“Did Mr. Pretyman walk out with you on Thursday evenings?”
“Oh no, sir. On Thursday evenings Mr. Pretyman was an Oddfellow.”
“I think we have only to account for Fridays,” said his lordship, after consulting his notes.
“On Fridays, my lord, Mr. Pretyman was an Ancient Buffalo.”
“An Ancient Buffalo?”
“Yes, my lord (sobbing). I don’t know what it means, but that was the last straw.”
“The first question for the jury to determine,” said his lordship, a little later, “is whether an affianced young woman, as such, has a right to expect from her betrothed such attentions as may reasonably be taken as earnest of his desire to fulfil his contract within a reasonable time. In the present instance, the fact that the contract was made does not stand in doubt; it is not disputed. Now arises a second question. Can a man who is on weekdays a Freemason, a Rechabite, an Oddfellow, a Forester, an Ancient Druid, and an Ancient Buffalo, and on Sundays (as I gather) a Yarmouth Bloater—”
“Plymouth Brother, my lord,” plaintiff’s counsel corrected.
“I beg your pardon—a Plymouth Brother. I say, can a man who after his betrothal voluntarily preoccupies himself with these multifarious functions be held—I will not say to have disqualified himself for that willing exchange of confidence which is the surest guarantee of lasting happiness between man and wife—but to have raised such obstacles to the fulfilment of the original contract as reasonably warrant the accusation of mala fides?”
Well, the jury held that he could; for without troubling to leave the box they gave their verdict for the plaintiff, and assessed the damages at one hundred pounds.
Towards the close of the case we all felt ashamed of Pretyman. His defence had been weak; it struck us as almost derisory; and Mr. Hansombody agreed with me in a whisper that under similar circumstances he or I could have made a better fight for it. The fellow had shown no sport. We blushed for our town.
But Troy has a knack of winning its races on the post. Judgment, as the phrase goes, was on the point of being entered accordingly, when the defendant looked up towards the Bench with a sudden, happy smile.
“Here, wait a minute!” he said. “I have a question to put to his lordship.”
“Eh?” said the Judge. “Certainly. What is it?”
“I want to know, my lord, if I can claim the benefit of the First Offenders Act?”
The train on the return journey was worse crowded than ever; but nobody minded. For we had managed to give plaintiff and defendant a compartment to themselves.
When the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Carinthia travelled in state to wed the Princess Sophia of Ysselmonde, he did so by land, and for two reasons; the first being that this was the shortest way, and the second that he possessed no ships. These, at any rate, were the reasons alleged by his Chancellor, to whom he left all arrangements. For himself, he took very little interest in the marriage beyond inquiring the age of his bride. “Six years,” was the answer, and this seemed to him very young, for he had already passed his tenth birthday.