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“I will have to bring ’er up!”

It was Susan who spoke. She had returned to the house, where the news of the fight had preceded her. The whole family had been on the point of issuing forth to her rescue when she appeared, and now they were again assembled in full conclave to discuss at length this new aspect of the situation.

“?‘Vengeance is mine,’?” quoted her aunt; “but there is a time for all things. An’ if y’u don’t teach a gurl like Maria a lesson, she will go far wid you.”

“She is a very rude young ooman!” exclaimed Mr. Proudleigh with indignation, following up his sister’s remark; he felt that he must lend his daughter his moral support. “Ef I was a younger man,” he went on, “I would . . . I would . . . well, I don’t know what I wouldn’t do! But Mother Smit is a dangerous female to interfere wid, and de cramps is troubling me in me foot so badly dat I wouldn’t like ’er to put ’er hand ’pon me at all.”

“Ef she ever touch you,” his wife broke in, “old as I is, she an’ me would have to go to prison.”

“You was always a courigous gal, Mattie,” said the old man approvingly; “but I don’t want to see y’u get into any quarrel; an’ to tell you de trute, I don’t t’ink I could help you at all. Susan is goin’ to bring up Maria, an’ that is a satisfaction. I are going to de court-house wid ’er to encourage her.”

“But suppose Susan lose the case?” Catherine suggested. She had been a witness of the encounter, and though she fully intended to forget every fact that would make against Susan in the court-house, she was sagacious enough to realize that Maria’s friends would not do likewise.

“Lose me case?” asked Susan incredulously. “That can’t be done! She provoked me first, an’ the judge must take note of that. Besides, I am goin’ to put a good lawyer on her: not a fool-fool man that can’t talk, but a man who will question her properly an’ make her tell de truth.”

“Dat is right,” said Mr. Proudleigh with proud anticipation of coming victory. “Sue, I advise you to get de Attorney-General.”

“I never hear about him,” Miss Proudleigh remarked; “an’ it won’t do for Susan to get a lawyer we don’t know. But who to get?”

As Mr. Proudleigh knew nothing about the leader of the local bar except his name, he decided not to urge the claims of that high official upon his daughter. One after another, the names of the several lawyers of whom the family had heard were mentioned, and their various merits were discussed. As this was to be the most important case ever tried—or at least so the family thought—it was of the utmost importance that the brightest legal luminary should be obtained: the difficulty was to select one from the many whose reputation for ability commended them all as fit and proper persons to prosecute Maria Bellicant for assault and abusive language. At last Miss Proudleigh suggested a lawyer whose cleverness in handling witnesses determined to perjure themselves had often appealed to her admiration. Having once mentioned his name with approval, the worthy lady thought it was incumbent upon her to argue away all that might be said against him and all that might be urged in favour of other solicitors; and at length Susan decided that she would go to see Lawyer Jones in the morning. Miss Proudleigh was so delighted with the prospect of having Mr. Jones proceed against Maria, that during the rest of the time she remained at the house she could talk of nothing but that lawyer’s merits. But on leaving she reminded Susan of the value of prayer as a consolation for all the troubles of life, and suggested that supplications made properly and in a reverent spirit might lead to Maria’s being afflicted with manifold ills throughout the rest of her days.

After Miss Proudleigh had left, the family sat up until twelve o’clock discussing the fight and the coming case. And in many of the yards and houses of the lane the fight also formed the topic of discussion. In the yard where Maria lived some thirty persons assembled to express their sympathy with her and to give fervent utterance to the hope that she had beaten Susan properly. They were comforted on learning from Maria that she had. Mother Smith herself performed a sort of war dance about the premises, showing in pantomime what she would do as soon as she should lay hands upon Susan and Susan’s people, down to the third and fourth generation. Everybody agreed that Maria had been most shamefully ill-treated, and one of the girls who had been with Maria at the street corner went so far as to “think” she had seen Susan draw a pair of scissors out of her pocket, presumably to stab Maria. Indeed, in some of the tenement yards it was actually reported that blood had been drawn, one eye-witness even undertaking to describe the wounds. Altogether, it was a very exciting night in that section of the lane in which the girls lived, and almost every one was glad that Susan had at last met her match.

The excitement was kept alive the next day by the news that Susan had brought up Maria. Maria had been expecting this, for she had rightly calculated that no girl in Susan’s financial position would forgo the luxury of a case in court after such a fight. Maria was poor, but she felt that the only proper thing to do in the circumstances was to “cross the warrant”; so she went and crossed it that same day, and Mother Smith began to sell some of her scanty stock of furniture to raise enough money to employ a lawyer.

Susan acted very rapidly when her mind was made up. After leaving the court-house she had sent a note to Tom telling him to come round to see her that night; and Tom, who had already heard about the fight, came as requested.

He was a short, stoutish young fellow of about twenty-six years of age, and somewhat lighter in complexion than Susan. His watery eyes, weak mouth, and tip-tilted nose showed a man of little strength of character; you would rightly have described him as a nondescript sort of person. He took great pride in his appearance, always used cheap scents on Sundays, and carried on his amours as surreptitiously as possible. He had a horror of domestic quarrels, and though it was true that he had been attracted by Maria’s appearance, fear of Susan’s temper had kept him fairly faithful to his vows of eternal constancy. He had flirted just a little with Maria. He had made her one or two presents. He had written her a couple of letters; he was rather (perhaps dangerously) fond of writing letters. But Susan overawed him, and in the midst of these amorous exercises he had devoutly hoped that she would never suspect him of even speaking to Maria. Judge of his consternation, therefore, when, after greeting him coldly and saying that she had sent for him because he did not seem to care now about coming to see her as often as before, she launched out upon a sea of reproaches, and overwhelmed him with perfectly just accusations. Naturally, he denied all intercourse with Maria, though remembering with a sinking heart that his own handwriting might be produced against him. But Susan evidently knew nothing about those letters: perhaps he could induce Maria to return them to him. He began to take heart—too soon. For Susan did not believe a word he said, though she pretended to do so in order to gain the end she had in view. She heard him out to the end, and after he had expressed his indignation at the conduct of Maria, and agreed with Susan that that young woman deserved severest punishment, she quietly said:

“I bring Maria up to-day.”

Tom was thunderstruck.

“You mean,” he stammered, “that you going into a court-house with that girl?”

“Yes,” she answered; “I make up me mind.”

“An’ then,” he protested heatedly, “my name will be called, an’ I will be mixed up in it! What you talkin’ about, Sue?”

“You’ name won’t be called,” she answered inflexibly. “What you fretting about? If you know, as you say, that you have nothing to do with Maria, you needn’t trouble you’self. It is me bringing her up, not you. Who is to call you’ name?”

Tom looked into her face, and realized that there was no turning her from her purpose. The two were alone in the day-sitting-room; but even if the rest of the family were there, he reflected ruefully, that would hardly assist him.

“I don’t like it,” he muttered dismally.

“Don’t fret about anything,” she cheerfully advised him as he bade her good-night. “You’ name won’t come into the case.”

But Tom left her with a sinking heart.

The eventful day of the case dawned at last, and found Susan and her family in a state of intense excitement. The case was to be tried in the Police Court, a building which had once been a barracks for the Imperial soldiers when troops were stationed in the city of Kingston. The courtyard of this building opened on one hand upon the city’s central park, a large plot of land planted out in umbrageous evergreens and flowering shrubs; on the other hand, it opened upon one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Thus on the one side was an oasis of peace and beauty, while in the adjoining street to the west all was squalor and confusion. This street itself was filled with little shops and crowded with clamouring, gesticulating people. A market was there, and the echoes of shrieks of laughter and sudden volleys of abuse sometimes came to the magistrates and lawyers as they transacted their business in the court; but they accepted these minor interruptions as part of the settled order of things, and never complained about them. Carts rattling over the brick pavement, electric cars passing at frequent intervals and incessantly sounding their gongs to warn the careless people out of their way, diminutive venders shouting out the nature and superior quality of their wares—all this, with the inevitable clouds of dust which swept over and enveloped everything, made up the life and activity of the street. And dominating the whole scene stood the weather-worn, ugly, two-storeyed building which to so many thousands of the people was the awe-inspiring symbol of a vague and tremendous power called Law.

Both Susan and Maria knew the place well. They arrived there with their attendant retinues at a little before ten o’clock, the hour at which the court began to sit. Policemen were to be seen about the large courtyard, clad in white jackets and blue serge trousers and white helmets. They were the visible and self-conscious representatives of might, majesty, dominion, and power. Habitual criminals made remarks about them as they passed up and down amongst the scores of people who loitered in the courtyard; but they paid no attention to these, for freedom of ambiguous speech is the privilege of all habitual criminals.

Soon after their arrival, Susan and Maria entered the court-room with their friends to wait until their case should be called. They had been there more than once before as spectators, but now, as the principal actors in such a tremendous drama, they gazed about them with new and strange sensations.

The room was furnished in the plainest manner possible. At the southern end of it was a platform, on which stood a desk and a chair: these were for the magistrate. To the magistrate’s right was the witness box, and just below his desk was a table, with a number of chairs around it. Here the court serjeant, one or two police inspectors, and the lawyers sat. Behind these, and facing the magistrate, was the dock; behind this dock were ranged a few wooden benches without backs, and apparently designed for the purpose of inflicting the maximum amount of physical discomfort on those who might choose to sit on them. These were for the use of the spectators.

A case over, a trifling thing relating to a young lady with fifteen previous convictions for abusive language, the case of Susan Proudleigh v. Maria Bellicant was called. Maria, as the accused, took up her stand behind her lawyer, who rose and informed the magistrate that he appeared for her.

“Susan Proudleigh!” called the court serjeant, and Susan rose. But the policeman at the door, who acted as the crier of the court, would not be defrauded of his privilege of shouting out her name; so immediately his voice was heard screaming, “Su—u—u—san Pounder! Su—u—u—san Pounder! Su—u—u—san Pounder!” And another policeman outside took up the cry with, “Su—u—u—san Plummer! Su—u—u—san Plummer! Su—u—san Plummer!” and was about to return the verdict of “No answer,” when he learnt that the lady was inside.

Susan was motioned towards the witness box after Maria had vehemently pleaded not guilty to the charge of assault and battery. She felt nervous as she gazed around the crowded room, but she was comforted by the reflection that she looked very well in her white lawn frock trimmed with blue ribbons, with hat to match.

She took the book in her hand as directed, and swore that she would tell nothing but the truth. Then she stated her case.

“My Honour, I was walking me way quite quiet an’ peaceful down Blake Lane on Thursday night last week; I was goin’ for a walk, my Honour, an’ thinking about——”

“Never mind what you were thinking about,” said the magistrate; “go on.”

“Yes, my Honour. I was thinkin’ about me poor old father at home, when all of a sudden I see Maria Bellicant at the corner. I was goin’ to tell ’er good evening, because as I know I never do her nothing, I had no bad feelings against ’er, and——”

“Oh, never mind all that!” interrupted the magistrate impatiently; “we don’t want to hear about your feelings. Tell us the facts.”

This was distinctly disconcerting. Susan, who had been trying to manipulate her th’s properly so as to make a good impression upon His Honour, now began to think he was prejudiced against her. However, she went bravely on.

“I go up to Maria, my Honour, an’ I was going to say, ‘Good evening, Maria,’ when she look at me an’ laugh. An’ she say, ‘Look at this wort’less gal!’ I say to her, ‘But, Maria, why you call me wort’less?’ an’ I go up nearer up to ’er in a friendly spirit; an’ she take ’er elbow an’ push me, an’ I hold ’er hand, an’ she collar me an’ begin to beat me, an’ I bawl for murder.”

She paused, for this was her version of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Her lawyer asked her a few questions, the answers to which all tended to corroborate her story. She felt quite satisfied, believing that she had already won the case; but Maria’s lawyer rose very quietly, and intimated that he desired to ask her a few questions.

“Your name is Susan Proudleigh?” he asked, the tone of his voice suggesting that he thought the name might be an alias.


“You live at No. 101 Blake Lane?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Your intended’s name is Thomas Wooley?”

“What has that to do with the case?” asked the magistrate.

“A great deal, your Honour,” answered the lawyer. “Now, Susan,” he went on, “remember you are on your oath! Your sweetheart’s name is Thomas Wooley, isn’t it?”

Susan looked at him dumbly. But his “Answer me!” was too peremptory to be disobeyed.

“Yes,” she answered, and her heart sank, for she remembered what she had said to Tom about his name not being called.

“And he is tired of you, isn’t he?” her questioner continued mercilessly, rejoicing in her confusion.

“What you mean?”

“Answer my question, miss!” was again the command.

“No; him never tell me so.”

“Ah, now, don’t you know that Thomas is in love with Maria?”

“I don’t know dat at all; in fact, you ’ave no business——”

“Don’t you dare argue with me! Now when you met Maria Bellicant that night, and when you told her that she had stolen the clothes she had on——”

“I never tell ’er so!” Susan burst forth. “I tell ’er she didn’t ’ave a decent dress to wear!”

“Oh! so you provoked her, did you?”

Susan perceived that she had blundered, but the lawyer did not give her a chance to recover herself.

“Why did you provoke her? Answer me at once!” he insisted, and she was about to blunder further, when her lawyer rose and asked the magistrate if his client was to be intimidated and bullied in that fashion? He suggested that Susan had offered no provocation whatever, and, although the magistrate promptly stopped him, Susan caught the cue. She had to admit, however, that she had struck Maria after she herself had been struck, and Maria’s lawyer was satisfied that Susan’s principal witness would admit far more than that.

This witness was a young man, one Hezekiah Theophilus Wilberforce. Catherine had taken ill almost at the last moment, fear of the court-house having much to do with her sudden illness; so Susan had had to fall back upon the assistance of Hezekiah. Had she been sophisticated she might have tried to obtain the services of a professional witness. A few of these are always to be found in every West Indian town of any importance, and they perform the useful function of swearing to things they never saw. You relate the circumstances to them, and they find that they were in the vicinity of the occurrence (whatever it was) on the day or night in question; and, if they were not seen by any of the other witnesses, that may be attributed to the fact that the excitement was intense.

These men are well known to the magistrates and lawyers, and sometimes they are called upon to explain their astonishing ubiquity. But a man is by British law considered honest until he is proven to be a scoundrel, so these witnesses continue to flourish like green bay trees. Susan, however, knew nothing of the high mysteries of the law and the customs of the court. So Hezekiah had been selected by her, chiefly on the strength of his own recommendation, as a person most likely to give a graphic and satisfactory account of the ill-treatment she had suffered at the hands of Maria Bellicant.

Hezekiah had always had an ambition to figure as something in a court of justice. Not being able to prosecute anybody himself, he longed for the time when he should “kiss de book,” and then proceed to tell a story which should assist in sending a fellow-creature to prison. On his name being called, he came into the court all smiles, and holding high his shining head, as one who realized the importance of being a witness. He repeated the story that Susan had told, varying it only by a detailed description of the treatment to which she had been subjected. Asked by the magistrate why he had not attempted to separate the girls, he replied with a grin that “horse don’t have business in cow’s fight,” a reason which, he thought, amply explained his apparent cowardice. That said, he was about to step down from the box, not anticipating that anything further would be required of him, when Maria’s lawyer abruptly asked him where he was going to?

He paused, confused by the sharp and even threatening tone of the lawyer, who knew his type well.

“Hezekiah, what do you do for a living?” was the first question put to him.

The question was quite unexpected, and it was simply impossible for Hezekiah to answer it straightforwardly. For the truth was that he did nothing for a living. While he stared open-mouthed at the lawyer, wondering what to say, the latter called His Honour’s attention to the fact that the witness could not answer a simple question about his own means of livelihood, and then suggested that Hezekiah must either be a thief or a loafer.

The magistrate was peremptory. “What do you do for a living?” he asked.

“Me mother help me, sah, an’ me uncle,” stammered poor Hezekiah, reduced to the sad extremity of telling the truth.

“Now, sir!” thundered the lawyer, “do you mean to tell me that a big man like you is living on a poor old woman? And have you nothing better to do than come to the court-house and tell lies?”

“I don’t tell no lie, sah!” grumbled Hezekiah.

“Don’t be impertinent, sir! Now remember you are on your oath: didn’t the Chinaman at the lane corner once threaten to put you in charge for stealing a pack of Rosebud cigarettes off his counter?”

The question came like a thunder-clap. Hezekiah’s love for these cigarettes was well-known to all his friends, but he had fondly hoped that that little episode, which might have had so unpleasant a termination, had been forgotten by the Chinaman himself. How did the lawyer know of it? In his bewilderment it did not dawn on him that his whole life-history, in so far as Maria knew it, had been told with point and circumstance to Maria’s lawyer.

Fear now took possession of him—abject fear. A few more questions like the last, and his reputation in the lane would be ruined for ever. He moved about in his circle as a man of some importance, for he played the guitar, swore with remarkable fluency, and claimed superiority on the ground that he neither worked nor wanted. This examination was not at all what he had bargained for. As he explained afterwards, the lawyer took a mean advantage of him. But the fierce interrogatory had had its effect; for when the lawyer asked him, “Now, didn’t you see Susan Proudleigh assault Maria Bellicant first?” he meekly answered, “Yes.”

After that the truth, or as much of it as Hezekiah could remember, came out. All that Susan’s lawyer could do was to prove that Maria had been as quick to quarrel as Susan. Long before the witnesses were finished with, it had become clear to the magistrate that he had here a simple case of jealousy to deal with, and, as he had acquired something of a reputation as a maker of compromises (which satisfied nobody) he thought he would interpose at this point and so still further add to his fame as a peacemaker.

Looking sternly at Susan, he told her that she could go on with the case if she liked; but that though it was clear that he would have to fine Maria for provoking her to a breach of the peace, by putting her hand in her (the prosecutor’s) face, which act amounted to a technical assault, he saw clearly that when Maria Bellicant’s case came on he would also have to fine the present prosecutor. Both had used insulting words; both were to blame. So he would advise them to make up their differences out of court, especially as they appeared to be two decent young women.

Being a man of decided views on morality, he was particularly hard on Tom.

“That young man, Tom Wooley,” he said, “has really been the cause of this quarrel. I wish he was here so that I could deal with him. But I hope that some one will tell him what I say. He seems to be a very loose character, and I fear that there are only too many such in Kingston. I have no doubt that he is deceiving a number of other women, and his acts may lead to some of them going to prison one day.” The speaker glanced at the reporters to see if they were taking down his little speech. Satisfied that they were, he went on to urge upon the girls the necessity of leading a respectable and self-sacrificing life. This they most faithfully promised to do, all the while thinking him an old crank who interfered too freely with other people’s business. Much pleased with the apparent result of his efforts to rescue Susan and Maria from the broad and easy way, and proud that he had effected another compromise, he ordered the serjeant to call the next case, and the young women and their several friends left the court.

Maria was delighted, for Susan had to all intents and purposes lost her case. Hezekiah was dazed, his mind being awhirl with new and uncomplimentary thoughts about His Britannic Majesty’s courts. They were to him places where mean advantages were taken of truthful witnesses, and in his heart of hearts he knew also that he had fallen from grace for ever, in so far as Susan was concerned. As for Susan, she was furious. She had not succeeded in getting Maria punished. She had been lectured by an “ole fool” as she called the learned magistrate. Worst of all, Tom’s name had been repeatedly mentioned during the trial. It had been an entirely miserable affair, and, for her, a humiliating defeat.


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