Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 709
Cokeson, managing clerk for the firm of James and Walter How, solicitors, was interrupted one July morning by a woman asking to see the junior clerk, Falder. The woman, Ruth Honeywill, seemed in great distress, and though it was against office rules, Cokeson permitted her to see Falder.
Falder and Ruth Honeywill were planning to run away together. Ruth’s husband, a drunken brute, had abused her until she would no longer stay with him. Falder arranged to have Ruth and her two children meet him at the railway station that night. Ruth left and Falder went back to work.
Young Walter How came to the office. Cokeson was skeptical of the young man’s desire to keep the firm not only on the right side of the law but also on the right side of ethics. James How entered from the partners’ room. He and Walter began to check the firm’s balance, which they decided was below what they remembered it should have been. Then they discovered that a check written the previous Friday had been altered from nine to ninety pounds.
The check had been cashed on the same day that another junior clerk, Davis, had gone away on some firm business. Cokeson was quickly cleared. When it became certain that the check stub had been altered after Davis had started on his trip, suspicion fell on Falder.
The bank cashier was summoned. He recognized Falder as the man who had cashed the check. James How accused Falder of the felony. Falder asked for mercy, but How, convinced that the felony had been premeditated, sent for the police. Falder was arrested.
When the case came to court, Frome, Falder’s counsel, tried to show that Falder had conceived the idea and carried it out within the space of four minutes, and that at the time he had been greatly upset by the difficulties of Ruth Honeywill with her husband. Frome called Cokeson as the first witness, and the managing clerk gave the impression that Falder had not been himself on the day in question. Ruth Honeywill was the most important witness. She indicated that Falder had altered the check for her sake. Cleaver, the counsel for the prosecution, tried his utmost to make her appear an undutiful wife.
In defense of Falder, Frome tried to press the point that Falder had been almost out of his mind. Cleaver questioned Falder until the clerk admitted that he had not known what he was doing. Then Cleaver declared Falder had known enough to keep the money he had stolen and to turn in the sum for which the check originally had been written. The jury found Falder guilty and the judge sentenced him to three years.
At Christmas time Cokeson visited the prison on Falder’s behalf. He attempted to have Falder released from solitary confinement and asked for permission to bring Ruth Honeywill to see Falder. Cokeson’s visit accomplished nothing. Both the chaplain and the prison governor were indifferent to his appeal.
When Falder was finally released on parole, Ruth Honeywill went to intercede for him at How’s office. She intimated that she had kept herself and her children alive by living with another man after she left her husband. Falder went to tell Cokeson that his relatives wanted to give him money to go to Canada. He was depressed and ill at ease; he had seen Ruth only once since his release. James How made it clear that if Falder refused to abide by strict standards of justice there would be no hope that the firm would take him back.
James How, aware that Ruth Honeywill had been living with another man, crudely broke the news to Falder. He did, however, give Falder and Ruth an opportunity to talk over their predicament. While they were talking in a side room, a detective sergeant came looking for Falder. Falder was to be arrested again because he had failed to report to the police according to the parole agreement. Although How and Cokeson refused to disclose Falder’s whereabouts, the detective discovered Falder in the side room. As he was rearresting Falder, the clerk suddenly broke loose and killed himself by jumping from the office window.
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