|[A long and vigorous quarrel follows, between the twins. And there is plenty to quarrel about, for Angelo was always seeking truth, and this obliged him to change and improve his religion with frequency, which wearied Luigi, and annoyed him too; for he had to be present at each new enlistment—which placed him in the false position of seeming to indorse and approve his brother’s fickleness; moreover, he had to go to Angelo’s prohibition meetings, and he hated them. On the other hand, when it was his week to command the legs he gave Angelo just cause of complaint, for he took him to circuses and horse-races and fandangoes, exposing him to all sorts of censure and criticism; and he drank, too; and whatever he drank went to Angelo’s head instead of his own and made him act disgracefully. When the evening was come, the two attended the Free-thinkers’ meeting, where Angelo was sad and silent; then came the Bible class and looked upon him coldly, finding him in such company. Then they went to Wilson’s house and Chapter XI of Pudd’nhead Wilson follows, which tells of the girl seen in Tom Driscoll’s room; and closes with the kicking of Tom by Luigi at the anti-temperance mass-meeting of the Sons of Liberty; with the addition of some account of Roxy’s adventures as a chamber-maid on a Mississippi boat. Her exchange of the children had been flippantly and farcically described in an earlier chapter.]|
NEXT MORNING all the town was a-buzz with great news; Pudd’nhead Wilson had a law case! The, public astonishment was so great and the public curiosity so intense, that when the justice of the peace opened his court, the place was packed with people and even the windows were full. Everybody was, flushed and perspiring; the summer heat was almost unendurable.
Tom Driscoll had brought a charge of assault and battery against the twins. Robert Allen was retained by Driscoll, David Wilson by the defense. Tom, his native cheerfulness unannihilated by his back-breaking and bone-bruising passage across the massed heads of the Sons of Liberty the previous night, laughed his little customary laugh, and said to Wilson:
“I’ve kept my promise, you see; I’m throwing my business your way. Sooner than I was expecting, too.”
“It’s very good of you—particularly if you mean to keep it up.”
“Well, I can’t tell about that yet. But we’ll see. If I find you deserve it I’ll take you under my protection and make your fame and fortune for you.”
“I’ll try to deserve it, Tom.”
A jury was sworn in; then Mr. Allen said:
“We will detain your honor but a moment with this case. It is not one where any doubt of the fact of the assault can enter in. These gentlemen—the accused—kicked my client at the Market Hall last night; they kicked him with violence; with extraordinary violence; with even unprecedented violence, I may say; insomuch that he was lifted entirely off his feet and discharged into the midst of the audience. We can prove this by four hundred witnesses—we shall call but three. Mr. Harkness will take the stand.”
Mr. Harkness, being sworn, testified that he was chairman upon the occasion mentioned; that he was close at hand and saw the defendants in this action kick the plaintiff into the air and saw him descend among the audience.
“Take the witness,” said Allen.
“Mr. Harkness,” said Wilson, “you say you saw these gentlemen, my clients, kick the plaintiff. Are you sure—and please remember that you are on oath—are you perfectly sure that you saw both of them kick him, or only one? Now be careful.”
A bewildered look began to spread itself over the witness’s face. He hesitated, stammered, but got out nothing. His eyes wandered to the twins and fixed themselves there with a vacant gaze.
“Please answer, Mr. Harkness, you are keeping the court waiting. It is a very simple question.”
Counsel for the prosecution broke in with impatience:
“Your honor, the question is an irrelevant triviality. Necessarily, they both kicked him, for they have but the one pair of legs, and both are responsible for them.”
Wilson said, sarcastically:
“Will your honor permit this new witness to be sworn? He seems to possess knowledge which can be of the utmost value just at this moment—knowledge which would at once dispose of what every one must see is a very difficult question in this case. Brother Allen, will you take the stand?”
“Go on with your case!” said Allen, petulantly. The audience laughed, and got a warning from the court.
“Now, Mr. Harkness,” said Wilson, insinuatingly, “we shall have to insist upon an answer to that question.”
“I—er—well, of course, I do not absolutely know, but in my opinion—”
“Never mind your opinion, sir—answer the question.”
“I—why, I can’t answer it.”
“That will do, Mr. Harkness. Stand down.”
The audience tittered, and the discomfited witness retired in a state of great embarrassment.
Mr. Wakeman took the stand and swore that he saw the twins kick the plaintiff off the platform.
The defense took the witness.
“Mr. Wakeman, you have sworn that you saw these gentlemen kick the plaintiff. Do I understand you to swear that you saw them both do it?”
“Yes, sir,”—with derision.
“How do you know that both did it?”
“Because I saw them do it.”
The audience laughed, and got another warning from the court.
“But by what means do you know that both, and not one, did it?”
“Well, in the first place, the insult was given to both of them equally, for they were called a pair of scissors. Of course they would both want to resent it, and so—”
“Wait! You are theorizing now. Stick to facts—counsel will attend to the arguments. Go on.”
“Well, they both went over there—that I saw.”
“Very good. Go on.”
“And they both kicked him—I swear to it.”
“Mr. Wakeman, was Count Luigi, here, willing to join the Sons of Liberty last night?”
“Yes, sir, he was. He did join, too, and drank a glass or two of whisky, like a man.”
“Was his brother willing to join?”
“No, sir, he wasn’t. He is a teetotaler, and was elected through a mistake.”
“Was he given a glass of whisky?”
“Yes, sir, but of course that was another mistake, and not intentional. He wouldn’t drink it. He set it down.” A slight pause, then he added, casually and quite simply: “The plaintiff reached for it and hogged it.”
There was a fine outburst of laughter, but as the justice was caught out himself, his reprimand was not very vigorous.
Mr. Allen jumped up and exclaimed: “I protest against these foolish irrelevancies. What have they to do with the case?”
Wilson said: “Calm yourself, brother, it was only an experiment. Now, Mr. Wakeman, if one of these gentlemen chooses to join an association and the other doesn’t; and if one of them enjoys whisky and the other doesn’t, but sets it aside and leaves it unprotected” (titter from the audience), “it seems to show that they have independent minds, and tastes, and preferences, and that one of them is able to approve of a thing at the very moment that the other is heartily disapproving of it. Doesn’t it seem so to you?”
“Certainly it does. It’s perfectly plain.”
“Now, then, it might be—I only say it might be—that one of these brothers wanted to kick the plaintiff last night, and that the other didn’t want that humiliating punishment inflicted upon him in that public way and before all those people. Isn’t that possible?”
“Of course it is. It’s more than possible. I don’t believe the blond one would kick anybody. It was the other one that—”
“Silence!” shouted the plaintiff’s counsel, and went on with an angry sentence which was lost in the wave of laughter that swept the house.
“That will do, Mr. Wakeman,” said Wilson, “you may stand down.”
The third witness was called. He had seen the twins kick the plaintiff. Mr. Wilson took the witness.
“Mr. Rogers, you say you saw these accused gentlemen kick the plaintiff?”
“Both of them?”
“Which of them kicked him first?”
“Why—they—they both kicked him at the same time.
“Are you perfectly sure of that?”
“What makes you sure of it?”
“Why, I stood right behind them, and saw them do it.”
“How many kicks were delivered?”
“If two men kick, the result should be two kicks, shouldn’t it?”
“Why—why yes, as a rule.”
“Then what do you think went with the other kick?”
“I—well—the fact is, I wasn’t thinking of two being necessary, this time.”
“What do you think now?”
“Well, I—I’m sure I don’t quite know what to think, but I reckon that one of them did half of the kick and the other one did the other half.”
Somebody in the crowd sung out: “It’s the first sane thing that any of them has said.”
The audience applauded. The judge said: “Silence! or I will clear the court.”
Mr. Allen looked pleased, but Wilson did not seem disturbed. He said:
“Mr. Rogers, you have favored us with what you think and what you reckon, but as thinking and reckoning are not evidence, I will now give you a chance to come out with something positive, one way or the other, and shall require you to produce it. I will ask the accused to stand up and repeat the phenomenal kick of last night.” The twins stood up. “Now, Mr. Rogers, please stand behind them.”
A Voice: “No, stand in front!” (Laughter. Silenced by the court.) Another Voice: “No, give Tommy another highst!” (Laughter. Sharply rebuked by the court.)
“Now, then, Mr. Rogers, two kicks shall be delivered, one after the other, and I give you my word that at least one of the two shall be delivered by one of the twins alone, without the slightest assistance from his brother. Watch sharply, for you have of to render a decision without any if’s and ands it.” Rogers bent himself behind the twins with palms just above his knees, in the modern attitude of the catcher at a baseball match, and riveted eyes on the pair of legs in front of him.
“Are you ready, Mr. Rogers?”
The kick, launched.
“Have you got that one classified, Mr. Rogers?”
“Let me study a minute, sir.”
“Take as much time as you please. Let me know when you are ready.”
For as much as a minute Rogers pondered, with all eyes and a breathless interest fastened upon him. Then he gave the word: “Ready, sir.”
The kick that followed was an exact duplicate of the first one.
“Now, then, Mr. Rogers, one of those kicks was an individual kick, not a mutual one. You will now state positively which was the mutual one.”
The witness said, with a crestfallen look:
“I’ve got to give it up. There ain’t any man in the world that could tell t’other from which, sir.”
“Do you still assert that last night’s kick was a mutual kick?”
“Indeed, I don’t, sir.”
“That will do, Mr. Rogers. If my brother Allen desires to address the court, your honor, very well; but as far as I am concerned I am ready to let the case be at once delivered into the hands of this intelligent jury without comment.”
Mr. Justice Robinson had been in office only two months, and in that short time had not had many cases to try, of course. He had no knowledge of laws and courts except what he had picked up since he came into office. He was a sore trouble to the lawyers, for his rulings were pretty eccentric sometimes, and he stood by them with Roman simplicity and fortitude; but the people were well satisfied with him, for they saw that his intentions were always right, that he was entirely impartial, and that he usually made up in good sense what he lacked in technique, so to speak. He now perceived that there was likely to be a miscarriage of justice here, and he rose to the occasion.
“Wait a moment, gentlemen,” he said, “it is plain that an assault has been committed it is plain to anybody; but the way things are going, the guilty will certainly escape conviction. I can not allow this. Now——”
“But, your honor!” said Wilson, interrupting him, earnestly but respectfully, “you are deciding the case yourself, whereas the jury——”
“Never mind the jury, Mr. Wilson; the jury will have a chance when there is a reasonable doubt for them to take hold of—which there isn’t, so far. There is no doubt whatever that an assault has been committed. The attempt to show that both of the accused committed it has failed. Are they both to escape justice on that account? Not in this court, if I can prevent it. It appears to have been a mistake to bring the charge against them as a corporation; each should have been charged in his capacity as an individual, and——”
“But, your honor!” said Wilson, “in fairness to my clients I must insist that inasmuch as the prosecution did not separate the——”
“No wrong will be done your clients, sir—they will be protected; also the public and the offended laws. Mr. Allen, you will amend your pleadings, and put one of the accused on trial at a time.”
Wilson broke in: “But, your honor! this is wholly unprecedented! To imperil an accused person by arbitrarily altering and widening the charge against him in order to compass his conviction when the charge as originally brought promises to fail to convict, is a thing unheard of before.”
“Unheard of where?”
“In the courts of this or any other state.”
The judge said with dignity: “I am not acquainted with the customs of other courts, and am not concerned to know what they are. I am responsible for this court, and I cannot conscientiously allow my judgment to be warped and my judicial liberty hampered by trying to conform to the caprices of other courts, be they——”
“But, your honor, the oldest and highest courts in Europe——”
“This court is not run on the European plan, Mr. Wilson; it is not run on any plan but its own. It has a plan of its own; and that plan is, to find justice for both State and accused, no matter what happens to be practice and custom in Europe or anywhere else.” (Great applause.) “Silence! It has not been the custom of this court to imitate other courts; it has not been the custom of this court to take shelter behind the decisions of other courts, and we will not begin now. We will do the best we can by the light that God has given us, and while this court continues to have His approval, it will remain indifferent to what other organizations may think of it.” (Applause.) “Gentlemen, I must have order!—quiet yourselves! Mr. Allen, you will now proceed against the prisoners one at a time. Go on with the case.”
Allen was not at his ease. However, after whispering a moment with his client and with one or two other people, he rose and said:
“Your honor, I find it to be reported and believed that the accused are able to act independently in many ways, but that this independence does not extend to their legs, authority over their legs being vested exclusively in the one brother during a specific term of days, and then passing to the other brother for a like term, and so on, by regular alternation. I could call witnesses who would prove that the accused had revealed to them the existence of this extraordinary fact, and had also made known which of them was in possession of the legs yesterday—and this would, of course, indicate where the guilt of the assault belongs—but as this would be mere hearsay evidence, these revelations not having been made under oath——”
“Never mind about that, Mr. Allen. It may not all be hearsay. We shall see. It may at least help to put us on the right track. Call the witnesses.”
“Then I will call Mr. John Buckstone, who is now present, and I beg that Mrs. Patsy Cooper may be sent for. Take the stand, Mr. Buckstone.”
Buckstone took the oath, and then testified that on the previous evening the Count Angelo Capello had protested against going to the hall, and had called all present to witness that he was going by compulsion and would not go if he could help himself. Also, that the Count Luigi had replied sharply that he would go, just the same, and that he, Count Luigi, would see to that himself. Also, that upon Count Angelo’s complaining about being kept on his legs so long, Count Luigi retorted with apparent surprise, “Your legs!—I like your impudence!”
“Now we are getting at the kernel of the thing,” observed the judge, with grave and earnest satisfaction. “It looks as if the Count Luigi was in possession of the battery at the time of the assault.”
Nothing further was elicited from Mr. Buckstone on direct examination. Mr. Wilson took the witness.
“Mr. Buckstone, about what time was it that that conversation took place?”
“Toward nine yesterday evening, sir.”
“Did you then proceed directly to the hall?”
“How long did it take you to go there?”
“Well, we walked; and as it was from the extreme edge of the town, and there was no hurry, I judge it took us about twenty minutes, maybe a trifle more.”
“About what hour was the kick delivered?”
“About thirteen minutes and a half to ten.”
“Admirable! You are a pattern witness, Mr. Buckstone. How did you happen to look at your watch at that particular moment?”
“I always do it when I see an assault. It’s likely I shall be called as a witness, and it’s a good point to have.”
“It would be well if others were as thoughtful. Was anything said, between the conversation at my house and the assault, upon the detail which we are now examining into?”
“If power over the mutual legs was in the possession of one brother at nine, and passed into the possession of the other one during the next thirty or forty minutes, do you think you could have detected the change?”
“By no means!”
“That is all, Mr. Buckstone.”
Mrs. Patsy Cooper was called. The crowd made way for her, and she came smiling and bowing through the narrow human lane, with Betsy Hale, as escort and support, smiling and bowing in her wake, the audience breaking into welcoming cheers as the old favorites filed along. The judge did not check this kindly demonstration of homage and affection, but let it run its course unrebuked.
The old ladies stopped and shook hands with the twins with effusion, then gave the judge a friendly nod, and bustled into the seats provided for them. They immediately began to deliver a volley of eager questions at the friends around them: “What is this thing for?” “What is that thing for?” “Who is that young man that’s writing at the desk? Why, I declare, it’s Jack Bunce! I thought he was sick.” “Which is the jury? Why, is that the jury? Billy Price and Job Turner, and Jack Lounsbury, and—well, I never!” “Now who would ever ’a’ thought——”
But they were gently called to order at this point, and asked not to talk in court. Their tongues fell silent, but the radiant interest in their faces remained, and their gratitude for the blessing of a new sensation and a novel experience still beamed undimmed from their eyes. Aunt Patsy stood up and took the oath, and Mr. Allen explained the point in issue, and asked her to go on now, in her own way, and throw as much light upon it as she could. She toyed with her reticule a moment or two, as if considering where to begin, then she said:
“Well, the way of it is this. They are Luigi’s legs a week at a time, and then they are Angelo’s, and he can do whatever he wants to with them.”
“You are making a mistake, Aunt Patsy Cooper,” said the judge. “You shouldn’t state that as a fact, because you don’t know it to be a fact.”
“What’s the reason I don’t?” said Aunt Patsy, bridling a little.
“What is the reason that you do know it?”
“The best in the world because they told me.”
“That isn’t a reason.”
“Well, for the land’s sake! Betsy Hale, do you hear that?”
“Hear it? I should think so,” said Aunt Betsy, rising and facing the court. “Why, Judge, I was there and heard it myself. Luigi says to Angelo—no, it was Angelo said it to——”
“Come, come, Mrs. Hale, pray sit down, and——”
“Certainly, it’s all right, I’m going to sit down presently, but not until I’ve——”
“But you must sit down!”
“Must! Well, upon my word if things ain’t getting to a pretty pass when——”
The house broke into laughter, but was promptly brought to order, and meantime Mr. Allen persuaded the old lady to take her seat. Aunt Patsy continued:
“Yes, they told me that, and I know it’s true. They’re Luigi’s legs this week, but——”
“Ah, they told you that, did they?” said the Justice, with interest.
“Well, no, I don’t know that they told me, but that’s neither here nor there. I know, without that, that at dinner yesterday, Angelo was as tired as a dog, and yet Luigi wouldn’t lend him the legs to go up-stairs and take a nap with.”
“Did he ask for them?”
“Let me see—it seems to me, somehow, that—that—Aunt Betsy, do you remember whether he——”
“Never mind about what Aunt Betsy remembers—she is not a witness; we only want to know what you remember yourself,” said the judge.
“Well, it does seem to, me that you are most cantankerously particular about a little thing, Sim Robinson. Why, when I can’t remember a thing myself, I always——”
“Ah, please go on!”
“Now how can she when you keep fussing at her all the time?” said Aunt Betsy. “Why, with a person pecking at me that way, I should get that fuzzled and fuddled that—”
She was on her feet again, but Allen coaxed her into her seat once more, while the court squelched the mirth of the house. Then the judge said:
“Madam, do you know——do you absolutely know, independently of anything these gentlemen have told you—that the power over their legs passes from the one to the other regularly every week?”
“Regularly? Bless your heart, regularly ain’t any name for the exactness of it! All the big cities in Europe used to set the clocks by it.” (Laughter, suppressed by the court.)
“How do you know? That is the question. Please answer it plainly and squarely.”
“Don’t you talk to me like that, Sim Robinson—I won’t have it. How do I know, indeed! How do you know what you know? Because somebody told you. You didn’t invent it out of your own head, did you? Why, these twins are the truthfulest people in the world; and I don’t think it becomes you to sit up there and throw slurs at them when they haven’t been doing anything to you. And they are orphans besides—both of them. All——”
But Aunt Betsy was up again now, and both old ladies were talking at once and with all their might; but as the house was weltering in a storm of laughter, and the judge was hammering his desk with an iron paper-weight, one could only see them talk, not hear them. At last, when quiet was restored, the court said:
“Let the ladies retire.”
“But, your honor, I have the right, in the interest of my clients,—to cross-exam——”
“You’ll not need to exercise it, Mr. Wilson—the evidence is thrown out.”
“Thrown out!” said Aunt Patsy, ruffled; “and what’s it thrown out for, I’d like to know.”
“And so would I, Patsy Cooper. It seems to me that if we can save these poor persecuted strangers, it is our bounden duty to stand up here and talk for them till——”
“There, there, there, do sit down!”
It cost some trouble and a good deal of coaxing, but they were got into their seats at last. The trial was soon ended now. The twins themselves became witnesses in their own defense. They established the fact, upon oath, that the leg-power passed from one to the other every Saturday night at twelve o’clock sharp. But on cross-examination their counsel would not allow them to tell whose week of power the current week was. The judge insisted upon their answering, and proposed to compel them, but even the prosecution took fright and came to the rescue then, and helped stay the sturdy jurist’s revolutionary hand. So the case had to go to the jury with that important point hanging in the air. They were out an hour and brought in this verdict:
“We the jury do find: 1, that an assault was committed, as charged; 2, that it was committed by one of the persons accused, he having been seen to do it by several credible witnesses; 3, but that his identity is so merged in his brother’s that we have not been able to tell which was him. We cannot convict both, for only one is guilty. We cannot acquit both, for only one is innocent. Our verdict is that justice has been defeated by the dispensation of God, and ask to be discharged from further duty.”
This was read aloud in court and brought out a burst of hearty applause. The old ladies made a spring at the twins, to shake and congratulate, but were gently disengaged by Mr. Wilson and softly crowded back into their places.
The judge rose in his little tribune, laid aside his silver-bowed spectacles, roached his gray hair up with his fingers, and said, with dignity and solemnity, and even with a certain pathos:
“In all my experience on the bench, I have not seen justice bow her head in shame in this court until this day. You little realize what far-reaching harm has just been wrought here under the fickle forms of law. Imitation is the bane of courts—I thank God that this one is free from the contamination of that vice—and in no long time you will see the fatal work of this hour seized upon by profligate so-called guardians of justice in all the wide circumstance of this planet and perpetuated in their pernicious decisions. I wash my hands of this iniquity. I would have compelled these culprits to expose their guilt, but support failed me where I had most right to expect aid and encouragement. And I was confronted by a law made in the interest of crime, which protects the criminal from testifying against himself. Yet I had precedents of my own whereby I had set aside that law on two different occasions and thus succeeded in convicting criminals to whose crimes there were no witnesses but themselves. What have you accomplished this day? Do you realize it? You have set adrift, unadmonished, in this community, two men endowed with an awful and mysterious gift, a hidden and grisly power for evil—a power by which each in his turn may commit crime after crime of the most heinous character, and no man be able to tell which is the guilty or which the innocent party in any case of them all. Look to your homes look to your property look to your lives for you have need!
“Prisoners at the bar, stand up. Through suppression of evidence, a jury of your—our—countrymen have been obliged to deliver a verdict concerning your case which stinks to heaven with the rankness of its injustice. By its terms you, the guilty one, go free with the innocent. Depart in peace, and come no more! The costs devolve upon the outraged plaintiff—another iniquity. The court stands dissolved.”
Almost everybody crowded forward to overwhelm the twins and their counsel with congratulations; but presently the two old aunties dug the duplicates out and bore them away in triumph through the hurrahing crowd, while lots of new friends carried Pudd’nhead Wilson off tavernward to feast him and “wet down” his great and victorious entry into the legal arena. To Wilson, so long familiar with neglect and depreciation, this strange new incense of popularity and admiration was as a fragrance blown from the fields of paradise. A happy man was Wilson.