« ZurückWeiter »
scamp to have been able to keep up as having been annexed to the freesuch a plausible consistency—such a hold, or to the administrator of the devraisemblante air—throughout. Some ceased tenant, or to a creditor of his, letter was handed up to the Judge in who held a bill of sale of all his goods, favour of the character of the first chattels, and effects—or to the vendee wife, whom it represented to be a so- of the sheriff who had seized it under ber and industrious woman.
a fi fa! — Whether little sweeps were also admitted that the prisoner had distrainable for the rent due from the fairly told the woman whom he had master chimney-sweeper ;* and if so, last married all that he had represent- who was to feed them while they were ed himself as having told her. The in custodia legis ; f and whether it was Judge, having made some just remarks a conversion of them, for the distrainupon the deplorable ignorance on the er to set any of them about sweeping subject of marriage and divorce which a chimney of his own;f or whether, in seemed to be evinced by the prisoner, such a case, their master, the tenant, and which he sincerely hoped were being entitled to their earnings, ought not prevalent notions in those parts, to sue for them, in case, or assumpsit; instructed the jury that their verdict or, if the little sweeps should be sold must of course be guilty, as the pri- towards satisfaction of the rent, and if soner had confessed all that he stood one of them should not go away with charged with. He was immediately, the vendee, whether the latter could therefore, found guilty. The Judge justify an assault in compelling him ; pointed out to him fully and distinctly who was entitled to the clothes of one the heinous nature of the offence of of the little sweeps, if he should die bigamy, and the utter absurdity of his while under distress—and who would notions respecting the relation of mar- be bound to bury him! - Who was enriage, and the mode of dissolving it. titled to a small slip of land which it He might be transported for what he was impossible that any one could use, had done ; but as he seemed to have -and other the like grave and imporacted ignorantly, and had, especially, tant matters. But as I heard enough frankly told the woman whom he of them in town, I did not see any parcalled his second wife of the fact that ticular reason for waiting to see them his first wife was living, and as he had dealt with on that particular occasion, already suffered several months' im- especially as I happened to have no prisonment since his committal to retainers in any of the above interestgaol, his Lordship thought the ends of ing causes. So, about three o'clock, justice would be answered by the in- I went to see the Docks, and also to liction of a lénient sentence that of bathe in the Baths, erected by the late six weeks' further imprisonment. He corporation, on the quay. The former was then removed from the dock. were a wonderful object! Dock after
Nothing further, of interest, I un- dock, of very large size, of most comvlerstood, would transpire in the court plete construction, was crammed with that day; so I went into the civil ships of all sorts, sizes, and countries, court, where Mr Justice Coleridge so closely packed, that the only wonpresided. Here you might listen to
der was very different matters a painfully in- “ how the d-1 they got there !" teresting dispute, for instance, be- -or were to get out again. It was tween a landlord and his tenant as to certainly a proud and splendid specwhich of them was entitled to an old tacle for the eye of an Englishman. rusty padlock; or whether a brass What an idea it gave one of our comfarthing, which had been discovered mercial greatness! What order and between the boards of the floor, be- system were evident every where! longed to the heir of the reversioner, An hour had passed away before we
'See all the authorities, as to the power to distrain cats, parrots, monkeys, rabbits, and canaries, collected in Woodfall's Landlord and Tenant, p. 316 (2d ed.)
† See now stat. 5 and 6 Will. IV. c. 59, $ 4, requiring parties impounding cattle to provide sufficient food for them.
# A man shall not abuse a distress.- Com. Dig. Distress (D. 6.) So a man cannot work cattle distrained, I Leon. 220; and see the late case of Scott v. Newington, i Mor. and Robinson, 252.
seemed to have seen above a fourth of haps, as usual_wondering, it might the shipping ; so I hurried back to the be, that he kept the family meal so quay, to bathe in the cold salt. water long waiting-or perhaps the dismal, bath before going to dinner. There dismaying tidings were being at that were five or six steam-boats hissing moment communicated - 1 hurried and sputtering alongside in the Mer. away! sey, as if furious at the violent wind, The whole of the Bar dined together which curiously interminġled the that evening at the Adelphi—and a smoke and steam ; there was also a grand muster we made ; it would have most horrid squeaking of pigs, great rejoiced the cockles of your old heart and small, in the act,-gentle suffer- to see us. But do you think, my dear ers !-of being landed, on their ar- sir, that, with all my communicativerival from Ireland. There was also a ness, I am going to describe that dinbronzed Italian woman, accompany.
ner? What! divulge the sacred mysing herself on the guitar, on board of teries of the GRAND Court? The one of the steamers preparing to cross secrecy of a freemason must be a joke the water; and it was droll to see the to that which is implicitly imposed indignant air with which she occasion- upon me and every member of the ally turned towards the quarter whence Northern Circuit with reference to proceeded the concord of sweet sounds that same Grand Court ; and if the inat drowned her own, and rendered unhallowed curiosity and cupidity of her singing a matter of mere dumb her Majesty's present misleaders (I show. On enquiring at the baths, I like to call people and things by their was vexed to find the large swimming true names) should really, as is rubath under repair. The only one at moured, be prompting them to send a my service was one little more than commission of enquiry into the myssix feet square, and which it required teries, customs, and revenues of the some courage and caution to plunge Northern Circuit, and its Grand Court into, for fear of breaking my head let those who may be selected for against any of the sides. Neverthe- such an office-poor devils !- look to less, I bathed in it almost every day it; they will never be commissioners that I was in the town. On return. again-at least on this side the grave! ing to my lodgings, I saw a little - A glorious body of Tories, by the crowd collected round a low doorway way, is the Northern Circuit! On in the church-wall, near the river, making minute enquiries, there are which I found, on enquiry, to be a dead certainly to be discovered a few who house, where were placed the bodies fancy themselves of opposite opinions of those who had been found drown- -it may be that they do it to prevent ed, or had otherwise met an unex. the wearisomeness of a circuit unaniplained death. There had been just mous in politics ; or they may have placed in it the body of a man who really persuaded themselves that had been, only a quarter of an hour be- Whig and Radical opinions are the fore, taken out of the water. Whether best to live by ; if so, they are neverhis death had been wilful, or acciden- theless very quiet and inoffensive peotal, was unknown; but there, poor ple, and we do not interfere with soul! he lay, in a large common black them!! shell, his silk handkerchief spread over his face, and his hat, apparently a new Can an observer of human nature one, with his gloves in it, placed upon have a richer field laid before him than his breast. He was dressed very re- a Court of Criminal Justice? Amongst spectably-in a blue body-coat, light mankind there is nothing so solemn waistcoat, black trowsers, and Wel- and affecting as--startling adumbralington boots; and, as far as we could tion of hereafter!-man sitting in judgconjecture, he seemed of middle age. ment upon his fellow man, searching, What a miserable object he looked ! as far as his means will allow him, thus, in the garb of the living, en- into the hidden springs of action, proclosed in the narrow dwelling of the tecting innocence from the imputation dead! Who was, he? What friends and consequences of guilt, detecting and relatives were suddenly bereaved and inflicting proportionate punish- ' -what wife and children were at ment upon guilt, even to the taking that moment unconscious widow and away of life itself! There, at the orphans? expecting him home, per- bar—all eyes anxiously settled upon
him-stands, in terrified or sullen build, with light hair, rather prosilence, an individual whose conduct tuberant cheek-bones and upper-lip. in a particular transaction is the sub- His countenance wore an air of mingled ject of enquiry; who knows, and pro- sullenness and anxiety, but its general bably alone, among men, knows that expression and character would not he is guilty of the crime with which have led me to imagine him capable he stands charged; one word from of committing such crimes as he was whose damp and rigid lips would in- charged with. I knew a member of stantly clear up the whole mystery, Parliament whose countenance is the supply the essential link of evidence, exact counterpart of the culprit's. He throw light on the darkest train of was dressed respectably, in a blue bodycircumstances, and reconcile the most coat, with brass buttons, a black stock, discrepant and inconsistent facts. He Valentia waistcoat, which was very stands cold and benumbed within the open, displaying a full plaited shiripanoply of legal protection against front. He stood at about a foot's disself-crimination—knowing that not a tance from the front of the dock, sign or a syllable can be extorted from holding a coloured silk pocket-handkerhim. His heart, nevertheless, sud- chief between his closed hands, from denly shrinks—the blood deserts, for which he sometimes slowly wiped the a moment, his flushed cheek-as his perspiration-a posture which he neguilty soul feels that his pursuers are ver varied during the whole time of pressing, though in the dark, closer his trial. He seemed a young man of and closer upon the truth of the trans- slow and dull feelings, which conseaction ! He is, perhaps, inwardly quently he had little difficulty in concursing himself for his folly in having trolling. He never raised his eyes said or done, or omitted to do, some- towards the jury, judge, or witnesses, thing while about the perpetration of and only once or twice evinced any his crime, which his accusers have got emotion; drawing a long heavy hold of, and are pressing home upon breath, and his cheek flushing, as one him, and upon his jury, with dreadful or two of the most striking points of strength of inference and conclusion. the evidence made their appearance-And there is his judge, well versed in to him probably unexpectedly. His such enquiries—the occasional glance name was Hill; and he stood charged of whose practised eye, which he feels with having committed the threefold upon him, shoots a thrill of terror crime of murder, rape, and robbery, into his soul, for he knows that he has upon the person of an elderly female, found him out, and that a few words one Betty Minshull, at Warrington, of his will presently clear away the under circumstances, many of them previous doubt and uncertainty that unfit for detail-all of them of horrid may be felt by the jury, who, charged atrocity. One's flesh crept as one with the issues of life and death, will looked at the man standing so near us, soon utter the fearful word
and supposed him capable of commit“ That summons him to heaven or to
ting some of the acts with which he hell !"
was charged. The evidence against
him was entirely circunstantial. One Such is an imperfect expression of the of the witnesses proved an admission thoughts which were passing through to him, by the prisoner, of his having my mind when, one morning, a little committed two of the three offences of after nine o'clock, I entered the Crown which he was accused ; and it was Court, which was crowded to suffoca- when this was being deposed to that tion ; but the only sound that met my his cheeks suddenly flushed all over. ear was the voice of counsel stating He had, probably, till that moment, to the jury the facts of a frightful forgotten having made such a damning case of murder, while he pointed, as acknowledgment. he went on, in illustration of his state- Betty Minshull was, if I recollect ment, to an elaborate model of the rightly, the landlady of a small public premises where the alleged crime had house, in one of the outhouses of been perpetrated. At the bar stood which her body had been found early he whose life depended on the issue of one morning-death having been efthat day's enquiry. He was a young fected by strangulation. It was provman of apparently four-and-twentyed that, late on the preceding night, years of age, of average height and the prisoner had been at the public
house ; that he was the last of the “ Do you mean to say, sir," sternly few visiters who had then been there; interposed Mr Justice Pattison and that she had, good-naturedly, turning towards him, “ that you pregiven him a glass of ale which stood sumed to examine the prisoner at the on the table just as he was going. bar as soon as he came into your Shortly afterwards a woman living custody?” in one of the adjoining houses heard “ Yes, my Lord, I did," he replied, violent screams issuing from that with a confident air, “and can state quarter of the premises in question exactly”. where the body had been discovered. “ Then let me tell you, sir,” interThey were at first loud and violent, rupted Mr Justice Pattison, with an but became gradually fainter till indignant air, “ that you have actthey ceased. Though these sounds ed with the highest impropriety, conhad surprised the witness, they had trary to the law of the land—and not sufficiently alarmed her to induce have taken a shameful advantage of her to suspect any thing so serious as your situation. How dared you to do turned out to have taken place; so so, sir? Pray is this a practice of she did not rise from bed to en- yours ?" quire about them. On the morning “ Yes, my Lord, it is,” replied the of that day the prisoner had met a witness, doggedly, but with a sadly man whom he knew, and whom, with crest-fallen air. a strange and fatal communicative- “ Then I tell you, sir, that I have ness, he told a part of what he had a very great mind to cause you to be been doing ; that he “ had been hav- dismissed immediately from a situation ing a lark with Betty Minshull”- which you don't know the duties of. and had left her asleep, having first You have been guilty of misconduct taken out of her pocket some money, in your office, sir. You ought to know a knife, and a snuff-box ; that he had that the law gives you no authority whatthrown the last article into a mill. ever to ask a single question of any pond in the neighbourhood of the prisoner committed to your custody, spot where they were then standing. with a view to finding out whether he It was subsequently searched, on sus- is guilty of what he is charged with. picion being excited against Hill God forbid, indeed, that persons of and discovered lying at the bottom. your description should ever have such The knife he had given away. Both a power. Your duty is to keep them of them were produced in Court, and safely, and not to abuse your power by clearly identified by one or two of worrying them into confession, and exthe relatives of the unfortunate de- torting from their fears matter which ceased as having been her property. you may afterwards come here, as you The prisoner evinced no emotion do this day, to swear to against them. when they were handed about, with If a prisoner volunteers a confession, a serious scrutiny, between the Judge, statement, you may hear it, and afterthe jury, the witnesses, and the Bar. wards state it here ; but at your peril His demeanour throughout appeared ever again presume to continue your to me that of a man consciously present cruel and oppressive practice ! guilty, and deserted by hope. One Do you hear me, sir ?" he sternly of the witnesses was the head-con- added, observing the sullen conceited stable, or keeper of the house of cor- air with which the fellow listened to rection—I forget which at Warring, the merited and dignified rebuke inton; and he spoke to a most import. flicted upon him. ant examination by himself of the “ Oh, yes, my Lord.” The tone prisoner, when first brought into his and air in which this was said did not custody. The prisoner's counsel escape the Judge. having elicited the fact that the wit. “I am by no means sure," added pess-a huge, brawny, overbearing- bis Lordship, “ that I shall not even looking fellow had conceived himself yet feel it my duty to recommend entitled to examine the prisoner, with your dismissal from your present sia sbow of authority for doing so, and tuation." elosely and sternly-and now came to “ Then I hope, my Lord, you will state the results, most important and not allow this examination to be given even decisive, of the answers so wrung in evidence ?" enquired the prisoner's from the prisoner,
counsel. The prisoner's heavy,gloomy cye was lifted for an instant anxiously turn. They were absent for more upon the Judge, on this question being than an hour ; and as one of them was asked; but his Lordship, after repeat- a Quaker, we began to suspect that ing his opinion of the improper man. the well-known repugnance of that ner in which the evidence had been sect to the shedding of blood afforded obtained, observed, with a manifest a chance to the prisoner of their verreluctance to such use of evidence so dict mitigating his crime into man. unfairly obtained—“ Why, yes, slaughter. Immediately on the former they are, nevertheless, admissions of the one retiring, another jury was sworn, prisoner, and I do not think myself and another prisoner placed at the warranted in altogether excluding bar. them;
but I shall take care to remark The prolonged absence of the jury upon them to the jury.”.
greatly strengthened our above-men. The prisoner's eye was instantly tioned suspicions. What a dreadful cast down, and his chest heaved with interval must that have been to the a long, deep-drawn sigh. After a prisoner! At length it was announced strong chain of circumstantial evidence that the jury were returning into court had been laid before the jury, the pri- to deliver their verdict.
Remove soner's counsel addressed them on his this prisoner, and place John Hill at behalf. What could he say? He had the bar !” said the Judge, as I fancied, no witnesses to call! The only point slightly changing colour. I am sure he attempted to make was, that though that I did, especially when I saw the the prisoner might have been guilty prisoner led forward by two of the of two of the three grievous crimes officers and placed in front of the charged upon him, yet he had not dock to hear his doom. He stood exintentionally, or even knowingly, oc- actly in his former attitude, with his casioned the death of Betty Minshull; handkerchief in his hands; but his pressing upon them, with much energy, face was turned, and his eye directed the statement of the prisoner which with dreadful anxiety to the spot where had been given in evidence, that “ he his jury were collecting ; in whose had left the deceased asleep ;" and downcast faces, as they one by one also urging, for the honour of our made their way through the breathless
human nature, the incre- crowd, he too plainly read his fate. dibility that the prisoner, or any one His chest heaved several times slowly, living, could have been guilty of one while he ondured the agonizing susof the atrocious acts with which he pense occasioned by the jury being was charged. The Judge then sum- twice called over, and answering to med up; stating it to be “perfectly their names. As soon as the twelfth settled and unquestionable law, that had responded—“ Gentlemen, are you all homicide is presumed to be mali. agreed upon your verdict ?” enquired cious, and amounts to murder until the officer of the court ; “ do you find the contrary appears in evidence- the prisoner at the bar guilty, or not which must be made out by the pri. guilty ?" soner to the satisfaction of the Court Amidst profound silence, the foreand jury. It was for them to say man pronounced the fatal wordwhether they thought that the deceased “ Guilty.” My eye was fixed at the had come by her death in consequence moment on the features of the miserof any felonious act of the prisoner; able wretch whom that word had and if so, he was clearly guilty of doomed to a speedy and ignominious murder, although he might never have death. It blanched his countenance ; intended it, or thought it possible to his eyes drooped, and he leaned heavily have been the result, or bave been against the two officers who had led aware of it. Of this there was not the him in, and then stood close behind slightest doubt." His Lordship then, him. Immediately on the foreman's with great patience and perspicuity, pronouncing the verdict, the Judge recapitulated and commented upon the placed upon his head the ominous evidence; and, though he had done so black velvet cap, and with much so. with the most rigorous fairness, it was lemnity, amidst the breathless silence clear to every one what the issue must of the Court, thus addressed the pribe. The jury withdrew to consider their verdict, and the prisoner was " John Hill-after full and anxious removed from the dock till their re- consideration, the jury of your coun