« السابقةمتابعة »
THE HIGH COURT OF INQUIRY
It must have been three weeks or a month after I entered the school that, on a rainy holiday, I was met by two boys who ordered me peremptorily to 66 halt.
Both had staves in their hands, taller than themselves, and one of them addressed me with the words : “ Arthur Bonnicastle, you are arrested in the name of the High Court of Inquiry, and ordered to appear before that august tribunal, to answer for your sins and misdemeanors. Right about face!”
The movement had so much the air of mystery and romance that I was about equally pleased and scared. Marching between the two officials, I was led directly to my own room, which I was surprised to find quite full of boys, all of whom were grave and silent.
6 We have secured the offender," said one of my captors, “and now have the satisfaction of presenting him before this honorable society.”
“ The prisoner will stand in the middle of the room and look at me,” said the presiding officer, in a tone of dignified severity.
I was accordingly marched into the middle of the room and left alone, where I stood with folded arms, as became the grand occasion.
“ Arthur Bonnicastle,” said the officer before mentioned, “ you are brought before the High Court of Inquiry on a charge of telling so many lies that no dependence whatever can be placed upon your words. What have you to reply to this charge ? Are you guilty or not guilty ?”
“I am not guilty. Who says I am ?” I exclaimed indignantly.
Henry Hulm, advance !” said the officer. Henry rose, and walking by me, took a position near the officer at the head of the room.
“Henry Hulm, you will look upon the prisoner and tell the Court whether you know him.”
“I know him well. He is my chum,” replied Henry.
66 What is his character?" “ He is bright and very amiable.” “Do you consider him a boy of truth and verac
"I do not."
“ Has he deceived you?” inquired the officer. . “If he has, please to state the occasion and circumstances.'
“No, your Honor. He has never deceived me. I always know whether he is speaking the truth or not."
“ Have you ever told him of his crimes, and warned him to desist from them?”
“I have,” replied Henry, “ many times."
“ He tells,” replied Henry, “ stunning stories about himself. Great things are always happening to him, and he is always performing wonderful deeds.”
I now began, with great shame and confusion, to realize that I was exposed to ridicule. The tears came into my eyes and dropped from my cheeks, but I would not yield to the impulse either to cry or to attempt to fly.
“Will you give us some specimens of his stories ?" said the officer.
“I will,” responded Henry, “but I can do it best by asking him some questions."
Very well,” said the officer, with a polite bow. “Pursue the course you think best."
Arthur,” said Henry, addressing me directly, “ did you ever tell me that, when you and your father were on the way to this school, your horse went so fast that he ran down a black fox in the middle of the road, and cut off his tail with the wheel of the chaise, and that you sent that tail to one of your sisters to wear in her winter hat?”
“Yes, I did,” I responded with my face flaming and painful with shame.
“ And did your said horse really run down said fox in the middle of said road, and cut off said tail; and did you
send home said tail to said sister to be worn in said hat?” inquired the judge, with a low gruff voice. “ The prisoner will answer so that all can hear.”
“No," I replied, and, looking for some justification of
my story, I added : “ But I did see a black fox, a real black fox, as plain as day!”
« Oh! oh! oh!” ran around the room in chorus. “He did see a black fox, a real black fox, as plain as
“ The witness will pursue his inquiries,” said the officer.
“ Arthur,” Henry continued, “ did you or did you not tell me that when on the way to this school you overtook Mr. and Mrs. Bird in their
, you were invited into the wagon by Mrs. Bird, and that one of Mr. Bird's horses chased a calf on the road, caught it by the ear and tossed it over the fence, and broke its leg ?”
“I s'pose I did,” I said, growing desperate.
“And did said horse really chase said calf, and catch him by said ear, and toss him over said fence, and break said leg ? ” inquired the officer.
“ He didn't catch him by the ear," I replied doggedly, " but he really did chase a calf.”
“Oh! oh! oh!” chimed in the chorus. “He didn't catch him by the ear, but he really did chase a calf !
“Witness," said the officer, “ you will pursue your inquiries.”
“ Did you or did you not,” said Henry, turning to me again, “ tell me that one day, when dining at your aunt's, you saw a magic portrait of a boy upon the wall, that came and went, and came and went like a shadow or a ghost ?”
As Henry asked this question he stood between two windows, while the lower portion of his person was hidden by a table behind which he had retired.