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Brothers In Law

BOOK: Brothers In Law
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Brother's In Law


First published in 1955

© Estate Henry Cecil; House of Stratus 1955-2011


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.


The right of Henry Cecil to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.


This edition published in 2011 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.


Typeset by House of Stratus.


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.




This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author's imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.

About the Author


Judge Henry Cecil Leon was born in Norwood Green Rectory near London in 1902. In 1923 he was called to the Bar and from 1949 to 1967 he served as a County Court judge. He developed his writing skills whilst serving with the British Army during the Second World War, reputedly telling stories to officers to keep their minds off alcohol while sailing on ‘dry' ships. These formed the basis of his first collection,
Full Circle
, published in 1948. Thereafter, the legal year, his impressions at court, or at other official functions, as well as dinners at the Savoy Grill or at his club, the Garrick, all provided material for his considerable brain power.

He wrote during the three-week-long family holidays which were usually spent in comfortable hotels in Britain. He would sit in a deck chair in a sunny garden, exercise book on lap and pen in hand, writing from 10 am to 1pm, then again from 2.30 to 4 pm each day.

Cecil had an extraordinary ability to examine the law in both a humorous and a more serious, analytical way, providing a series of thought provoking works.

Many of his stories have been made into films or plays - notably ‘Brothers-in-Law' and ‘Alibi for a Judge'. These and other books have also provided a stimulus for those wishing to take up law as a career, although whilst dealing with the legal system they also have more than an element of the mystery/thriller genre about them. They are a delight for those who look for authenticity in the most aptly described British characters.

Cecil died in May 1976, still at the height of his mental powers.

Chapter One
Call to the Bar


‘George Smith is acquitted by the jury at Assizes of a criminal offence. “You are discharged,” the judge says to him, and then adds: “You were very lucky in your jury.” Mr Smith issues a writ against the judge claiming damages for slander. What are the first steps likely to be taken in Mr Smith's action after the service of the writ?'

Roger Thursby looked round the hall where he was about to answer this last question in his Bar Final Examination. He was fairly well satisfied with his answers to the other questions and he had done most of them quickly. So he had plenty of time for the last. He looked at the pictures of past eminent judges on the walls. Surely, he thought, no judge would behave like the one in the question. He saw sternness in some of the faces, but no trace of the meanness which seemed to him implicit in the remark made by the judge to the prisoner. The jury had acquitted the man. Presumed innocent even before the verdict, he could not be thought less so after he had been found Not Guilty. Yet, after his acquittal, the judge, merely to gratify his own personal feelings, had strongly suggested that he was guilty. And the prisoner could not hit back. Or could he? That was the question. Well, there was plenty of time to answer it. How nice it was to be at the end of all his examinations; Roger was not an over-confident young man, but he knew that he had done well enough to pass at any rate. And soon he would be a barrister. Only twenty-one and a barrister. It was a great thought. There were not many young men who could be called to the Bar today at the age of twenty-one. A distant cousin of his had been called on his twenty-first birthday. But that was long before the days of military service. Roger had had to do a lot of work, and to give up quite a good deal, to be called before he was twenty-two. But he'd done it in the end. He had eaten all his dinners and had been pleased that this curious and pleasant custom was still retained as an essential qualification for admission to the English Bar. It must have been nicer still in the old days, he thought, when association in the Inns of Court with men of law and dinners with them in the evening took the place of examinations. He had enjoyed the dinners, meeting all sorts of different young men and women in the process. He had liked the sometimes quaint procedure and had been rather proud to drink a toast from a loving cup to the ‘pious, glorious and immortal memory of Good Queen Bess'. And he had passed all his examinations, except this last, the Final. And now that was over, all but the last question. Well, the answer was simple enough.

‘The judge,' he wrote, ‘would, by the Treasury Solicitor, enter an appearance to the writ, possibly under protest, and would then apply to stay or dismiss the proceedings as an abuse of the process of the Court.' He paused and thought for a moment. Would it be too dangerous? Well, it wouldn't be fair to plough him for it. Here goes. And he wrote: ‘Although I think the judge's application would be successful, as anything said by a judge in Court, however unfair or ill-advised, must be absolutely privileged if it in any way relates to the proceedings, all the same I think that the words “abuse of the process of the Court” should have stuck in that judge's throat.'

‘I do hereby call you to the Bar and do publish you barrister.' The Treasurer of Roger's Inn had said the magic words and shaken hands with him, and Roger was a barrister. His optimism during the Final had been justified. Indeed, he had been placed in the first class, which he had not expected. And now here he was standing with the other newly called young men and women. The actual ceremony was finished and the Treasurer was about to deliver a short homily to them before they sat down to dinner, the first dinner he would eat in his Inn as a barrister. Possibly one day he would be doing what the Treasurer was doing. He'd better listen to what he was going to say.

‘Some years ago,' began the Treasurer, ‘more than I now like to think, I was called to the Bar by a most learned Master of the Bench of this Honourable Society. He spoke to us as I am now speaking to you. What he said was excellent, but I am bound to admit that there can be too much of an excellent thing – even, for example, of the admirable sherry with which this Honourable Society still provides us. Now I am not suggesting for one moment that the length of the address and the sherry had anything to do with one another – but the fact remains that he kept us standing – and waiting for our dinner – as you are now, for the best part of half an hour. Whether it was due to this I know not, but the custom of making this address thereafter fell into desuetude and has only just been revived. This brings me at once to the quality which I strongly commend to you as the second most important quality to be cultivated by you in your career. I will deal with the first in a moment. The second is brevity. Don't confuse quantity with quality. Say little and say it well. One might think that I was giving advice to a newly appointed judge, but it is almost as important for counsel to know when to hold his tongue as for a judge. But the first quality, without which no barrister ought to succeed, is a fearless integrity. That quality needs no explanation. Fearless integrity. You will nearly always know instinctively what is the right thing to do. Do it. Finally, I commend to you the quality of good fellowship – “strive mightily but eat and drink as friends”. Which seems to me to be a good note on which to end this address. I wish all of you the success you deserve; I feel sure you will have it and I hope that thought will not depress too many of you.'

And, after Grace had been said, judges, barristers and students sat down to dinner.

Chapter Two
The Beginning


‘For my next song,' said the baritone from abroad, ‘I have chosen a German one. I shall sing it in the original language but, to help you follow it, I will first give you a fairly literal translation. “In the woods the birds sing and the other animals make their personal noises. But I sit by the disused well and weep. Where there once was up-drip now there is down-drip.”'

‘Drip's the word,' whispered Roger to Sally. ‘Can't we slip out before he makes
personal noises?'

‘Be quiet,' said Sally.

He had to endure that song and the next, which was called – Roger thought most reasonably – “Torment”, and then he managed to persuade Sally to leave.

‘It really is too bad,' he said when they were safely outside the hall. ‘We're supposed to be celebrating my “call” and you have to drag me there. Anyway, we're out now. Let's
and celebrate. I can do with some down-drip.'

‘We've missed mother,' said Sally.

‘Was she going to sing too?'

‘You don't imagine I'd have made you come otherwise. I told you about it.'

‘I believe you did, now I come to think of it – but my mind's been so full up with my “call” that I haven't been taking in much else. Have we really missed your mother?'

‘Don't sound so pleased. She hasn't a bad voice at all.'

‘I'm sure it's lovely. Like you are. But, oh, Sally, I can't think of anything except that I'm a barrister, a real live one. I've been one for twenty-four hours. I could defend you for murder or shoplifting. I could get you a divorce or appear at your inquest. Am I being very silly? Anyway,' he went on, without giving Sally a chance to answer, ‘I haven't talked about it all the time. I did ask you to marry me, didn't I?'

‘In a sort of way, I suppose – in the intervals.'

‘Why did you say “no”?'

‘It wasn't a definite “no”.'

‘It wasn't a definite “yes”.'

‘I suppose you'll be wanting everything “yes” or “no” now. You lawyers! Let me tell you one thing. You'll have to keep your law for the Courts. I'm not just going to be black or white. I'll be grey when I please.'

‘I love you in grey. What'll you wear when you come to hear my first case?'

‘First catch your fish,' said Sally. ‘Besides,' she added, ‘you said you'd thought of asking Joyce to marry you.'

‘That was an alternative. Not both at the same time.'

‘Look,' said Sally. ‘You keep your beautiful legal mind for your unfortunate clients – if you get any.'

‘I'm sorry, Sally. I didn't mean to be flippant – at least – I did. I am sorry, Sally. I don't know what to say. D'you think I'll ever grow up?'

‘Well, twenty-one isn't all that old. Come on, cheer up. Now we
go and celebrate. I didn't mean to be beastly.'

A few minutes later they were drinking.

‘Here's to Roger Thursby, barrister-at-law.'

‘Here's to Roger Thursby, Esquire, QC.'

‘Here's to Mr Justice Thursby.'

‘Here's to us.'

When they parted later that evening Roger was very, very happy, though he was still uncertain whether it should be Sally or Joy. But he forgot them both when he went to sleep and all his dreams were of judges and barristers, beautiful clients and criminals. Sometimes they got a bit mixed up, but, even if they had not, they would not have borne much resemblance to the real thing.

The next day he kept an appointment at No. 1 Temple Court, the chambers of Mr Kendall Grimes, a junior of many years' standing with a substantial practice, to whom he had been given an introduction. His appointment was for 9.30 and he arrived ten minutes early and introduced himself to Mr Grimes' clerk, Alec Blake.

‘Good morning, sir,' said Alec pleasantly. ‘I'm glad you've come early. Gives me a chance to put you in the picture. Don't suppose you know anything about the Temple, sir?'

‘I don't,' said Roger. ‘Not a thing.'

‘Well, there's lots to learn, sir.'

He might have added, as Roger soon appreciated, that the first thing to learn on going into chambers in the Temple is the importance of the clerk.

‘One thing, if I may say at once, sir,' went on Alec, ‘is always to be on the spot. Stay in chambers late. Come early. You never know what may happen.'

As he made this last remark Alec sucked his teeth, and gave Roger a knowing look. It was not that there was anything in his teeth to suck, but it was a method, not entirely unknown in the Temple, of indicating that the sucker knew a thing or two. Roger shivered slightly. It was to him as cleaning windows is to some people and much as he came to like Alec he could never reconcile himself to this particular sound. On this, his introduction to it, he was too thrilled at his first contact with chambers in the Temple to be as affected by it as he became later. At that moment the telephone rang.

‘Excuse me, sir,' said Alec as he answered it. ‘Hullo. Yes. Mr Grimes' clerk speaking. Oh – Albert. Look, old boy, we can't do it, really we can't. Must be thirty-three. What's that? Yes, of course, I know they've a leader. I'm only asking for the junior's fee. I ought to ask for the leader's by rights. Letting you off lightly. What! Now really, old boy, it's a bit late to come that one. I dare say you don't like the two-thirds rule – but it hasn't gone yet. What's that? If we weren't on the telephone I'd tell you what you could do with that Report. No, I can't send him in for twenty-five. All right, I
, if you like. Now look, old boy, what about a coffee and we'll talk it over. See you over the way? About half-eleven? OK.'

Alec turned to Roger.

‘Sorry, sir. One of the things we have to do,' and he gave a loud suck. Roger tried to look as though he didn't mind the suck and had understood something of what had happened, whereas he had not the faintest idea what it was all about, and he didn't like the suck at all.

‘It's most interesting,' he said. ‘Is that Mr Grimes by any chance?' he went on, pointing to a photograph of someone in uniform which was hanging on the wall above Alec's table.

‘It is, sir,' said Alec. ‘He doesn't like my keeping it there, as a matter of fact, but I put my foot down. There were quite a number of people who stayed at home in 1914. He was in it from the start. Don't see why
shouldn't say so, even if
won't. Anyway, it's my photo and I can put it where I like. It's amazing, really, sir. You'd never think of him as a soldier. You wait and you'll see what I mean. But he went in just as a private, just as a private, sir – no pulling strings for our Mr Grimes, and how d'you think he ended up?'

‘How?' asked Roger.

‘As a sergeant-major, sir. If I hadn't seen him myself – I was a boy in the Temple then, sir – I wouldn't have believed it. Amazing. You'll see what I mean, sir. Mentioned twice in despatches he was, sir.'

‘Jolly good,' said Roger.

The telephone rang again and just as Alec was answering it there was a noise on the staircase rather like a small express train coming up it and a second later Mr Grimes burst into the room, panting. Roger at first thought there had been an accident but he soon found out that this was Mr Grimes' normal method of entrance. Mr Grimes looked, panting, at Alec for a moment.

‘It's Mr Brookes,' whispered Alec, putting his hand over the mouthpiece.

Mr Grimes nodded and then noticed Roger. He did not know whether he was a client or the prospective pupil or another barrister's clerk. So he gave him a ‘Good morning' which would do for any of them and bolted into his room, which was next to the clerk's room.

Alec finished his conversation with Mr Brookes. ‘Yes, sir. I'll have him there, sir. Don't you worry, sir. That's very nice of you, sir.' He turned from the telephone, obviously pleased at what Mr Brookes had said and, with one last violent suck, winked at Roger plainly indicating that there were no flies on Mr Alec Blake. Then with a: ‘He'll see you in a moment, sir,' he went hurriedly into Mr Grimes' room.

Roger started to collate his first impressions of a barrister's chambers, with a view to telling Sally and Joy and his mother. It was exciting to be about to start his career, though a barrister's chambers looked very different from what he had imagined. It was not that they were clean. They weren't. Nor did he yet know that the lavatory was old-fashioned and that there was no hot water, unless you used a gas ring. He was as yet unaware that the system of cleaning was for a lady called a laundress to come in every morning, make herself a cup of tea and go on to the next set of chambers. It was just that he couldn't imagine, say, Crippen, being defended by anyone who worked in No. 1 Temple Court, which, it will be understood, was not one of the new buildings in the Temple. And Mr Grimes looked indeed very different from his idea of a busy barrister. He was tallish, thin, quite bald, except for two large tufts of coal-black hair which stood up obstinately on either side of the bald expanse and which equally obstinately refused to change their colour with the years. At the time Roger first saw him he also had bushy side whiskers which came halfway down his cheek on one side and not quite halfway down on the other. They, too, were obstinately black. Roger subsequently learned that he had once worn a drooping black moustache but that one day he had shaved it off and, like the disappointed witch in the fairy tale, it was never seen again.

There were other things, too, which Roger had yet to learn about Mr Grimes – that he was unmarried and lived near the Essex marshes with an old and feeble housekeeper who looked after him when he was not looking after her, that he kept bees, to which he was devoted, that his work, his bees, and his housekeeper appeared to be his only interests in life, that every morning he sat meekly in the driving-seat of a very fast car and drove it anything but meekly to the Temple, and that, on reaching the Temple, he jumped out as though his life depended on it and rushed to his chambers, with the result which Roger had just witnessed. His sight appeared to be extremely good, and it was said that the large horn-rimmed glasses which he wore in Court contained plain glass and were used by him simply because he found them useful for taking off when cross-examining a witness. Roger never discovered whether this rumour was based on fact or not, but he was quite satisfied that the story that Mr Grimes once appeared before the judge in chambers with each tuft of hair full of bees was entirely apocryphal.

Roger was still wondering at what he had just heard from Alec and seen in Mr Grimes when Alec came out and conducted him into Mr Grimes' room.

‘This is Mr Thursby, sir.'

Mr Grimes held out his hand. ‘How are ye, my dear fellow?' he said. ‘How are ye?' He had a rather high-pitched sing-song way of speaking. ‘So ye've come to the Bar, have ye? That's the way. Have a chair, my dear fellow. That's right, that's right.'

‘Mr Milroy said you might have a vacancy for a pupil,' said Roger. ‘Do you think you might be able to take me?'

‘Do I think we might be able to take ye, my dear fellow? Well, my dear fellow, we might, you know, we might. Have ye been called?'


‘Who proposed ye?'

‘Well, my mother knows Mr Milroy. He's a Bencher of my Inn, and he introduced me to Mr Sanderson.'

‘When were ye called, my dear fellow?'

‘The day before yesterday, as a matter of fact.'

‘Just out of the egg, my dear fellow, just out of the egg. D'ye think ye're going to like it?'

‘I'm sure I shall, but, of course, I don't really know much about it yet. I suppose the more important question really is whether it will like me.'

‘Quite right, my dear fellow, quite right. Yes, I think we can take ye, I think we can take ye. When would ye like to start?'

‘Straight away, if I may.'

‘Of course ye may, my dear fellow, of course ye may. Take these papers and have a look at them. Alec will show ye where the pupils' room is. Ye'll find a couple of others there. They'll tell ye how the wheels go round. Now, off ye go, my dear fellow. Ask me anything you want to. Goodbye, my dear fellow – goodbye, bye, bye.' And Mr Grimes showed Roger to the door.

‘All right, sir?' said Alec.

‘Mr Grimes said I could start at once,' said Roger.

‘Very well, sir. That's the pupils' room over there. I'll show you in. I hope you'll be happy here, sir.'

They started to go together towards the pupils' room door when Alec stopped for a moment.

‘Oh, sir, would you make out two cheques, please. One for a hundred guineas for Mr Grimes and one for me for ten.'


‘No – any time, sir, thank you.'

At that moment, Alec was sent for hurriedly by Mr Grimes. ‘Would you mind showing yourself in, sir?' said Alec to Roger. ‘I'm so sorry, sir,' and Alec rushed away.

Roger opened the door of the pupils' room and walked in. ‘My name's Thursby,' he said. ‘I'm a new pupil.'

‘How are ye, my dear fellow, how are ye?' said a man of about thirty-three, giving a very creditable imitation of Mr Grimes.

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