Harris prompts him.
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—
Chantrey. [Prompting] Caesar’s wife.
Mayor. 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] My Aunt!
Chantrey. 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.
Sergeant steps forward to read the charge as
The curtain falls.
Noon the same day.
Topping is standing by the open window, looking
and down the street. A newspaper boy’s voice is heard calling the
first edition of his wares. It approaches from the Right.
Boy’s voice. Right, guv’nor! Johnny Builder up before the beaks! [A paper is pushed up].
Topping. [Extending a penny] What’s that you’re sayin’? You take care!
Boy’s voice. It’s all ‘ere. Johnny Builder—beatin’ his wife! Dischawged.
Topping. Stop it, you young limb!