THE HUllft.TRS OF THE POLICE COURT.* Homoun is quite out
of place in a Court of Justice, nor is it indeed common in those precincts, but it appeals to the sense of the ludicrous the more keenly that it contrasts with its solemn surroundings, just as trivial incidents in church do. Most of the fun heard in Court is derived from those un- Iducated individuals whose knowledge of law and justice is * Humours and Oddities of the London Police Courts. illustrated and Edited by "Dogberry." Lemlou Leatlenban rrO1314, strangely narrow and contorted, and who regard the Magis- trate as a kind of patriarch, to whom can be brought all manner of absurd quarrels and trivialities for settlement. He is the Cadi of the West, and has to sit and adjudicate on cases every whit as bizarre and grotesque as those related in The Thousand and One Nights. Fortunately, the manners of this country do not require an Oriental calm of demeanour, and the Magistrate is allowed to enjoy his joke.
He must obtain an " extensive and peculiar " insight into the social life of all classes. A young woman appeared before the Magistrate once with the request that she might be allowed to marry the young man at her side. " My husband has been abroad two years and more," said she.—" Where is your husband P " asked the Magistrate.—" At Botany Bay, your worship," said the woman, hesitatingly ; " he never was a good husband, and he's gone for life ; and it's hard to have no husband at all." The Irish figure frequently in the London police-courts, and contribute largely to their humorous inci- dents. The mixture of cunning and simplicity in the Irish- man is nowhere more strongly revealed than when he is in Court. A couple came before the Court one day,—the wife seeking protection against the violence of her hus- band. The husband, one Phelim O'Sbaughnessy, said that he always gave his wages to his wife, but that on Monday morning he asked her for threepence-halfpenny to get him- self a pint of beer and a little loaf, as he was going to a long job in the City. She refused, "and wid that, your honour, sure I did give her a clout or two." The Magistrate remonstrated with Phelim on the enormity of an Irishman beating a woman, and asked Phelim to promise he would not strike her again. " Sure, I'd be a baste if I did, your honour, whin I just thought of a shame to do without it," replied Phelim. "It's ounly keeping the threepence-ha'penny in me oun pocket, your honour; an' thin, you know, I'll have no occasion to bate it out of her at all, at all." It appeared, however, that the coppers were not the whole of the grievance, Phelim having listened to stories about his wife. The Magis- trate reconciled them, and they left the Court arm-in-arm, and in tears. From the Scotehman we do not expect humour, but we get something perhaps more preoious,—namely, wit. A Scotch witness must be handled carefully, or he may prove a Tartar, as the following incident will show. The witness in question excited the counsel's suspicion by the accurate measurement he returned of the length of some article. " You are sure of that, my man ?"—" Hootie na ! hae not I tak'n my aith upon the beak P"—" Well, sir," said the counsel, in his most browbeating manner, " then tell me—on your oath, mind ! —how came you to be so exact P "—" Aweel, was it not that I kenned some stoiterin' deltic 'ad pit the question, so I teak the measure o' it." But a Scot can be humorous if he chooses. Listen to him. He was discharged from Holloway Gaol, and in answer to one who inquired how things went with him, re- plied :—" Weel, ye see, a body canna has everything in this life ; an' I'm no gaun to raises' the place—no me. For a' the time I was there—just twa months nate, by-the-by—I was weel pro. teckit frae the wiles o' a wicket warl' outside ; while my bread was aye gi'en me, an' my water sure." Is not this Scotch P does not every word breathe the man,—his philosophy, his deference to the powers that be, and his religious twang P But the canny Scot sometimes overreaches himself. An Aberdeen young man was charged at Bow Street for being drunk and disorderly, and trying to force his way back into the 'Black Bull' after hours, for another " wee drappie." He asked to be allowed to speak in his own defence, and explained how he and a friend went in to have their " cracks," and after drinking six tumblers of toddy apiece, he suggested that as they were about to part, they might take " ane wee thooht mair." A neighbour asked what language they spoke, adding, " It's on'y fit to christen pigs wi.' " Regarding this as an affront, Andrew wished to fight, but the landlord turned him out, and he then tried to get in, not for more liquor, but for the par- pose of vindicating the honour of his native tongue. " Were you drunk ?" inquired the Magistrate.—" Na, na!" said Andrew; "I'm no gaun to dig a pit to brak my ain neck intill ; no get ony sic admission as that free me."—" Then I must hold you to bail, otherwise I should have discharged you on paying the usual fee." Andrew was thus trapped in the pit after all. He was removed, and then sent a friend to the Magistrate asking if he might be allowed to plead " fou." The Magistrate recalled Andrew and put the question to him ; but the natural caution of the man even then would not let him go further than " he wad admit that he wasna what might just precisely be called sober." Whereupon, with the payment of five shillings, he was allowed to go. Why could not the man confess that he was roaring drunk, and get his five-shillings'. worth to the full !
Lunatics have a deep-rooted belief in the power of the Magistrate, as the daily papers often prove to us. An elderly lady once rushed into the Court exclaiming, " I want to speak to the Magistrate first; I was here first ! " After being told to calm herself, she was asked what she wanted. She desired, she said, to be protected from people who were always after her. " What can I do for you P " asked the Magistrate. " Had you not better send for your husband P "—"My husband !" exclaimed the woman. " Thank God, he's been dead long ago ! Your worship, I was a friend of the late Charles Dickens, and I helped him in his work. Besides that, I am the real claimant to the Tichborne Estates, and Lord Beacons. field knew that; and he would have helped me, but he's dead.
Everybody is at me, and a man in my house walks about in the night-time saying he'll murder me." Lunatics of this type are very numerous, and so are pretenders to the Throne, and those who vaunt their royal descent and claims.
It is possible that the following story may have been heard before ; it is too good, however, to omit now we have touched on the subject of pretenders and claimants. A young man presented himself at the Mansion House, and on being asked what his business was, replied, " Why, I had nothing to do, and so I was recommended to apply to the new Lord Mayor to appoint me to the office of Lord Mayor's Fool."—" My friend," said the chief Magistrate, "no doubt you were well advised; but the office is not vacant at present."—The young man looked sad.—" I was afraid so," he said slowly, because some others told me that your lordship meant to per- form the duties of Fool yourself." After much laughter, some money was given to the candidate for the Foolship, and he was ordered not to apply again for twelve months to come.
Here is a story anent foreign immigration. An Italian organ-grinder and her monkey were brought before the Magistrate, as the monkey had scratched a small boy. She said it was good-tempered till it came to England. " Why didn't you stay in Italy P" said his worship ; "there are too many of you here."—" I can get nothing in my own country but macaroni," said Lucia ; " de people are so poor. Here I get both macaroni and roast beef, and dat is de good reason, Bare." Lucia put the reason of foreign immigration in a nut- shell.
Sometimes the constable is Irish as well as the defendant, and then the audience must have a treat. The defendant in the instance we relate was found drunk in the street, and the officer was told to give his evidence :— " 'Base your honour,' said the policeman, who was a Hibernian, as I was on duty last night about one o'clock this morning, in Great Russell Street, Covent Garden, I saw this young man lying on his broad back in the mud, while it was pouring oceans of rain Says I to him, " What, in the name of St. Pathrick, was afther bringing your body here ?"—" Go home to Paddy's Land, you spalpeen of an Irishman," says he.—" It wid be bether for the like of ye, if ye were at home in such a night as this," says I.— "Pat," says he, "I mane to sleep here for an hour or two "—"By the powers! an' you won't do that same," says 1; "it's not a very comfortable bed that yourself would be either finding it," says I. —" The sheets feel a little damp, but we must not stick at trifies,", says he —" Come, come," says I —" Good night, Pat," says he "you be sure and call me early in the mornin', my boy." Wid that, yer honour, he laid hisself down again on the street, among the dohs, as if he had been sloping on a bed of down. ' " "Did he speak when you lifted him P" inquired the Magis- trate.—" Did he spake, yer honour P Faith, an' he did that same."—" What did he say P "- "Paddy,' says he, 'bring me a noggin of whisky ; ' but I tould him, yer honour, thore was none to be 119.1—' Why P' says he.- ' Why,' says I, sure bekase all the publics is shut up Is it too late,' says he, to get one noggin more P'—It's meself that doesn't know,' says I, whether it be too late or too early ; but I know that not a drop is to be had for love or money at this blessed hour of the night."
Then the constable went on to say the defendant did not give his name truthfully. Pressed as to his reason for thinking so, be said the name given him was Daniel O'Connell, and that as he himself knew Daniel O'Connell, "by that same token he could not be mistaken."—" You mean the agitator P" said his worship.—" I mean Mr. O'Connell, the same fat gentleman as makes orations in Dublin." Eventually the defendant having stated that he lived in Ireland, and Pat thinking, as he said, that too far to take him that night, removed him to the station.
Here is a piece of evidence from a ease that occurred in the reign of George III., which shows to what period Sam Weller belonged. A similar case to the one we have quoted, the watchman's evidence will be found every whit as amusing as Pat's. The watchman being directed to describe the affair, he began :— "' Now, please your worship,' said he, am here in presence to tell you wot them 'ere gentlemen done. Fust and foremost, at one o'clock this mornin' I hears a shouting of "Murder I " desperate deadly in a 'ouse, and, if the truth must be told, it were in How- land Street—that's where it was. So I goes hup and sticks myself right afore the 'ouse to see if I could hear wot was the matter— I'll speak nothing as is not the truth ; and there I sees this sharp- looking little gentleman [Mr. Timothy Nicklin] striving very hard to git in at the parlour-door, and five or six others of 'em was a- pulling at his coat-tail to keep him off of the parlour-door, and the folks inside of the parlour was a-squealin' " Watch I" and " Murder !" quite desperate — for the front door were open and there was a light in the passage, and I saw all about speak nothing but the truth. " Hallo—dash my wig I " says I, " wot's all this 'ere rumpus about ? " says I—neither more nor less, please your worship—for I always takes care to find out root's in a pie afore I put my finger into it ; and with that the master of the 'cure comes out, and " Watchey," says he, " I gives you charge of this 'ere gentleman," says he—that's the little sharp one, wot was trying to git in at the parlour door, please your worship. " Be you the boney fidey master of the 'cme " says I. " I be," says he. " Wary good," says I ; " then 'ere goes ! " So I cotched holt of the little one by one of his tails, and give him a oruelish hard pull—thinking to make short work of it, and 'ave him slap out at once; but the five or six others of 'em hung about 'im so, that they all come out together like a rope of onions—slap bang into the gutter, and me undermost I Then they all set up a most owdacious laugh, like so many hosses ; and some of 'em brought a candle out of the 'ouse to pick the little malleyfecter out from amongst they, as they said ; but—'od rat 'em I—instead of picking 'im out, they clapped the candle so close to the end of my nose that it was quite frizzled I—and here it is, your worship, jilt as I rescued it from 'em I'—Here the witness drew from beneath his coat a thick greasy candle in a brass candlestick, and, holding it above his head, continued his speech : I defy any gentleman here in presence to deny that this 'ere ain't the 'dentical candle wet was clapped agen my nose.' He paused for a reply, and none being vouchsafed, ocntinued,' And rawther think the gentleman wot did it is not wary fur off.' " The last touch reminds us inimitably of Mr. Weller. Bat much that is pathetic comes before a Magistrate; much more than what is humorous. A case occurs in these pages in which an old man came before the Bench to make a dignified appeal for the body of his son. The undutiful wife, never having nursed him in his last illness, arrived to mourn on the cold clay, and to spurn the afflicted father away. The applicant, we believe, was successful in obtaining what powers the Magistrates present could give him for the burial ; at any rate, he had their fall sympathy. Every possible variation of the humorous and the pathetic, and mixtures of the two, occur. Said a lunatic who was charged with being abroad at night with only his nightdress—he was found mending a fence with needle and thread—to the officer's inquiry as to his reason for it, "Do you want to murder me ? I am seven months seven weeks without food ; give me tobacco."