Is a detective seeing you in a hotel room with your darling in pyjamas sufficient grounds for divorce?
For most judges in the British and American courts in Shanghai it was, particularly if the divorce was uncontested. They played along with a game that even indirect evidence of adultery would be sufficient to grant a divorce.
Sir Allan Mossop who was appointed judge of the British Supreme Court for China in 1934 took a different view.
He refused to allow Mr and Mrs Davidson to divorce based solely on the evidence that a Russian detective had seen Mr Davidson in a hotel room with a young lady.
The Davidsons did get divorced a few months later with further evidence (which was not reported) being available to the court. The Russian newspaper Novosty Dnia could not resist publishing the following parody. The Shanghai Municipal Police Special Branch for some reason found this to be of interest and filed a translation on their files. Their translation is below:
10,000 MILES AROUND DIVORCE
Excuse my indelicate question:
Perhaps your wife wishes to be divorced from you?
In that case excuse me for asking another indelicate question:
Do you wish to oblige your wife by consenting to divorce? You don't?
In that case the following lines are at your service.
You will find in them all what you need!
Now we can proceed with our feuilleton in a negligent manner, without paying any attention whatever to style.
Everything will be pardoned! And everything will be read!
It will be simply impossible to prevent a reader, especially a female reader, from reading our feuilleton. Not even if you strike them with a stick. Not even by pouring cold water over them from a fire hose. Nothing can drive them away from such a subject.
Such is the secret power of printed word, the mystery of literary magics, the "Open Sesame!" to the treasure of purely literary joys!
So you do not wish to be your wife's benefactor, do you?
You are not going to grant her the so much desired divorce?
Then what are you supposed to do?
Nothing special! Absolutely nothing! Just keep on going about with your hands deep in the pockets of your trousers.
What? Your wife does not waste time? She is taking steps?
But you need not worry about it!
What can happen to you? An hotel incident at the worst!
Supposing you fancy to visit an hotel in Shanghai without any special purpose.
Very well! Why not?
You simply go there and that's that!
It is true that you do not to there alone but, for instance, in company with a lady, whose identity is nobody's business.
After a little time, quite of a sudden, somebody knocks at the door of your room.
Go and open the door immediately.
What shall you see?
You will see the face of a paid detective from a private detective agency. The detective, of course, will see you.
Suppose, he sees that you are in your pyjamas. He will, perhaps, look with his detective’s eyes into the room and notice your lady. He will even observe that she, too, is in her pyjamas. May be he even will notice that not only is she in pyjamas, but in bed as well.
The main thing is — don't be afraid!
Quietly puff a cloud of tobacco smoke right in the face of the detective and say:
“So you are the paid one, my dear fellow? Money for this kind of business? Is it really your fate that I must kick you out of here right now? What a pity! But I have already submitted to my cruel fate. Get out!”
And that is that.
Then there will be a court, where the following will take place
The paid detective will appear and tell the court about his impressions when visiting your room.
One will listen to him.
Then your wife's lawyer will get up and deliver a thundering speech against you.
One will listen to him too.
Then you will rise and, if your head is filled with brains and not with some useless stuff, you will say:
"Qu'est-ce que ce? Why have I been dragged in here? You had better issue an order to have all hotels in Shanghai pulled down right away. Indeed, if one cannot for one's own money engage a room in one of these hotels, without being prosecuted for doing so, then what the hell is the use of hotels? Did I forge banknotes in that room? Or receive stolen property‘? Or was I caught in the act of cutting to pieces a dead body in order to send it in a trunk to Japan? Nothing of the sort!
I only see that my wife wishes a divorce. Why? Because I was in my pyjamas? Or because a wee darling was also in her pyjamas and, being indisposed, was resting in her bed?
One will listen to you.
And from this moment, the law is in your favour.
The law, of course, is strict!
But, according to law, what are the causes for divorce? Breach of conjugal fidelity!
There is nothing in law to show that being in company with a lady is sufficient cause for divorce. Even if one is in one’s pyjamas, in company with a charming little darling. Even if she, too, is in her pyjamas and not merely sitting, but sort of lying in a bed, on account of her being generally indisposed.
The law, you see, does not enter into such trifling details. What have all these hotel rooms, pyjamas, and darlings to do with the law?
The law wants a breach of conjugal fidelity, nothing short of a breach of conjugal fidelity!
As to the hotel pyjamas, personal impressions of detectives regarding the beauties of your lady and her perfectly natural pose - all this is only material for a newspaper feuilleton......
Your wife's lawyer will have to listen to the Judge's cruel judgement:—
Petition for divorce cannot be granted on the ground of a paid detective's narrative only regarding this gentleman being in company with his friend in pyjamas. Many people in Shanghai prefer this kind of dress, especially during the hot season. Reference to the hotel is also not convincing — an hotel is a public place. Have you anything else to say? You have not? Then be so kind not to bother us in future because of pyjamas. This is a court of law and not a Hollywood newspaper office. Amen!
The case is finished and you leave the court room carrying your head high. And immediately you will go to a telephone.