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|Page 102 of 111|
When Alice was called, and when she stood up in the box, and, smiling indulgently at the doddering usher, kissed the book as if it had been a chubby nephew, a change came over the emotional atmosphere of the court, which felt a natural need to smile. Alice was in all her best clothes, but it cannot be said that she looked the wife of a super-eminent painter. In answer to a question she stated that before marrying Priam she was the widow of a builder in a small way of business, well known in Putney and also in Wandsworth. This was obviously true. She could have been nothing but the widow of a builder in a small way of business well known in Putney and also in Wandsworth. She was every inch that.
"How did you first meet your present husband, Mrs. Leek?" asked Mr. Crepitude.
"Mrs. Farll, if you please," she cheerfully corrected him.
"Well, Mrs. Farll, then."
"I must say," she remarked conversationally, "it seems queer you should be calling me Mrs. Leek, when they're paying you to prove that I'm Mrs. Farll, Mr.----, excuse me, I forget your name."
This nettled Crepitude, K.C. It nettled him, too, merely to see a witness standing in the box just as if she were standing in her kitchen talking to a tradesman at the door. He was not accustomed to such a spectacle. And though Alice was his own witness he was angry with her because he was angry with her husband. He blushed. Juniors behind him could watch the blush creeping like a tide round the back of his neck over his exceedingly white collar.
"If you'll be good enough to reply----" said he.
"I met my husband outside St. George's Hall, by appointment," said she.
"But before that. How did you make his acquaintance?"
"Through a matrimonial agency," said she.
"Oh!" observed Crepitude, and decided that he would not pursue that avenue. The fact was Alice had put him into the wrong humour for making the best of her. She was, moreover, in a very difficult position, for Priam had positively forbidden her to have any speech with solicitors' clerks or with solicitors, and thus Crepitude knew not what pitfalls for him her evidence might contain. He drew from her an expression of opinion that her husband was the real Priam Farll, but she could give no reasons in support--did not seem to conceive that reasons in support were necessary.
"Has your husband any moles?" asked Crepitude suddenly.
"Any what?" demanded Alice, leaning forward.
Vodrey, K.C., sprang up.
"I submit to your lordship that my learned friend is putting a leading question," said Vodrey, K.C.
"Mr. Crepitude," said the judge, "can you not phrase your questions differently?"
"Has your husband any birthmarks--er--on his body?" Crepitude tried again.
"Oh! _Moles_, you said? You needn't be afraid. Yes, he's got two moles, close together on his neck, here." And she pointed amid silence to the exact spot. Then, noticing the silence, she added, "That's all that I _know_ of."