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.