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Authors: John Mortimer

Rumpole Rests His Case

Table of Contents
 
 
Praise for
Rumpole Rests His Case
and John Mortimer
 
“Mortimer remains in top form here.”
—
Boston Herald
 
 
“For the uninitiated and the cognoscenti alike, these stories are a delight.”
—
Newark Star-Ledger
 
“It's always a relief to pick up a
Rumpole
... because you're guaranteed impeccable language, well-constructed plots and gentle humor.”
— The Miami Herald
 
 
“Mortimer proves his wit is as sharp as ever; he and his hero deserve a hearty welcome back.”
—
Publishers Weekly
(starred)
 
 
“Rumpole Rests His Case
is topical, insightful and a bona-fide laugh riot.”
-Bookpage
PENGUIN BOOKS
RUMPOLE RESTS HIS CASE
 
 
John Mortimer is the author of three Rumpole novels and thirteen Rumpole collections, many of which formed the basis for the PBS TV series
Rumpole of the Bailey.
His work also includes many novels and plays and three acclaimed volumes of autobiography. A former barrister, Mortimer, who was knighted in 1998, lived in Oxfordshire, England. He died in January of 2009.
By the Same Author
Charade
Rumming Park
Answer Yes or No
Like Men Betrayed
Three Winters
The Narrowing Stream
Will Shakespeare (An Entertainment)
Paradise Postponed
Summer's Lease
Titmuss Regained
Dunster
Felix in the Underworld
The Sound of Trumpets
 
Rumpole of the Bailey
The Trials of Rumpole
Rumpole for the Defence
Rumpole's Return
Rumpole and the Golden Thread
Rumpole's Last Case
Rumpole and the Age of Miracles
Rumpole a la Carte
Rumpole on Trial
The Best of Rumpole
Rumpole and the Angel of Death
 
Under the Hammer
 
With Love and Lizards (with Penelope Mortimer)
 
Clinging to the Wreckage
Murderers and Other Friends
The Summer of a Dormouse
 
In Character
Character Parts
 
A Voyage Round My Father
The Dock Brief
What Shall We Tell Caroline?
The Wrong Side of the Park
Two Stars for Comfort
The Judge
Collaborators
Edwin, Bermondsey, Marble
 
Arch, Fear of Heaven
The Prince of Darkness
PENGUIN BOOKS
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
 
First published in Great Britain by Penguin Books Ltd 2001 I
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Putnam Inc., 2002
Published in Penguin Books (U.S.A.) 2003
 
 
Copyright © Advanpress Ltd, 2001
All rights reserved
 
Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint an excerpt from “Leda and the Swan” from The
Collected Works of W.
B.
Yeats: Volume
I, revised, edited by Richard J. Finneran. Copyright © 1928 by The Macmillan Company, copyright renewed 1956 by Georgie Yeats. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group.
 
PUBLISHER'S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
 
eISBN : 978-1-101-12705-6
1. Rumpole, Horace (Fictitious character) — Fiction. 2. Detective and mystery stories,
English. 3. London (England) — Fiction. 4. Legal stories, English. I. Title.
PR6025.07552 R83 2002
823'.914 — dc21 2002019046
 
 
 
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For Ann Mallalieu and Tim Cassel
Rumpole and the Old
Familiar Faces
In the varied ups and downs, the thrills and spills in the life of an Old Bailey hack, one thing stands as stone. Your ex-customers will never want to see you again. Even if you've steered them through the rocks of the prosecution case and brought them out to the calm waters of a not-guilty verdict, they won't plan further meetings, host reunion dinners or even send you a card on your birthday. If they catch a glimpse of you on the Underground, or across a crowded wine bar, they will bury their faces in their newspapers or look studiously in the opposite direction.
This is understandable. Days in Court probably represent a period of time they'd rather forget and, as a rule, I'm not especially keen to renew an old acquaintance when a face I once saw in the Old Bailey Dock reappears at a ‘Scales of Justice' dinner or the Inns of Court garden party. Reminiscences of the past are best avoided and what is required is a quick look and a quiet turn away. There have been times, however, when recognizing a face seen in trouble has greatly assisted me in the solution of some legal problem, and carried me to triumph in a difficult case. Such occasions have been rare, but like number thirteen buses, two of them turned up in short order round a Christmas which I remember as being one of the oddest, but certainly the most rewarding, I ever spent.
 
‘A traditional British pantomime. There's nothing to beat it!'
‘You go to the pantomime, Rumpole?' Claude Erskine-Brown asked with unexpected interest.
‘I did when I was a boy. It made a lasting impression on me.'
‘Pantomime?' The American Judge who was our fellow guest round the Erskine-Brown dinner table was clearly a stranger to such delights. ‘Is that some kind of mime show? Lot of feeling imaginary walls and no one saying anything?'
‘Not at all. You take some good old story, like Robin Hood.'
‘Robin Hood's the star?'
‘Well, yes. He's played by some strapping girl who slaps her thighs and says lines like “Cheer up, Babes in the Wood, Robin's not far away”.'
‘You mean there's cross-dressing?' The American visitor was puzzled.
‘Well, if you want to call it that. And Robin's mother is played by a red-nosed comic.'
‘A female comic?'
‘No. A male one.'
‘It sounds sexually interesting. We have clubs for that sort of thing in Pittsburgh.'
‘There's nothing sexual about it,' I assured him. ‘The dame's a comic character who gets the audience singing.'
‘Singing?'
‘The words come down on a sort of giant song-sheet,' I explained. ‘And she, who is really a he, gets the audience to sing along.'
Emboldened by Erskine-Brown's claret (smoother on the tongue but with less of a kick than Château Thames Embankment), I broke into a stanza of the song I was introduced to by Robin Hood's masculine mother.
‘I may be just a nipper,
But I've always loved a kipper...
And so does my loving wife.
If you've got a girl just slip her
A loving golden kipper
And she'll be yours for life.'
‘Is that all?' The transatlantic Judge still seemed puzzled.
‘All I can remember.'
‘I think you're wrong, Mr Rumpole.'
‘What?'
‘I think you're wrong and those lines do indeed have some sexual significance.' And the Judge fell silent, contemplating the unusual acts suggested.
‘I see they're doing
Aladdin
at the Tufnell Park Empire. Do you think the twins might enjoy it, Rumpole?'
The speaker was Mrs Justice Erskine-Brown (Phillida Trant as she was in happier days when I called her the Portia of our Chambers), still possessed of a beauty that would break the hearts of the toughest prosecutors and make old lags swoon with lust even as she passed a stiff custodial sentence. The twins she spoke of were Tristan and Isolde, so named by her opera-loving husband Claude, who was now bending Hilda's ear on the subject of Covent Garden's latest Ring cycle.
‘I think the twins would adore it. Just the thing to cure the Wagnerian death-wish and bring them into a world of sanity.'
‘Sanity?' The visiting Judge sounded doubtful. ‘With old guys dressed up as mothers?'
‘I promise you, they'll love every minute of it.' And then I made another promise that sounded rash even as I spoke the words. ‘I know I would. I'll take them myself.'
‘Thank you, Rumpole.' Phillida spoke in her gentlest judicial voice, but I knew my fate was sealed. ‘We'll keep you to that.'
‘It'll have to be after Christmas,' Hilda said. ‘We've been invited up to Norfolk for the holiday.'
As she said the word ‘Norfolk', a cold, sneeping wind seemed to cut through the central heating of the Erskine-Browns' Islington dining-room and I felt a warning shiver.
 
I have no rooted objection to Christmas Day, but I must say it's an occasion when time tends to hang particularly heavily on the hands. From the early-morning alarm call of carols piping on Radio Four to the closing headlines and a restless, liverish sleep, the day can seem as long as a fraud on the Post Office tried before Mr Injustice Graves.
It takes less than no time for me to unwrap the tie which I will seldom wear, and for Hilda to receive the annual bottle of lavender water which she lays down rather than puts to immediate use. The highlights after that are the Queen's speech, when I lay bets with myself as to whether Hilda will stand to attention when the television plays the National Anthem, and the thawed-out Safeway's bird followed by port (an annual gift from my faithful solicitor, Bonny Bernard) and pudding. I suppose what I have against Christmas Day is that the Courts are all shut and no one is being tried for anything.

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