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For some time after the organization of the Pleasure Tours, the Enchanted Type-Writer appeared to be deserted. Night after night I watched over it with great care lest I should lose any item of interest that might come to me from below, but, much to my sorrow, things in Hades appeared to be dull--so dull that the machine was not called into requisition at all. I little guessed what important matters were transpiring in that wonderful country. Had I done so, I doubt I should have waited so patiently, although my only method of getting there was suicide, for which diversion I have very little liking. On the twenty-fourth night of waiting, however, the welcome sound of the bell dragged me forth from my comfortable couch, whither, expecting nothing, I had retired early.
"Glad to hear your pleasant tinkle again," I said. "I've missed you."
"I'm glad to get back," returned Boswell, for it was he who was manipulating the keys. "I've been so infernally busy, however, over the court news, that I haven't had a minute to spare."
"Court news, eh?" I said. "You are going to open up a society column, are you?"
"Not I," he replied. "It's the other kind of a court. We've been having some pretty hot litigation down in Hades since I was here last. The city of Cimmeria has been suing the State of Hades for ten years back dog-taxes."
"For what?" I cried.
"Unpaid dog-taxes for ten years," Boswell explained. "We have just as much government below in our cities as you have, and I will say for Hades that our cities are better run than yours."
"I suppose that is due to the fact that when a man gets to Hades he immediately becomes a reformer," I suggested, with a wink at the machine, which somehow or other did not seem to appreciate the joke.
"Possibly," observed Boswell. "Whatever the reason, however, the fact remains that Cimmeria is a well-governed city, and, what is more, it isn't afraid to assert its rights even as against old Apollyon himself."
"It's safe enough for a corporation," said I. "Much safer for a corporation which has no soul, than for an individual who has. You can't torture a city--"
"Oh, can't you!" laughed Boswell. "Humph. Apollyon can make it as hot for a city as he can for an individual. It is evident that you never heard of Sodom and Gomorrah--which is surprising to me, since your jokes about Lot's wife being too fresh and getting salted down, would seem to indicate that you had heard something about the punishment those cities underwent."
"You are right, Bozzy," I said. "I had forgotten. But tell me about the dog-tax. Does the State own a dog?"
"Does it?" roared Boswell. "Why, my dear fellow, where were you brought up and educated. Does the State own a dog!"
"That's what I asked you," I put in, meekly. "I may be very ignorant, unless you mean the kind that we have in our legislatures, called the watch-dogs of the treasury, or, perhaps, the dogs of war. But I never thought any city would be crazy enough to make the government take out a license for them."
"Never heard of a beast named Cerberus, I suppose?" said Boswell.
"Yes, I have," I answered. "He guards the gates to the infernal regions."
"Well--he's the bone of contention," said Boswell. "You see, about ten years ago the people of Cimmeria got rather tired of the condition of their streets. They were badly paved. They were full of good intentions, but the citizens thought they ought to have something more lasting, so they voted to appropriate an enormous sum for asphalting. They didn't realize how sloppy asphalt would become in that climate, but after the asphalt was put down they found out, and a Beelzebub of a time of it they had. Pegasus sprained his off hind leg by slipping on it, Bucephalus got into it with all four feet and had to be lifted out with a derrick, and every other fine horse we had was more or less injured, and the damage suits against the city were enormous. To remedy this, the asphalting was taken up and a Nicholson wood pavement was put down. This was worse than the other. It used to catch fire every other night, and, finally, to protect their houses, the people rose up en masse and ripped it all to pieces.
"This necessitated a third new pavement, of Belgian blocks, to pay for which the already overburdened city of Cimmeria had to issue bonds to an enormous amount, all of which necessitated an increase of taxes. Naturally, one of the first taxes to be imposed was a dog-tax, and it was that which led to this lawsuit, which, I regret to say, the city has lost, although Judge Blackstone's decision was eminently fair."
"Wouldn't the State pay?" I asked.
"Yes--on Cerberus as one dog," said Boswell. "The city claimed, however, that Cerberus was more than that, and endeavored to collect on three dogs--one license for each head. This the State declined to pay, and out of this grew further complications of a distressing nature. The city sent its dog-catchers up to abscond with the dog, intending to cut off two of its heads, and return the balance as being as much of the beast as the State was entitled to maintain on a single license. It was an unfortunate move, for when Cerberus himself took the situation in, which he did at a glance, he nabbed the dog-catcher by the coat-tails with one pair of jaws, grabbed hold of his collar with another, and shook him as he would a rat, meanwhile chewing up other portions of the unfortunate official with his third set of teeth. The functionary was then carried home on a stretcher, and subsequently sued the city for damages, which he recovered.
"Another man was sent out to lure the ferocious beast to the pound with a lasso, but it worked no better than the previous attempt. The lasso fell all right tight about one of the animal's necks, but his other two heads immediately set to work and gnawed the rope through, and then set off after the dog-catcher, overtaking him at the very door of the pound. This time he didn't do any biting, but lifting the dog-catcher up with his various sets of teeth, fastened to his collar, coat-tails, and feet respectively, carried him yelling like a trooper to the end of the wharf and dropped him into the Styx. The result of this was nervous prostration for the dog-catcher, another suit for damages for the city, and a great laugh for the State authorities. In fact," Boswell added, confidentially, "I think perhaps the reason why the Prime-minister hasn't got Apollyon to hang the whole city government has been due to the fun they've got out of seeing Cerberus and the city fighting it out together. There's no doubt about it that he is a wonderful dog, and is quite capable of taking care of himself."
"But the outcome of the case?" I asked, much interested.
"Defeat for the city," said Boswell. "Failing to enforce its authority by means of its servants, the city undertook to recover by due process of law. The dog-catchers were powerless; the police declined to act on the advice of the commissioners, since dog-catching was not within their province; and the fire department averred that it was designed for the putting out of fires and not for extinguishing fiery canines like Cerberus. The dog, meanwhile, to show his contempt for the city, chewed the license-tag off the neck upon which it had been placed, and dropped it into a smelting-pot inside the gates of the infernal regions that was reserved to bring political prisoners to their senses, and, worse than all, made a perfect nuisance of himself by barking all day and baying all night, rain or shine."
"Papers in a suit at law were then served on Mazarin and the other members of Apollyon's council, the causes of complaint were recited, and damages for ten years back taxes on two dogs, plus the amounts recovered from the city by the two injured dog-catchers, were demanded. The suit was put upon the calendar, and Apollyon himself sat upon the bench with Judge Blackstone, before whom the case was to be tried.
"On both sides the arguments were exceedingly strong. Coke appeared for the city and Catiline for the State. After the complaint was read, the attorney for the State put in his answer, that the State's contention was that the ordinance had been complied with, that Cerberus was only one dog, and that the license had been paid; that the license having been paid, the dog-catchers had no right to endeavor to abduct the animal, and that having done so they did it at their own peril; that the suit ought to be dismissed, but that for the fun of the the State was perfectly willing to let it go on.
"In rebuttal the plaintiff claimed that Cerberus was three dogs to all intents and purposes, and the first dog-catcher was called to testify. After giving his name and address he was asked a few questions of minor importance, and then Coke asked:
"'Are you familiar with dogs?'
"'Moderately,' was the answer. 'I never got quite so intimate with one as I did with him.'
"'With whom?' asked Coke.
"'Cerberus,' replied the witness.
"'Do you consider him to be one dog, two dogs or three dogs?'
"'I object!' cried Catiline, springing to his feet. 'The question is a leading one.'
"'Sustained,' said Blackstone, with a nervous glance at Apollyon, who smiled reassuringly at him.
"'Ah, you say you know a dog when you see one?' asked Coke.
"'Yes,' said the witness, 'perfectly.'
"'Do you know two dogs when you see them, or even three?' asked Coke.
"'I do,' replied the witness.
"'And how many dogs did you see when you saw Cerberus?' asked Coke, triumphantly.
"'Three, anyhow,' replied the witness, with feeling, 'though afterwards I thought there was a whole bench-show atop of me.'
"'Your witness,' said Coke.
"A murmur of applause went through the court-room, at which Apollyon frowned; but his face cleared in a moment when Catiline rose up.
"'My cross-examination of this witness, your honor, will be confined to one question.' Then turning to the witness he said, blandly: 'My poor friend, if you considered Cerberus to be three dogs anyhow, why did you in your examination a moment since refer to the avalanche of caninity, of which you so affectingly speak, as him?'
"'He is a him,' said the witness.
"'But if there were three, should he not have been a them?'
"Coke swore profanely beneath his breath, and the witness squirmed about in his chair, confused and broken, while both Judge Blackstone and Apollyon smiled broadly. Manifestly the point of the defence had pierced the armor of the plaintiff.
"'Your witness for re-direct,' said Catiline.
"'No thanks,' retorted Coke; 'there are others,' and, motioning to his first witness to step down, he called the second dog-catcher.
"'What is your business?' asked Coke, after the usual preliminary questions.
"'I'm out of business. Livin' on my damages,' said the witness.
"'What damages?' asked Coke.
"'Them I got from the city for injuries did me by that there--I should say them there--dorgs, Cerberus.'
"'Them there what?' persisted Coke, to emphasize the point.
"'Dorgs,' said the witness, convincingly--'D-o-r-g-s.'
"'Why s?' queried Coke. 'We may admit the r, but why the s?'
"'Because it's the pullural of dorg. Cerberus ain't any single-headed commission,' said the witness, who was something of a ward politician.
"'Why do you say that Cerberus is more than one dog?'
"Because I've had experience,' replied the witness. 'I've seen the time when he was everywhere all at once; that's why I say he's more than one dorg. If he'd been only one dorg he couldn't have been anywhere else than where he was.'
"'When was that?'
"'When I lassoed him.'
"'Him?' remonstrated Coke.
"'Yes,' said the witness. 'I only caught one of him, and then the other two took a hand.'
"'Ah, the other two,' said Coke. 'You know dogs when you see them?'
"'I do, and he was all of 'em in a bunch,' replied the witness.
"'Your witness,' said Coke.
"'My friend,' said Catiline, rising quietly. 'How many men are you?'
"'One, sir,' was the answer.
"'Have you ever been in two places at once?'
"'When was that?'
"'When I was in jail and in London all at the same time.'
"'Very good; but were you in two places on the day of this attack upon you by Cerberus?'
"'No, sir. I wish I had been. I'd have stayed in the other place.'
"'Then if you were in but one place yourself, how do you know that Cerberus was in more than one place?'
"'Well, I guess if you--'
"'Answer the question,' said Catiline.
"'Oh, well--of course--'
"'Of course,' echoed Catiline. 'That's it, your honor; it is only "of course,"--and I rest my case. We have no witnesses to call. We have proven by their own witnesses that there is no evidence of Cerberus being more than one dog.'
"You ought to have heard the cheers as Catiline sat down," continued Boswell. "As for poor Coke, he was regularly knocked out, but he rose up to sum up his case as best he could. Blackstone, however, stopped him right at the beginning.
"'The counsel for the plaintiff might as well sit down,' he said, 'and save his breath. I've decided this case in favor of the defendant long ago. It is plain to every one that Cerberus is only one dog, in spite of his many talents and manifest ability to be in several places at once, and inasmuch as the tax which is sued for is merely a dog-tax and not a poll-tax, I must render judgment for the defendants, with costs. Next case.'
"And the city of Cimmeria was thrown out of court," concluded Boswell. "Interesting, eh?"
"Very," said I. "But how will this affect Blackstone? Isn't he a City Judge?"
"No," replied Boswell; "he was, but his term expired this morning, and this afternoon Apollyon appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hades."
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