Monday, November 19, 2012

Mock Hen and Mock Turtle - Arthur Train

Theme: Queen’s Quorum Titles
Story: Mock Hen and Mock Turtle
Author: Arthur Train
Source: Tutt and Mr. Tutt
An interesting title to be included in the Queen’s Quorum – it has 7 stories featuring the gentlemanly legal sharpshooter Mr. Ephraim Tutt and his assistant Tutt (no relation to his employer) – none featuring any detection. I would suspect that it justifies its inclusion on three factors: stories featuring legal legerdemain with nimble-witted humor, the popularity of Tutt stories with the American public and it’s academic relevancy as pointed out by Ellery Queen: ‘It is interesting to note that in a list of books prepared by a committee of the faculty of Harvard Law School for prospective law students – “books which will help them decide about the desirability of entering the legal profession or which will be of value in preparation for the study of law” – the tales of Tutt are included as “an entertaining collection of short stories showing the great variety of questions which may confront a practicing lawyer and the chances for ingenuity” – an academic acceptance seldom bestowed on fictional ferrets!’
Mock Hen and Mock Turtle is one of the most humorous stories that I’ve ever read – farce at its supreme best! Mock Hen has been selected as the man who will kill a rival Chinese gang member for taking out one of their own gang members. Mock Hen is caught red handed at the scene of the murder and the gang lord entrusts the defense of his fellowman to Mr. Tutt. What follows is one of the most comical and most probably the longest trial in the history of fiction!
Mr. Tutt declares in his opening statement to the Judge that it would take six weeks for the trail to complete because of the complexities involved in trying a Chinaman. First problem to crop up is in picking the jury – no one believes that it is a good idea to try a Chinaman in a court of law for murder; they all think that it should be settled in their own historic and traditional way and no one accepts to convict him even if the evidence clearly shows that he is guilty. They somehow get a 12 member jury at the end of 19 days! Next comes the problem of an interpreter. The prosecution appoints one, the defense appoints one and finally the Judge appoints one to arbitrate the other two. Next is the problem of swearing in the witness – on what basis can the man’s oath be considered sacred? The Chinaman finally reveals that the oath would be sacred only if it is over the head of a white rooster! And so the story goes on……, the trail lasting for 69 days…. to a fitting climax!

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