Part 3 out of 6
few minutes before her decease. Until then, under one pretence or
another, either Elizabeth Wareing, one of Thorndyke's daughters, or
Thorndyke himself, was always present in the sick-chamber. It was
evening: darkness had for some time fallen: no light had yet been taken
into the dying woman's apartment; and the pale starlight which faintly
illumined the room served, as Mary Woodley softly approached on tiptoe to
the bedside of her, as she supposed, sleeping parent, but to deepen by
defining the shadows thrown by the full, heavy hangings, and the old
massive furniture. Gently, and with a beating heart, Mary Woodley drew
back the bed-curtain nearest the window. The feeble, uncertain light
flickered upon the countenance, distinct in its mortal paleness, of her
parent: the eyes recognized her, and a glance of infinite tenderness
gleamed for an instant in the rapidly-darkening orbs: the right arm
essayed to lift itself, as for one fast, last embrace. Vainly! Love, love
only, was strong, stronger than death, in the expiring mother's heart,
and the arm fell feebly back on the bedclothes. Mary Woodley bent down in
eager grief, for she felt instinctively that the bitter hour at last was
come: their lips met, and the last accents of the mother murmured,
"Beloved Mary, I--I have been true to you--no will--no"--A slight tremor
shook her frame: the spirit that looked in love from the windows of the
eyes departed on its heavenward journey, and the unconscious shell only
of what had once been her mother remained in the sobbing daughter's arms.
I will not deny that this narrative, which I feel I have but coldly and
feebly rendered from its earnest, tearful tenderness, as related by Mary
Woodley, affected me considerably--case-hardened, as, to use an old
bar-pun, we barristers are supposed to be; nor will the reader be
surprised to hear that suspicions, graver even than those which pointed
to forgery, were evoked by the sad history. Much musing upon the strange
circumstances thus disclosed, and profoundly cogitative on the best mode
of action to be pursued, the "small hours," the first of them at least,
surprised me in my arm-chair. I started up, and hastened to bed, well
knowing from experience that a sleepless vigil is a wretched preparative
for a morrow of active exertion, whether of mind or body.
I was betimes in court the next morning, and Mr. Barnes, proud as a
peacock of figuring as an attorney in an important civil suit, was soon
at my side. The case had excited more interest than I had supposed, and
the court was very early filled, Mary Woodley and her grandfather soon
arrived; and a murmur of commiseration ran through the auditory as they
took their seats by the side of Barnes. There was a strong bar arrayed
against us; and Mr. Silas Thorndyke, I noticed, was extremely busy and
important with whisperings and suggestions to his solicitor and
counsel--received, of course, as such meaningless familiarities usually
are, with barely civil indifference.
Twelve common jurors were called and sworn well and truly to try the
issue, and I arose amidst breathless silence to address them. I at once
frankly stated the circumstances under which the brief had come into my
hands, and observed, that if, for lack of advised preparation, the
plaintiff's case failed on that day, another trial, under favor of the
court above, would, I doubt not, at no distant period of time reverse the
possibly at present unfavorable decision. "My learned friends on the
other side," I continued, "smile at this qualified admission of mine: let
them do so. If they apparently establish to-day the validity of a will
which strips an only child of the inheritance bequeathed by her father,
they will, I tell them emphatically, have obtained but a temporary
triumph for a person who--if I, if you, gentlemen of the jury, are to
believe the case intended to be set up as a bar to the plantiff's
claim--has succeeded by the grossest brutality, the most atrocious
devices, in bending the mind of the deceased Mrs. Thorndyke to his
selfish purposes. My learned friend need not interrupt me; I shall pursue
these observations for the present no further--merely adding that I, that
his lordship, that you, gentlemen of the jury, will require of him the
strictest proof--proof clear as light--that the instrument upon which he
relies to defeat the equitable, the righteous claim of the young and
amiable person by my side, is genuine, and not, as I verily believe "--I
looked, as I spoke, full in the face of Thorndyke--"FORGED."
"My lord," exclaimed the opposing counsel, "this is really insufferable!"
His lordship, however, did not interpose; and I went on to relate, in the
most telling manner of which I was capable, the history of the deceased
Mrs. Thorndyke's first and second marriages; the harmony and happiness of
the first--the wretchedness and cruelty which characterized the second. I
narrated also the dying words of Mrs. Thorndyke to her daughter, though
repeatedly interrupted by the defendant's counsel, who manifested great
indignation that a statement unsusceptible of legal proof should be
addressed to the court and jury. My address concluded, I put in James
Woodley's will; and, as the opposing counsel did not dispute its
validity, nor require proof of Mary Woodley's identity, I intimated that
the plaintiff's case was closed.
The speech for the defendant was calm and guarded. It threw, or rather
attempted to throw, discredit on the death-bed "fiction," got up, Mr.
P ---- said, simply with a view to effect; and he concluded by averring
that he should be able to establish the genuineness of the will of Ellen
Thorndyke, now produced, by irresistible evidence. That done, however
much the jury might wish the property had been otherwise disposed of,
they would of course return a verdict in accordance with their oaths and
the law of the land.
The first witness called was Thomas Headley, a smith, residing near Dale
Farm. He swore positively that the late Mrs. Thorndyke, whom he knew
well, had cheerfully signed the will now produced, after it had been
deliberately read over to her by her husband about a fortnight before her
death. Silas Thorndyke, John Cummins, Elizabeth Wareing, and witness,
were the only persons present. Mrs. Thorndyke expressed confidence that
her husband would provide for Mary Woodley.
"And so I will," said sleek Silas, rising up and looking round upon the
auditory. "If she will return, I will be a father to her."
No look, no sound of sympathy or approval, greeted this generous
declaration, and he sat down again not a little disconcerted.
I asked this burly, half-drunken witness but one question--"When is your
marriage with Rebecca Thorndyke, the defendant's eldest daughter, to be
"I don't know, Mr. Lawyer; perhaps never."
"That will do; you can go down."
Mr. P ---- now rose to state that his client was unable to produce
Elizabeth Wareing, another of the attesting witnesses to the will, in
court. No suspicion that any opposition to the solemn testament made by
the deceased Mrs. Thorndyke would be attempted, had been entertained;
and the woman, unaware that her testimony would be required, had left
that part of the country. Every effort had been made by the defendant to
discover her abode without effect. It was believed she had gone to
America, where she had relatives. The defendant had filed an affidavit
setting forth these facts, and it was now prayed that secondary evidence
to establish the genuineness of Elizabeth Wareing's attesting signature
should be admitted.
I of course vehemently opposed this demand, and broadly hinted that the
witness was purposely kept out of the way.
"Will my learned friend," said Mr. P ---- with one of his sliest sneers,
"inform us what motive the defendant could possibly have to keep back a
witness so necessary to him?"
"Elizabeth Wareing," I curtly replied, "may not, upon reflection, be
deemed a safe witness to subject to the ordeal of a cross-examination.
But to settle the matter, my lord," I exclaimed, "I have here an
affidavit of the plaintiff's attorney, in which he states that he has no
doubt of being able to find this important witness if time be allowed him
for the purpose; the defendant of course undertaking to call her when
A tremendous clamor of counsel hereupon ensued, and fierce and angry grew
the war of words. The hubbub was at last terminated by the judge
recommending that, under the circumstances, "a juror should be
withdrawn." This suggestion, after some demur, was agreed to. One of the
jurors was whispered to come out of the box; then the clerk of the court
exclaimed, "My lord, there are only eleven men on the jury;" and by the
aid of this venerable, if clumsy expedient, the cause of Woodley _versus_
Thorndyke was _de facto_ adjourned to a future day.
I had not long returned to the hotel, when I was waited upon by Mr.
Wilford, senior, the father of the young man who had been forbidden to
visit Dale Farm by Thorndyke. His son, he informed me, was ill from
chagrin and anxiety--confined to his bed indeed; and Mary Woodley had
refused, it seemed, to accept pecuniary aid from either the father or the
son. Would I endeavor to terminate the estrangement which had for some
time unhappily existed, and persuade her to accept his, Wilford senior's,
freely-offered purse and services? I instantly accepted both the mission
and the large sum which the excellent man tendered. A part of the money I
gave Barnes to stimulate his exertions, and the rest I placed in the hand
of Mary Woodley's grandpapa, with a friendly admonition to him not to
allow his grandchild to make a fool of herself; an exhortation which
produced its effect in due season.
Summer passed away, autumn had come and gone, and the winter assizes
were once more upon us. Regular proceedings had been taken, and the
action in ejectment of Woodley versus Thorndyke was once more on the
cause list of the Chester circuit court, marked this time as a special
jury case. Indefatigable as Mr. Barnes had been in his search for
Elizabeth Wareing, not the slightest trace of her could he discover; and
I went into court, therefore, with but slight expectation of invalidating
the, as I fully believed, fictitious will. We had, however, obtained a
good deal of information relative to the former history not only of the
absent Mrs. Wareing, but of Thorndyke himself; and it was quite within
the range of probabilities that something might come out, enabling me to
use that knowledge to good purpose. The plaintiff and old Mr. Ward were
seated in court beside Mr. Barnes, as on the former abortive trial; but
Mary Woodley had, fortunately for herself, lost much of the interest
which attaches to female comeliness and grace when associated in the mind
of the spectator with undeserved calamity and sorrow. The black dress
which she still wore--the orthodox twelve months of mourning for a parent
had not yet quite elapsed--was now fresh, and of fine quality, and the
pale lilies of her face were interspersed with delicate roses; whilst by
her side sat Mr. John Wilford, as happy-looking as if no such things as
perjurers, forgers, or adverse verdicts existed to disturb the peace of
the glad world. Altogether, we were decidedly less interesting than on
the former occasion. Edward Wareing, I must not omit to add, was, greatly
to our surprise, present. He sat, in great apparent amity, by the side of
It was late in the afternoon, and twilight was gradually stealing over
the dingy court, when the case was called. The special jury answered to
their names, were duly sworn, and then nearly the same preliminary
speeches and admissions were made and put in as on the previous occasion.
Thomas Headley, the first witness called in support of the pretended
will, underwent a rigorous cross-examination; but I was unable to extract
anything of importance from him.
"And now," said the defendant's leading counsel, "let me ask my
learned friend if he has succeeded in obtaining the attendance of
I was of course obliged to confess that we had been unable to find her;
and the judge remarked that in that ease he could receive secondary
evidence in proof of her attestation of the will.
A whispered but manifestly eager conference here took place between the
defendant and his counsel, occasionally joined in by Edward Wareing.
There appeared to be indecision or hesitation in their deliberations; but
at last Mr. P ---- rose, and with some ostentation of manner addressed
"In the discharge of my duty to the defendant in this action, my lord,
upon whose fair fame much undeserved obloquy has been cast by the
speeches of the plaintiff's counsel--speeches insupported by a shadow of
evidence--I have to state that, anxious above all things to stand
perfectly justified before his neighbors and society, he has, at great
trouble and expense, obtained the presence here to-day of the witness
Elizabeth Wareing. She had gone to reside in France with a respectable
English family in the situation of housekeeper. We shall now place her in
the witness-box, and having done so, I trust we shall hear no more of the
slanderous imputations so freely lavished upon my client. Call Elizabeth
Wareing into court."
A movement of surprise and curiosity agitated the entire auditory at this
announcement. Mr. Silas Thorndyke's naturally cadaverous countenance
assumed an ashy hue, spite of his efforts to appear easy and jubilant;
and for the first time since the commencement of the proceedings I
entertained the hope of a successful issue.
Mrs. Wareing appeared in answer to the call, and was duly sworn "to tell
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." She was a
good-looking woman, of perhaps forty years of age, and bore a striking
resemblance to her son. She rapidly, smoothly, and unhesitatingly
confirmed the evidence of Headley to a tittle. She trembled, I observed,
excessively; and on the examining counsel intimating that he had no more
questions to ask, turned hastily to leave the box.
"Stay--stay, my good woman," I exclaimed; "you and I must have some talk
together before we part."
She started, and looked at me with frightened earnestness; and then her
nervous glances stole towards Mr. Silas Thorndyke. There was no comfort
there: in his countenance she only saw the reflex of the agitation and
anxiety which marked her own. Sleek Silas, I could see, already repented
of the rash move he had made, and would have given a good deal to get his
witness safely and quietly out of court.
It was now nearly dark, and observing that it was necessary the court
and jury should see as well as hear the witness whilst under
examination, I requested that lights should be brought in. This was
done. Two candles were placed in front of the witness-box, one on each
side of Mrs. Wareing; a few others were disposed about the bench and
jury desks. The effect of this partial lighting of the gloomy old court
was, that the witness stood out in strong and bright relief from the
surrounding shadows, rendering the minutest change or play of her
features distinctly visible. Mr. Silas Thorndyke was, from his position,
thrown entirely into the shade, and any telegraphing between him and
the witness was thus rendered impossible. This preparation, as if for
some extraordinary and solemn purpose, together with the profound
silence which reigned in the court, told fearfully, as I expected, upon
the nerves of Mrs. Elizabeth Wareing. She already seemed as if about to
swoon with agitation and ill-defined alarm.
"Pray, madam," said I, "is your name Wareing or Tucker?"
She did not answer, and I repeated the question. "Tucker," she at last
replied in a tremulous whisper.
"I thought so. And pray, Mrs. Tucker, were you ever 'in trouble' in
London for robbing your lodgings?"
I thought she attempted to answer, but no sound passed her lips. One of
the ushers of the court handed her a glass of water at my suggestion, and
she seemed to recover somewhat. I pressed my question; and at last she
replied in the same low, agitated voice, "Yes, I have been."
"I know you have. Mr. Silas Thorndyke, I believe, was your bail on that
occasion, and the matter was, I understand, compromised--arranged--at all
events the prosecution was not pressed. Is not that so?"
"Very well: either answer will do. You lived also, I believe, with Mr.
Thorndyke, as his housekeeper of course, when he was in business as a
concocter and vender of infallible drugs and pills?"
"He was held to be skilful in the preparation of drugs, was he
not--well-versed in their properties?"
"Yes--I believe so--I do not know. Why am I asked such questions?"
"You will know presently. And now, woman, answer the question I am about
to put to you, as you will be compelled to answer it to God at the last
great day--What was the nature of the drug which you or he mixed with the
medicine prescribed for the late Mrs. Thorndyke?"
A spasmodic shriek, checked by a desperate effort, partially escaped her,
and she stood fixedly gazing with starting eyes in my face.
The profoundest silence reigned in the court as I iterated the question.
"You must answer, woman," said the judge sternly, "unless you know your
answer will criminate yourself."
The witness looked wildly round the court, as if in search of counsel or
sympathy; but encountering none but frowning and eager faces--Thorndyke
she could not discern in the darkness--she became giddy and
panic-stricken, and seemed to lose all presence of mind.
"He--he--he," she at last gasped--"he mixed it. I do not know--But
how," she added, pushing back her hair, and pressing her hands against
her hot temples, "can this be? What can it mean?"
A movement amongst the bystanders just at this moment attracted
the notice of the judge, and he immediately exclaimed, "The
defendant must not leave the court!" An officer placed himself
beside the wretched murderer as well as forger, and I resumed the
cross-examination of the witness.
"Now, Mrs. Tucker, please to look at this letter." (It was that which had
been addressed to Mary Woodley by her son.) "That, I believe, is your
"The body of this will has been written by the same hand. Now, woman,
answer. Was it your son--this young man who, you perceive, if guilty,
cannot escape from justice--was it he who forged the names of the
deceased Mrs. Thorndyke, and of John Cummins attached to it?"
"Not he--not he!" shrieked the wretched woman. "It was
Thorndyke--Thorndyke himself." And then with a sudden revulsion of
feeling, as the consequences of what she had uttered flashed upon her,
she exclaimed, "Oh, Silas, what have I said?--what have I done?"
"Hanged me, that's all, you accursed devil!" replied Thorndyke with
gloomy ferocity. "But I deserve it for trusting in such an idiot: dolt
and fool that I was for doing so."
The woman sank down in strong convulsions, and was, by direction of the
judge, carried out of the hall.
The anxious silence which pervaded the court during this scene, in which
the reader will have observed I played a bold, tentative, and
happily-successful game, was broken as the witness was borne off by a
loud murmur of indignation, followed by congratulatory exclamations on
the fortunate termination of the suit. The defendant's counsel threw up
their briefs, and a verdict was at once returned for the plaintiff.
All the inculpated parties were speedily in custody; and the body of Mrs.
Thorndyke having been disinterred, it was discovered that she had been
destroyed by bichloride of mercury, of which a considerable quantity was
detected in the body. I was not present at the trial of Thorndyke and his
accomplices--he for murder, and Headley for perjury--but I saw by the
public prints that he was found guilty, and executed: Headley was
transported: the woman was, if I remember rightly, admitted evidence for
Mary Woodley was of course put into immediate possession of her paternal
inheritance; and is now--at least she was about four months ago, when I
dined with her and her husband at Dale Farm--a comely, prosperous matron;
and as happy as a woman with a numerous progeny and an easy-tempered
partner can in this, according to romance writers, vale of grief and
tears expect to be. The service I was fortunately enabled to render her
forms one of the most pleasing recollections of my life.
In the second year of my connection with the Northern Circuit, when even
_junior_ briefs were much less numerous than acceptable, I was agreeably
surprised, as I sat musing on the evening of my arrival in the ancient
city of York upon the capricious mode in which those powerful personages
the attorneys distributed their valuable favors, by the entrance of one
of the most eminent of the race practising in that part of the country,
and the forthwith tender of a bulky brief in the Crown Court, on which,
as my glance instinctively fell on the interesting figures, I perceived
that the large fee, in criminal cases, of fifty guineas was marked. The
local newspapers, from which I had occasionally seen extracts, had been
for some time busy with the case; and I knew it therefore to be,
relatively to the condition in life of the principal person implicated,
an important one. Rumor had assigned the conduct of the defence to an
eminent leader on the circuit--since, one of our ablest judges; and on
looking more closely at the brief, I perceived that that gentleman's name
had been crossed out, and mine substituted. The fee also--a much less
agreeable alteration--had been, I saw, considerably reduced; in
accordance, doubtless, with the attorney's appreciation of the difference
of value between a silk and a stuff gown.
"You are not, sir, I believe, retained for the prosecution in the crown
against Everett?" said Mr. Sharpe in his brief, business manner.
"I am not, Mr. Sharpe."
"In that case, I beg to tender you the leading-brief for the defence. It
was intended, as you perceive, to place it in the hands of our great
_nisi prius_ leader, but he will be so completely occupied in that court,
that he has been compelled to decline it. He mentioned you; and from what
I have myself seen of you in several cases, I have no doubt my
unfortunate client will have ample justice done him. Mr. Kingston will be
I thanked Mr. Sharpe for his compliment, and accepted his brief. As the
commission would be opened on the following morning, I at once applied
myself to a perusal of the bulky paper, aided as I read by the verbal
explanations and commentaries of Mr. Sharpe. Our conference lasted
several hours; and it was arranged that another should be held early the
next morning at Mr. Sharpe's office, at which Mr. Kingston would assist.
Dark, intricate, compassed with fearful mystery, was the case so suddenly
submitted to my guidance; and the few faint gleams of light derived from
the attorney's research, prescience, and sagacity, served but to render
dimly visible a still profounder and blacker abyss of crime than that
disclosed by the evidence for the crown. Young as I then was in the
profession, no marvel that I felt oppressed by the weight of the
responsibility cast upon me; or that, when wearied with thinking, and
dizzy with profitless conjecture, I threw myself into bed, perplexing
images and shapes of guilt and terror pursued me through my troubled
sleep! Happily the next day was not that of trial; for I awoke with a
throbbing pulse and burning brain, and should have been but poorly
prepared for a struggle involving the issues of life and death. Extremely
sensitive, as, under the circumstances, I must necessarily have been, to
the arduous nature of the grave duties so unexpectedly devolved upon me;
the following _resume_ of the chief incidents of the case, as confided to
me by Mr. Sharpe, will, I think, fully account to the reader for the
nervous irritability under which I for the moment, labored:--
Mr. Frederick Everett, the prisoner about to be arraigned before a jury
of his countrymen for the frightful crime of murder, had, with his
father, Captain Anthony Everett, resided for several years past at
Woodlands Manor-House, the seat of Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh, a rich, elderly
maiden lady, aunt to the first, and sister by marriage to the last-named
gentleman. A generous, pious, high-minded person Mrs. Fitzhugh was
represented to have been, but extremely sensitive withal on the score of
"family." The Fitzhughs of Yorkshire, she was wont to boast, "came in
with the Conqueror;" and any branch of the glorious tree then firmly
planted in the soil of England that degraded itself by an alliance with
wealth, beauty, or worth, dwelling without the pale of her narrow
prejudices, was inexorably cut off from her affections, and, as far as
she was able, from her memory. One--the principal of these offenders--had
been Mary Fitzhugh, her young, fair, gentle, and only sister. In utter
disdain and slight of the dignity of ancestry, she had chosen to unite
herself to a gentleman of the name of Mordaunt, who, though possessed of
great talents, an unspotted name, and, for his age, high rank in the
civil service of the East India Company, had--inexpiable misfortune--a
trader for his grandfather! This crime against her "house" Mrs. Eleanor
Fitzhugh resolved never to forgive; and she steadily returned, unopened,
the frequent letters addressed to her by her sister, who pined in her
distant Indian home for a renewal of the old sisterly love which had
watched over and gladdened her life from infancy to womanhood. A long
silence--a silence of many years--succeeded; broken at last by the sad
announcement that the unforgiven one had long since found an early grave
in a foreign land. The letter which brought the intelligence bore the
London post-mark, and was written by Captain Everett; to whom, it was
stated, Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh's sister, early widowed, had been united in
second nuptials, and by whom she had borne a son, Frederick Everett, now
nearly twenty years of age. The long-pent-up affection of Mrs. Fitzhugh
for her once idolized sister burst forth at this announcement of her
death with uncontrollable violence; and, as some atonement for her past
sinful obduracy, she immediately invited the husband and son of her
long-lost Mary to Woodlands Manor-House, to be henceforth, she said, she
hoped their home. Soon after their arrival, Mrs. Fitzhugh made a
will--the family property was entirely at her disposal--revoking a former
one, which bequeathed the whole of the real and personal property to a
distant relative whom she had never seen, and by which all was devised to
her nephew, who was immediately proclaimed sole heir to the Fitzhugh
estates, yielding a yearly rental of at least L12,000. Nay, so thoroughly
was she softened towards the memory of her deceased sister, that the
will--of which, as I have stated, no secret was made--provided, in the
event of Frederick dying childless, that the property should pass to his
father, Mary Fitzhugh's second husband.
No two persons could be more unlike than were the father and
son--mentally, morally, physically. Frederick Everett was a fair-haired,
blue-eyed young man, of amiable, caressing manners, gentle disposition,
and ardent, poetic temperament. His father, on the contrary, was a
dark-featured, cold, haughty, repulsive man, ever apparently wrapped up
in selfish and moody reveries. Between him and his son there appeared to
exist but little of cordial intercourse, although the highly-sensitive
and religious tone of mind of Frederick Everett caused him to treat his
parent with unvarying deference and respect.
The poetic temperament of Frederick Everett brought him at last, as
poetic temperaments are apt to do, into trouble. Youth, beauty,
innocence, and grace, united in the person of Lucy Carrington--the only
child of Mr. Stephen Carrington, a respectable retired merchant of
moderate means, residing within a few miles of Woodlands
Manor-House--crossed his path; and spite of his shield of many
quarterings, he was vanquished in an instant, and almost without
resistance. The at least tacit consent and approval of Mr. Carrington and
his fair daughter secured, Mr. Everett, junior--hasty, headstrong lover
that he was--immediately disclosed his matrimonial projects to his father
and aunt. Captain Everett received the announcement with a sarcastic
smile, coldly remarking, that if Mrs. Fitzhugh was satisfied, he had no
objection to offer. But, alas! no sooner did her nephew, with much
periphrastic eloquence, in part his passion for the daughter of a _mere_
merchant to his aunt, than a vehement torrent of indignant rebuke broke
from her lips. She would die rather than consent to so degrading a
_mesalliance_; and should he persist in yielding to such gross
infatuation, she would not only disinherit, but banish him her house, and
cast him forth a beggar on the world. Language like this, one can easily
understand, provoked language from the indignant young man which in less
heated moments he would have disdained to utter; and the aunt and nephew
parted in fierce anger, and after mutual denunciation of each other--he
as a disobedient ingrate, she as an imperious, ungenerous tyrant. The
quarrel was with some difficulty patched up by Captain Everett; and with
the exception of the change which took place in the disappointed lover's
demeanor--from light-hearted gaiety to gloom and sullenness--things,
after a few days, went on pretty nearly as before.
The sudden rupture of the hopes Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh had reposed in her
nephew as the restorer of the glories of her ancient "house," tarnished
by Mary Fitzhugh's marriage, affected dangerously, it soon appeared, that
lady's already failing health. A fortnight after the quarrel with her
nephew, she became alarmingly ill. Unusual and baffling symptoms showed
themselves; and after suffering during eight days from alternate acute
pain, and heavy, unconquerable drowsiness, she expired in her nephew's
arms. This sudden and fatal illness of his relative appeared to reawaken
all Frederick Everett's tenderness and affection for her. He was
incessant in his close attendance in the sick-chamber, permitting no one
else to administer to his aunt either aliment or medicine. On this latter
point, indeed, he insisted, with strange fierceness, taking the medicine
with his own hand from the man who brought it; and after administering
the prescribed quantity, carefully locking up the remainder in a cabinet
in his bed-room.
On the morning of the day that Mrs. Fitzhugh died, her ordinary medical
attendant, Mr. Smith, terrified and perplexed by the urgency of the
symptoms exhibited by his patient, called in the aid of a
locally-eminent physician, Dr. Archer, or Archford--the name is not very
distinctly written in my memoranda of these occurrences; but we will
call him Archer--who at once changed the treatment till then pursued,
and ordered powerful emetics to be administered, without, however, as
we have seen, producing any saving or sensible effect. The grief of
Frederick Everett, when all hope was over, was unbounded. He threw
himself, in a paroxysm of remorse or frenzy, upon the bed, accusing
himself of having murdered her, with other strange and incoherent
expressions, upon which an intimation soon afterwards made by Dr. Archer
threw startling light. That gentleman, conjointly with Mr. Smith,
requested an immediate interview with Captain Everett, and Mr. Hardyman,
the deceased lady's land-steward and solicitor, who happened to be in
the house at the time. The request was of course complied with, and Dr.
Archer at once bluntly stated that, in his opinion, _poison_ had been
administered to the deceased lady, though of what precise kind he was
somewhat at a loss to conjecture--opium essentially, he thought, though
certainly not in any of its ordinary preparations--one of the alkaloids
probably which chemical science had recently discovered. Be this as it
may, a _post-mortem_ examination of the body would clear up all doubts,
and should take place as speedily as possible. Captain Everett at once
acceded to Dr. Archer's proposal, at the same time observing that he was
quite sure the result would entirely disprove that gentleman's
assumption. Mr. Hardyman also fully concurred in the necessity of a
rigid investigation; and the _post-mortem_ examination should, it was
arranged, take place early on the following morning.
"I have another and very painful duty to perform," continued Dr. Archer,
addressing Captain Everett. "I find that your son, Mr. Frederick Everett,
alone administered medicine and aliment to Mrs. Fitzhugh during her
illness. Strange, possibly wholly frenzied expressions, but which sounded
vastly like cries of remorse, irrepressible by a person unused to crime,
escaped him in my hearing just after the close of the final scene;
and--But perhaps, Captain Everett, you had better retire: this is
scarcely a subject"--
"Go on, sir," said the captain, over whose countenance a strange
expression--to use Dr. Archer's own words--had _flashed_; "go on: I am
"We all know," resumed Dr. Archer, "how greatly Mr. Frederick Everett
gains in wealth by his aunt's death; and that her decease, moreover, will
enable him to conclude the marriage to which she was so determinedly
opposed. I think, therefore, that, under all the circumstances, we shall
be fully justified in placing the young gentleman under such--I will not
say custody, but _surveillance_ as will prevent him either from leaving
the house, should he imagine himself suspected, or of destroying any
evidence which may possibly exist of his guilt, if indeed he be guilty."
"I entirely agree with you, Dr. Archer," exclaimed Mr. Hardyman, who had
listened with much excitement to the doctor's narrative; "and will, upon
my own responsibility, take the necessary steps for effecting the object
you have in view."
"Gentlemen," said Captain Everett, rising from his chair, "you will of
course do your duty; but I can take no part, nor offer any counsel, in
such a case; I must leave you to your own devices." He then left the
He had been gone but a few minutes, when Frederick Everett, still in a
state of terrible excitement, entered the room, strode fiercely up to Dr.
Archer, and demanded how he dared propose, as the butler had just
informed him he had done, a dissection of his aunt's body.
"I will not permit it," continued the agitated young man: "I am master
here, and I say it shall not be done. What new horror would you
evoke? Is it not enough that one of the kindest, best of God's
creatures, has perished, but _another_ sacrifice must--What do I say?
Enough that I will not permit it. I have seen similar cases-very
similar cases in--in India!"
The gentleman so strangely addressed had exchanged significant glances
during the delivery of this incoherent speech; and, quite confirmed in
their previous impression, Mr. Hardyman, as their spokesman, interrupted
the speaker, to inform him that _he_ was the suspected assassin of his
aunt! The accusing sentences had hardly passed the solicitor's lips, when
the furious young man sprang towards him with the bound of a tiger, and
at one blow prostrated him on the floor. He was immediately seized by the
two medical gentlemen, and help having been summoned, he was with much
difficulty secured, and placed in strict confinement, to await the result
of the next day's inquiry.
The examination of the body disclosed the terrible fact, that the
deceased lady had perished by _acetate of morphine_; thus verifying the
sagacious guess of Dr. Archer. A minute search was immediately made
throughout Mr. Frederick Everett's apartments, and behind one of the
drawers of a cabinet in his bedroom--at the back of the shelf or
partition upon which the drawer rested, and of course completely hidden
by the drawer itself when in its place--was found a flat tin flask,
fluted on the outside, and closed with a screw stopper: it was loosely
enveloped in a sheet of brown paper, directed "--Everett, Esq., Woodlands
Manor-House, Yorkshire;" and upon close examination, a small quantity of
white powder, which proved to be _acetate of morphine_, was found in the
flask. Suspicion of young Everett's guilt now became conviction; and, as
if to confirm beyond all doubt the soundness of the chain of
circumstantial evidence in which he was immeshed, the butler, John
Darby, an aged and trusty servant of the late Mrs. Fitzhugh, made on the
next day the following deposition before the magistrates:--
"He had taken in, two days before his late mistress was seized with her
fatal illness, a small brown paper parcel which had been brought by coach
from London, and for which 2s. 10d carriage was charged and paid. The
paper found in Mr. Frederick Everett's cabinet was, he could positively
swear, from the date and figures marked on it, and the handwriting, the
paper wrapper of that parcel. He had given it to young Mr. Everett, who
happened to be in the library at the time. About five minutes afterwards,
he had occasion to return to the library, to inform him that some
fishing-tackle he had ordered was sent home. The door was ajar; and Mr.
Frederick did not at first perceive his entrance, as he was standing with
his back to the door. The paper parcel he, the butler, had just before
delivered was lying open on the table, and Mr. Everett held in one hand a
flat tin flask--the witness had no doubt the same found in the
cabinet--and in the other a note, which he was reading. He, the witness,
coughed, to attract Mr. Everett's attention, who hurriedly turned round,
clapped down the flask and the note, shuffling them under the paper
wrapper, as if to conceal them, and then, in a very confused manner, and
his face as red as flame, asked witness what he wanted there? Witness
thought this behavior very strange at the time; but the incident soon
passed from his mind, and he had thought no more of it till the finding
of the paper and flask as described by the other witnesses."
Mr. Frederick Everett, who had manifested the strangest impassability, a
calmness as of despair, throughout the inquiry, which perplexed and
disheartened Mr. Sharpe, whose services had been retained by Captain
Everett, allowed even this mischievous evidence to pass without a word of
comment or explanation; and he was, as a matter of course, fully
committed for the wilful murder of his relative. The chain of
circumstantial evidence, motive included, was, it was felt, complete--not
a link was wanting.
These were the chief incidents disclosed to me by Mr. Sharpe during our
long and painful consultation. Of the precise nature of the terrible
suspicions which haunted and disturbed me, I shall only in this place say
that neither Mr. Sharpe, nor, consequently, myself, would in all
probability have guessed or glanced at them, but for the persistent
assertions of Miss Carrington, that her lover was madly sacrificing
himself from some chimerical motive of honor or duty.
"You do not know, Mr. Sharpe, as I do," she would frequently exclaim with
tearful vehemence, "the generous, child-like simplicity, the chivalric
enthusiasm, of his character, his utter abnegation of self, and readiness
on all occasions to sacrifice his own ease, his own wishes, to forward
the happiness of others; and, above all, his fantastic notions of
honor--duty, if you will--which would, I feel assured, prompt him to
incur any peril, death itself, to shield from danger any one who had
claims upon him either of blood or of affection. You know to whom my
suspicions point; and how dreadful to think that one so young, so brave,
so pious, and so true, should be sacrificed for such a monster as I
believe that man to be!"
To all these passionate expostulations the attorney could only reply
that vague suspicions were not judicial proofs; and that if Mr.
Frederick Everett would persist in his obstinate reserve, a fatal result
was inevitable. But Mr. Sharpe readily consented to gratify the wishes
of Mr. Carrington and his daughter on one point: he returned the money,
not a very large sum, which Captain Everett had sent him, and agreed
that Mr. Carrington should supply the funds necessary for the defence of
Our consultation the next day at Mr. Sharpe's was a sad and hopeless one.
Nowhere did a gleam of cheerful light break in. The case was
overwhelmingly complete against the prisoner. The vague suspicions we
entertained pointed to a crime so monstrous, so incredible, that we felt
it could not be so much as hinted at upon such, legally considered,
slight grounds. The prisoner was said to be an eloquent speaker, and I
undertook to draw up the outline of a defence, impugning, with all the
dialectic skill I was master of, the conclusiveness of the evidence for
the crown. To this, and a host of testimony to character which we
proposed to call, rested our faint hopes of "a good deliverance!"
Business was over, and we were taking a glass of wine with Mr. Sharpe,
when his chief clerk entered to say that Sergeant Edwards, an old
soldier--who had spoken to them some time before relative to a large
claim which he asserted he had against Captain Everett, arising out of a
legacy bequeathed to him in India, and the best mode of assuring its
payment by an annuity, as proposed by the captain--had now called to say
that the terms were at last finally arranged, and that he wished to know
when Mr. Sharpe would be at leisure to draw up the bond. "He need not
fear for his money!" exclaimed Sharpe tartly, "the captain will, I fear,
be rich enough before another week has passed over our heads. Tell him to
call to-morrow evening; I will see him after I return from court." A few
minutes afterwards, I and Mr. Kingston took our leave.
The Crown Court was thronged to suffocation on the following morning,
and the excitement of the auditory appeared to be of the intensest kind.
Miss Carrington, closely veiled, sat beside her father on one of the
side-benches. A true bill against the prisoner had been found on the
previous afternoon; and the trial, it had been arranged, to suit the
convenience of counsel, should be first proceeded with. The court was
presided over by Mr. Justice Grose; and Mr. Gurney--afterwards Mr. Baron
Gurney--with another gentleman appeared for the prosecution. As soon as
the judge had taken his seat, the prisoner was ordered to be brought in,
and a hush of expectation pervaded the assembly. In a few minutes he made
his appearance in the dock. His aspect--calm, mournful, and full of
patient resignation--spoke strongly to the feelings of the audience, and
a low murmur of sympathy ran through the court. He bowed respectfully to
the bench, and then his sad, proud eye wandered round the auditory, till
it rested on the form of Lucy Carrington, who, overcome by sudden
emotion, had hidden her weeping face in her father's bosom. Strong
feeling, which he with difficulty mastered, shook his frame, and blanched
to a still deeper pallor his fine intellectual countenance. He slowly
withdrew his gaze from the agitating spectacle, and his troubled glance
meeting that of Mr. Sharpe, seemed to ask why proceedings, which _could_
only have one termination, were delayed. He had not long to wait. The
jury were sworn, and Mr. Gurney rose to address them for the crown.
Clear, terse, logical, powerful without the slightest pretence to what is
called eloquence, his speech produced a tremendous impression upon all
who heard it; and few persons mentally withheld their assent to his
assertion, as he concluded what was evidently a painful task, "that
should he produce evidence substantiating the statement he had made, the
man who could then refuse to believe in the prisoner's guilt, would
equally refuse credence to actions witnessed by his own bodily eyes."
The different witnesses were then called, and testified to the various
facts I have before related. Vainly did Mr. Kingston and I exert
ourselves to invalidate the irresistible proofs of guilt so
dispassionately detailed. "It is useless," whispered Mr. Sharpe, as I sat
down after the cross-examination of the aged butler. "You have done all
that could be done; but he is a doomed man, spite of his innocence, of
which I feel, every moment that I look at him, the more and more
convinced. God help us; we are poor, fallible creatures, with all our
scientific machinery for getting at truth!"
The case for the crown was over, and the prisoner was told that now was
the time for him to address the jury in answer to the charge preferred
against him. He bowed courteously to the intimation, and drawing a paper
from his pocket, spoke, after a few preliminary words of course, nearly
"I hold in my hand a very acute and eloquent address prepared for me by
one of the able and zealous gentlemen who appears to-day as my counsel,
and which, but for the iniquitous law which prohibits the advocate of a
presumed felon, but possibly quite innocent person, from addressing the
jury, upon whose verdict his client's fate depends, would no doubt have
formed the subject-matter of an appeal to you not to yield credence to
the apparently irrefragable testimony arrayed against me. The substance
of this defence you must have gathered from the tenor of the
cross-examinations; but so little effect did it produce, I saw, in that
form, however ably done, and so satisfied am I that though it were
rendered with an angel's eloquence, it would prove utterly impotent to
shake the strong conclusions of my guilt, which you, short-sighted,
fallible mortals--short-sighted and fallible _because_ mortal!--I mean no
disrespect--must have drawn from the body of evidence you have heard,
that I will not weary you or myself by reading it. I will only observe
that it points especially to the _over_-roof, so to speak, arrayed
against me--to the folly of supposing that an intentional murderer would
ostentatiously persist in administering the fatal potion to the victim
with his own hands, carefully excluding all others from a chance of
incurring suspicion. There are other points, but this is by far the most
powerful one; and as I cannot believe _that_ will induce you to return a
verdict rescuing me from what the foolish world, judging from
appearances, will call a shameful death, but which I, knowing my own
heart, feel to be sanctified by the highest motives which can influence
man--it would be merely waste of time to repeat them. From the first
moment, gentlemen, that this accusation was preferred against me, I felt
that I had done with this world; and, young as I am, but for one beloved
being whose presence lighted up and irradiated this else cold and barren
earth, I should, with little reluctance, have accepted this gift of an
apparently severe, but perhaps merciful fate. This life, gentlemen," he
continued after a short pause, "it has been well said, is but a battle
and a march. I have been struck down early in the combat; but of what
moment is that, if it be found by Him who witnesses the world-unnoticed
deeds of _all_ his soldiers, that I have earned the victor's crown? Let
it be your consolation, gentlemen, if hereafter you should discover that
you have sent me to an undeserved death, that you at least will not have
hurried a soul spotted with the awful crime of murder before its Maker.
And oh," he exclaimed in conclusion, with solemn earnestness, "may _all_
who have the guilt of blood upon them hasten, whilst life is still
granted them, to cleanse themselves by repentance of that foul sin, so
that not only the sacrifice of one poor life, but that most holy and
tremendous one offered in the world's consummate hour, may not for them
have been made in vain! My lord and gentlemen, I have no more to say. You
will doubtless do your duty: I _have_ done mine."
I was about, a few minutes after the conclusion of this strange and
unexpected address, to call our witnesses to character, when, to the
surprise of the whole court, and the consternation of the prisoner, Miss
Carrington started up, threw aside her veil, and addressing the judge,
demanded to be heard.
Queenly, graceful, and of touching loveliness did she look in her
vehemence of sorrow--radiant as sunlight in her days of joy she must have
been--as she stood up, affection-prompted, regardless of self, of the
world, to make one last effort to save her affianced husband.
"What would you say, young lady?" said Mr. Justice Grose, kindly. "If you
have anything to testify in favor of the prisoner, you had better
communicate with his counsel."
"Not that--not that," she hurriedly replied, as if fearful that her
strength would fail before she had enunciated her purpose. "Put, my lord,
put Frederick--the prisoner, I mean--on his oath. Bid him declare, as he
shall answer at the bar of Almighty God, who is the murderer for whom he
is about to madly sacrifice himself, and you will then find"--
"Your request is an absurd one," interrupted the judge with some
asperity. "I have no power to question a prisoner."
"Then," shrieked the unfortunate lady, sinking back fainting and helpless
in her father's arms, "he is lost--lost!"
She was immediately carried out of court; and as soon as the sensation
caused by so extraordinary and painful an incident had subsided, the
trial proceeded. A cloud of witnesses to character were called; the judge
summed up; the jury deliberated for a few minutes; and a verdict of
"guilty" was returned. Sentence to die on the day after the next
followed, and all was over!
Yes; all was, we deemed, over; but happily a decree, reversing that of
Mr. Justice Grose, had gone forth in Heaven. I was sitting at home about
an hour after the court had closed, painfully musing on the events of
the day, when the door of the apartment suddenly flew open, and in
rushed Mr. Sharpe in a state of great excitement, accompanied by
Sergeant Edwards, whom the reader will remember had called the previous
day at that gentleman's house. In a few minutes I was in possession of
the following important information, elicited by Mr. Sharpe from the
half-willing, half-reluctant sergeant, whom he had found waiting for him
at his office:--
In the first place, Captain Everett was _not_ the father of the prisoner!
The young man was the son of Mary Fitzhugh by her _first_ marriage; and
his name, consequently, was Mordaunt, not Everett. His mother had
survived her second marriage barely six months. Everett, calculating
doubtless upon the great pecuniary advantages which would be likely to
result to himself as the reputed father of the heir to a splendid English
estate, should the quarrel with Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh--as he nothing
doubted--be ultimately made up, had brought his deceased wife's infant
son up as his own. This was the secret of Edwards and his wife; and to
purchase their silence, Captain Everett had agreed to give the bond for
an annuity which Mr. Sharpe was to draw up. The story of the legacy was a
mere pretence. When Edwards was in Yorkshire before, Everett pacified
him for the time with a sum of money, and a promise to do more for him as
soon as his reputed son came into the property. He then hurried the
_cidevant_ sergeant back to London; and at the last interview he had
with him, gave him a note addressed to a person living in one of the
streets--I forget which--leading out of the Haymarket, together with a
five-pound note, which he was to pay the person to whom the letter was
addressed for some very rare and valuable powder, which the captain
wanted for scientific purposes, and which Edwards was to forward by coach
to Woodlands Manor-House. Edwards obeyed his instructions, and delivered
the message to the queer bushy-bearded foreigner to whom it was
addressed, who told him that, if he brought him the sum of money
mentioned in the note on the following day, he should have the article
required. He also bade him bring a well-stoppered bottle to put it in. As
the bottle was to be sent by coach, Edwards purchased a tin flask, as
affording a better security against breakage; and having obtained the
powder, packed it nicely up, and told his niece, who was staying with him
at the time, to direct it, as he was in a hurry to go out, to Squire
Everett, Woodlands Manor-House, Yorkshire, and then take it to the
booking-office. He thought, of course, though he said _Squire_ in a
jocular way, that she would have directed it _Captain_ Everett, as she
knew him well; but it seemed she had not. Edwards had returned to
Yorkshire only two days since, to get his annuity settled, and
fortunately was present in court at the trial of Frederick Mordaunt,
_alias_ Everett, and at once recognized the tin flask as the one he had
purchased and forwarded to Woodlands, where it must in due course have
arrived on the day stated by the butler. Terrified and bewildered at the
consequences of what he had done, or helped to do, Edwards hastened to
Mr. Sharpe, who, by dint of exhortations, threats, and promises,
judiciously blended, induced him to make a clean breast of it.
As much astounded as elated by this unlooked-for information, it was some
minutes before I could sufficiently concentrate my thoughts upon the
proper course to be pursued. I was not, however, long in deciding.
Leaving Mr. Sharpe to draw up an affidavit of the facts disclosed, I
hastened off to the jail, in order to obtain a thorough elucidation of
all the mysteries.
The revulsion of feeling in the prisoner's mind when he learned that the
man for whom he had so recklessly sacrificed himself was not only _not_
his father, but a cold-blooded villain, who, according to the testimony
of Sergeant Edwards, had embittered, perhaps shortened, his mother's last
hours, was immediate and excessive. "I should have taken Lucy's advice!"
he bitterly exclaimed, as he strode to and fro in his cell; "have told
the truth at all hazards, and have left the rest to God." His explanation
of the incidents that had so puzzled us all, was as simple as
satisfactory. He had always, from his earliest days, stood much in awe of
his father, who in the, to young Mordaunt, sacred character of parent,
exercised an irresistible control over him; and when the butler entered
the library, he believed for an instant it was his father who had
surprised him in the act of reading his correspondence; an act which,
however unintentional, would, he knew, excite Captain Everett's fiercest
wrath. Hence arose the dismay and confusion which the butler had
described. He re-sealed the parcel, and placed it in his reputed father's
dressing-room; and thought little more of the matter, till, on entering
his aunt's bedroom on the first evening of her illness, he beheld Everett
pour a small portion of white powder from the tin flask into the bottle
containing his aunt's medicine. The terrible truth at once flashed upon
him. A fierce altercation immediately ensued in the father's
dressing-room, whither Frederick followed him. Everett persisted that the
powder was a celebrated Eastern medicament, which would save, if anything
could, his aunt's life. The young man was not of course deceived by this
shallow falsehood, and from that moment administered the medicine to the
patient with his own hands, and kept the bottles which contained it
locked up in his cabinet. "On the very morning of my aunt's death, I
surprised him shutting and locking one of my cabinet drawers. So
dumbfounded was I with horror and dismay at the sight, that he left the
room by a side-door without observing me. You have now the key to my
conduct. I loathed to look upon the murderer; but I would have died a
thousand deaths rather than attempt to save my own life by the sacrifice
of a father's--how guilty soever he might be."
Furnished with this explanation, and the affidavit of Edwards, I waited
upon the judge, and obtained not only a respite for the prisoner, but a
warrant for the arrest of Captain Everett.
It was a busy evening. Edwards was despatched to London in the friendly
custody of an intelligent officer, to secure the person of the
foreign-looking vender of subtle poisons; and Mr. Sharpe, with two
constables, set off in a postchaise for Woodlands Manor-House. It was
late when they arrived there, and the servants informed them that Captain
Everett had already retired. They of course insisted upon seeing him; and
he presently appeared, wrapped in a dressing-gown, and haughtily demanded
their business with him at such an hour. The answer smote him as with a
thunderbolt, and he staggered backwards, till arrested by the wall of the
apartment, and then sank feebly, nervelessly, into a chair. Eagerly,
after a pause, he questioned the intruders upon the nature of the
evidence against him. Mr. Sharpe briefly replied that Edwards was in
custody, and had revealed everything.
"Is it indeed so?" rejoined Everett, seeming to derive resolution and
fortitude from the very extremity of despair. "Then the game is
unquestionably lost. It was, however, boldly and skilfully played, and I
am not a man to whimper over a fatal turn of the dice. In a few minutes,
gentlemen," he added, "I shall have changed my dress, and be ready to
"We cannot lose sight of you for an instant," replied Mr. Sharpe. "One of
the officers must accompany you."
"Be it so: I shall not detain either him or you long."
Captain Everett, followed by the officer, passed into his dressing-room.
He pulled off his gown; and pointing to a coat suspended on a peg at the
further extremity of the apartment, requested the constable to reach it
for him. The man hastened to comply with his wish. Swiftly, Everett
opened a dressing-case which stood on a table near him: the officer
heard the sharp clicking of a pistol-lock, and turned swiftly round. Too
late! A loud report rang through the house; the room was filled with
smoke; and the wretched assassin and suicide lay extended on the floor a
It would be useless minutely to recapitulate, the final winding-up of
this eventful drama. Suffice it to record, that Mr. Frederick Mordaunt
was, after a slight delay, restored to freedom and a splendid position in
society. After the lapse of a decent interval, he espoused Lucy
Carrington. Their eldest son represents in this present parliament one of
the English boroughs, and is by no means an undistinguished member of the
"THE ACCOMMODATION BILL."
Such of the incidents of the following narrative as did not fall within
my own personal observation, were communicated to me by the late Mr.
Ralph Symonds, and the dying confessions of James Hornby, one of the
persons killed by the falling in of the iron roof of the Brunswick
Theatre. A conversation the other day with a son of Mr. Symonds, who has
been long settled in London, recalled the entire chain of circumstances
to my memory with all the vivid distinctness of a first impression.
One evening towards the close of the year 1806, the Leeds coach brought
Mr. James Hornby to the village of Pool, on the Wharf, in the West-Riding
of Yorkshire. A small but respectable house on the confines of the place
had been prepared for his reception, and a few minutes after his descent
from the top of the coach, the pale, withered-looking man disappeared
within it. Except for occasional trips to Otley, a small market-town
distant about three miles from Pool, he rarely afterwards emerged from
its seclusion. It was not _Time_, we shall presently see--he was indeed
but four-and-forty years of age--that had bowed his figure, thinned his
whitening hair, and banished from his countenance all signs of healthy,
cheerful life. This, too, appeared to be the opinion of the gossips of
the village, who, congregated, as usual, to witness the arrival and
departure of the coach, indulged, thought Mr. Symonds, who was an inside
passenger proceeding on to Otley, in remarkably free-and-easy
commentaries upon the past, present, and future of the new-comer.
"I mind him well," quavered an old white-haired man. "It's just
three-and-twenty years ago last Michaelmas. I remember it because of the
hard frost two years before, that young Jim Hornby left Otley to go to
Lunnon: just the place, I'm told, to give the finishing polish to such a
miscreant as he seemed likely to be. He was just out of his time to old
Hornby, his uncle, the grocer."
"He that's left him such heaps of money?"
"Ay, boy, the very same, though he wouldn't have given him or any one
else a cheese-paring whilst he lived. This one is a true chip of the
old block, I'll warrant. You noticed that he rode outside, bitter cold
as it is?".
"Surely, Gaffer Hicks. But do ye mind what it was he went off in such a
skurry for? Tom Harris was saying last night at the Horse-Shoe, it was
something concerning a horse-race or a young woman; he warn't quite
"I can't say," rejoined the more ancient oracle, "that I quite mind all
the ups and downs of it. Henry Burton horse-whipped him on the Doncaster
race-course, _that_ I know; but whether it was about Cinderella that had,
they said, been tampered with the night before the race, or Miss
Elizabeth Grainsford, whom Burton married a few weeks afterwards, I
can't, as Tom Harris says, quite clearly remember."
"Old Hornby had a heavy grip of Burton's farm for a long time before he
died, they were saying yesterday at Otley. The sheepskins will now no
doubt be in the nephew's strong box."
"True, lad; and let's hope Master Burton will be regular with his
payments; for if not, there's Jail and Ruin for him written in capital
letters on yon fellow's cast-iron phiz, I can see."
The random hits of these Pool gossips, which were here interrupted by
the departure of the coach, were not very wide of the mark. James Hornby,
it was quite true, had been publicly horsewhipped twenty-three years
before by Henry Burton on the Doncaster race-course, ostensibly on
account of the sudden withdrawal of a horse that should have started, a
transaction with which young Hornby was in some measure mixed up; but
especially and really for having dared, upon the strength of presumptive
heirship to his uncle's wealth, to advance pretensions to the fair hand
of Elizabeth Gainsford, the eldest daughter of Mr. Robert Gainsford,
surgeon, of Otley--pretensions indirectly favored, it was said, by the
father, but contemptuously repudiated by the lady. Be this as it may,
three weeks after the races, Elizabeth Gainsford became Mrs. Burton, and
James Hornby hurried off to London, grudgingly furnished for the journey
by his uncle. He obtained a situation as shopman in one of the large
grocer establishments of the metropolis; and twenty-three years
afterwards, the attorney's letter, informing him that he had succeeded to
all his deceased uncle's property, found him in the same place, and in
the same capacity.
A perfect yell of delight broke from the lips of the taciturn man as his
glance devoured the welcome intelligence. "At last!" he shouted with
maniacal glee; and fiercely crumpling the letter in his hand, as if he
held a living foe in his grasp, whilst a flash of fiendish passion broke
from the deep caverns of his sunken eyes--"at last I have thee on the
hip! Ah, mine enemy!--it is the dead--the dead alone that never return
to hurl back on the head of the wrong-doer the shame, the misery, the
ruin he inflicted in his hour of triumph!" The violence of passions
suddenly unreined after years of jealous curb and watchfulness for a
moment overcame him, and he reeled as if fainting, into a chair. The
fierce, stern nature of the man soon mastered the unwonted excitement,
and in a few minutes he was cold, silent, impassable as ever. The letter
which he despatched the same evening gave calm, business orders as to
his uncle's funeral, and other pressing matters upon which the attorney
had demanded instructions, and concluded by intimating that he should be
in Yorkshire before many days elapsed. He arrived, as we have seen, and
took up his abode at one of the houses bequeathed to him in Pool, which
happened to be unlet.
Yes, for more than twenty bitter years James Hornby had savagely brooded
over the shame and wrong inflicted on him before the mocking eyes of a
brutal crowd by Henry Burton. Ever as the day's routine business closed,
and he retired to the dull solitude of his chamber, the last mind-picture
which faded on his waking sense was the scene on the crowded race-course,
with all its exasperating accessories--the merciless exultation of the
triumphant adversary--the jibes and laughter of his companions--the
hootings of the mob--to be again repeated with fantastic exaggeration in
the dreams which troubled and perplexed his broken sleep. No wonder that
the demons of Revenge and Hate, by whom he was thus goaded, should have
withered by their poisonous breath the healthful life which God had
given--have blasted with premature old age a body rocker with curses to
unblessed repose! It seemed, by his after-confessions, that he had really
loved Elizabeth Gainsford with all the energy of his violent, moody
nature, and that her image, fresh, lustrous, radiant, as in the dawn of
life, unceasingly haunted his imagination with visions of tenderness and
beauty, lost to him, as he believed, through the wiles, the calumnies,
and violence of his detested, successful rival.
The matronly person who, a few days after the Christmas following
Hornby's arrival at Pool, was conversing with her husband in the parlor
of Grange farmhouse, scarcely realized the air-drawn image which dwelt in
the memory of the unforgiving, unforgetting man. Mrs. Burton was at this
time a comely dame, whose _embonpoint_ contour, however indicative of
florid health and serenity of temper, exhibited little of the airy
elegance and grace said to have distinguished the girlhood of Elizabeth
Gainsford. Her soft brown eyes were gentle and kind as ever, but the
brilliant lights of youth no longer sparkled in their quiet depths, and
time had not only "thinned her flowing hair"--necessitating caps--but had
brushed the roses from her cheeks, and swept away, with his searing hand,
the pale lilies from the furtive coverts whence they had glanced in
tremulous beauty, in life's sweet prime; yet for all that, and a great
deal more, Mrs. Burton, I have no manner of doubt, looked charmingly in
the bright fire-blaze which gleamed in chequered light and shade upon the
walls, pictures, curtains of the room, and the green leaves and scarlet
berries of the Christmas holly with which it was profusely decorated.
Three of her children--the eldest, Elizabeth, a resuscitation of her own
youth--were by her side, and opposite sat her husband, whose frank,
hearty countenance seemed to sparkle with careless mirth.
"Hornby will be here presently, Elizabeth," said he. "What a
disappointment awaits the rascally curmudgeon! His uncle was a prince
compared to him."
"Disappointment, Henry! to receive four hundred pounds he did not
"Ay, truly, dame. Lawyer Symonds' son Frank, a fine, good-hearted young
fellow as ever stepped in shoe-leather--Lizzy, girl, if that candle
were nearer your face it would light without a match"--
"Very likely. Frank Symonds, I was saying, believes, and so does his
father, that Hornby would rejoice at an opportunity of returning with
interest the smart score I marked upon his back three-and-twenty
"It was a thoughtless, cruel act, Henry," rejoined his wife, "and the
less said of it the better. I hope the fright we have had will induce you
to practice a better economy than heretofore; so that, instead of
allowing two years' interest to accumulate upon us, we may gradually
reduce the mortgage."
"That we will, dear, depend upon it. We shall be pushed a little at
first: Kirkshaw, who lent me the two hundred and fifty, can only spare it
for a month; but no doubt the bank will do a bill for part of it by that
time. But sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Here is the money
for Hornby at all events: and here at last comes the shrivelled atomy; I
hear his horse. Fanny, light the candles."
If Mrs. Burton had consciously or unconsciously entertained the
self-flattering notion that the still unwedded bachelor who had
unsuccessfully wooed her nearly a quarter of a century before, still
retained a feeling of regretful tenderness for her, she must have been
grievously surprised by the cold, unrecognizing glance which Hornby
threw on her as he entered, and curtly replied to her civil greeting.
_That_ was not the image stamped upon his heart and brain! But when her
eldest daughter approached the lights to place paper and pens upon the
table, the flashing glance and white quivering lip of the grave visitor
revealed the tempest of emotion which for an instant shook him. He
quickly suppressed all outward manifestation of feeling, and in a dry,
business tone, demanded if Mr. Burton was ready to pay the interest of
"Yes, thank God," replied Burton, "I am: here is the money in notes of
the Governor and Company of the Bank of England. Count them!"
Hornby bent down over the notes, shading his face with his hand, as if
more accurately to examine them, and the glance of baffled rage which
swept across his features was not observed.
"They are quite right," he said, rising from his chair; "and here is
"Very Good! And now, Hornby, let us have a glass of wine together for the
sake of old times. Well, well; you need not look so fierce about it. Let
bygones be bygones, I say. Oh, if you _will_ go--go in God's name!
"Baffled--foiled!" muttered Hornby as he rode homeward. "Where could he
get the money? Borrowed it, doubtless, but of whom? Well,
patience--patience! I shall grip thee yet, Henry Burton!" And the
possessed man turned round in his saddle, and shook his clenched hand in
the direction of the house he had quitted. He then steadily pursued his
way, and soon regained his hermitage.
The month for which Burton had borrowed the two hundred and fifty pounds
passed rapidly--as months always do to borrowers--and expedient after
expedient for raising the money was tried in vain. This money must be
repaid, Kirkshaw had emphatically told him, on the day stipulated. Burton
applied to the bank at Leeds, with which he usually did business, to
discount an acceptance, guaranteed by one or two persons whose names he
mentioned. The answer was the usual civil refusal to accept the proffered
security for repayment--"the bank was just then full of discounts."
Burton ventured, as a last resource, to call on Hornby with a request
that, as the rapid advance in the market-value of land consequent on the
high war-prices obtained for its produce, had greatly increased the worth
of Grange Farm, he would add the required sum to the already-existing
mortgage. He was met by a prompt refusal. Mr. Hornby intended to
foreclose as speedily as possible the mortgages he already held, and
invest his capital in more profitable securities. "Well, then--would he
lend the amount at any interest he chose?"
"The usury laws," replied Hornby, with his usual saturnine sneer, "would
prevent my acceptance of your obliging offer, even if I had the present
means, which I have not. My spare cash happens just now to be temporarily
Burton, half-crazed with anxiety, went the following day to the Leeds
bank with the proffer of a fresh name agreed to be lent him by its
owner. Useless! "They did not know the party." The applicant mused a
few moments, and then said, "Would you discount the note of Mr. James
Hornby of Pool?"
"Certainly; with a great deal of pleasure." Burton hurried away; had his
horse instantly saddled, and gallopped off to Pool. Hornby was at home.
"You hinted the other day," said Burton, "that if you had not been short
of present means you might have obliged me with the loan I required"
"At least I so understood you. I am of course not ignorant, Mr. Hornby,
that there is no good blood between us two; but I also know that you are
fond of money, and that you are fully aware that I am quite safe for a
few hundred pounds. I am come, therefore, to offer you ten pounds _bonus_
for your acceptance at one month for two hundred and fifty pounds."
"What?" exclaimed Hornby with strange vehemence. "What"
Burton repeated his offer, and Hornby turned away towards the window
When he again faced Burton, his countenance wore its usual color; but
the expression of his eyes, the applicant afterwards remembered, was
wild and exulting.
"Have you a bill stamp?"
"Then draw the bill at once, and I will accept it."
Burton did not require to be twice told. The bill was quickly drawn;
Hornby took it to another table at the further end of the apartment,
slowly wrote his name across it, folded, and returned it to Burton, who
tendered the ten pounds he had offered, and a written acknowledgment that
the bill had been drawn and accepted for his (Burton's) accommodation.
"I don't want your money, Henry Burton," said Hornby, putting back the
note and the memorandum. "I am not afraid of losing by this transaction.
You do not know me yet."
"A queer stick," thought Burton, as he gained the street; "but Old Nick
is seldom so black as he's painted! He was a plaguy while, I thought,
signing his name; but I wish I could sign mine to such good purpose."
Burton laid the accepted bill, face downwards, on the bank counter, took
a pen, indorsed, and passed it to the managing clerk. The gray-headed man
glanced sharply at the signature, and then at Burton, "Why, surely this
is not Mr. Hornby's signature? It does not at all resemble it!"
"Not his signature!" exclaimed Burton; "what do you mean by that?"
"Reynolds, look here," continued the clerk, addressing another of the
bank _employes_. Reynolds looked, and his immediate glance of surprise
and horror at Burton revealed the impression he had formed.
"Please to step this way, Mr. Burton, to a private apartment," said
"No--no, I won't," stammered the unfortunate man, over whose mind a
dreadful suspicion had glanced with the suddenness of lightning. "I will
go back to Hornby;" and he made a desperate but vain effort to snatch the
fatal instrument. Then, pale and staggering with a confused terror and
bewilderment, he attempted to rush into the street. He was stopped, with
the help of the bystanders, by one of the clerks, who had jumped over the
counter for the purpose.
The messenger despatched by the bankers to Hornby returned with an answer
that the alleged acceptance was a forgery. It was stated on the part of
Mr. Hornby that Mr. Burton had indeed requested him to lend two hundred
and fifty pounds, but he had refused. The frantic asseverations of poor
Burton were of course disregarded, and he was conveyed to jail. An
examination took place the next day before the magistrates, and the
result was, that the prisoner was fully committed on the then capital
charge for trial at the ensuing assize.
It were useless, as painful, to dwell upon the consternation and agony
which fell upon the dwellers at Grange Farm when the terrible news
reached them. A confident belief in the perfect innocence of the
prisoner, participated by most persons who knew his character and that of
Hornby, and that it would be triumphantly vindicated on the day of trial,
which rapidly approached, alone enabled them to bear up against the blow,
and to await with trembling hope the verdict of a jury.
It was at this crisis of the drama that I became an actor in it. I was
retained for the defence by my long-known and esteemed friend Symonds,
whose zeal for his client, stimulated by strong personal friendship, knew
no bounds. The acceptance, he informed me, so little resembled Hornby's
handwriting, that if Burton had unfolded the bill when given back to him
by the villain, he could hardly have failed to suspect the nature of the
diabolical snare set for his life.
In those days, and until Mr., now Sir, Robert Peel's amendment of the
criminal law and practice of this country, the acceptor of a bill of
exchange, on the principle that he was _interested_ in denying the
genuineness of the signature, could not, according to the English law of
evidence, be called, on the part of the prosecution, to prove the
forgery; and of course, after what had taken place, we did not propose to
call Hornby for the defence. The evidence for the crown consisted,
therefore, on the day of trial, of the testimony of persons acquainted
with Hornby's signature, that the acceptance across the inculpated bill
was not in his handwriting. Burton's behavior at the bank, in endeavoring
to repossess himself of the bill by violence, was of course detailed, and
told heavily against him.
All the time this testimony was being given, Hornby sat on one of the
front seats of the crowded court, exulting in the visible accomplishment
of his Satanic device. We could see but little of his face, which,
supported on his elbow, was partially concealed by a handkerchief he held
in his hand; but I, who narrowly observed him, could occasionally discern
flashes from under his pent brows--revealments of the fierce struggle
which raged within.
The moment at last arrived for the prisoner, whose eyes had been for some
time fixed on Hornby, to speak or read his defence, and a breathless
silence pervaded the court.
Burton started at the summons, like a man unexpectedly recalled to a
sense of an imperious, but for the moment forgotten, duty.
"James Hornby!" he suddenly cried with a voice which rang through the
assembly like a trumpet, "stand up, and if you can face an innocent
Hornby, surprised out of his self-possession, mechanically obeyed the
strange order, sprang involuntarily to his feet, let fall the
handkerchief that had partially concealed his features, and nervously
confronted the prisoner.
"Look at me, I say," continued Burton with increasing excitement; "and as
you hope to escape the terrors of the last judgment, answer truly: did
you not, with your own hand, and in my presence, sign that bill?"--
"This cannot be permitted," interrupted the judge.
"If you do not speak," proceeded the prisoner, heedless of the
intimation from the bench; "or if you deny the truth, my life, as sure
as there is a God in heaven, will be required at your hands. If, in
consequence of your devilish plotting, these men consign me to a felon's
grave, I shall not be cold in it when you will be calling upon the
mountains to fall and cover you from the vengeance of the Judge of
heaven and earth! Speak, man--save me: save your own soul from mortal
peril whilst there is yet time for mercy and repentance!"
Hornby's expression of surprise and confusion had gradually changed
during this appeal to its usual character of dogged impassibility. He
turned calmly and appealingly towards the bench.
"You need not answer these wild adjurations, Mr. Hornby," said the judge,
as soon as he could make himself heard.
A smile curled the fellow's lip as he bowed deferentially to his
lordship, and he sat down without uttering a syllable.
"May the Lord, then, have mercy on my soul!" exclaimed the prisoner
solemnly. Then glancing at the bench and jury-box, he added, "And you, my
lord and gentlemen, work your will with my body as quickly as you may: I
am a lost man!"
The calling of witnesses to character, the opening of the judge's charge,
pointing from its first sentence to a conviction, elicited no further
manifestation of feeling from the prisoner: he was as calm as despair.
The judge had been speaking for perhaps ten minutes, when a bustle was
heard at the hall, as if persons were striving to force their way into
the body of the court in spite of the resistance of the officers.
"Who is that disturbing the court?" demanded the judge angrily.
"For the love of Heaven let me pass!" we heard uttered in passionate
tones by a female voice. "I must and will see the judge!"
"Who can this be?" T inquired, addressing Mr. Symonds.
"I cannot conceive," he replied; "surely not Mrs. Burton?"
I had kept my eye, as I spoke, upon Hornby, and noticed that he exhibited
extraordinary emotion at the sound of the voice, to whomsoever it
belonged, and was now endeavoring to force his way through the crowded
and anxious auditory.
"My lord," said I, "I have to request on the part of the prisoner that
the person desirous of admittance may be heard."
"What has she to say? Or if a material witness, why have you not called
her at the proper time?" replied his lordship with some irritation.
"My lord, I do not even now know her name; but in a case involving the
life of the prisoner, it is imperative that no chance be neglected"--
"Let the woman pass into the witness-box," interrupted the judge.
The order brought before our eyes a pale, stunted woman, of about fifty
years of age, whose excited and by no means unintellectual features, and
hurried, earnest manner, seemed to betoken great and unusual feeling.
"As I'm alive, Hornby's deformed housekeeper!" whispered Symonds. "This
poor devil's knot will be unraveled yet."
The woman, whose countenance and demeanor, as she gave her evidence,
exhibited a serious, almost solemn intelligence, deposed to the
"Her name was Mary McGrath, and she was the daughter of Irish parents,
but born and brought up in England. She had been Mr. Hornby's
housekeeper, and remembered well the 4th of February last, when Mr.
Burton, the prisoner, called at the house. Witness was dusting in an
apartment close to her master's business-room, from which it was only
separated by a thin wooden partition. The door was partly open, and she
could see as well as hear what was going on without being seen herself.
She heard the conversation between the prisoner and her master; heard
Mr. Hornby agree to sign the paper--bill she ought to say--for two
hundred and fifty pounds; saw him do it, and then deliver it folded up
to Mr. Burton."
A shout of execration burst from the auditory as these words were
uttered, and every eye was turned to the spot where Hornby had been
seated. He had disappeared during the previous confusion.
"Silence!" exclaimed the judge sternly. "Why, woman," he added, "have you
never spoken of this before?"
"Because, my lord," replied the witness with downcast looks, and in a
low, broken voice--"because I am a sinful, wicked creature. When my
master, the day after Mr. Burton had been taken up, discovered that I
knew his secret, he bribed me with money and great promises of more to
silence. I had been nearly all my life, gentlemen, poor and miserable,
almost an outcast, and the temptation was too strong for me. He
mistrusted me, however--for my mind, he saw, was sore troubled--and he
sent me off to London yesterday, to be out of the way till all was over.
The coach stopped at Leeds, and, as it was heavy upon me, I thought,
especially as it was the blessed Easter-time, that I would step to the
chapel. His holy name be praised that I did! The scales seemed to fall
from my eyes, and I saw clearer than I had before the terrible wickedness
I was committing. I told all to the priest, and he has brought me here to
make what amends I can for the sin and cruelty of which I have been
guilty. There--there is all that is left of the wages of crime," she
added, throwing a purse of money on the floor of the court; and then
bursting into a flood of tears, she exclaimed with passionate
earnestness, "for which may the Almighty of his infinite mercy pardon and
"Amen!" responded the deep husky voice of the prisoner, snatched back, as
it were, from the very verge of the grave to liberty and life. "Amen,
with all my soul!"
The counsel for the crown, cross-examined the witness, but his efforts
only brought out her evidence in, if possible, a still clearer and more
trustworthy light. Not a thought of doubt was entertained by any person
in the court, and the jury, with the alacrity of men relieved of a
grievous burthen, and without troubling the judge to resume his
interrupted charge, returned a verdict of acquittal.
The return of Burton to his home figured as an ovation in the Pool and
Otley annals. The greetings which met him on all sides were boisterous
and hearty, as English greetings usually are; and it was with some
difficulty the rustic constabulary could muster a sufficient force to
save Hornby's domicile from sack and destruction. All the windows were,
however, smashed, and that the mob felt was something at all events.
Burton profited by the painful ordeal to which he had, primarily through
his own thoughtlessness, been exposed, and came in a few years to be
regarded as one of the most prosperous yeomen-farmers of Yorkshire. Mr.
Frank Symonds' union with Elizabeth Burton was in due time solemnized;
Mr. Wilberforce, the then popular member for the West Riding, I remember
hearing, stood sponsor to their eldest born; and Mary McGrath passed the
remainder of her life in the service of the family her testimony had
saved from disgrace and ruin.
Mr. James Hornby disappeared from Yorkshire immediately after the trial,
and, except through his business agents, was not again heard of till the
catastrophe at the Brunswick Theatre, where he perished. He died
penitent, after expressing to Mr. Frank Symonds, for whom he had sent,
his deep sorrow for the evil deed he had planned, and, but for a
merciful interposition, would have accomplished. As a proof of the
sincerity of his repentance, he bequeathed the bulk of his property to
Mrs. Symonds, the daughter of the man he had pursued with such savage
and relentless hate!
The events which I am about to relate occurred towards the close of the
last century, some time before I was called to the bar, and do not
therefore in strictness fall within my own experiences as a barrister.
Still, as they came to my knowledge with much greater completeness than
if I had been only professionally engaged to assist in the catastrophe of
the drama through which they are evolved, and, as I conceive, throw a
strong light upon the practical working of our criminal jurisprudence, a
brief page of these slight leaves may not inappropriately record them.
About the time I have indicated, a Mrs. Rushton, the widow of a gentleman
of commercial opulence, resided in Upper Harley Street, Cavendish Square.
She was a woman of "family," and by her marriage had greatly lowered
herself, in her relatives' opinion, by a union with a person who, however
wealthy and otherwise honorable, was so entirely the architect of his own
fortunes--owed all that he possessed so immediately to his own skill,
sagacity, and perseverance--that there was an unpleasant rumor abroad
about his widowed mother being indebted to her son's success in business
for having passed the last ten years of her life in ease and competence.
Mr. Rushton had left his widow a handsome annuity, and to his and her
only son a well-invested income of upwards of seven thousand a year.
Since the death of her husband, Mrs. Rushton, who inherited quite her
full share of family pride, if nothing else, had sought by every method
she could devise to re-enter the charmed circle from which her union with
a city merchant had excluded her. The most effectual mode of
accomplishing her purpose was, she knew, to bring about a marriage
between her son and a lady who would not be indisposed to accept of
wealth and a well-appointed establishment in Mayfair as a set-off against
birth and high connection.
Arthur Rushton, at this time between two and three-and-twenty years of
age, was a mild, retiring, rather shy person, and endowed with a
tenderness of disposition, of which the tranquil depths had not as yet
been ruffled by the faintest breath of passion. His mother possessed
almost unbounded influence over him; and he ever listened with a smile, a
languid, half-disdainful one, to her eager speculations upon the numerous
eligible matches that would present themselves the instant the "season"
and their new establishment in Mayfair--of which the decoration and
furnishing engaged all her available time and attention--enabled them to
open the campaign with effect. Arthur Rushton and myself had been college
companions, and our friendly intimacy continued for several years
afterwards. At this period especially we were very cordial and unreserved
in our intercourse with each other.
London at this time was crowded with French exiles, escaped from the
devouring sword of Robespierre and his helpers in the work of government
by the guillotine, almost all of whom claimed to be members of, or
closely connected with, the ancient nobility of France. Among these was
an elderly gentleman of the name of De Tourville, who, with his daughter
Eugenie, had for a considerable time occupied a first floor in King
Street, Holborn. Him I never saw in life, but Mademoiselle de Tourville
was one of the most accomplished, graceful, enchantingly-interesting
persons I have ever seen or known. There was a dangerous fascination in
the pensive tenderness through which her natural gaiety and archness of
manner would at intervals flash, like April sunlight glancing through
clouds and showers, which, the first time I saw her, painfully impressed
as much as it charmed me--perceiving, as I quickly did, that with her the
future peace, I could almost have said life, of Arthur Rushton was
irrevocably bound up. The fountains of his heart were for the first time
stirred to their inmost depths, and, situated as he and she were, what
but disappointment, bitterness, and anguish could well-up from those
troubled waters? Mademoiselle de Tourville, I could perceive, was fully
aware of the impression she had made upon the sensitive and amiable
Englishman; and I sometimes discovered an expression of pity--of
sorrowful tenderness, as it were--pass over her features as some
distincter revelation than usual of the nature of Arthur Rushton's
emotions flashed upon her. I also heard her express herself several
times, as overtly as she could, upon the _impossibility_ there existed
that she should, however much she might desire it, settle in England, or
even remain in it for any considerable length of time. All this I
understood, or thought I did, perfectly; but Rushton, bewildered,
entranced by feelings altogether new to him, saw nothing, heard nothing
but her presence, and felt, without reasoning upon it, that in that
delirious dream it was his fate either to live or else to bear no life.
Mrs. Rushton--and this greatly surprised me--absorbed in her matrimonial
and furnishing schemes and projects, saw nothing of what was going on.
Probably the notion that her son should for an instant think of allying
himself with an obscure, portionless foreigner, was, to a mind like hers,
too absurd to be for a moment entertained; or--But stay; borne along by
a crowd of rushing thoughts, I have, I find, somewhat anticipated the
regular march of my narrative.
M. and Mademoiselle de Tourville, according to the after-testimony of
their landlord, Mr. Osborn, had, from the time of their arrival in
England, a very constant visitor at their lodgings in King Street. He was
a tall French gentleman, of perhaps thirty years of age, and
distinguished appearance. His name was La Houssaye. He was very
frequently with them indeed, and generally he and M. de Tourville would
go out together in the evening, the latter gentleman not returning home
till very late. This was more especially the case after Mademoiselle de
Tourville ceased to reside with her father.
Among the fashionable articles with which Mrs. Rushton was anxious to
surround herself, was a companion of accomplishments and high-breeding,
who might help her to rub off the rust she feared to have contracted by
her connection with the city. A Parisian lady of high lineage and perfect
breeding might, she thought, be easily obtained; and an advertisement
brought Mademoiselle de Tourville to her house. Mrs. Rushton was
delighted with the air and manners of the charming applicant; and after a
slight inquiry by letter to an address of reference given by the young
lady, immediately engaged her, on exceedingly liberal terms, for six
months--that being the longest period for which Mademoiselle de Tourville
could undertake to remain. She also stipulated for permission to pass the
greater part of one day in the week--that which might happen to be most
convenient to Mrs. Rushton--with her father. One other condition
testified alike to M. de Tourville's present poverty and her own filial
piety: it was, that her salary should be paid weekly--she would not
accept it in advance--avowedly for her parent's necessities, who, poor
exile! and tears stood in Eugenie's dark lustrous eyes as she spoke, was
ever trembling on the brink of the grave from an affection of the heart
with which he had been long afflicted. Mademoiselle de Tourville, I
should state, spoke English exceedingly well as far as the rules of
syntax and the meanings of words went, and with an accent charming in its
She had resided with Mrs. Rushton, who on all occasions treated her with
the greatest kindness and consideration, for rather more than two months,
when an incident occurred which caused the scales to fall suddenly from
the astonished mother's eyes, and in a moment revealed to her the extent
of the risk and mischief she had so heedlessly incurred. The carriage was
at the door, and it struck Mrs. Rushton as she was descending the stairs
that Mademoiselle de Tourville, who had complained of headache in the
morning, would like to take an airing with her. The sound of the harp
issuing from the drawing-room, and the faintly-distinguished tones of her
voice in some plaintive silver melody perhaps suggested the invitation;
and thither the mistress of the mansion at once proceeded. The
folding-doors of the back drawing-room were partially open when Mrs.
Rushton, on kind thoughts intent, entered the front apartment.
Mademoiselle de Tourville was seated with her back towards her at the
harp, pouring forth with her thrilling and delicious voice a French
romaunt; and there, with his head supported on his elbow, which rested on
the marble chimney-piece, stood her son, Arthur Rushton, gazing at the
apparently-unconscious songstress with a look so full of devoted
tenderness--so completely revealing the intensity of passion by which he
was possessed--that Mrs. Rushton started with convulsive affright, and
could not for several minutes give articulation to the dismay and rage
which choked her utterance Presently, however, her emotions found
expression, and a storm of vituperative abuse was showered upon the head
of the astonished Eugenie, designated as an artful _intrigante_, a
designing pauper, who had insinuated herself into the establishment for
the sole purpose of entrapping Mr. Arthur Rushton--with a great deal more
to the same effect. Mademoiselle de Tourville, who had first been too
much surprised by the unexpected suddenness of the attack to quite
comprehend the intent and direction of the blows, soon recovered her
self-possession and hauteur. A smile of contempt curled her beautiful
lip, as, taking advantage of a momentary pause in Mrs. Rushton's
breathless tirade, she said, "Permit me, madam, to observe that if, as
you seem to apprehend, your son has contemplated honoring me by the offer
of an alliance with his ancient House"--Her look at this moment glanced
upon the dreadfully agitated young man; the expression of disdainful
bitterness vanished in an instant from her voice and features; and after
a few moments, she added, with sad eyes bent upon the floor, "That he
could not have made a more unhappy choice--more unfortunate for him, more
impossible for me!" She then hastily left the apartment, and before a
quarter of an hour had elapsed, had left the house in a hackney-coach.
The scene which followed between the mother and son was a violent and
distressing one. Mr. Rushton, goaded to fury by his mother's attack upon
Mademoiselle de Tourville, cast off the habit of deference and submission
which he had always worn in her presence, and asserted with vehemence his
right to wed with whom he pleased, and declared that no power on earth
should prevent him marrying the lady just driven ignominiously from the
house if she could be brought to accept the offer of his hand and
fortune! Mrs. Rushton fell into passionate hysterics; and her son, having
first summoned her maid, withdrew to ruminate on Mademoiselle de
Tourville's concluding sentence, which troubled him far more that what he
deemed the injustice of his mother.
When Mrs. Rushton, by the aid of water, pungent essences, and the relief
which even an hour of time seldom fails to yield in such cases, had
partially recovered her equanimity, she determined, after careful
consideration of the best course of action, to consult a solicitor of
eminence, well acquainted with her late husband, upon the matter. She had
a dim notion that the Alien Act, if it could be put in motion, might rid
her of Mademoiselle de Tourville and her friends. Thus resolving, and
ever scrupulous as to appearances, she carefully smoothed her ruffled
plumage, changed her disordered dress, and directed the carriage, which
had been dismissed, to be again brought round to the door. "Mary," she
added a few moments afterwards, "bring me my jewel-case--the small one:
you will find it in Made--in that French person's dressing-room."
Mary Austin reappeared in answer to the violent ringing of her impatient
lady's bell, and stated that the jewel-case could nowhere be found in
Mademoiselle's dressing-room. "Her clothes, everything belonging to her,
had been taken out of the wardrobe, and carried away, and perhaps that
also in mistake no doubt."
"Nonsense, woman!" replied Mrs. Rushton. "I left it not long ago on her
toilet-glass. I intended to show her a purchase I had made, and not
finding her, left it as I tell you."
Another search was made with the same ill-success. Mary Austin afterwards
said that when she returned to her mistress the second time, to say that
the jewel-case was certainly gone, an expression of satisfaction instead
of anger, it seemed to her, glanced across Mrs. Rushton's face, who
immediately left the room, and in a few minutes afterwards was driven
off in the carriage.
About an hour after her departure I called in Harley Street for Arthur
Rushton, with whom I had engaged to go this evening to the theatre to
witness Mrs. Siddons's Lady Macbeth, which neither of us had yet seen. I
found him in a state of calmed excitement, if I may so express myself;
and after listening with much interest to the minute account he gave me
of what had passed, I, young and inexperienced as I was in such affairs,
took upon myself to suggest that, as the lady he nothing doubted was as
irreproachable in character as she was confessedly charming and
attractive in person and manners, and as he was unquestionably his own
master, Mrs. Rushton's opposition was not likely to be of long
continuance; and that as to Mademoiselle de Tourville's somewhat
discouraging expression, such sentences from the lips of ladies--
"That would be wooed, and not unsought be won"--
were seldom, if ever, I had understood, to be taken in a literal and
positive sense. Under this mild and soothing treatment, Mr. Rushton
gradually threw off a portion of the load that oppressed him, and we set
off in tolerably cheerful mood for the theatre.
Mrs. Siddons' magnificent and appalling impersonation over, we left the
house; he, melancholy and sombre as I had found him in Harley Street, and
I in by no means a gay or laughing mood. We parted at my door, and
whether it was the effect of the tragedy, so wonderfully realized in its
chief creation, or whether coming events _do_ sometimes cast their
shadows before, I cannot say, but I know that an hour after Rushton's
departure I was still sitting alone, my brain throbbing with excitement,
and so nervous and impressionable, that a sudden, vehement knocking at
the street entrance caused me to spring up from my chair with a terrified
start, and before I could master the impulsive emotion, the room-door was
thrown furiously open, and in reeled Arthur Rushton--pale, haggard,
wild--his eyes ablaze with horror and affright! Had the ghost of Duncan
suddenly gleamed out of the viewless air I could not have been more
"She is dead!--poisoned!" he shrieked with maniacal fury;
"killed!--murdered!--and by _her_!"
I gasped for breath, and could hardly articulate--"What! whom?"
"My mother!" he shouted with the same furious vehemence--"Killed! by
_her_! Oh, horror!--horror!--horror!" and exhausted by the violence of
his emotions, the unfortunate gentleman staggered, shuddered violently,
as if shaken by an ague fit, and fell heavily--for I was too confounded
to yield him timely aid--on the floor.
As soon as I could rally my scattered senses, I caused medical aid to be
summoned, and got him to bed. Blood was freely taken from both arms, and
he gradually recovered consciousness. Leaving him in kind and careful
hands, I hurried off to ascertain what possible foundation there could be
for the terrible tidings so strangely announced.
I found the establishment in Harley Street in a state of the wildest
confusion and dismay. Mrs. Rushton _was_ dead; that, at all events, was
no figment of sudden insanity, and incredible, impossible rumors were
flying from mouth to mouth with bewildering rapidity and incoherence.
The name of Mademoiselle de Tourville was repeated in every variety of
abhorrent emphasis; but it was not till I obtained an interview with
Mrs. Rushton's solicitor that I could understand what really had
occurred, or, to speak more properly, what was suspected. Mrs. Rushton
had made a deposition, of which Mr. Twyte related to me the essential
points. The deceased lady had gone out in her carriage with the express
intention of calling on him, the solicitor, to ascertain if it would be
possible to apply the Alien Act to Mademoiselle de Tourville and her
father, in order to get them sent out of the country. Mr. Twyte did not
happen to be at home, and Mrs. Rushton immediately drove to the De
Tourvilles' lodgings in King Street, Holborn, with the design, she
admitted, of availing herself of what she was in her own mind satisfied
was the purely accidental taking away of a jewel-case, to terrify
Mademoiselle de Tourville, by the threat of a criminal charge, into
leaving the country, or at least to bind herself not to admit, under any
circumstances, of Mr. Arthur Rushton's addresses. She found Eugenie in a
state of extraordinary, and it seemed painful excitement; and the young
lady entreated that whatever Mrs. Rushton had to say should be reserved
for another opportunity, when she would calmly consider whatever Mrs.
Rushton had to urge. The unfortunate lady became somewhat irritated at
Mademoiselle de Tourville's obstinacy, and the unruffled contempt with
which she treated the charge of robbery, even after finding the missing
jewel-case in a band-box, into which it had been thrust with some
brushes and other articles in the hurry of leaving. Mrs. Rushton was
iterating her threats in a loud tone of voice, and moved towards the
bell to direct, she said, the landlord to send for a constable, but with
no intention whatever of doing so, when Mademoiselle de Tourville caught
her suddenly by the arm, and bade her step into the next room. Mrs.
Rushton mechanically obeyed, and was led in silence to the side of a
bed, of which Eugenie suddenly drew the curtain, and displayed to her,
with a significant and reproachful gesture, the pale, rigid countenance
of her father's corpse, who had, it appears, suddenly expired. The shock
was terrible. Mrs. Rushton staggered back into the sitting-room, sick
and faint, sank into a chair, and presently asked for a glass of wine.
"We have no wine," replied Mademoiselle de Tourville; "but there is a
cordial in the next room which may be better for you." She was absent
about a minute, and on returning, presented Mrs. Rushton with a large
wine-glassful of liquid, which the deceased lady eagerly swallowed. The
taste was strange, but not unpleasant; and instantly afterwards Mrs.
Rushton left the house. When the carriage reached Harley Street, she was
found to be in a state of great prostration: powerful stimulants were
administered, but her life was beyond the reach of medicine. She
survived just long enough to depose to the foregoing particulars; upon
which statement Mademoiselle de Tourville had been arrested, and was now
"You seem to have been very precipitate," I exclaimed as soon as the
solicitor had ceased speaking: "there appears to be as yet no proof that
the deceased lady died of other than natural causes."
"You are mistaken," rejoined Mr. Twyte. "There is no doubt on the subject
in the minds of the medical gentlemen, although the _post-mortem_
examination has not yet taken place. And, as if to put aside all doubt,
the bottle from which this Eugenie de Tourville admits she took the
cordial proves to contain distilled laurel-water, a deadly poison,
curiously colored and flavored."
Greatly perturbed, shocked, astonished as I was, my mind refused to
admit, even for a moment, the probability, hardly the possibility, of
Eugenie de Tourville's guilt. The reckless malignancy of spirit evinced
by so atrocious an act dwelt not, I was sure, within that beauteous
temple. The motives alleged to have actuated her--fear of a criminal
charge, admitted to be absurd, and desire to rid herself of an obstacle
to her marriage with Arthur Rushton--seemed to me altogether strained and
inapplicable. The desperation of unreasoning hate could alone have
prompted such a deed; for detection was inevitable, had, in truth, been
courted rather than attempted to be avoided.
My reasoning made no change in the conclusions of Mr. Twyte the attorney
for the prosecution, and I hastened home to administer such consolation
to Arthur Rushton as might consist in the assurance of my firm conviction
that his beloved mother's life had not been wilfully taken away by
Eugenie de Tourville. I found him still painfully agitated; and the
medical attendant told me it was feared by Dr. ---- that brain fever
would supervene if the utmost care was not taken to keep him as quiet and
composed as, under the circumstances, was possible. I was, however,
permitted a few minutes' conversation with him; and my reasoning, or,
more correctly, my confidently-expressed belief--for his mind seemed
incapable of following my argument, which it indeed grasped faintly at,
but slipped from, as it were, in an instant--appeared to relieve him
wonderfully. I also promised him that no legal or pecuniary assistance
should be wanting in the endeavor to clear Mademoiselle de Tourville of
the dreadful imputation preferred against her. I then left him. The
anticipation of the physician was unfortunately realized: the next
morning he was in a raging fever, and his life, I was informed, was in
very imminent danger.
It was a distracting time; but I determinedly, and with much self-effort,
kept down the nervous agitation which might have otherwise rendered me
incapable of fulfilling the duties I had undertaken to perform. By
eleven o'clock in the forenoon I had secured the active and zealous
services of Mr. White, one of the most celebrated of the criminal
attorneys of that day. By application in the proper quarter, we obtained
immediate access to the prisoner, who was temporarily confined in a
separate room in the Red-Lion Square Lock-up House. Mademoiselle de
Tourville, although exceedingly pale, agitated, and nervous, still looked
as lustrously pure, as radiantly innocent of evil thought or deed, as on
the day that I first beheld her. The practiced eye of the attorney
scanned her closely. "As innocent of this charge," he whispered, "as you
or I." I tendered my services to the unfortunate young lady with an
earnestness of manner which testified more than any words could have done
how entirely my thoughts acquitted her of offence. Her looks thanked me;
and when I hinted at the promise exacted of me by Arthur Rushton, a
bright blush for an instant mantled the pale marble of her cheeks and
forehead, indicating with the tears, which suddenly filled and trembled
in her beautiful eyes, a higher sentiment, I thought, than mere
gratitude. She gave us her unreserved confidence; by which, after careful
sifting, we obtained only the following by no means entirely satisfactory
Mademoiselle de Tourville and her father had escaped from the Terrorists
of France by the aid of, and in company with, the Chevalier la Houssaye,
with whom M. de Tourville had previously had but very slight
acquaintance. The chevalier soon professed a violent admiration for
Eugenie; and having contrived to lay M. de Tourville under heavy
pecuniary obligations at play--many of them Mademoiselle de Tourville had
only very lately discovered--prevailed upon his debtor to exert his
influence with his daughter to accept La Houssaye's hand in marriage.
After much resistance, Mademoiselle de Tourville, overcome by the
commands, entreaties, prayers of her father, consented, but only on
condition that the marriage should not take place till their return to
France, which it was thought need not be very long delayed, and that no
more money obligations should in the meantime be incurred by her father.
La Houssaye vehemently objected to delay; but finding Eugenie inexorable,
sullenly acquiesced. It was precisely at this time that the engagement
with Mrs. Rushton was accepted. On the previous afternoon Mademoiselle de
Tourville, on leaving Harley Street after the scene with the deceased
lady, went directly home, and there found both her father and the
chevalier in hot contention and excitement. As soon as La Houssaye saw
her, he seized his hat, and rushed out of the apartment and house. Her
father, who was greatly excited, had barely time to say that he had
fortunately discovered the chevalier to be a married man, whose wife, a
woman of property, was still living in Languedoc, when what had always
been predicted would follow any unusual agitation happened: M. de
Tourville suddenly placed his hand on his side, uttered a broken
exclamation, fell into a chair, and expired. It was about two hours after
this melancholy event that Mrs. Rushton arrived. The account before given
of the interview which followed was substantially confirmed by
Mademoiselle de Tourville; who added, that the cordial she had given Mrs.
Rushton was one her father was in the constant habit of taking when in
the slightest degree excited, and that she was about to give him some
when he suddenly fell dead.
We had no doubt, none whatever, that this was the whole, literal truth,
as far as the knowledge of Mademoiselle de Tourville extended; but how
could we impart that impression to an Old Bailey jury of those days,
deprived as we should be of the aid of counsel to address the jury, when
in reality a speech, pointing to the improbabilities arising from
character, and the altogether _un_guilty-like mode of administering the
fatal liquid, was the only possible defence? Cross-examination promised
nothing; for the evidence would consist of the dying deposition of Mrs.
Rushton, the finding of the laurel-water, and the medical testimony as to
the cause of death. The only person upon whom suspicion glanced was La
Houssaye, and that in a vague and indistinct manner. Still, it was
necessary to find him without delay, and Mr. White at once sought him at
his lodgings, of which Mademoiselle de Tourville furnished the address.
He had left the house suddenly with all his luggage early in the morning,
and our efforts to trace him proved fruitless. In the meantime the
_post-mortem_ examination of the body had taken place, and a verdict of
willful murder against Eugenie de Tourville been unhesitatingly returned.
She was soon afterwards committed to Newgate for trial.
The Old Bailey session was close at hand, and Arthur Rushton, though
immediate danger was over, was still in too delicate and precarious a
state to be informed of the true position of affairs when the final day
of trial arrived. The case had excited little public attention. It was
not the fashion in those days to exaggerate the details of crime, and,
_especially before trial_, give the wings of the morning to every fact
or fiction that rumor with her busy tongue obscurely whispered. Twenty
lines of the "Times" would contain the published record of the
commitment of Eugenie de Tourville for poisoning her mistress, Caroline
Rushton; and, alas! spite of the crippled but earnest efforts of the
eminent counsel we had retained, and the eloquent innocence of her
appearance and demeanor, her conviction and condemnation to death
without hope of mercy! My brain swam as the measured tones of the
recorder, commanding the almost immediate and violent destruction of
that beauteous masterpiece of God, fell upon my ear; and had not Mr.
White, who saw how greatly I was affected, fairly dragged me out of
court into the open air, I should have fainted. I scarcely remember how
I got home--in a coach, I believe; but face Rushton after that dreadful
scene with a kindly-meant deception--_lie_--in my mouth, I could not,
had a king's crown been the reward. I retired to my chamber, and on the
plea of indisposition directed that I should on no account be disturbed.
Night had fallen, and it was growing somewhat late, when I was startled
out of the painful reverie in which I was still absorbed by the sudden
pulling up of a furiously-driven coach, followed by a thundering summons
at the door, similar to that which aroused me on the evening of Mrs.
Rushton's death. I seized my hat, rushed down stairs, and opened the
door. It was Mr. White!
"Well!--well!" I ejaculated.
"Quick--quick!" he exclaimed in reply. "La Houssaye--he is found--has
sent for us--quick! for life--life is on our speed!"
I was in the vehicle in an instant. In less than ten minutes we had
reached our destination--a house in Duke Street, Manchester Square.
"He is still alive," replied a young man in answer to Mr. White's hurried
inquiry. We rapidly ascended the stairs, and in the front apartment of
the first floor beheld one of the saddest, mournfulest spectacles which
the world can offer--a fine, athletic man, still in the bloom of natural
health and vigor, and whose pale features, but for the tracings there of
fierce, ungoverned passions, were strikingly handsome and intellectual,
stretched by his own act upon the bed of death! It was La Houssaye! Two
gentlemen were with him--one a surgeon, and the other evidently a
clergyman, and, as I subsequently found, a magistrate, who had been sent
for by the surgeon. A faint smile gleamed over the face of the dying man
as we entered, and he motioned feebly to a sheet of paper, which, closely
written upon, was lying upon a table placed near the sofa upon which the
unhappy suicide was reclining. Mr. White snatched, and eagerly perused
it. I could see by the vivid lighting up of his keen gray eye that it
was, in his opinion, satisfactory and sufficient.
"This," said Mr. White, "is your solemn deposition, knowing yourself to
"Yes, yes," murmured La Houssaye; "the truth--the truth!"
"The declaration of a man," said the clergyman with some asperity of
tone, "who defyingly, unrepentingly, rushes into the presence of his
Creator, can be of little value!"
"Ha!" said the dying man, rousing himself by a strong effort;
"I repent--yes--yes--I repent! I believe--do you hear?--and
repent--believe. Put that down," he added, in tones momently feebler
and more husky, as he pointed to the paper; "put that down, or--or
As he spoke, the faint light that had momently kindled his glazing eye
was suddenly quenched; he remained for perhaps half a minute raised on
his elbow, and with his outstretched finger pointing towards the paper,
gazing blindly upon vacancy. Then the arm dropped, and he fell back dead!
We escaped as quickly as we could from this fearful death-room, and I
found that the deposition which Mr. White brought away with him gave a
full, detailed account, written in the French language, of the
circumstances which led to the death of Mrs. Rushton.
La Houssaye, finding that M. de Tourville had by some means discovered
the secret of his previous marriage, and that consequently all hope of