The Hoosier Schoolmaster by Edward Eggleson The Hoosier Schoolmaster by Edward Eggleson    

Chapter 31: The Trial Concluded

Performer: Librivox - Bridget Gaige

I do not know how much interest the "gentle reader" may feel in Bud. But I venture to hope that there are some Buddhists among my readers who will wish the contradictoriness of his actions explained. The first dash of disappointment had well-nigh upset him. And when a man concludes to throw overboard his good resolutions, he always seeks to avoid the witness of those resolutions. Hence Bud, after that distressful Tuesday evening on which Miss Martha had given him "the sack," wished to see Ralph less than anyone else.

And yet when he came to suspect Small's villainy, his whole nature revolted at it. But having broken with Ralph, he thought it best to maintain an attitude of apparent hostility, that he might act as a detective, and, perhaps, save his friend from the mischief that threatened him. As soon as he heard of Ralph's arrest he determined to make Walter Johnson tell his own secret in court, because he knew that it would be best for Ralph that Walter should tell it. Bud's telling at second-hand would not be conclusive. And he sincerely desired to save Walter from prison. For Walter Johnson was the victim of Dr. Small, or of Dr. Small and such novels as "The Pirate's Bride," "Claude Duval," "The Wild Rover of the West Indies," and the cheap biographies of such men as Murrell. Small found him with his imagination inflamed by the history of such heroes, and opened to him the path to glory for which he longed.

The whole morning after Ralph's arrest Bud was working on Walter's conscience and his fears. The poor fellow, unable to act for himself, was torn asunder between the old ascendency of Small and the new ascendency of Bud Means. Bud finally frightened him, by the fear of the penitentiary, into going to the place of trial. But once inside the door, and once in sight of Small, who was more to him than God, or, rather, more to him than the devil — for the devil was Walter's God, or, perhaps, I should say, Walter's God was a devil — once in sight of Small, he refused to move an inch farther. And Bud, after all his perseverance, was about to give up in sheer despair.

Fortunately, just at that moment Small's desire to relieve himself from the taint of suspicion and to crush Ralph as completely as possible, made him overshoot the mark by asking that Walter be called to the stand, as we have before recounted. He knew that he had no tool so supple as the cowardly Walter. In the very language of the request, he had given Walter an intimation of what he wanted him to swear to.

Walter listened to Small's words as to his doom. He felt that he should die of indecision. The perdition of a man of his stamp is to have to make up his mind. Such men generally fall back on someone more positive, and take all their resolutions ready-made. But here Walter must decide for himself. For the constable was already calling his name; the court, the spectators, and, most of all, Dr. Small, were waiting for him. He moved forward mechanically through the dense crowd, Bud following part of the way to whisper, "Tell the truth or go to the penitentiary." Walter shook and shivered at this. The witness with difficulty held up his hand long enough to be sworn.

"Please tell the court," said Bronson, "whether you know anything of the whereabouts of Dr. Small on the night of the robbery at Peter Schroeder's."

Small had detected Walter's agitation, and, taking alarm, had edged his way around so as to stand full in Walter's sight, and there, with keen, magnetic eye on the weak orbs of the young man, he was able to assume his old position, and sway the fellow absolutely.

"On the night of the robbery" —Walter's voice was weak, but he seemed to be reading his answer out of Small's eyes — "on the night of the robbery Dr. Small came home before — " here the witness stopped and shook and shivered again. For Bud, detecting the effect of Small's gaze, had pushed his great hulk in front of Small, and had fastened his eyes on Walter with a look that said, "Tell the truth or go to penitentiary."

"I can't, I can't. O God! What shall I do?" the witness exclaimed, answering the look of Bud. For it seemed to him that Bud had spoken.

To the people and the court this agitation was inexplicable. Squire Hawkins' wig got awry, his glass eye turned in toward his nose, and he had great difficulty in keeping his teeth from falling out. The excitement became painfully intense. Ralph was on his feet, looking at the witness, and feeling that somehow Bud and Dr. Small — his good angel and his demon — were playing an awful game, or which he was the stake. The crowd swayed to and fro, but remained utterly silent, waiting to hear the least whisper from the witness, who stood trembling a moment with his hands over his face, and then fainted.

The fainting of a person in a crowd is a signal for everybody else to make fools of themselves. There was a rush toward the fainting man, there was a cry for water. Everybody asked everybody else to open the window, and everybody wished everybody else to stand back and give him air. But nobody opened the window, and nobody stood back.

The only perfectly cool man in the room was Small. With a quiet air of professional authority he pushed forward and felt the patient's pulse, remarking to the court that he thought it was a sudden attack of fever with delirium. When Walter revived, Dr. Small would have removed him, but Ralph insisted that his testimony should be heard. Under pretense of watching his patient, Small kept close to him. And Walter began the same old story about Dr. Small's having arrived at the office before eleven o'clock, when Bud came up behind the doctor and fastened his eyes on the witness with the same significant look, and Walter, with visions of the penitentiary before him halted, stammered, and seemed about to faint again.

"If the court please," said Bronson, "this witness is evidently intimidated by that stout young man," pointing to Bud. "I have seen him twice interrupt witness's testimony by casting threatening looks at him, I trust the court will have him removed from the courtroom."

After a few moments' consultation, during which Squire Hawkins held his wig in place with one hand and alternately adjusted his eye and his spectacles with the other, the magistrates, who were utterly bewildered by the turn things were taking, decided that it could do no harm, and that it was best to try the experiment of removing Bud. Perhaps Johnson would then be able to get through with his testimony. The constable therefore asked Bud if he would please leave the room. Bud cast one last look at the witness and walked out like a captive bear.

Ralph stood watching the receding form of Bud. The emergency had made him as cool as Small ever was. Bud stopped at the door, where he was completely out of sight of the witness, concealed by the excited spectators, who stood on the benches to see what was going on in front.

"The witness will please proceed," said Bronson.

"If the court please" — it was Ralph who spoke — "I believe I have as much at stake in this trial as anyone. That witness is evidently intimidated. But not by Mr. Means. I ask that Dr. Small be removed out of sight of the witness."

"A most extraordinary request, truly." This was what Small's bland countenance said; he did not open his lips.

"It's no more than fair," said Squire Hawkins, adjusting his wig, "that the witness be relieved of everything that anybody might think affects his veracity in this matter."

Dr. Small, giving Walter one friendly, appealing look, moved back by the door, and stood alongside Bud, as meek, quiet, and disinterested as any man in the house.

"The witness will now proceed with his testimony." This time it was Squire Hawkins who spoke. Bronson had been attacked with a suspicion that this witness was not just what he wanted, and had relapsed into silence.

Walter's struggle was by no means ended by the disappearance of Small and Bud. There came the recollection of his mother's stern face — a face which had never been a motive toward the right, but only a goad to deception. What would she say if he should confess? Just as he had recovered himself, and was about to repeat the old lie which had twice died upon his lips at the sight of Bud's look, he caught sight of another face, which made him tremble again. It was the lofty and terrible countenance of Mr. Soden. One might have thought, from the expression it wore, that the seven last vials were in his hands, the seven apocalyptic trumpets waiting for his lips, and the seven thunders sitting upon his eyebrows. The moment that Walter saw him he smelled the brimstone on his own garments, he felt himself upon the crumbling brink of the precipice, with perdition below him. Now I am sure that "Brother Sodoms" were not made wholly in vain. There are plenty of mean-spirited men like Walter Johnson, whose feeble consciences need all the support they can get from the fear of perdition, and who are incapable of any other conception of it than a coarse and materialistic ones. Let us set it down to the credit of Brother Sodom, with his stiff stock, his thunderous face, and his awful walk, that his influence over Walter was on the side of truth.

"Please proceed," said Squire Hawkins to Walter. The Squire's wig lay on one side, he had forgotten to adjust his eye, and he leaned forward, tremulous with interest.

"Well, then," said Walter, looking not at the court nor at Bronson nor at the prisoner, but furtively at Mr. Soden — "well, then, if I must" — and Mr. Soden's awful face seemed to answer that he surely must — "well, then, I hope you won't send me to prison" — this to Squire Hawkins, whose face reassured him — "but, oh! I don't see how I can!" But one look at Mr. Soden assured him that he could and that he must, and so, with an agony painful to the spectators, he told the story in driblets. How, while yet in Lewisburg, he had been made a member of a gang of which Small was chief; how they concealed from him the names of all the band except six, of whom the Joneses and Small were three.

Here there was a scuffle at the door. The court demanded silence.

"Dr. Small's trying to git out, plague take him," said Bud, who stood with his back planted against the door. "I'd like the court to send and git his trunk afore he has a chance to burn up all the papers that's in it."

"Constable, you will arrest Dr. Small, Peter Jones, and William Jones. Send two deputies to bring Small's trunk into court," said Squire Underwood.

The prosecuting attorney was silent.

Walter then told of the robbery at Schroeder's, told where he and Small had whittled the fence while the Joneses entered the house, and confirmed Ralph's story by telling how they had seen Ralph in a fence-corner, and how they had met the basket-maker on the hill.

"To be sure," said the old man, who had not ventured to hold up his head, after he was arrested, until Walter began his testimony.

Walter felt inclined to stop, but he could not do it, for there stood Mr. Soden, looking to him like a messenger from the skies, or the bottomless pit, sent to extort the last word from his guilty soul He felt that he was making a clean breast of it — at the risk of perdition, with the penitentiary thrown in, if he faltered. And so he told the whole thing as though it had been the day of doom, and by the time he was through, Small's trunk was in court.

Here a new hubbub took place at the door. It was none other than the crazy pauper, Tom Bifield, who personated General Andrew Jackson in the poorhouse. He had caught some inkling of the trial, and had escaped in Bill Jones's absence. His red plume was flying, and in his tattered and filthy garb he was indeed a picturesque figure.

"Squar," said he, elbowing his way through the crowd, "I kin tell you sornethin'. I'm Gineral Andrew Jackson. Lost my head at Bueny Visty. This head growed on. It a'n't good fer much. One side's tater. But t'other's sound as a nut. Now, I kind give you information."

Bronson, with the quick perceptions of a politician, had begun to see which way future winds would probably blow. "If the court please," he said, "this man is not wholly sane, but we might get valuable information out of him. I suggest that his testimony be taken for what it is worth."

"No, you don't swar me," broke in the lunatic. "Not if I knows myself. You see, when a feller's got one side of his head tater, he's mighty onsartain like. You don't swar me, fer I can't tell what minute the tater side'll begin to talk. I'm talkin' out of the lef' side now, and I'm all right. But you don't swar me. But ef you'll send some of your constables out to the barn at the pore-house and look under the hay-mow in the north-east corner, you'll find some things maybe as has been a-missin' fer some time. And that a'n't out of the tater side, nuther."

Meantime Bud did not rest. Hearing the nature of the testimony given by Hank Banta before he entered, he attacked Hank and vowed he'd send him to prison if he didn't make a clean breast. Hank was a thorough coward, and, now that his friends were prisoners, was ready enough to tell the truth if he could be protected from prosecution. Seeing the disposition of the prosecuting attorney, Bud got from him a promise that he would do what he could to protect Hank. That worthy then took the stand, confessed his lie, and even told the inducement which Mr. Pete Jones had offered him to perjure himself.

"To be sure," said Pearson.

Squire Hawkins, turning his right eye upon him, while the left looked at the ceiling, said: "Be careful, Mr. Pearson, or I shall have to punish you for contempt."

"Why, Squar, I didn't know 'twas any sin to hev a healthy contemp' fer sech a thief as Jones!"

The Squire looked at Mr. Pearson severely, and the latter, feeling that he had committed some offense without knowing it, subsided into silence.

Bronson now had a keen sense of the direction of the gale.

"If the court please," said he, "I have tried to do my duty in this case. It was my duty to prosecute Mr. Hartsook, however much I might feel assured that he was innocent, and that he would be able to prove his innocence. I now enter a nolle in his case and that of John Pearson, and I ask that this court adjourn until tomorrow, in order to give me time to examine the evidence in the case of the other parties under arrest. I am proud to think that my efforts have been the means of sifting the matter to the bottom, of freeing Mr. Hartsook from suspicion, and of detecting the real criminals."

"Ugh!" said Mr. Pearson, who conceived a great dislike to Bronson.

"The court," said Squire Hawkins, "congratulates Mr. Hartsook on his triumphant acquittal. He is discharged from the bar of this court, and from the bar of public sentiment, without a suspicion of guilt. Constable, discharge Ralph Hartsook and John Pearson."

Old Jack Means, who had always had a warm side for the master, now proposed three cheers for Mr. Hartsook, and they were given with a will by the people who would have hanged him an hour before.

Mrs. Means gave it as her opinion that "Jack Means allers wuz a fool!"

"This court," said Dr. Underwood, "has one other duty to perform before adjourning for the day. Recall Hannah Thomson."

"I jist started her on ahead to git supper and milk the cows," said Mrs. Means. "A'n't a-goin' to have her loafin' here all day."

"Constable, recall her. This court can not adjourn until she returns!"

Hannah had gone but a little way, and was soon in the presence of the court, trembling for fear of some new calamity.

"Hannah Thomson" — it was Squire Underwood who spoke — "Hannah Thomson, this court wishes to ask you one or two questions."

"Yes, sir," but her voice died to a whisper.

"How old did you say you were?

"Eighteen, sir, last October."

"Can you prove your age?"

"Yes, sir — by my mother."

"For how long are you bound to Mr. Means?"

"Till I'm twenty-one."

"This court feels in duty bound to inform you that, according to the laws of Indiana, a woman is of age at eighteen, and as no indenture could be made binding after you had reached your majority, you are the victim of a deception. You are free, and if it can be proven that you have been defrauded by a willful deception, a suit for damages will lie."

"Ugh!" said Mrs. Means. "You're a purty court, a'n't you, Dr. Underwood?"

"Be careful, Mrs. Means, or I shall have to fine you for contempt of court."

But the people, who were in the cheering humor, cheered Hannah and the justices, and then cheered Ralph again. Granny Sanders shook hands with him, and allers knowed he'd come out right. It allers 'peared like as if Dr. Small warn't jist the sort to tie to, you know. And old John Pearson went home, after drinking two or three glasses of Welch's whisky, keeping time to an imaginary triumphal march, and feeling prouder than he had ever felt since he fit the Britishers under Scott at Lundy's Lane. He told his wife that the master had jist knocked the hind-sights offen that air young lawyer from Lewisburg.

Walter was held to bail that he might appear as a witness, and Ralph might have sent his aunt a Roland for an Oliver. But he only sent a note to his uncle, asking him to go Walter's bail. If he had been resentful, he could not have wished for a more complete revenge than the day had brought.

    The Hoosier Schoolmaster by Edward Eggleson The Hoosier Schoolmaster by Edward Eggleson    

Chapter 31: The Trial Concluded

Performer: Librivox - Bridget Gaige


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Discuss the review questions.


Under the fierce gazes of Bud Means and Brother Sodom and the threats of prison and eternal damnation, Walter Johnson confesses that he and Dr. Small robbed Peter Schroeder with Peter and William Jones. Tom Bifield, the General Andrew Jackson impersonator from the poorhouse, tells the court some of the stolen loot is buried at the poorhouse. Ralph Hartsook and John Pearson are cleared of all charges. Before dismissing court, Squire Hawkins tells Hannah she can no longer be bound as she has reached the age of eighteen.


Buddhists: Practitioners of the religion and philosophy derived from the teachings of Gautama Buddha.
Ascendency: Supremacy or dominant control.
Penitentiary: A state or federal prison for convicted felons.
Overshoot: To go past something or to go too far.
Supple: Pliant, flexible, or easy to bend.
Perdition: Eternal damnation or hell.
Inexplicable: Impossible to explain.
Extort: To take an unwilling person by physical force, menace, duress, torture, or any undue or illegal exercise of power.
Nolle: Declaration that a case will be dropped against a defendant.


Activity 1: Recite the Book Information

  • Recite the name of the author, the title of the book, and the title of the chapter.

Activity 2: Narrate the Story

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 3: Study the Story Picture

  • Study the story picture and describe how it relates to the story.

Activity 4: Speak in the Hoosier Dialect

Edward Eggleston wrote this book in the Hoosier dialect of mid-nineteenth century Indiana.

Recite the following sentences in Hoosier dialect with great feeling and emotion.

Feel free to move your body along with the words for emphasis.

  • Why, Squar, I didn't know 'twas any sin to hev a healthy contemp' fer sech a thief as Jones!
  • Ugh! You're a purty court, a'n't you, Dr. Underwood?

Activity 5: Discuss the Story

  • Justice is enabled when situations are made are just, fair, and impartial.
  • Discuss how Squire Hawkins promoted justice by asking both Bud Means and Dr. Small to stand at the back where they could not intimidate the witness.
  • Discuss how Squire Hawkins fostered justice by informing Hannah of her rights under the law, even though it had little to do with the case they were hearing.

Activity 6: Map the Story

  • The story of 'The Hoosier Schoolmaster' takes place in the state of Indiana.
  • Study the state map of Indiana.
  • Which Indiana city marked on the map is farthest east?


Question 1

Why does Walter Johnson confess?
1 / 4

Answer 1

Under the fierce gazes of Bud Means and Brother Sodom and the threats of prison and eternal damnation, Walter Johnson decides to confess.
1 / 4

Question 2

What does Dr. Small do when he realizes his nefarious deeds will be revealed?
2 / 4

Answer 2

Dr. Small tries to flee the courtroom when he realizes his nefarious deeds will be revealed.
2 / 4

Question 3

Who committed the robbery?
3 / 4

Answer 3

Dr. Small, Walter Johnson, Pete Jones, and William Jones committed the robbery.
3 / 4

Question 4

Why does Squire Hawkins call Hannah back to court?
4 / 4

Answer 4

Squire Hawkins calls Hannah back to court to inform her of her rights under the law - since she turned eighteen she can no longer be bound.
4 / 4

  1. Why does Walter Johnson confess? Under the fierce gazes of Bud Means and Brother Sodom and the threats of prison and eternal damnation, Walter Johnson decides to confess.
  2. What does Dr. Small do when he realizes his nefarious deeds will be revealed? Dr. Small tries to flee the courtroom when he realizes his nefarious deeds will be revealed.
  3. Who committed the robbery? Dr. Small, Walter Johnson, Pete Jones, and William Jones committed the robbery.
  4. Why does Squire Hawkins call Hannah back to court? Squire Hawkins calls Hannah back to court to inform her of her rights under the law - since she turned eighteen she can no longer be bound.