20. FINAL SETTLEMENT
They went over the road to a small oak-beamed tavern where they sustained themselves with several flagons of ale followed by crisp, brown lamb chops, each wearing a frilly ballet skirt of paper around the bone. These were adorned with tender green asparagus shoots, awash in butter, piles of mashed potatoes mixed with cream, and a regiment of tender peas. This was followed by a cherry tart and a cheese board containing cheeses so ripe that you were aware of their presence long before they entered the room.
“Why did you say that you wanted to recall Lord Fenneltree?” asked Adrian towards the end of lunch. Sir Magnus placed a great greeny-gold lump of Stilton on a morsel of bread and thrust it into his mouth.
“Because,” he said munching, “I consider him to be a better witness for the defence than for the prosecution.”
“But he’s a prosecution witness,” said Adrian.
“He thinks he is,” corrected Sir Magnus. “So does the prosecution, but in fact if anyone’s going to win this case for you, it’s going to be him.” He glanced at his watch. “Now, let’s have another swift pint of beer,” he said, “and then we’d better be getting back into court.”
Alter lunch Sir Augustus put Mr. Clattercup in the box. From Sir Augustus’s point of view he proved to be an unfortunate witness, who only succeeded in giving the impression that, at whatever cost and by whatever means, he was determined to see both Adrian and Rosy condemned. But in spite of this, the fact that his leg was encased in an enormous plaster cast and that he had to get in and out of the witness-box with the aid of two crutches and two policemen obviously impressed itself upon the jury. When Mr. Clattercup had thumped and staggered his way out of court, Sir Augustus rose to his feet and settled his gown. Then with a musing, almost affectionate air, he pulled the pile of books along the table and rested his hands upon them.
“My lord,” he said, “I think you have heard sufficient evidence to persuade you that, as I said initially, this case is a very unusual one.”
“Yes,” said the judge, who was looking rather rosy and benign as a result of lunch “It would be unusual even if it did not have any animals in it.”
“I would like at this juncture,” said Sir Augustus, “before we hear the defence, if indeed there can be a defence, to quote one or two parallel cases which I have succeeded in finding.”
He opened one of the massive tomes in front of him and ran his forefinger along the type.
“Here, for example,” he said, “you will see the case of Regina versus Pigwhistle, 1884, where the defendant was in charge of a large Shire horse which removed and ate, not only the hat, but the wig of an elderly lady in the town High Street. You will see, my lord, that it was ruled by the judge that the defendant, being in control of the Shire horse and knowing that it had a positively morbid liking for flowers, was therefore responsible by letting it come within eating distance of the hat of the lady in question. This, I think, is a very good parallel to the case which is before us to-day.”
“A good point, a good point,” said the judge, “but then, Sir Augustus, if the person in question had the horse under control, and the woman of her own volition moved within striking distance of the horse, what then?”
“I think,” said Sir Augustus smugly, “I can do no better than to quote the case of Regina versus Clutchpenny, 1894. The defendant in this case had a large bull . . .”
“Isn’t it possible,” interrupted the judge, “for you to find parallel cases which do not contain animals? It is really most confusing to dodge about between salmon and Shire horses and bulls and elephants.”
“Unfortunately, my lord,” said Sir Augustus, “it is a little difficult to find parallel cases that do not contain animals.”
“I had never realised before,” said the judge irritably, “that our entire legal system seems to be infested with the birds and beasts of the field. However, continue.”
Sir Augustus continued. Solemnly, during the next quarter of an hour, he opened the various volumes before him and read out cases, none of which—so far as Adrian could see—bore the remotest resemblance to his case. At length and with a certain reluctance, Sir Augustus closed the last book and laid it reverently on the table.
“I think, my lord,” he said, “that that should have cleared up one or two of the anomalies which might, hitherto, have been puzzling the jury.”
“I shall be delighted,” said the judge, “if the jury understands it. But before you sit down, Sir Augustus, just give me the details again about the man with the python.”
“I don’t think I’ve got any hope,” said Adrian to Sir Magnus. This massive pile-up of legal evidence on the part of Sir Augustus had convinced him beyond a shadow of doubt that he had lost his case. Sir Magnus opened his eyes and beamed at Adrian.
“Always remember, my lad,” he said, “that books are like tools. It depends how you use them. You can cut yourself on a chisel.”
He leant forward and gave an affectionate pat to something which Adrian had not seen earlier. Under Sir Magnus’s table was an extremely large leather suitcase. During the lunch hour Sir Magnus must have sent Screech out for this. What it contained, Adrian could not imagine.
“Poor old Gussy,” said Sir Magnus complacently, shuffling his notes into a neat pile as though he was about to deal a deck of cards, “he was really doomed before he’d even started.”
“Doomed?” said Adrian, “but he’s put up an almost cast-iron argument. I mean, we can’t deny that Rosy did all that damage. I mean, she did it with the best possible intentions, but nevertheless, she did do it.”
“Wait and see,” said Sir Magnus as he rose majestically to his feet. He gave a little bow in the direction of the judge and smiled benignly at the jury.
“My lord,” he said, “as my learned friend has so astutely pointed out, this is a very unusual case.”
Here he paused and pulled the large leather suitcase from under the table, opened it and very slowly and carefully produced from it some three dozen massive volumes which, smilingly, he piled one by one into a sort of defensive rampart on the edge of his desk.
“All these books,” he said, patting the pile as though it were a horse, “contain parallel examples which show conclusively that my client is innocent. But,” he went on, holding up an admonishing forefinger, “as the innocence of my client is perfectly obvious to the jury, I needn’t weary you with a lot of details.”
He picked up all the books and returned them to the suitcase. The jury were much impressed.
“Gentlemen of the jury,” Sir Magnus went on, “you have before you the defendant Adrian Rookwhistle. Now it must be obvious to anyone that he is a fine, honest, upstanding young man, who has the one special quality which we all admire and which so few of us possess. He has courage. Which one of you gentlemen would willingly dive into a threshing, storm-tossed sea in order to rescue a dumb animal? Now, as I said to you, my client’s innocence is obvious. You know this and I know this. The crux of the matter, as I am sure you will all have perceived, is whether or not the elephant in question is the savage, uncontrolled and, uncontrollable animal that it is made out a be. I would therefore like to call just a few witnesses to reassure you on this point.
“Mr. Pucklehammer,” he called.
Mr. Pucklehammer came into the box, beamed at Adrian and made gestures of encouragement. He took the oath and gave the closest attention to Sir Magnus.
“I believe, Mr. Pucklehammer,” said Sir Magnus, “that you were with the defendant Rookwhistle on the day when he took delivery of the elephant.”
“Yes, I was,” said Mr Pucklehammer. “He brought it down to my yard.”
“Your yard?’ said Sir Magnus. “What is your occupation exactly?”
“I am a coffin maker and carpenter,” said Mr. Pucklehammer.
“So then, your yard would presumably be full of all the accoutrements of your trade?”
“What was that again, sir?” said Mr Pucklehammer.
“Was your yard full of coffins and similar items of carpentry?” said Sir Magnus.
“Yes,” said Mr. Pucklehammer.
“I have often wondered,” said the judge, “how they manage to make coffins that shape.”
“I am sure, my lord,” said Sir Magnus smoothly, “that Mr. Pucklehammer would be delighted to give you a practical demonstration of this at the end of the proceedings.”
“Most kind,” said the judge.
“Now you say,” Sir Magnus went on, “that the elephant Rosy was brought into your yard. During the time she was there, two days I believe it to be, what was her demeanour?”
“Bread, mostly,” said Mr. Pucklehammer “Then we found she liked vegetables as well.”
“No, no,” said Sir Magnus “What was her behaviour like?”
“Wonderful,” said Mr. Pucklehammer enthusiastically. “She’s a lovely animal.”
“So she didn’t cause you any distress while she stayed in your yard?”
“None whatsoever,” said Mr. Pucklehammer. “Good as gold she was. Helpful too. She helped Adrian wash the trap down.”
“Wash the trap down what?” enquired the judge.
“Well, we were cleaning the trap, see, sir, and so Rosy squirted water on it with her trunk.”
“Extraordinary,” said the judge. “Have you ever in your experience, Sir Magnus, come across an elephant washing down a trap?”
“No, my lord, I can’t say that I have,” said Sir Magnus, “but I believe them to be immensely sagacious beasts.”
“Extraordinary,” said the judge again. “Pray continue.”
“So, during the whole two days she was in your yard, she did no damage to you or to your property?” said Sir Magnus.
“None at all,” said Mr. Pucklehammer determinedly. “I told you, she’s as timid as a mouse. Rosy’d never hurt anybody deliberately.”
“Thank you,” said Sir Magnus. He glanced at Sir Augustus interrogatively, but Sir Augustus, who hid not known about the Pucklehammer episode, was at a slight loss as to how to cross-examine, go he merely shook his head mournfully.
“Ca1l,” said Sir Magnus, “Emily Nelly Delilah Trickletrot.”
“Who the hell’s that?” whispered Adrian.
“Black Nell,” said Sir Magnus.
Black Nell, like a chirpy moth-eaten little bird, climbed into the witness-box and peered over the edge of it with some difficulty.
“I understand,” said Sir Magnus, “that you encountered the defendant Rookwhistle and his elephant when you were on your way to Tuttlepenny Fair.”
“That’s right,” said Black Nell.
“Now, you are by trade a fortune-teller?” enquired Sir Magnus.
“Witch,” said Black Nell.
A rustle immediately ran through the court. The jury gave her their absolutely undivided attention.
“Witch?” said the judge.
“Yes, your honour,” said Black Nell. “I am a white witch. Black Nell’s me name.”
“I find this very confusing,” said the judge, looking at Sir Magnus. “Would you like to elucidate?”
“Certainly, my lord. There are apparently two forms of witches. The black kind who do evil deeds or are reputed to do evil deeds, and the white ones who do good deeds. This lady is a white witch and during the course of her witchcraft the also tells fortunes.”
“Do you use a crystal ball?” enquired the judge.
“Sometimes,” said Black Nell. “Not always though.”
“I had one once,” said the judge musingly, “but I could never see anything in it.”
“It’s a question of concentration,” said Black Nell. “You should try it in a diamond ring some time.”
“Diamond ring? Really?” said the judge. “I must try that.”
“May I continue, my lord?” enquired Sir Magnus with a long-suffering air.
“By all means, by all means,” said the judge.
“Now, when you met the defendant and his elephant, what happened?”
“I was asleep, see,” said Black Nell, “and suddenly my whole caravan started to shake.”
“We now appear to be suffering from a surfeit of wheeled vehicles,” said the judge. “This caravan has not appeared before, has it?”
“No,” said Sir Magnus. “It is the caravan belonging to the witness.”
“Why was it shaking?” enquired the judge.
“Because the elephant was scratching herself against it,” said Black Nell.
“Do elephants scratch themselves against caravans?” the judge asked Sir Magnus.
“I believe, my lord, that all pachyderms, if they find a suitably abrasive surface, will ease any minor skin irritation by rubbing themselves against it,” said Sir Magnus.
“We are certainly learning a lot about elephants,” said the judge with satisfaction. “Well, go on.”
“When you finally came out of your caravan,” said Sir Magnus, “did the elephant attack you?”
“Lord bless us, no,” said Black Nell. “Tame as a rabbit she was. We all sat down and had breakfast together.”
“So she did no damage to your caravan, nor did she attempt in any way to harm you?”
“No,” said Black Nell. “That creature wouldn’t harm a fly.”
“Thank you,” said Sir Magnus, and again glanced at Sir Augustus.
But Sir Augustus was feeling that he was liable to get bogged down in a lot of irrelevant details about witchcraft and again refused to cross-examine.
“Will you now call,” said Sir Magnus, “Peregrine Filigree.”
Mr. Filigree, wreathed in smiles, undulated his way into the court and wedged himself with a certain amount of difficulty into the witness-box.
“Hello, Adrian,” he shouted, waving a fat hand. “How’s it going?”
The judge peered at him. “Mr. Filigree,” he said, “I would be grateful if you would confine yourself to giving evidence and not carry on an exchange of saucy badinage with the defendant.”
“I am sorry, your lordship,” said Mr. Filigree, chastened. The clerk of the court held out the Bible for him to take the oath.
“You haven’t by any chance got a prayer wheel, have you?”
‘What’s that?” said the judge.
“A prayer wheel, my lord,” said Sir Magnus. “I believe it to be something that is used quite extensively in Tibet and similar places where Buddhism is the basic religion.”
“What do you want a prayer wheel for?” asked the judge.
“Because,” said Mr. Filigree, “I am a Buddhist.”
“I don’t really think, Sir Magnus,” said the judge, “that we can expect the clerk of the court to go running around at this late date in order to find a prayer wheel. I am not altogether sure that it would be legal either.”
“Perhaps, Mr. Filigree,” said Sir Magnus, “you would be kind enough to take the oath on the Bible, and pretend that it is a prayer wheel.”
“Very well,” said Mr. Filigree. “If it’s going to be of any help to you.”
“Now,” said the judge, “perhaps we can proceed.”
“Mr. Filigree,” said Sir Magnus, “on the night of the 29th April the defendant, Adrian Rookwhistle, and his elephant arrived at the Unicorn and Harp, a hostelry which you and your daughter run?”
“That’s right,” said Mr. Filigree, beaming. “It was a most lovely surprise.”
“Would you like to tell his lordship and the jury, in your own words, exactly what happened.”
“I’d love to,” said Mr. Filigree.
He clasped his fat hands together as though in prayer and fixed his round eyes on the judge.
“You see,” he said, “I haven’t had an elephant for years.”
“Do you mind elaborating that extraordinary statement?” said the judge.
“Well, you see,” said Mr. Filigree, “I once had one hundred and one of them; the chief one, of course, was Poo-Ting. But that was some considerable time ago.”
“Am I correct in believing, Sir Magnus, that the witness is saying on oath that he had one hundred and one elephants?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“It seems to me,” said the judge, “and please do Correct me, Sir Magnus, if I am wrong, that the defendant had considerable trouble with one elephant. How is it that this gentleman managed successfully to keep one hundred and one?”
“I believe, my lord, that he kept them while in India in a previous incarnation,” said Sir Magnus suavely. “Though that is not the really important point at all. I merely brought this witness into the box as he has had such considerable experience with elephants.”
The judge was now even more confused than the jury. “I suppose,” he said, “he is what you might call an expert witness.”
“Exactly so, my lord.”
The jury had been nodding and whispering like a barnful of hens and the foreman got to his feet.
“Excuse me, my lord,” he said, “but could we have one point made dear?”
“Yes, I think so,” said the judge doubtfully. “There are several points which I would like to get clear. What is it you wish to know?”
“Well, we’re a bit puzzled like with this incarnation thing.”
“A good question,” said the judge, and looked hopefully at Sir Magnus.
“In parts of the world,” said Sir Magnus oratorically, “where they believe in Buddhism as opposed to Christianity, one of the beliefs is that you live a whole series of lives.”
“Quite right,” said Mr. Filigree.
“Therefore, in calling Mr. Filigree as a witness, we are exceedingly lucky. Nay, I would go further and say that this is probably the most extraordinary piece of evidence ever to have been put in front of a jury. You are having the benefit of Mr. Filigree’s expert knowledge of elephants, gathered over the course of years, and as you have gleaned, gentlemen of the jury, not just one elephant, not even a passing acquaintance with a pachyderm, but he had in his possession one hundred and one of them. Now you will all instantly perceive that a man who has possessed no less than one hundred and one elephants is in a much better position to advise us more humble mortals, who have not even had the privilege of keeping one elephant.”
The foreman of the jury looked faintly stunned. He opened his mouth once or twice like an exhausted goldfish and then sat down,
“Mr. Filigree,” said Sir Magnus, “I have pointed out to the jury your expertise on all matters appertaining to elephants. I would now like you to tell the jury what your impression of the elephant in question, Rosy, was.”
“Rosy,” squeaked Mr. Filigree, his face growing even pinker, “is one of the sweetest, most adorable elephants I have ever met in my life. If she had a fault at all, it was the minor one of not having any tusks.”
“Why is the lack of tusks a fault?” enquired the judge.
“You cannot bore holes in them,” said Mr. Filigree.
“Sir Magnus,” said the judge, “I do wish you would exercise a little control over your witnesses. It seems to me they are dragging in a lot of extraneous matter which has nothing to do with the case in question.”
“Of course, my lord,” said Sir Magnus
“I had no wish to appear harsh towards Rosy,” said Mr. Filigree earnestly, waving his fingers at the judge.
“Would you have said, then that she was a vicious creature?” enquired Sir Magnus.
“Vicious!” said Mr. Filigree, his face growing deep red at the mere thought. “Rosy vicious! She’s one of the nicest elephants I have ever met.”
“Thank you,” said Sir Magnus. “And you speak, of course, as we all know, from a vast experience of keeping elephants.”
Sir Augustus did not really want to cross-examine but, since he had been forced to let two witnesses slip through his fingers, he felt he ought to put up some sort of show. He rose to his feet and glared at Mr. Filigree.
“Mr. Filigree,” he said, cuttingly, “would you not say that if we do not share your beliefs in reincarnation, that the evidence you have given is null and void?”
“No, no,” fluted Mr. Filigree earnestly. “You cannot help it if you don’t believe. You see, I have positive evidence. I was telling Adrian about my cat. That is a very good example.”
“Sir Augustus,” said the judge, “I don’t know why it is, but every time you get up to examine a witness, you manage to introduce a new animal of some sort. I find this very confusing.”
“My lord,” said Sir Augustus, “I was merely trying to make clear . . .”
“Well, you are not making it dear,” snapped the judge. “We have now got a cat mixed up in it.”
“It was a beautiful cat,” said Mr. Filigree. “He recognised me instantly.”
“The cat has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the case,” said the judge. “I find your line of questioning, Sir Augustus, most irrelevant.”
“As your lordship pleases,” said Sir Augustus with restraint. “Then I have no further questions.” He sat down and glowered at Sir Magnus, who was lying back with his eyes closed and a beatific smile on his face.
“The witness may stand down,” said the judge. He shuffled through his notes and then looked at Sir Magnus.
“Do you intend to call any more witnesses, Sir Magnus?” he asked.
“Yes, my lord. I have several more.”
The judge looked at his watch.
“Well, I would be glad if you would make it as rapid as possible,” he said.
The next witness that Sir Magnus introduced was Honoria, and to Adrian’s astonishment, for his heart had sunk when her name was called, she proved to be an admirable witness. It was not until afterwards that Adrian learned that a bottle and a half of gin had gone into the making of her performance, but she stood in the witness-box, her magnificent bosom heaving in a low-cut dress that bad every juryman’s eye fixed longingly upon it. She was in turn soulful and vibrant. Her eulogy on Rosy and on her own friendship with her was a masterpiece. She stood heaving and panting in the witness-box, her head held up proudly while tears trickled in vast quantities down her checks as she described how she and she alone had been responsible for the wrecking of the theatre by her introduction of gin into Rosy’s diet. By the time she had finished, there was not an unmoistened eye among the jury and even the judge had to blow his nose vigorously before dismissing Honoria.
The next witness to enter the box was Ethelbert. He corroborated Honoria’s story and even added a few embellishments of his own. He was reprimanded at one point for calling the judge “darling boy”, but nevertheless it was obvious to everyone in court that he was an honest and enthusiastic witness.
Sir Magnus had wanted to call Samantha, but Adrian had put his foot down. He was not going to have Samantha standing in a witness-box being bombarded with question, from Sir Augustus. As it turned out, he need not really have worried, because, Sir Augustus, after his futile attempt to cross-examine Mr. Filigree, sat hunched like a depressed crow, and shook his head every time he was asked to cross-examine.
“Now, my lord,” said Sir Magnus after Ethelbert had left the box, “we are starting to get a clear picture in our minds.”
“I suppose you are right, Sir Magnus,” said the judge doubtfully.
“I think I have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the elephant in question is one of the most charming and tractable animal, of its kind. On the occasions when it caused a certain amount of damage it is quite obvious that this was inadvertent and the animal can be in no way blamed for it, nor indeed can its owner.”
“Well, that point may have been cleared up to your satisfaction, Sir Magnus,” said the judge, “but not as yet to mine.”
“Very well, my lord,” said Sir Magnus, “then if I may crave the court’s indulgence, I will recall Lord Fenneltree.”
Lord Fenneltree drifted amiably back into the box, polished his monocle, inserted it in his eye and beamed round.
“This is jolly,” he remarked. “I didn’t think I’d be up here twice.”
“Lord Fenneltree,” said Sir Magnus, “will you kindly take your mind back to the night of 28th April. The night of your daughter’s birthday ball.”
“Yes, yes,” said Lord Fenneltree. “I have it clearly in mind”
“Now, you had arranged for yourself and for the defendant to ride into the ballroom with the elephant, had you not?”
“Indubitably,” said his lordship.
“Did the elephant prior to that display any evil characteristics?”
“What, old Rosy?” said his lordship. “Of course not. Wonderful animal.”
Sir Magnus smiled with quiet satisfaction.
“But on the night of the ball,” he continued, “did the defendant display any qualms about the projected adventure?”
“Qualms,” said his lordship chuckling. “He was a quivering mass of nerves. He worries too much, that boy, you know. That’s half his trouble. I keep telling him it’s very fatiguing.”
“In other words,” said Sir Magnus, “he did suggest to you that it might be an unwise manoeuvre to introduce the elephant into the ballroom.”
“Frequently,” said his lordship. “About ten times a day on an avenge.”
“For what reason?” enquired Sir Magnus.
“Well, he didn’t think my wife would like it,” said Lord Fenneltree. “My wife has that effect on some people.”
“I can well imagine,” said Sir Magnus dryly. “So before the actual night of the ball, he had made several endeavours to stop the plan.”
“That is quite correct.”
“Was he still alarmed on the evening of the ball itself?”
“Alarmed is a mild way of putting it,” said his lordship. “And of course when he found that she was drunk it was all I could do to persuade him to go ahead with the plan.”
“I see,” said Sir Magnus silkily. “Then the defendant in actual fact wanted to call the whole thing off prior to the ball, and on the evening of the ball, finding the animal was intoxicated, he again made serious attempts to persuade you to abandon the project.”
“Yes,” said Lord Fenneltree.
“So, in other words,” said Sir Magnus, “one could really say that the havoc created at the ball was neither the fault of the animal, who was under the influence of alcohol, nor the defendant, since you were directly responsible.”
There was a pause while Lord Fenneltree mused on this for a moment. It was an original approach that had escaped him hitherto.
“Come to think of it,” he said at last, breathing on his monocle, polishing it and screwing it back into his eye, “come to think of it, you are quite right. The whole thing was my fault.”
“Rupert,” came the bugle-like call of Lady Fenneltree from the body of the court. “Watch what you are saying.”
“Who is creating this interruption?” enquired the judge, peering round myopically.
“I think it’s the witness’s wife,” said Sir Magnus with satisfaction.
“My lord,” boomed Lady Fenneltree, “my husband is being led astray.”
“Madam, do you mind being quiet?” enquired the judge.
“I will not be quiet,” shouted Lady Fenneltree. “I have never met such an inane judge in all my life. I will not stand by and see a miscarriage of justice sliding under your nose.”
“Now, now, dear,” shouted Lord Fenneltree, waving at her in a placating manner, “just keep calm.”
“I will not keep calm,” shouted Lady Fenneltree.
“Lady Fenneltree,” said the judge, “this case is quite confused enough without your adding to it.”
“You’re the one who’s confused it,” shouted Lady Fenneltree.
“Madam,” said the judge icily, “if you do not be quiet and sit down, I shall have you removed from the court.”
Lady Fenneltree grasped her parasol in front of her like a spear.
“You will do so at your peril,” she said.
“Remove that woman,” said the judge excitedly.
Two large constables moved in on Lady Fenneltree who, displaying a remarkable agility for her bulk, danced back three paces and then lunged with her parasol. The point of it caught the largest constable a shade north of his umbilical and he doubled up, completely winded. Lady Fenneltree then wheeled and hit the other constable over the back of the neck. It took the two constables several minutes to subdue her and drag her ignominiously from the court, and the jury watched breathless and fascinated. As she was dragged out, her last despairing cry was carried down. “Rupert, don’t you dare say anything.”
“Lord Fenneltree,” said the judge, “I apologise to you for the necessity of having to deal with your wife in that fashion.”
“My dear chap, don’t mention it,” said Lord Fenneltree. “I am lost in admiration. Would it be possible for me to have the names of those two constables before I leave?”
“After that unfortunate incident, may I proceed, my lord?” enquired Sir Magnus.
“Pray do so,” said the judge.
“So we now know,” said Sir Magnus looking at Lord Fenneltree, “that you are directly responsible for all the damage caused by the elephant at your ball.”
“Yes,” said Lord Fenneltree, “I don’t think you can put it fairer than that and I, for one am only sorry poor old Adrian has ended up in this way. He’s a charming young man and it was a most delightful elephant.”
“Thank you, Lord Fenneltree,” said Sir Magnus. “I have no more questions to ask you.”
He sat down and with an air of triumph took out his snuff-box, plugged some snuff up his nose and then gave an enormous and triumphant sneeze and smiled winningly at Sir Augustus.
“Well, um, yes,” said the judge. “Have you anything to say, Sir Augustus?”
Sir Augustus, who had been looking more and more miserable, rose to his feet, quivering with ill-suppressed indignation.
“My lord,” he said shakily, “I have little to add to my previous summary of the case. I can only say at this juncture that I hope that my learned friend’s introduction of so many dubious witnesses has not in any way damaged his case in the eyes of the jury. The introduction of white witches, strolling players of doubtful background and people who believe in reincarnation should, I would think, undermine rather than buttress the case for the defence.”
Sir Magnus rose to his feet. “If I may interrupt for a moment,” he said, “I would also like to point out to my learned friend that among white witches, strolling players and believers in reincarnation, there was Lord Fenneltree.”
He sat down and Sir Augustus gave him a look of such scorching ferocity that Adrian was surprised not to see Sir Magnus disappear in a tiny puff of black smoke.
“It seems to me,” aid Sir Augustus, “that the jury can only bring in one verdict, and that is that the defendant, Adrian Rookwhistle, is guilty.”
Sir Magnus got to his feet.
“I think, my lord, gentlemen of the jury, that I have made my side of things more than dear. I feel from the evidence that we have heard that I have more than vindicated the good character of the defendant and of the noble creature who is his companion.”
The foreman of the jury had been opening and shutting his mouth for some considerable time. He now got to his feet.
“What is it, what is it?” said the judge testily.
“Excuse me, your honour,” said the foreman, “but is the elephant in question the one what’s been down on the beach for the last week?”
“Yes,” said Sir Magnus, “she enjoys going down there and playing with the little children.”
The foreman sat down and had a whispered conclave with the rest of the jury. Sir Magnus watched them with a beaming, paternal smile.
“I think, my lord,” he said smoothly, “that I can rely on the good sense of the jury to bring in the right verdict.”
“Yes, yes, well,” said the judge. He shuffled his notes in a rather flustered fashion. “I would be glad if you would stop whispering among yourselves and pay attention to me,” he said to the jury.
The foreman of the jury got up once more.
“Excuse me, my lord,” he said, “but we have already reached a verdict.”
“You what?” said the judge petulantly. “I’ve got to sum up.”
“Very well, sir,” said the foreman and sat down again. The judge cleared his throat, peered at his notes and then sat back in his chair and closed his eyes.
“Basically, what you have got to decide,” he said, “is whether or not the defendant, Adrian Rookwhistle, is guilty.” He opened his eyes and cast a glance of triumph at the jury. “That,” he continued, “might be described as the crux of the whole case. However, there are certain things that you have to consider before you say definitely one way or the other that he is guilty or not guilty. We have heard a lot of evidence.” He shuffled his notes in a rather hopeless way. “A lot of evidence,” he repeated, “some of it for, and some of it against. Now it is not my job to tell you what to think, only to guide you along the right lines. You are perfectly free to think that the defendant even if he is not guilty. On the other hand, you can equally well think him not guilty, if he is guilty. That is the beauty of our legal system. I am merely here to act as a guide through the intricacies of the law.” He paused and coughed gently to himself for several seconds, shuffling again through his notes, many of which slipped off his desk to the floor.
“Now, we have heard evidence which proves conclusively that Adrian Rookwhistle, being in possession of the elephant and therefore, presumably, in control of it, allowed it to do considerable damage both to human beings and to property. But your astuteness will make you perceive that this evidence can be counteracted by other evidence which proves conclusively that the animal in question was not evilly disposed and that the defendant was forced into these invidious situations.”
The judge paused and cast a sharp look at the foreman of the jury.
“You are following my line of reasoning?” he inquired. The jury nodded as one man.
“Now, it is incumbent upon you,” said the judge waving a finger at them, “to bring in a verdict of not guilty should you think that the defendant, Adrian Rookwhistle, was in fact, er, um, erum not guilty. On the other hand, should you think him guilty, you must show no fear or favour and bring in a verdict of guilty, taking into consideration, as I have said, every aspect of the case. There are many points which you should consider and consider carefully, for example there is the point, on which I am not at all clear, as to whether or not elephants like gin. Again you might like to consider what I consider to be the vital evidence about the elephant sliding on the parquet. Now we have been assured by no lesser legal authority than Sir Magnus that elephants can slide on parquet. Therefore, if we accept this as a fact, we are driven to the conclusion that the elephant in question did slide on the parquet and as Sir Augustus has so penetratingly pointed out, caused considerable damage.
“Then there is the evidence of the caravan. You might say to yourselves, either individually or collectively, did the elephant really scratch itself against the caravan, or was this an unprovoked attack? The fact that the witness who was in the caravan at the time suffered no damage should in no way influence you. She may indeed have been the victim of an unprovoked attack which she did not recognise or, as has been suggested by the defence, the elephant was merely scratching itself. Now you, gentlemen of the jury, have a solemn duty ahead of you. You have heard both the case for the prosecution and for the defence and it is up to you to gather up all the details that have been vouchsafed you and weave them into a whole. My job is merely to clarify things for you. So I will now ask you to go away and quietly consider all the facts of the case and if you bring in a verdict of guilty, who is to blame you? On the other hand, if you decide in your wisdom, and being in possession of the full facts, to bring in a verdict of not guilty, no finger of condemnation can be pointed at you. In closing I can only say that I hope I have been of some help to you in forming the right decisions. You may now retire to consider your verdict.”
The foreman of the jury got to his feet.
“We have decided not to retire, your lordship,” he said.
“Most irregular,” said the judge. “You should have time for consultation and consideration.”
“We have considered, my lord,” said the foreman.
“Well,” said the judge reluctantly, “what is your verdict?”
“Well sir, we would like to get one thing quite clear in our minds before announcing our verdict. Is the elephant in question definitely the one that has been playing with my kids on the beach?”
“I think, Sir Magnus,” said the judge, “that you are best qualified to answer that question.”
“Yes,” said Sir Magnus. “If you possess children who have been playing on the beach recently, then assuredly they will have been playing with the elephant in question.”
“In that case,” said the foreman of the jury, “our verdict is not guilty.”
There was an outburst of clapping in the court in which the judge joined absent-mindedly. When the noise had died down, the judge cleared his throat and peered at Adrian.
“Adrian Rookwhistle,” he said. “You have been found guilty of the charges brought against you.”
“Beg pardon, my lord,” said the foreman of the jury, “but we have found him not guilty.”
“Oh,” said the judge, “did you? Well you have been found not guilty of the charges brought against you and so I find it my bounden duty to sentence you,” he paused and collected his thoughts, “so I find it my bounden duty to discharge you without a stain on your character.”
The judge peered at the jury.
“You have been an honest and upright jury,” he said, “and have carried out your duties extremely well, I therefore discharge you and absolve you from jury duties for the next year.”
He shuffled his papers in an abstracted sort of way and then leant forward to the clerk of the court.
“Are there any more cases on the list?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.
“No, my lord,” said the clerk of the court. “This is the last of them.”
“Good,” said the judge. He sat up and peered at Adrian. “There is just one more thing,” he said. “I wonder if you could see your way to accede me a minor request?”
“Certainly, my lord,” said Adrian.
“I would very much like to see the elephant in question,” said the judge, adding shyly, “you see I have never seen an elephant.”
“Certainly, my lord,” said Adrian. “I am going to go and tell her the good news now, if your lordship would like to join me.”
“Splendid,” squeaked the judge. “I will meet you outside in a few minutes, Mr. Rookwhistle.”
He leapt out of his chair as the court rose, and scuttled out of his door.