"Cousin Sally Dilliard" by Hamilton C. Jones (c. 1830)

Scene: A court ofjustice in North Carolina.

A beardless disciple of Themis arises, and thus addressed the court.

"May it please Your Worship, and you, Gentlemen of the jury, since it has been my fortune (good or bad I will not say) to exercise myself in legal disquisition, it has never befallen me to be obliged to prosecute so direful, marked and malicious an assault- a more wilful, violent, dangerous battery- and finally a more diabolical breach of the peace, has seldom happened in a civilized country; and I dare say it has seldom been your duty to pass upon one so shocking to benevolent feelings, as this which took place at Captain Rice's, in this country. But you will hear from the witnesses."

The witnesses being sworn, two or three were examined and deposed. One said that he heard the noise and did not see the fight; another that he seen the row but didn't know who struck first; and a third, that he was very drunk and couldn't say much about the scrimmage.

Lawyer Chops: "I am sorry, gentlemen, to have occupied your time with the stupidity of the witnesses examined. It arises, gentlemen, altogether from misapprehension on my part. Had I known, as I now do, that I had a witness in attendance who was well acquainted with all the circumstances of the case, and who was able to make himself clearly understood by the court and jury, I should not so long have trespassed upon our time and patience. Come forward, Mr. Harris, and be sworn I " So forward comes the witness, a fat, shuffly old man, a little corned, and took his oath with an air.

Chops: "Harris, we wish you to tell all about the riot that happened the other day at Captain Rice's; and as a good deal of time has already been wasted in circumlocution, we wish you to be compendious, and at the same time as explicit as possible."

Harris: "Adzactly," giving the lawyer a knowing wink and at the same time clearing his throat. "Captain Rice, he gin a treat; and cousin Sally Dilliard, she came over to my house and axed me if my wife she couldn't go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard that my wife was poorly, being as how she had a touch of the rheumatics in the hip, and the big swamp was in the road, and the big swamp was up, for there had been a heap of rain lately. But howsomever, as it was she, cousin Sally Dilliard, my wife she mout go. Well, cousin Sally Dilliard then axed me if Mose he moutn't go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard that he was the foreman of the crop, and the crop was smartly in the grass; but howsomever as it was she, cousin Sally Dilliard, Mose he mout go-"

Chops: "In the name of common sense, Mr. Harris, what do you mean by this rigmarole?"

Witness: "Captain Rice, he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard she came over to our house and axed if my wife she moutn't go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard-"

Chops: "Stop, sir, if you please; we don't want to hear anything about your cousin Sally Dilliard and your wife. Tell us about the fight at Rice's."

Witness: "Well, I will, sir, if you will let me."

Chops: "Well, sir, go on."

Witness: '"Well, sir, Captain Rice he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard she came over to my house, and axed me if my wife she moutn't go-"

Chops: "There it is again. Witness, please to stop."

Witness: "Well, sir, what do you want?"

Chops: "We want to know about the fight, and you must not proceed in this impertinent story. Do you know anything about the matter before the court?"

Witness: "To be sure I do."

Chops: "Well, go on and tell it, and nothing else."

Witness: "Well, Captain Rice, he gin a treat-"

Chops: "This is intolerable. May it please the Court; I move that this witness be committed for a contempt; he seems to be trifling with this case."

Court: "Witness, you are now before a court of justice, and unless you behave yourself in a more becoming manner, you will be sent to jail. So begin and tell us what you know about the fight at Captain Rice's."

Witness (alarmed): 'Vell, gentlemen, Captain Rice, he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard-"

Chops: "I hope the witness may be ordered into custody."

Court (after deliberating): "Mr. Attorney, the Court is of the opinion that we may save time by telling witness to go on in his own way. Proceed, Mr. Harris, with your story, but stick to the point."

Witness: "Yes, gentlemen. Well, Captain Rice he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard she came over to our house and axed me if my wife she mout go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard that my wife she was poorly, being as how she had the rheumatics in the hip, and the big swamp was up, but howsomever, as it was she cousin Sally Dilliard, my wife she mout go. Well, cousin Sally Dilliard then axed me if Mose he moutn't go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard as how Mose-he was foreman of the crop, and the crop was smartly in the grass, but howsomever, as it was she, cousin Sally Dilliard, Mose he mout go. So they goes on together-Mose, my wife, and cousin Sally Dilliard-and they come to the big swamp, and it was up, as I was telling you. But being as how there was a log across the big swamp, cousin Sally Dilliard and Mose, like genteel folks, they walked across the log; but my wife, like a darned fool, hoisted her skirts and waded through. And that's all I know about the fight."