GUILT AND INNOCENCE FINELY BLENT
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[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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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 'd 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"But you must sit down!"
"Must! Well, upon my word if things ain't getting to a pretty pass
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
"Yes, they told me that, and I know it's true. They're Luigi's legs this
"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
"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.
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
"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 or 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
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
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.