FALDER leaves the dock; goes into the witness-box, and is duly
FROME. What is your name?
FALDER. William Falder.
FROME. And age?
FROME. You are not married?
FALDER shakes his head
FROME. How long have you known the last witness?
FALDER. Six months.
FROME. Is her account of the relationship between you a correct one?
FROME. You became devotedly attached to her, however?
THE JUDGE. Though you knew she was a married woman?
FALDER. I couldn't help it, your lordship.
THE JUDGE. Couldn't help it?
FALDER. I didn't seem able to.
The JUDGE slightly shrugs his shoulders.
FROME. How did you come to know her?
FALDER. Through my married sister.
FROME. Did you know whether she was happy with her husband?
FALDER. It was trouble all the time.
FROME. You knew her husband?
FALDER. Only through her--he's a brute.
THE JUDGE. I can't allow indiscriminate abuse of a person not
FROME. [Bowing] If your lordship pleases. [To FALDER] You admit
altering this cheque?
FALDER bows his head.
FROME. Carry your mind, please, to the morning of Friday, July the
7th, and tell the jury what happened.
FALDER. [Turning to the jury] I was having my breakfast when she
came. Her dress was all torn, and she was gasping and couldn't seem
to get her breath at all; there were the marks of his fingers round
her throat; her arm was bruised, and the blood had got into her eyes
dreadfully. It frightened me, and then when she told me, I felt--I
felt--well--it was too much for me! [Hardening suddenly] If you'd
seen it, having the feelings for her that I had, you'd have felt the
same, I know.
FALDER. When she left me--because I had to go to the office--I was
out of my senses for fear that he'd do it again, and thinking what I
could do. I couldn't work--all the morning I was like that--simply
couldn't fix my mind on anything. I couldn't think at all. I seemed
to have to keep moving. When Davis--the other clerk--gave me the
cheque--he said: "It'll do you good, Will, to have a run with this.
You seem half off your chump this morning." Then when I had it in my
hand--I don't know how it came, but it just flashed across me that if
I put the 'ty' and the nought there would be the money to get her
away. It just came and went--I never thought of it again. Then
Davis went out to his luncheon, and I don't really remember what I
did till I'd pushed the cheque through to the cashier under the rail.
I remember his saying "Gold or notes?" Then I suppose I knew what
I'd done. Anyway, when I got outside I wanted to chuck myself under
a bus; I wanted to throw the money away; but it seemed I was in for
it, so I thought at any rate I'd save her. Of course the tickets I
took for the passage and the little I gave her's been wasted, and
all, except what I was obliged to spend myself, I've restored. I
keep thinking over and over however it was I came to do it, and how I
can't have it all again to do differently!
FALDER is silent, twisting his hands before him.
FROME. How far is it from your office to the bank?
FALDER. Not more than fifty yards, sir.
FROME. From the time Davis went out to lunch to the time you cashed
the cheque, how long do you say it must have been?
FALDER. It couldn't have been four minutes, sir, because I ran all
FROME. During those four minutes you say you remember nothing?
FALDER. No, sir; only that I ran.
FROME. Not even adding the 'ty' and the nought?'
FALDER. No, sir. I don't really.
FROME sits down, and CLEAVER rises.
CLEAVER. But you remember running, do you?
FALDER. I was all out of breath when I got to the bank.
CLEAVER. And you don't remember altering the cheque?
FALDER. [Faintly] No, sir.
CLEAVER. Divested of the romantic glamour which my friend is casting
over the case, is this anything but an ordinary forgery? Come.
FALDER. I was half frantic all that morning, sir.
CLEAVER. Now, now! You don't deny that the 'ty' and the nought were
so like the rest of the handwriting as to thoroughly deceive the
FALDER. It was an accident.
CLEAVER. [Cheerfully] Queer sort of accident, wasn't it? On which
day did you alter the counterfoil?
FALDER. [Hanging his head] On the Wednesday morning.
CLEAVER. Was that an accident too?
FALDER. [Faintly] No.
CLEAVER. To do that you had to watch your opportunity, I suppose?
FALDER. [Almost inaudibly] Yes.
CLEAVER. You don't suggest that you were suffering under great
excitement when you did that?
FALDER. I was haunted.
CLEAVER. With the fear of being found out?
FALDER. [Very low] Yes.
THE JUDGE. Didn't it occur to you that the only thing for you to do
was to confess to your employers, and restore the money?
FALDER. I was afraid. [There is silence]
CLEAVER. You desired, too, no doubt, to complete your design of
taking this woman away?
FALDER. When I found I'd done a thing like that, to do it for
nothing seemed so dreadful. I might just as well have chucked myself
into the river.
CLEAVER. You knew that the clerk Davis was about to leave England
--didn't it occur to you when you altered this cheque that suspicion
would fall on him?
FALDER. It was all done in a moment. I thought of it afterwards.
CLEAVER. And that didn't lead you to avow what you'd done?
FALDER. [Sullenly] I meant to write when I got out there--I would
have repaid the money.
THE JUDGE. But in the meantime your innocent fellow clerk might have
FALDER. I knew he was a long way off, your lordship. I thought
there'd be time. I didn't think they'd find it out so soon.
FROME. I might remind your lordship that as Mr. Walter How had the
cheque-book in his pocket till after Davis had sailed, if the
discovery had been made only one day later Falder himself would have
left, and suspicion would have attached to him, and not to Davis,
from the beginning.
THE JUDGE. The question is whether the prisoner knew that suspicion
would light on himself, and not on Davis. [To FALDER sharply] Did
you know that Mr. Walter How had the cheque-book till after Davis
THE JUDGE. Now speak the truth-yes or no!
FALDER. [Very low] No, my lord. I had no means of knowing.
THE JUDGE. That disposes of your point, Mr. Frome.
[FROME bows to the JUDGE]
CLEAVER. Has any aberration of this nature ever attacked you before?
FALDER. [Faintly] No, sir.
CLEAVER. You had recovered sufficiently to go back to your work that
FALDER. Yes, I had to take the money back.
CLEAVER. You mean the nine pounds. Your wits were sufficiently keen
for you to remember that? And you still persist in saying you don't
remember altering this cheque. [He sits down]
FALDER. If I hadn't been mad I should never have had the courage.
FROME. [Rising] Did you have your lunch before going back?
FALDER. I never ate a thing all day; and at night I couldn't sleep.
FROME. Now, as to the four minutes that elapsed between Davis's
going out and your cashing the cheque: do you say that you recollect
nothing during those four minutes?
FALDER. [After a moment] I remember thinking of Mr. Cokeson's face.
FROME. Of Mr. Cokeson's face! Had that any connection with what you
FALDER. No, Sir.
FROME. Was that in the office, before you ran out?
FALDER. Yes, and while I was running.
FROME. And that lasted till the cashier said: "Will you have gold or
FALDER. Yes, and then I seemed to come to myself--and it was too
FROME. Thank you. That closes the evidence for the defence, my
The JUDGE nods, and FALDER goes back to his seat in the dock.
FROME. [Gathering up notes] If it please your lordship--Gentlemen
of the Jury,--My friend in cross-examination has shown a disposition
to sneer at the defence which has been set up in this case, and I am
free to admit that nothing I can say will move you, if the evidence
has not already convinced you that the prisoner committed this act in
a moment when to all practical intents and purposes he was not
responsible for his actions; a moment of such mental and moral
vacuity, arising from the violent emotional agitation under which he
had been suffering, as to amount to temporary madness. My friend has
alluded to the "romantic glamour" with which I have sought to invest
this case. Gentlemen, I have done nothing of the kind. I have
merely shown you the background of "life"--that palpitating life
which, believe me--whatever my friend may say--always lies behind the
commission of a crime. Now gentlemen, we live in a highly, civilized
age, and the sight of brutal violence disturbs us in a very strange
way, even when we have no personal interest in the matter. But when
we see it inflicted on a woman whom we love--what then? Just think
of what your own feelings would have been, each of you, at the
prisoner's age; and then look at him. Well! he is hardly the
comfortable, shall we say bucolic, person likely to contemplate with
equanimity marks of gross violence on a woman to whom he was
devotedly attached. Yes, gentlemen, look at him! He has not a
strong face; but neither has he a vicious face. He is just the sort
of man who would easily become the prey of his emotions. You have
heard the description of his eyes. My friend may laugh at the word
"funny"--I think it better describes the peculiar uncanny look of
those who are strained to breaking-point than any other word which
could have been used. I don't pretend, mind Vou, that his mental
irresponsibility--was more than a flash of darkness, in which all
sense of proportion became lost; but to contend, that, just as a man
who destroys himself at such a moment may be, and often is, absolved
from the stigma attaching to the crime of self-murder, so he may, and
frequently does, commit other crimes while in this irresponsible
condition, and that he may as justly be acquitted of criminal intent
and treated as a patient. I admit that this is a plea which might
well be abused. It is a matter for discretion. But here you have a
case in which there is every reason to give the benefit of the doubt.
You heard me ask the prisoner what he thought of during those four
fatal minutes. What was his answer? "I thought of Mr. Cokeson's
face!" Gentlemen, no man could invent an answer like that; it is
absolutely stamped with truth. You have seen the great affection
[legitimate or not] existing between him and this woman, who came
here to give evidence for him at the risk of her life. It is
impossible for you to doubt his distress on the morning when he
committed this act. We well know what terrible havoc such distress
can make in weak and highly nervous people. It was all the work of a
moment. The rest has followed, as death follows a stab to the heart,
or water drops if you hold up a jug to empty it. Believe me,
gentlemen, there is nothing more tragic in life than the utter
impossibility of changing what you have done. Once this cheque was
altered and presented, the work of four minutes--four mad minutes
--the rest has been silence. But in those four minutes the boy
before you has slipped through a door, hardly opened, into that great
cage which never again quite lets a man go--the cage of the Law. His
further acts, his failure to confess, the alteration of the
counterfoil, his preparations for flight, are all evidence--not of
deliberate and guilty intention when he committed the prime act from
which these subsequent acts arose; no--they are merely evidence of
the weak character which is clearly enough his misfortune. But is a
man to be lost because he is bred and born with a weak character?
Gentlemen, men like the prisoner are destroyed daily under our law
for want of that human insight which sees them as they are, patients,
and not criminals. If the prisoner be found guilty, and treated as
though he were a criminal type, he will, as all experience shows, in
all probability become one. I beg you not to return a verdict that
may thrust him back into prison and brand him for ever. Gentlemen,
Justice is a machine that, when some one has once given it the
starting push, rolls on of itself. Is this young man to be ground to
pieces under this machine for an act which at the worst was one of
weakness? Is he to become a member of the luckless crews that man
those dark, ill-starred ships called prisons? Is that to be his
voyage-from which so few return? Or is he to have another chance, to
be still looked on as one who has gone a little astray, but who will
come back? I urge you, gentlemen, do not ruin this young man! For,
as a result of those four minutes, ruin, utter and irretrievable,
stares him in the face. He can be saved now. Imprison him as a
criminal, and I affirm to you that he will be lost. He has neither
the face nor the manner of one who can survive that terrible ordeal.
Weigh in the scales his criminality and the suffering he has
undergone. The latter is ten times heavier already. He has lain in
prison under this charge for more than two months. Is he likely ever
to forget that? Imagine the anguish of his mind during that time.
He has had his punishment, gentlemen, you may depend. The rolling of
the chariot-wheels of Justice over this boy began when it was decided
to prosecute him. We are now already at the second stage. If you
permit it to go on to the third I would not give--that for him.