A GOOD WITNESS by William Trotter Porter

Lawyers allege that there are four classes of witnesses--those who prove too much, those who prove too little, those of a totally negative character, and those of no character at all, who will prove anything. We have a case in point.

Far, very far away from the tall blue mountains, at a little place called Sodom, there were upon a time three neighbors called in as arbitrators to settle a point, relative to some stolen chickens, in dispute between one Lot Corson and a " hard case" called Emmanuel Allen, better known thereabout as King of the Marsh.

"Mister Constable," said one of the demi-judicials, "now call the principerl witness."

"Lanty Oliphant ! Lanty Olip-h-a-n-t !" bawled Dogberry. "Mosey in and be swore."

In obedience to this summons, little Lanty, whose bottle had usurped the place in his affections commonly assigned to soap and water, waddled up and was qualified, deprecating by a look the necessity of such a useless ceremony among gentlemen.

"Mister Oliphant, you are now swore. Do you know the value of an oath?" asked the senior of the board.

"Doesn't I!" rejoined Lanty, with a wink at a bystander. "Four bushel of weight wheat, the old score wiped off, and licker for the hul day throw'd in."

This matter-of-fact answer met a severe frown from the man with the red ribbon round his hat.

"Well, Mister Oliphanat," continued the senior, "tell all you know about this here case. Bill M.....k, shoo your dog off that d..d old sow."

Lanty here testified. "Feelin' a sort of outish t'other day, ses I to the old woman, ses I, I'll jist walk over to Lot's and take a nipper or two this mornin', ses I. It'll take the wind off my stomach sorter, ses I. Then the old woman's feathers riz, they did, like a porkypine's bristles, and ses she, Lanty, says she, if you'd on'y airn more bread and meat, and drink less whiskey, you wouldn't have wind on your stomach. Suse, ses I, this is one of my resarved rights", and I goes agin home industry, ses I, sort o' laughin' out o' the wrong side o' my mouth. " Resarved rights or desarved wrongs," ses her, " you'r always a drinkin' and talkin' politics when you orter be at work, and there's never nothin' to eat in the house. "Well, as I was a goin, over to Lot's jist fernent where the fence was, ses I to myself, ses I, if there isn't the old King's critters in my corn field, so I'll jist go and tell him on't. When I gets there, good mornin', Lanty, ses he. Good mornin', old hoss, ses I, and when I went in, there was a pot on the fire a cookin', with a great big speckled rooster in it."

"Mister Oliphant!" here interposed one of the arbitrators. "Remember that you are on oath. How do you know that the chicken in the pot was 'a big speckled rooster?' "

"Kase I seed the feathers at the woodpile!" promptly responded Lanty, who then continued. "Well, when I gits to Lot's, good mornin', Lot, ses I. Good mornin', Lanty, ses he. You didn't see nothin' no where of nar' a big speckl'd rooster that didn't belong to nobody, did you? ses he. Didn't I? ses I. Come, Lanty, ses he, let's take a nipper, ses he ; and then I up and tells him all about it."

"Had Mr. Allen no chickens of his own," asked the senior.

"Cartin'," rejoined Lanty; "but there warn't a rooster in the crowd. They was all layin' hens!"

"Well," inquired another of the referees, "how many of these hens had Mr. Allen?"

This question fairly stump'd Lanty for a moment, but he quickly answered: "Why, with what was there, and what wasn't there, counting little and big, spring chickens and all, there was forty odd, EXACTLY!"

No further questions were put to this witness!