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TEN A.M. AT GREAT GRUBBY STREET POLICE COURT
You have some business to transact at the
tribunal, which gives its name to this chapter; and, upon my word, I don't envy
you. Long years ago, Charles Dickens gave the generic name of "villanous"
to London police-courts ; although, since his time the "villanous" old
tribunal in Bow Street has been demolished, and a new and handsome palace of
correctional justice has been erected on the other side of the road, on the site
of Broad Court. The Metropolitan police-courts, structurally, with their
surroundings, may (with the exception of Bow Street), without much exaggeration,
be pronounced a scandal to London, and to our much-vaunted civilisation.
The only good things that I can discern in a police-court, are, first, - the worthy magistrates who administer justice there, and mingle their justice with mercy; and, secondly, the gentlemen of the press- I beg you will not call them reporters - who give us day by day such accurate, and, sometimes, such graphic [-83-] narratives of the cases brought before those stipendiary Caesars, who work almost as hard as journalists do, in a vitiated atmosphere, and in "villanous" company, for a salary of £1200 a year. Well; Henry Fielding, the author of Torn Jones, and one of the first Metropolitan "beaks" of note, only got £300 a year, and he qualified his wage as consisting of "the dirtiest money in the world." The incomes of cur modern stipendiaries are at least clean.
Various kinds of business may have led you at ten o'clock this instant morning, to seek out the particular London slum, which is additionally dishonoured by the presence of Great Grubby Street police-court. It may be that you wish to complain to the worthy magistrate of your next-door neighbour, who persists in keeping in his back-yard a number of cocks which crow distractingly every morning; while the lady who inhabits the house on the other side, entertains, in addition to several piratical cats, a parrot which uses language unfit for publication, and, perhaps, an affectionate boa- constrictor, and a merry rattlesnake or two. Possibly, organ-grinders may be your grievance; or you wish to protest against the annoyance caused you by the speculative builder, who is erecting a mansion, nineteen storeys high, over against your dwelling, thus depriving you of light and air, and inflicting additional torture on your nerves by the circular saw-mm, which he has set up on a bit of waste ground for the use of the carpenters and joiners, who are making the fittings for the flats.
[-84-] It is earnestly to be hoped that it is not a compulsory interview that you are about to have with the worthy magistrate, and that, at ten o'clock, you will not have to surrender to your bail. You will be able to avoid, I should say, such disagreeable contingencies, if you will carefully abstain from assaulting the police in a broil at Piccadilly Circus after midnight; or officiating as managing director of the Bogus Prospectus Extraction of Gold from Asafoetida Company, Limited; and, in particular, if you are not connected with any agencies, syndicates, or bureaux for swindling amateur authors out of their manuscripts, or cheating poor little cooks and nursery-maids, who are ambitious to appear on the music-hall stage, and who are often cozened out of all the money they can scrape together by the knaves who profess to be able to procure engagements for them. Perhaps, on the whole, the safest hypothesis that can be adopted to account for your presence at the Court this Monday morning - be very careful to remember that it is the second day of the week- is, that you are bound on a simple errand of compassion.
The civil, honest, intelligent, and sober young fellow, who drives your brougham, is in trouble. He has a worthless faggot of a wife, who, in addition to drinking overmuch and beating him when she is tipsy, has a propensity for stealing small articles and pawning them; and for such an act of larceny, comprising the appropriation of a feather-bed, a blanket, and a clock, she was given into custody late on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the incensed landlady, the owner of the [-85-] stolen chattels, gave the perfectly innocent husband in charge at the same time. It was too late to procure bail, and they were both locked up. So you have come down to Great Grubby Street to procure legal assistance for a man whom you know to be blameless, and to give evidence as to the goodness of his character, if you are called upon to do so.
I am not going to tell you in what district of the Metropolis Great Grubby Street is situated, or even to provide you with any direct indication as to the road you should follow, to find out the exceptionally dingy and squalid Temple of Themis in question. Suffice it to say, that you tumble, so to speak, unawares on Great Grubby Street: a slum which, you may choose to think, is not far from the Euston Road; or just a little more than a stone's throw of Rochester Row, Westminster; or is within pistol shot of Tottenham Court Road; or is a shilling cab fare from Drury Lane Theatre. You find yourself in Great Grubby Street, and that should be enough for you. How horribly the place smells! That is about the first of the impressions which you receive. Everything of an edible, potable, or household-stuff nature, which is vended in the shops, seems to have an unpleasantly "high" flavour.
Many of the shop-windows are unglazed; and the proprietors of the establishments which really have glazed frontages, are in the habit of exposing a large quantity of their surplus merchandise on the foot pavement. Thus, your feet stumble, not like those of Friar Lawrence, at graves, but at sides of bacon, hunks of cheese, barrels [-86-] of soft soap, ropes of onions, and baskets full of green stuff, all cheap and all emitting powerful odours. Then, the dried haddocks and the red herrings, and, if it be winter time, the sprats! Then, the reeking perfume of the fried-fish shop at the corner, and the fearfully "loud" emanations from the cats'-meat shop next door; to say nothing of the odour of the teeming population of Great Grubby Street - their garments, and themselves. It happens to be a "London Particular" foggy morning, to boot; and about half-past nine it begins to rain; so the rain beats down on the smoke, and the smoke on the fog; and all three either smirch your face and hands, or go down your throat till you are half suffocated and wholly sickened.
But oh! what a surprise! There are two really handsome shops, oases in this desert of ugly squalor. The shops stand side by side, and both have evidently been decorated regardless of expense. One is kept, so an inscription in very large white letters on the plate glass windows proclaims, by Mr. Crafton Foxifum, and the other by Mr. Weasel Wideawake. These esteemed traders sell neither butter, nor bacon, nor onions; neither cheese, nor firewood, nor fried fish; they both sell Law. In fine, they are both solicitors, in constant and remunerative practice at the police - court opposite, and are both in much request among ladies and gentlemen who are "in trouble" on suspicion of offences against the criminal statutes.
If Chancy Lightfingers, popularly known in swell- mob circles as "Nickemquick," is arrested for picking [-87-] pockets in a Congregational Chapel during the sermon, his first proceeding, after declaring that he is as innocent as a babe unborn of the offence imputed to him, is to secure the services of Mr. Crafton Foxifum; and if Bill Bludgeon has been "run in" for about the fifteenth time for savagely beating his wife, it is very often the poor bruised, but still loving woman herself who waits as early in the morning as she can on Mr. Weasel Wideawake, at his office in Great Grubby Street, and instructs him, weeping and sobbing, to come up and speak for the ferocious brute, her husband, who, she plaintively declares, is very good to her when the drink is not in him.
But pray do not think that pickpockets and wife-beaters are the only clients who bring their painfully gathered moneys to Mr. Foxifum or Mr. Wideawake. A London police-court is a sieve through which pass in the course of every year all sorts and conditions of men - ay, and of women and children too. Peers of the realm, officers of high rank in both services, schoolmasters, ladies of fashion, clergymen, actresses, country squires, tourists from the Continent or from America, may all have occasion to seek the services of one of the two solicitors who impartially divide their attention between their noble or fashionable clients and the thieves and swindlers, and scamps of every grade, who stand in need of legal assistance. Not unfrequently the case to be heard at Great Grubby Street is of such importance that some very distinguished solicitor indeed - say Sir George Findout - comes down in person to [-88-] conduct either the prosecution or the defence; nay, even such forensic grandees as Mr. Blatant, Q.C., or Mr. Tally Kikeron may be retained in some unusually prominent cause. The bulk of the legal business, however, at Great Grubby Street falls to the share of Mr. Crafton Foxifum and Mr. Weasel Wideawake.
The two solicitors, although rivals in business, are excellent friends in private life. They are both members of the Betterton Club, and frequently lunch there at 1 P.M. Foxifum has a beautiful villa at Dulwich, where, in the bosom of a smiling family, he grows orchids; and Wideawake, who is a bachelor, is noted for the elegant pat? de foie gras sandwiches and strawberry-and-cream high teas, for ladies only, which he gives during the season at his elegant flat in Screech Owl Street. Both these luminaries of the criminal law are educated and high-minded gentlemen; while the magistrates who sit in judgment at the Court opposite are as refined as they are learned. Mr. Rhadamanthus Roe, for example, is renowned as an entomologist, and is supposed to possess a unique specimen of the great dromedary-backed moth; while his colleague, Mr. Minos Yakers, is known as a collector of Elzevirs, and a connoisseur of the old Dutch Masters. You would little think, meeting either the magistrates on the solicitors in polite society, and listening to their sprightly and scholar-like conversation, that they had to pass half their lives in the company of the scum of the earth, and to listen every day to stories hideous [-89-] enough to make the blood run cold and the marrow freeze in the spine!
It is Mr. Weasel Wideawake whom you have chosen to defend the unhappy coachman; but his poor old father has been in advance of you; and you find him in the lawyer's office, pouring a piteous tale into the legal ear. He has been a coachman himself, - "which he druv' Alderman Sir Turtle Stakeley, Barrownight, seven-and- twenty year, and never, either as man or boy, did his Jemmy take a copper as didn't belong to him." Mr. Wideawake very soon puts the poor old father and yourself at ease. He assures you that there is not a tittle of evidence against the young man; that the wife only will be convicted, and that her husband will be discharged and leave the Court without a stain on his character. By the way, he adds, it might be well to step over the way at once, as Mr. Rhadamanthns Roe, who sits this morning, is a very punctual gentleman and the list of night-charges, it being Monday, is likely to be a somewhat heavy one.
Over the way you go, pushing your way through a shabby, steaming crowd, which blocks up all the corridors leading to the Court, and which straggles out over the roadway outside. Then, when you have managed to enter the precincts of the inconveniently crowded court room, and find yourself wedged between two police officers upon a seat fronting the magisterial bench, you discover that among the odours of Great Grubby Street there is yet another one almost inexpressibly noisome and nauseating, with which you have hitherto failed to [-90-] make acquaintance. It is the smell of Great Grubby Street police-court itself and the people in it. At your back is an area set apart for such of the public as have actual business with the magistrate, or who are interested either as relations or as friends of some persons "in trouble" for some delinquency or another. These spectators are subjected to a very narrow scrutiny by the police on duty at the door; and if they cannot advance an adequate plea for admission, they are relegated to the corridors, where, as before mentioned, they scuffle and gabble, and impede the circulation. Those who are allowed to be present are all too numerous; and they are all fragrant with the same dull, vapid, faintness-engendering, sour, and almost stifling smell, in which the odours of old rags, old junk, stale tobacco, stale beer, sawdust, turpentine, and cheese, seem to be for ever conflicting. While you are sniffing, involuntarily, these conglomerated gusts of pestiferous atmosphere, you call to mind Coleridge's allusion to the seventy distinct stenches which he smelt at Cologne; and anon there come crowding on you memories of the terrible stories which you have read about the Gaol Fever of old, when, at the Old Bailey or at provincial assizes, the dreadful fumes from the felon's dock would poison the blood of the Bench and Bar, and sweep judges, jurymen, lawyers, and witnesses to swift death.
There is no Gaol Fever nowadays, and our prisons are models of cleanliness, if not of comfort; yet, so far as criminal justice is concerned, it is usually administered, both in the assize and session courts, and [-91-] especially always with the exception of Bow Street - in the police-courts, in poky, stuffy, grimy dens, in which it is a standing marvel that those who have any business there can keep their health. Mr. Rhadamanthus Roe has entered his Court; made an affable bow to the solicitors' table, and taken his seat, smiling benignantly all round. A wary officer of police by your side whispers that it is one of Mr. Roe's "good days," and that his Worship won't make it very "hot" for the night charges. The sitting magistrate is a very tall gentleman, middle-aged, and prematurely grey. To your thinking, the chief peculiarity in his personal appearance is his spotless cleanliness; his cuffs and collars are as the fresh-fallen snow; his boots gleam; and could any sunbeam creep in through the grimy windows, the rays would sparkle brightly on the magisterial hat, brushed to a degree of exquisite glossiness. Indeed, you cannot help fancying that the immaculate spruceness of the stipendiary is a kind of protest against his dingy surroundings.
Ah! those night charges! They trail, and draggle, and crawl, and sidle in, and are quietly handed into the dock by the gaoler. Whom have we here? Something that resembles one of the old wooden blocks that used to stand at the doors of tobacconists - a block in full Highland costume, but which apparently has suddenly been endowed with life ; then, having become a little too lively, has been subsequently rolled in the mud of many gutters; and has ultimately been conveyed on a stretcher to the police station. You cannot believe him [-92-] to be a real son of Caledonia stern and wild. In greater likelihood, he is a descendant of one of those "Mile-enders" whom Theodore Hook describes in the procession that went to congratulate Queen Caroline at her house at Hammersmith, "dressed up as Highlanders, shivering in kilts."
Besides, if he were a real child of old Gaul, no amount of whiskey that he had quaffed would have made him drunk and disorderly, and incited him violently to pummel a cabman, a coffee-stall keeper, and three police-constables in the Pentonville Road. He might have got "a drappie in his e'e"; but, surely, he would never have drifted into the "fou" stage of inebriety. Moreover, he gives the name of John Smith: clearly he cannot be Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell; and the native heath on which he sets his foot must be nearer Pentonville than the Clachan of Aberfoyle. John Smith is sentenced to pay a fine of forty shillings, with the alternative of a month's imprisonment. With the assault on the police the magistrate does not deal; because, from the evidence, it is rather difficult to determine whether it was John Smith who began the fray by butting at, kicking, and biting the guardians of the peace; or whether they opened the ball by battering his head with their truncheons. But that he has a broken head is without doubt.
TEN A.M. AT GREAT GRUBBY STREET POLICE COURT
THERE was a reporter of the past, between
the twenties and thirties, who published a book called Mornings at Bow
Street, embellished with exquisite vignettes and wood engravings, after the
drawings of George Cruikshank. Some of the Mornings were very humorous,
and others very pathetic. Many years afterwards, the late George Redder,
sometime a reporter on the staff of the Morning Herald, who was
everybody's friend, and occasionally the amanuensis of Thackeray, - who dictated
to Hodder the Four Georges, brought out New Mornings at Bow
Street, illustrated by John Leech, Kenny Meadows, and other eminent artists;
but the letterpress was slightly dull.
There is not much of the humorous, so it seems to you, in the night-charges, which are being investigated this morning at Great Grubby Street; but there is a great deal of the sickening and the harrowing kind to which you have to listen. There is a spice, too, of the grotesque; and, now and again, the pathetic element [-94-] is plainly visible. See; here comes Baby Bronzeboots, a female very well and most mournfully known to the magistrate, the usher, the gaoler, the police, the reporters, and, it is to be feared, away from Great Grubby Street, to the matron and female warders of more than one prison. That portion of the public who like to read the police reports may chuckle when they peruse accounts of Baby Bronzeboots's appearance in the dock, as a drunk-and-incapable, or a drunk-and -disorderly, for the tenth, the twentieth, or it may be, for the fiftieth time. What her real name may be concerns you but little. "Baby Bronzeboots" is only one of her innumerable aliases. At Great Grubby Street she has been known, in addition to her pseudonym of to-day, as Joan of Arc, Alice Maltravers, Madge Wildfire, Edith Plantagenet, and Dolly Varden. At the Billingsgate Police Court she is sometimes arraigned as Lucy Ashton, Clara Vere de Vere, and Diana Vernon; but at the Battle-Bridge Court she prefers the designations of Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Molly Lepel; while at Tooley Street she appears sometimes as Godiva de Montmorency, and sometimes as Helen of Troy.
Look at her. Scan her. Listen to what the police have to say about her, and laugh if you can. You see a fragile, slender, delicate little woman, with a wealth of silky auburn hair, and well-cut features, the almost infantile expression of which may have earned for her the sobriquet of Baby. Unfortunately, the symmetry of her countenance is marred this morning by a black eye, the reverse of lovely, which the police assert she [-95-] got by tumbling about in the cell at the station; and the golden tresses are as tousled and unkempt as her face and hands are innocent of soap and water. One hand at least; for on the other she wears an extremely dirty lavender kid glove, "gone at the thumb and two fingers." The imitation jewellery, with which she generally bedecks herself, is safe in the custody of the inspector; but she has been allowed to retain a huge feather fan with a broken handle, which she twirls mincingly with the gloved hand. A dreadful discoloured, rumpled old dress with a train, which may have been originally of silk, but which has been patched so often with cotton and woollen fabrics that it has almost come to the complexion of miserly Sir John Cutler's silk stockings, which had been darned so frequently with worsted that scarcely any of the original fabric remained; a muff of some fur, possibly once pertaining to the harmless necessary cat or the cheerful rabbit, and white satin shoes with pink bows - no bronze boots this time - and one of which has lost a heel, complete as much of her costume as is visible. Stay; she wears a hat - a marvellous structure almost as big, comparatively speaking, as a bicycle, and which is an astounding combination of lace, feathers, ribbons, and artificial flowers. All battered, frayed, and desperately dirty.
It was that hat that got Baby Bronzeboots into trouble late last Saturday night, or rather early on Sunday morning. It occurred to her at that untimely hour to execute a Highland Schottische in the middle of the roadway; and two belated passers-by were led [-96-] to make some sarcastic comments on her performance in general, and her hat in particular. Then Baby "went" for her ungallant critics; but while intent on scratching their faces, one of her shoes came off; and while stooping to pick it up, she fell sprawling, and the hat came to shocking grief. Then she began to scream; then the police arrived on the scene; then a crowd gathered - where on earth do the people come from who, at two in the morning in London, at a minute's notice, are always on hand when any trouble arises; do they come up from the sewer gratings, or down from the moon? Then Baby fought and kicked and screeched more shrilly than ever, and in the end she was locked up.
What has she to say for herself this morning? Well, a good deal; and she talks with a lisping musical voice, and not ungrammatically, interlarding her discourse with little scraps of French. But it is but a rambling, inconsequent, incoherent utterance at the best. She had been to a ball, so she pleads, at the Terpsichore Rooms, and the champagne was too sweet; she never liked sweet champagne. She had called during the day on her solicitor, with reference to the will of her deceased aunt who had left her large estates in the Isle of Skye; and the solicitor gave her a glass of sherry-wine, which went directly to her head. If the magistrate will only let her off this time, she will start at once for Tasmania. She will, indeed; at all events, she will go to Portsmouth, where she has an uncle, who is a Colonel in the Horse Marines.
[-97-] What am I to do with you? says the magistrate, much more sadly than severely. "You have been here more than a score of times, and you are known at every police-court in the Metropolis. You have been imprisoned over and over again; you have been an inmate of I know not how many asylums and refuges." "I hate refuges," interjects Baby; "I'd sooner be in prison." "I am afraid I must send you there again," continued Mr. Rhadamanthus Roe, throwing himself backwards wearily in his chair. "I only wish, my poor girl, for your own sake, that I had the power to lock you up for life." "Thank you for nothing, sir, retorts the unabashed Baby.
The magistrate bends forward to the chief clerk and whispers a few words to him. The clerk shrugs his shoulders; then Mr. R.hadamanthus Roe dips his pen in ink, and is about to write something on the paper before him, when there arises from the seats occupied by the reporters a lady dressed plainly in black, and with a small, unadorned, but very tasteful, black lace bonnet. This lady is very pale; her dark hair is neatly banded over a very broad, massive forehead; she has large grey eyes, and lips with a curious expression of mingled sweetness and firmness. Who can she be - this middle-aged lady in black, with grey eyes, massive forehead, and the gentle, but resolute lips? There is something of the hospital nurse about her; something of the deaconess; something of the superintendent of a home or an asylum, and something of the district visitor. But, predominating over all these characteristics, [-98-] there is an indefinable but unmistakable something else that tells you that you are in the presence of a lady of position and culture. She is known here as Miss Glyde. "I will take her, Mr. Roe," she says, in a steady, quiet voice. "But, my dear madam," replies the magistrate, spreading out his hands in a kind of despairing way, "you have had the wretched creature at least twice before." "I know that," replies the lady; but she is still very young, and while there is life there is hope. I think I have found a new method of dealing with her." "I most earnestly hope that the method will be successful," returns Mr. Roe, with a smile that ends in a sigh. Again he has a brief whispered conference with the chief clerk; then he turns to the lady in black, and says, "You can take her, madam." Addressing Baby Bronzeboots, he tries to give an austere and even menacing tone to his voice; but in the end there is much more of pity than of anger in the words in which he bids Baby go away, and warns her that this is her last chance.
She is discharged. The magistrate bows with grave courtesy to the lady in black, who as gravely returns the salutation. She passes from the reporters' table to the dock, gently lays her hand on Baby's arm, and leads her out of the Court. A strange change has meanwhile come over the girl in the wonderful hat. Big tears are rolling down her grubby, ruddled cheeks, and she begins to sob so passionately that a kindly usher hastens to give her a glass of water. Luckily she has no hysterical fit, and in a minute or so she follows the lady from the Court.
[-99-] The fusty-smelling rabble that crowd the corridors know Miss Glyde well, and they make a lane for her and Baby to go out into the street. Poor creature! poor creature! Will Miss Glyde be able to do anything with this most, most miserable waif, you wonder?
You lose your appetite somehow for the night charges when Baby Bronzeboots and her protectress have made their exit. The cases which succeed bear an ugly and nauseating resemblance to each other; and the magistrate, in doling out various doses of fines, or of short terms of imprisonment, seems to be heartily sick of the wretched riff-raff with whom he is constrained to deal; and when the last drunk-and-disorderly has been sent to Holloway for a month, the magisterial countenance wears an expression of considerable relief. Change is always acceptable; and when the ordinary business of the day begins, a decided change is apparent in the proceedings at Great Grubby Street; although the magistrate and his subordinates are quite familiar with the class of cases, one of which is now to be heard.
Catherine Knobstick, a very big, athletic woman with a red face, and a pair of hands which, in a clenched attitude, you would certainly not like to come in contact with your countenance, is charged with violently assaulting Miss Dorothy Trimmer, head-mistress of the Lirriper Lane Board School. The schoolmistress, a little bit of a lady, very tightly laced, and so thin that you can almost see through her, so to speak, had occasion, it appears, one day last week to administer four stripes on [-100-] the hand with a small cane to Sarah Ann, aged eleven, daughter of Mrs. Knobstick aforesaid. The little girl, on her return home, up three pair of stairs in Bad-Egg Court, complained to her mother of the chastisement which she had received; and at four o'clock in the afternoon Mrs. Knobstick went down to the Board School, and, after firing several broadsides of unreportable language at the head of the schoolmistress, fell upon her, tooth and nail; tore out her hair by handfuls; pummelled and kicked her, and otherwise maltreated her; expressing at the same time a lively desire to throw a kettle of boiling water over Miss Trimmer, and to tear out her heart-strings, and use them as stay- laces.
This evidence is confirmed by Miss Chapone, Miss Barbauld, and Mrs. Hannah More, assistant teachers; and the case, in which Mr. Crafton Foxifum appears for the School Board authorities. Having been brought to this stage, Mrs. Knobstick is asked what she has to say for herself. She, too, has obtained legal assistance. Mr. Weasel Wideawake undertakes her defence, and a terrible tale he has to unfold. According to his showing, and the evidence which Mrs. Knobstick and her daughter give, Sarah Ann was beaten black and blue by the School Board mistress, and the hands of the maltreated child were swollen - so, at least, Mrs. Knobstick declares - "as big as pumpkins." No medical testimony, however, is brought forward to show that Sarah Ann suffered anything whatsoever, beyond a slight sting when the cane was applied in moderation [-101-] to her palms. In the end the magistrate fines Mrs. Knobstick forty shillings and costs, telling her at the same time that had it not been for the kindly intercession of Miss Dorothy Trimmer, he would assuredly have sent her to gaol for a month. Mrs. Knobstick pays the fine triumphantly, but seems so very near making a rush at the schoolmistress, that she has to be dexterously hustled out of Court by two stalwart constables.
Your neighbour, with whom you have become quite confidential by this time, whispers to you that he knows Bad-Egg Court and Mrs. Knobstick very well indeed. They are a "rum" lot there, he informs you; and Sunday morning is their favourite time for having an all-round rough-and-tumble fight, in which Mrs. Knobstick, who is popularly known as "Brimstone Kitty," rarely fails to distinguish herself. She is noted for her propensity for trying to bite off the noses of her antagonists; and the skill with which she contrives to cut open the skull of an enemy with a washhand-jug is something wonderful. This exemplary virago, the wife of John Knobstick, a diminutive and timid journeyman tailor, is the mother of seven, ranging in years between sixteen and six; all of whom she impartially, not to say ferociously, thrashes with varied articles or implements of chastisement, including a walking stick, the buckle end of a strap, a knotted rope, and a poker. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children have already had frequent occasions to take notice of Mrs. Knobstick's far from peculiar notions of domestic [-102-] discipline; and it is usually, so your neighbour tells you, the parents who treat their children most barbarously who are always the most scandalised and the most indignant if their offspring are slightly corrected at school.
A very different type of husband from the diminutive and timorous tailor Knobstick is Mr. Bill Bludgeon, who has already been incidentally mentioned. Mr. Bludgeon is by profession a bricklayer's labourer. He is six feet high, and when he is sober is decently behaved enough towards his wife and five children; but when he has consumed an exceptionally immoderate quantity of beer, capped by potations of "short," that is to say, ardent spirits, Mr. Bludgeon becomes for the moment a wild beast, and is given to battering and bruising his wife, and on occasion to jumping on her, even to the fracturing of her ribs. The great hulking brute who, even after thirty-four hours' incarceration, seems to be still in an imperfect condition of sobriety, looks-blear-eyed, dishevelled, unwashed, and unshaven as he is-sufficiently loathsome and revolting; and when his wretched wife, trembling and tearful, and with a baby in her arms, tells her lamentable tale to the magistrate, she ever and anon glances - with eyes that still have love in them - at the ruffian who has almost pounded her to a mummy.
When he is called upon for his defence, the fellow can only shamble about in the dock, squeezing his felt wideawake between his big hands, and, hanging his shock head sheepishly, mumble out that it was "the [-103-] drink that done it, and that he wur very fond of Mary, he wur." "Fond enough of her," drily says the magistrate, "to bruise and batter Mary to death. You are a disgrace to humanity. Prisoner, you deserve to be sent to prison for six months with hard labour. What's the man's character, Inspector?" The officer of police replies that when Bludgeon is sober, he is a steady, hard-working fellow enough; but he adds, significantly, that when the drink is in him, the devil is in him too, and comes out of him, as it did with those who came out from the tombs of old, exceeding fierce. His wife, further interrogated, says that he brings her home his wages punctually; is often, for weeks together, dead sober, and is kind to his children; and then she whimperingly intercedes for mercy to be extended to her brutal husband. "Three months' hard labour," says the magistrate. "Me and the children will have to go to the workhouse," sobs the wife. " Three months' hard labour," repeats Mr. Rhadamanthus Roe sternly. "Do you want a separation order?" he adds. "No," answers the poor beaten soul firmly. "Bill's very good to me when he ain't on the drink." Depend upon it, the patient, trusting, despairing creature will be waiting at the prison gate on the morning when her husband's time is up.
At half-past eleven the case of your coachman and his larcenous wife conies on, and occupies but a quarter of an hour in the hearing. The man is discharged without a stain on his character, as Mr. Weasel Wideawake predicted. The woman is committed for [-104-] trial; and that righteous consummation having been arrived at, you hurry out from the pestiferous tribunal, earnestly hoping that a very long time will elapse before you set eyes upon Great Grubby Street and its police-court again.
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