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The Law and the Lady

20. The End Of The Trial
THE calling of the new witness provoked a burst of laughter among the audience due
partly, no doubt, to the strange name by which he had been summoned; partly, also, to the
instinctive desire of all crowded assemblies, when their interest is painfully excited, to
seize on any relief in the shape of the first subject of merriment which may present itself.
A severe rebuke from the Bench restored order among the audience. The Lord Justice
Clerk declared that he would "clear the Court" if the interruption to the proceedings were
renewed.
During the silence which followed this announcement the new witness appeared.
Gliding, self-propelled in his chair on wheels, through the opening made for him among
the crowd, a strange and startling creature--literally the half of a man--revealed himself to
the general view. A coverlet which had been thrown over his chair had fallen off during
his progress through the throng. The loss of it exposed to the public curiosity the head,
the arms, and the trunk of a living human being: absolutely deprived of the lower limbs.
To make this deformity all the more striking and all the more terrible, the victim of it
was--as to his face and his body--an unusually handsome and an unusually well-made
man. His long silky hair, of a bright and beautiful chestnut color, fell over shoulders that
were the perfection of strength and grace. His face was bright with vivacity and
intelligence. His large clear blue eyes and his long delicate white hands were like the eyes
and hands of a beautiful woman. He would have looked effeminate but for the manly
proportions of his throat and chest, aided in their effect by his flowing beard and long
mustache, of a lighter chestnut shade than the color of his hair. Never had a magnificent
head and body been more hopelessly ill-bestowed than in this instance! Never had Nature
committed a more careless or a more cruel mistake than in the making of this man!
He was sworn, seated, of course, in his chair. Having given his name, he bowed to the
Judges and requested their permission to preface his evidence with a word of explanation.
"People generally laugh when they first hear my strange Christian name," he said, in a
low, clear, resonant voice which penetrated to the remotest corners of the Court. "I may
inform the good people here that many names, still common among us, have their
significations, and that mine is one of them. 'Alexander,' for instance, means, in the
Greek, 'a helper of men.' 'David' means, in Hebrew, 'well-beloved.' 'Francis' means, in
German, 'free.' My name, 'Miserrimus,' means, in Latin, 'most unhappy.' It was given to
me by my father, in allusion to the deformity which you all see--the deformity with which
it was my misfortune to be born. You won't laugh at 'Miserrimus' again, will you?" He
turned to the Dean of Faculty, waiting to examine him for the defense. "Mr. Dean. I am at
your service. I apologize for delaying, even for a moment, the proceedings of the Court."
He delivered his little address with perfect grace and good-humor. Examined by the
Dean, he gave his evidence clearly, without the slightest appearance of hesitation or
reserve.
 
 
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