Fiction based on fraud trial of JOSEPH SMITH, c. 1826
Smith was 19 years old at the time.
(Scene: Night Court. JUDGE, “AL JONES” & Mr. GREEN & Mr. BROWN, farmers).
JUDGE: Mr. Jones, you stand accused of being a disorderly person, a fraud and an impostor. How do you plead?
AL: Not guilty, your honor.
JUDGE: Did this man come to your farm and promise to find treasure, Mr. Green?
GREEN: Yes, sir, your honor, he did.
JUDGE: Mr. Brown?
BROWN: That’s what the rascal claimed.
AL: I did, your honor. I never denied it.
JUDGE: How did defendant say he could find treasure, Mr. Green?
GREEN: He looks through a magic stone.
BROWN: You see, your honor? See how foolish? Nobody in his right mind would believe such a thing!
JUDGE: Order, Mr. Brown. You let him do it, so you believed it for a moment. Mr. Jones, do you look through a magic stone?
AL: I don’t use the stone anymore, your honor. It hurts my eyes.
JUDGE: He says it hurts his eyes. What kind of stone was it?
BROWN: Just this plain old black rock, your honor. I thought it should at least be a diamond. How can you find gold by looking at a plain old black rock?
JUDGE: What kind of stone did you say it was, Mr. Jones?
AL: A sorcerer’s stone, your honor. It’s not here, or I’d show it to you.
JUDGE: It sounds remarkable.
AL: It is, sir.
JUDGE: Did either of you two gents see any result from it?
BROWN: Not at all, your honor. It was a fraud.
GREEN: Your honor, this man looked in three places on my farm: two old hills and a salt spring. He said one treasure was five feet down beside this old stump and there was a tail-feather buried with it. Well, we dug down and found that feather – he found the feather – but we didn’t find no gold, because it moved on down, he said.
JUDGE: “Moved on down,” was it?
GREEN: Yes, sir. It kept sinking deeper and deeper, slipping away from us.
BROWN: Sure it did.
AL: Excuse me, your honor, but that will happen with haunted treasure.
JUDGE: “Haunted,” you say?
AL: Yes, sir. Treasures are buried by men in all manner of strange circumstance. I know one that was fought over by two savages what put it down. One killed the other and throwed him in beside the treasure. The murdered spirit still haunts that hoard and won’t let anybody near it. If you dig for it, it just keeps slipping farther and farther down, faster and faster, and you can’t catch up!
JUDGE: Doesn’t sound reasonable. What did you hear, Mr. Green?
GREEN: I heard Al’s spade clunk on the old wood chest, but you couldn’t dig fast or far enough to catch up with it.
JUDGE: Did that happen to you, Mr. Brown?
BROWN: I don’t know about clunks, your honor. All I know, I paid for “certain” profitable digging operations and have got no satisfaction, and only thing “certain” is holes and this man owes me money!
JUDGE: What have you got to say to all this, Mr. Jones?
AL: Your honor, if I found money, I would give this farmer some money. That was our arrangement. But I didn’t find nothing, so why would I owe him?
BROWN: Because there never was nothing to find, you swindler!
GREEN: I heard the clunk on the end of Albert’s spade, but it just kept slipping down. If I get more men and we all dig faster yet, I bet we could catch right up with it, and we’d all be richer than Croesus!
BROWN: “Albert’s spade!” Now that stands for something, your honor!
JUDGE: If he said there was gold and there ain’t none, you was flimflammed, sir.
AL: Your honor, I told him I could find a “certain” treasure. I didn’t say nothing about gold.
GREEN: “Three treasures,” you said.
AL: …and I found them, your honor, but the spirits protected them – as will happen, as previously noted – and I told these gentlemen beforehand that that might happen.
JUDGE: Is this true?
GREEN: Yes, sir, it is. He said right off it might go all to bird poop.
BROWN: Well, yes sir, but he said we’d all get “certain” rich and…
JUDGE: There ain’t nothing “certain” in this life, Mr. Brown, but death, taxes and my judgments. You’re old enough to know that and protect yourself from silly business! I see no reason to award money to anyone. However, I find defendant guilty of disorderly conduct, because he agitated his employers, made people angry, wasted the court’s good time and irritated the hell out of me. Fine is $2. Anything to say before sentence is carried out, Mr. Jones?
AL: Your honor, I didn’t waste the court’s time. I didn’t bring this case.
JUDGE: If I could fine you for being a smarty-aleck wise-ass, I would. You are also accused of being an impostor.
AL: Please, your honor, how have I been an “impostor?”
JUDGE: You led folks to believe you are a wizard by reason of this so-called seer stone and possession of the sight. Do you really have those things, Mr. Jones? Aren’t you just a carnival pitchman, a cheap snake oil salesman? Maybe even a bunko artiste?
AL: I have the sight, your honor, yes, and I can see in the stone from time to time, but I am no wizard and I never claimed so. I’m just a humble ordinary man, so I can’t always be right, but the parts that are right come straight from God.
BROWN: Now he claims to be talking to God! (JUDGE bangs gavel).
JUDGE: Enough. There’s just so much confusion and bad feeling here, I’m going to go ahead and declare defendant guilty of being an impostor too. You did give the distinct impression that you are a wizard, Mr. Jones and made no attempt to correct the misunderstanding.
AL: I didn’t know there was a misunderstanding, your honor.
JUDGE: Then herewith, court fines you one additional dollar. I also order you to cease and desist treasure hunting and stone staring for fun, or profit, and to entice no more good citizens of this county to go digging anywhere with you for anything.
GREEN: You mean we can’t go digging for gold no more, your honor? I need the money, I’m damned near bankrupt, paying for the digging already been done!
JUDGE: You may dig clear to China for anything you wish, sir, but Mr. Jones can’t pretend to tell you where to set your spade, or lift a finger to help. Court is adjourned! (Bangs gavel).
BROWN: At least, Jones won’t be foolin’ no more stupid people!
(Mr. GREEN assaults Mr. BROWN).