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THE SCHOOL TRIAL.
The court being sat, Dorothy Careful, widow, attended to make a complaint against Henry Luckless, and other person or persons unknown, for breaking three panes of glass, value ninepence, in her window. The court consisted of five of the leading boys of the school, of whom the oldest was the judge, and the proceedings were as follows:
Dorothy Careful, widow, thus deposed: "I was sitting at work by my fireside, between the hours of six and seven in the evening, just as it was growing dusk, and little Jack was playing beside me, when all at once crack went the window, and down fell a little basket of cakes that was set up against it. I started up, and cried to Jack, 'Dear me! what's the matter?' Says Jack, 'Somebody has thrown a stone, and broke the window, and I dare say it is some of the schoolboys.' With that I ran out of the house, and saw some boys making off as fast as they could go. So I ran after them as quick as my old legs would carry me; but I should never have come near them, if one had not happened to fall down. Him I caught, and brought back to my house, when Jack knew him at once to be Master Harry Luckless. So I told him I would complain of him the next day; and I hope your worship will make him pay the damage, and give him a good whipping into the bargain for injuring a poor widow woman!"
The court having heard Mrs. Careful's story, desired her to sit down; and then calling up Master Luckless, asked him what he had to say for himself. Luckless appeared with his face a good deal scratched, and looking very downcast. After making his bow, and sobbing two or three times, he began:—
My lord, I am as innocent of this matter as any boy in the school, and I am sure I have suffered enough about it already. Billy Thompson and I were playing in the land near Mrs. Careful's house, when we heard the window crash; and directly after she came running out towards us. Upon this Billy ran away, and I ran too, thinking if I remained, I might have to bear the blame. But after running a little way, I stumbled over something that lay in the road; and before I could get up again she overtook me, and caught me by the hair, and began lugging and cuffing me. I told her it was not I that broke her window, but it did not signify. So she dragged me to the light, lugging and scratching me all the while, and then she said she would inform against me; and that is all I know about the matter."
Judge: I find, good woman, that you were willing to revenge yourself, without waiting for the justice of this court.
Widow Careful: My lord, I confess I was in a great passion, and did not properly consider what was doing.
Judge: Well, where is Billy Thompson?
Judge: You have heard what Harry Luckless says. Declare upon your honour whether he has spoken the truth.
Billy: My lord, I am sure neither he nor I had any concern in breaking the window. We were standing together at the time, and I ran away on hearing the door open, for fear of being charged with it, and he followed me; but what became of him, I did not stay to see.
Judge: So you let your friend shift for himself, and only thought of saving yourself. But did you see any other person about the house, or in the lane?
Billy: I thought I heard somebody on the other side of the hedge, creeping along, a little before the window was broken, but I saw nobody.
Judge: You hear, good woman, what is witnessed on behalf of this boy whom you have accused. Have you any other evidence against him?
Widow Careful: One might be sure they would deny it, and tell lies for one another; but I hope I am not to be put off in that manner.
Judge: I must tell you, Mrs. Careful, that you are giving too much license to your tongue, when you state that the boys attending this school are in the habit of telling lies. You will find amongst us, I hope, a sense of what is right and just, as strong as in those who are older; and we should not be permitted to try offences in this manner, if our master had not perfect trust in our honour and fairness.
Widow Careful: I ask your worship's pardonI did not mean to offend; but it is a heavy loss for a poor woman; and though I did not catch the boy in the act, yet he was nearest to the window when it was done.
Judge: That is no more than that you suspect he did it; but here is one of his schoolfellows who has told us he had nothing to do with it. Therefore we cannot convict him of breaking the window. Have you found anything else which may help us in discovering the offender?
Widow Careful: Next morning, Jack found on the floor this top, which I suppose the window was broken with.
Judge: Hand it up. Here, gentlemen of the jury, please to examine it, and see if you can discover anything on it by which we may find its
Juryman: Here is P. R. cut upon it.
Another: Yes, and I am sure I recollect Peter Riot having just such an one.
Another: So do I.
Judge: Master Riot, is this your top?
Riot: I don't know, my lord; perhaps it may be mine. I have a great many tops, and when I have done with them, I throw them away, and anybody may pick them up that pleases. You see it has lost its peg.
Judge: Very well, sir. Mrs. Careful you may retire.
Widow Careful: And must I have no amends, my lord?
Judge: Have patience; leave everything to the court. We shall do you all the justice in our
As soon as the widow was gone, the judge addressed the court, and proposed that the widow should be paid her loss out of the public chest ; and that a Court of Inquiry should be formed to search thoroughly into the matter, and, if possible, find out the person who was guilty of the offence. This was agreed to, and the court then adjourned.
THE SCHOOL TRIAL.
On the meeting of the Court of Inquiry, the first thing proposed by the president was, that the persons who usually played with Master Riot should be sent for. Tom Frisk and Bob Loiter were therefore called, and the president asked them, on their honour, if they knew the top to have been Riot's. They said they did. They were then asked whether they could remember when Riot was last seen with it.
Frisk: He had it the day before yesterday, and split a top of mine with it.
Loiter: Yes, and then, as he was making a stroke at mine, the peg flew out.
President: What did he do with it then?
Frisk: He put it into his pocket, and said that as it was a strong top, he would have it mended.