Plum Punch, Crime and the Courts
by P. G.
CRIME AND THE
THE HERO AND HIS
ON THE BENCH
CRIME AND THE EYESIGHT
"There is," observed the novelist gravely, "a bad time coming for
writers of fiction. A very bad time."
I replied that what with publishers reckoning thirteen copies as
twelve, and editors regretting their so-called lack of space (sic),
things were, for my humble needs, bad enough already. After which I
asked for details.
"I have been reading a book," said he, "by a DR. GEORGE M GOULD. It
is called Biographic Clinics, and it deals with the subject of
the eyes, and their influence on the mind, character, and general
health. I could quote extensively from the volume, but I will not."
(Here I thanked him.) "Suffice it that the author asserts that, if it
were not for defective eyesight, there would be no crime in the world.
All the crimes that were ever committed are to be traced directly to
the absence of spectacles."
"And yet," I said musingly, "bread and spectacles were the ruin of
"If the Romans had thought less of their bread and more of their
spectacles, they would have declined to fall as they did. Take NERO.
Did he wear glasses? Not he. Not even a monocle. And look at his
record of convictions. Same with them all. TIBERIUS, CALIGULA, every
one of them. Utter scoundrels. And they might have been as good as
GOULD if they had only taken ordinary care of themselves."
"True," I said, "there is something very pathetic in the idea.
Roman history ought to be rewritten. It is not fair on the poor
fellows. After all, it was not their fault. Why, NERO must turn in his
grave like a teetotum at the things that are said of him every day at
our universities and public schools. Somebody ought to put him right
with the world. As gentle and well-meaning a man as ever breathed,
hounded into a life of crime by the neglect of the imperial oculist.
It is pure pathos, with the maker's name on the label."
"Precisely," said the Novelist. "By the way, in passing, why is Mr.
CHAMBERLAIN greater than WILLIAM PITT?"
"Because he wears an eye-glass."
"Why is IBSEN superior to SHAKESPEARE?"
"Because he wears spectacles."
"Exactly. Thank you very much. To return to the subject of crime,
our whole method of dealing with our criminal classes is wrong. Why,
when the coster's finished jumping on his mother—"
"On his mother?"
"What do we do? Why, we jump on
him. His plea that he had
mislaid his pince-nez at the moment passes unregarded. I have known a
poor fellow, manifestly suffering from astigmatism of the left eye,
spoken to very sharply for assaulting a policeman. The policeman said
that he had had a glass too much. Of course what he had really had was
a pair of glasses too little. It was a most painful case."
"But one moment," I said at this juncture, "you seem to me to have
strayed from the point. You have not yet explained your remark about
the bad time which is to arrive for writers of fiction. Why is there a
bad time coming?"
"Why, surely," he said, "it is perfectly obvious. In a few years
everyone will be wearing spectacles, and how are you to write a novel
of a hundred thousand words, full of strong human interest, when crime
has been utterly eliminated? Will the public read a book that is
wholly good? I can't imagine myself writing a book that is—"
"'Wholly good'? Ah, but that's your modesty. Even with glasses we
can never see ourselves as others see us."
THE POLITE PILFERER
MR. PUNCH, SIR,—If you have an eye to spare from the other affairs
of the world, will you kindly run it over the following extract from
"A boy who wanted apples and stole them had an interesting theory
propounded for him at Brentford. 'Why,' said the magistrate, 'didn't
you go to the owner and say, "I have an idea of getting into your
orchard during the night. I don't want to do so. I like the look of
your apples. Give me two or three!" You would probably have been
successful. Now you have to pay 5s.'"
I see an opening here for a work I have long contemplated, "Every
Criminal's Guide to Courtesy," with the sub-title, "Tips for Thieves
and Deportment for Desperados." The book will be made up of specimen
conversations to suit every occasion. The criminal who buys the volume
need never fear those awkward pauses which so frequently occur when
one is caught in the act of a burglary or murder.
I append a sample. We will suppose, for instance, that a burglar
wishes to abstract some plate from a house. He enters the owner's
bedroom-window and the following dialogue takes place:—
Owner. Wha's matter? A' right. Leave it on the mat.
[Burglar coughs again. Owner sits up.]
Burglar (insinuatingly). A thousand apologies, my dear Sir, for
having broken in upon that sleep which, as the poet happily remarks,
knits up the ravelled sleave of care. But business is business, and in
these days of hustle and American competition it behoves a man to be
first in the field. Thus, knowing that "BLINKY BILL" SMITH (a
professional rival of mine) has his eye on your plate, I hastened to
call on you before he could do so.
Owner. Help! Thieves! Murder!
Burglar. I hate to talk shop, but I feel it my duty to tell you
that this revolver is loaded. Shall we allow it to remain so?
Precisely. To proceed, then. The fame of your plate, my dear Sir, has
rung through London. Every burglar in the profession is after it. When
I tell you that I have had to bring myself to enter the bedroom of a
perfect stranger through the window, I need scarcely add further
evidence of my eagerness to possess the treasure I have mentioned. You
can spare a little of it? A silver spoon? A fork, perhaps? A salver,
maybe? Come, this is niggardly, my dear Sir. I need it far more than
you. To you it is a luxury. To me it is a necessity. I have my living
to earn. How do you suppose I could keep my wife in the style to which
she has been accustomed, if everybody were as unreasonable as you?
Now, some people keep their plate-basket under the—— No? In the
chest of drawers? Foiled again. Now, my very dear Sir, joking apart,
where is it? Did I mention that this revolver was loaded? Thank
you. Thank you. Under the dressing-table? A thousand thanks. May
I trouble you to make a small selection for me and put it up in a
neat parcel? One million thanks. Good-night, Sir, good-night,
good-night. [Exit through window.]
This is but one specimen. The rest of the book will be of equal
merit, for I shall spare no pains. If after next publishing season
there remains one criminal who is not the Perfect Gentleman, it will
be because he is too impecunious or too stingy to spend two and
sixpence (net) on the work prepared for his benefit by Yours, HENRY
THE HERO AND HIS PRICE
[The Globe suggests that, owing to the inconvenience caused
by the difficulty of hitting upon a suitable reward for one's rescuer
when one is saved from death or accident, there should be a scale of
payment for heroes.]
In Mr. Justice MOTLEY'S court yesterday, JOHN SMITH, describing
himself as a hero, claimed the sum of fifteen shillings from THOMAS
BROWN as payment for services rendered on the 16th ult. Mr. ROBINSON,
K.C., counsel for the plaintiff, briefly set forth the facts of the
case. On the afternoon of the day in question the plaintiff, who was a
well-known rescuer, was walking by the River Thames near Henley, when
he observed defendant struggling in the water. He proceeded to dive in
and bring him safely to shore. On plaintiff's demanding the usual fee
(fifteen shillings and a cigarette) defendant had refused to admit his
claim. It was more in the interest of his profession than for personal
reasons that plaintiff, who was a wealthy man, had brought the action.
If rescued men were allowed to evade their obligations in this manner,
the profession of rescuing could not continue, and hundreds of
deserving workers would be thrown into the ranks of the unemployed.
Examined by Mr. JONES, K.C., counsel for the defence, Mr. JOHN
SMITH said that it was quite true that he was a wealthy man. He had
been a hero for some years.
Mr. Jones. And it is a well-paid profession?
The Plaintiff. Not ill-paid. For an ordinary rescue—that is to
say, if the rescuer is in his ordinary clothes—fifteen shillings is
the reward. If he is in his Sunday clothes, the fee is higher. Thus,
if he dives in to save a man with his frock-coat on and wearing
patent- leather boots he receives a guinea and an invitation to High
Tea, naming his own day. But if he happens to be wearing brown boots
with his frock-coat, the invitation to High Tea is not enforced. In
the eyes of the law, patent-leathers are more costly than brown boots.
Mr. Justice Motley. What boots it?
[Hysterics in Court. Officer X 45 becomes limp with laughter.]
Mr. Jones. On this occasion how were you dressed?
The Plaintiff. In my ordinary clothes.
Mr. Jones. How was your attention first attracted to the
The Plaintiff. I am always on the look-out. It is my profession.
Mr. Justice Motley. In fact, with you it is a case of look out and
hook out, eh?
[Paroxysms of laughter.]
Mr. Jones. You are not the JOHN SMITH who pushed a little boy into
the Pond in 1899 in order to earn the fee for rescuing him?
The Plaintiff. I am not. I never rescue boys. It is not worth a
busy man's while. Amateur heroes do it, I believe; but while the rate
of payment is only seventeen-and-six per half-dozen no professional
will touch them.
The defendant then entered the box.
Mr. Jones. Is it true, Mr. BROWN, that on the afternoon of the 16th
of last month the plaintiff pulled you out of the river?
The Defendant. Yes, confound him!
Mr. Justice Motley.
Mr. Jones. Why are you annoyed?
The Defendant. Well, I was just beginning a bathe. I'd been looking
forward to it all day. And no sooner had I got in than this fellow
drags me out, making me swallow pints of water on the way.
Mr. Jones. You did not need his services?
The Defendant. Not a bit.
Mr. Jones. The plaintiff asserts that you were in obvious distress.
He says you were splashing violently.
The Defendant. I was practising the Trudgeon stroke.
Mr. Jones. You were not sinking?
The Defendant. Not a bit of it.
Mr. Justice Motley. You can take a man to water, but you can't make
[Loud laughter, during which Mr. Punch's Representative was carried
out in a state of collapse.]
CHATTY METHODS ON THE BENCH
["How silly you chaps are to get into debt with moneylenders," said
Judge BACON to a batch of railway clerks, who were sued at the
Bloomsbury County Court.—Daily Express.]
From a daily paper of the week after next:—
Before Mr. Justice JONES, JAMES MICHAEL PEABODY (19), and EDWARD
PENNEFATHER (21), were accused of stealing goods to the value of
eighteenpence from a fruiterer's stall in the Commercial Road.
Constable X 15 deposed that, when arrested, accused endeavoured to
conceal the stolen goods by swallowing them. (His Honour: "Rotters!").
The owner of the stall, on entering the witness-box to give evidence,
His Honour (encouragingly). Come along, old son, pull yourself
together and get it off your chest. Now, what's all this about these
two chaps bagging your fruit?
Witness. It's this way, your Honour. One of them threw snuff in my
face and, while I was sneezing, off they ran with my fruit.
His Honour (to prisoners). I say, you fellows, what! Hardly the
game, that, was it? I call that a pretty thick sort of thing to do.
[Applause in court, which was instantly suppressed when it showed
signs of stopping.]
In defence the prisoners said they were sorry, and would not do it
His Honour then summed up:—While, he said, it was a bit off if
fellows were allowed to rot about and play the goat all over the shop,
yet, in consideration of the fact that this was a first offence, he
was inclined to allow justice to be tempered with mercy. (Applause.)
The prisoners must jolly well get it into their fat heads that, if
ever they were caught at that sort of game again, they would get it
pretty hot. The law was not to be trifled with. It was merciful within
limits, but when chaps asked for it, they got it in the neck.
(Cheers.) And he was prepared to give the prisoners his solemn word
that gaol was not all beer and skittles. If they didn't believe him,
let them jolly well try and see. In the present case, taking
everything into account, he would merely require them to shell out two
quid apiece. If they declined to brass up, then they'd find themselves
in Chokey before they could say Jack Robinson. And, if they wanted his
candid opinion, they were a pair of crocks who ought to be ashamed of
themselves; and he hoped they would never be such utter footlers as to
let themselves be lugged into his Court again.
The prisoners, having paid their fine and thanked his Honour, then
left the Court.