[-193-] CHAPTER VI.
THE POLICE OFFICES.
Their Number and Names—Remarks on Bow Street Office—The Thames Police Office—The Magistrates—Number of cases daily brought before them—Yearly Expenses of the Police Offices—Their Expenses Forty Years ago—The Station Houses—Anecdote of a Prisoner—Scenes to be witnessed in the Station Houses— Exhibitions of Human Nature to be witnessed in the Police Offices—Specimens given—North Country Simplicity—The Poetical Cobbler—A Drunken Frolic— Case of alleged Horse-stealing.
IN a work devoted to the metropolis, it were an unpardonable omission to pass
over in silence the Police Offices. I will, therefore, make them the subject
of the present chapter, and shall endeavour to enliven the statistical details
which it will be necessary to give by the introduction of matter of a lighter
The Police Offices of London are nine in number. They are thus enumerated in the Report of the Parliamentary Committee appointed in 1833 to inquire into matters connected with the police of the metropolis :—Bow Street, including the horse-patrol—Marlborough Street—Hatton Garden—Worship Street —Lambeth Street—High Street, Marylebone—Queen Square— Union Hall—Thames Police—City of London Police. In this list of the Police Offices, it will be observed that no mention is made of the Mansion House, Guildhall, or the Town Hall in Southwark. The reason of this is, that these three places are differently constituted from the other police establishments. The Mansion House, as every one knows, is presided in by the Lord Mayor for the time being, while justice is gratuitously administered in Guildhall, and the Town Hall, by one or more Aldermen. These last three offices are under the jurisdiction Of the City authorities, who have a large police establishment of their own.
The oldest of the existing offices is that in Bow Street. it is at least a century since it was originally established for the purpose of administering justice. Until 1792, however, it was on a very different footing from what it has been since. Previous to [-194-] that time, it was not established by act of parliament, but was simply an office used by the county magistrates, who gave their services gratuitously. Mr. Henry Fielding, the author of “Tom Jones,” and other celebrated novels, was the first magistrate who received any remuneration for his services in administering justice in Bow Street. The precise time when he first received a salary is not known. To the circumstance of Fielding having been a London police magistrate, we are, in a great measure, indebted for some of his choicest works of fiction. The many-coloured scenes of life which he witnessed while discharging the functions of a magistrate there, furnished him with that intimate knowledge of human life which he displays so strikingly, and at the same time afforded him some of the happiest incidents which are to be found in his works.
In 1792, seven police offices were established by act of parliament in different parts of the metropolis. To each of these offices three magistrates were appointed, at a salary, respectively, of 4001. per annum. The other two offices were subsequently established, a growing metropolitan population having so much increased the amount of police business, as to render them necessary.
Bow Street Office has the most extensive jurisdiction among the police offices of London. It can take cognizance of any case which may occur in any part of the county, though its positive limits are the line of the city, which is at Temple Bar eastward, Holborn and High Street on the north, St. Martin’s Lane on the west, and the river Thames on the south.
The only other establishment whose limits I shall mention, is, the Thames Police Office. My reason for specifying the extent of its jurisdiction is, that it is much greater than any of the remaining seven offices. The limits of this office upon the Thames are as far as the river runs between the counties of Middlesex and Surrey, Essex and Kent. The more common supervision, however, is confined to the busier and more active parts of the river,—namely, from Greenwich to a little above Westminster Bridge. The land district is restricted to the populous parishes of Wapping, Aldgate, St. Katharine’s, Shadwell, and Ratcliffe.
All the police magistrates are either banisters-at- law or serjeants- at-law. This was not the case formerly: it is the effect of a recent resolution on the part of government, made under a conviction that it would prove highly essential to the ends of justice, and conducive to the respectability of the magisterial character, that the magistrates should be men, not only of general intelligence, but that they should be well acquainted with the law which they are called to administer.
[-195-] The appointment of the magistrates is vested in the Home Secretary; and their continuance in office is dependent on the good pleasure of every successive individual who may hold that important appointment under his sovereign. The magistrates are liable to be set aside, without being entitled to any pension, at any time, should it suit the whim or caprice of the Home Secretary to come to such a determination. In this respect they are very disadvantageously circumstanced as compared with the judges; the latter being, from the very moment of their appointment, ever afterwards entirely independent of the crown. It is but right, however, to say that police magistrates are seldom dismissed from their situations, and. never without some reason. The only recent instance was that of Mr. Laing, of Hatton Garden, who was set aside seven or eight weeks ago.
The salaries of the police magistrates were doubled some years since. They are now 8001.* (* The chief magistrate in Bow Street has a salary of 12001. a year. There is no chief magistrate at any of the other offices.) per annum. After they have served for a certain time, they may retire, if they wish it, on a pension of 500l. per annum. Mr. Halls, of Bow Street Office, retired on that pension about twelve months since. The police magistrates are prohibited from pursuing their professional pursuits as barristers, or engaging in any trade or business: it is expected that they shall apply themselves exclusively to the duties of their office. They have to sit every day during the week, Sunday excepted. They commence their sittings at eleven o’clock, and continue, in most cases, till five; and again sit an hour or two after seven o’clock. One out of the three magistrates always presides at each office. Hence the expression, the “sitting magistrate.” One of the other two is always present, but takes no part, except in extreme cases, in the proceedings. Two magistrates must be in the office when hearing cases. They always sit by rotation; so that each magistrate is the sitting or presiding magistrate; two days in every week.
The magistrates at the Police Offices have no control over the police constables. They have all a greater or less number of officers of their own, according to the amount of business done at each establishment. In Bow Street Office, the number of constables or officers at the disposal, and under the sole control of the magistrates, is ten. Their salaries are in most cases twenty-five shillings per week; but when they are sent to the country in pursuit of any party, the individual so employing them must allow them ten shillings each per day for his pay, twelve shillings for living, and pay all coach hire and other expenses besides. These constables are all appointed by the Home Secretary, the magistrates seldom interfering even so far as to recommend any [-196-] particular person for the situation. They are always dressed in plain clothes, and have no connexion, and but very little intercourse, with the other policemen. The magistrates employ them in all those cases in which they have themselves received private information either of an actual or intended violation of the law. If, for example, information were communicated of a contemplated duel, the magistrate to whom such information is given, immediately despatches two of his own officers to arrest the parties. The magistrates never employ the ordinary police. In the other offices, except the Thames Street Office, the number of constables retained by the establishment is seven, eight, or nine, according to circumstances. In the Thames Police Office, there are nearly as many constables as in all the other offices put together: the number is seventy, exclusive of thirty-one surveyors. The reason why so great a number of officers is required at this establishment, is the circumstance of all the business connected with the river being under its jurisdiction. The parties in the employ of this office have to look after all illegal transactions on the Thames. The whole number of persons employed as constables in the Police Offices is about one hundred and forty.
The number of cases daily tried before the Police Offices of London considerably varies. Some days it is as high as ninety, other days it is as low as sixty. The Edinburgh Review, in its last number, estimates the average number at seventy. The writer grounds his opinion on an examination of the police sheet for a given day. Probably seventy is about the average number. Of course it will be understood, that I am here speaking only of the number of cases for larceny, and those other crimes which, if proved, would render the party liable to be tried at the central criminal court. I exclude altogether what are called night charges: that is, quarrelling with the policemen, getting up a row, or being drunk. If those cases were to be included, the number would be nearer three hundred; for instances have occurred in which upwards of ninety persons have been shut up in Bow Street Station-house alone, in one night.
The police sheet, which passes between all the offices every day, and to which the Edinburgh Review refers as its authority for the supposition that the average daily number of cases of the class of offences to which I allude, is seventy, divides that seventy into three descriptions of cases. It gives the summary convictions or commitments for trial at the Old Bailey Sessions at sixteen; the remands twenty-seven; and the discharges as twenty-seven.
The yearly expense of the nine Police Offices is upwards of 50,000l., making that of each to be on an average somewhat about [-197-] 5500l. One considerable item of expense at each of these establishments is the salaries of clerks. There are three or four clerks at each of the eight offices, and double the number at Thames Street Office. Their salaries vary from 4001. to 1201. per annum.
Connected with the Police Offices there is a Receiver, at a salary of 500l. per annum. The following tabular view will show at one glance the various kinds of officers at the differentpolice establishments, with the salaries they severally receive for their services. It is taken from the parliamentary returns of 1835.
PAY OF EACH CLASS OF OFFICERS.
Chief Magistrate of Bow Street, 12001. per annum.
Police Magistrates, 8001. per annum each.
Receiver of the nine Police Offices, 5001. per annum.
Chief Clerk of Bow Street, salary 2501., increasing 101. per annum to 4501.
Second Clerk, salary 1801., increasing 81. per annum to 3001.
Third Clerk, salary 1201., increasing 51. per annum to 2501.
Constables and Police Officers, 25s. per week.
Thames Police Principal Surveyor, 1601. per annum.
Inspecting Surveyor, 1001. per annum. Twenty Surveyors from 751. per annum to 901. per annum each.
Thames Police River Constables—thirty at 23s. per week each; forty at 21s. each.
The following were the expenses of each of the offices in 1835, including contingencies:—
CONTINGENCIES / OFFICES / TOTAL EXPENSES.
£1263 11s 4d / Bow Street / £9768 14s 2d
£432 1s 0d / Queen Square / £4574 7s 2d
£351 1s 10d / Marlborough Street / £4402 10s 0d
£246 0s 0d / Marylebone / £3978 17s 5d
£280 4s 11d / Hatton Garden / £4250 18s 3d
£365 4s 4d / Worship Street / £6106 9s 4d
£205 10s 5d / Whitechapel / £3775 6s 4d
£329 19s 0d / Union Hall / £4152 4s 10d
£763 19s 11d / Thames Police, including the River Force / £10,712 17s 11d
Making the aggregate expenses of the nine Police Offices, in 1835,— £51,724. 5s. 5d.
Connected with Bow Street Office, as before stated, is the Horse Patrol, the expenses of which, in the same year, were 10,169l.; making, if the cost of both departments be put together, the expenses of that office, in 1835, about 20,000l.
[-198-] Forty years ago, the expenses of Bow Street were not above one-third of what they now are, as will be seen from the following table :—
Three Magistrates, at 4001. per annum each £1200 0s 0d
OneClerk at £160 0s 0d
One Clerk at £130 0s 0d
One Clerk at £100 0s 0d
One Extra Clerk £80 0s 0d
Six Officers, at 11s. 8d. per week £182 0s 0d
An Officekeeper £35 0s 0d
A Housekeeper £35 0s 0d
A Messenger £35 0s 0d
An Assistant Gaoler £17 10s 0d
Attached to the office there is a patrol, consisting of sixty-eight persons, divided into thirteen parties, each having a captain at 5s. per night, the men having 2s. 6d. per night, amounting in the whole, annually, to about £3695 12s 6d
There is also paid to the clerks, on account of the patrol £71 0s 0d
And in remuneration to the magistrates, in lieu of fees and perquisites, and for special services £900 0s 0d
[-Total-] £6641 2s 6d
The amount of gratuities, and penalties levied at each of the nine offices in the same year, is thus given in the parliamentary paper whence I have copied the above statistics
Bow Street - £1528 16s 4d
Marlborough Street - £1040 3s 0d
Queen Square - £1007 12s 11d
Hatton Garden - £1112 3s 9d
Worship Street - £804 6s 11d
Whitechapel - £799 4s 0d
Marylebone - £1025 7s 1d
Union Hall - £1312 17s 2d
Thames Police - £753 6s 10d
Making a total of £9383 18s 6d
Of this sum upwards of 1000l. consisted of fines exacted from parties who had committed assaults on the police. The money thus collected is applied to the expenses of the several offices.
Of the expenses of the three City Police Offices, I have said nothing. As the magistrates there receive no salary, the ex-[-199-]penses are confined to the pay of a few officers, and do not much exceed 500l. per annum.
The Police Offices are for the most part ill ventilated, confined, sombre-looking places. They are not at all worthy of a great city like London, and the important space they fill in the public eye. There is a great want of room in them, considering the amount of the business which has to be transacted. They are often crowded to suffocation, to the great annoyance of every one who has occasion to be present. They are also, with two or three exceptions, in badly chosen situations.
The cells in the station-houses belonging to them, in which prisoners are locked up over the night, are in striking keeping with the offices. These cells are most uncomfortable places:
they are so, apart from the unpleasantness of feeling which arises from the disgrace of the thing, in all those cases, where the party is not so intoxicated as to be deprived, for the time, of his reflecting powers. They are narrow, damp, dark, and cold. In some of the station-houses they are on a level with the streets; in others, they are under ground. In either case they are the most miserable receptacles into which a human being could be put, short of burying him alive. When the number of prisoners is few, each one has often a cell for himself. When an “apartment” cannot be spared to each, owing to the number of candidates for admission, two, in some cases it may happen three, four, or five, are shut up together in one little cell. It is often curious to reflect on the strange errors as to where a party is, and with whom he is, into which he falls on recovering from that state of extreme intoxication called “dead drunk.”. A few months ago I was amused with the account given me by one who was in the same cell, of the conduct of a young man, whose name I afterwards ascertained to be Snitch, and who had been deposited in the station-house about twelve o’clock the previous evening, in a state of such entire intoxication, that but for the circumstance of his breathing, you would have concluded he was dead. Until five o’clock in the morning— it was in the summer season—he slept as soundly and lay on the stones as quietly as if he had been in his grave; hut he then all at once opened his eyes, and sitting up, Looked for a moment wildly around him. His eye at last lighted on his fellow prisoner; and after a temporary gaze on him, he uttered in accents of a most unearthly kind, “Where am I? Who is that? Sophemia! who is that?” Who Sophemia was, whether sister, sweetheart, or wife, was at the time a mystery; but it was clear the unlucky wight fancied he was in his own home, and that he had metamorphosed his companion in trouble into an apparition. His horror and bewilderment seemed for a few seconds only, to [-200-] increase when the other spoke to him. He had not the most remote idea of where he was; nor, when acquainted with his temporary “local habitation,” could he recal to his mind a single circumstance connected with his capture by the police, or his conveyance thither. His latest reminiscences did not come within two hours of the time at which the police took charge of him. He was then, he stated, admiring “a show of beauties” in the saloon of Drury Lane Theatre. The period which elapsed from that hour, which he stated to have been ten o’clock at night, down to the time of his waking in the station-house next morning, which, as before stated, was five o’clock, was a perfect blank in his existence. Had he been literally dead, he could not have been more oblivious of what had occurred in his personal history in the interim. But the most interesting circumstance in the affair, was his ignorance of the offence for which he was Locked up, coupled with the intense anxiety he manifested to ascertain it. What could it be? Was it murder or manslaughter? Was it committing some serious assault? Was he a prisoner for felony? Could he have smashed people’s windows? What in the name of wonder could he have done to justify the police in confining him in the dungeon—he was in a cell below ground—in which he then found himself? These and a dozen other questions suggested themselves to his mind, and filled him with the most horrible fears. His awful apprehensions were not lessened by observing that his hat was shattered to pieces, and that one of the tails of his coat had been entirely torn away. At last, no longer able to endure the frightful forebodings of what might be the disclosures when brought before the magistrate, he turned to his brother in adversity, having been by this time satisfied that he was a fellow mortal, and with a most dolorous expression of countenance, and in truly touching accents, said, “Pray, Sir, can you inform me for what crime I was brought here ?“
“I know one violation of the law with which you are charged,” answered the other, quite coolly.
“Violation of the law, Sir ?“ said the terrified party, with great earnestness.
“Of course; otherwise you would not have been here.”
“Pray, Sir, do inform me of its nature! Was it a serious breach of the law ?“
“Very serious,” answered the other, with some emphasis. “No life lost, I hope ?“ gasped Mr. Snitch.
“Why, the policemen who brought you here did say something about being uncertain whether some person of whom they were talking, were living or dead.”
“I’m a lost man !“ groaned the poor fellow, violently striking [-201-] his forehead. A public trial, a verdict of guilty, transportation for life—if not suspension by the neck—with all their concomitant horrors, were ideas which in a moment crowded on his mind. “Oh, Sophemia! that ever it should have come to this! Little did I think ____“
“Don’t be so much alarmed,” interrupted his companion; “possibly your fears are worse than the reality. It may have been yourself the policemen alluded to, when they spoke of its being uncertain whether the party was dead or alive.”
“My dear friend,” said the poor frightened youth, seizing his fellow-prisoner with a cordial grasp by the hand, “do you really think that is the fact?”
“I hope it may be so,” replied the other.
“My dear Sir, you delight me. I feel as if—”
At this moment a friend, to whom the other had written to come and bail him out, arrived, and he was liberated,—leaving the unhappy youth to himself to be tormented between his doubts and fears until he appeared before the magistrate, as to what crimes he had committed while drunk.
I was present at the police-office when the charges for the night were brought before the magistrate. After several others had been disposed of, the magistrate said, in his usual sharp and hasty manner,—” The next charge on the list.”
“Sophemia Burgess !“ bawled out one of the officers, at the full stretch of a powerful voice, opening, as he spoke, a door which communicated with a passage leading to another room, where the undisposed “charges” were congregated together.
In a few seconds, Mr. Snitch was conducted to the bar. His pale countenance, with the marked expression of horror which was depicted on it, told in silent but impressive terms of the agony of mind under which he laboured. His unshaved beard, his dirty face, the crumpled breast and collar of his shirt, and sundry patches of mud which still adhered to his apparel, were in strict keeping with his one-tailed coat. Taken altogether, the appearance of Mr. Snitch was so much in character with the usual effects of a drunken debauch, that it needed not the testimony of any living witness as to the way in which the unfortunate wight had spent the previous night.
“Why, office;” said the worthy magistrate, with some tart. ness, “you have made a mistake. You have brought me a man instead of a woman.”
“It’s quite right, your worship.”
“Quite right, your worship.”
“Why, the name on my list, of the next charge, is Sophemia Burgess.’
[-202-] “This is Sophemia Burgess,” said the officer with a steady voice. The magistrate looked at the officer with an air of infinite surprise; and Mr. Snitch’s pale face coloured deeply, as well as indicated the utmost amazement, when the name was mentioned. The latter rapidly glanced his eye round the office, as if looking to see whether some person of that name, with whom he was on terms of intimacy, was in the place. It was afterwards ascertained, that Sophemia Burgess was a young lady to whom he was paying his addresses; and as she still absorbed his thoughts so long as he was able to think, he had stammered out her name when asked his own.
“Why,” said the worthy magistrate, addressing himself; with increased sharpness, to the policeman,—” why, Sophemia is a woman’s name, not a man’s.”
“That is his right name,” insisted the knight of the bludgeon. “Is that your name, Sir ?“ said the magistrate, addressing himself to Mr. Snitch.
“It is not, Sir,” answered Mr. Snitch.
The magistrate now looked quite ferocious at the policeman, as if he had meant to say, “What have you now to say for yourself, you blundering blockhead?”
“That is the prisoner’s name, your worship,” repeated constable H, of the G division, without the slightest disconcertion of manner.
“Is that the name he gave you, when you took him into custody ?“ inquired the magistrate.
“No, your worship; he was not able to give any name at all.”
“What! was he so drunk as that?”
“He was, your worship, dead drunk: he could neither move hand nor foot, let alone speaking.”
Mr. Snitch hung his head still lower, and audibly groaned. “And how did you come to know his name, then?” continued the magistrate.
“Vy, your worship, a person who had seen him before he was quite so bad, told me he had inquired his name, and that, with an effort, he managed to answer, ‘Sophemia Burgess;’ but, besides that, we found in his pocket a card with her name on it.”
“And you mean to say, Sir, do you,” said the magistrate, addressing himself to the prisoner, “that Sophemia Burgess is not your name?”
“That is not my name, Sir.”
“Well, then, will you tell the bench what is your name ?“
“It is Tugworth Snitch, Sir.”
Mr. Snitch had no sooner mentioned his right name, than he reproached himself for his stupidity in not giving an assumed one; but the rapidity with which the magistrate proceeded to [-203-] dispose of the charge, left but little time for reflection on the subject.
“Well, Sir, you hear the charge: what have you to say in your defence ?“
Mr. Snitch whispered in tremulous accents, that he was not aware of what specific offence he was charged with.
“Why, with being in a state of beastly intoxication,” said the magistrate, with some acrimony.
Mr. Snitch’s countenance brightened up, as if a poet’s paradise had all at once opened on his view, on thus hearing that the charge against him was confined to being drunk.
“I am sorry for it, Sir,” answered Mr. Snitch, in a tone of mingled penitence and joy. “I never was in the same situation before, and hope I never will he again.”
“I hope it will be a warning to you, Mr. Tugworth Snitch: you have great reason to be thankful that you were not run over, and killed by some vehicle, when the policeman found you rolling in the mud.”
Mr. Snitch was silent, and looked as if he assented to the proposition.
“You are fined five shillings, for being drunk,” said the magistrate. “Officer, the next charge,” he added, in the same breath.
Mr. Snitch paid the fine, and retired from the bar, rejoicing that matters were not much worse.
Some extraordinary scenes are to be witnessed in the station houses, when all the “charges,” as the prisoners are called, are brought forward from their different cells, to one place, immediately prior to their being transferred to the police-offices. Not long since, I saw an odd exhibition of this kind in the Vine-street station-house. The number of persons who had been shut up during the greater part of the night, was fifteen. It will at once be concluded, that they consisted of both sexes; but it will not be so readily inferred, though such was the fact, that a majority of the company belonged to the female sex. There may be, in the estimation of some persons, but little gallantry in making this statement; but gallantry, in such cases, must give way to the truth. A more motley assemblage than that to which I refer, it has never been my fortune to behold, either at a station-house or elsewhere. It embraced all ranks as well as both sexes. There were parties moving in the higher walks of life, and there were the very humblest of mankind. There were persons of every shade of character; from those of correct morals, who had been consigned to a gloomy cell simply because they had refused, in going home, to submit obsequiously to the behests of a capricious policeman, down to the most worthless [-204-] and depraved creatures to be met with in this vast metropolis. And their external aspect exhibited as great a variety as did their moral character. There was the tastefully-dressed man of fashion, and the poor mendicant, wrapped up in a mass of dirty rags. There were some, both men and women, whose apparel, at the best, had only been of an humble description. There were others who were what is called “elegantly attired” the previous night, whose clothes were either torn to tatters, or covered over with mud. Hats without crowns, and minus the greater part of their brims to boot; coats converted, by the tails being torn off, into jackets; straw and silk bonnets transformed into shapes which the milliners who made them never intended; shawls and gowns either torn into fragments, or affording abundant evidence that their wearers had recently been paying their respects to the pavement, were among the things which gave variety to the scene. Then there were the langour and heaviness of manner caused by the dissipation of the preceding night, which were so visibly impressed on the countenances of many: to say nothing of the unwashed faces, unshaved beards, and unbrushed clothes of others. The odd effect which all this was so well calculated to produce on the mind of him who had slept comfortably in his bed at home, and was but an accidental spectator of the scene, was very materially heightened by the hanging down of the heads of those who were particularly ashamed of the situation in which they were placed, and the significant looks which others exchanged with each other, as if they had meant to say, “We are brethren and sisters in adversity.” Altogether, it would have been difficult to have fancied a group in which there could be a greater diversity of external appearance, or in moral or social character. For a time they were doomed to be separated: instead of being all conveyed together to the police-office, they were transferred thither in separate detachments of ones, twos, or threes. Those of them who could afford to pay for a hackney-coach, and preferred incurring the expense to being walked to the police office in Great Marlborough-street, in the company of a policeman, had it in their power to avail themselves of the services of Jehu; while those who were less favourably circumstanced, or grudged the coach fare, were obliged to submit to encounter the rude and unhallowed gaze of every unmannerly person they met on the way. The separation of those who had parted at Vine-street station-house was but of a temporary kind. At the police-office they were all destined to meet again, previous to being severally called before the magistrate. Here they were all huddled together, and pent up in a small space, as if they had been so many black cattle for sale in Smithfield-market. They were introduced to another lot in the [-205-] same predicament as themselves, who had been deposited in the course of the night in some other station-house. Here, again, the scene was worth seeing. It was on a still more extensive scale. What struck me particularly was, the genuine republican character of the assemblage. The most strenuous advocate for the extinction of all conventional differences in society, and for the substitution of the most thorough equality, would have been gratified with the spectacle to his heart’s content. The highest and the lowest—the most elegantly attired and the most ragged in their apparel—stood there on precisely the same footing, and treated each other in the genuine republican style. It was altogether a truly curious spectacle to witness, and one which could not fail to Lead to an interesting train of reflection in a meditative mind.
Perhaps there are no places in the world, in which a more complete insight into human nature, in all its simplicity, extravagances, eccentricities, follies, and viciousness, may be had, than in the police-offices of London. The cases which daily come before the magistrates, develope at one moment deep-laid schemes of unredeemed villany; in the next, instances of such perfect simplicity or “greenness,” as no one could have previously deemed of possible existence. I will give a few of the more interesting cases which have lately occurred in several of the offices, which will go far to confirm what I have just said about the complete exhibition of human nature, in all its aspects, which is to be seen at these establishments. For the sake of classification, it may be as well to give the cases such headings as it is very likely they would have received, had they been written for the daily newspapers. It may perhaps be right to mention, that none of the cases have before appeared in print. The first is a case of Thomas Watson, whose broad manner of speaking would of itself have been sufficient to satisfy any reasonable person, that he was a recent importation from the land o’cakes, came forward to prefer a complaint against a young gaudily-dressed damsel, well known in the neighbourhood of Covent-garden. Mr. Watson was seemingly about twenty years of age, of a copper-coloured physiognomy, thick lips, broad flat nose, and of a most good-natured, unsuspecting expression of countenance. He was clad in his holiday clothes, and had what is called a decent, though sheepish, appearance. “Well, Sir, what is your complaint?” said the magistrate, in a tone of kindness, being struck with the manifest simplicity of the young man.
[-206-] “It’s aboot the loss of my siller, Sir; may I speek a word or twa ?“ said the Scotchman.
“Certainly,” answered the magistrate. “That’s the very thing I was requesting you to do. State your case.”
“But, pray, what are you?” interrupted the magistrate.
“Do you mean, Sir, what country I belong to ?“
“Oh, no; I don’t want to know that: that is sufficiently clear without your telling us.”
“Do you mean, Sir, what line of life I follow ?“
“Aw, then, Sir, I’m a mekanic.”
“But what is your trade ?”
“A heckler, Sir.”
“A heckler!” exclaimed his worship, evidently at a loss to know what the simple Caledonian meant.
“Yes, Sir, a heckler,” repeated the Latter, with great innocence.
“It means, your worship, a flax-dresser,” interposed a sergeant of the police, who was himself a transplantation from the north of the Tweed.
“Oh, very good; I see,” said the magistrate. “Pray go on with your story,” he continued, addressing himself to Mr Watson.
“Weel, Sir, as I was a-going to tell you, I came up to Lunnun, to an uncle wha’s in a good way, thinkin’ he might do something for me, as I dinna like my bisness very weel: but on comin’ up here, I found that he had left his former house, and the folks that live in it couhldna tell me whar he had gane to.”
Here the young man stopped, as if he had finished his story. “Well, go on,” said the magistrate; “you have not yet told the Bench why this female is brought here.”
“I’ll tell you that the noo,” resumed the other. “It ‘was near ten o’clock at night,” he continued, “when I reached the place which is called the Strand, whar my uncle formerly lived; and findin’ that he was not there, I made up my mind to go into the first public-house I could see, to ask for lodgings for the night. Jost whan I cam’ to this resolution, I met this young leddy, wha,’ as I thought at the time, cam’ in o’er to me with great kindness, and spoke to me.”
“What did she say ?“ inquired the magistrate.
The poor Caledonian coloured, and hung down his head.
“Come, don’t be so modest. Tell us what she said. Something tender, I suppose?”
“Very!” answered the young man, in a tone something between a groan and a sigh.
[-207-] “Why,” said the magistrate, observing the blushes and hesitation of Sawney, “she seems to have made an impression on you!”
The Scotchman only coloured the more.
“Come,” resumed the magistrate, with some sharpness, “you must lay aside your modesty, and tell us what she said.”
“Weel, I will,” answered Mr. Watson. “She said – “
Here he again faltered, and looked as if he could have sunk into the earth.
“Come, out with it,” said the magistrate
“She said, ‘Ah, my dear! how do you do?”’ (Loud laughter.,
“And you thought, I dare say, that there was something very kind in her saying that?”
“I did, indeed, Sir: I thought she must be a tender-hearted creatur to speak to a perfect stranger like me in that way.” (Renewed laughter, in which the magistrate joined.)
“And what more passed between you ?“
“I thaunk’d her kindly for her condescension, and hoped she was weel herself.”
“Ladies are not in the habit in your country, I suppose, of speaking in this way to strangers ?“ observed the magistrate.
“No, Sir, they are not: besides, what made me think mair of this leddy’s kindness was, that she was so brawly dressed. She had on a veil, Sir.”
“Well, but you have not told us what passed between you.”
“When I thaunked her for her kindness, she asked me whether I was not newly come to toon; and I told her that I was, and that I had been inquiring about an uncle, but could not find out his hoose. She then asked my uncle’s name; I said it was John Watson. ‘Oh!’ says she, ‘I know him quite well: but it’s too late to go after him to-night, as he lives at such a distance. You’ll better come with me, my love, and I’ll get you a bed for the night; and I’ll direct you towards your uncle in the morning.”’
“Pray try to make your story as short as possible, and come to the charge against her as quickly as you can,” said the magistrate, thinking the Caledonian was rather diffuse in his mode of telling his story.
“I’ll soon be done noo. I said to her that I could not think of troubling a leddy of her respectability to get a bed to me; but she begged of me not to mention it, and assured me it would be a pleasure, and not a trouble to her. As sure as death, Sir! I thought her the kindest creatur I ever saw in my life.”
“But you don’t think so now, I presume ?“ remarked the magistrate.
Sawney held down his head, and muttered something, which [-208-] was understood to signify a concurrence in the observation of the Bench.
“You went home with her, I suppose ?“ continued the magistrate.
“Yes, Sir; but I would not have presumed to do such a thing, if she had not asked me. She took a-hold o’ my arm, Sir; and I was almost ashamed to be seen walking with so finely-dressed a leddy.” (Loud laughter.)
“Well, and what more?”
“Then I went into an elegant room, whar I saw another pretty leddy; and she also spoke in the kindest and most condescending manner to me.”
“I suppose,” observed the magistrate, “that you thought all the women in London were angels ?“
“I just did that same, Sir, if I must tell the truth; for I never saw the leddies in our country treat strange men with so much kindness.” (Renewed laughter).
“So the second was as kind to you as the first ?“
“She was, Sir; indeed, if there was ony difference, she was the kindest a’ the twa.”
“In what way did she show her kindness?”
The poor simpleton blushed at the question, and was silent. “Come, tell us!” said the magistrate, in half authoritative tones.
“Why, then,” answered the other, in broken hesitating accents, “she cam’ and sat doon on my knee.” (Roars of laughter).
“Without your inviting her to do so, I presume?”
“O dear! yes, Sir. I would never have had the assurance to use such freedom with a leddy.”
“Well, go on.”
“Weel, after being about a quarter of an hour in the same room as the twa leddies, I said, if she would tell me whar my bed was, I would go to it, as I was very wearied; but, said I, as I’m a stranger here, might I ask of you the very great favour to keep my money to me till next morning, in case of accidents. ‘Oh, with the greatest pleasure, my love!’ said the one: ‘Oh, certainly, my dear!’ said the other. And with that I gave the one—the one noo standing there, (pointing to the bar)—a five-pound note of the British Linen Company,* (* The name of the leading bank in Scotland.) and said I would be particularly obleeged to her if she would keep it quite safe to me till the morn’s morning.” (Loud laughter).
“And, of course, she promised she would?”
“She did, Sir: they both assured me it would be quite safe.”
[-209-] “And you found, next morning, I suppose, that it was so safe that you could not get a sight of it again ?“ (Laughter.)
“It’s a’ true as your honour says. I never clapped an ee (eye) on her or the money, after she got it.”
“Did she leave the room as soon as you gave it her ?“ inquired the magistrate.
“Oh, no; she sat about a quarter of an hour longer, until I said, that if she would be kind enough to tell me whar my bedroom was, I would bid them both good night.”
“And did she tell you where your bed-room was to be ?”
“She said, Sir, that she would go and call the servant, who would show me where I was to sleep; and after thanking her for her kindness, and saying I was sorry to be putting her to so much trouble, she said, ‘Oh! it’s no trouble at all, my dear!’ and then left the room.”
“And was in no hurry in returning, I suppose ?“ observed the magistrate.
“Ots, Sir!” said the poor fellow, with great simplicity and much emphasis; “ Ots, sir! she did not come back at a’.” (Loud laughter.)
“And did the other remain long with you ?“
“She did for some time, until I said, wondering that the other leddy was so long in returning, ‘I’m afear’d that I’m gieing your frien’ a great deal o’ trouble?’ on which, she begged me not to mention it; and said she would go and see what was detaining her.”
“And she also disappeared ?“
“She jost did, Sir.”
“And was in no haste in returning either?”
“Faith, Sir! she did not come back again at a’, mair than the ither.” (Roars of laughter.)
“Well,” said the magistrate, “and what did you do then?”
“To tell you the truth, Sir, I did na ken what to do.”
“But what did you do?”
“What did I do!“ repeated the raw Scotchman with great innocence.
“Yes; what did you do? You either remained in the house, or you quitted it.”
“Oh, it’s that you mean, Sir! I remained in the place until a middle-aged woman came and asked me who I wanted.”
“And you told her, of course
“I said to her that I wanted two leddies.”
“Well, and what then ?“ inquired the magistrate.
“‘Two leddies,’ says she, as if quite surprised. And I said ‘Yes, mem.’ On which she said, ‘Pray what’s their names?”’
[-210-] “And you did not know, I suppose ?“ observed the magistrate.
“You have jost spoken the truth. I did not; and I told the woman so; adding, that I had never thought of speering at them.” (Renewed laughter.)
“Well, and what happened then ?“
“Why, Sir, she said I must have mistaken the house; for that no leddies lived there ?“
“Well, go on,” said the magistrate.
“I said I had been brought there by a leddy, who engaged to get me lodgings for the night; when she said, ‘Oh, there must be some mistake! There’s no lodgings here; but you’ll get lodgings in the public-house over the way.”
“And did you leave the place ?“
“The woman made me leave it, Sir: she opened the door, and told me I could not lodge there.”
“Well, and what next did you do ?“
“I ga’ed o’er the way to the public-house, and told them a’ that had happened; and they told me I had been regularly done for, and called a policeman for me, to whom I stated the whole circumstances; and he said he would see what he could do.”
The magistrate then desired the policeman to be called. He stated that, from the description given of the prisoner, he knew her at once, and traced her to a gin shop, where she had tried to get the five-pound note changed, but without effect, as it was on a Scottish bank, and would not therefore pass current in London. He took the money from the “leddy,” and conveyed her to the station-house. He then went and desired the young man to attend at the office that day.
In answer to a question from the magistrate, the prisoner declared that she did not mean to retain the five-pound note, but only went out, knowing that the young man was quite unacquainted in town, to endeavour to get it changed for him.
“Eh me !“ said Sawney, holding up both his hands, and showing by his looks that, in the simplicity of his soul, he gave “the leddy” full credit for the truth of her statement; “Eh me! was not that so verra kind o’ her? I’m now so sorry that I ever said a word about it.” The broad accent in which this was delivered, coupled with the manner of the raw youth, threw all present into convulsions of laughter.
“If you take my advice, young man,” said the magistrate, when the laughter had subsided, “you’ll never again trust to the friendship or kindness of the ‘ladies’ who meet you in the street: but pass on, and not mind them.”
“Wed, Sir,” said the unsophisticated youth, with great earnestness, “if your honour thinks so, I’se tak’ your advice. [-211-] I’se never open my mouth to them again, but appear as if I were both deaf and dumb.” (Loud laughter.)
“As for you, madam,” said the magistrate, turning to the prisoner, “it is fortunate for you that this unsuspecting lad gave you the money, instead of your having taken it. As the note has been recovered, you are discharged.”
The next case I shall give is one of a different kind. It smacks of matrimonial squabbles and of poetry, in pretty equal proportions. Perhaps the most appropriate heading of it would be,
THE POETICAL COBBLER.
Sally Muggs, a little squat-looking woman, not very fair, and on the wrong side of forty, came bustling forward to the bar, and looking the sitting magistrate expressively in the face, said, “Please your vorship,” and then suddenly paused.
Magistrate—Well, ma’am, and what is your pleasure?
Mrs. Muggs—Vy, your vorship, it is— (Here the lady again abruptly paused, and buried her face, in quite a theatrical manner, in her handkerchief.)
Magistrate—Well, what is it? Let us hear it.
Mrs. Muggs—Please your vorship, this ‘ere man at the bar is my husband.
Mrs. Muggs turned about, and emitted a disapproving glance at “the man at the bar.”
Magistrate—Very well; go on.
Mrs. Muggs—And he is a mender of old shoes, your vorship.
Magistrate—Well, and what about it? Why don’t you proceed?
Mrs. Muggs (with a deep sigh)—And I married him six months ago.
Magistrate—Really, my good woman, if you have any complaint to make to the bench, you must proceed to do it at once, otherwise I shall order you from the bar. You have, I understand, a charge to prefer against the prisoner; pray come to it without any further circumlocution.
Mrs. Muggs—I vill, your worship. Vell, as I was a sayin’, I married this ‘ere man six months ago, and—
Magistrate—What has your marriage six months ago to do with the present case?
Mrs. -Muggs----.I soon diskivered, your vorship, that I had married a—Oh, Sir! I cannot utter the word.
Here Mrs. Muggs held down her head, and appeared to breathe so rapidly as to threaten instant suffocation.
Magistrate - And pray, madam, whom or what did you marry?
Mrs. Muggs—A-a-a-a poet, your vorship.
[-212-] The wife of the poetical cobbler pronounced the word “poet” -with a most emphatic groan, as if she had, in her own mind, associated something horrible with it.
The court was convulsed with laughter, in which the worthy magistrate heartily joined.
Magistrate— But what has the circumstance of your husband I being a poet to do with the present charge?
Mrs. Muggs—I’ll tell you presently, your vorship. I had some money when I married him; and so long as it lasted, he always spoke to me in pleasant poetry; but yen the money was all gone, his poetry became very disagreeable.
Magistrate—You mean, I suppose, that he scolds and quarrels with you in poetry? (Laughter.)
Mrs. Muggs—He does both of them ‘ere, your vorship; but he does something more.
Magistrate—Assaults you, perhaps?
Mrs. Muggs—Yes, your vorship: he beats me, and kicks me about most cruelly, and all the while keeps talking poetry. (Renewed laughter.)
Magistrate—But pray do come to the present charge. Mrs. Muggs—I vill, your vorship. He came home last night a little the vorse for leekur, and axed me, in poetry, for half-a-crown to spend with some fellow-snobs. I told him I had not a single penny in the house; on which he threatened, in poetry, to make gunpowder of me, if I did not give him what he wanted.
Magistrate—And was he as good as his word?
Mrs. Muggs—I’ll tell you all about it. (Laughter.) I again told him I had not a farthing in the house: on which he took down my best green silk bonnet, which was hanging on a nail, and which cost me ten-and-sixpence a fortnight before, and which I bought from Mrs.— Magistrate—Never mind what your bonnet cost you, or who you bought it from, but tell us about the assault.
Mrs. Muggs—Yes, your vorship. Vell, as I was a sayin’, he took down the bonnet, which was as handsome and fashionable a ‘un as was ever a-made by any milliner in Lunnun, and which was—
Magistrate (with considerable warmth)—Pray do not expatiate any more on the good qualities of the bonnet, but come at once to the assault on yourself.
Mrs. Muggs—I beg your vorship’s pardon; but I vas a-comin’ to that ‘ere as fast as I could. Vell, ven he took down the- I bonnet, he dashed it on the floor, and stamped upon it with his feet, as if he would drive the werry life out on’t. “Oh, my new bonnet !“ said I; and the vords wos hardly out of my mouth, when he gave another stamp on it with both his feet. “ My ten-and-[-213-]sixpence bonnet !“ said I; and with that, he gave it a kick which sent it right up to the ceiling, and down again. (Loud laughter.) I then tried to snatch it up, saying, “ Oh! my green silk bonnet !“ on which he again put both his ugly hoofs on it, and stood with it underneath, just as if it had been a mat to wipe one’s feet ‘with. That bonnet, your vorship, wos von of the best —
Magistrate—Really, madam, if you go on in this way, I must dismiss the case at once. You are speaking only of an assault on your bonnet; pray come to the assault on yourself
Mrs. Muggs (curtseying gracefully)—Vell, I vill, your vorship. As I was a-going to say, I tried to get the bonnet from him, and then he began to have a regular dance upon it. I stood a ghost at the sight, your vor—
“Aghast, she means, your honour; but she has no intellect— not a morsel,” growled the cobbler, who had hitherto not only looked sulky, but remained silent.
Mrs. Muggs resumed—I did, indeed, your vorship; but he grinned in my face and, spoke poetry. I tried to push him off the bonnet, yen he struck me so wiolently on the face, that the blood poured in rivers from my nose, and I fell down on the floor. ‘I cried out “Murder !“ and another ‘ooman as lodges in the same house called a policeman, who took him into custody.
A black eye and a swollen face bore ample testimony to the forcible nature of the blows which Mrs. Muggs had received from her poetical husband.
The policeman said, that when he took the defendant into custody, he also addressed him in poetry. When he asked him,
‘Why did you knock this woman down?’
‘I’ll go to the station house with you,
If you’ll only wait a minute or two,
Till I wash my face and comb my hair –
A request which you must admit is fair.’
The defendant, who was a short, thick-set, massy-headed personage, with a most unpoetical expression of countenance, evinced, all this, while, the utmost impatience to address the worthy magistrate. The latter having apostrophised the poetical cobbler with a “Now, Sir,” he advanced a step or two further up the bar, and putting both his hands behind his back, looked the presiding magistrate earnestly in the face.
Magistrate—Well, Sir, what have you got to say to this charge?
‘I admit that I was somewhat rude,
But not until I had reason good:
[-214-] She call’d me a horrid ugly brute,
Which sure enough did put me out;
I then hit Mrs. Muggs two or three blows,
As your worship already very well knows.’
Magistrate—You seem very anxious to be considered poetical. Do you call it poetry to commit an assault of this kind?
Mr. Muggs—Do I call it poetry to beat my wife?
I do—the deed with poetry is rife.
Magistrate—You do! Will you be so obliging as to tell us (in plain prose, if you please) what kind of poetry you call it?
Mr. Muggs—Most certainly: I’ll tell you in a fraction
of time—I call it, Sir, the poetry of action.
At this sally, the office was again convulsed with laughter, in which the bench heartily joined.
Magistrate (to Mrs. Muggs)—Does he always speak in this way?
Mrs. Muggs—Not always, your vorship, but he is sure to do so when he has drunk too much, and also occasionally when he is perfectly sober. He is now and then seized with fits of speaking poetry, as he calls it, and threatens at times to knock my “unpoetical soul” out of me. Mrs. Muggs, as she made the latter observation, tried to look wise, as if she had said something of surprising cleverness.
Magistrate—(to Mr. Muggs)—I understand you mend shoes.
Mr. Muggs—(hesitatingly)—Why—yes—I believe I dooes.
Magistrate—Don’t you think you would be much better occupied in attending to your business, than in making a fool of yourself by affecting to be a poet.
Mr. Muggs—It may be so, Sir, but I don’t know it.
Magistrate—Well, if you persist in making an ass of yourself in this way, you must be permitted to do so; but you shall not be allowed to assault your wife.
Mr. Muggs—I’ll not do it again, Sir, upon my life. (Loud Iaughter)
Magistrate—You are sentenced to —
“Pray,” interrupted Mrs. Muggs, addressing herself to the worthy magistrate, her heart having relented as she beheld her poetical husband looking touchingly towards her,— “pray, do, your honour, let him escape this time; I’ll be bound he von’t beat me again, nor destroy my bonnet.”
Mrs. Muggs looked as well as spoke so imploringly on behalf of Mr. Muggs, that even the magisterial nature, proof as it is generally supposed to be against entreaties of the kind, could not withstand the earnest supplications of the cobbler’s lady.
[-215-] Magistrate (to Mr. Muggs)—Sir, we shall allow you to get off this once at the request of your wife, but if the offence be repeated we shall deal with you in a very different way.
Mr. Muggs—I thank you, Sir, and wish you good day (Laughter.)
Mr. and Mrs. Muggs then cordially embraced each other as if their mutual affections had been wondrously improved by what had happened.
“I’m sure, Dick,” * (* Richard was Mr. Muggs’ Christian name.) said Mrs. Muggs, looking up touchingly in her husband’s face, as he clasped his arms around her, “I’m sure, Dick, you von’t do it no more.”
To which tender appeal, Mr. Muggs, as Milton would have mid, answered thus
“No, Sally, dear, I will not do’t again,
Never, my angel. I will refrain,
From this time forward, and for aye,
Perish my hand, should ever the day-
Arrive, in which ‘twill hit thee a blow;
Oh, Sally, my love! oh, Sally, oh!
Your kindness has me quite overcome:
As I will prove whene’er we get home.
So let us hence, and leave this place;
I’m thankful we quit it with such a good grace.”
The parties then retired, with their arms most affectionately entwined around each other’s neck, amidst peals of laughter from all present.
A DRUNKEN FROLIC.
A young man, who afterwards proved himself to be of good address, though his dress was rather awkward, and contrasted oddly with his appearance otherwise, was brought before the sitting magistrate, charged with being found drunk in the streets.
There was a general titter in the office as he advanced to the dock. And no wonder; for the odd appearance he presented might well have affected the risible muscles of even Democritus himself. He carried in his hand the bonnet, and his back was graced with the coat, of a private soldier; while his small-clothes, which had once been light cassimere of a fashionable make, were so extensively plastered with patches of mud, that it was with difficulty you could ascertain what the original colour was. His waistcoat was also of a fashionable cut, and though now wofully soiled with the commodity just mentioned, had evident-]y been, the night before, one which Beau Brummel himself need not have been ashamed to wear. Neckerchief or [-216-] stock he had none; his neck—clearly for no other reason than the accidental absence of either stock or cloth, and not from choice—was quite exposed to the rude gaze of the policemen, and of all in the office who chose to fix their vulgar eyes on it. To add to the singularity of this part of his personal aspect, the collar of his shirt had somehow or other disappeared, as if ashamed of itself. His crest-fallen looks also added much to the oddity of his appearance.
“Well, Sir,” said the magistrate, “What is your name?”
“Anthony Nonsuch,” was the answer.
“And pray, what are you ?“
“I am—I am—I am.—Sir, I am a gentleman by profession.” The first part of this answer was uttered with great hesitation, and the latter with an energy which so oddly contrasted with it,
as to raise a general laugh.
“I do not know,” said the magistrate, sarcastically, “what you are by profession, but you certainly are not in a very gentlemanly situation at present. (To the officer.) Tell us what you know of the prisoner.”
“Plase your honour,” said the policeman, who was an Hibernian,* (*This occurred under the old police system, when almost all the guardians of the night were Irishmen. ) “as I was on duty last night about one o’clock this morning, in Great Russel 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. Patrick was after bringing your body here?’ ‘Go home to Paddy’s Land, you spalpeen of an Irishman,’ says he. ‘It wid be bether for the likes ov ye iv ye were at home in such a night as this,’ says I. (Laughter.) ‘Pat,’ says he, ‘I mane to sleep here for an hour or two.’ ‘By the powers, and you won’t do that same,’ says I; ‘it’s not a very comfortable bed that yourself would be after finding it,’ says I. ‘The sheets feel a little damp, but we must not stick at trifles,’ says he. (Laughter.) ‘Come, come,’ says I. ‘Good night, Pat,’ says he; ‘you be sure and call me early in the morning, my boy.’ (Laughter.) Wid that, your honour, he laid hisself down again on the street, among the dubs, as if he had been slapeing on a bed of down.”
“And you raised him up, of course,” said the magistrate.
“I tried to do that same, plase your honour, but never an inch would he move. He felt as weighty, yer honour, as a ton of lead; so I was obliged to get the assistance of another policeman, and we put him on his feet between us.”
“And they were of no use to him, I suppose, when you did so?” said the magistrate.
“Maybe yer honour’s quite right there,” said the Irishman, [-217-] with a significant shake of the head; “he could not put them beneath him at all at all.”
“Did he speak when you lifted him up?”
“Did he speak, yer honour? Faith and he did that same.”
“What did he say ?“
“‘Paddy,’ says he, ‘bring me a noggin of whiskey;’ but I tould him, yer honour, there was none to be had. ‘Why?’ says he. ‘Why!’ says I, ‘sure bekase all the public houses is shut up.’ ‘Is it too late,’ says he, ‘to get one noggin more?’ ‘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.”
“Did you ask him what was his name.”
“I did, plase yer honour.”
“And what did he say it was
“Och, and faith, yer honour, he did not speak the thruth.”
“Are you quite sure of that ?“
“As sure, yer honour, as it’s meself is my mother’s son.” (Laughter.)
“And pray how did you come to know that he did not speak the truth ?“
“Bekase, yer honour, it was himself that was after giving me a wrong name.”
“But how did you come to know that ?“ repeated the magistrate with some sharpness.
“Bekase I’m sure it was not the right one.” (Bursts of laughter.)
“Let us hear what it was.”
“Och, I’m quite sartin, yer honour, it was not the thrue one, answered the Emeralder, showing an evident reluctance to answer the magistrate’s question.
“Come, come, Sir; do tell us at once what name he gave you.”
“Well, then, yer honour, if I must be after telling you, sure enough it was Daniel O’Connell.” (Roars of laughter.)
“And how do you know that is not the prisoner’s name ?“
“Bekase, yer worship, I know Daniel O’Connell, and therefore by this same token could not be mistaken.”
“The Agitator, you mean ?“ continued the magistrate.
“I mane Mr. O’Connell, the same fat gentleman as makes orashuns in Dublin.”
“But you don’t mean to say he is the only Daniel O’Connell in the world ?“
“Faith, yer honour, and I never thought of that same before,” answered Pat, looking quite surprised at his own stupidity.
“Well, we’ll pass over his name. Did you ask him where he lived ?“
“I did, yer worship.”
[-218-] “And what answer did he give you ?“
“He said, in his own house.” (Loud laughter.)
“And what did you say ?“
“Must I tell your honour the very words I said ?“
“Then I called him a stupid spalpeen, and tould him that it was no answer at all at all that he had given meself to the civil question I asked him.”
“Did he then give you his address ?“
“He then said, yer honour, says he, ‘Paddy, my boy, I live in Ireland,’ (Renewed laughter) and thinking that too far to remove him to that night, we brought him to the watch-house, yer honour.”
“You did quite right,” observed the magistrate; and turning to the prisoner, said, “Well, Sir, what have you got to say for yourself?”
“I would much rather not say anything, your worship,” answered Mr. Nonsuch, in a subdued tone, and hanging his head; “the truth is, Sir, I had been dining with some friends, and took a glass too much.”
“But how come you to have on this strange dress? You are not a private soldier.”
“No, Sir, thank heaven, I am no soldier of any kind: I am not come to that yet. The fact is, that all I remember is this; that a young friend and myself, in coming home from the place where we had been dining, went into the tap-room of a public-house in the Strand, to have a lark; and two or three privates being drinking there, one of them proposed, for a frolic, that I should try on his red coat and bonnet, and he my black coat and hat, to see how we should severally look with this change in our apparel. I at once assented, thinking the thing was an excellent joke, and the moment he had put on my coat and hat, he bolted out of the house, crying, ‘Catch me if you can.’” (Loud laughter.)
“And did you try to catch him ?“ inquired the magistrate.
“I did, your worship; but I lost sight of him in a few moments, and have not seen or heard of him since. I suppose the open air must have made me worse, for after losing sight of him I have no recollection of what passed.”
“Well, Sir,” said the magistrate, with considerable sternness, “I should think the ridiculous figure you now cut, and the situation you are now in, must be no slight punishment for your folly. You are fined five shillings for being drunk. Officer! the next charge.”
“But what am I to do?” said the unfortunate wight, addressing himself to the magistrate in a tremulous tone; “what am I to do for my coat and hat? I cannot go home in this state.”
[-219-] “That is no affair of mine,” answered the magistrate hastily. “The next charge, officer !“
“Coming, Sir,” said the latter. And that moment another servant of the establishment led into the office a man, seemingly about thirty-five years of age, whose stiff gait and erect head denoted that he belonged to the military profession.
“Oh, there he is, your worship !“ exclaimed Mr. Nonsuch, with some vehemence, turning about to the magistrate; “that is my coat on his back, and that is my hat in his hand,” he added, pointing to the prisoner.
“Silence, Sir! order in the office 1” said the magistrate, in authoritative accents.
Mr. Anthony Nonsuch remained in the place to see the upshot of the matter, his countenance irradiated with joy at the sight of two such indispensable parts of his wardrobe, and especially at the prospect of their being restored to him.
“ What is this person charged with?” inquired the magistrate; addressing himself to the police -constable who stood beside the prisoner.
“Please your worship,” answered the guardian of the night, “as I was going my round at half-past one this morning, I saw this here man with a crowd around him, quite drunk, and hollering aloud that he had been a sodger before, but that he was a gentleman now. Seeing the trowsers, waistcoat, and stock of a private on him, with a gentleman’s hat and fashionable black coat, I took him into custody, not only for being drunk and disorderly, but thinking he had stolen the coat and hat.”
“What are you, Sir?” said the magistrate to the prisoner.
“A private in the 69th regiment,” answered the latter.
“And what have you to say to the charge?”
The soldier admitted he had taken a drop too much, and expressed his sorrow for what had happened.
“Do that coat and hat belong to that person there?” said the magistrate, pointing to Mr. Nonsuch.
“They do, your worship,” answered the soldier, after bestowing a transient glance on his companion in the previous night’s frolic.
“You are fined five shillings for being drunk.”
“Give me back my coat and hat, and I will pay the five shillings,” said Mr. Nonsuch eagerly, addressing the son of Mars. The latter promptly complied with his wish by doffing coat and hat. The red coat and bonnet were returned to their proper owner along with the five shillings, and both parties quitted the office, Mr. Anthony Nonsuch declaring that he would take care never to get himself into such a plight again.
I shall only give one more police-office case, which may be headed—
[-220-] CASE OF ALLEGED HOUSE-STEALING.
Rory O’Niel, a short, thick-set, recent importation from “Ould Ireland,” whose countenance was one of the most innocent-looking that ever graced the bar of a police-office, and whose black bristly head of hair had as rough an appearance as if there were not a comb in Christendom,—was charged with having stolen a horse. The charge excited more than ordinary interest, and gave rise to a variety of observations on the part of other persons in the office, touching the enormity of the crime of horse-stealing.
The complainant, a surly-looking sour-tempered personage, of middle size, and about forty years of age, stated the case with great pomposity. “The horse, your worship, with which this Irishman,” pointing with an air of scorn to the prisoner, “ran away, was –“
“He ‘s not spaking a word o’ the blessed thruth, yer honour,” interrupted poor Pat, with great earnestness of manner.
“Silence !“ said the magistrate, addressing himself to the prisoner; “you must allow the complainant to state his case without interruption.”
“But, yer honour, there isn’t a morsel of the blessed thruth in what he ‘s spaking.”
“Well, but you must be silent now; you’ll be heard when he’s done.”
“Heaven bless yer jewel of a sowl, yer honour, for that same! If I had known that, sure it’s not meself wid have throubled yer honour with a single word at present.”
The complainant resumed. “The horse, Sir, with which this person ran away, was one of the finest animals in Lon—”
“Do not tell the bench anything about the qualities of your horse; that is not the matter we are called to decide,” interrupted the magistrate.
“Very well, Sir,” said the complainant, in a subdued tone, his vanity being clearly wounded by the observation of the magistrate. “Very well, Sir. Having, then, occasion to visit the British Museum, I desired this person, whom I saw lounging about in Great Russell Street, to hold the horse, and walk him about for an hour, saying I would, on my return, give him a shilling for his trouble.”
“And he undertook to do as you requested ?“ observed the magistrate.
“He did, Sir: he put his hand to his hat, and said he would take particular care of the animal. On quitting the British Museum, about an hour afterwards, I found both the horse and the man were gone.”
[-221-] “And what did you do then ?“ inquired the magistrate.-
“I informed the police of the circumstance, and the horse was brought back to my hotel, in Westminster, in about two hours afterwards.”
The policeman, who restored the animal to the complainant, stated, that about half an hour after the time mentioned by the complainant, he saw the horse coming in the direction of Tottenham-court-road, at a furious gallop, with the prisoner on his back, but having all the appearance of one who was the reverse of comfortable in his seat. On turning the corner to go down Tottenham-court-road, in the direction of the Hampstead-road, the prisoner fell off the animal, when the latter galloped away at still greater speed. He was, however, soon seized by the bridle and stopped by a man in the street; when he ran up and took charge of him.
“Of the horse, you mean?” said the magistrate.
“Of the horse, your worship.”.
“So that you left the rider who had fallen off to take care of himself”
“I thought, your worship, that as the horse was very restive, if he was not taken care of, he might escape again and do greater mischief.”
“ Is the person here who raised the prisoner after he fell off the horse’s back ?“
“Yes, yer honour: it was myself that did that same act of kindness to a countryman,” responded a tall, clumsy, but benevolent-looking man, in a strong Irish brogue.
“Well, I shall examine you presently,” said the magistrate, addressing himself to the latter.
“Whenever your honour plases,” observed the other, drily.
“You hear the charge against you, prisoner; what have you to say to it?” -
“A great dale, yer honour.”
“Well, make your statement as short as possible.”
“I will, yer honour; but would yer honour be so condesanding as to allow me to begin first?“ observed Pat, amidst shouts of laughter, caused not less by the archness with which the remark was made, than by the wit of the remark itself. The magistrate could not help joining in the general laugh.
“Well, Sir, do be so good as to let us hear your defence.”
“ Och! and sure that I will, yer honour, in less than a minit.”
“Well, Sir, proceed.”
“My defence, yer honour, is, that the gintlemin has not spoken a word of the blessed thruth, as sure as the Virgin’s in heaven.”
[-222-] “Do you mean to say,” inquired the magistrate, with some emphasis, “that the complainant did not leave his horse with you ?“
“Och! sure, yer honour, and it’s not meself would be after sayin’ any such thing.”
“What do you mean to say, then ?“
“What do I mane to say, is it yer honour manes?”
“Yes. Do you mean to say that you did not run away with the horse ?“
“Faith, and it’s myself manes to do jist that same.”
“How, then, were you seen gallopping in the direction of Tottenham-court road ?“
“Och, yer honour! that’s it, is it? Then I mane to say it happened in this way.”
Here Pat hesitated for a moment, as if ruminating on what he would say further.
“Come, Sir: you say that you did not run away with the horse: how, then, were you seen gallopping the animal at so furious a rate ?“
“Bekase, yer honour, the horse ran away with me.” (Roars of laughter, in which not only the magistrate, but even the demure, sulky-looking complainant joined.)
“How do you mean ?“ inquired the magistrate, when the laughter had subsided.
“How do I mane? What I mane is this, that instead of meself running away with the horse on my own blessed back, the horse ran away with me on his back.” (Renewed laughter.)
“You are not charged,” said the magistrate, “with carrying the animal on your back.”
“Am I not, yer honour?” shouted Pat, his countenance suddenly lighting up with a beam of joy. “Am I not? Then the charge is dismissed, is it ?“ (Laughter.)
“Not quite so fast as that,” answered the magistrate, drily.
“Then-what am I charged with, yer honour?” said Pat, with great shrewdness of manner.
“With stealing the complainant’s horse.”
“How, yer honour,” said the prisoner, with the most imperturbable gravity of countenance, “could I stale the baste, when it ran away with me, and not me with it ?“
“Come, tell us how you got on the horse’s back ?“
“Faith, and I will, this blessed minit, yer honour!”
“Well, let us hear. How was it?”
“Well, yer honour, as sure as I hope that my soul will be saved, I’ll tell you the blessed thruth. It was in this way.”
Here Pat suddenly dropped his eyes on the floor, and made a dead pause, which lasted for some seconds.
“Why don’t you proceed ?“ inquired the magistrate, with some tartness.
[-223-] “Wid yer honour be so good as to let me be after telling you what I was thinking of?” said the prisoner, with great simplicity, and slightly scratching his forehead.
“Well, what was it?” inquired the magistrate, sternly.
“Well, then, yer honour, I was thinking, in case you shouldn’t belave what I say, though it’s the truth of the gospel, it would be good for meself if the horse could spake, and be produced here before yer honour.”
The office was again convulsed with laughter, which, indeed, it would have been impossible for the most demure to resist, owing to the air of simplicity and singularly ludicrous way in which the poor fellow made the remark.
“Well, but as we must unfortunately dispense with the presence of the horse, he being unable to give his testimony to the point, will you tell us,” said the magistrate, “in a few words, how you came to get on his back?”
“I will, yer honour. As I was standing walking (loud laughter) with the animal, a great big spalpeen who was driving a cart, comes in over to me, and says, says he, ‘That’s a handsome-looking horse you have got.’ ‘May be, you’re right there,’ says I. ‘Ah, Paddy!’ says he, ‘why don’t you get on his back, and ride him about?’ ‘What’s that to you?’ says I. ‘Oh,’ says he,’ it’s because you cannot ride, you Irish —,‘ says he. ‘You —‘ Shall I tell yer honour the word I made use of here?”
“Do,” said the magistrate, “if it’s not a very bad one.”
“It’s partikerly bad, yer honour. Says I, ‘You lie, you stupid thickskull!’ On that, says he again, ‘You can’t put a leg on horseback. I’ll bet you anything you like, you can’t.’ ‘A noggin of gin!’ says I. ‘Anything you like,’ says he again.’ ‘Well, then,’ says I, ‘let it be a noggin of Fearon’s best.’ ‘Done!’ says he. And with that, yer honour, to gain the wager, as sure’s my name is Rory O’Niel, I leaped into the saddle, and was about to have a gintle trot, when he takes his whip and lashes the animal with all his force, and away it flew with me at full gallop, yer honour. That’s the blessed thruth, as I hope to be saved !“
“We shall now hear,” said the magistrate, “what the person who took the prisoner up, when he fell off the horse, has got to say. Well, Sir?” continued the magistrate, addressing himself to the witness in question.
“I’m here, yer honour.”
“You say you were the first that came to the assistance of the prisoner when thrown off the horse.”
“ I was, yer honour.”
“Tell us, then, what you know about this matter ?“
[-224-] “When I saw him fall,” answered Rory’s countryman, “I ran in over to him, not knowing at the time that he was from Ould Ireland, and said, says I, ‘Are you much hurt, my darlint?’ But, yer honour, the never a word did he spake in answer to my question. Says I, again, ‘Are you living or dead, honey?’ And sure enough, yer honour, he raised up his two big eyes, like a wild duck in a thunder storm, and said, ‘Don’t you see I’m dead, you spalpeen? the horse has kilt me quite?’” (Loud laughter.)
“But do you know anything as to the circumstances connected with the starting of the horse ?“ inquired the magistrate. “Were you near the place at the time ?“
The witness stated that he was not within sight at the time the horse went off, and consequently did not know anything about that part of the matter.
The policeman, who took charge of the horse after he was caught, here came forward, and said that a highly respectable gentleman came up immediately after the accident, and when a concourse of persons were gathered around, and gave precisely the same statement as that of the prisoner, as to the circumstances under which the latter had mounted the horse.
The bench being satisfied that poor Rory had told the truth, and that, instead of deserving more punishment, he had been too much punished already, ordered him to be discharged.
“Thank yer honour, and may yer honour never be kilt by a fall from a horse, to the end of your blessed days,” said Rory, amidst much laughter, on hearing the decision of the magistrate. Pat was then in the act of quitting the office, when he suddenly turned about, and addressing the bench with a remarkable peculiarity of manner, said, “But, plase yer honour, the gintleman has not given me the shilling yet, at all at all, for houlding his horse.”
“You have not,” observed the complainant, “entitled yourself to the shilling: you did not fulfil your engagement: you let the horse go.”
“And sure, that was not my fault,” answered Rory, with much dryness of manner. “The baste ran away against my will.”
A loud burst of laughter followed the observation; and so pleased were the two magistrates who were present, with the -readiness and wit of Rory, that they each gave him half-a-crown. The complainant, surly though he seemed to be to the last, could not resist following their example. Pat then left the office, seven-and-sixpence richer than he entered it, singing, with great seeming sincerity, “Och! long life to all yer honours !“
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]