And then there were none by Agatha Christie
[A retired judge has been found dead]
‘That’s the end of Mr Bloody Justice Wargrave. No more pronouncing sentence for him! No more putting on the black cap! Here’s the last time he’ll ever sit in court! No more summing up and sending innocent men to death. How Edward Seton would laugh if he were here! God how he’d laugh!’
His outburst shocked and startled the others.
The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch
During a half-hour of incomprehensible argument about the relevance of some item of evidence, Benjy had thought a good deal about the black cap. Where did they keep it? he had wondered, and concluded uneasily that the Judge had it tucked away somewhere handy. Somebody had put it there that morning, ironed out freshly, just in case. Who laundered it? Did they wear a different one every time? Who made them and how much were they and who paid? Cut on the cross like that, they would take quite a bit of stuff. Imagine Himself going along to have it fitted! That would be a treat for a wet Monday! What did they look like anyway? He still imagined a compromise between a jockey’s cap and a deerstalker, perhaps with a sort of wimple attached to add dignity. What were they made of? Satin? Watered silk? Or pongee like the remnant with which he had strangled Rachel Bolger?
observations: Last week’s Death Walks in Eastrepps entry mentioned the black cap worn by judges in English courts when they pronounced the death sentence, and here are two more examples of its being mentioned. The Christie extract featured in a previous blog entry, and the second one sounds like a spoiler but isn’t – it comes on the second page of the murder story (which has also featured before).
The black cap is one of those mysterious items that we really don’t know much about: Benjy’s questions above seem valid. This is the definition from Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:
Black cap or the Judgment Cap, worn by a judge when he passes sentence of death on a prisoner. This cap is part of the judge’s full dress. The judges wear their black caps on November 9th, when the Lord Mayor is presented in the Court of Exchequer. Covering the head was a sign of mourning among the Israelites, Greeks, Romans and Anglo-Saxons. (2 Sam xv 30)The Biblical reference has David, mourning: ‘he wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot.’
I consulted an expert on this, who said:
A judge would show a sign of mourning when passing the death sentence? This doesn't sound right. Would a judge not rather show a sign of confident righteousness? Possibly, but not inevitably, tinged with sadness, at the dismal state of the human race, but not mourning. If a judge was mourning at passing a sentence, where would we be? Good reasons for David to mourn - at the fact that his son has turned against him and is trying to usurp him...but, difficult to tease apart mourning and sadness.--- and the leading Biblical scholar Robert Alter actually translates it as 'with his head uncovered' (my emphasis), he thinks the earlier version is doubtful.
Although it is called a "cap", it is not made to fit the head like a typical cap does; instead it is a simple plain square made of black fabric. It was based on Tudor Court headgear. When worn, it is placed on the head on top of the judicial wig, with one of the four corners of the black fabric facing outward. The death penalty has now been abolished in England and Wales, but the black cap is still part of a judge's official regalia, and as such it is still carried into the High Court by each sitting judge when full ceremonial dress is called for.In the nature of things, there aren’t really any pictures of it – on Wikipedia there is a blurred photograph, presumably taken illicitly, from a 1912 trial, apparently showing a judge in the black cap, but it is very unclear. The picture above is from a TV drama.
Clothes in Books was quite rude about The Wooden Overcoat in the earlier entry, so perhaps we should redress the balance by saying there were a couple of good moments:
1) the jolly young couples decide to see if they can work out who did the murders –including themselves among the suspects – and come up with algebraic results:
Here are the final scores. Peter and Hugo tied with 3M + 2O. Fan and I get 2M + 2O and Rex gets Msqrd + 3Osqrd…M and O are means and opportunity.
2) One character’s alibi is:
‘I was with the Colonel. All night long’.
‘Is this true, Colonel?’
‘Sir’ said the Colonel, looking gratified, ‘must refuse answer. Honour of a lady.’
With thanks to TKR.