Solomon Had It Easier

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  1. #1

    Solomon Had It Easier


    Well, it’s true that Solomon had it easier than today’s judges. After all, apart from that thing with the two women and the baby, what demanding cases did he try? Please don’t write in. Anyway, the Old Testament sage was a king, so had a good deal of latitude. His modern counterpart is more circumscribed and must try to extract justice from a morass of laws created by others. Perhaps no-one did this better than that demon of denouement, Judge Embert Wimple, as the cases presented here surely demonstrate. All were culled from those tried by the judge during his last year on the bench. It was no small task to persuade him to allow them to be placed in chronological order, nor was it easy to convince him that only a limited number could be included here. His final choice was made only weeks before he departed for the great courthouse in the sky. He gave no reason – for the selection, that is, not his departure.

    Some readers may note that there is little reference to the apportionment of costs. This arises from the judge’s practice of making the relevant orders after giving his verdicts and declaring proceedings closed. It is felt that no great purpose would be served by the provision of case-by-case footnotes concerning this point.

    * * *


    Proceedings in the Grimshaw versus Pepper case began at ten-thirty a.m., Judge Embert Wimple presiding. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was guilty of failure to repay a loan, the defendant responding hat he had not done so because the plaintiff had deceived him. Neil Grimshaw was represented by the redoubtable Desmond Oddley-Staggers, while Gordon Pepper was in the hands of the no less distinguished Rodney Melliflewes.

    Judge Wimple, aged eighty-three and officially long-retired, still appeared frequently in court to assist hard-pressed colleagues. The hearing was to be held in camera, which pleased the judge, who foresaw some stimulating entertainment, which he was ill-disposed to share with a courtroom full of jurors and other undesirables. In fact, from this case onward until his retirement, the judge was to hold all his hearings with the public excluded, though he would continue to avail himself of a courtroom, as he considered his chambers inviolate.

    After satisfying himself that he was clear as to the respective charges, Judge Wimple addressed prosecuting counsel. “Very well, Mr Taggart, you may begin.”

    Oddley-Staggers was accustomed to the judge’s habit of addressing advocates by whatever names occurred to him, irrespective of true identities. His honour’s view was that he was dealing with a pool of lawyers and a like-sized array of names, and which of the latter he applied to any of the former was not important to him. On the occasions when his attention wavered more than average, he had been known to refer to barristers long dead. It had become a convention that, in the interest of reaching the end of a case within a tolerable period, nobody corrected Judge Wimple. The litigants were usually primed and almost always obliged.

    Thumbs in waistcoat pockets, Oddley-Staggers inclined his head towards the bench. “May it please Your Honour,” he said, “the facts in this case are quite simple. Some fourteen months ago, my client loaned the sum of one pound to the defendant, the arrangement being that Mr Pepper would, at the end of one year from the date of the loan, repay the principal, plus interest. Mr Pepper did not honour this obligation and still has not done so. My client’s purpose here is to recover the amount owed. He appreciates that the sum concerned is a modest one, but contends that there is a principle involved, which must be upheld. Subject to a satisfactory outcome, he is willing to ignore any interest incurred after the one-year period.”

    “Seemingly most generous,” said the judge inspecting his papers. “We must never ignore matters of principle, or indeed in this case also principal. Now, it says here that the amount owed is two pounds, seventy-two pence. I am puzzled as to how we get from the one figure to the other. Presumably this arises from either administrative charges or the interest rate. Were there any charges and what was that rate?”

    Oddley-Staggers reddened slightly. “No charges, Your Honour. The interest rate was” – his voice fell to a mumble – “one hundred per cent, nominal.”

    “Speak up, Mr Olliphant. I’m not sure I heard that correctly.”

    “No charges. The interest rate was one hundred per cent, nominal.”

    “Bless my soul,” said the judge. “I am not au fait with current trends, but if your client makes a habit of this, he must be in a lucrative business. Furthermore, my arithmetic, though possibly defective, suggests an amount of two pounds owing. I still don’t see how we get to two pounds, seventy-two pence. Please explain.”

    “Your Honour, my client does not operate in the financial world, but was merely doing a favour. As to the sum involved, we are dealing here with a factor known as the exponential constant, which is the base of the natural logarithm. It is usually referred to by its initial letter, e.”

    “Most interesting. Would you care to regale us further?”

    “Yes. This kind of situation occurs frequently in certain areas of mathematics, physics and commerce, where two interacting elements are involved, one rising as the other falls. In this case, it concerns multiple compounding of interest. At the time the loan was made, there was no discussion between the parties as to the number of periods my client was to employ.”

    The judge was enthralled. “And this makes such a large difference, does it?”

    “Indeed it does. My client realised that, as the rate was nominal – or at least that there had been no agreement that it was not – there was no impediment to his compounding interest at periods of less than one year. He found that by doing so at increasingly frequent intervals, the sum owed became ever higher. He considered half-yearly periods, then quarterly ones, then monthly, then weekly and so on, until he reached the point at which no further meaningful increment could be achieved. It is a question of an arithmetical series, leading to the exponential constant I mentioned. This series consists of one, plus one, plus one divided by two, factorial, plus one divided three, factorial, and so – ”

    “One moment” said the judge. “You say ‘factorial’. Perhaps you would expand?”

    “Willingly. The expression is mathematical shorthand. Any number factorial means that number multiplied by the one immediately below it, then the result by the next lower one and so on until unity is reached. For example, five factorial means five, times four, times three, times two, times one, the last operation being of course academic, since it does not change the total. In this case, no matter how often the compounding occurs, there is an effective limit, which to two decimal places – the practical level in financial matters – is two, point seven two. We are concerned here with an irrational number.”

    “We certainly are,” said the judge. “I never heard of anything less rational.”

    “If I may explain, Your Honour, an irrational number is one which has no precise value, but which can be calculated to any desired degree of accuracy, the digits following the decimal point proceeding to infinity, with no repeated pattern and always with a remainder.”

    The judge was well aware of the meaning of the term concerned, but was not inclined to miss an opportunity to allow any counsel, especially one of his regulars, to demonstrate a grasp of whatever was at issue. The more experienced ones enjoyed these diversions as much as he did. His honour’s view was that all of this added colour to the proceedings. “Fascinating!” he said. “Please continue.”

    “I was about to say that mathematicians usually consider the result to five decimal places as satisfactory, this being two, point seven one eight two eight.”

    “Well, well,” said the judge. “I imagine that financiers find the idea even more agreeable. Was there no obligation on Mr Grimshaw to reveal this multiple compounding to Mr Pepper as it proceeded?”

    “Nothing to that effect was specified at the outset, Your Honour. The technique is widely used in commercial transactions.”

    “Thank you, Mr Oddment,” said the judge, turning his attention to defending counsel, “Now, Mr Mildew,” he said. “What have you to say?”

    Being as experienced as his opponent, Rodney Melliflewes had no difficulty in maintaining his poise. “May it please Your Honour,” he said, clasping his hands behind him, “there is no disagreement as to the simplicity of this case, nor is there any argument about the arithmetic. However, there are two points of significance. First, the plaintiff’s assertion that the amount due is two pounds, seventy-two pence. My client’s view is that this would represent overpayment, as the true figure, by the prosecution’s own calculation, is two pounds, seventy-one point eight two eight pence. This is less than the amount demanded. My client is willing to pay two pounds, seventy-one pence, but not the remaining nought point eight two eight of one penny, let alone the further nought point one seven two of a penny which would take the total to two pounds, seventy-two pence. He considers this excessive. Second, he contends that normal practice was contravened, in that the conditions of the loan were arbitrarily imposed upon him. Notwithstanding this, he agreed to settle in round terms, though he was thinking that the sum would be truncated to the penny below the true figure.”

    Judge Wimple had been staring at the ceiling. Now, his gaze returned to defending counsel. “A combine harvester, was it?” he said.

    “Beg pardon, Your Honour,” said Melliflewes. “A combine harvester?”

    Having briefly lost interest in the matter before him, the judge had been silently reminiscing about a totally unrelated farming case he had tried many years earlier, when a casual labourer had lost an arm. “Askew versus Beaumont, some time ago,” he said. “That has an indirect bearing upon this matter. Do try to keep up, Mr Murgatroyd.” He was now in his element, especially as his impromptu comment clearly left Melliflewes floundering. “So, we have two parties who seem to be almost in agreement.” He turned his attention to Oddley-Staggers. “Have you anything to add, Mr Braithwaite?”

    “Only one point, Your Honour. The arrangement in this case was verbal and informal and my client does not see how it could have been covered by consumer credit legislation.”

    “Very well,” said the judge. “If all has been said, I think this would be an appropriate point at which to recess for lunch.”

    Oddley-Staggers issued a political cough, causing the judge to eye him keenly. “Was there something else, Mr Oliver?”

    “Your Honour, I would respectfully point out that both my learned friend and I are required to appear in other cases this afternoon. Since it is not yet eleven o’clock, I was mindful that –”

    “No doubt,” snapped the judge, “and I was mindful that the visitors had lost eight wickets by close of play yesterday. Is it essential that you proceed immediately?”

    “Er, no, Your Honour.” Prosecuting counsel knew of the judge’s addiction to cricket and, appreciating that the season had just begun, was unwilling to cast a cloud over the proceedings.

    “Good. In deference to your other commitments, we shall reconvene at one o’clock, and a few minutes should suffice to complete this hearing. ”

    The parties foregathered as ordered by the judge, whose eyes roved over the company. “Has either party anything more to say?” he asked. Neither had, so his honour continued: “Very well. I believe I have digested everything of consequence here and I must say that it is intriguing to be involved in a case so friv . . . ahem . . . grave. It remains for me to sum up and give my verdict.” He rustled his papers, all blank apart from a note that the home batsmen, pursuing a modest opposition first innings total, had lost early wickets in what promised to be a more absorbing encounter than the one in which he was involved.

    With a final stare at the battling parties, he went on: “This case revolves largely around mathematics and I am no expert in such matters, but have considered the position as, I hope, a fairly intelligent layman. I am minded to dismiss Mr Pepper’s claim that he was deceived. He should have demanded a formal agreement. As to Mr Grimshaw’s charge, we seem to be dealing with a question of rounding up or down. My personal view is irrelevant, but insofar as it might have any moral force, it is that the plaintiff is a scoundrel. I have carried out some research during the lunch break and have found that credit may be obtained at vastly more favourable terms than were offered by Mr Grimshaw to Mr Pepper. Furthermore, I am fully conversant with the electronic calculator, as you will soon appreciate.” In fact the Judge, who never ate lunch, had been instructed in the use of the tool in question by a court officer, who as a consequence had missed a repast of steak and kidney pie.

    Neil Grimshaw and Desmond Oddley-Staggers were by turns euphoric and glum. “Now,” said the judge, “we come to the question of the debt. My conclusion is that, having indicated his willingness to honour his obligation within reason, Mr Pepper should pay Mr Grimshaw the sum of two pounds, seventy-one pence, scandalous though that may be.”

    Gordon Pepper and Rodney Melliflewes were pleased by their qualified triumph. but only momentarily. Judge Wimple went on: “However, I feel bound to comment on the lack of common sense exhibited by Mr Pepper, in that a grown man should have known better than to accept a loan without ensuring that the terms were clear and unchangeable. This demonstrates foolishness almost beyond belief. We are considering a transaction between a rogue and a simpleton. With respect to this, I can say only that a man may be excused for being the latter, but not the former.”

    The judge had expected silence here, and wasn’t disappointed. He paused for ten seconds before continuing: “Now, the prosecution seems to be punctilious about decimal places and in respecting that, I see that we are left with nought point eight-two-eight of one penny in contention. The court will hold this amount in escrow, on a purely notional basis, and will allocate to it, also notionally, interest at one per cent per annum,” here the judge raised his voice as he glared at Oddley-Staggers, “compounded once a year”.

    Satisfied that he had delivered a rebuke, his honour went on: “As the court cannot be expected to continue the action until the sum in question reaches one penny, we shall have to wait until we get to that level. I would caution the plaintiff against any expectation he may have of an automatic final finding in his favour with respect to the outstanding amount. Lastly, I indicated that I have not been idle during the break and you may wish to note that I have checked the length of time required for the initial capital to reach the total concerned, at the rate of return I mentioned. You may therefore regard my decision as an interim one. As to final disposition, we shall meet again in” – he examined his notes – “nineteen years. Proceedings adjourned.”

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; January 21st, 2012 at 06:43 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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  2. #2
    Hi CJ,
    I needed a laugh. It has been a long and trying day. Thanks

    I am a big fan of Rumpole, who appears to be the nearest competitor to your eccentric Judge.
    Can't nit pick, just enjoyed the ride.

  3. #3
    Glad you enjoyed my offering and thank you for your feedback, dear Bazz. It's very much appreciated.

    More soon!

    The Courtjester
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  4. #4
    Honoured/Sadly Missed The Backward OX's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Up the Creek without a paddle, Queensland, Australia
    Absolutely hilarious and not a mistake to be found.

    Unlike bazz, I didn’t think of Rumpole at all. The opening put me more in mind of Roger Thursby in Sober As A Judge, compliments of Henry Cecil.

    More, please.

  5. #5
    I thought of Rumpole all the way through. He would have delighted in appearing before this old darling.

    You have a beautiful balance between age-induced eccentricities and continued mental competence. This is a great read. Thank you.
    El día ha sido bueno. La noche será larga.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by The Backward OX View Post
    Absolutely hilarious and not a mistake to be found.

    Unlike bazz, I didn’t think of Rumpole at all. The opening put me more in mind of Roger Thursby in Sober As A Judge, compliments of Henry Cecil.

    More, please.
    Your kind words make my efforts worthwhile. Hope you will enjoy the rest of the Wimple tales – twenty-nine more to come.

    I don’t know anything about Roger Thursby. Sounds as though ‘Sober As A Judge’ might be worth looking into.

    Kind regards – Courtjester
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by garza View Post
    I thought of Rumpole all the way through. He would have delighted in appearing before this old darling.

    You have a beautiful balance between age-induced eccentricities and continued mental competence. This is a great read. Thank you.
    Thank you for your comments. From what little I have heard about Rumpole, I imagine you are right in saying he would have enjoyed himself in Judge Wimple’s court. More unusual barristers coming up. Courtjester
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  8. #8

    Flushed Out


    It was the second week of May, with the first test match only a month away. The initial neighbourhood spring attack on gardens and house exteriors had been carried out and the toilers had temporarily retreated to nurse their ailments. They would soon be at it again, but the respite pleased Judge Embert Wimple, who had survived yet another winter and for a man well past eighty was as sprightly as could be expected.

    Mrs Wimple, who had taken up oil painting, was away from base, having sought kindred souls in St Ives. She was in high spirits, having sold her latest canvas for £80, a quantum leap from the £25 each she had received for her first three efforts, offered al fresco at a local shopping precinct. Her absence left the judge to cope with the housekeeper, a position that formerly would have been tiresome. However, during his wife’s last jaunt, Embert Wimple had taken issue with the domestic dragon, reminding her of who paid the bills. As a result of the encounter, the two had reached an understanding that had previously eluded them.

    There was no let-up in the judge’s court schedule. Considering the demands on his services, he might almost have continued in full-time employment. He had intended to enjoy his day’s work, but noted that he was dealing with another matter concerning what seemed to be domestic violence. Usually, these affairs were sordid and uninteresting, but Judge Wimple lived in hope that one of the few meaty ones might turn up at some point. The case was Bakewell versus Stafford, the allegation being that the defendant was guilty of physical violence and was responsible for consequent mental distress. Appearing for the plaintiff, Brenda Bakewell, was the veteran William Weatherley, acting in what would prove to be his last case before retirement. The defendant, Anthony Stafford, had engaged one of the few local female barristers, Arabella Bray, who was making her first appearance before Judge Wimple.

    Having ingested what was necessary, the judge took a moment to look at the litigants. The plaintiff was a tall bulky tough-looking woman, dressed in blue jeans, a matching denim jacket and a mid-grey pullover. A large bunch of keys dangled from her right hip. The defendant was a small, dapper-looking, moustachioed and goatee-bearded man, wearing a smart navy-blue suit, white shirt and what looked like a regimental tie. His honour, who was disposed to maintain a light touch, addressed the learned Weatherley. “Time to get ball rolling, Mr Weathervane.”

    Prosecuting counsel was not in the least discommoded. “Thank you, Your Honour. The incident with which we are concerned occurred in my client’s house on the twenty-fourth of January this year. Perhaps it would be helpful if I were to state that my client, Mrs Bakewell, had earlier been married for nine years to the defendant. Notwithstanding the matrimonial breakdown and Mrs Bakewell’s subsequent second marriage, the two parties here were in frequent contact. Mr Stafford was in the habit of visiting the Bakewells each Saturday evening to play cards. On the occasion in question, two other gentlemen had also been invited, so there were five players. The game was standard draw poker. Here, I would request indulgence, as a description of the game might be helpful.”

    The judge nodded. “By all means. We may sometimes have too little information, but cannot have too much. Please proceed.”

    “Your Honour is most gracious. We speak of a game of combined skill and chance, in which five cards are distributed face down to each participant, the dealer included. Players are allowed to keep their original cards, or if they so wish, to discard any or all of them. As the game proceeds, bets are made into a central pool, on an increasing scale, the wagers normally, though not necessarily, representing the strength of the various hands. Some players may wish to drop out, either initially, or as betting continues. For example, where five players are concerned, which as I have said was the case on the occasion we are considering, it is not unusual for only two players to remain at the end, both convinced that they have the superior hand, or that they can bluff the opponent into thinking so.”

    “And bluffing is legitimate, is it?”

    “Yes. I believe many a game has been won that way. As to ranking, there is the totally nondescript hand, on which, generally speaking, no player would make a bet. Then there is a progression. First, a pair, that is two cards of the same value, for example two threes. Then two pairs . . .”

    “Dead man’s hand,” said the judge.

    “Your Honour?” Weatherley queried.

    The judge’s eyes twinkled. “I know very little of poker, Mr Westerman, but I believe that the late Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back in a Deadwood City saloon, while holding a hand of two pairs. I think there was some question as to whether he had eights and aces, or eights and jacks. No doubt someone will make a lifetime’s study of this, if that has not already been done. However, I fear I halted your discourse. Please go on.”

    “I am obliged to Your Honour for the information. I was about to say that the ranking proceeds to three of a kind, which is three cards of the same value. After that, there is the straight, which means five cards of consecutive values, irrespective of suit. Then a flush, which is five cards of the same suit, irrespective of values. Beyond these, there is a full house, which is three cards of the same value, plus a pair of another value. Then there is four of a kind, which means four cards of the same value. Finally, outranking all others, there is the straight flush, which means five cards of the same suit, in consecutive values. It follows that the best hand is the highest straight flush, called a royal flush, headed by an ace. Thus, a royal flush is ace, king, queen, jack and ten of the same suit.”

    The judge nodded. “I understand. Presumably the hands are in accordance with calculated odds?”

    “Exactly, Your Honour. This was the catalyst in the case here. The chances of improving a given hand are known, but are of no relevance to us. The important point is the one relating to the initial distribution. Now, the chances against any player receiving five specific cards, for example a royal flush in spades, from a pack of fifty-two are over two-and-a-half million to one. Obviously, any player hopes to get such a hand. Since there are four suits, the odds fall accordingly, but are still nearly six hundred and fifty thousand to one against. In this case, there had been the usual rounds of discarding and bidding. My client had initially been dealt two pairs and had improved her hand to a full house. She reasonably supposed that she would win the pot, as only four of a kind or a straight flush would prevail over her cards. The other three players had dropped out, leaving only Mrs Bakewell and the defendant, who was also the dealer at the time in question. My client recalled that Mr Stafford had kept his original cards. In the . . . er . . . final showdown, it turned out that Mr Stafford had a royal flush and won the pot. Mrs Bakewell was staggered at this outcome, reasoning that it was unthinkable that the defendant had legitimately dealt himself a hand which so confounded the odds. She recalled from their marriage that Mr Stafford had spent much time studying card play and –”

    “Erdnase wasn’t in it.” This came from the plaintiff. Weatherley turned to suppress her outburst, but she had no further observations.

    “Erdnase,” said the judge. “What is that?”

    “Not a what, Your Honour, a who,” Weatherly replied. S. W. Erdnase produced a book in, I understand, 1902. The author’s true identity is not known, though it is often supposed that he was a certain E. S. Andrews, well known at the time for his dexterity with cards. It was, and perhaps still is, believed by some people that he wrote under a pseudonym, as the writer’s initials and name are simply the letters of E. S. Andrews in reverse order. The volume concerned has long been regarded as a textbook on card manipulation. Mrs Bakewell had noted during her marriage to the defendant that he had a copy of the book, to which he referred frequently. She had suspected that her husband cheated at poker but until the evening we are discussing, had never caught him out.”

    “And on that occasion she did?”

    “Such is her contention, Your Honour. In her view it was unbelievable that a player could deal himself a royal flush by fair means. It was tantamount to stealing the pot.”

    “And what was the amount involved?”

    “The stakes were modest, as is usual in these friendly games. The total was just over four pounds.”

    “Hmn. Not likely to excite anyone in Las Vegas. Carry on.”

    “A fierce disagreement broke out, which was ended when the defendant attacked my client, striking her a vicious blow to the forehead.”

    “Resorted to fisticuffs, did he?”

    “No, Your Honour. He hit her with a melon.”

    “My goodness. Well, since it does not normally have edges, I suppose a melon would qualify as the proverbial blunt instrument, though it may not be the first one to come to the mind of a would-be assailant.”

    “One might say that it came to hand as much as to mind. It was in a bowl on the nearby sideboard.”

    “I see. Was it a honeydew, a cantaloupe, or a watermelon? I think we should know.”

    Weatherley overcame his bafflement, muttering with his client. “It was a honeydew melon, Your Honour. In fact, Mrs Bakewell had been so struck . . . beg pardon . . . impressed by the item that she had earlier weighed it, finding that it scaled over five pounds.”

    “Indeed,” said the judge. “A fearsome weapon if skilfully handled.” He was recalling an incident during his RAF service, when a medicine ball had flattened him while he was distracted by a butterfly during a physical training exercise.

    “Quite so. Mrs Bakewell fell, the back of her head hitting a door. She was shocked, disorientated, almost certainly concussed and I hardly need say, greatly distressed. She has a particularly delicate constitution.”

    “I understand,” said the judge. He glanced at the litigants, noting the defendant’s diminutive stature and comparing it with that of the five-foot-ten, fourteen-stone plaintiff, whose face might have been hewn from granite. Delicate?

    “Thank you, Mr Weathercock. I think we should now hear what the defence has to say. Ms Gray?”

    A close one. Arabella Bray, who had been briefed about the judge’s attitude to names, was pleased. Was it gentlemanly deference? “May it please Your Honour, we have heard of my client’s supposed misdeeds. With regard to one of them, he was at fault and I shall return to that. As to the matter of his defeating phenomenal odds in the game, he did so and that was all there was to it. We might invoke the adage that if one is unlucky in love, one may well be lucky at cards. Perhaps Mr Stafford exemplifies this, since his marriage was terminated. He makes no apology – nor should he – for the fact that fortune smiled on him at the poker table. We submit that no explanation is necessary.”

    “Very well, Ms Straikes,” Bray wondered where that one came from, “I imagine you have further comments?”

    “Yes, Your Honour. I think it was Rochefoucauld who said that arguments would not last long if the fault were on only one side. This is a case in point. It is true that my client assaulted the plaintiff with a melon. However, the prosecution said nothing about the provocation, which was extreme and, but for Mr Stafford’s sense of chivalry, would have led to a counter-charge.”

    The judge reproved himself for thinking that he had been called upon to deal with a mundane matter. It was really quite interesting. “What was the nature of this provocation?” he asked.

    “Fiery, Your Honour. When the outcome of the game was known, there was a heated exchange between the two parties. Having, as she saw it, been bested verbally, the plaintiff rushed into the kitchen. A moment later she returned, carrying a box of matches and a can of lighter fluid. She sprayed the liquid onto my client’s beard, then ignited it. I am sure I need not comment on the ensuing distress, save to say that the potentially life-threatening predicament was alleviated when one of the parties present emptied a can of lager over Mr Stafford’s face, extinguishing the flames. It was only then that my client retaliated in the way described by my learned colleague. This is the basis for our submission, which is that all would have been well, but for the plaintiff’s unreasonable behaviour.”

    “Thank you, Ms Patel.” Patel? The judge may well have been on form, but he was certainly off-colour. In fact, his mind had drifted to a local cricket match he had heard of, in which half the players had borne the name he had in mind. Hard work for the scorers, Embert Wimple had thought. “Now, if that is all, I need to retire, as there are enquiries to be made.” This was usually a bad sign for someone. “We shall reconvene at two-thirty.”

    When the parties reassembled, the judge was in jovial mood. He offered a slight nod and a smile of matching wattage to all present, before delivering his verdict. “During the recess, I have checked that the odds in poker are as stated this morning. I am satisfied that the respective arguments have been clearly presented. I am also persuaded that this is yet another matter which could have been settled by sensible discussion – and I wonder why this obvious course is not taken more often. I must say that I never before heard of an assault by melon, or any other fruit or vegetable. As to the attack upon the defendant, I had thought that such things had died out with Sir Francis Drake, who, albeit allegorically, singed the King of Spain’s beard four centuries ago. As to Mr Stafford’s defeating such long odds, we shall never know, but I recall the no doubt fancifully named ‘law’, elucidated I believe by a Scotsman, under which the apparent million-to-one chance occurs with baffling frequency. It is the sort of thing one encounters when, say, walking along a country lane. One may do so for an hour without hindrance, but when one wishes to cross a narrow bridge, two large vehicles appear from opposite directions at the same instant. In this case, I find it impossible to favour either party, so am bound to dismiss the charge. Proceedings concluded.”

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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  9. #9
    Honoured/Sadly Missed The Backward OX's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Up the Creek without a paddle, Queensland, Australia

    Just my tuppence ha'penny worth

    I haven't read your second offering yet - I'm already late for breakfast - but felt inclined to say this anyway. "New Posts" is not an infallible guide. Some people simply scroll down the Menu page, or whatever it's called - I know I do - and there's no indication - regarding a thread they know they've previously dipped into - that new work as such has been posted. You would possibly probably obtain more readers if each story had its own thread.
    Last edited by The Backward OX; January 19th, 2012 at 12:21 AM.

  10. #10
    I nearly passed this one up for that reason. Presumably there is more, and I am in full accord with the recommendation of my learned colleague.
    El día ha sido bueno. La noche será larga.

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