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stolid as ever. There was another pause, and then the judge arrived and the
sheriff proclaimed the opening of the court. The usual whisperings among the
lawyers and gathering together of papers followed. These details and
accompanying delays worked up an atmosphere of preparation that was as
impressive as it was fascinating.
Now a witness was called who testified that he found Muff Potter washing in
the brook, at an early hour of the morning that the murder was discovered, and
that he immediately sneaked away. After some further questioning, counsel for
the prosecution said“Take the witness.” The prisoner raised his eyes for a
moment, but dropped them again when his own counsel said“I have no
questions to ask him.” The next witness proved the finding of the knife near the
corpse. Counsel for the prosecution said: “Take the witness.” “I have no
questions to ask him.” Potter’s lawyer replied.
A third witness swore he had often seen the knife in Potter’s possession.
“Take the witness.” Counsel for Potter declined to question him. The faces of the
audience began to betray annoyance. Did this attorney mean to throw away his
client’s life without an effort? Several witnesses deposed concerning Potter’s
guilty behavior when brought to the scene of the murder. They were allowed to
leave the stand without being cross-questioned.
Every detail of the damaging circumstances that occurred in the graveyard upon
that morning which all present remembered so well, was brought out by
credible witnesses, but none of them were cross-examined by Potter’s lawyer.
The perplexity and dissatisfaction of the house expressed itself in murmurs and
provoked a reproof from the bench. Counsel for the prosecution now said:
“By the oaths of citizens whose simple word is above suspicion, we have
fastened this awful crime beyond all possibility of question, upon the unhappy
prisoner at the bar. We rest our case here.” A groan escaped from poor Potter,
and he put his face in his hands and rocked his body softly to and fro, while a
painful silence reigned in the courtroom. Many men were moved, and many
women’s compassion testified itself in tears. Counsel for the defense rose and
“Your honor, in our remarks at the opening of this trial, we foreshadowed our
purpose to prove that our client did this fearful deed while under the influence
of a blind and irresponsible delirium produced by drink. We have changed our
We shall not offer that plea.” [Then to the clerk]: “Call Thomas Sawyer!” A
puzzled amazement awoke in every face in the house, not even excepting
Every eye fastened itself with wondering interest upon Tom as he rose and took
his place upon the stand. The boy looked wild enough, for he was badly scared.
The oath was administered.
“Thomas Sawyer, where were you on the seventeenth of June, about the hour of
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