Ten o'clock the following morning, in the study of the Mayor of
Breconridge, a panelled room with no window visible, a door Left
back and a door Right forward. The entire back wall is furnished
with books from floor to ceiling; the other walls are panelled and
bare. Before the fireplace, Left, are two armchairs, and other
chairs are against the walls. On the Right is a writing-bureau at
right angles to the footlights, with a chair behind it. At its back
corner stands HARRIS, telephoning.
What--[Pause] Well, it's infernally awkward, Sergeant. . . .
The Mayor's in a regular stew. . . . [Listens] New constable?
I should think so! Young fool! Look here, Martin, the only thing to do
is to hear the charge here at once. I've sent for Mr Chantrey; he's on
his way. Bring Mr Builder and the witnesses round sharp. See? And, I
say, for God's sake keep it dark. Don't let the Press get on to it. Why
you didn't let him go home--! Black eye? The constable? Well, serve
him right. Blundering young ass! I mean, it's undermining all
authority. . . . Well, you oughtn't--at least, I. . . Damn it
all!--it's a nine days' wonder if it gets out--! All right! As soon as
you can. [He hangs up the receiver, puts a second chair behind the
bureau, and other chairs facing it.][To himself] Here's a mess! Johnny
Builder, of all men! What price Mayors!
I don't know, sir. The worst of it is he's been at the police
station since four o'clock yesterday. The Superintendent's away, and
Martin never will take responsibility.
By George! he will be mad. John Builder's a choleric fellow.
MAYOR [Nodding] He is. 'Ot temper, and an 'igh sense of duty.
There's one other charge, Mr Mayor--poaching. I told them to
keep that back till after.
Oh, well, we'll make short work of that. I want to get off by
eleven, Harris. I shall be late for the first drive anyway. John
Builder! I say, Mayor--but for the grace of God, there go we!
Harris, go out and bring them in yourself; don't let the
HARRIS goes out Left. The MAYOR takes the upper chair behind the
bureau, sitting rather higher because of the book than CHANTREY, who
takes the lower. Now that they are in the seats of justice, a sort
of reticence falls on them, as if they were afraid of giving away
their attitudes of mind to some unseen presence.
CHANTREY drops his eyeglass and puts on a pair of "grandfather"
spectacles. The MAYOR clears his throat and takes up a pen. They
neither of them look up as the door is opened and a little
procession. files in. First HARRIS; then RALPH BUILDER, ATHENE,
HERRINGHAME, MAUD, MRS BUILDER, SERGEANT MARTIN, carrying a heavy
Malacca cane with a silver knob; JOHN BUILDER and the CONSTABLE
MOON, a young man with one black eye. No funeral was ever attended
by mutes so solemn and dejected. They stand in a sort of row.
MAYOR [Without looking up] Sit down, ladies; sit down.
HARRIS and HERRINGHAME succeed in placing the three women in chairs.
RALPH BUILDER also sits. HERRINGHAME stands behind. JOHN BUILDER
remains standing between the two POLICEMEN. His face is unshaved
and menacing, but he stands erect staring straight at the MAYOR.
HARRIS goes to the side of the bureau, Back, to take down the
John Builder, of The Cornerways, Breconridge, Contractor and
Justice of the Peace, charged with assaulting his daughter Maud Builder
by striking her with a stick in the presence of Constable Moon and two
other persons; also with resisting Constable Moon in the execution of his
duty, and injuring his eye. Constable Moon!
MOON [Stepping forward-one, two--like an automaton, and saluting] In
River Road yesterday afternoon, Your Worship, about three-thirty p.m., I
was attracted by a young woman callin' "Constable" outside a courtyard.
On hearing the words "Follow me, quick," I followed her to a painter's
studio inside the courtyard, where I found three persons in the act of
disagreement. No sooner 'ad I appeared than the defendant, who was
engaged in draggin' a woman towards the door, turns to the young woman
who accompanied me, with violence. "You dare, father," she says;
whereupon he hit her twice with the stick the same which is produced, in
the presence of myself and the two other persons, which I'm given to
understand is his wife and other daughter.
Yes; never mind what you're given to understand.
No, sir. The party struck turns to me and says, "Come in. I give
this man in charge for assault." I moves accordingly with the words:
"I saw you. Come along with me." The defendant turns to me sharp and
says: "You stupid lout--I'm a magistrate." "Come off it," I says to the
best of my recollection. "You struck this woman in my presence," I says,
"and you come along!" We were then at close quarters. The defendant
gave me a push with the words: "Get out, you idiot!" "Not at all," I
replies, and took 'old of his arm. A struggle ensues, in the course of
which I receives the black eye which I herewith produce. [He touches his
eye with awful solemnity.]
The MAYOR clears his throat; CHANTREY'S eyes goggle; HARRIS bends
over and writes rapidly.
During the struggle, Your Worship, a young man has appeared on the scene,
and at the instigation of the young woman, the same who was assaulted,
assists me in securing the prisoner, whose language and resistance was
violent in the extreme. We placed him in a cab which we found outside,
and I conveyed him to the station.
What was his--er--conduct in the--er--cab?
MOON steps back two paces, and the SERGEANT steps two paces forward.
At ten minutes to four, Your Worship, yesterday afternoon,
Constable Moon brought the defendant to the station in a four-wheeled
cab. On his recounting the circumstances of the assault, they were
taken down and read over to the defendant with the usual warning. The
defendant said nothing. In view of the double assault and the condition
of the constable's eye, and in the absence of the Superintendent,
I thought it my duty to retain the defendant for the night.
MAUD [After a look at her father, who never turns his eyes from the
MAYOR's face] I--I wish to withdraw the charge of striking me, please.
I--I never meant to make it. I was in a temper--I saw red.
I see. A--a domestic disagreement. Very well, that charge is
withdrawn. You do not appear to have been hurt, and that seems to me
quite proper. Now, tell me what you know of the assault on the
constable. Is his account correct?
Very good. [To HARRIS] Now then, what is it?
HARRIS says something in a low and concerned voice. The MAYOR'S face
lengthens. He leans to his right and consults CHANTREY, who gives a
faint and deprecating shrug. A moment's silence.
This is an open Court. The Press have the right to attend if
HARRIS goes to the door and admits a young man in glasses, of a
pleasant appearance, and indicates to him a chair at the back. At
this untimely happening BUILDER's eyes have moved from side to side,
but now he regains his intent and bull-like stare at his fellow-
MAYOR [With a gesture of dismissal] Very well, That seems to be the
evidence. Defendant John Builder--what do you say to all this?
BUILDER [In a voice different from any we have heard from him] Say!
What business had he to touch me, a magistrate? I gave my daughter two
taps with a cane in a private house, for interfering with me for taking
my wife home--
That charge is not pressed, and we can't go into the
circumstances. What do you wish to say about your conduct towards
I had seen him shortly before this unhappy business.
The MAYOR nods and makes a gesture, so that MAUD and RALPH sit down;
then, leaning over, he confers in a low voice with CHANTREY. The
rest all sit or stand exactly as if each was the only person in the
room, except the JOURNALIST, who is writing busily and rather
obviously making a sketch of BUILDER.
Very good. [He clears his throat] As the defendant, wrongly, we
think, refuses to offer his explanation of this matter, the Bench has to
decide on the evidence as given. There seems to be some discrepancy as
to the blow which the constable undoubtedly received. In view of this,
we incline to take the testimony of Mr--
Mr 'Erringhame--as the party least implicated personally in the affair,
and most likely to 'ave a cool and impartial view. That evidence is to
the effect that the blow was accidental. There is no doubt, however,
that the defendant used reprehensible language, and offered some
resistance to the constable in the execution of his duty. Evidence 'as
been offered that he was in an excited state of mind; and it is possible
--I don't say that this is any palliation--but it is possible that he may
have thought his position as magistrate made him--er--
Eh? We think, considering all the circumstances, and the fact
that he has spent a night in a cell, that justice will be met by--er--
discharging him with a caution.
BUILDER [With a deeply muttered] The devil you do!
Walks out of the room. The JOURNALIST, grabbing his pad, starts up
and follows. The BUILDERS rise and huddle, and, with HERRINGHAME,
are ushered out by HARRIS.
MAYOR [Pulling out a large handkerchief and wiping his forehead]
These new constables, Mayor! I say, Builder'll have to go!
Damn the Press, how they nose everything out! The Great Unpaid!--
We shall get it again! [He suddenly goes off into a fit of laughter]
"Come off it," I says, "to the best of my recollection." Oh! Oh!
I shan't hit a bird all day! That poor devil Builder! It's no joke for
him. You did it well, Mayor; you did it well. British justice is safe
in your hands. He blacked the fellow's eye all right. "Which I herewith
produce." Oh! my golly! It beats the band!
His uncontrollable laughter and the MAYOR'S rueful appreciation are
exchanged with lightning rapidity for a preternatural solemnity, as
the door opens, admitting SERGEANT MARTIN and the lugubrious object
of their next attentions.