« PreviousContinue »
“ Now, your Honors, the culprit whom I have charged, has bored us with a pretended illustration of his weak wit, from a dissolute pagan named Theocritus—I remember him well, for I was compelled, once on a season, to be familiar with him ;—and he has substituted the effeminacy of lazy cats, for the sensibly drowsiness of high-spirited, hard-working point
Calcai' means 'cats.' “I should think it meant 'gals' ” cried out one of the boys. “Mr. Cypress, you're safe. You'll have Venus on your side,"
“ Order, order in the Court," cried the crier Judge.
“May it please your honors, that is the whole of my case, and I will conclude by expressing the most exalted confidence in the wisdom, discrimination, learning, and sense of justice of this most reverend and respectable tribunal.”
Alexander Africanus Maximus, President of “ the Universal Court of Dover of the whole world,”—surnamed Aleck Niger, from his successful exploration of the sources of that black-region river, as well as of divers other more mixed fluids, —could not have made a better speech, even if he had had the immortal George, George the First in the republic, to prompt him. But I did not despair. I happened to know that it was not always rowing straight ahead that wins a race, or that talking sense and truth always gains a cause. Judges and Juries, in spite of their affectation of stern, solemn unfluctuating purpose, are like the tides. They have their currents, and eddies, and under-currents. There is a moon in law and morals, as well as a moon in physics. I blame not the tides, nor do I condemn the courts.-“ I tax not you, ye elements, with injustice.”—They are both, I trust, insensible to, and innocent of, the influence which makes them swell and fall. But, as Peter once said, in one of his happy moments, “the tides owns the moon, and men 's judges, and judges is men, and they know who can give 'em a lift best.” I had been told, moreover, that many a cause was determined upon some incidental or collateral point, that had nothing to do, in realty, with the merits of the case.
"May it please the Court," I began ; " or may it displease the Court, just as their omnipotence pleases.” There I was one point ahead of Ned, in the Court of Dover; for that court always respects an impudent compliment, “I am accused of making an irreverend abduction from the discourses of a most exemplary fisherman.”
“ Fisherman !” cried both the judges simultaneously. 66 Was he a fisherman?”
“Most distinctly may it please the Court," I replied.
“ That alters the case ; brother Venus, don't you think so ?” said Judge Peter, turning to his learned coadjutor.
“ It makes a smart deal o' difference, I sh'd say,” responded the worthy associate. “But 'spose he only fished for flounders and eels, and sich; would'nt it make no odds ?”
“ Have my doubts, brother.”
“ It is false," cried Ned, hard to be restrained. “ Theocritus never
“Silence-silence," thundered the Judges. “ The court never doubts when it's indifferent. Mr. Locus, you're fined drinks all 'round, and a paper o' tobacco, for disrespect to the joinedissued tribunals o' your country. Proceed, Mr. Cypress.”
“ Your honors will perceive that my accuser has other objects in view than the mere unjust persecution of my humble self. But I will not refer to them. The whole case may be thus succinctly and successfully defended. I am charged with making an in-apposite quotation, contrary to the statutes of the Beach. I spoke of cats. Now, your Honors, are not cats four-legged animals ? I appeal to the Court's own sense of justice and physical fitness.”
“He talks like a book, brother Peter."
“Then here," -holding up the fox I had shot, and who was my junior counsel on the argument," has not this fox four legs ?"
“ An't one of them fore legs shot off ?" asked Judge Peter, dubitans.
“No, your Honor, it is only a little crippled. Now we all know, and there needs no argument to prove, that a dog runs on four feet; and so a cat is like a fox, and a dog is like a fox, and things that are equal to the same are equal to one another; and so a cat is a dog, and a dog is a cat; and so, your Honors, I trust I have established my defence, and that I have not misused words, and that Mr. Locus must pay for the champagne.”
“ Them's my sentiments, brother Venus. Things what's like is sartenly like, and them what's the same must be the same, nor they can't be no otherwise, as I can fix it.”
“I coincide with the last speaker,” pronounced Venus. 266 Peter, who is chief Justice ?"
No ; you be. Go ahead. Stick it on.” Respected fellow.citizens, and criminals in general ; the judgment o' this expiscious court is that the fines agin Mr. Locus, already expounded, stands good, and he pays the champagne. As for th’ rest o'th' company,-extracten the judges, who is not liable to human frailty,—they'll pay a small glass to each o’ the judges a piece when they get 'shore, on 'count not making disturbance, so as to give the Court a chance to show the magnitude o' its justice and the power thereof; and the defendant will stand over 'till the next meeten o' th' court. Zoph, be crier. Crier, 'journ the court."
" I am.
The islands came in sight again, and ho! land! and Raynor Rock!
Glad enough was I to hear our bow grind the sand near Raynor's hut, on the evening succeeding our court's last nigat's entertainments. Ned Locus had come in, and Peter Probasco was smoking his usual short pipe, and the boys had some fresh fish and " things accorden.” Zoph and I had had a hard pull, and we were bay-salted and shivering, but not so tired as to prevent us from bringing up a good bunch of brant. —More of them, and a few of the black ducks, and sheldrakes, and that goose, anon.
“That's a lie, mister, that story you told t'other night. Have my doubts it's all a lie. I've said it.”—Such was Peter's judgment. ." Mr. Locus, you dreamt that sometime or other.”
“Stick it out, Ned,” said I," why the fellow is trying to get angry!” and Ned actually had worked himself into such a state of feeling, that between the excitement of the story, and the soft impeachment of its veracity, and his liquor going down the wrong way, his face was suffused, and seven or eight globules of eye-water ran a race for the goal of his pea-jacket
My friend,” he at last rejoined, "you're mighty civil. Quite complimen.ary, forsooth. Do you suppose that I could undertake to coin a story so minute, and particular, and specific—so coherent and consistent in all its parts, so supported by internal and circumstantial evidence-"
“So ingeniously stolen from Ovid," interrupted I. " * Et tu brute,' Cypress !"
“I make no doubt it's all true, mostly,” said Daniel. “ I've been by the bridge and seen the place where Mr. Locus sot, when he come out."
"Well, gentlemen, what's the unbelievable part of the story? You don't deny the brook, or doubt its being inhabited by mermaids, do you? Then why shouldn't I be as likely as any body to see one ?"
“ Festina lente,” cried I.
“Not so fast, I pray thee,” said the quiet Oliver. "I admit the brook, but I deny thy eyesight. Thy water-nymph lived but in thy brain, she is the offspring of thy dreams only -none but pagan priests and poets, and dreamy boys, and quaker sea-captains, have seen the creature of fancy, called a mermaid."
“Why, Oliver ! you infidel! Do you deny the Oceanides, the Nereides and Naiades, the Limnades and Potamides—
“ No such families in the island, d- -d if there is,” cried Peter.
“ Have you never heard of Galatea and Amphitrite, Melita, and Leucothoe, and Thetis, Calypso, and glorious Arethusa?!!
Peter.-"Never heerd of such people before.”