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- The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet - 20/21 -
THE SHERIFF. Youve got to tell us the truth. Thats the law, you know.
THE WOMAN. The man looked a bad man. He cursed me; and he cursed the child: God forgive him! But something came over him. I was desperate, I put the child in his arms; and it got its little fingers down his neck and called him Daddy and tried to kiss him; for it was not right in its head with the fever. He said it was a little Judas kid, and that it was betraying him with a kiss, and that he'd swing for it. And then he gave me the horse, and went away crying and laughing and singing dreadful dirty wicked words to hymn tunes like as if he had seven devils in him.
STRAPPER. She's lying. Give her the oath, George.
THE SHERIFF. Go easy there. Youre a smart boy, Strapper; but youre not Sheriff yet. This is my job. You just wait. I submit that we're in a difficulty here. If Blanco was the man, the lady cant, as a white woman, give him away. She oughtnt to be put in the position of having either to give him away or commit perjury. On the other hand, we don't want a horse-thief to get off through a lady's delicacy.
THE FOREMAN. No we don't; and we don't intend he shall. Not while I am foreman of this jury.
BLANCO [with intense expression] A rotten foreman! Oh, what a rotten foreman!
THE SHERIFF. Shut up, will you. Providence shows us a way out here. Two women saw Blanco with a horse. One has a delicacy about saying so. The other will excuse me saying that delicacy is not her strongest holt. She can give the necessary witness. Feemy Evans: you've taken the oath. You saw the man that took the horse.
FEEMY. I did. And he was a low-down rotten drunken lying hound that would go further to hurt a woman any day than to help her. And if he ever did a good action it was because he was too drunk to know what he was doing. So it's no harm to hang him. She said he cursed her and went away blaspheming and singing things that were not fit for the child to hear.
BLANCO [troubled] I didn't mean them for the child to hear, you venomous devil.
THE SHERIFF. All thats got nothing to do with us. The question you have to answer is, was that man Blanco Posnet?
THE WOMAN. No. I say no. I swear it. Sheriff: don't hang that man: oh don't. You may hang me instead if you like: Ive nothing to live for now. You darent take her word against mine. She never had a child: I can see it in her face.
FEEMY [stung to the quick] I can hang him in spite of you, anyhow. Much good your child is to you now, lying there on Pug Jackson's bench!
BLANCO [rushing at her with a shriek] I'll twist your heart out of you for that. [They seize him before he can reach her].
FEEMY [mocking at him as he struggles to get at her] Ha, ha, Blanco Posnet. You cant touch me; and I can hang you. Ha, ha! Oh, I'll do for you. I'll twist your heart and I'll twist your neck. [He is dragged back to the bar and leans on it, gasping and exhausted.] Give me the oath again, Elder. I'll settle him. And do you [to the woman] take your sickly face away from in front of me.
STRAPPER. Just turn your back on her there, will you?
THE WOMAN. God knows I don't want to see her commit murder. [She folds her shawl over her head].
THE SHERIFF. Now, Miss Evans: cut it short. Was the prisoner the man you saw this morning or was he not? Yes or no?
FEEMY [a little hysterically] I'll tell you fast enough. Dont think I'm a softy.
THE SHERIFF [losing patience] Here: weve had enough of this. You tell the truth, Feemy Evans; and let us have no more of your lip. Was the prisoner the man or was he not? On your oath?
FEEMY. On my oath and as I'm a living woman--[flinching] Oh God! he felt the little child's hands on his neck--I cant [bursting into a flood of tears and scolding at the other woman] It's you with your snivelling face that has put me off it. [Desperately] No: it wasn't him. I only said it out of spite because he insulted me. May I be struck dead if I ever saw him with the horse!
[Everybody draws a long breath. Dead silence.]
BLANCO [whispering at her] Softy! Cry-baby! Landed like me! Doing what you never intended! [Taking up his hat and speaking in his ordinary tone] I presume I may go now, Sheriff.
STRAPPER. Here, hold hard.
THE FOREMAN. Not if we know it, you don't.
THE BOYS [barring the way to the door] You stay where you are. Stop a bit, stop a bit. Dont you be in such a hurry. Dont let him go. Not much.
[Blanco stands motionless, his eye fixed, thinking hard, and apparently deaf to what is going on.]
THE SHERIFF [rising solemnly] Silence there. Wait a bit. I take it that if the Sheriff is satisfied and the owner of the horse is satisfied, theres no more to be said. I have had to remark on former occasions that what is wrong with this court is that theres too many Sheriffs in it. To-day there is going to be one, and only one; and that one is your humble servant. I call that to the notice of the Foreman of the jury, and also to the notice of young Strapper. I am also the owner of the horse. Does any man say that I am not? [Silence]. Very well, then. In my opinion, to commandeer a horse for the purpose of getting a dying child to a doctor is not stealing, provided, as in the present case, that the horse is returned safe and sound. I rule that there has been no theft.
NESTOR. That aint the law.
THE SHERIFF. I fine you a dollar for contempt of court, and will collect it myself off you as you leave the building. And as the boys have been disappointed of their natural sport, I shall give them a little fun by standing outside the door and taking up a collection for the bereaved mother of the late kid that shewed up Blanco Posnet.
THE BOYS. A collection. Oh, I say! Calls that sport? Is this a mothers' meeting? Well, I'll be jiggered! Where does the sport come in?
THE SHERIFF [continuing] The sport comes in, my friends, not so much in contributing as in seeing others fork out. Thus each contributes to the general enjoyment; and all contribute to his. Blanco Posnet: you go free under the protection of the Vigilance Committee for just long enough to get you out of this town, which is not a healthy place for you. As you are in a hurry, I'll sell you the horse at a reasonable figure. Now, boys, let nobody go out till I get to the door. The court is adjourned. [He goes out].
STRAPPER [to Feemy, as he goes to the door] I'm done with you. Do you hear? I'm done with you. [He goes out sulkily].
FEEMY [calling after him] As if I cared about a stingy brat like you! Go back to the freckled maypole you left for me: you've been fretting for her long enough.
THE FOREMAN [To Blanco, on his way out] A man like you makes me sick. Just sick. [Blanco makes no sign. The Foreman spits disgustedly, and follows Strapper out. The Jurymen leave the box, except Nestor, who collapses in a drunken sleep].
BLANCO [Suddenly rushing from the bar to the table and jumping up on it] Boys, I'm going to preach you a sermon on the moral of this day's proceedings.
THE BOYS [crowding round him] Yes: lets have a sermon. Go ahead, Blanco. Silence for Elder Blanco. Tune the organ. Let us pray.
NESTOR [staggering out of his sleep] Never hold up your head in this town again. I'm done with you.
BLANCO [pointing inexorably to Nestor] Drunk in church. Disturbing the preacher. Hand him out.
THE BOYS [chivying Nestor out] Now, Nestor, outside. Outside, Nestor. Out you go. Get your subscription ready for the Sheriff. Skiddoo, Nestor.
NESTOR. Afraid to be hanged! Afraid to be hanged! [At the door] Coward! [He is thrown out].
BLANCO. Dearly beloved brethren--
A BOY. Same to you, Blanco. [Laughter].
BLANCO. And many of them. Boys: this is a rotten world.
ANOTHER BOY. Lord have mercy on us, miserable sinners. [More laughter].
BLANCO [Forcibly] No: thats where youre wrong. Dont flatter yourselves that youre miserable sinners. Am I a miserable sinner? No: I'm a fraud and a failure. I started in to be a bad man like the rest of you. You all started in to be bad men or you wouldn't be in this jumped-up, jerked-off, hospital-turned-out camp that calls itself a town. I took the broad path because I thought I was a man and not a snivelling canting turning-the-other-cheek apprentice angel serving his time in a vale of tears. They talked Christianity to us on Sundays; but when they really meant business they told us never to take a blow without giving it back, and to get dollars. When they talked the golden rule to me, I just looked at them as if they werent there, and spat. But when they told me to try to live my life so that I could always look
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