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|The Benefit Of The Doubt||Jack London|
|Page 2 of 2||
"I did not know they were his premises."
"It was a trespass, your Honor," Watson cried. "The warnings are posted conspicuously."
"I saw no warnings," said Sol Witberg.
"I have seen them myself," snapped the Justice. "They are very conspicuous. And I would warn you, sir, that if you palter with the truth in such little matters you may darken your more important statements with suspicion. Why did you strike Mr. Watson?"
"Your Honor, as I have testified, I did not strike a blow."
The Justice looked at Carter Watson's bruised and swollen visage, and turned to glare at Sol Witberg.
"Look at that man's cheek!" he thundered. "If you did not strike a blow how comes it that he is so disfigured and injured?"
"As I testified--"
"Be careful," the Justice warned.
"I will be careful, sir. I will say nothing but the truth. He struck himself with a rock. He struck himself with two different rocks."
"Does it stand to reason that a man, any man not a lunatic, would so injure himself, and continue to injure himself, by striking the soft and sensitive parts of his face with a stone?" Carter Watson demanded
"It sounds like a fairy story," was the Justice's comment.
"Mr. Witberg, had you been drinking?"
"Do you never drink?"
The Justice meditated on this answer with an air of astute profundity.
Watson took advantage of the opportunity to wink at Sol Witberg, but that much-abused gentleman saw nothing humorous in the situation.
"A very peculiar case, a very peculiar case," the Justice announced, as he began his verdict. "The evidence of the two parties is flatly contradictory. There are no witnesses outside the two principals. Each claims the other committed the assault, and I have no legal way of determining the truth. But I have my private opinion, Mr. Witberg, and I would recommend that henceforth you keep off of Mr. Watson's premises and keep away from this section of the country--"
"This is an outrage!" Sol Witberg blurted out.
"Sit down, sir!" was the Justice's thundered command. "If you interrupt the Court in this manner again, I shall fine you for contempt. And I warn you I shall fine you heavily--you, a judge yourself, who should be conversant with the courtesy and dignity of courts. I shall now give my verdict:
"It is a rule of law that the defendant shall be given the benefit of the doubt. As I have said, and I repeat, there is no legal way for me to determine who struck the first blow. Therefore, and much to my regret,"--here he paused and glared at Sol Witberg--"in each of these cases I am compelled to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt. Gentlemen, you are both dismissed."
"Let us have a nip on it," Watson said to Witberg, as they left the courtroom; but that outraged person refused to lock arms and amble to the nearest saloon.
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