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The Barrister
by [?]

The New Bailey was crowded with a gay and fashionable throng. It was a remarkable case of shop-lifting. Aurora Delaine, nineteen, was charged with feloniously stealing and conveying certain articles, the property of the Universal Stores, to wit thirty-five yards of bock muslin, ten pairs of gloves, a sponge, two gimlets, five jars of cold cream, a copy of the Clergy List, three hat-guards, a mariner’s compass, a box of drawing-pins, an egg-breaker, six blouses, and a cabman’s whistle. The theft had been proved by Albert Jobson, a shopwalker, who gave evidence to the effect that he followed her through the different departments and saw her take the things mentioned in the indictment.

“Just a moment,” interrupted the Judge. “Who is defending the prisoner?”

There was an unexpected silence. Rupert Carleton, who had dropped idly into court, looked round in sudden excitement. The poor girl had no counsel! What if he–yes, he would seize the chance! He stood up boldly. “I am, my lord,” he said.

Rupert Carleton was still in the twenties, but he had been a briefless barrister for some years. Yet, though briefs would not come, he had been very far from idle. He had stood for Parliament in both the Conservative and Liberal interests (not to mention his own), he had written half a dozen unproduced plays, and he was engaged to be married. But success in his own profession had been delayed. Now at last was his opportunity.

He pulled his wig down firmly over his ears, took out a pair of pince-nez and rose to cross-examine. It was the cross-examination which was to make him famous, the cross-examination which is now given as a model in every legal text-book.

“Mr Jobson,” he began suavely, “you say that you saw the accused steal these various articles, and that they were afterwards found upon her?”


“I put it to you,” said Rupert, and waited intently for the answer, “that that is a pure invention on your part?”


With a superhuman effort Rupert hid his disappointment. Unexpected as the answer was, he preserved his impassivity.

“I suggest,” he tried again, “that you followed her about and concealed this collection of things in her cloak with a view to advertising your winter sale?”

“No. I saw her steal them.”

Rupert frowned; the man seemed impervious to the simplest suggestion. With masterly decision he tapped his pince-nez and fell back upon his third line of defence. “You saw her steal them? What you mean is that you saw her take them from the different counters and put them in her bag?”


“With the intention of paying for them in the ordinary way?”


“Please be very careful. You said in your evidence that the prisoner, when told she would be charged, cried, ‘To think that I should have come to this! Will no one save me?’ I suggest that she went up to you with her collection of purchases, pulled out her purse, and said, ‘What does all this come to? I can’t get any one to serve me.'”


The obstinacy of some people! Rupert put back his pince-nez in his pocket and brought out another pair. The historic cross-examination continued.

“We will let that pass for the moment,” he said. He consulted a sheet of paper and then looked sternly at Mr Jobson. “Mr Jobson, how many times have you been married?”


“Quite so.” He hesitated and then decided to risk it. “I suggest that your wife left you?”


It was a long shot, but once again the bold course had paid. Rupert heaved a sigh of relief.

“Will you tell the gentlemen of the jury,” he said with deadly politeness, “WHY she left you?”

“She died.”

A lesser man might have been embarrassed, but Rupert’s iron nerve did not fail him.

“Exactly!” he said. “And was that or was that not on the night when you were turned out of the Hampstead Parliament for intoxication?”

“I never was.”

“Indeed? Will you cast your mind back to the night of April 24th, 1897? What were you doing on that night?”