By A. A. Milne
Adapted for the stage by Samantha Weiler
[Newsie 1 walks through the aisles, holding newspapers and shouting. As he does, people file up to rows of chairs on the stage. A young lady stands like the statue atop the Old Bailey, clad in gold and holding a sword and scales. A young lady stands, accused, next to a judge, prosecutor, and a witness, Mr. Jobson.]
Newsie 1: Shoplifter on trial today! Young lady to be condemned for shoplifting! Charged with the theft of 35 yards of fabric ten pairs of gloves, a sponge, two gimlets, five jars of cold cream, a copy of the clergy list, three hat-guards, a compass, a box of thumbtacks, —
[Newsie 1’s voice fades as he exits. The prosecutor picks up his list, without a pause.]
Prosecutor: —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.
Judge: Just a moment. Who is defending the prisoner?
[Prolonged silence. A young man, Rupert Carlton near the front looks around hesitantly, then stands abruptly, excitedly.]
Carlton: I am, my lord!
[Carlton pulls a wig down over his ears, takes out a pair of spectacles, and rises to cross-examine.]
Carlton: (suavely, to the witness) Mr. Jobson, you say that you saw the accused steal these various articles, and that they were afterwards found upon her?”
Carlton: I put it to you, that that is a pure invention on your part?
Carlton: (hiding his disappointment) I suggest, that you followed her about and concealed this collection of things in her cloak with a view to advertise your winter sale?
Jobson: No, I saw her steal them.
Carlton: (frowns, taps glasses) 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?
Carlton: With the intention of paying for them in an ordinary way?
Carlton: Please be very careful. You said in your evidence that the prisoner, when told she would be charged, cried, (begins acting this out) ‘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 of this come to? I can’t get any one to serve me.’
Carlton: (pockets spectacles, replaces them with another pair) We will let that pass for the moment. (Consults paper, looks sternly at Prosecutor) Mr. Jobson, how many times have you been married?
Carlton: Quite so. (Hesitantly) I suggest that your wife left you?
Carlton: (Breathes sigh of relief, continues politely) Will you tell the gentlemen of the jury WHY she left you?
Jobson: She died.
Carlton: Exactly! And was that or was that not the night when you were turned out of the Hampstead Parliament for intoxication?
Jobson: I never was.
Carlton: Indeed? Will you cast your mind back to the night of April 24th? What were you doing on that night?
Jobson: (Reflects, then) I have no idea.
Carlton: In that case you cannot swear that you were not being turned out of the Hampstead Parliament—
Jobson: But I never belonged to it.
Carlton: What? You told the court that you lived in Hampstead, and yet you say that you never belonged to the Hampstead Parliament? Is THAT your idea of patriotism?
Jobson: I said I lived in Hackney.
Carlton: To the Hackney Parliament, I should say. I am suggesting you were turned out of the Hackney Parliament for—
Jobson: I don’t belong to that either.
Carlton: Exactly! Having been turned out for intoxication?
Jobson: And never did belong.
Carlton: Indeed? May I take it then that you prefer to spend your evenings in the public-house?
Jobson: (angrily) If you want to know, I belong to the Hackney Chess circle, and that takes up most of my evenings.
Carlton: (sighing satisfactorily, and addressing the jury) At LAST, gentlemen, we have got it. I though we should arrive at the truth in the end, in spite of Mr. Jobson’s prevarications. (addressing Mr. Jobson, sternly) Now, sir, you have already told the Court that you have no idea what you were doing on the night of April 24th. I put it to you once more that this blankness of memory is due to the fact that you were in a state of intoxication on the premises of the Hackney Chess Circle. Can you swear on your oath that this is not so?
[Jury murmurs admirably. Carlton puffs his chest out and puts on the other pair of spectacles as well.]
Carlton: Come sir! The jury is waiting.
Prosecutor: (Standing slowly, addressing the judge) My lord, this has come as a complete surprise to me. In these circumstances, I must advise my clients to withdraw from the case.
Judge: A very proper decision. The prisoner is discharged without a stain on her character.
[The jury applauds, and they begin turning the chairs to face stage left, leaving an aisle in the middle. Carlton, in the meanwhile, is approached by many people with papers/ Multiple newsies crisscross downstage, shouting headlines,]
Newsie 2: Rupert Carlton acquits Aurora Delaine!
Newsie 3: Carlton proves shop-lifter Delaine not guilty!
Newsie 1: Carlton takes on another massive case for a big client!
Newsie 2: Carlton is unstoppable! Is there a better lawyer in the city?
Newsie 3: Stellar lawyer Rupert Carlton has turned successful playwright!
Newsie 1: Carlton has entered Parliament as the miners’ Member for Coalville!
Newsie 2: Carlton is engaged to wed at the end of this month!
Newsie 3: Famed lawyer and playwright, Rupert Carlton, is getting married this Sunday!
[The scene has changed so Carlton is waiting at the edge of the stage. A young lady—not the one on trial—makes her way down an aisle through the audience in a wedding dress. Down stage right is a sign reading ‘Wedding Gifts,’ with several boxes stacked beneath it. Aurora Delaine approaches, and sets several gift bags near the pile. Those watching the wedding applaud as the couple makes their way back down the aisle to the wedding gifts. Delaine exits hastily. The couple unwraps boxes, open bags, and mimes admiring gifts as the chairs on the stage are rearranged in a semicircle around them. Once they open the few other gifts, they get to those from Delaine.]
Carlton: [unwrapping, peering into boxes] Well… this looks like…. fabric…
Wife: And… ten pairs of gloves?
Carlton: A sponge? Two gimlets?
Wife: Five jars of cold cream?
Carlton: A copy of the… clergy list?
Wife: Three hat-guards, a compass? A box of thumbtacks?
Carlton: An egg-breaker?
Wife: Six blouses? And a cabman’s whistle?
Carlton: [Holing up a note] It just says, “From a Grateful Friend.”