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Fiat Justitia Ruat Solum
by [?]

“H’m, h’m.” The Admiral, friend of law and order, dreaded Lord Rattley’s tongue, which was irresponsible and incisive. “Well, if this is our only business, gentlemen–“

“There is another case, sir,” put in Mr. Batty. “Wife–Trudgian by name–wants separation order. Application reached me too late to be included in the list.”

“Trudgian?” queried Parson Voisey. “Not Selina Magor, I hope, that married young Trudgian a year or so back? Husband a clay-labourer, living somewhere outside Tregarrick.”

“That’s the woman. Young married couple–first quarrel. The wife, on her own admission, had used her tongue pretty sharply, and, I don’t doubt, drove the man off to the public-house, where he sat until sulky-drunk. A talking-to by the Chairman, if I might suggest–“

“Yes, yes,” agreed Parson Voisey. “And I’ll have a word with Selina afterwards. She used to attend my Young Women’s Class–one of my most satisfactory girls.”

“We’ll see–we’ll see,” said the Admiral. “Are we ready, gentlemen?”

He led the way into Court, where all rose in sign of respect–Mr. Batty’s confidential clerk, the Inspector, a solitary constable, a tattered old man in the constable’s charge, and the two Trudgians. These last occupied extreme ends of the same form; the husband sullen, with set jaw and eyes obstinately fixed on his boots, the young wife flushed of face and tearful, stealing from time to time a defiant glance at her spouse.

In face of this scanty audience the six Justices solemnly took their seats.

“Thomas Edwards!” called the Clerk.

The tattered old man cringed up to the table, with an embarrassed smile, which yet had a touch of impudence about the corners of the mouth.

“Thomas Edwards, you stand charged for that on a certain date, to wit, June 6th, you, not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of yourself, were found lodging in a certain outhouse known as Lobb’s Barn, in the Parish of Gantick, contrary, etc. Do you plead Guilty or Not Guilty?”

“Guilty, y’r Worships.”

The constable, on a nod from the Inspector, cleared his throat, and stated the charge: “On the 6th instant, y’r Worships, at 10.45 in the evening, being on duty in the neighbourhood of Lobb’s Barn,” etc. Defendant, on being arrested, had used the filthiest language, and had for some time stoutly resisted being marched off to the lock-up.

“That will do,” the Chairman interrupted. “You, Edwards–if that’s your real name–“

“It’ll do for this job,” put in the prisoner.

“Very well. Have you anything to say?”

The prisoner ran his eye along the array of Justices.

“Seems a lot o’ dogs for one bone!”

The Admiral stiffened with wrath, and the crimson of his face deepened as Lord Rattley threw himself back in his chair, laughing.

“Forty shillings, or a month!”

“Oh, come–I say!” Lord Rattley murmured.

The Admiral, glancing to right and left, saw, too, that three or four of his colleagues were lifting their eyebrows in polite protest.

“I–I beg your pardon, gentlemen, for not consulting you! Correct me, if you will. I would point out, however, that in addition to the offence with which he is charged, this fellow was guilty of violent and disgusting language, and, further, of resisting the police.”

But his colleagues made no further protest, and Thomas Edwards, having but two coppers to his name, was conducted below to the cellarage, there to await transference to the County Jail.

“Selina Trudgian!”

The Admiral, viewing the young couple as they stood sheepishly before him, commanded Selina to state her complaint as briefly as possible, avoiding tears.

But this was beyond her.

“He came home drunk, your Worship,” she sobbed, twisting her handkerchief.

“I didn’,” corrected her husband.

“He came home d-drunk, your Worship . . . he c-came home d-drunk–“

“Now hearken to me, you two!”

The Admiral, fixing a severe eye on them, started to read them a lesson on married life, with its daily discipline, its constant obligation of mutual forbearance. For a confirmed bachelor, he did it remarkably well; but it must be recorded that this was not by any means his first essay in lecturing discordant spouses from the Bench. Lord Rattley, whose own matrimonial ventures had been (like Mr. Weller’s researches in London) extensive and peculiar, leaned back and followed the discourse with appreciation, his elbows resting on the arms of his chair, his finger-tips delicately pressed together, his gaze pensively tracking the motions of a bumblebee that had strayed in at an open window and was battering its head against the dusty pane of a closed one.