woman, she can turn you out, and you deserve it. Go along.

(Breathless damsel goes along grumbling. Confused man with slight hiccough enters.)

Confused Man. I want word of 'vice, your worship, 'bout this wife of mine. She's very orty in her manners and she don't give me—hic—no peace at 'ome and she's always gassin about her Uncle This and her Aunt That, and I've got jest 'bout tired of it, and what a frenermine suggest' was that I might get a—hic—sepration p'raps and——

Magistrate. Nonsense! Separations are not granted for things like that. Do you drink?

Confused Man. Well—I like me glass as well's anyone and——

Magistrate (with candour). You look it. Be off and keep sober, and work hard and make the best you can of it. I should say it was your fault principally.

Confused Man (complaining to Usher, sotto voce). And this is what you get by coming to ask word of 'vice. If I'd known that 'pon me soul if I'd——

Usher. That'll do. Shunt!

(He shunts. Large muscular Irish lady arrives.)

Irish Lady. I'll trouble ye to make some anquiry concerning me husband, sorr. The little blaiguard left home—and a good home it's always been for him, the scoundrel—last Tuesday week, and I've niver set eyes on the hoombug since. (Hits ledge of witness-box very hard.) His name's Samuel, but he's a coward and a heartless man for all that, and I don't suppose I'll ever see him again and (weeps, and rubs her eyes with torn apron).

Magistrate (kindly). Come, come, my good woman, cheer up. I dare say it's not so bad as all that. We'll get the reporter to mention it, and it may lead to his discovery.

Irish Lady. His discovery? Be gor, if he's discovered I'll—I'll whipe the floor with him, I'll teach him to go off and leave me an onprotected married woman, with a brother in the army out at Cawnpore, and a sister kaping a dirty greengrocer's shop in Hoxton. (With increasing vigour.) I'll learn him, I say, to——

Magistrate (suavely). Perhaps we had better not mention that. Give a full description of him to this gentleman (waves to reporter) and let us see if it has any result.

Irish Lady. Ye'll want no description of him, sorr. He's a little five foot two atom of a man, and I'd niver have married him if it hadn't been for his carneying ways, and if he's dead—(weeps)—I'll give him the three pun ten funeral at West Ham, and (with a return to explosive manner) if he's living I'll break every bone in his dirty little body.

Magistrate. Had he any marks by which he can be identified?

Irish Lady. Had he anny marruks? Be gor, ye may well ask that! (Exultantly.) I gave him some marruka just before he wint away that'll last him for a few weeks. (With increased satisfaction.) I'm only a poor wake Irishwoman, but when I get excited, and there's a good shtick handy, I can make me marruk as well as anyone.' He'd a scar over his eye; he'd wan on——

Magistrate (to Usher). Let her tell the reporter all about it. (Politely to Irish lady.) I hope you will succeed in finding your husband.

Irish Lady. If I don't (weeps again) I'll—I'll be a lone, miserable woman (sniffs) for the rest of me natural life. He was the only man I ever lost me hearrut to, and now to think that he's gone from me sight like a——

(Goes across to reporter's box. Apologetic old man presents himself.)

Apologetic. I shan't take more than half-a-second, sir, (Magistrate sighs) well not for more than two seconds, anyway. This was what I wanted to ask, sir, if you don't mind paying attention, just for one moment——

Magistrate. Well, well!

Apologetic. Seeposing I was to meet you in the street, and I was to stop you and ask you for money that you owed me, and you got abusive and told me to, go to——

Magistrate. What does this refer to?

Apologetic (protesting). No, no. You must let me explain it me own way or else we shall never get on well together. Furthermore (with elaborate care), furthermore, seeposing I was to catch hold of you by the collar of your coat and give you a jolly good shaking—see?—should I be breaking the law?

Magistrate. Have you done this to anybody?

Apologetic. And, seeposing I was to go so far as to give you a clip side the head and tell you just what I thought of you, should I be liable——

Magistrate. But, my good man, do stop. Am I to understand that you have done this?

Apologetic. Oh no, sir.

Magistrate. But you think of doing it to some one?

Apologetic. No (vaguely), I can't say that exactly. I only thought it would be nice to know in case at any time——

Magistrate. Listen! You mustn't catch hold of people's collars, and you mustn't hit them.

Usher (urgently). Come on, Guv'nor.

Apologetic. That's all I wanted to know, thank you. I don't want any further information; I only wanted just to find out how the law actually stood, so that if it should by chance happen that——

Usher. Oh, get on. You'll jaw away all the morning if you're not careful. (To Magistrate.) That's the lot, your worship.

Magistrate (with feeling). Thank goodness!

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1930, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 92 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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