Punch, September 14, 1904


act two.

We left our hero, it will be remembered, in the hands of the Law, charged on his own confession with stealing a yard of calico. The Second Act reveals the interior of the Court. Chorus of jurymen, who open the Act (here I acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Kipling) with:

We used to be butchers and bakers once,
Tinkers and candlestick-makers once,
Soldiers and sailors and tailors once,
    And now we are Jury.

Having obtained silence by saying that he will not have his Court turned into a theatre, the Judge requests counsel for the prosecution to open the case for the Crown.

The case proceeds. Counsel for prosecution calls heroine, and sings song:

My most important witness see;
 And glean from her a notion
Of how the sex in times of stress
 Is subject to emotion:
Distraught with nervousness and grief,
 Her looks suggest the Mœnad.
She watched the movements of the thief,
 And that’s why she’s sub-pœna’d.

This lovely but ill-treated maid
 (Salt tears I see you dropping)
Set out one morn in her barouche
 To do a little shopping.
Referring quickly to my brief,
 I find, as I suspected,
A cambric pocket-handkerchief
 Was what the maid selected.

But, as she moved towards the door
 (These facts are well attested),
On charge of stealing calico
 She found herself arrested.
Of evidence I hold a sheaf,
 To prove that, somewhat later,
The villain Plopp, to her relief,
 Confessed himself the traitor.

Counsel for the defence says he has no wish to cross-examine, and the jury, without leaving the box, find Plopp guilty. The Judge sentences him to penal servitude for life, and he is about to be led away, when heroine rises in her place, and, with deep emotion, begins to sing:

Your ludship, ere this gentle youth
 Be haled to dungeon cell,
The truth, and nothing but the truth,
 The whole truth I will tell.
Ashamed of having sunk so low,
 To make amends I’ll try:
You ask who stole that calico?
 Your ludship, it was I.

[Sensation in Court.

My dear papa’s a millionaire,
 And does not stint his child:
What urged me, then, this crime to dare?
 Some impulse, sudden, wild.
These little hands were never made
 To pick and steal, I know:
Yet from the narrow path I strayed,
 And stole that calico.

And oh! there is another thing
 Which I must now confess,
With difficulty conquering
 My maiden bashfulness:
Though Mrs. Grundy might taboo
 The action, I don’t care;
Sir, Mr. Plopp, a word with you:
 I worship you. So there!

Plopp. Oh, rapture!

[They fly into each other’s arms.

The Judge (wiping away a not unmanly tear):

Although this scene, I don’t deny,
Provokes the sympathetic sigh,
Yet someone’s prigged what isn’t his’n,
So someone’s got to go to prison.
Which of the two I do not know,
But one or the other has got to go.

Counsel for the Defence:

Yes, so it would appear. But, stay
Your Ludship, I perceive a way.


The law which governs crimes
 Are subtler than men think ’em:
A deal depends in modern times
 Upon a party’s income,
And much, again, on whether he
Comes of a county family.

A pauper who is bad
 Must rue his error dearly;
And every law-infringing cad
 We punish most severely.
The Law (except to the elect)
Must needs be harsh to earn respect.

But should a millionaire
 Or scion of the peerage
Pursue the same illegal game,
 We soften our severe rage:
Crimes somehow do not seem so wrong,
Performed by one whose purse is long.

This lady, as we know,
 For she herself has owned it,
Marked down a piece of calico,
 And, speaking briefly, “boned” it.
Such acts are rarely known to fail
In leading to a stay in gaol.

But mark, this lovely girl,
 Whose charms, I own, bewitch one,
Is only daughter to an Earl,
 And (by the way) a rich one.
His Lordship’s fortune, so I hear,
Is twenty thousand pounds a year.

Such being her papa
 (So runs the law of Britain),
Not theft, but Kleptomania
 Must her offence be written.
And thus, it’s needless to explain,
She leaves the Court without a stain.

Huge applause in gallery. Judge blesses hero and heroine, and all present adjourn to the nearest church for the wedding. Curtain.

There, Mr. Punch, Sir, you have it. And if the Draper’s Record is not satisfied now, it ought to be.

I remain, Yours, &c.,    
Henry William-Jones.




Unsigned article and verse as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 127 of Punch.