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IrvingH.B.. A Book of Remarkable Criminals

 

The Life of Charles Peace


Note: "Charles Peaceor the Adventures of a Notorious Burglar" alarge volume published at the time of his deathgives a full and accurateaccount of the career of Peace side by side with a story of the Family Heraldtypeof which he is made the hero. "The Life and Trial of Charles Peace"(Sheffield1879)"The Romantic Career of a Great Criminal" (by N.Kynaston GaskellLondon 1906)and "The Master Criminal" publishedrecently in London give useful information. I have also consulted some of thenewspapers of the time. There is a delightful sketch of Peace in Mr. CharlesWhibley's "Book of Scoundrels."

The Life of Charles Peace
I. HIS EARLY YEARS

CHARLES PEACE told a clergyman who had an interview with himin prison shortly before his execution that he hoped thatafter he was gonehewould be entirely forgotten by everybody and his name never mentioned again.

Posterityin calling over its muster-roll of famous menhas refused tofulfil this pious hopeand Charley Peace stands out as the one greatpersonality among English criminals of the nineteenth century. In Charley Peacealone is revived that good-humoured popularity which in the seventeenth andeighteenth centuries fell to the lot of Claude DuvalDick Turpin and JackSheppard. But Peace has one grievance against posterity; he has endured onehumiliation which these heroes have been spared. His name has been omitted fromthe pages of the "Dictionary of National Biography." From

 

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Duvalin the seventeenthdown to the ManningsPalmerArthur OrtonMorganand Kellythe bushrangersin the nineteenth centurymany a criminalfar lessnotable or individual than Charley Peacefinds his or her place in that greatrecord of the past achievements of our countrymen. Room has been denied toperhaps the greatest and most naturally gifted criminal England has producedone whose character is all the more remarkable for its modestyits entirefreedom from that vanity and vain-gloriousness so common among his class.

The only possible reason that can be suggested for so singular an omission isthe fact that in the strict order of alphabetical succession the biography ofCharles Peace would have followed immediately on that of George Peabody. It mayhave been thought that the contrast was too glaringthat even the exigencies ofnational biography had no right to make the philanthropist Peabody rub shoulderswith man's constant enemyPeace. To the memory of Peace these few pages canmake but poor amends for the supreme injusticebutby giving a particular andauthentic account of his careerthey may serve as material for the correctionof this grave omission should remorse overtake those responsible for soundeserved a slur on one of the most unruly of England's famous sons.

From the literary point of view Peace was unfortunate even in the hour of hisnotoriety. In the very year of his trial and executionthe Annual Registerseized with a fit of respectability from which it has never recoveredannouncedthat "the appetite for the strange and marvellous" having considerablyabated since the year 1757 when the Register was first publishedits "Chronicle"hitherto a rich mine of extraordinary and sensational occurrenceswould becomehenceforth a mere diary of important events. Simultaneously with the curtailment

 

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of its "Chronicle" it ceased to give those excellent summaries ofcelebrated trials which for many years had been a feature of its volumes. Thequestion whether "the appetite for the strange and marvellous" hasabated in an appreciable degree with the passing of time and is not perhapskeener than it ever wasis a debatable one. But it is undeniable that thepresent volumes of the Annual Register have fallen away dismally from thevariety and human interest of their predecessors. Of the trial and execution ofPeace the volume for 1879 gives but the barest record.

Charles Peace was not born of criminal parents. His fatherJohn Peacebeganwork as a collier at Burton-on-Trent. Losing his leg in an accidenthe joinedWombwell's wild beast show and soon acquired some reputation for his remarkablepowers as a tamer of wild animals. About this time Peace married at Rotherhamthe daughter of a surgeon in the Navy. On the death of a favourite son to whomhe had imparted successfully the secrets of his wonderful control over wildbeasts of every kindMr. Peace gave up lion-taming and settled in Sheffield asa shoemaker.

It was at Sheffieldin the county of Yorkshirealready famous in the annalsof crime as the county of John Nevison and Eugene Aramthat Peace first saw thelight. On May 141832there was born to John Peace in Sheffield a sonCharlesthe youngest of his family of four. When he grew to boyhood Charles was sent totwo schools near Sheffieldwhere he soon made himself remarkablenot as ascholarbut for his singular aptitude in a variety of other employments such asmaking paper modelstaming catsconstructing a peep-showand throwing up aheavy ball of shot which he would catch in a leather socket fixed on to hisforehead.

The course of many famous men's lives has been

 

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changed by what appeared at the time to be an unhappy accident. Who knows whatmay have been the effect on Charles Peace's subsequent career of an accident hemet with in 1846 at some rolling millsin which he was employed? A piece of redhot steel entered his leg just below the kneeand after eighteen months spentin the Sheffield Infirmary he left it a cripple for life. About this timePeace's father died. Peace and his family were fond of commemorating events ofthis kind in suitable verse; the death of John Peace was celebrated in thefollowing lines:



"In peace he lived;
In peace he died;
Life was our desire
But God denied."

Of the circumstances that first led Peace to the commission of crime we knownothing. How far enforced idlenessbad companionshipaccording to someaccounts the influence of a criminally disposed motherhow far his own daringand adventurous temper provoked him to robberycannot be determined accurately.His first exploit was the stealing of an old gentleman's gold watchbut he soonpassed to greater things. On October 261851the house of a lady living inSheffield was broken into and a quantity of her property stolen. Some of it wasfound in the possession of Peaceand he was arrested. Owing no doubt to a goodcharacter for honesty given him by his late employer Peace was let off lightlywith a month's imprisonment.

After his release Peace would seem to have devoted himself for a time tomusicfor which he had always a genuine passion. He taught himself to playtunes on a violin with one stringand at entertainments which he attended wasdescribed as "the modern Paganini." In

 

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later life when he had attained to wealth and prosperity the violin and theharmonium were a constant source of solace during long winter evenings inGreenwich and Peckham. But playing a one-stringed violin at fairs andpublic-houses could not be more than a relaxation to a man of Peace's activetemperwho had once tasted what many of those who have practised itdescribeas the fascination of that particular form of nocturnal adventure known by theunsympathetic name of burglary. Among the exponents of the art Peace was at thistime known as a "portico-thief" that is to say one who contrived toget himself on to the portico of a house and from that point of vantage make hisentrance into the premises. During the year 1854 the houses of a number ofwell-to-do residents in and about Sheffield were entered after this fashionandmuch valuable property stolen. Peace was arrestedand with him a girl with whomhe was keeping companyand his sisterMary Annat that time Mrs. Neil. OnOctober 201854Peace was sentenced at Doncaster Sessions to four years' penalservitudeand the ladies who had been found in possession of the stolenproperty to six months apiece. Mrs. Neil did not long survive her misfortune.She would seem to have been married to a brutal and drunken husbandwhom Peacethrashed on more than one occasion for ill-treating his sister. After one ofthese punishments Neil set a bull-dog on to Peace; but Peace caught the dog bythe lower jaw and punched it into a state of coma. The death in 1859 of theunhappy Mrs. Neil was lamented in appropriate verseprobably the work of herbrother:



"I was so long with pain opprest
That wore my strength away;
It made me long for endless rest
Which never can decay."


 

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On coming out of prison in 1858Peace resumed his fiddlingbut it was nowno more than a musical accompaniment to burglary. This had become the seriousbusiness of Peace's lifeto be pursuedshould necessity ariseeven to theperil of men's lives. His operations extended beyond the bounds of his nativetown. The house of a lady living in Manchester was broken into on the night ofAugust 111859and a substantial booty carried away. This was found thefollowing day concealed in a hole in a field. The police left it undisturbed andawaited the return of the robber. When Peace and another man arrived to carry itawaythe officers sprang out on them. Peaceafter nearly killing the officerwho was trying to arrest himwould have made his escapehad not otherpolicemen come to the rescue. For this crime Peace was sentenced to six years'penal servitudein spite of a loyal act of perjury on the part of his agedmotherwho came all the way from Sheffield to swear that he had been with herthere on the night of the crime.

He was released from prison again in 1864and returned to Sheffield. Thingsdid not prosper with him thereand he went back to Manchester. In 1866 he wascaught in the act of burglary at a house in Lower Broughton. He admitted that atthe time he was fuddled with whisky; otherwise his capture would have been moredifficult and dangerous. Usually a temperate manPeace realised on thisoccasion the value of sobriety even in burglaryand never after allowedintemperance to interfere with his success. A sentence of eight years' penalservitude at Manchester Assizes on December 31866emphasised this wholesomelesson.

Whilst serving this sentence Peace emulated Jack Sheppard in a daring attemptto escape from Wakefield prison. Being engaged on some repairshe smuggled

 

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a small ladder into his cell. With the help of a saw made out of some tinhecut a hole through the ceiling of the celland was about to get out on to theroof when a warder came in. As the latter attempted to seize the ladder Peaceknocked him downran along the wall of the prisonfell off on the inside owingto the looseness of the bricksslipped into the governor's house where hechanged his clothesand therefor an hour and a halfwaited for anopportunity to escape. This was denied himand he was recaptured in thegovernor's bedroom. The prisons at MillbankChatham and Gibraltar were allvisited by Peace before his final release in 1872. At Chatham he is said to havetaken part in a mutiny and been flogged for his pains.

On his liberation from prison Peace rejoined his family in Sheffield. He wasnow a husband and father. In 1859 he had taken to wife a widow of the name ofHannah Ward. Mrs. Ward was already the mother of a sonWillie. Shortly afterher marriage with Peace she gave birth to a daughterand during his fourth termof imprisonment presented him with a son. Peace never saw this childwho diedbefore his release. Buttrue to the family customon his return from prisonthe untimely death of little "John Charles" was commemorated by theprinting of a funeral card in his honourbearing the following sanguine verses:

"Farewellmy dear sonby us all beloved

Thou art gone to dwell in the mansions above.

In the bosom of Jesus Who sits on the throne

Thou art anxiously waiting to welcome us home."

Whether from a desire not to disappoint little John Charlesfor some reasonor other the next two or three years of Peace's career would seem to have beenspent in an endeavour to earn an honest living by picture

 

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framinga trade in which Peacewith that skill he displayed in whatever heturned his hand towas remarkably proficient. In Sheffield his childrenattended the Sunday School. Though he never went to church himselfhe was anavowed believer in both God and the devil. As he saidhoweverthat he fearedneitherno great reliance could be placed on the restraining force of such abelief to a man of Peace's daring spirit. There was only too good reason to fearthat little John Charles' period of waiting would be a prolonged one.

In 1875 Peace moved from Sheffield itself to the suburb of Darnall. HerePeace made the acquaintance -- a fatal acquaintanceas it turned out -- of aMr. and Mrs. Dyson. Dyson was a civil engineer. He had spent some years inAmericawherein 1866he married.

Toward the end of 1873 or the beginning of 1874he came to England with hiswifeand obtained a post on the North Eastern Railway. He was a tall manoversix feet in heightextremely thinand gentlemanly in his bearing. Hisengagement with the North Eastern Railway terminated abruptly owing to Dyson'sfailing to appear at a station to which he had been sent on duty.

It was believed at the time by those associated with Dyson that thisunlooked-for dereliction of duty had its cause in domestic trouble. Since theyear 1875the year in which Peace came to Darnallthe domestic peace of Mr.Dyson had been rudely disturbed by this same ugly little picture-framer wholived a few doors away from the Dysons' house. Peace had got to know the Dysonsfirst as a tradesmanthen as a friend. To what degree of intimacy he attainedwith Mrs. Dyson it is difficult to determine. In that lies the mystery of thecase Mrs. Dyson is described as an attractive woman"buxom and blooming";she was dark-hairedand about twenty-five

 

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years of age. In an interview with the Vicar of Darnall a few days before hisexecutionPeace asserted positively that Mrs. Dyson had been his mistress. Mrs.Dyson as strenuously denied the fact. There was no question that on one occasionPeace and Mrs. Dyson had been photographed togetherthat he had given her aringand that he had been in the habit of going to music halls andpublic-houses with Mrs. Dysonwho was a woman of intemperate habits.

Peace had introduced Mrs. Dyson to his wife and daughterand on one occasionwas said to have taken her to his mother's housemuch to the old lady'sindignation. If there were not many instances of ugly men who have been notablysuccessful with womenone might doubt the likelihood of Mrs. Dyson falling avictim to the charms of Charles Peace. But Peacefor all his uglinesscould bewonderfully ingratiating when he chose. According to Mrs. DysonPeace was ademon"beyond the power of even a Shakespeare to paint" whopersecuted her with his attentionsandwhen he found them rejecteddevotedall his malignant energies to making the lives of her husband and herselfunbearable. According to Peace's story he was a slighted lover who had beentreated by Mrs. Dyson with contumely and ingratitude.

Whether to put a stop to his wife's intimacy with Peaceor to protecthimself against the latter's wanton persecutionsometime about the end of June1876Dyson threw over into the garden of Peace's house a cardon which waswritten: "Charles Peace is requested not to interfere with my family."On July 1 Peace met Mr. Dyson in the streetand tried to trip him up. The samenight he came up to Mrs. Dysonwho was talking with some friendsandthreatened in coarse and violent language to blow out her brains and those ofher husband.

 

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In consequence of these incidents Mr. Dyson took out a summons against Peacefor whose apprehension a warrant was issued. To avoid the consequences of thislast step Peace left Darnall for Hullwhere he opened an eating-shoppresidedover by Mrs. Peace.

But he himself was not idle. From Hull he went to Manchester on businessandin Manchester he committed his first murder. Entering the grounds of agentleman's home at Whalley Rangeabout midnight on August 1he was seen bytwo policemen. One of themConstable Cockintercepted him as he was trying toescape. Peace took out his revolver and warned Cock to stand back. The policemancame on. Peace firedbut deliberately wide of him. Cockundismayeddrew outhis truncheonand made for the burglar. Peacedesperatedetermined not to becaughtfired againthis time fatally. Cock's comrade heard the shotsbutbefore he could reach the side of the dying manPeace had made off. He returnedto Hulland there learned shortly afterto his intense reliefthat twobrothersJohn and William Habronliving near the scene of the murderhad beenarrested and charged with the killing of Constable Cock.

If the Dysons thought that they had seen the last of Peacethey were soon tobe convinced to the contrary. Peace had not forgotten his friends at Darnall. Bysome means or other he was kept informed of all their doingsand on oneoccasion was seen by Mrs. Dyson lurking near her home. To get away from him theDysons determined to leave Darnall. They took a house at Banner Crossanothersuburb of Sheffieldand on October 29 moved into their new home. One of thefirst persons Mrs. Dyson saw on arriving at Banner Cross was Peace himself."You see" he said"I am here to annoy youand I'll annoy youwherever you go." LaterPeace

 

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and a friend passed Mr. Dyson in the street. Peace took out his revolver."If he offers to come near me" said he"I will make him standback." But Mr. Dyson took no notice of Peace and passed on. He had anothermonth to live.

Whatever the other motives of Peace may have been -- unreasoning passionspitejealousyor revenge it must not be forgotten that Dysonby procuring awarrant against Peacehad driven him from his home in Sheffield. This Peaceresented bitterly. According to the statements of many witnesseshe was at thistime in a state of constant irritation and excitement on the Dyson's account. Hestruck his daughter because she alluded in a way he did not like to hisrelations with Mrs. Dyson. Peace always believed in corporal chastisement as ameans of keeping order at home. Pleasant and entertaining as he could behe wasfeared. It was very dangerous to incur his resentment. "Be sure" saidhis wife"you do nothing to offend our Charleyor you will suffer forit." Dyson beyond a doubt had offended "our Charley." But for themoment Peace was interested more immediately in the fate of John and WilliamHabronwho were about to stand their trial for the murder of Constable Cock atWhalley Range.

The trial commenced at the Manchester Assizes before Mr. Justice (now Lord)Lindley on MondayNovember 27. John Habron was acquitted.

The case against William Habron depended to a great extent on the fact thatheas well as his brotherhad been heard to threaten to "do for" themurdered manto shoot the "little bobby." Cock was a zealous youngofficer of twenty-three years of agerather too eager perhaps in the dischargeof his duty. In July of 1876 he had taken out summonses against John and WilliamHabronyoung fellows who had been several years in

 

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the employment of a nurseryman in Whalley Rangefor being drunk and disorderly.On July 27 William was fined five shillingsand on August 1the day of Cock'smurderJohn had been fined half a sovereign. Between these two dates theHabrons had been heard to threaten to "do for" Cock if he were notmore careful. Other facts relied upon by the prosecution were that WilliamHabron had inquired from a gunsmith the price of some cartridges a day or twobefore the murder; that two cartridge percussion caps had been found in thepocket of a waistcoat given to William Habron by his employerwho swore thatthey could not have been there while it was in his possession; that the otherconstable on duty with Cock stated that a man he had seen lurking near the houseabout twelve o'clock on the night of the murder appeared to be William Habron'sageheight and complexionand resembled him in general appearance; and thatthe boot on Habron's left footwhich was "wet and sludgy" at the timeof his arrestcorresponded in certain respects with the footprints of themurderer. The prisoner did not help himself by an ineffective attempt to provean alibi. The Judge was clearly not impressed by the strength of the case forthe prosecution. He pointed out to the jury that neither the evidence ofidentification nor that of the footprint went very far. As to the latterwhatevidence was there to show that it had been made on the night of the murder? Ifit had been made the day beforethen the defence had proved that it could nothave been Habron's. He called their attention to the facts that Habron bore agood characterthatwhen arrested on the night of the murderhe was in bedand that no firearms had been traced to him. In spitehoweverof thesumming-up the jury convicted William Habronbut recommended him to mercy. TheJudge without comment sentenced him to

 

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death. The Manchester Guardian expressed its entire concurrence with the verdictof the jury. "Few persons" it wrote"will be found to disputethe justice of the conclusions reached." Howevera few days later itopened its columns to a number of letters protesting against the unsatisfactorynature of the conviction. On December 6 a meeting of some forty gentlemen washeldat which it was resolved to petition Mr. Crossthe Home Secretarytoreconsider the sentence. Two days before the day of execution Habron was granteda respiteand later his sentence commuted to one of penal servitude for life.And so a tragic and irrevocable miscarriage of justice was happily averted.

Peace liked attending trials. The fact that in Habron's case he was the realmurderer would seem to have made him the more eager not to miss so unique anexperience. Accordingly he went from Hull to Manchesterand was present incourt during the two days that the trial lasted. No sooner had he heard theinnocent man condemned to death than he left Manchester for Sheffield -- now forall he knew a double murderer.

It is a question whetheron the night of November 28Peace met Mrs. Dysonat an inn in one of the suburbs of Sheffield. In any casethe next morningWednesdaythe 29thto his mother's surprise Peace walked into her house. Hesaid that he had come to Sheffield for the fair. The afternoon of that day Peacespent in a public-house at Ecclesallentertaining the customers by playingtunes on a poker suspended from a piece of strong stringfrom which he mademusic by beating it with a short stick. The musician was rewarded by drinks. Ittook very little drink to excite Peace. There was dancingthe fun grew fast andfuriousas the strange musician beat out tune after tune on his fantasticinstrument.

 

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At six o'clock the same evening a thingrey-hairedinsignificant-lookingman in an evident state of unusual excitement called to see the Rev. Mr. NewmanVicar of Ecclesallnear Banner Cross. Some five weeks beforethisinsignificant-looking man had visited Mr. Newmanand made certain statements inregard to the character of a Mr. and Mrs. Dyson who had come to live in theparish. The vicar had asked for proof of these statements. These proofs hisvisitor now produced. They consisted of a number of calling cards andphotographssome of them alleged to be in the handwriting of Mrs. Dysonandshowing her intimacy with Peace. The man made what purported to be a confessionto Mr. Newman. Dysonhe saidhad become jealous of himwhereupon Peace hadsuggested to Mrs. Dyson that they should give her husband something to bejealous about. Out of this proposal their intimacy had sprung. Peace spoke ofMrs. Dyson in terms of forgivenessbut his wrath against Dyson was extreme. Hecomplained bitterly that by taking proceedings against himDyson had driven himto break up his home and become a fugitive in the land. He should follow theDysonshe saidwherever they might go; he believed that they were at thatmoment intending to take further proceedings against him. As he leftPeace saidthat he should not go and see the Dysons that nightbut would call on a friendof hisGregorywho lived next door to them in Banner Cross Terrace. It was nowabout a quarter to seven.

Peace went to Gregory's housebut his friend was not at home. The lure ofthe Dysons was irresistible. A little after eight o'clock Peace was watching thehouse from a passage-way that led up to the backs of the houses on the terrace.He saw Mrs. Dyson come out of the back doorand go to an outhouse some fewyards distant. He waited. As soon as she opened the door to

 

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come outMrs. Dyson found herself confronted by Peaceholding his revolver inhis hand. "Speak" he said"or I'll fire." Mrs. Dyson interror went back. In the meantime Dysonhearing the disturbancecame quicklyinto the yard. Peace made for the passage. Dyson followed him. Peace fired oncethe shot striking the lintel of the passage doorway. Dyson undauntedstillpursued. Then Peaceaccording to his customfired a second timeand Dysonfellshot through the temple. Mrs. Dysonwho had come into the yard again onhearing the first shotrushed to her husband's sidecalling out: "Murder!You villain! You have shot my husband." Two hours later Dyson was dead.

After firing the second shot Peace had hurried down; the passage into theroadway. He stood there hesitating a momentuntil the cries of Mrs. Dysonwarned him of his danger. He crossed the roadclimbed a walland made his wayback to Sheffield. There he saw his mother and brothertold them that he hadshot Mr. Dysonand bade them a hasty good-bye. He then walked to AttercliffeRailway Stationand took a ticket for Beverley. Something suspicious in themanner of the booking-clerk made him change his place of destination. Instead ofgoing to Beverley that night he got out of the train at Normanton and went on toYork. He spent the remainder of the night in the station yard. He took the firsttrain in the morning for Beverleyand from there travelled via Collingham toHull. He went straight to the eating-house kept by his wifeand demanded somedinner. He had hardly commenced to eat it when he heard two detectives come intothe front shop and ask his wife if a man called Charles Peace was lodging withher. Mrs. Peace said that that was her husband's namebut that she had not seenhim for two months. The detectives proposed to search the house. Some customersin the

 

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shop told them that if they had any business with Mrs. Peacethey ought to goround to the side door. The polite susceptibility of these customers gave Peacetime to slip up to a back roomget out on to an adjoining roofand hide behinda chimney stackwhere he remained until the detectives had finished anexhaustive search. So importunate were the officers in Hull that once againduring the day Peace had to repeat this experience. For some three weekshoweverhe contrived to remain in Hull. He shaved the grey beard he was wearingat the time of Dyson's murderdyed his hairput on a pair of spectaclesandfor the first time made use of his singular power of contorting his features insuch a way as to change altogether the character of his face. But the hue andcry after him was unremitting. There was a price of £100 on his headand thefollowing description of him was circulated by the police:

"Charles Peace wanted for murder on the night of the 29th inst. He isthin and slightly builtfrom fifty-five to sixty years of age. Five feet fourinches or five feet high; grey (nearly white) hairbeard and whiskers. Helacks use of three fingers of left handwalks with his legs rather wideapartspeaks somewhat peculiarly as though his tongue were too large for hismouthand is a great boaster. He is a picture-frame maker. He occasionallycleans and repairs clocks and watches and sometimes deals in oleographsengravings and pictures. He has been in penal servitude for burglary inManchester. He has lived in ManchesterSalfordand Liverpool and Hull."

This description was altered later and Peace's age given as forty-six. As amatter of fact he was only forty-four at this timebut he looked very mucholder.

 

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Peace had lost one of his fingers. He said that it had been shot off by a manwith whom he had quarrelledbut it was believed to be more likely that he hadhimself shot it off accidentally in handling one of his revolvers. It was toconceal this obvious means of identification that Peace made himself the falsearm which he was in the habit of wearing. This was of gutta perchawith a holedown the middle of it into which he passed his arm; at the end was a steel plateto which was fixed a hook; by means of this hook Peace could wield a fork and doother dexterous feats.

Marked man as he wasPeace felt it dangerous to stay longer in Hull than hecould help. During the closing days of the year 1876 and the beginning of 1877Peace was perpetually on the move. He left Hull for Doncasterand from theretravelled to London. On arriving at King's Cross he took the underground railwayto Paddingtonand from there a train to Bristol. At the beginning of January heleft Bristol for Bathand from Bathin the company of a sergeant of policetravelled by way of Didcot to Oxford. The officer had in his custody a youngwoman charged with stealing £40. Peace and the sergeant discussed the caseduring the journey. "He seemed a smart chap" said Peace in relatingthe circumstances"but not smart enough to know me." From Oxford hewent to Birminghamwhere he stayed four or five daysthen a week in Derbyandon January 9th he arrived in Nottingham.

Here Peace found a convenient lodging at the house of oneMrs. Adamsonalady who received stolen goods and on occasion indicated or organised suitableopportunities for acquiring them. She lived in a low part of the town known asthe Marsh. It was at her house that Peace met the woman who was to become hismistress

 

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and subsequently betray his identity to the police. Her maiden name was SusanGray.

She was at this time about thirty-five years of agedescribed as"taking" in appearanceof a fair complexionand rather welleducated. She had led a somewhat chequered married life with a gentleman namedBaileyfrom whom she continued in receipt of a weekly allowance until shepassed under the protection of Peace. Her first meeting with her future lovertook place on the occasion of Peace inviting Mrs. Adamson to dispose of a box ofcigars for himwhich that good woman did at a charge of something like thirtyper cent. At first Peace gave himself out to Mrs. Bailey as a hawkerbut beforelong he openly acknowledged his real character as an accomplished burglar. Withcharacteristic insistence Peace declared his passion for Mrs. Bailey bythreatening to shoot her if she did not become his. Anxious friends sent for herto soothe the distracted man. Peace had been drowning care with the help ofIrish whiskey. He asked "his pet" if she were not glad to see himtowhich the lady replied with possible sarcasm: "OhparticularlyveryIlike you so much." Next day Peace apologised for his rude behaviour of theprevious eveningand so melted the heart of Mrs. Bailey that she consented tobecome his mistressand from that moment discarding the name of Bailey is knownto history as Mrs. Thompson.

Life in Nottingham was varied pleasantly by burglaries carried out with thehelp of information supplied by Mrs. Adamson. In the June of 1877 Peace wasnearly detected in stealingat the request of that worthysome blanketsbutby flourishing his revolver he contrived to get awayandsoon afterreturnedfor a season to Hull. Here this hunted murdererwith £100 reward on his headtook rooms for Mrs. Thompson and himself

 

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at the house of a sergeant of police. One day Mrs. Peacewho was still keepingher shop in Hullreceived a pencilled note saying"I am waiting to seeyou just up Anlaby Road." She and her stepsonWillie Wardwent to theappointed spotand there to their astonishment stood her husbandadistinguished figure in black coat and trouserstop hatvelvet waistcoatwithstickkid glovesand a pretty little fox terrier by his side. Peace told themof his whereabouts in the townbut did not disclose to them the fact that hismistress was there also. To the police sergeant with whom he lodgedPeacedescribed himself as an agent. But a number of sensational and successfulburglaries at the houses of Town Councillors and other well-to-do citizens ofHull revealed the presence in their midst of no ordinary robber. Peace had somenarrow escapesbut with the help of his revolverand on one occasion thepusillanimity of a policemanhe succeeded in getting away in safety. The billsoffering a reward for his capture were still to be seen in the shop windows ofHullso after a brief but brilliant adventure Peace and Mrs. Thompson returnedto Nottingham.

Hereas the result of further successful exploitsPeace found a reward of£50 offered for his capture. On one occasion the detectives came into the roomwhere Peace and his mistress were in bed. After politely expressing his surpriseat seeing "Mrs. Bailey" in such a situationone of the officers askedPeace his name. He gave it as John Wardand described himself as a hawker ofspectacles. He refused to get up and dress in the presence of the detectives whowere obliging enough to go downstairs and wait his convenience. Peace seized theopportunity to slip out of the house and get away to another part of the town.From there he sent a note to Mrs. Thompson insisting on her joining him. He soon

 

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after left Nottinghampaid another brief visit to Hullbut finding that hiswife's shop was still frequented by the policewhom he designated freely as"a lot of fools" determined to quit the North for good and begin lifeafresh in the ampler and safer field of London.

 

II. PEACE IN LONDON

PEACE'S career in London extended over nearly two yearsbutthey were years of copious achievement. In that comparatively short space oftimeby the exercise of that artto his natural gifts for which he had nowadded the wholesome tonic of experiencePeace passed from a poor and obscurelodging in a slum in Lambeth to the state and opulence of a comfortable suburbanresidence in Peckham. These were the halcyon days of Peace's enterprise in life.From No. 25 Stangate StreetLambeththe dealer in musical instrumentsasPeace now described himselfsallied forth night after nightand in Camberwelland other parts of South London reaped the reward of skill and vigilance inentering other people's houses and carrying off their property. Though in thebeginning there appeared to be but few musical instruments in Stangate Street tojustify his reputed business"Mr. Thompson" as he now calledhimselfexplained that he was not wholly dependent on his businessas Mrs.Thompson "had money."

So successful did the business prove that at the Christmas of 1877 Peaceinvited his daughter and her betrothed to come from Hull and spend the festiveseason with him. Thisin spite of the presence of Mrs. Thompsonthey consentedto do. Peacein a top hat and grey

 

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ulstershowed them the sights of Londonalways inquiring politely of apoliceman if he found himself in any difficulty. At the end of the visit Peacegave his consent to his daughter's marriage with Mr. Bolsoverand beforeparting gave the young couple some excellent advice. For more reasons than onePeace was anxious to unite under the same roof Mrs. Peace and Mrs. Thompson.Things still prosperingPeace found himself able to remove from Lambeth toCrane CourtGreenwichand before long to take a couple of adjoining houses inBillingsgate Street in the same district. These he furnished in style. In one helived with Mrs. Thompsonwhile Mrs. Peace and her sonWilliewere persuadedafter some difficulty to leave Hull and come to London to dwell in the other.

But Greenwich was not to the taste of Mrs. Thompson. To gratify her wishPeacesome time in May1877removed the whole party to a houseNo. 5EastTerraceEvelina RoadPeckham. He paid thirty pounds a year for itandobtained permission to build a stable for his pony and trap. When asked for hisreferencesPeace replied by inviting the agent to dine with him at his house inGreenwicha proceeding that seems to have removed all doubt from the agent'smind as to the desirability of the tenant.

This now famous house in Peckham was of the ordinary type of suburban villawith basementground floorand one above; there were steps up to the frontdoorand a bow window to the front sitting-room. A garden at the back of thehouse ran down to the Chatham and Dover railway line. It was by an entrance atthe back that Peace drove his horse and trap into the stable which he haderected in the garden. Though all living in the same houseMrs. Peacewhopassed as Mrs. Wardand her sonWillieinhabited the basementwhile

 

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Peace and Mrs. Thompson occupied the best rooms on the ground floor. The housewas fitted with Venetian blinds. In the drawing-room stood a good walnut suiteof furniture; a Turkey carpetgilded mirrorsa pianoan inlaid Spanishguitarandby the side of an elegant tablethe beaded slippers of the goodmaster of the house completed the elegance of the apartment. Everythingconfirmed Mr. Thompson's description of himself as a gentleman of independentmeans with a taste for scientific inventions. In association with a person ofthe name of BrionPeace didas a factpatent an invention for raising sunkenvesselsand it is said that in pursuing their projectthe two men had obtainedan interview with Mr. Plimsoll at the House of Commons. In any casethe PatentGazette records the following grant:

"2635 Henry Fersey Brion22 Philip RoadPeckham

RyeLondonS.E.and John Thompson5 East Terrace

Evelina RoadPeckham RyeLondonS.E.for an invention

for raising sunken vessels by the displacement of water

within the vessels by air and gases."

At the time of his final capture Peace was engaged on other inventionsamongthem a smoke helmet for firemenan improved brush for washing railwaycarriagesand a form of hydraulic tank. To the anxious policeman whoseeing alight in Mr. Thompson's house in the small hours of the morningrang the bellto warn the old gentleman of the possible presence of burglarsthis business ofscientific inventions was sufficient explanation.

Socially Mr. Thompson became quite a figure in the neighbourhood. He attendedregularly the Sunday evening services at the parish churchand it must havebeen

 

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a matter of anxious concern to dear Mr. Thompson that during his stay in Peckhamthe vicarage was broken into by a burglar and an unsuccessful attempt made tosteal the communion plate which was kept there.

Mr. Thompson was generous in giving and punctual in paying. He had hiseccentricities. His love of birds and animals was remarkable. Catsdogsrabbitsguinea-pigscanariesparrots and cockatoos all found hospitalityunder his roof. It was certainly eccentricity in Mr. Thompson that he shouldwear different coloured wigs; and that his dark complexion should suggest theuse of walnut juice. His love of music was evinced by the number of violinsbanjoesguitarsand other musical instruments that adorned his drawing-room.Tea and music formed the staple of the evening entertainments which Mr. and Mrs.Thompson would give occasionally to friendly neighbours. Not that the pleasuresof conversation were neglected wholly in favour of art. The host was a volubleand animated talkerhis face and body illustrating by appropriate twists andturns the force of his comments. The Russo-Turkish warthen ragingwas afavourite theme of Mr. Thompson's. He askedas we are still askingwhatChristianity and civilisation mean by countenancing the horrors of war. Heconsidered the British Government in the highest degree guilty in supporting thecruel Turksa people whose sobriety seemed to him to be their only virtueagainst the Christian Russians. He was confident that our Ministers would bepunished for opposing the only Power which had shown any sympathy with sufferingraces. About ten o'clock Mr. Thompsonwhose healthhe saidcould not standlate hourswould bid his guests good nightand by half-past ten the front doorof No. 5East TerraceEvelina Roadwould be locked and boltedand the houseplunged in darkness.

 

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Not that it must be supposed that family life at No. 5East Terracewaswithout its jars. These were due chiefly to the drunken habits of Mrs. Thompson.Peace was willing to overlook his mistress' failing as long as it was confinedto the house. But Mrs. Thompson had an unfortunate habit of slipping out in anintoxicated conditionand chattering with the neighbours. As she was therepository of many a dangerous secret the inconvenience of her habit wasserious. Peace was not the man to hesitate in the face of danger. On theseoccasions Mrs. Thompson was followed by Peace or his wifebrought back home andsoundly beaten. To Hannah Peace there must have been some satisfaction in spyingon her successful rivalforin her own wordsPeace never refused his mistressanything; he did not care what she cost him in dress; "she could swim ingold if she liked." Mrs. Thompson herself admitted that with the exceptionof such punishment as she brought on herself by her inebrietyPeace was alwaysfond of herand treated her with great kindness. It was she to whom he wouldshow with pride the proceeds of his nightly laboursto whom he would look for asmile when he returned home from his expeditionshaggard and exhausted

Through all dangers and difficulties the master was busy in the practice ofhis art. Night after nightwith few intervals of reposehe would sally forthon a plundering adventure. If the job was a distant onehe would take his ponyand trap. Peace was devoted to his ponyTommyand great was his grief when atthe end of six months' devotion to duty Tommy died after a few days' sicknessduring which his master attended him with unremitting care. Tommy had beenbought in Greenwich for fourteen guineaspart of a sum of two hundred and fiftypounds which Peace netted from a rich haul of silver

 

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and bank-notes taken from a house in Denmark Hill. Besides the pony and trapPeace would take with him on these expeditions a violin case containing histools; at other times they would be stuffed into odd pockets made for thepurpose in his trousers. These tools consisted of ten in all -- a skeleton keytwo pick-locksa centre-bitgimletgougechiselvice jemmy and knife; aportable laddera revolver and life preserver completed his equipment.

The range of Peace's activities extended as far as SouthamptonPortsmouthand Southsea; but the bulk of his work was done in BlackheathStreathamDenmark Hilland other suburbs of South London. Many dramatic stories are toldof his exploitsbut they rest for the most part on slender foundation. On oneoccasionin getting on to a porticohe felland was impaled on some railingsfortunately in no vital part. His career as a burglar in London lasted from thebeginning of the year 1877 until October1878. During that time this wantedmanunder the very noses of the policeexercised with complete success his artas a burglarworking alonedepending wholly on his own mental and physicalgiftsdisposing in absolute secrecy of the proceeds of his workand livingopenly the life of a respectable and industrious old gentleman.

All the while the police were busily seeking Charles Peacethe murderer ofMr. Dyson. Once or twice they came near to capturing him. On one occasion adetective who had known Peace in Yorkshire met him in Farringdon Roadandpursued him up the steps of Holborn Viaductbut just as the officerat the topof the stepsreached out and was on the point of grabbing his manPeace withlightning agility slipped through his fingers and disappeared. The police neverhad a shadow of suspicion that Mr. Thompson of Peckham was Charles

 

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Peace of Sheffield. They knew the former only as a polite and chatty oldgentleman of a scientific turn of mindwho drove his own pony and trapand hada fondness for music and keeping pet animals.

Peace made the mistake of outstaying his welcome in the neighbourhood ofSouth-East London. Perhaps he hardly realised the extent to which his fame wasspreading. During the last three months of Peace's careerBlackheath was agogat the number of successful burglaries committed in the very midst of itspeaceful residents. The vigilance of the local police was arousedthe officerson night duty were only too anxious to effect the capture of the mysteriouscriminal.

About two o'clock in the morning of October 101878a police constableRobinson by namesaw a light appear suddenly in a window at the back of a housein St. John's ParkBlackheaththe residence of a Mr. Burness. Had thelooked-for opportunity arrived? Was the mysterious visitorthe disturber of thepeace of Blackheathat his burglarious employment? Without delay Robinsonsummoned to his aid two of his colleagues. One of them went round to the frontof the house and rang the bellthe other waited in the road outsidewhileRobinson stayed in the garden at the back. No sooner had the bell rung thanRobinson saw a man come from the dining-room window which opened on to thegardenand make quickly down the path. Robinson followed him. The man turned;"Keep back!" he said"or by God I'll shoot you!" Robinsoncame on. The man fired three shots from a revolverall of which passed close tothe officer's head. Robinson made another rush for himthe man fired anothershot. It missed its mark. The constable closed with his would-be assassinandstruck him in the face. "I'll settle you this time" cried the manand fired a fifth shotwhich went through Robinson's

 

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arm just above the elbow. Butin spite of his woundthe valiant officer heldhis prisonersucceeded in flinging him to the groundand catching hold of therevolver that hung round the burglar's wristhit him on the head with it.Immediately after the other two constables came to the help of their colleagueand the struggling desperado was secured.

Little did the police as they searched their battered and moaning prisonerrealise the importance of their capture. When next morning Peace appeared beforethe magistrate at Greenwich Police Court he was not described by name -- he hadrefused to give any -- but as a half-caste about sixty years of ageofrepellant aspect. He was remanded for a week. The first clue to the identity oftheir prisoner was afforded by a letter which Peaceunable apparently to endurethe loneliness and suspense of prison any longerwrote to his co-inventor Mr.Brion. It is dated November 2and is signed "John Ward." Peace wasdisturbed at the absence of all news from his family. Immediately after hisarrestthe home in Peckham had been broken up. Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Peacetaking with them some large boxeshad gone first to the house of a sister ofMrs. Thompson's in Nottinghamand a day or two later Mrs. Peace had leftNottingham for Sheffield. There she went to a house in Hazel Roadoccupied byher son-in-law Bolsovera working collier.LaterMrs. Peace was arrested andcharged with being in possession of stolen property. She was taken to London andtried at the Old Bailey before Mr. Commissioner Kerrbut acquitted on theground of her having acted under the compulsion of her husband.

It was no doubt to get news of his family that Peace wrote to Brion. But theletters are sufficiently ingenious. Peace represents himself as a truly penitentsinner who has got himself into a most unfortunate and unexpected

 

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"mess" by giving way to drink. The spelling of the letters isexaggeratedly illiterate. He asks Mr. Brion to take pity on him and not despisehim as "his own famery has don" to write him a letter to "heasehis trobel hart" if possible to come and see him. Mr. Brion complied withthe request of the mysterious "John Ward" and on arriving at Newgatewhere Peace was awaiting trialfound himself in the presence of his friend andcolleagueMr. Thompson.

In the meantime the police were getting hot on the scent of the identity of"John Ward" with the great criminal who in spite of all their effortshad eluded them for two years. The honour and profit of putting the police onthe right scent were claimed by Mrs. Thompson. To her Peace had contrived to geta letter conveyed about the same time that he wrote to Mr. Brion. It isaddressed to his "dearly beloved wife." He asks pardon for the"drunken madness" that has involved him in his present troubleandgives her the names of certain witnesses whom he would wish to be called toprove his independent means and his dealings in musical instruments. It ishewriteshis first offenceand as he has "never been in prisonbefore" begs her not to feel it a disgrace to come and see him there. ButPeace was leaning on a broken reed. Loyalty does not appear to have been SusanThompson's strong point. In her own words she "was not of the sentimentalsort." The "traitress Sue" as she is called by chroniclers ofthe timehad fallen a victim to the wiles of the police. Sinceafter Peace'sarrestshe had been in possession of a certain amount of stolen propertyitwas easier no doubt to persuade her to be frank.

In any casewe find that on February 51879the day after Peace had beensentenced to death for the murder of DysonMrs. Thompson appealed to the

 

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Treasury for the reward of £100 offered for Peace's conviction. She based herapplication on information which she said she had supplied to the policeofficers in charge of the case on November 5 in the previous yearthe very dayon which Peace had first written to her from Newgate. In reply to her letter theTreasury referred "Mrs. S. Baileyalias Thompson" to the HomeOfficebut whether she received from that office the price of blood historydoes not relate.

The police scouted the idea that any revelation of hers had assisted them toidentify "John Ward" with Charles Peace. They said that it wasinformation given them in Peckhamno doubt by Mr. Brionwhoon learning thedeplorable character of his coadjutorhad placed himself unreservedly in theirhandswhich first set them on the track. From Peckham they went to Nottinghamwhere they no doubt came across Sue Thompsonand thence to Sheffieldwhere onNovember 6 they visited the house in Hazel Roadoccupied by Mrs. Peace and herdaughterMrs. Bolsover. There they found two of the boxes which Mrs. Peace hadbrought with her from Peckham. Besides stolen propertythese boxes containedevidence of the identity of Ward with Peace. A constable who had known Peacewell in Sheffield was sent to Newgateand taken into the yard where theprisoners awaiting trial were exercising. As they passed roundthe constablepointed to the fifth man: "That's Peace" he said"I'd know himanywhere." The man left the ranks andcoming up to the constableaskedearnestly"What do you want me for?" but the Governor ordered him togo on with his walk.

It was as John Wardalias Charles Peacethat Peaceon November 191878was put on his trial for burglary and the attempted murder of Police ConstableRobinsonat the Old Bailey before Mr. Justice Hawkins. His age

 

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was given in the calendar as sixtythough Peace was actually forty-six. Theevidence against the prisoner was clear enough. All Mr. Montagu Williams couldurge in his defence was that Peace had never intended to kill the officermerely to frighten him. The jury found Peace guilty of attempted murder. Askedif he had anything to say why judgment should not be passed upon himheaddressed the Judge. He protested that he had not been fairly dealt withthathe never intended to kill the prosecutorthat the pistol was one that went offvery easilyand that the last shot had been fired by accident. "I reallydid not know" he said"that the pistol was loadedand I hopemylordthat you will have mercy on me. I feel that I have disgraced myselfI amnot fit either to live or die. I am not prepared to meet my Godbut still Ifeel that my career has been made to appear much worse than it really is. Ohmylorddo have mercy on me; do give me one chance of repenting and of preparingto meet my God. Domy lordhave mercy on me; and I assure you that you shallnever repent it. As you hope for mercy yourself at the hands of the great Goddo have mercy on meand give me a chance of redeeming my character andpreparing myself to meet my God. I prayand beseech you to have mercy uponme."

Peace's assumption of pitiable senilitysustained throughout the trialthough it imposed on Sir Henry Hawkinsfailed to melt his heart. He told Peacethat he did not believe his statement that he had fired the pistol merely tofrighten the constable; had not Robinson guarded his head with his arm he wouldhave been wounded fatallyand Peace condemned to death. He did not consider itnecessaryhe saidto make an inquiry into Peace's antecedents; he was adesperate burglarand there was an end of the matter. Notwithstanding

 

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his ageMr. Justice Hawkins felt it his duty to sentence him to penal servitudefor life. The severity of the sentence was undoubtedly a painful surprise toPeace; to a man of sixty years of age it would be no doubt less terriblebut toa man of forty-six it was crushing.

Not that Peace was fated to serve any great part of his sentence. With aslittle delay as possible he was to be called on to answer to the murder ofArthur Dyson. The buxom widow of the murdered man had been found in Americawhither she had returned after her husband's death. She was quite ready to cometo England to give evidence against her husband's murderer. On January 171879Peace was taken from Pentonville prisonwhere he was serving his sentenceandconveyed by an early morning train to Sheffield. There at the Town Hall heappeared before the stipendiary magistrateand was charged with the murder ofArthur Dyson. When he saw Mrs. Dyson enter the witness box and tell her story ofthe crimehe must have realised that his case was desperate. Hercross-examination was adjourned to the next hearingand Peace was taken back toLondon. On the 22ndthe day of the second hearing in Sheffieldan enormouscrowd had assembled outside the Town Hall. Inside the court an anxious andexpectant audiience{sic}among them Mrs. Dysonin the words of a contemporaryreporter"stylish and cheerful" awaited the appearance of theprotagonist. Great was the disappointment and eager the excitement when thestipendiary came into the court about a quarter past ten and stated that Peacehad attempted to escape that morning on the journey from London to Sheffieldand that in consequence of his injuries the case would be adjourned for eightdays.

What had happened was this. Peace had left King's Cross by the 5.15 trainthat morningdue to arrive at

 

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Sheffield at 8.45. From the very commencement of the journey he had been wilfuland troublesome. He kept making excuses for leaving the carriage whenever thetrain stopped. To obviate this nuisance the two wardersin whose charge he washad provided themselves with little bags which Peace could use when he wishedand then throw out of the window. Just after the train passed WorksopPeaceasked for one of the bags. When the window was lowered to allow the bag to bethrown awayPeace with lightning agility took a flying leap through it. One ofthe warders caught him by the left foot. Peacehanging from the carriagegrasped the footboard with his hands and kept kicking the warder as hard as hecould with his right foot. The other warderunable to get to the window to helphis colleaguewas making vain efforts to stop the train by pulling thecommunication cord. For two miles the train ran onPeace struggling desperatelyto escape. At last he succeeded in kicking off his left shoeand dropped on tothe line. The train ran on another mile untilwith the assistance of somegentlemen in other carriagesthe warders were able to get it pulled up. Theyimmediately hurried back along the lineand therenear a place called KinetonParkthey found their prisoner lying in the footwayapparently unconscious andbleeding from a severe wound in the scalp. A slow train from Sheffield stoppedto pick up the injured man. As he was lifted into the guard's vanhe asked themto cover him up as he was cold. On arriving at SheffieldPeace was taken to thePolice Station and there made as comfortable as possible in one of the cells.Even then he had energy enough to be troublesome over taking the brandy orderedfor him by the surgeonuntil one of the officers told "Charley" theywould have none of his hanky-pankyand he had got to take it. "Allright" said Peace"give me a minute"

 

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after which he swallowed contentedly a couple of gills of the genial spirit.

Peace's daring feat was notaccording to his own accounta mere attempt toescape from the clutches of the law; it was noble and Roman in its purpose. Thisis what he told his stepsonWillie Ward: "I saw from the way I was guardedall the way down from London and all the way backwhen I came for my firsttrialthat I could not get away from the wardersand I knew I could not jumpfrom an express train without being killed. I took a look at Darnall as I wentdown and as I went backand after I was put in my cellI thought it all over.I felt that I could not get awayand then I made up my mind to kill myself. Igot two bits of paper and pricked on them the words`Bury me at Darnall. Godbless you all!' With a bit of black dirt that I found on the floor of my cell Iwrote the same words on another piece of paperand then I hid them in myclothes. My hope was thatwhen I jumped from the train I should be cut topieces under the wheels. Then I should have been taken to the Duke of York (apublic-house at Darnall) and there would have been an inquest over me. As soonas the inquest was over you would have claimed my bodyfound the pieces ofpaperand then you would have buried me at Darnall."

This statement of Peace is no doubt in the main correct. But it is difficultto believe that there was not present to his mind the sporting chance that hemight not be killed in leaping from the trainin which event he would no doubthave done his best to get awaytrusting to his considerable powers of ingeniousdisguise to elude pursuit. But such a chance was remote. Peace had faced boldlythe possibility of a dreadful death.

With that strain of domestic sentimentwhich would appear to have been amarked characteristic of his family

 

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Peace was the more ready to cheat the gallows in the hope of being by that meansburied decently at Darnall. It was at Darnall that he had spent some months ofcomparative calm in his tempestuous careerand it was at Darnall that he hadfirst met Mrs. Dyson. Another and more practical motive that may have urgedPeace to attempt to injure seriouslyif not kill himselfwas the hope ofthereby delaying his trial. If the magisterial investigation in Sheffield werecompleted before the end of JanuaryPeace could be committed for trial to theensuing Leeds Assizes which commenced in the first week in February. If he wereinjured too seriouslythis would not be possible. Here again he was doomed todisappointment.

Peace recovered so well from the results of his adventure on the railway thatthe doctor pronounced him fit to appear for his second examination before themagistrate on January 30. To avoid excitementboth on the part of the prisonerand the publicthe court sat in one of the corridors of the Town Hall. Thescene is described as dismaldark and cheerless. The proceedings took place bycandlelightand Peacewho was seated in an armchaircomplained frequently ofthe cold. At other times he moaned and groaned and protested against theinjustice with which he was being treated. But the absence of any audiencerather dashed the effect of his laments.

The most interesting part of the proceedings was the cross-examination ofMrs. Dyson by Mr. Cleggthe prisoner's solicitor. Its purpose was to show thatMrs. Dyson had been on more intimate terms with Peace than she was ready toadmitand that Dyson had been shot by Peace in the course of a struggleinwhich the former had been the aggressor.

In the first part of his task Mr. Clegg met with some

 

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success. Mrs. Dysonwhose memory was certainly eccentric -- she could notshesaidremember the year in which she had been married -- was obliged to admitthat she had been in the habit of going to Peace's housethat she had beenalone with him to public-houses and places of entertainmentand that she andPeace had been photographed together during the summer fair at Sheffield. Shecould not "to her knowledge" recollect having told the landlord of apublic-house to charge her drink to Peace. A great deal of Mrs. Dyson'scross-examination turned on a bundle of letters that had been found near thescene of Dyson's murder on the morning following the crime. These lettersconsisted for the most part of noteswritten in pencil on scraps of paperpurporting to have been sent from Mrs. Dyson to Peace. In many of them she asksfor money to get drinkothers refer to opportunities for their meetings in theabsence of Dyson; there are kind messages to members of Peace's familyhis wifeand daughterand urgent directions to Peace to hold his tongue and not giveground for suspicion as to their relations. This bundle of letters containedalso the card which Dyson had thrown into Peace's garden requesting him not tointerfere with his family. According to the theory of the defencethese lettershad been written by Mrs. Dyson to Peaceand went to prove the intimacy of theirrelations. At the inquest after her husband's murderMrs. Dyson had beenquestioned by the coroner about these letters. She denied that she had everwritten to Peace; in factshe saidshe "never did write." It wasstated that Dyson himself had seen the lettersand declared them to beforgeries written by Peace or members of his family for the purpose ofannoyance. Neverthelessbefore the Sheffield magistrate Mr. Clegg thought ithis duty to cross-examine Mrs. Dyson closely as to their authorship. He askedher to write out a passage from

 

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one of them: "You can give me something as a keepsake if you likebut Idon't like to be covetousand to take them from your wife and daughter. Love toall!" Mrs. Dyson refused to admit any likeness between what she had writtenand the handwriting of the letter in ques-tion. Another passage ran: "Willsee you as soon as I possibly can. I think it would be easier after you move; hewon't watch so. The r -- g fits the little finger. Many thanks and love to --Jennie (Peace's daughter Jane). I will tell you what I thought of when I see youabout arranging matters. Excuse this scribbling." In answer to Mr. CleggMrs. Dyson admitted that Peace had given her a ringwhich she had worn for ashort time on her little finger.

Another letter ran: "If you have a note for mesend now whilst he isout; but you must not venturefor he is watchingand you cannot be toocareful. Hope your foot is better. I went to Sheffield yesterdaybut I couldnot see you anywhere. Were you out? Love to Jane." Mrs. Dyson denied thatshe had known of an accident which Peace had had to his foot at this time. Inspite of the ruling of the magistrate that Mr. Clegg had put forward quiteenoughif trueto damage Mrs. Dyson's credibilityhe continued to press heras to her authorship of these notes and lettersbut Mrs. Dyson was firm in herrepudiation of them. She was equally firm in denying that anything in the natureof a struggle had taken place between Peace and her husband previous to hismurder.

At the conclusion of Mrs. Dyson's evidence the prisoner was committed to takehis trial at the Leeds Assizeswhich commenced the week following. Peacewhohad groaned and moaned and constantly interrupted the proceedingsprotested hisinnocenceand complained that his witnesses had not been called. Theapprehension with which this daring malefactor was regarded by the authorities

 

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is shown by this clandestine hearing of his case in a cold corridor of the TownHalland the rapidity with which his trial followed on his committal. There isan appearance almost of precipitation in the haste with which Peace was bustledto his doom. After his committal he was taken to Wakefield Prisonand a fewdays later to Armley Jailthere to await his trial.

This began on February 4and lasted one day. Mr. Justice Lopeswho hadtried vainly to persuade the Manchester Grand Jury to throw out the bill in thecase of the brothers Habronwas the presiding judge. Mr. Campbell FosterQ.C.led for the prosecution. Peace was defended by Mr. Frank Lockwoodthen risinginto that popular success at the bar which some fifteen years later made himSolicitor-Generaland but for his premature death would have raised him to evenhigher honours in his profession.

In addressing the juryboth Mr. Campbell Foster and Mr. Lockwood tookoccasion to protest against the recklessness with which the press of the dayboth high and lowhad circulated stories and rumours about the interestingconvict. As early as November in 1878 one leading London daily newspaper hadsaid that "it was now established beyond doubt that the burglar captured byPolice Constable Robinson was one and the same as the Banner Crossmurderer." Since thenas the public excitement grew and the facts ofPeace's extraordinary career came to lightthe press had responded loyally tothe demands of the greedy lovers of sensationand piled fiction on fact withgenerous profusion. "Never" said Mr. Lockwood"in the wholecourse of his experience -- and he defied any of his learned friends to quote anexperience -- had there been such an attempt made on the part of those whoshould be most careful of all others to preserve the liberties of theirfellowmen and to preserve the

 

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dignity of the tribunals of justice to determine the guilt of a man." Peaceexclaimed "Hearhear!" as Mr. Lockwood went on to say that "forthe sake of snatching paltry pence from the publicthese persons had wickedlysought to prejudice the prisoner's life." Allowing for Mr. Lockwood's zealas an advocatethere can be no question thathad Peace chosen or been in aposition to take proceedingsmore than one newspaper had at this time laiditself open to prosecution for contempt of Court. The Times was not far wrong insaying thatsince Muller murdered Mr. Briggs on the North London Railway andthe poisonings of William Palmerno criminal case had created such excitementas that of Charles Peace. The fact that property seemed to be no more sacred tohim than life aggravated in a singular degree the resentment of a commercialpeople.

The first witness called by the prosecution was Mrs. Dyson. She described howon the night of November 291876she had come out of the outhouse in the yardat the back of her houseand found herself confronted by Peace holding arevolver; how he said: "Speakor I'll fire!" and the sequence ofevents already related up to the moment when Dyson fellshot in the temple.

Mr. Lockwood commenced his cross-examination of Mrs. Dyson by endeavouring toget from her an admission; the most important to the defencethat Dyson hadcaught hold of Peace after the first shot had been firedand that in thestruggle which ensuedthe revolver had gone off by accident. But he was notvery successful. He put it to Mrs. Dyson that before the magistrate at Sheffieldshe had said: "I can't say my husband did not get hold of theprisoner." "Put in the little word `try' please" answered Mrs.Dyson. In spite of Mr. Lockwood's questionsshe maintained thatthough herhusband may have attempted to get hold of Peacehe did

 

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not succeed in doing so. As she was the only witness to the shooting there wasno one to contradict her statement.

Mr. Lockwood fared better when he came to deal with the relations of Mrs.Dyson with Peace previous to the crime. Mrs. Dyson admitted that in the springof 1876 her husband had objected to her friendship with Peaceand thatneverthelessin the following summershe and Peace had been photographedtogether at the Sheffield fair. She made a vain attempt to escape from such anadmission by trying to shift the occasion of the summer fair to the previousyear1875but Mr. Lockwood put it to her that she had not come to Darnallwhere she first met Peaceuntil the end of that year. Finally he drove her tosay that she could not remember when she came to Darnallwhether in 187318741875or 1876. She admitted that she had accepted a ring from Peacebut couldnot remember whether she had shown it to her husband. She had been perhaps twicewith Peace to the Marquis of Waterford public-houseand once to the Star MusicHall. She could not swear one way or the other whether she had charged toPeace's account drink consumed by her at an inn in Darnall called the Half-wayHouse. Confronted with a little girl and a manwhom Mr. Lockwood suggested shehad employed to carry notes to PeaceMrs. Dyson said that these were merelyreceipts for pictures which he had framed for her. On the day before herhusband's murderMrs. Dyson was at the Stag Hotel at Sharrow with a little boybelonging to a neighbour. A man followed her in and sat beside herandafterwards followed her out. In answer to Mr. LockwoodMrs. Dyson would"almost swear" the man was not Peace; he had spoken to herbut shecould not remember whether she had spoken to him or not. She denied that thisman had said to her that he would come and see her the next night. As the resultof a parting

 

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shot Mr. Lockwood obtained from Mrs. Dyson a reluctant admission that she hadbeen "slightly inebriated" at the Half-way House in Darnallbut hadnot to her knowledge" been turned out of the house on that account."You may not have known you were inebriated? suggested Mr. Lockwood."I always know what I am doing" was Mrs. Dyson's replyto which anunfriendly critic might have replied that she did not apparently know withanything like certainty what she had been doing during the last three or fouryears. In commenting on the trial the following daythe Times stigmatised as"feeble" the prevarications by which Mrs. Dyson tried to explain awayher intimacy with Peace. In this part of his cross-examination Mr. Lockwood hadmade it appear at least highly probable that there had been a much closerrelationship between Mrs. Dyson and Peace than the former was willing toacknowledge.

The evidence of Mrs. Dyson was followed by that of five persons who hadeither seen Peace in the neighbourhood of Banner Cross Terrace on the night ofthe murderor heard the screams and shots that accompanied it. A womanMrs.Gregorywhose house was between that of the Dysons and the passage in whichDyson was shotsaid that she had heard the noise of the clogs Mrs. Dyson waswearing as she went across the yard. A minute later she heard a scream. Sheopened her back door and saw Dyson standing by his own. She told him to go tohis wife. She then went back into her houseand almost directly after heard twoshotsfollowed by another screambut no sound as of any scuffling.

Another witness was a labourer named Brassington. He was a stranger to Peacebut stated that about eight o'clock on the night of the murder a man came up tohim outside the Banner Cross Hotela few yards from Dyson's house. He wasstanding under a gas lampand it

 

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was a bright moonlight night. The man asked him if he knew of any strange peoplewho had come to live in the neighbourhood. Brassington answered that he did not.The man then produced a bundle of letters which he asked Brassington to read.But Brassington declinedas reading was not one of his accomplishments. The manthen said that "he would make it a warm 'un for those strange folks beforemorning -- he would shoot both of them" and went off in the direction ofDyson's house. Brassington swore positively that Peace was the stranger who hadaccosted him that nightand Mr. Lockwood failed to shake him in his evidence.Nor could Mr. Lockwood persuade the surgeon who was called to Dyson at the timeof his death to admit that the marks on the nose and chin of the dead man couldhave been caused by a blow; they were merely abrasions of the skin caused by thewounded man falling to the ground.

Evidence was then given as to threats uttered by Peace against the Dysons inthe July of 1876and as to his arrest at Blackheath in the October of 1878. Therevolver taken from Peace that night was producedand it was shown that therifling of the bullet extracted from Dyson's head was the same as that of thebullet fired from the revolver carried by Peace at the time of his capture.

Mr. Campbell Foster wanted to put in as evidence the card that Dyson hadflung into Peace's garden at Darnall requesting him not to interfere with hisfamily. This card had been found among the bundle of letters dropped by Peacenear the scene of the murder. Mr. Lockwood objected to the admission of the cardunless all the letters were admitted at the same time. The Judge ruled that boththe card and the letters were inadmissibleas irrelevant to the issue; Mr.Lockwood hadhe saidvery properly cross-examined Mrs. Dyson on these lettersto test her credibilitybut he was bound by her answers and

 

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could not contradict her by introducing them as evidence in the case.

Mr. Lockwood in his address to the jury did his best to persuade them thatthe death of Dyson was the accidental result of a struggle between Peace andhimself. He suggested that Mrs. Dyson had left her house that night for thepurpose of meeting Peaceand that Dysonwho was jealous of his wife's intimacywith himhad gone out to find her; that Dysonseeing Peacehad caught hold ofhim; and that the revolver had gone off accidentally as Dyson tried to wrest itfrom his adversary. He repudiated the suggestion of Mr. Foster that the personshe had confronted with Mrs. Dyson in the course of his cross-examination hadbeen hired for a paltry sum to come into court and lie.

Twiceboth at the beginning and the end of his speechMr. Lockwood urged asa reason for the jury being tender in taking Peace's life that he was in such astate of wickedness as to be quite unprepared to meet death. Both times that hiscounsel put forward this curious pleaPeace raised his eyes to heaven andexclaimed "I am not fit to die."

Mr. Justice Lopes in summing up described as an "absolute surmise"the theory of the accidental discharge of the pistol. He asked the jury to takePeace's revolver in their hands and try the triggerso as to see for themselveswhether it was likely to go off accidentally or not. He pointed out that thepistol produced might not have been the pistol used at Banner Cross; at the sametime the bullet fired in November1876bore marks such as would have beenproduced had it been fired from the pistol taken from Peace at Blackheath inOctober1878. He said that Mr. Lockwood had been perfectly justified in hisattempt to discredit the evidence of Mrs. Dysonbut the case did not rest onher evidence alone. In her

 

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evidence as to the threats uttered by Peace in July1876Mrs. Dyson wascorroborated by three other witnesses. In the Judge's opinion it was clearlyproved that no struggle or scuffle had taken place before the murder. If thedefencehe concludedrested on no solid foundationthen the jury must dotheir duty to the community at large and by the oath they had sworn.

It was a quarter past seven when the jury retired. Ten minutes later theycame back into court with a verdict of guilty. Asked if he had anything to sayPeace in a faint voice replied"It is no use my saying anything." TheJudgedeclining very properly to aggravate the prisoner's feelings by "arecapitulation of any portion of the details of what I fearI can only callyour criminal career" passed on him sentence of death. Peace accepted hisfate with composure.

Before we proceed to describe the last days of Peace on earthlet us finishwith the two women who had succeeded Mrs. Peace in his ardent affections.

A few days after Peace's execution Mrs. Dyson left England for Americabutbefore going she left behind her a narrative intended to contradict theimputations which she felt had been made against her moral character. AnIrishwoman by birthshe said that she had gone to America when she was fifteenyears old. There she met and married Dysona civil engineer on the Atlantic andGreat Western Railway. Theirs was a rough and arduous life. But Mrs. Dyson wasthoroughly happy in driving her husband about in a buggy among bears and creeks.She did not know fear and loved danger: "My husband loved me and I lovedhimand in his company and in driving him about in this wild kind of fashion Iderived much pleasure." HoweverMr. Dyson's health broke downand he wasobliged to return to England. It was at Darnall that the fatal acquaintance with

 

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Peace began. Living next door but one to the DysonsPeace took the opportunityof introducing himselfand Mr. Dyson "being a gentleman" took politenotice of his advances. He became a constant visitor at the house. But after atime Peace began to show that he was not the gentleman Mr. Dyson was. Hedisgusted the latter by offering to show him improper pictures and "thesights of the town" of Sheffield.

The Dysons tried to shake off the unwelcome acquaintancebut that was easiersaid than done. By this time Peace had set his heart on making Mrs. Dyson leaveher husband. He kept trying to persuade her to go to Manchester with himwherehe would take a cigar or picture shopto which Mrs. Dysonin fine clothes andjewelryshould lend the charm of her comely presence. He offered her a sealskinjacketyards of silka gold watch. She shouldhe saidlive in Manchesterlike a ladyto which Mrs. Dyson replied coldly that she had always lived likeone and should continue to do so quite independently of him. But Peace wouldlisten to no refusalhowever decided its tone. Dyson threw over the card intoPeace's garden. This only served to aggravate his determination to possesshimself of the wife. He would listen at keyholesleer in at the windowandfollow Mrs. Dyson wherever she went. When she was photographed at the fairshefound that Peace had stood behind her chair and by that means got himselfincluded in the picture. At times he had threatened her with a revolver. On oneoccasion when he was more insulting than usualMrs. Dyson forgot her fear ofhim and gave him a thrashing. Peace threatened "to make her so that neitherman nor woman should look at herand then he would have her all tohimself." It was with some purpose of this kindMrs. Dyson suggestedthatPeace stole a photograph of herself out of a locketintending to

 

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make some improper use of it. At lastin desperationthe Dysons moved toBanner Cross. From the day of their arrival there until the murderMrs. Dysonnever saw Peace. She denied altogether having been in his company the nightbefore the murder. The letters were "bare forgeries" written by Peaceor members of his family to get her into their power.

Against the advice of all her friends Mrs. Dyson had come back from Americato give evidence against Peace. To the detective who saw her at Cleveland shesaid"I will go back if I have to walk on my head all the way"; andthough she little knew what she would have to go through in giving her evidenceshe would do it again under the circumstances. "My opinion is" shesaid"that Peace is a perfect demon -- not a man. I am told that since hehas been sentenced to death he has become a changed character. That I don'tbelieve. The place to which the wicked go is not bad enough for him. I think itsoccupantsbad as they might beare too good to be where he is. No matter wherehe goesI am satisfied that there will be hell. Not even a Shakespeare couldadequately paint such a man as he has been. My lifelong regret will be that Iever knew him."

With these few earnest words Mrs. Dyson quitted the shores of Englandhardlyclearing up the mystery of her actual relations with Peace.

A woman with whom Mrs. Dyson very much resented finding herself classed --inebriety would appear to have been their only common weakness -- was Mrs.Thompsonthe "traitress Sue." In spite of the fact that on February 5Mrs. Thompson had applied to the Treasury for £100blood money due her forassisting the police in the identification of Peaceshe was at the same timecarrying on a friendly correspondence with her lover and making attempts to seehim. Peace had written to her before his

 

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trial hoping she would not forsake him; "you have been my bosom friendandyou have ofttimes said you loved methat you would die for me." He askedher to sell some goods which he had left with her in order to raise money forhis defence. The traitress replied on January 27 that she had already soldeverything and shared the proceeds with Mrs. Peace. "You are doing me greatinjustice" she wrote"by saying that I have been out to `work' withyou. Do not die with such a base falsehood on your consciencefor you know I amyoung and have my living and character to redeem. I pity you and myself to thinkwe should have met." After his condemnation Mrs. Thompson made repeatedefforts to see Peacecoming to Leeds for the purpose. Peace wrote a letter onFebruary 9 to his "poor Sue" asking her to come to the prison. Butpartly at the wish of Peace's relatives and for reasons of their ownapermission given Mrs. Thompson by the authorities to visit the convict wassuddenly withdrawnand she never saw him again.

 

III. HIS TRIAL AND EXECUTION

IN the lives of those famous men who have perished on thescaffold their behaviour during the interval between their condemnation andtheir execution has always been the subject of curiosity and interest.

It may be said at once that nothing could have been more deeply religiousmore sincerely repentantmore Christian to all appearances than Peace's conductand demeanour in the last weeks of his life. He threw himself into the work ofatonement with the same uncompromising zeal and energy that he had displayed asa

 

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burglar. By his death a truly welcome and effective re-cruit was lost to theranks of the contrite and converted sinners. However powerless as a controllingforce -- and he admitted it -- his belief in God and the devil may have been inthe pastthat belief was assured and confidentand in the presence of deathproclaimed itself with vigournot in words merelybut in deeds.

In obedience to the wishes of his familyPeace had refrained from seeing SueThompson. This was at some sacrificefor he wished very much to see her and tothe lastthough he knew that she had betrayed himsent her affectionate andforgiving messages. These were transmitted to Sue by Mr. Brion. Thisdisingenuous gentleman was a fellow-applicant with Sue to the Treasury forpecuinary recognition of his efforts in bringing about the identification ofPeaceand furnishing the police with information as to the convict's disposalof his stolen property. In his zeal he had even gone so far as to play the roleof an accomplice of Peaceand by this means discovered a place in PetticoatLane where the burglar got rid of some of his booty.

After Peace's condemnation Mr. Brion visited him in Armley Jail. His purposein doing so was to wring from his co-inventor an admission that the inventionswhich they had patented together were his work alone. Peace denied thisbutoffered to sell his share for £50. Brion refused the offerand persisted inhis assertion that Peace had got his name attached to the patents by undueinfluencewhatever that might mean. Peaceafter wres-tling with the spiritgave way. "Very wellmy friend" he said"let it be as you say.I have not cheated youHeaven knows. But I also know that this infamy of minehas been the cause of bringing harm to youwhich is the last thing I shouldhave wished to have caused to my friend." A deed of gift was drawn upmaking over

 

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to Brion Peace's share in their inventions; this Peace handed to Brion as theprice of the latter's precious forgiveness and a token of the sincerity of hiscolleague's repentance. Thusas has often happened in this sad worldwasdisreputable genius exploited once again by smug mediocrity. Mr. Brionhavinggot all he wantedleft the prisonassuring the Governor that Peace'srepentance was "all bunkum" and advisingwith commendable anxietyfor the public goodthat the warders in the condemned cell should be doubled.

Peace had one act of atonement to discharge more urgent than displayingChristian forbearance towards ignoble associates. That was the righting ofWilliam Habronwho was now serving the third year of his life sentence for themurder of Constable Cock at Whalley Range. Peace sent for the Governor of thejail a few days before his execution and obtained from him the materialsnecessary for drawing up a plan. Peace was quite an adept at making plans; hehad already made an excellent one of the scene of Dyson's murder. He now drew aplan of the place where Cock had been shotgave a detailed account of how hecame by his deathand made a full confession of his own guilt.

In the confession he described howsome days before the burglaryhe hadaccording to his custom"spotted" the house at Whalley Range. Inorder to do this he always dressed himself respectablybecause he had foundthat the police never suspected anyone who wore good clothes. On the night ofthe crime he passed two policemen on the road to the house. He had gone into thegrounds and was about to begin operations when he heard a rustle behind him andsaw a policemanwhom he recognised as one of those he had met in the roadenter the garden. With his well-known agility Peace climbed on to the wallanddropped on to the other side

 

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only to find himself almost in the arms of the second policeman. Peace warnedthe officer to stand back and fired his revolver wide of him. Butas Peacesaid"these Manchester policemen are a very obstinate lot." Theconstable took out his truncheon. Peace fired again and killed him.

Soon after the murderer saw in the newspapers that two men had been arrestedfor the crime. "This greatly interested me" said Peace. "Ialways had a liking to be present at trialsas the public no doubt know by thistime." So he went to Manchester Assizes and saw William Habron sentenced todeath. "People will say" he said"that I was a hardened wretchfor allowing an in-nocent man to suffer for the crime of which I was guilty butwhat man would have given himself up under such circumstancesknowing as I didthat I should certainly be hanged?" Peace's view of the question was apurely practical one: "Now that I am going to forfeit my own life and feelthat I have nothing to gain by further secrecyI think it is right in the sightof God and man to clear this innocent young man." It would have been moreright in the sight of God and man to have done it beforebut then Peaceadmitted that during all his career he had allowed neither God nor man toinfluence his actions.

How many men in the situation of Peace at the timewith the certainty ofdeath before him if he confessedwould have sacrificed themselves to save aninnocent man? Cold-blooded heroism of this kind is rare in the annals of crime.Nor did Peace claim to have anything of the hero about him.



"Lion-hearted I've lived
And when my time comes
Lion-hearted I'll die."


 

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Though fond of repeating this piece of doggerelPeace would have been thelast man to have attributed to himself all those qualities associatedsymbolically with the lion.

A few days before his execution Peace was visited in his prison by Mr.Littlewoodthe Vicar of Darnall. Mr. Littlewood had known Peace a few yearsbeforewhen he had been chaplain at Wakefield Prison. "Wellmy old friendPeace" he said as he entered the cell"how are you to-day?""`I am very poorlysir" replied the convict"but I amexceedingly pleased to see you." Mr. Littlewood assured Peace that therewas at any rate one person in the world who had deep sympathy with himand thatwas himself. Peace burst into tears. He expressed a wish to unburden himself tothe vicarbut before doing soasked for his assurance that he believed in thetruth and sincerity of what he was about to say to him. He said that hepreferred to be hanged to lingering out his life in penal servitudethat he wasgrieved and repentant for his past life. "If I could undoor make amendsfor anything I have doneI would suffer my body as I now stand to be cut inpieces inch by inch. I feelsirthat I am too bad to live or dieand havingthis feeling I cannot think that either you or anyone else would believe meandthat is the reason why I ask you so much to try to be assured that you do notthink I am telling lies. I call my God to witness that all I am saying and wishto say shall be the truth -- the whole truth -- nothing but the truth." Mr.Littlewood said thatafter carefully watching Peace and having regard to hisexperience of some of the most hardened of criminals during his service inWakefield Prisonhe felt convinced that Peace was in earnest and as sincere asany man could be; he spoke rationallycoherentlyand without excitement.

 

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Peace was determined to test the extent of the reverend gentleman's faith inhis asseverations. "Nowsir" he said"I understand that youstill have the impression that I stole the clock from your day-schools."Mr. Littlewood admitted that such was his impression. "I thought so"replied Peace"and this has caused me much grief and painfor I canassure you I have so much respect for you personally that I would rather havegiven you a clock and much more besides than have taken it. At the time yourclock was stolen I had reason for suspecting that it was taken by some collierswhom I knew." There was a pause. Mr. Littlewood thought that Peace wasgoing to give him the name of the colliers. But that was not Peace's way. Hesaid sharply: "Do you now believe that I have spoken the truth in denyingthat I took your clockand will you leave me to-day fully believing that I aminnocent of doing that?" Mr. Littlewood looked at him closely and appearedto be deliberating on his reply. Peace watched him intently. At last Mr.Littlewood said"PeaceI am convinced that you did not take the clock. Icannot believe that you dare deny it now in your positionif you reallydid." Once more Peace burst into tearsand was unable for some time tospeak.

Having recovered his self-possessionPeace turned to the serious business ofconfession. He dealt first with the murder of Dyson. He maintained that hisrelations with Mrs. Dyson had been of an intimate character. He wanted to seeher on the night of the crime in order to get her to induce her husband towithdraw the warrant which he had procured against him; he was tiredhe saidof being hunted about from place to place. He intercepted Mrs. Dyson as shecrossed the yard. Instead of listening to him quietly Mrs. Dyson became violentand threatening in her language. Peace took out his revolver

 

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andholding it close to her headwarned her that he was not to be trifledwith. She refused to be warned. Dysonhearing the loud voicescame out of hishouse. Peace tried to get away down the passage into Banner Cross RoadbutDyson followed and caught hold of him. In the struggle Peace fired one barrel ofhis revolver wide. Dyson seized the hand in which Peace was holding the weapon."Then I knew" said Peace"I had not a moment to spare. I made adesperate effortwrenched the arm from him and fired again. All that was in myhead at the time was to get away. I never did intendeither there or anywhereelseto take a man's life; but I was determined that I should not be caught atthat timeas the resultknowing what I had done beforewould have been worseeven than had I stayed under the warrant." If he had intended to murderDysonPeace pointed out that he would have set about it in quite a differentand more secret way; it was as unintentional a thing as ever was done; Mrs.Dyson had committed the grossest perjury in saying that no struggle had takenplace between her husband and himself.

It is to be remembered that Peace and Mrs. Dyson were the sole witnesses ofwhat took place that night between the two men. In point of credibility theremay be little to choose between thembut Peace can claim for his account thatit was the statement of a dyingandto all appearancessincerely repentantsinner.

Peace then repeated to Mr. Littlewood his confession of the killing ofConstable Cockand his desire that Habron should be set free. William Habronwas subsequently given a free pardon and £800 by way of compensation. As tothis part of his career Peace indulged in some general reflections. "Mygreat mistakesir" he said"and I can see it now as my endapproacheshas been this -- in all my career I have used

 

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ball cartridge. I can see now that in using ball cartridge I did wrong I oughtto have used blank cartridge; then I would not have taken life." Peace saidthat he hoped he would meet his death like a hero. "I do not say this inany kind of bravado. I do not mean such a hero as some persons will understandwhen they read this. I mean such a hero as my God might wish me to be. I amdeeply grieved for all I have doneand would atone for it to the utmost of mypower." To Mr. Littlewood the moment seemed convenient to suggest that as apractical means of atonement Peace should reveal to him the names of the personswith whom he had disposed of the greater part of his stolen property. But inspite of much attempted persuasion by the reverend gentleman Peace explainedthat he was a man and meant to be a man to the end. William Habron wassubsequently given a free pardon and £800 by way of compensation.

Earlier in their interview Peace had expressed to Mr. Littlewood a hope thatafter his execution his name would never be mentioned againbut before theyparted he asked Mr. Littlewoodas a favourto preach a sermon on him after hisdeath to the good people of Darnall. He wished his career held up to them as abeaconin order that all who saw might avoid his exampleand so his death beof some service to society.

Before Mr. Littlewood leftPeace asked him to hear him pray. Havingrequested the warders to kneel downPeace began a prayer that lasted twentyminutes. He prayed for himselfhis familyhis victimsMr. Littlewoodsocietygenerallyand all classes of the community. Mr. Littlewood described the prayeras earnestfervent and fluent. At the end Peace asked Mr. Littlewood if heought to see Mrs. Dyson and beg her forgiveness for having killed her husband.Mr. Littlewoodbelieving er-roneously that Mrs. Dyson had already left thecountrytold Peace that he should direct all his attention to asking

 

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forgiveness of his Maker. At the close of their interview Peace was lifted intobed andturning his face to the wallwept.

TuesdayFebruary 25was the day fixed for theexecution of Peace. As thetime drew nearthe convict's confidence in ultimate salvation increased. A Dr.Potter of Sheffield had declared in a sermon that "all hope of Peace'ssalvation was gone for ever." Peace replied curtly"WellDr. Pottermay think sobut I don't." Though his health had improvedPeace was stillvery feeble in body. But his soul was hopeful and undismayed. On the Saturdaybefore his death his brother and sister-in-lawa nephew and niece visited himfor the last time. He spoke with some emotion of his approaching end. He said heshould die about eight o'clockand that at four o'clock an inquest would beheld on his body; he would then be thrown into his grave without service orsermon of any kind. He asked his relatives to plant a flower on a certain gravein a cemetery in Sheffield on the day of his execution. He was very weakhesaidbut hoped he should have strength enough to walk to the scaffold. He sentmessages to friends and warnings to avoid gambling and drinking. He begged hisbrother to change his manner of life and "become religious." His goodcounsel was not apparently very well received. Peace's visitors took adepressing view of their relative's condition. They found him "a poorwretchedhaggard man" andmeeting Mrs. Thompson who was waiting outsidethe gaol for news of "dear Jack" wondered how she could have taken upwith such a man.

Whenthe day before his executionPeace was visited for the last time byhis wifehis stepsonhis daughterMrs. Bolsoverand her husbandhe was inmuch better spirits. He asked his visitors to restrain themselves from displaysof emotionas he felt very happy and did not

 

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wish to be disturbed. He advised them to sell or exhibit for money certain worksof art of his own devising. Among them was a design in paper for a monument tobe placed over his grave. The design is elaborate but well and ingeniouslyexecuted; in the opinion of Friththe painterit showed "the true feelingof an artist." It is somewhat in the style of the Albert Memorialandfigures of angels are prominent in the scheme. The whole conception is typicalof the artist's sanguine and confident assurance of his ultimate destiny. Amodel boat and a fiddle made out of a hollow bamboo cane he wished also to bemade the means of raising money. He was describing with some detail the ceremonyof his approaching death and burial when he was interrupted by a sound ofhammering. Peace listened for a moment and then said"That's a noise thatwould make some men fall on the floor. They are working at my ownscaffold." A warder said that he was mistaken. "NoI am not"answered Peace"I have not worked so long with wood without knowing thesound of deals; and they don't have deals inside a prison for anything else thanscaffolds." But the noisehe saiddid not disturb him in the leastas hewas quite prepared to meet his fate. He would like to have seen his grave andcoffin; he knew that his body would be treated with scant ceremony after hisdeath. But what of that? By that time his soul would be in Heaven. He waspleased that one sinner who had seen him on his way from Pentonville toSheffieldhad written to tell him that the sight of the convict had broughthome to him the sins of his own past lifeand by this means he had foundsalvation.

The time had come to say good-bye for the last time. Peace asked his weepingrelatives whether they had anything more that they wished to ask him. Mrs. Peacereminded him that he had promised to pray with them

 

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at the last. Peaceever readyknelt with them and prayed for half an hour. Hethen shook hands with themprayed for and blessed each one singlyand himselfgave way to tears as they left his presence. To his wife as she departed Peacegave a funeral card of his own designing. It ran: In Memory of Charles Peace Whowas executed in Armley Prison Tuesday February 25th1879 Aged 47 For that I donbut never Intended.

The same day there arrived in the prison one who in his own trade hadsomething of the personality and assurance of the culprit he was to execute.William Marwood -- unlike his celebrated victimhe has his place in theDictionary of National Biography -- is perhaps the most remarkable of thesepersons who have held at different times the office of public executioner. Asthe inventor of the "long drop" he has done a lasting service tohumanity by enabling the death-sentence passed by the judge to be carried outwith the minimum of possible suffering. Marwood took a lofty view of the officehe heldand refused his assent to the somewhat hypocritical loathingwithwhich those who sanction and profit by his exertions are pleased to regard thisservant of the law. "I am doing God's work" said Marwood"according to the divine command and the law of the British Crown. I do itsimply as a matter of duty and as a Christian. I sleep as soundly as a child andam never disturbed by phantoms. Where there is guilt there is bad sleepingbutI am conscious that I try to live a blameless life. Detesting

 

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idlenessI pass my vacant time in business (he was a shoemaker at Horncastlein Lincolnshire) and work in my shoeshop near the church day after day untilsuch time as I am required elsewhere. It would have been better for those Iexecuted if they had preferred industry to idleness."

Marwood had not the almost patriarchal air of benevolent respectability whichhis predecessor Calcraft had acquired during a short experience as a familybutler; but as an executioner that kindly old gentleman had been a sad bunglerin his time compared with the scientific and expeditious Marwood. The Horncastleshoemaker was savingbusinesslikepious and thoughtful. Like Peacehe hadinterests outside his ordinary profession. He had at one time propounded ascheme for the abolition of the National Debta man clearly determined tobenefit his fellowmen in some way or other. A predilection for gin would seem tohave been his only concession to the ordinary weakness of humanity. And now hehad arrived in Armley Jail to exercise his happy dispatch on the greatest of themany criminals who passed through his handsone whoin his own words"met death with greater firmness" than any man on whom he hadofficiated during seven years of Crown employment.

The day of February the 25th broke bitterly cold. Like Charles I. before himPeace feared lest the extreme cold should make him appear to tremble on thescaffold. He had slept calmly till six o'clock in the morning. A great part ofthe two hours before the coming of the hangman Peace spent in letter-writing. Hewrote two letters to his wifein one of which he copied out some verses he hadwritten in Woking Prison on the death of their little boy John. In the second heexpressed his satisfaction that he was to die now and not linger twenty years inprison. To his daughterstep-son and son-in-law he

 

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wrote letters of ferventreligious exhortation and sent them tracts andpictures which he had secured from well-intentioned persons anxious about hissalvation. To an old friendGeorge Goodlada pianistwho had apparently livedup to his namehe wrote: "You chose an honest industrious way throughlifebut I chose the one of dis-honestyvillainy and sin"; let his fatehe saidbe a warning.

Peace ate a hearty breakfast and awaited the coming of the executioner withcalm. He had been troubled with an inconvenient cough the night before. "Iwonder" he said to one of his warders"if Marwood could cure thiscough of mine." He had got an idea into his head that Marwood would"punish" him when he came to deal with him on the scaffoldand askedto see the hang-man a few minutes before the appointed hour. "I hope youwill not punish me. I hope you will do your work quickly" he said toMarwood. "You shall not suffer pain from my hand" replied thatworthy. "God bless you" exclaimed Peace"I hope to meet you allin heaven. I am thankful to say my sins are all forgiven." And so these twopious men -- on the morning of an execution Marwood always knelt down and askedGod's blessing on the work he had to do -- shook hands together and set abouttheir business. Firmly and fearlessly Peace submitted himself to the necessarypreparations. For one moment he faltered as the gallows came in sightbutrecovered himself quickly.

As Marwood was about to cover his facePeace stopped him with someirritation of manner and said that he wished to speak to the gentlemen of thepress who had been admitted to the ceremony. No one gainsaid himand he thusaddressed the reporters: "You gentlemen reportersI wish you to notice thefew words I am going to say. You know what my life has been. It has been

 

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base; but I wish you to noticefor the sake of othershow a man can dieas Iam about to diein fear of the Lord. Gentlemenmy heart says that I feelassured that my sins are forgiven methat I am going to the Kingdom of Heavenor else to the place prepared for those who rest until the great Judgment day. Ido not think I have any enemiesbut if there are any who would be soI wishthem well. Gentlemenall and allI wish them to come to the Kingdom of Heavenwhen they dieas I am going to die." He asked a blessing on the officialsof the prison andin conclusionsent his last wishes and respects to his dearchildren and their mother. "I hope" he said"no one willdisgrace them by taunting them or jeering them on my accountbut to have mercyupon them. God bless youmy dear children. Good-byeand Heaven bless you.Amen: Ohmy Lord Godhave mercy upon me!"

After the cap had been placed over his head Peace asked twice very sharplyas a man who expected to be obeyedfor a drink of water. But this time hisrequest was not compiled with. He died instantaneously and was buried in ArmleyJail.

Had Peace flourished in 1914 instead of 1874his end might have beenhonourable instead of dishonourable. The war of to-day has no doubt saved many aman from a criminal career by turning to worthy account qualities whichdangerous in crimeare useful in war. Absolute fearlessnessagilityresourcecunning and determination; all these are admirable qualities in the soldier; andall these Charles Peace possessed in a signal degree. But fate denied himopportunityhe became a burglar and died on the scaffold. Years of prison lifefailedas they did in those daysto make any impression for good on oneresolute in whatever way he chose to go. Peace was a born fighter. A detectivewho knew him and had on one occasion come near capturing him in Londonsaid

 

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that he was a fair fighterthat he always gave fair warning to those on whom hefiredand thatbeing a dead shotthe many wide shots which he fired are to bereckoned proofs of this. Peace maintained to the last that he had never intendedto kill Dyson. This statement ex-detective Parrock believedand that the fatalshot was fired over Peace's shoulder as he was making off. Though habituallysoberPeace was made intoxicated now and then by the drinkstood him by thosewhom he used to amuse with his musical tricks and antics in public-houses. Atsuch times he would get fuddled and quarrelsome. He was in such a frame of mindon the evening of Dyson's murder. His visit to the Vicar of Ecclesall broughthim little comfort or consolation. It was in this unsatisfactory frame of mindthat he went to Dyson's house. This much the ex-detective would urge in hisfavour. To his neighbours he was an awe-inspiring but kind and sympathetic man."If you want my true opinion of him" says Detective Parrock"hewas a burglar to the backbone but not a murderer at heart. He deserved the fatethat came to him as little as any who in modern times have met with a likeone." Those who are in the fighting line are always the most generous abouttheir adversaries. Parrock as a potential target for Peace's revolvermay haveerred on the side of generositybut there is some truth in what he says.

As Peace himself admittedhis life had been base. He was well aware that hehad misused such gifts as nature had bestowed on him. One must go back tomediæval times to find the counterpart of this daring ruffian whobelieving inpersonal God and devilrefuses until the end to allow either to interfere withhis business in life. In this respect Charles Peace reminds us irresistibly ofour Angevin kings.

There is only one criminal who vies with Charley

 

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Peace in that genial popular regard which makes Charles "Charley" andJohn "Jack" and that is Jack Sheppard. What Jack was to theeighteenth centurythat Charley was to the nineteenth. And each one is in asense typical of his period. Lecky has said that the eighteenth century isricher than any other in the romance of crime. I think it may fairly be saidthat in the nineteenth century the romance of crime ceased to be. In theeighteenth century the scenery and dressesall the stage setting of crime makefor romance; its literature is quaint and picturesque; there is something gayand debonair about the whole business.

Sheppard is typical of all this. There is a certain charm about the rascal;his humour is undeniable; he is a philosophertaking all that comes with easygraceeven his betrayal by his brother and others who should have been loyal tohim. Jack Sheppard has the good-humoured carelessness of that most engaging ofall eighteenth century malefactorsDeacon Brodie. It is quite otherwise withCharley Peace. There is little enough gay or debonair about him. Compared withSheppardPeace is as drab as the surroundings of mid-Victorian crime are drabcompared with the picturesqueness of eighteenth century England.

Crime in the nineteenth century becomes more scientific in its methods and inits detection also. The revolver places a more hastyless decorous weapon thanthe old-fashioned pistol in the hands of the determined burglar. The literatureof crimesuch as it isbecomes vulgar and prosaic. Peace has no charm abouthimno gaietybut he has the virtues of his defects. Heunlike Sheppardshuns company; he works alonenever depending on accomplices; a "tightcock" as Sheppard would have phrased itand not relying on a like qualityof tightness in his fellows. Sheppard is a slave to his womenEdgeworth Bessand Mrs. Maggot; Mrs. Peace and Sue

 

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Thompson are the slaves of Peace. Sheppard loves to stroll openly about theLondon streets in his fine suit of blackhis ruffled shirt and hissilver-hilted sword. Peace lies concealed at Peckham beneath the homely disguiseof old Mr. Thompson. Sheppard is an impPeace a goblin. But both have that giftof personality whichin their own peculiar linelifts them out from the ruckand makes them Jack and Charley to those who like to know famous people bycheery nicknames.

And so we must accept Charles Peace as a remarkable characterwhoseunquestioned gifts as a man of action were squandered on a criminal career;neither better nor worse than a great number of other personswhose goodfortune it has been to develop similar qualities under happier surroundings.There are many more complete villains than the ordinary criminalwho contriveto go through life without offending against the law. Close and scientificinvestigation has shown that the average convicted criminal differsintellectually from the normal person only in a slightly lower level ofintelligencea condition that may well be explained by the fact that theconvicted criminal has been found out. Crime has been happily defined by arecent and most able investigator into the character of the criminal as "anunusual act committed by a perfectly normal person." "The EnglishConvict" a statistical studyby Charles GoringM.D. His Majesty'sStationery Office1913. At the same timeaccording to the same authoritythere is a type of normal person who tends to be convicted of crimeand he isdifferentiated from his fellows by defective physique and mental capacity and anincreased possession of antisocial qualities. Murderers -- at least thoseexecuted for their crimes -- have not for obvious reasons been made the subjectof close scientific observation. Their mental capacity would in all probabilitybe found to be rather higher than that of less ambitious criminals.

 

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How does Peace answer to the definition? Though short in staturehisphysical development left little to be desired: he was activeagileandenjoyed excellent health at all times. For a man of forty-seven he had agedremarkably in appearance. That is probably to be accounted for by mental worry.With two murders on his conscience we know from Sue Thompson that all she learntof his secrets was what escaped from him in his troubled dreams -- Peace maywell have shown traces of mental anxiety. But in all other respects CharlesPeace would seem to have been physically fit. In intellectual capacity he wasundoubtedly above the average of the ordinary criminal. The facts of his careerhis natural giftsspeak for themselves. Of anti-social proclivities he no doubtpossessed his share at the beginningand these were aggravatedas in mostcases they were in his dayby prison life and discipline.

Judged as scientifically as is possible where the human being is concernedPeace stands out physically and intellectually well above the average of hisclassperhaps the most naturally gifted of all those whowithout advantages ofrank or educationhave tried their hands at crime. Ordinary crime for the mostpart would appear to be little better than the last resort of the intellectuallydefectiveand a poor game at that. The only interesting criminals are thoseworthy of something better. Peace was one of these. If his life may be said topoint a moralit is the very simple one that crime is no career for a man ofbrains.

The Life of Charles Peace
I. HIS EARLY YEARS

CHARLES PEACE told a clergyman who had an interview with himin prison shortly before his execution that he hoped thatafter he was gonehewould be entirely forgotten by everybody and his name never mentioned again.

Posterityin calling over its muster-roll of famous menhas refused tofulfil this pious hopeand Charley Peace stands out as the one greatpersonality among English criminals of the nineteenth century. In Charley Peacealone is revived that good-humoured popularity which in the seventeenth andeighteenth centuries fell to the lot of Claude DuvalDick Turpin and JackSheppard. But Peace has one grievance against posterity; he has endured onehumiliation which these heroes have been spared. His name has been omitted fromthe pages of the "Dictionary of National Biography." From

 

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Duvalin the seventeenthdown to the ManningsPalmerArthur OrtonMorganand Kellythe bushrangersin the nineteenth centurymany a criminalfar lessnotable or individual than Charley Peacefinds his or her place in that greatrecord of the past achievements of our countrymen. Room has been denied toperhaps the greatest and most naturally gifted criminal England has producedone whose character is all the more remarkable for its modestyits entirefreedom from that vanity and vain-gloriousness so common among his class.

The only possible reason that can be suggested for so singular an omission isthe fact that in the strict order of alphabetical succession the biography ofCharles Peace would have followed immediately on that of George Peabody. It mayhave been thought that the contrast was too glaringthat even the exigencies ofnational biography had no right to make the philanthropist Peabody rub shoulderswith man's constant enemyPeace. To the memory of Peace these few pages canmake but poor amends for the supreme injusticebutby giving a particular andauthentic account of his careerthey may serve as material for the correctionof this grave omission should remorse overtake those responsible for soundeserved a slur on one of the most unruly of England's famous sons.

From the literary point of view Peace was unfortunate even in the hour of hisnotoriety. In the very year of his trial and executionthe Annual Registerseized with a fit of respectability from which it has never recoveredannouncedthat "the appetite for the strange and marvellous" having considerablyabated since the year 1757 when the Register was first publishedits"Chronicle" hitherto a rich mine of extraordinary and sensationaloccurrenceswould become henceforth a mere diary of important events.Simultaneously with the curtailment

 

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of its "Chronicle" it ceased to give those excellent summaries ofcelebrated trials which for many years had been a feature of its volumes. Thequestion whether "the appetite for the strange and marvellous" hasabated in an appreciable degree with the passing of time and is not perhapskeener than it ever wasis a debatable one. But it is undeniable that thepresent volumes of the Annual Register have fallen away dismally from thevariety and human interest of their predecessors. Of the trial and execution ofPeace the volume for 1879 gives but the barest record.

Charles Peace was not born of criminal parents. His fatherJohn Peacebeganwork as a collier at Burton-on-Trent. Losing his leg in an accidenthe joinedWombwell's wild beast show and soon acquired some reputation for his remarkablepowers as a tamer of wild animals. About this time Peace married at Rotherhamthe daughter of a surgeon in the Navy. On the death of a favourite son to whomhe had imparted successfully the secrets of his wonderful control over wildbeasts of every kindMr. Peace gave up lion-taming and settled in Sheffield asa shoemaker.

It was at Sheffieldin the county of Yorkshirealready famous in the annalsof crime as the county of John Nevison and Eugene Aramthat Peace first saw thelight. On May 141832there was born to John Peace in Sheffield a sonCharlesthe youngest of his family of four. When he grew to boyhood Charles wassent to two schools near Sheffieldwhere he soon made himself remarkablenotas a scholarbut for his singular aptitude in a variety of other employmentssuch as making paper modelstaming catsconstructing a peep-showand throwingup a heavy ball of shot which he would catch in a leather socket fixed on to hisforehead.

The course of many famous men's lives has been

 

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changed by what appeared at the time to be an unhappy accident. Who knows whatmay have been the effect on Charles Peace's subsequent career of an accident hemet with in 1846 at some rolling millsin which he was employed? A piece of redhot steel entered his leg just below the kneeand after eighteen months spentin the Sheffield Infirmary he left it a cripple for life. About this timePeace's father died. Peace and his family were fond of commemorating events ofthis kind in suitable verse; the death of John Peace was celebrated in thefollowing lines:



"In peace he lived;
In peace he died;
Life was our desire
But God denied."

Of the circumstances that first led Peace to the commission of crime we knownothing. How far enforced idlenessbad companionshipaccording to someaccounts the influence of a criminally disposed motherhow far his own daringand adventurous temper provoked him to robberycannot be determined accurately.His first exploit was the stealing of an old gentleman's gold watchbut he soonpassed to greater things. On October 261851the house of a lady living inSheffield was broken into and a quantity of her property stolen. Some of it wasfound in the possession of Peaceand he was arrested. Owing no doubt to a goodcharacter for honesty given him by his late employer Peace was let off lightlywith a month's imprisonment.

After his release Peace would seem to have devoted himself for a time tomusicfor which he had always a genuine passion. He taught himself to playtunes on a violin with one stringand at entertainments which he attended wasdescribed as "the modern Paganini." In

 

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later life when he had attained to wealth and prosperity the violin and theharmonium were a constant source of solace during long winter evenings inGreenwich and Peckham. But playing a one-stringed violin at fairs andpublic-houses could not be more than a relaxation to a man of Peace's activetemperwho had once tasted what many of those who have practised itdescribeas the fascination of that particular form of nocturnal adventure known by theunsympathetic name of burglary. Among the exponents of the art Peace was at thistime known as a "portico-thief" that is to say one who contrived toget himself on to the portico of a house and from that point of vantage make hisentrance into the premises. During the year 1854 the houses of a number ofwell-to-do residents in and about Sheffield were entered after this fashionandmuch valuable property stolen. Peace was arrestedand with him a girl with whomhe was keeping companyand his sisterMary Annat that time Mrs. Neil. OnOctober 201854Peace was sentenced at Doncaster Sessions to four years' penalservitudeand the ladies who had been found in possession of the stolenproperty to six months apiece. Mrs. Neil did not long survive her misfortune.She would seem to have been married to a brutal and drunken husbandwhom Peacethrashed on more than one occasion for ill-treating his sister. After one ofthese punishments Neil set a bull-dog on to Peace; but Peace caught the dog bythe lower jaw and punched it into a state of coma. The death in 1859 of theunhappy Mrs. Neil was lamented in appropriate verseprobably the work of herbrother:



"I was so long with pain opprest
That wore my strength away;
It made me long for endless rest
Which never can decay."


 

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On coming out of prison in 1858Peace resumed his fiddlingbut it was nowno more than a musical accompaniment to burglary. This had become the seriousbusiness of Peace's lifeto be pursuedshould necessity ariseeven to theperil of men's lives. His operations extended beyond the bounds of his nativetown. The house of a lady living in Manchester was broken into on the night ofAugust 111859and a substantial booty carried away. This was found thefollowing day concealed in a hole in a field. The police left it undisturbed andawaited the return of the robber. When Peace and another man arrived to carry itawaythe officers sprang out on them. Peaceafter nearly killing the officerwho was trying to arrest himwould have made his escapehad not otherpolicemen come to the rescue. For this crime Peace was sentenced to six years'penal servitudein spite of a loyal act of perjury on the part of his agedmotherwho came all the way from Sheffield to swear that he had been with herthere on the night of the crime.

He was released from prison again in 1864and returned to Sheffield. Thingsdid not prosper with him thereand he went back to Manchester. In 1866 he wascaught in the act of burglary at a house in Lower Broughton. He admitted that atthe time he was fuddled with whisky; otherwise his capture would have been moredifficult and dangerous. Usually a temperate manPeace realised on thisoccasion the value of sobriety even in burglaryand never after allowedintemperance to interfere with his success. A sentence of eight years' penalservitude at Manchester Assizes on December 31866emphasised this wholesomelesson.

Whilst serving this sentence Peace emulated Jack Sheppard in a daring attemptto escape from Wakefield prison. Being engaged on some repairshe smuggled

 

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a small ladder into his cell. With the help of a saw made out of some tinhecut a hole through the ceiling of the celland was about to get out on to theroof when a warder came in. As the latter attempted to seize the ladder Peaceknocked him downran along the wall of the prisonfell off on the inside owingto the looseness of the bricksslipped into the governor's house where hechanged his clothesand therefor an hour and a halfwaited for anopportunity to escape. This was denied himand he was recaptured in thegovernor's bedroom. The prisons at MillbankChatham and Gibraltar were allvisited by Peace before his final release in 1872. At Chatham he is said to havetaken part in a mutiny and been flogged for his pains.

On his liberation from prison Peace rejoined his family in Sheffield. He wasnow a husband and father. In 1859 he had taken to wife a widow of the name ofHannah Ward. Mrs. Ward was already the mother of a sonWillie. Shortly afterher marriage with Peace she gave birth to a daughterand during his fourth termof imprisonment presented him with a son. Peace never saw this childwho diedbefore his release. Buttrue to the family customon his return from prisonthe untimely death of little "John Charles" was commemorated by theprinting of a funeral card in his honourbearing the following sanguine verses:

"Farewellmy dear sonby us all beloved

Thou art gone to dwell in the mansions above.

In the bosom of Jesus Who sits on the throne

Thou art anxiously waiting to welcome us home."

Whether from a desire not to disappoint little John Charlesfor some reasonor other the next two or three years of Peace's career would seem to have beenspent in an endeavour to earn an honest living by picture

 

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framinga trade in which Peacewith that skill he displayed in whatever heturned his hand towas remarkably proficient. In Sheffield his childrenattended the Sunday School. Though he never went to church himselfhe was anavowed believer in both God and the devil. As he saidhoweverthat he fearedneitherno great reliance could be placed on the restraining force of such abelief to a man of Peace's daring spirit. There was only too good reason to fearthat little John Charles' period of waiting would be a prolonged one.

In 1875 Peace moved from Sheffield itself to the suburb of Darnall. HerePeace made the acquaintance -- a fatal acquaintanceas it turned out -- of aMr. and Mrs. Dyson. Dyson was a civil engineer. He had spent some years inAmericawherein 1866he married.

Toward the end of 1873 or the beginning of 1874he came to England with hiswifeand obtained a post on the North Eastern Railway. He was a tall manoversix feet in heightextremely thinand gentlemanly in his bearing. Hisengagement with the North Eastern Railway terminated abruptly owing to Dyson'sfailing to appear at a station to which he had been sent on duty.

It was believed at the time by those associated with Dyson that thisunlooked-for dereliction of duty had its cause in domestic trouble. Since theyear 1875the year in which Peace came to Darnallthe domestic peace of Mr.Dyson had been rudely disturbed by this same ugly little picture-framer wholived a few doors away from the Dysons' house. Peace had got to know the Dysonsfirst as a tradesmanthen as a friend. To what degree of intimacy he attainedwith Mrs. Dyson it is difficult to determine. In that lies the mystery of thecase Mrs. Dyson is described as an attractive woman"buxom andblooming"; she was dark-hairedand about twenty-five

 

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years of age. In an interview with the Vicar of Darnall a few days before hisexecutionPeace asserted positively that Mrs. Dyson had been his mistress. Mrs.Dyson as strenuously denied the fact. There was no question that on one occasionPeace and Mrs. Dyson had been photographed togetherthat he had given her aringand that he had been in the habit of going to music halls andpublic-houses with Mrs. Dysonwho was a woman of intemperate habits.

Peace had introduced Mrs. Dyson to his wife and daughterand on one occasionwas said to have taken her to his mother's housemuch to the old lady'sindignation. If there were not many instances of ugly men who have been notablysuccessful with womenone might doubt the likelihood of Mrs. Dyson falling avictim to the charms of Charles Peace. But Peacefor all his uglinesscould bewonderfully ingratiating when he chose. According to Mrs. DysonPeace was ademon"beyond the power of even a Shakespeare to paint" whopersecuted her with his attentionsandwhen he found them rejecteddevotedall his malignant energies to making the lives of her husband and herselfunbearable. According to Peace's story he was a slighted lover who had beentreated by Mrs. Dyson with contumely and ingratitude.

Whether to put a stop to his wife's intimacy with Peaceor to protecthimself against the latter's wanton persecutionsometime about the end of June1876Dyson threw over into the garden of Peace's house a cardon which waswritten: "Charles Peace is requested not to interfere with my family."On July 1 Peace met Mr. Dyson in the streetand tried to trip him up. The samenight he came up to Mrs. Dysonwho was talking with some friendsandthreatened in coarse and violent language to blow out her brains and those ofher husband.

 

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In consequence of these incidents Mr. Dyson took out a summons against Peacefor whose apprehension a warrant was issued. To avoid the consequences of thislast step Peace left Darnall for Hullwhere he opened an eating-shoppresidedover by Mrs. Peace.

But he himself was not idle. From Hull he went to Manchester on businessandin Manchester he committed his first murder. Entering the grounds of agentleman's home at Whalley Rangeabout midnight on August 1he was seen bytwo policemen. One of themConstable Cockintercepted him as he was trying toescape. Peace took out his revolver and warned Cock to stand back. The policemancame on. Peace firedbut deliberately wide of him. Cockundismayeddrew outhis truncheonand made for the burglar. Peacedesperatedetermined not to becaughtfired againthis time fatally. Cock's comrade heard the shotsbutbefore he could reach the side of the dying manPeace had made off. He returnedto Hulland there learned shortly afterto his intense reliefthat twobrothersJohn and William Habronliving near the scene of the murderhad beenarrested and charged with the killing of Constable Cock.

If the Dysons thought that they had seen the last of Peacethey were soon tobe convinced to the contrary. Peace had not forgotten his friends at Darnall. Bysome means or other he was kept informed of all their doingsand on oneoccasion was seen by Mrs. Dyson lurking near her home. To get away from him theDysons determined to leave Darnall. They took a house at Banner Crossanothersuburb of Sheffieldand on October 29 moved into their new home. One of thefirst persons Mrs. Dyson saw on arriving at Banner Cross was Peace himself."You see" he said"I am here to annoy youand I'll annoy youwherever you go." LaterPeace

 

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and a friend passed Mr. Dyson in the street. Peace took out his revolver."If he offers to come near me" said he"I will make him standback." But Mr. Dyson took no notice of Peace and passed on. He had anothermonth to live.

Whatever the other motives of Peace may have been -- unreasoning passionspitejealousyor revenge it must not be forgotten that Dysonby procuring awarrant against Peacehad driven him from his home in Sheffield. This Peaceresented bitterly. According to the statements of many witnesseshe was at thistime in a state of constant irritation and excitement on the Dyson's account. Hestruck his daughter because she alluded in a way he did not like to hisrelations with Mrs. Dyson. Peace always believed in corporal chastisement as ameans of keeping order at home. Pleasant and entertaining as he could behe wasfeared. It was very dangerous to incur his resentment. "Be sure" saidhis wife"you do nothing to offend our Charleyor you will suffer forit." Dyson beyond a doubt had offended "our Charley." But for themoment Peace was interested more immediately in the fate of John and WilliamHabronwho were about to stand their trial for the murder of Constable Cock atWhalley Range.

The trial commenced at the Manchester Assizes before Mr. Justice (now Lord)Lindley on MondayNovember 27. John Habron was acquitted.

The case against William Habron depended to a great extent on the fact thatheas well as his brotherhad been heard to threaten to "do for" themurdered manto shoot the "little bobby." Cock was a zealous youngofficer of twenty-three years of agerather too eager perhaps in the dischargeof his duty. In July of 1876 he had taken out summonses against John and WilliamHabronyoung fellows who had been several years in

 

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the employment of a nurseryman in Whalley Rangefor being drunk and disorderly.On July 27 William was fined five shillingsand on August 1the day of Cock'smurderJohn had been fined half a sovereign. Between these two dates theHabrons had been heard to threaten to "do for" Cock if he were notmore careful. Other facts relied upon by the prosecution were that WilliamHabron had inquired from a gunsmith the price of some cartridges a day or twobefore the murder; that two cartridge percussion caps had been found in thepocket of a waistcoat given to William Habron by his employerwho swore thatthey could not have been there while it was in his possession; that the otherconstable on duty with Cock stated that a man he had seen lurking near the houseabout twelve o'clock on the night of the murder appeared to be William Habron'sageheight and complexionand resembled him in general appearance; and thatthe boot on Habron's left footwhich was "wet and sludgy" at the timeof his arrestcorresponded in certain respects with the footprints of themurderer. The prisoner did not help himself by an ineffective attempt to provean alibi. The Judge was clearly not impressed by the strength of the case forthe prosecution. He pointed out to the jury that neither the evidence ofidentification nor that of the footprint went very far. As to the latterwhatevidence was there to show that it had been made on the night of the murder? Ifit had been made the day beforethen the defence had proved that it could nothave been Habron's. He called their attention to the facts that Habron bore agood characterthatwhen arrested on the night of the murderhe was in bedand that no firearms had been traced to him. In spitehoweverof thesumming-up the jury convicted William Habronbut recommended him to mercy. TheJudge without comment sentenced him to

 

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death. The Manchester Guardian expressed its entire concurrence with the verdictof the jury. "Few persons" it wrote"will be found to disputethe justice of the conclusions reached." Howevera few days later itopened its columns to a number of letters protesting against the unsatisfactorynature of the conviction. On December 6 a meeting of some forty gentlemen washeldat which it was resolved to petition Mr. Crossthe Home Secretarytoreconsider the sentence. Two days before the day of execution Habron was granteda respiteand later his sentence commuted to one of penal servitude for life.And so a tragic and irrevocable miscarriage of justice was happily averted.

Peace liked attending trials. The fact that in Habron's case he was the realmurderer would seem to have made him the more eager not to miss so unique anexperience. Accordingly he went from Hull to Manchesterand was present incourt during the two days that the trial lasted. No sooner had he heard theinnocent man condemned to death than he left Manchester for Sheffield -- now forall he knew a double murderer.

It is a question whetheron the night of November 28Peace met Mrs. Dysonat an inn in one of the suburbs of Sheffield. In any casethe next morningWednesdaythe 29thto his mother's surprise Peace walked into her house. Hesaid that he had come to Sheffield for the fair. The afternoon of that day Peacespent in a public-house at Ecclesallentertaining the customers by playingtunes on a poker suspended from a piece of strong stringfrom which he mademusic by beating it with a short stick. The musician was rewarded by drinks. Ittook very little drink to excite Peace. There was dancingthe fun grew fast andfuriousas the strange musician beat out tune after tune on his fantasticinstrument.

 

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At six o'clock the same evening a thingrey-hairedinsignificant-lookingman in an evident state of unusual excitement called to see the Rev. Mr. NewmanVicar of Ecclesallnear Banner Cross. Some five weeks beforethisinsignificant-looking man had visited Mr. Newmanand made certain statements inregard to the character of a Mr. and Mrs. Dyson who had come to live in theparish. The vicar had asked for proof of these statements. These proofs hisvisitor now produced. They consisted of a number of calling cards andphotographssome of them alleged to be in the handwriting of Mrs. Dysonandshowing her intimacy with Peace. The man made what purported to be a confessionto Mr. Newman. Dysonhe saidhad become jealous of himwhereupon Peace hadsuggested to Mrs. Dyson that they should give her husband something to bejealous about. Out of this proposal their intimacy had sprung. Peace spoke ofMrs. Dyson in terms of forgivenessbut his wrath against Dyson was extreme. Hecomplained bitterly that by taking proceedings against himDyson had driven himto break up his home and become a fugitive in the land. He should follow theDysonshe saidwherever they might go; he believed that they were at thatmoment intending to take further proceedings against him. As he leftPeace saidthat he should not go and see the Dysons that nightbut would call on a friendof hisGregorywho lived next door to them in Banner Cross Terrace. It was nowabout a quarter to seven.

Peace went to Gregory's housebut his friend was not at home. The lure ofthe Dysons was irresistible. A little after eight o'clock Peace was watching thehouse from a passage-way that led up to the backs of the houses on the terrace.He saw Mrs. Dyson come out of the back doorand go to an outhouse some fewyards distant. He waited. As soon as she opened the door to

 

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come outMrs. Dyson found herself confronted by Peaceholding his revolver inhis hand. "Speak" he said"or I'll fire." Mrs. Dyson interror went back. In the meantime Dysonhearing the disturbancecame quicklyinto the yard. Peace made for the passage. Dyson followed him. Peace fired oncethe shot striking the lintel of the passage doorway. Dyson undauntedstillpursued. Then Peaceaccording to his customfired a second timeand Dysonfellshot through the temple. Mrs. Dysonwho had come into the yard again onhearing the first shotrushed to her husband's sidecalling out: "Murder!You villain! You have shot my husband." Two hours later Dyson was dead.

After firing the second shot Peace had hurried down; the passage into theroadway. He stood there hesitating a momentuntil the cries of Mrs. Dysonwarned him of his danger. He crossed the roadclimbed a walland made his wayback to Sheffield. There he saw his mother and brothertold them that he hadshot Mr. Dysonand bade them a hasty good-bye. He then walked to AttercliffeRailway Stationand took a ticket for Beverley. Something suspicious in themanner of the booking-clerk made him change his place of destination. Instead ofgoing to Beverley that night he got out of the train at Normanton and went on toYork. He spent the remainder of the night in the station yard. He took the firsttrain in the morning for Beverleyand from there travelled via Collingham toHull. He went straight to the eating-house kept by his wifeand demanded somedinner. He had hardly commenced to eat it when he heard two detectives come intothe front shop and ask his wife if a man called Charles Peace was lodging withher. Mrs. Peace said that that was her husband's namebut that she had not seenhim for two months. The detectives proposed to search the house. Some customersin the

 

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shop told them that if they had any business with Mrs. Peacethey ought to goround to the side door. The polite susceptibility of these customers gave Peacetime to slip up to a back roomget out on to an adjoining roofand hide behinda chimney stackwhere he remained until the detectives had finished anexhaustive search. So importunate were the officers in Hull that once againduring the day Peace had to repeat this experience. For some three weekshoweverhe contrived to remain in Hull. He shaved the grey beard he was wearingat the time of Dyson's murderdyed his hairput on a pair of spectaclesandfor the first time made use of his singular power of contorting his features insuch a way as to change altogether the character of his face. But the hue andcry after him was unremitting. There was a price of £100 on his headand thefollowing description of him was circulated by the police:

"Charles Peace wanted for murder on the night of the 29th inst. He isthin and slightly builtfrom fifty-five to sixty years of age. Five feet fourinches or five feet high; grey (nearly white) hairbeard and whiskers. Helacks use of three fingers of left handwalks with his legs rather wideapartspeaks somewhat peculiarly as though his tongue were too large for hismouthand is a great boaster. He is a picture-frame maker. He occasionallycleans and repairs clocks and watches and sometimes deals in oleographsengravings and pictures. He has been in penal servitude for burglary inManchester. He has lived in ManchesterSalfordand Liverpool and Hull."

This description was altered later and Peace's age given as forty-six. As amatter of fact he was only forty-four at this timebut he looked very mucholder.

 

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Peace had lost one of his fingers. He said that it had been shot off by a manwith whom he had quarrelledbut it was believed to be more likely that he hadhimself shot it off accidentally in handling one of his revolvers. It was toconceal this obvious means of identification that Peace made himself the falsearm which he was in the habit of wearing. This was of gutta perchawith a holedown the middle of it into which he passed his arm; at the end was a steel plateto which was fixed a hook; by means of this hook Peace could wield a fork and doother dexterous feats.

Marked man as he wasPeace felt it dangerous to stay longer in Hull than hecould help. During the closing days of the year 1876 and the beginning of 1877Peace was perpetually on the move. He left Hull for Doncasterand from theretravelled to London. On arriving at King's Cross he took the underground railwayto Paddingtonand from there a train to Bristol. At the beginning of January heleft Bristol for Bathand from Bathin the company of a sergeant of policetravelled by way of Didcot to Oxford. The officer had in his custody a youngwoman charged with stealing £40. Peace and the sergeant discussed the caseduring the journey. "He seemed a smart chap" said Peace in relatingthe circumstances"but not smart enough to know me." From Oxford hewent to Birminghamwhere he stayed four or five daysthen a week in Derbyandon January 9th he arrived in Nottingham.

Here Peace found a convenient lodging at the house of oneMrs. Adamsonalady who received stolen goods and on occasion indicated or organised suitableopportunities for acquiring them. She lived in a low part of the town known asthe Marsh. It was at her house that Peace met the woman who was to become hismistress

 

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and subsequently betray his identity to the police. Her maiden name was SusanGray.

She was at this time about thirty-five years of agedescribed as"taking" in appearanceof a fair complexionand rather welleducated. She had led a somewhat chequered married life with a gentleman namedBaileyfrom whom she continued in receipt of a weekly allowance until shepassed under the protection of Peace. Her first meeting with her future lovertook place on the occasion of Peace inviting Mrs. Adamson to dispose of a box ofcigars for himwhich that good woman did at a charge of something like thirtyper cent. At first Peace gave himself out to Mrs. Bailey as a hawkerbut beforelong he openly acknowledged his real character as an accomplished burglar. Withcharacteristic insistence Peace declared his passion for Mrs. Bailey bythreatening to shoot her if she did not become his. Anxious friends sent for herto soothe the distracted man. Peace had been drowning care with the help ofIrish whiskey. He asked "his pet" if she were not glad to see himtowhich the lady replied with possible sarcasm: "OhparticularlyveryIlike you so much." Next day Peace apologised for his rude behaviour of theprevious eveningand so melted the heart of Mrs. Bailey that she consented tobecome his mistressand from that moment discarding the name of Bailey is knownto history as Mrs. Thompson.

Life in Nottingham was varied pleasantly by burglaries carried out with thehelp of information supplied by Mrs. Adamson. In the June of 1877 Peace wasnearly detected in stealingat the request of that worthysome blanketsbutby flourishing his revolver he contrived to get awayandsoon afterreturnedfor a season to Hull. Here this hunted murdererwith £100 reward on his headtook rooms for Mrs. Thompson and himself

 

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at the house of a sergeant of police. One day Mrs. Peacewho was still keepingher shop in Hullreceived a pencilled note saying"I am waiting to seeyou just up Anlaby Road." She and her stepsonWillie Wardwent to theappointed spotand there to their astonishment stood her husbandadistinguished figure in black coat and trouserstop hatvelvet waistcoatwithstickkid glovesand a pretty little fox terrier by his side. Peace told themof his whereabouts in the townbut did not disclose to them the fact that hismistress was there also. To the police sergeant with whom he lodgedPeacedescribed himself as an agent. But a number of sensational and successfulburglaries at the houses of Town Councillors and other well-to-do citizens ofHull revealed the presence in their midst of no ordinary robber. Peace had somenarrow escapesbut with the help of his revolverand on one occasion thepusillanimity of a policemanhe succeeded in getting away in safety. The billsoffering a reward for his capture were still to be seen in the shop windows ofHullso after a brief but brilliant adventure Peace and Mrs. Thompson returnedto Nottingham.

Hereas the result of further successful exploitsPeace found a reward of£50 offered for his capture. On one occasion the detectives came into the roomwhere Peace and his mistress were in bed. After politely expressing his surpriseat seeing "Mrs. Bailey" in such a situationone of the officers askedPeace his name. He gave it as John Wardand described himself as a hawker ofspectacles. He refused to get up and dress in the presence of the detectives whowere obliging enough to go downstairs and wait his convenience. Peace seized theopportunity to slip out of the house and get away to another part of the town.From there he sent a note to Mrs. Thompson insisting on her joining him. He soon

 

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after left Nottinghampaid another brief visit to Hullbut finding that hiswife's shop was still frequented by the policewhom he designated freely as"a lot of fools" determined to quit the North for good and begin lifeafresh in the ampler and safer field of London.

II. PEACE IN LONDON

PEACE'S career in London extended over nearly two yearsbutthey were years of copious achievement. In that comparatively short space oftimeby the exercise of that artto his natural gifts for which he had nowadded the wholesome tonic of experiencePeace passed from a poor and obscurelodging in a slum in Lambeth to the state and opulence of a comfortable suburbanresidence in Peckham. These were the halcyon days of Peace's enterprise in life.From No. 25 Stangate StreetLambeththe dealer in musical instrumentsasPeace now described himselfsallied forth night after nightand in Camberwelland other parts of South London reaped the reward of skill and vigilance inentering other people's houses and carrying off their property. Though in thebeginning there appeared to be but few musical instruments in Stangate Street tojustify his reputed business"Mr. Thompson" as he now calledhimselfexplained that he was not wholly dependent on his businessas Mrs.Thompson "had money."

So successful did the business prove that at the Christmas of 1877 Peaceinvited his daughter and her betrothed to come from Hull and spend the festiveseason with him. Thisin spite of the presence of Mrs. Thompsonthey consentedto do. Peacein a top hat and grey

 

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ulstershowed them the sights of Londonalways inquiring politely of apoliceman if he found himself in any difficulty. At the end of the visit Peacegave his consent to his daughter's marriage with Mr. Bolsoverand beforeparting gave the young couple some excellent advice. For more reasons than onePeace was anxious to unite under the same roof Mrs. Peace and Mrs. Thompson.Things still prosperingPeace found himself able to remove from Lambeth toCrane CourtGreenwichand before long to take a couple of adjoining houses inBillingsgate Street in the same district. These he furnished in style. In one helived with Mrs. Thompsonwhile Mrs. Peace and her sonWilliewere persuadedafter some difficulty to leave Hull and come to London to dwell in the other.

But Greenwich was not to the taste of Mrs. Thompson. To gratify her wishPeacesome time in May1877removed the whole party to a houseNo. 5EastTerraceEvelina RoadPeckham. He paid thirty pounds a year for itandobtained permission to build a stable for his pony and trap. When asked for hisreferencesPeace replied by inviting the agent to dine with him at his house inGreenwicha proceeding that seems to have removed all doubt from the agent'smind as to the desirability of the tenant.

This now famous house in Peckham was of the ordinary type of suburban villawith basementground floorand one above; there were steps up to the frontdoorand a bow window to the front sitting-room. A garden at the back of thehouse ran down to the Chatham and Dover railway line. It was by an entrance atthe back that Peace drove his horse and trap into the stable which he haderected in the garden. Though all living in the same houseMrs. Peacewhopassed as Mrs. Wardand her sonWillieinhabited the basementwhile

 

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Peace and Mrs. Thompson occupied the best rooms on the ground floor. The housewas fitted with Venetian blinds. In the drawing-room stood a good walnut suiteof furniture; a Turkey carpetgilded mirrorsa pianoan inlaid Spanishguitarandby the side of an elegant tablethe beaded slippers of the goodmaster of the house completed the elegance of the apartment. Everythingconfirmed Mr. Thompson's description of himself as a gentleman of independentmeans with a taste for scientific inventions. In association with a person ofthe name of BrionPeace didas a factpatent an invention for raising sunkenvesselsand it is said that in pursuing their projectthe two men had obtainedan interview with Mr. Plimsoll at the House of Commons. In any casethe PatentGazette records the following grant:

"2635 Henry Fersey Brion22 Philip RoadPeckham

RyeLondonS.E.and John Thompson5 East Terrace

Evelina RoadPeckham RyeLondonS.E.for an invention

for raising sunken vessels by the displacement of water

within the vessels by air and gases."

At the time of his final capture Peace was engaged on other inventionsamongthem a smoke helmet for firemenan improved brush for washing railwaycarriagesand a form of hydraulic tank. To the anxious policeman whoseeing alight in Mr. Thompson's house in the small hours of the morningrang the bellto warn the old gentleman of the possible presence of burglarsthis business ofscientific inventions was sufficient explanation.

Socially Mr. Thompson became quite a figure in the neighbourhood. He attendedregularly the Sunday evening services at the parish churchand it must havebeen

 

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a matter of anxious concern to dear Mr. Thompson that during his stay in Peckhamthe vicarage was broken into by a burglar and an unsuccessful attempt made tosteal the communion plate which was kept there.

Mr. Thompson was generous in giving and punctual in paying. He had hiseccentricities. His love of birds and animals was remarkable. Catsdogsrabbitsguinea-pigscanariesparrots and cockatoos all found hospitalityunder his roof. It was certainly eccentricity in Mr. Thompson that he shouldwear different coloured wigs; and that his dark complexion should suggest theuse of walnut juice. His love of music was evinced by the number of violinsbanjoesguitarsand other musical instruments that adorned his drawing-room.Tea and music formed the staple of the evening entertainments which Mr. and Mrs.Thompson would give occasionally to friendly neighbours. Not that the pleasuresof conversation were neglected wholly in favour of art. The host was a volubleand animated talkerhis face and body illustrating by appropriate twists andturns the force of his comments. The Russo-Turkish warthen ragingwas afavourite theme of Mr. Thompson's. He askedas we are still askingwhatChristianity and civilisation mean by countenancing the horrors of war. Heconsidered the British Government in the highest degree guilty in supporting thecruel Turksa people whose sobriety seemed to him to be their only virtueagainst the Christian Russians. He was confident that our Ministers would bepunished for opposing the only Power which had shown any sympathy with sufferingraces. About ten o'clock Mr. Thompsonwhose healthhe saidcould not standlate hourswould bid his guests good nightand by half-past ten the front doorof No. 5East TerraceEvelina Roadwould be locked and boltedand the houseplunged in darkness.

 

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Not that it must be supposed that family life at No. 5East Terracewaswithout its jars. These were due chiefly to the drunken habits of Mrs. Thompson.Peace was willing to overlook his mistress' failing as long as it was confinedto the house. But Mrs. Thompson had an unfortunate habit of slipping out in anintoxicated conditionand chattering with the neighbours. As she was therepository of many a dangerous secret the inconvenience of her habit wasserious. Peace was not the man to hesitate in the face of danger. On theseoccasions Mrs. Thompson was followed by Peace or his wifebrought back home andsoundly beaten. To Hannah Peace there must have been some satisfaction in spyingon her successful rivalforin her own wordsPeace never refused his mistressanything; he did not care what she cost him in dress; "she could swim ingold if she liked." Mrs. Thompson herself admitted that with the exceptionof such punishment as she brought on herself by her inebrietyPeace was alwaysfond of herand treated her with great kindness. It was she to whom he wouldshow with pride the proceeds of his nightly laboursto whom he would look for asmile when he returned home from his expeditionshaggard and exhausted

Through all dangers and difficulties the master was busy in the practice ofhis art. Night after nightwith few intervals of reposehe would sally forthon a plundering adventure. If the job was a distant onehe would take his ponyand trap. Peace was devoted to his ponyTommyand great was his grief when atthe end of six months' devotion to duty Tommy died after a few days' sicknessduring which his master attended him with unremitting care. Tommy had beenbought in Greenwich for fourteen guineaspart of a sum of two hundred and fiftypounds which Peace netted from a rich haul of silver

 

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and bank-notes taken from a house in Denmark Hill. Besides the pony and trapPeace would take with him on these expeditions a violin case containing histools; at other times they would be stuffed into odd pockets made for thepurpose in his trousers. These tools consisted of ten in all -- a skeleton keytwo pick-locksa centre-bitgimletgougechiselvice jemmy and knife; aportable laddera revolver and life preserver completed his equipment.

The range of Peace's activities extended as far as SouthamptonPortsmouthand Southsea; but the bulk of his work was done in BlackheathStreathamDenmark Hilland other suburbs of South London. Many dramatic stories are toldof his exploitsbut they rest for the most part on slender foundation. On oneoccasionin getting on to a porticohe felland was impaled on some railingsfortunately in no vital part. His career as a burglar in London lasted from thebeginning of the year 1877 until October1878. During that time this wantedmanunder the very noses of the policeexercised with complete success his artas a burglarworking alonedepending wholly on his own mental and physicalgiftsdisposing in absolute secrecy of the proceeds of his workand livingopenly the life of a respectable and industrious old gentleman.

All the while the police were busily seeking Charles Peacethe murderer ofMr. Dyson. Once or twice they came near to capturing him. On one occasion adetective who had known Peace in Yorkshire met him in Farringdon Roadandpursued him up the steps of Holborn Viaductbut just as the officerat the topof the stepsreached out and was on the point of grabbing his manPeace withlightning agility slipped through his fingers and disappeared. The police neverhad a shadow of suspicion that Mr. Thompson of Peckham was Charles

 

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Peace of Sheffield. They knew the former only as a polite and chatty oldgentleman of a scientific turn of mindwho drove his own pony and trapand hada fondness for music and keeping pet animals.

Peace made the mistake of outstaying his welcome in the neighbourhood ofSouth-East London. Perhaps he hardly realised the extent to which his fame wasspreading. During the last three months of Peace's careerBlackheath was agogat the number of successful burglaries committed in the very midst of itspeaceful residents. The vigilance of the local police was arousedthe officerson night duty were only too anxious to effect the capture of the mysteriouscriminal.

About two o'clock in the morning of October 101878a police constableRobinson by namesaw a light appear suddenly in a window at the back of a housein St. John's ParkBlackheaththe residence of a Mr. Burness. Had thelooked-for opportunity arrived? Was the mysterious visitorthe disturber of thepeace of Blackheathat his burglarious employment? Without delay Robinsonsummoned to his aid two of his colleagues. One of them went round to the frontof the house and rang the bellthe other waited in the road outsidewhileRobinson stayed in the garden at the back. No sooner had the bell rung thanRobinson saw a man come from the dining-room window which opened on to thegardenand make quickly down the path. Robinson followed him. The man turned;"Keep back!" he said"or by God I'll shoot you!" Robinsoncame on. The man fired three shots from a revolverall of which passed close tothe officer's head. Robinson made another rush for himthe man fired anothershot. It missed its mark. The constable closed with his would-be assassinandstruck him in the face. "I'll settle you this time" cried the manand fired a fifth shotwhich went through Robinson's

 

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arm just above the elbow. Butin spite of his woundthe valiant officer heldhis prisonersucceeded in flinging him to the groundand catching hold of therevolver that hung round the burglar's wristhit him on the head with it.Immediately after the other two constables came to the help of their colleagueand the struggling desperado was secured.

Little did the police as they searched their battered and moaning prisonerrealise the importance of their capture. When next morning Peace appeared beforethe magistrate at Greenwich Police Court he was not described by name -- he hadrefused to give any -- but as a half-caste about sixty years of ageofrepellant aspect. He was remanded for a week. The first clue to the identity oftheir prisoner was afforded by a letter which Peaceunable apparently to endurethe loneliness and suspense of prison any longerwrote to his co-inventor Mr.Brion. It is dated November 2and is signed "John Ward." Peace wasdisturbed at the absence of all news from his family. Immediately after hisarrestthe home in Peckham had been broken up. Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Peacetaking with them some large boxeshad gone first to the house of a sister ofMrs. Thompson's in Nottinghamand a day or two later Mrs. Peace had leftNottingham for Sheffield. There she went to a house in Hazel Roadoccupied byher son-in-law Bolsovera working collier.LaterMrs. Peace was arrested andcharged with being in possession of stolen property. She was taken to London andtried at the Old Bailey before Mr. Commissioner Kerrbut acquitted on theground of her having acted under the compulsion of her husband.

It was no doubt to get news of his family that Peace wrote to Brion. But theletters are sufficiently ingenious. Peace represents himself as a truly penitentsinner who has got himself into a most unfortunate and unexpected

 

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"mess" by giving way to drink. The spelling of the letters isexaggeratedly illiterate. He asks Mr. Brion to take pity on him and not despisehim as "his own famery has don" to write him a letter to "heasehis trobel hart" if possible to come and see him. Mr. Brion complied withthe request of the mysterious "John Ward" and on arriving at Newgatewhere Peace was awaiting trialfound himself in the presence of his friend andcolleagueMr. Thompson.

In the meantime the police were getting hot on the scent of the identity of"John Ward" with the great criminal who in spite of all their effortshad eluded them for two years. The honour and profit of putting the police onthe right scent were claimed by Mrs. Thompson. To her Peace had contrived to geta letter conveyed about the same time that he wrote to Mr. Brion. It isaddressed to his "dearly beloved wife." He asks pardon for the"drunken madness" that has involved him in his present troubleandgives her the names of certain witnesses whom he would wish to be called toprove his independent means and his dealings in musical instruments. It ishewriteshis first offenceand as he has "never been in prisonbefore" begs her not to feel it a disgrace to come and see him there. ButPeace was leaning on a broken reed. Loyalty does not appear to have been SusanThompson's strong point. In her own words she "was not of the sentimentalsort." The "traitress Sue" as she is called by chroniclers ofthe timehad fallen a victim to the wiles of the police. Sinceafter Peace'sarrestshe had been in possession of a certain amount of stolen propertyitwas easier no doubt to persuade her to be frank.

In any casewe find that on February 51879the day after Peace had beensentenced to death for the murder of DysonMrs. Thompson appealed to the

 

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Treasury for the reward of £100 offered for Peace's conviction. She based herapplication on information which she said she had supplied to the policeofficers in charge of the case on November 5 in the previous yearthe very dayon which Peace had first written to her from Newgate. In reply to her letter theTreasury referred "Mrs. S. Baileyalias Thompson" to the HomeOfficebut whether she received from that office the price of blood historydoes not relate.

The police scouted the idea that any revelation of hers had assisted them toidentify "John Ward" with Charles Peace. They said that it wasinformation given them in Peckhamno doubt by Mr. Brionwhoon learning thedeplorable character of his coadjutorhad placed himself unreservedly in theirhandswhich first set them on the track. From Peckham they went to Nottinghamwhere they no doubt came across Sue Thompsonand thence to Sheffieldwhere onNovember 6 they visited the house in Hazel Roadoccupied by Mrs. Peace and herdaughterMrs. Bolsover. There they found two of the boxes which Mrs. Peace hadbrought with her from Peckham. Besides stolen propertythese boxes containedevidence of the identity of Ward with Peace. A constable who had known Peacewell in Sheffield was sent to Newgateand taken into the yard where theprisoners awaiting trial were exercising. As they passed roundthe constablepointed to the fifth man: "That's Peace" he said"I'd know himanywhere." The man left the ranks andcoming up to the constableaskedearnestly"What do you want me for?" but the Governor ordered him togo on with his walk.

It was as John Wardalias Charles Peacethat Peaceon November 191878was put on his trial for burglary and the attempted murder of Police ConstableRobinsonat the Old Bailey before Mr. Justice Hawkins. His age

 

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was given in the calendar as sixtythough Peace was actually forty-six. Theevidence against the prisoner was clear enough. All Mr. Montagu Williams couldurge in his defence was that Peace had never intended to kill the officermerely to frighten him. The jury found Peace guilty of attempted murder. Askedif he had anything to say why judgment should not be passed upon himheaddressed the Judge. He protested that he had not been fairly dealt withthathe never intended to kill the prosecutorthat the pistol was one that went offvery easilyand that the last shot had been fired by accident. "I reallydid not know" he said"that the pistol was loadedand I hopemylordthat you will have mercy on me. I feel that I have disgraced myselfI amnot fit either to live or die. I am not prepared to meet my Godbut still Ifeel that my career has been made to appear much worse than it really is. Ohmylorddo have mercy on me; do give me one chance of repenting and of preparingto meet my God. Domy lordhave mercy on me; and I assure you that you shallnever repent it. As you hope for mercy yourself at the hands of the great Goddo have mercy on meand give me a chance of redeeming my character andpreparing myself to meet my God. I prayand beseech you to have mercy uponme."

Peace's assumption of pitiable senilitysustained throughout the trialthough it imposed on Sir Henry Hawkinsfailed to melt his heart. He told Peacethat he did not believe his statement that he had fired the pistol merely tofrighten the constable; had not Robinson guarded his head with his arm he wouldhave been wounded fatallyand Peace condemned to death. He did not consider itnecessaryhe saidto make an inquiry into Peace's antecedents; he was adesperate burglarand there was an end of the matter. Notwithstanding

 

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his ageMr. Justice Hawkins felt it his duty to sentence him to penal servitudefor life. The severity of the sentence was undoubtedly a painful surprise toPeace; to a man of sixty years of age it would be no doubt less terriblebut toa man of forty-six it was crushing.

Not that Peace was fated to serve any great part of his sentence. With aslittle delay as possible he was to be called on to answer to the murder ofArthur Dyson. The buxom widow of the murdered man had been found in Americawhither she had returned after her husband's death. She was quite ready to cometo England to give evidence against her husband's murderer. On January 171879Peace was taken from Pentonville prisonwhere he was serving his sentenceandconveyed by an early morning train to Sheffield. There at the Town Hall heappeared before the stipendiary magistrateand was charged with the murder ofArthur Dyson. When he saw Mrs. Dyson enter the witness box and tell her story ofthe crimehe must have realised that his case was desperate. Hercross-examination was adjourned to the next hearingand Peace was taken back toLondon. On the 22ndthe day of the second hearing in Sheffieldan enormouscrowd had assembled outside the Town Hall. Inside the court an anxious andexpectant audiience{sic}among them Mrs. Dysonin the words of a contemporaryreporter"stylish and cheerful" awaited the appearance of theprotagonist. Great was the disappointment and eager the excitement when thestipendiary came into the court about a quarter past ten and stated that Peacehad attempted to escape that morning on the journey from London to Sheffieldand that in consequence of his injuries the case would be adjourned for eightdays.

What had happened was this. Peace had left King's Cross by the 5.15 trainthat morningdue to arrive at

 

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Sheffield at 8.45. From the very commencement of the journey he had been wilfuland troublesome. He kept making excuses for leaving the carriage whenever thetrain stopped. To obviate this nuisance the two wardersin whose charge he washad provided themselves with little bags which Peace could use when he wishedand then throw out of the window. Just after the train passed WorksopPeaceasked for one of the bags. When the window was lowered to allow the bag to bethrown awayPeace with lightning agility took a flying leap through it. One ofthe warders caught him by the left foot. Peacehanging from the carriagegrasped the footboard with his hands and kept kicking the warder as hard as hecould with his right foot. The other warderunable to get to the window to helphis colleaguewas making vain efforts to stop the train by pulling thecommunication cord. For two miles the train ran onPeace struggling desperatelyto escape. At last he succeeded in kicking off his left shoeand dropped on tothe line. The train ran on another mile untilwith the assistance of somegentlemen in other carriagesthe warders were able to get it pulled up. Theyimmediately hurried back along the lineand therenear a place called KinetonParkthey found their prisoner lying in the footwayapparently unconscious andbleeding from a severe wound in the scalp. A slow train from Sheffield stoppedto pick up the injured man. As he was lifted into the guard's vanhe asked themto cover him up as he was cold. On arriving at SheffieldPeace was taken to thePolice Station and there made as comfortable as possible in one of the cells.Even then he had energy enough to be troublesome over taking the brandy orderedfor him by the surgeonuntil one of the officers told "Charley" theywould have none of his hanky-pankyand he had got to take it. "Allright" said Peace"give me a minute"

 

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after which he swallowed contentedly a couple of gills of the genial spirit.

Peace's daring feat was notaccording to his own accounta mere attempt toescape from the clutches of the law; it was noble and Roman in its purpose. Thisis what he told his stepsonWillie Ward: "I saw from the way I was guardedall the way down from London and all the way backwhen I came for my firsttrialthat I could not get away from the wardersand I knew I could not jumpfrom an express train without being killed. I took a look at Darnall as I wentdown and as I went backand after I was put in my cellI thought it all over.I felt that I could not get awayand then I made up my mind to kill myself. Igot two bits of paper and pricked on them the words`Bury me at Darnall. Godbless you all!' With a bit of black dirt that I found on the floor of my cell Iwrote the same words on another piece of paperand then I hid them in myclothes. My hope was thatwhen I jumped from the train I should be cut topieces under the wheels. Then I should have been taken to the Duke of York (apublic-house at Darnall) and there would have been an inquest over me. As soonas the inquest was over you would have claimed my bodyfound the pieces ofpaperand then you would have buried me at Darnall."

This statement of Peace is no doubt in the main correct. But it is difficultto believe that there was not present to his mind the sporting chance that hemight not be killed in leaping from the trainin which event he would no doubthave done his best to get awaytrusting to his considerable powers of ingeniousdisguise to elude pursuit. But such a chance was remote. Peace had faced boldlythe possibility of a dreadful death.

With that strain of domestic sentimentwhich would appear to have been amarked characteristic of his family

 

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Peace was the more ready to cheat the gallows in the hope of being by that meansburied decently at Darnall. It was at Darnall that he had spent some months ofcomparative calm in his tempestuous careerand it was at Darnall that he hadfirst met Mrs. Dyson. Another and more practical motive that may have urgedPeace to attempt to injure seriouslyif not kill himselfwas the hope ofthereby delaying his trial. If the magisterial investigation in Sheffield werecompleted before the end of JanuaryPeace could be committed for trial to theensuing Leeds Assizes which commenced in the first week in February. If he wereinjured too seriouslythis would not be possible. Here again he was doomed todisappointment.

Peace recovered so well from the results of his adventure on the railway thatthe doctor pronounced him fit to appear for his second examination before themagistrate on January 30. To avoid excitementboth on the part of the prisonerand the publicthe court sat in one of the corridors of the Town Hall. Thescene is described as dismaldark and cheerless. The proceedings took place bycandlelightand Peacewho was seated in an armchaircomplained frequently ofthe cold. At other times he moaned and groaned and protested against theinjustice with which he was being treated. But the absence of any audiencerather dashed the effect of his laments.

The most interesting part of the proceedings was the cross-examination ofMrs. Dyson by Mr. Cleggthe prisoner's solicitor. Its purpose was to show thatMrs. Dyson had been on more intimate terms with Peace than she was ready toadmitand that Dyson had been shot by Peace in the course of a struggleinwhich the former had been the aggressor.

In the first part of his task Mr. Clegg met with some

 

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success. Mrs. Dysonwhose memory was certainly eccentric -- she could notshesaidremember the year in which she had been married -- was obliged to admitthat she had been in the habit of going to Peace's housethat she had beenalone with him to public-houses and places of entertainmentand that she andPeace had been photographed together during the summer fair at Sheffield. Shecould not "to her knowledge" recollect having told the landlord of apublic-house to charge her drink to Peace. A great deal of Mrs. Dyson'scross-examination turned on a bundle of letters that had been found near thescene of Dyson's murder on the morning following the crime. These lettersconsisted for the most part of noteswritten in pencil on scraps of paperpurporting to have been sent from Mrs. Dyson to Peace. In many of them she asksfor money to get drinkothers refer to opportunities for their meetings in theabsence of Dyson; there are kind messages to members of Peace's familyhis wifeand daughterand urgent directions to Peace to hold his tongue and not giveground for suspicion as to their relations. This bundle of letters containedalso the card which Dyson had thrown into Peace's garden requesting him not tointerfere with his family. According to the theory of the defencethese lettershad been written by Mrs. Dyson to Peaceand went to prove the intimacy of theirrelations. At the inquest after her husband's murderMrs. Dyson had beenquestioned by the coroner about these letters. She denied that she had everwritten to Peace; in factshe saidshe "never did write." It wasstated that Dyson himself had seen the lettersand declared them to beforgeries written by Peace or members of his family for the purpose ofannoyance. Neverthelessbefore the Sheffield magistrate Mr. Clegg thought ithis duty to cross-examine Mrs. Dyson closely as to their authorship. He askedher to write out a passage from

 

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one of them: "You can give me something as a keepsake if you likebut Idon't like to be covetousand to take them from your wife and daughter. Love toall!" Mrs. Dyson refused to admit any likeness between what she had writtenand the handwriting of the letter in ques-tion. Another passage ran: "Willsee you as soon as I possibly can. I think it would be easier after you move; hewon't watch so. The r -- g fits the little finger. Many thanks and love to --Jennie (Peace's daughter Jane). I will tell you what I thought of when I see youabout arranging matters. Excuse this scribbling." In answer to Mr. CleggMrs. Dyson admitted that Peace had given her a ringwhich she had worn for ashort time on her little finger.

Another letter ran: "If you have a note for mesend now whilst he isout; but you must not venturefor he is watchingand you cannot be toocareful. Hope your foot is better. I went to Sheffield yesterdaybut I couldnot see you anywhere. Were you out? Love to Jane." Mrs. Dyson denied thatshe had known of an accident which Peace had had to his foot at this time. Inspite of the ruling of the magistrate that Mr. Clegg had put forward quiteenoughif trueto damage Mrs. Dyson's credibilityhe continued to press heras to her authorship of these notes and lettersbut Mrs. Dyson was firm in herrepudiation of them. She was equally firm in denying that anything in the natureof a struggle had taken place between Peace and her husband previous to hismurder.

At the conclusion of Mrs. Dyson's evidence the prisoner was committed to takehis trial at the Leeds Assizeswhich commenced the week following. Peacewhohad groaned and moaned and constantly interrupted the proceedingsprotested hisinnocenceand complained that his witnesses had not been called. Theapprehension with which this daring malefactor was regarded by the authorities

 

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is shown by this clandestine hearing of his case in a cold corridor of the TownHalland the rapidity with which his trial followed on his committal. There isan appearance almost of precipitation in the haste with which Peace was bustledto his doom. After his committal he was taken to Wakefield Prisonand a fewdays later to Armley Jailthere to await his trial.

This began on February 4and lasted one day. Mr. Justice Lopeswho hadtried vainly to persuade the Manchester Grand Jury to throw out the bill in thecase of the brothers Habronwas the presiding judge. Mr. Campbell FosterQ.C.led for the prosecution. Peace was defended by Mr. Frank Lockwoodthen risinginto that popular success at the bar which some fifteen years later made himSolicitor-Generaland but for his premature death would have raised him to evenhigher honours in his profession.

In addressing the juryboth Mr. Campbell Foster and Mr. Lockwood tookoccasion to protest against the recklessness with which the press of the dayboth high and lowhad circulated stories and rumours about the interestingconvict. As early as November in 1878 one leading London daily newspaper hadsaid that "it was now established beyond doubt that the burglar captured byPolice Constable Robinson was one and the same as the Banner Crossmurderer." Since thenas the public excitement grew and the facts ofPeace's extraordinary career came to lightthe press had responded loyally tothe demands of the greedy lovers of sensationand piled fiction on fact withgenerous profusion. "Never" said Mr. Lockwood"in the wholecourse of his experience -- and he defied any of his learned friends to quote anexperience -- had there been such an attempt made on the part of those whoshould be most careful of all others to preserve the liberties of theirfellowmen and to preserve the

 

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dignity of the tribunals of justice to determine the guilt of a man." Peaceexclaimed "Hearhear!" as Mr. Lockwood went on to say that "forthe sake of snatching paltry pence from the publicthese persons had wickedlysought to prejudice the prisoner's life." Allowing for Mr. Lockwood's zealas an advocatethere can be no question thathad Peace chosen or been in aposition to take proceedingsmore than one newspaper had at this time laiditself open to prosecution for contempt of Court. The Times was not far wrong insaying thatsince Muller murdered Mr. Briggs on the North London Railway andthe poisonings of William Palmerno criminal case had created such excitementas that of Charles Peace. The fact that property seemed to be no more sacred tohim than life aggravated in a singular degree the resentment of a commercialpeople.

The first witness called by the prosecution was Mrs. Dyson. She described howon the night of November 291876she had come out of the outhouse in the yardat the back of her houseand found herself confronted by Peace holding arevolver; how he said: "Speakor I'll fire!" and the sequence ofevents already related up to the moment when Dyson fellshot in the temple.

Mr. Lockwood commenced his cross-examination of Mrs. Dyson by endeavouring toget from her an admission; the most important to the defencethat Dyson hadcaught hold of Peace after the first shot had been firedand that in thestruggle which ensuedthe revolver had gone off by accident. But he was notvery successful. He put it to Mrs. Dyson that before the magistrate at Sheffieldshe had said: "I can't say my husband did not get hold of theprisoner." "Put in the little word `try' please" answered Mrs.Dyson. In spite of Mr. Lockwood's questionsshe maintained thatthough herhusband may have attempted to get hold of Peacehe did

 

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not succeed in doing so. As she was the only witness to the shooting there wasno one to contradict her statement.

Mr. Lockwood fared better when he came to deal with the relations of Mrs.Dyson with Peace previous to the crime. Mrs. Dyson admitted that in the springof 1876 her husband had objected to her friendship with Peaceand thatneverthelessin the following summershe and Peace had been photographedtogether at the Sheffield fair. She made a vain attempt to escape from such anadmission by trying to shift the occasion of the summer fair to the previousyear1875but Mr. Lockwood put it to her that she had not come to Darnallwhere she first met Peaceuntil the end of that year. Finally he drove her tosay that she could not remember when she came to Darnallwhether in 187318741875or 1876. She admitted that she had accepted a ring from Peacebut couldnot remember whether she had shown it to her husband. She had been perhaps twicewith Peace to the Marquis of Waterford public-houseand once to the Star MusicHall. She could not swear one way or the other whether she had charged toPeace's account drink consumed by her at an inn in Darnall called the Half-wayHouse. Confronted with a little girl and a manwhom Mr. Lockwood suggested shehad employed to carry notes to PeaceMrs. Dyson said that these were merelyreceipts for pictures which he had framed for her. On the day before herhusband's murderMrs. Dyson was at the Stag Hotel at Sharrow with a little boybelonging to a neighbour. A man followed her in and sat beside herandafterwards followed her out. In answer to Mr. LockwoodMrs. Dyson would"almost swear" the man was not Peace; he had spoken to herbut shecould not remember whether she had spoken to him or not. She denied that thisman had said to her that he would come and see her the next night. As the resultof a parting

 

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shot Mr. Lockwood obtained from Mrs. Dyson a reluctant admission that she hadbeen "slightly inebriated" at the Half-way House in Darnallbut hadnot to her knowledge" been turned out of the house on that account."You may not have known you were inebriated? suggested Mr. Lockwood."I always know what I am doing" was Mrs. Dyson's replyto which anunfriendly critic might have replied that she did not apparently know withanything like certainty what she had been doing during the last three or fouryears. In commenting on the trial the following daythe Times stigmatised as"feeble" the prevarications by which Mrs. Dyson tried to explain awayher intimacy with Peace. In this part of his cross-examination Mr. Lockwood hadmade it appear at least highly probable that there had been a much closerrelationship between Mrs. Dyson and Peace than the former was willing toacknowledge.

The evidence of Mrs. Dyson was followed by that of five persons who hadeither seen Peace in the neighbourhood of Banner Cross Terrace on the night ofthe murderor heard the screams and shots that accompanied it. A womanMrs.Gregorywhose house was between that of the Dysons and the passage in whichDyson was shotsaid that she had heard the noise of the clogs Mrs. Dyson waswearing as she went across the yard. A minute later she heard a scream. Sheopened her back door and saw Dyson standing by his own. She told him to go tohis wife. She then went back into her houseand almost directly after heard twoshotsfollowed by another screambut no sound as of any scuffling.

Another witness was a labourer named Brassington. He was a stranger to Peacebut stated that about eight o'clock on the night of the murder a man came up tohim outside the Banner Cross Hotela few yards from Dyson's house. He wasstanding under a gas lampand it

 

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was a bright moonlight night. The man asked him if he knew of any strange peoplewho had come to live in the neighbourhood. Brassington answered that he did not.The man then produced a bundle of letters which he asked Brassington to read.But Brassington declinedas reading was not one of his accomplishments. The manthen said that "he would make it a warm 'un for those strange folks beforemorning -- he would shoot both of them" and went off in the direction ofDyson's house. Brassington swore positively that Peace was the stranger who hadaccosted him that nightand Mr. Lockwood failed to shake him in his evidence.Nor could Mr. Lockwood persuade the surgeon who was called to Dyson at the timeof his death to admit that the marks on the nose and chin of the dead man couldhave been caused by a blow; they were merely abrasions of the skin caused by thewounded man falling to the ground.

Evidence was then given as to threats uttered by Peace against the Dysons inthe July of 1876and as to his arrest at Blackheath in the October of 1878. Therevolver taken from Peace that night was producedand it was shown that therifling of the bullet extracted from Dyson's head was the same as that of thebullet fired from the revolver carried by Peace at the time of his capture.

Mr. Campbell Foster wanted to put in as evidence the card that Dyson hadflung into Peace's garden at Darnall requesting him not to interfere with hisfamily. This card had been found among the bundle of letters dropped by Peacenear the scene of the murder. Mr. Lockwood objected to the admission of the cardunless all the letters were admitted at the same time. The Judge ruled that boththe card and the letters were inadmissibleas irrelevant to the issue; Mr.Lockwood hadhe saidvery properly cross-examined Mrs. Dyson on these lettersto test her credibilitybut he was bound by her answers and

 

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could not contradict her by introducing them as evidence in the case.

Mr. Lockwood in his address to the jury did his best to persuade them thatthe death of Dyson was the accidental result of a struggle between Peace andhimself. He suggested that Mrs. Dyson had left her house that night for thepurpose of meeting Peaceand that Dysonwho was jealous of his wife's intimacywith himhad gone out to find her; that Dysonseeing Peacehad caught hold ofhim; and that the revolver had gone off accidentally as Dyson tried to wrest itfrom his adversary. He repudiated the suggestion of Mr. Foster that the personshe had confronted with Mrs. Dyson in the course of his cross-examination hadbeen hired for a paltry sum to come into court and lie.

Twiceboth at the beginning and the end of his speechMr. Lockwood urged asa reason for the jury being tender in taking Peace's life that he was in such astate of wickedness as to be quite unprepared to meet death. Both times that hiscounsel put forward this curious pleaPeace raised his eyes to heaven andexclaimed "I am not fit to die."

Mr. Justice Lopes in summing up described as an "absolute surmise"the theory of the accidental discharge of the pistol. He asked the jury to takePeace's revolver in their hands and try the triggerso as to see for themselveswhether it was likely to go off accidentally or not. He pointed out that thepistol produced might not have been the pistol used at Banner Cross; at the sametime the bullet fired in November1876bore marks such as would have beenproduced had it been fired from the pistol taken from Peace at Blackheath inOctober1878. He said that Mr. Lockwood had been perfectly justified in hisattempt to discredit the evidence of Mrs. Dysonbut the case did not rest onher evidence alone. In her

 

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evidence as to the threats uttered by Peace in July1876Mrs. Dyson wascorroborated by three other witnesses. In the Judge's opinion it was clearlyproved that no struggle or scuffle had taken place before the murder. If thedefencehe concludedrested on no solid foundationthen the jury must dotheir duty to the community at large and by the oath they had sworn.

It was a quarter past seven when the jury retired. Ten minutes later theycame back into court with a verdict of guilty. Asked if he had anything to sayPeace in a faint voice replied"It is no use my saying anything." TheJudgedeclining very properly to aggravate the prisoner's feelings by "arecapitulation of any portion of the details of what I fearI can only callyour criminal career" passed on him sentence of death. Peace accepted hisfate with composure.

Before we proceed to describe the last days of Peace on earthlet us finishwith the two women who had succeeded Mrs. Peace in his ardent affections.

A few days after Peace's execution Mrs. Dyson left England for Americabutbefore going she left behind her a narrative intended to contradict theimputations which she felt had been made against her moral character. AnIrishwoman by birthshe said that she had gone to America when she was fifteenyears old. There she met and married Dysona civil engineer on the Atlantic andGreat Western Railway. Theirs was a rough and arduous life. But Mrs. Dyson wasthoroughly happy in driving her husband about in a buggy among bears and creeks.She did not know fear and loved danger: "My husband loved me and I lovedhimand in his company and in driving him about in this wild kind of fashion Iderived much pleasure." HoweverMr. Dyson's health broke downand he wasobliged to return to England. It was at Darnall that the fatal acquaintance with

 

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Peace began. Living next door but one to the DysonsPeace took the opportunityof introducing himselfand Mr. Dyson "being a gentleman" took politenotice of his advances. He became a constant visitor at the house. But after atime Peace began to show that he was not the gentleman Mr. Dyson was. Hedisgusted the latter by offering to show him improper pictures and "thesights of the town" of Sheffield.

The Dysons tried to shake off the unwelcome acquaintancebut that was easiersaid than done. By this time Peace had set his heart on making Mrs. Dyson leaveher husband. He kept trying to persuade her to go to Manchester with himwherehe would take a cigar or picture shopto which Mrs. Dysonin fine clothes andjewelryshould lend the charm of her comely presence. He offered her a sealskinjacketyards of silka gold watch. She shouldhe saidlive in Manchesterlike a ladyto which Mrs. Dyson replied coldly that she had always lived likeone and should continue to do so quite independently of him. But Peace wouldlisten to no refusalhowever decided its tone. Dyson threw over the card intoPeace's garden. This only served to aggravate his determination to possesshimself of the wife. He would listen at keyholesleer in at the windowandfollow Mrs. Dyson wherever she went. When she was photographed at the fairshefound that Peace had stood behind her chair and by that means got himselfincluded in the picture. At times he had threatened her with a revolver. On oneoccasion when he was more insulting than usualMrs. Dyson forgot her fear ofhim and gave him a thrashing. Peace threatened "to make her so that neitherman nor woman should look at herand then he would have her all tohimself." It was with some purpose of this kindMrs. Dyson suggestedthatPeace stole a photograph of herself out of a locketintending to

 

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make some improper use of it. At lastin desperationthe Dysons moved toBanner Cross. From the day of their arrival there until the murderMrs. Dysonnever saw Peace. She denied altogether having been in his company the nightbefore the murder. The letters were "bare forgeries" written by Peaceor members of his family to get her into their power.

Against the advice of all her friends Mrs. Dyson had come back from Americato give evidence against Peace. To the detective who saw her at Cleveland shesaid"I will go back if I have to walk on my head all the way"; andthough she little knew what she would have to go through in giving her evidenceshe would do it again under the circumstances. "My opinion is" shesaid"that Peace is a perfect demon -- not a man. I am told that since hehas been sentenced to death he has become a changed character. That I don'tbelieve. The place to which the wicked go is not bad enough for him. I think itsoccupantsbad as they might beare too good to be where he is. No matter wherehe goesI am satisfied that there will be hell. Not even a Shakespeare couldadequately paint such a man as he has been. My lifelong regret will be that Iever knew him."

With these few earnest words Mrs. Dyson quitted the shores of Englandhardlyclearing up the mystery of her actual relations with Peace.

A woman with whom Mrs. Dyson very much resented finding herself classed --inebriety would appear to have been their only common weakness -- was Mrs.Thompsonthe "traitress Sue." In spite of the fact that on February 5Mrs. Thompson had applied to the Treasury for £100blood money due her forassisting the police in the identification of Peaceshe was at the same timecarrying on a friendly correspondence with her lover and making attempts to seehim. Peace had written to her before his

 

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trial hoping she would not forsake him; "you have been my bosom friendandyou have ofttimes said you loved methat you would die for me." He askedher to sell some goods which he had left with her in order to raise money forhis defence. The traitress replied on January 27 that she had already soldeverything and shared the proceeds with Mrs. Peace. "You are doing me greatinjustice" she wrote"by saying that I have been out to `work' withyou. Do not die with such a base falsehood on your consciencefor you know I amyoung and have my living and character to redeem. I pity you and myself to thinkwe should have met." After his condemnation Mrs. Thompson made repeatedefforts to see Peacecoming to Leeds for the purpose. Peace wrote a letter onFebruary 9 to his "poor Sue" asking her to come to the prison. Butpartly at the wish of Peace's relatives and for reasons of their ownapermission given Mrs. Thompson by the authorities to visit the convict wassuddenly withdrawnand she never saw him again.

III. HIS TRIAL AND EXECUTION

IN the lives of those famous men who have perished on thescaffold their behaviour during the interval between their condemnation andtheir execution has always been the subject of curiosity and interest.

It may be said at once that nothing could have been more deeply religiousmore sincerely repentantmore Christian to all appearances than Peace's conductand demeanour in the last weeks of his life. He threw himself into the work ofatonement with the same uncompromising zeal and energy that he had displayed asa

 

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burglar. By his death a truly welcome and effective re-cruit was lost to theranks of the contrite and converted sinners. However powerless as a controllingforce -- and he admitted it -- his belief in God and the devil may have been inthe pastthat belief was assured and confidentand in the presence of deathproclaimed itself with vigournot in words merelybut in deeds.

In obedience to the wishes of his familyPeace had refrained from seeing SueThompson. This was at some sacrificefor he wished very much to see her and tothe lastthough he knew that she had betrayed himsent her affectionate andforgiving messages. These were transmitted to Sue by Mr. Brion. Thisdisingenuous gentleman was a fellow-applicant with Sue to the Treasury forpecuinary recognition of his efforts in bringing about the identification ofPeaceand furnishing the police with information as to the convict's disposalof his stolen property. In his zeal he had even gone so far as to play the roleof an accomplice of Peaceand by this means discovered a place in PetticoatLane where the burglar got rid of some of his booty.

After Peace's condemnation Mr. Brion visited him in Armley Jail. His purposein doing so was to wring from his co-inventor an admission that the inventionswhich they had patented together were his work alone. Peace denied thisbutoffered to sell his share for £50. Brion refused the offerand persisted inhis assertion that Peace had got his name attached to the patents by undueinfluencewhatever that might mean. Peaceafter wres-tling with the spiritgave way. "Very wellmy friend" he said"let it be as you say.I have not cheated youHeaven knows. But I also know that this infamy of minehas been the cause of bringing harm to youwhich is the last thing I shouldhave wished to have caused to my friend." A deed of gift was drawn upmaking over

 

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to Brion Peace's share in their inventions; this Peace handed to Brion as theprice of the latter's precious forgiveness and a token of the sincerity of hiscolleague's repentance. Thusas has often happened in this sad worldwasdisreputable genius exploited once again by smug mediocrity. Mr. Brionhavinggot all he wantedleft the prisonassuring the Governor that Peace'srepentance was "all bunkum" and advisingwith commendable anxietyfor the public goodthat the warders in the condemned cell should be doubled.

Peace had one act of atonement to discharge more urgent than displayingChristian forbearance towards ignoble associates. That was the righting ofWilliam Habronwho was now serving the third year of his life sentence for themurder of Constable Cock at Whalley Range. Peace sent for the Governor of thejail a few days before his execution and obtained from him the materialsnecessary for drawing up a plan. Peace was quite an adept at making plans; hehad already made an excellent one of the scene of Dyson's murder. He now drew aplan of the place where Cock had been shotgave a detailed account of how hecame by his deathand made a full confession of his own guilt.

In the confession he described howsome days before the burglaryhe hadaccording to his custom"spotted" the house at Whalley Range. Inorder to do this he always dressed himself respectablybecause he had foundthat the police never suspected anyone who wore good clothes. On the night ofthe crime he passed two policemen on the road to the house. He had gone into thegrounds and was about to begin operations when he heard a rustle behind him andsaw a policemanwhom he recognised as one of those he had met in the roadenter the garden. With his well-known agility Peace climbed on to the wallanddropped on to the other side

 

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only to find himself almost in the arms of the second policeman. Peace warnedthe officer to stand back and fired his revolver wide of him. Butas Peacesaid"these Manchester policemen are a very obstinate lot." Theconstable took out his truncheon. Peace fired again and killed him.

Soon after the murderer saw in the newspapers that two men had been arrestedfor the crime. "This greatly interested me" said Peace. "Ialways had a liking to be present at trialsas the public no doubt know by thistime." So he went to Manchester Assizes and saw William Habron sentenced todeath. "People will say" he said"that I was a hardened wretchfor allowing an in-nocent man to suffer for the crime of which I was guilty butwhat man would have given himself up under such circumstancesknowing as I didthat I should certainly be hanged?" Peace's view of the question was apurely practical one: "Now that I am going to forfeit my own life and feelthat I have nothing to gain by further secrecyI think it is right in the sightof God and man to clear this innocent young man." It would have been moreright in the sight of God and man to have done it beforebut then Peaceadmitted that during all his career he had allowed neither God nor man toinfluence his actions.

How many men in the situation of Peace at the timewith the certainty ofdeath before him if he confessedwould have sacrificed themselves to save aninnocent man? Cold-blooded heroism of this kind is rare in the annals of crime.Nor did Peace claim to have anything of the hero about him.



"Lion-hearted I've lived
And when my time comes
Lion-hearted I'll die."


 

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Though fond of repeating this piece of doggerelPeace would have been thelast man to have attributed to himself all those qualities associatedsymbolically with the lion.

A few days before his execution Peace was visited in his prison by Mr.Littlewoodthe Vicar of Darnall. Mr. Littlewood had known Peace a few yearsbeforewhen he had been chaplain at Wakefield Prison. "Wellmy old friendPeace" he said as he entered the cell"how are you to-day?""`I am very poorlysir" replied the convict"but I amexceedingly pleased to see you." Mr. Littlewood assured Peace that therewas at any rate one person in the world who had deep sympathy with himand thatwas himself. Peace burst into tears. He expressed a wish to unburden himself tothe vicarbut before doing soasked for his assurance that he believed in thetruth and sincerity of what he was about to say to him. He said that hepreferred to be hanged to lingering out his life in penal servitudethat he wasgrieved and repentant for his past life. "If I could undoor make amendsfor anything I have doneI would suffer my body as I now stand to be cut inpieces inch by inch. I feelsirthat I am too bad to live or dieand havingthis feeling I cannot think that either you or anyone else would believe meandthat is the reason why I ask you so much to try to be assured that you do notthink I am telling lies. I call my God to witness that all I am saying and wishto say shall be the truth -- the whole truth -- nothing but the truth." Mr.Littlewood said thatafter carefully watching Peace and having regard to hisexperience of some of the most hardened of criminals during his service inWakefield Prisonhe felt convinced that Peace was in earnest and as sincere asany man could be; he spoke rationallycoherentlyand without excitement.

 

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Peace was determined to test the extent of the reverend gentleman's faith inhis asseverations. "Nowsir" he said"I understand that youstill have the impression that I stole the clock from your day-schools."Mr. Littlewood admitted that such was his impression. "I thought so"replied Peace"and this has caused me much grief and painfor I canassure you I have so much respect for you personally that I would rather havegiven you a clock and much more besides than have taken it. At the time yourclock was stolen I had reason for suspecting that it was taken by some collierswhom I knew." There was a pause. Mr. Littlewood thought that Peace wasgoing to give him the name of the colliers. But that was not Peace's way. Hesaid sharply: "Do you now believe that I have spoken the truth in denyingthat I took your clockand will you leave me to-day fully believing that I aminnocent of doing that?" Mr. Littlewood looked at him closely and appearedto be deliberating on his reply. Peace watched him intently. At last Mr.Littlewood said"PeaceI am convinced that you did not take the clock. Icannot believe that you dare deny it now in your positionif you reallydid." Once more Peace burst into tearsand was unable for some time tospeak.

Having recovered his self-possessionPeace turned to the serious business ofconfession. He dealt first with the murder of Dyson. He maintained that hisrelations with Mrs. Dyson had been of an intimate character. He wanted to seeher on the night of the crime in order to get her to induce her husband towithdraw the warrant which he had procured against him; he was tiredhe saidof being hunted about from place to place. He intercepted Mrs. Dyson as shecrossed the yard. Instead of listening to him quietly Mrs. Dyson became violentand threatening in her language. Peace took out his revolver

 

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andholding it close to her headwarned her that he was not to be trifledwith. She refused to be warned. Dysonhearing the loud voicescame out of hishouse. Peace tried to get away down the passage into Banner Cross RoadbutDyson followed and caught hold of him. In the struggle Peace fired one barrel ofhis revolver wide. Dyson seized the hand in which Peace was holding the weapon."Then I knew" said Peace"I had not a moment to spare. I made adesperate effortwrenched the arm from him and fired again. All that was in myhead at the time was to get away. I never did intendeither there or anywhereelseto take a man's life; but I was determined that I should not be caught atthat timeas the resultknowing what I had done beforewould have been worseeven than had I stayed under the warrant." If he had intended to murderDysonPeace pointed out that he would have set about it in quite a differentand more secret way; it was as unintentional a thing as ever was done; Mrs.Dyson had committed the grossest perjury in saying that no struggle had takenplace between her husband and himself.

It is to be remembered that Peace and Mrs. Dyson were the sole witnesses ofwhat took place that night between the two men. In point of credibility theremay be little to choose between thembut Peace can claim for his account thatit was the statement of a dyingandto all appearancessincerely repentantsinner.

Peace then repeated to Mr. Littlewood his confession of the killing ofConstable Cockand his desire that Habron should be set free. William Habronwas subsequently given a free pardon and £800 by way of compensation. As tothis part of his career Peace indulged in some general reflections. "Mygreat mistakesir" he said"and I can see it now as my endapproacheshas been this -- in all my career I have used

 

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ball cartridge. I can see now that in using ball cartridge I did wrong I oughtto have used blank cartridge; then I would not have taken life." Peace saidthat he hoped he would meet his death like a hero. "I do not say this inany kind of bravado. I do not mean such a hero as some persons will understandwhen they read this. I mean such a hero as my God might wish me to be. I amdeeply grieved for all I have doneand would atone for it to the utmost of mypower." To Mr. Littlewood the moment seemed convenient to suggest that as apractical means of atonement Peace should reveal to him the names of the personswith whom he had disposed of the greater part of his stolen property. But inspite of much attempted persuasion by the reverend gentleman Peace explainedthat he was a man and meant to be a man to the end. William Habron wassubsequently given a free pardon and £800 by way of compensation.

Earlier in their interview Peace had expressed to Mr. Littlewood a hope thatafter his execution his name would never be mentioned againbut before theyparted he asked Mr. Littlewoodas a favourto preach a sermon on him after hisdeath to the good people of Darnall. He wished his career held up to them as abeaconin order that all who saw might avoid his exampleand so his death beof some service to society.

Before Mr. Littlewood leftPeace asked him to hear him pray. Havingrequested the warders to kneel downPeace began a prayer that lasted twentyminutes. He prayed for himselfhis familyhis victimsMr. Littlewoodsocietygenerallyand all classes of the community. Mr. Littlewood described the prayeras earnestfervent and fluent. At the end Peace asked Mr. Littlewood if heought to see Mrs. Dyson and beg her forgiveness for having killed her husband.Mr. Littlewoodbelieving er-roneously that Mrs. Dyson had already left thecountrytold Peace that he should direct all his attention to asking

 

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forgiveness of his Maker. At the close of their interview Peace was lifted intobed andturning his face to the wallwept.

TuesdayFebruary 25was the day fixed for theexecution of Peace. As thetime drew nearthe convict's confidence in ultimate salvation increased. A Dr.Potter of Sheffield had declared in a sermon that "all hope of Peace'ssalvation was gone for ever." Peace replied curtly"WellDr. Pottermay think sobut I don't." Though his health had improvedPeace was stillvery feeble in body. But his soul was hopeful and undismayed. On the Saturdaybefore his death his brother and sister-in-lawa nephew and niece visited himfor the last time. He spoke with some emotion of his approaching end. He said heshould die about eight o'clockand that at four o'clock an inquest would beheld on his body; he would then be thrown into his grave without service orsermon of any kind. He asked his relatives to plant a flower on a certain gravein a cemetery in Sheffield on the day of his execution. He was very weakhesaidbut hoped he should have strength enough to walk to the scaffold. He sentmessages to friends and warnings to avoid gambling and drinking. He begged hisbrother to change his manner of life and "become religious." His goodcounsel was not apparently very well received. Peace's visitors took adepressing view of their relative's condition. They found him "a poorwretchedhaggard man" andmeeting Mrs. Thompson who was waiting outsidethe gaol for news of "dear Jack" wondered how she could have taken upwith such a man.

Whenthe day before his executionPeace was visited for the last time byhis wifehis stepsonhis daughterMrs. Bolsoverand her husbandhe was inmuch better spirits. He asked his visitors to restrain themselves from displaysof emotionas he felt very happy and did not

 

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wish to be disturbed. He advised them to sell or exhibit for money certain worksof art of his own devising. Among them was a design in paper for a monument tobe placed over his grave. The design is elaborate but well and ingeniouslyexecuted; in the opinion of Friththe painterit showed "the true feelingof an artist." It is somewhat in the style of the Albert Memorialandfigures of angels are prominent in the scheme. The whole conception is typicalof the artist's sanguine and confident assurance of his ultimate destiny. Amodel boat and a fiddle made out of a hollow bamboo cane he wished also to bemade the means of raising money. He was describing with some detail the ceremonyof his approaching death and burial when he was interrupted by a sound ofhammering. Peace listened for a moment and then said"That's a noise thatwould make some men fall on the floor. They are working at my ownscaffold." A warder said that he was mistaken. "NoI am not"answered Peace"I have not worked so long with wood without knowing thesound of deals; and they don't have deals inside a prison for anything else thanscaffolds." But the noisehe saiddid not disturb him in the leastas hewas quite prepared to meet his fate. He would like to have seen his grave andcoffin; he knew that his body would be treated with scant ceremony after hisdeath. But what of that? By that time his soul would be in Heaven. He waspleased that one sinner who had seen him on his way from Pentonville toSheffieldhad written to tell him that the sight of the convict had broughthome to him the sins of his own past lifeand by this means he had foundsalvation.

The time had come to say good-bye for the last time. Peace asked his weepingrelatives whether they had anything more that they wished to ask him. Mrs. Peacereminded him that he had promised to pray with them

 

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at the last. Peaceever readyknelt with them and prayed for half an hour. Hethen shook hands with themprayed for and blessed each one singlyand himselfgave way to tears as they left his presence. To his wife as she departed Peacegave a funeral card of his own designing. It ran: In Memory of Charles Peace Whowas executed in Armley Prison Tuesday February 25th1879 Aged 47 For that I donbut never Intended.

The same day there arrived in the prison one who in his own trade hadsomething of the personality and assurance of the culprit he was to execute.William Marwood -- unlike his celebrated victimhe has his place in theDictionary of National Biography -- is perhaps the most remarkable of thesepersons who have held at different times the office of public executioner. Asthe inventor of the "long drop" he has done a lasting service tohumanity by enabling the death-sentence passed by the judge to be carried outwith the minimum of possible suffering. Marwood took a lofty view of the officehe heldand refused his assent to the somewhat hypocritical loathingwithwhich those who sanction and profit by his exertions are pleased to regard thisservant of the law. "I am doing God's work" said Marwood"according to the divine command and the law of the British Crown. I do itsimply as a matter of duty and as a Christian. I sleep as soundly as a child andam never disturbed by phantoms. Where there is guilt there is bad sleepingbutI am conscious that I try to live a blameless life. Detesting

 

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idlenessI pass my vacant time in business (he was a shoemaker at Horncastlein Lincolnshire) and work in my shoeshop near the church day after day untilsuch time as I am required elsewhere. It would have been better for those Iexecuted if they had preferred industry to idleness."

Marwood had not the almost patriarchal air of benevolent respectability whichhis predecessor Calcraft had acquired during a short experience as a familybutler; but as an executioner that kindly old gentleman had been a sad bunglerin his time compared with the scientific and expeditious Marwood. The Horncastleshoemaker was savingbusinesslikepious and thoughtful. Like Peacehe hadinterests outside his ordinary profession. He had at one time propounded ascheme for the abolition of the National Debta man clearly determined tobenefit his fellowmen in some way or other. A predilection for gin would seem tohave been his only concession to the ordinary weakness of humanity. And now hehad arrived in Armley Jail to exercise his happy dispatch on the greatest of themany criminals who passed through his handsone whoin his own words"met death with greater firmness" than any man on whom he hadofficiated during seven years of Crown employment.

The day of February the 25th broke bitterly cold. Like Charles I. before himPeace feared lest the extreme cold should make him appear to tremble on thescaffold. He had slept calmly till six o'clock in the morning. A great part ofthe two hours before the coming of the hangman Peace spent in letter-writing. Hewrote two letters to his wifein one of which he copied out some verses he hadwritten in Woking Prison on the death of their little boy John. In the second heexpressed his satisfaction that he was to die now and not linger twenty years inprison. To his daughterstep-son and son-in-law he

 

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wrote letters of ferventreligious exhortation and sent them tracts andpictures which he had secured from well-intentioned persons anxious about hissalvation. To an old friendGeorge Goodlada pianistwho had apparently livedup to his namehe wrote: "You chose an honest industrious way throughlifebut I chose the one of dis-honestyvillainy and sin"; let his fatehe saidbe a warning.

Peace ate a hearty breakfast and awaited the coming of the executioner withcalm. He had been troubled with an inconvenient cough the night before. "Iwonder" he said to one of his warders"if Marwood could cure thiscough of mine." He had got an idea into his head that Marwood would"punish" him when he came to deal with him on the scaffoldand askedto see the hang-man a few minutes before the appointed hour. "I hope youwill not punish me. I hope you will do your work quickly" he said toMarwood. "You shall not suffer pain from my hand" replied thatworthy. "God bless you" exclaimed Peace"I hope to meet you allin heaven. I am thankful to say my sins are all forgiven." And so these twopious men -- on the morning of an execution Marwood always knelt down and askedGod's blessing on the work he had to do -- shook hands together and set abouttheir business. Firmly and fearlessly Peace submitted himself to the necessarypreparations. For one moment he faltered as the gallows came in sightbutrecovered himself quickly.

As Marwood was about to cover his facePeace stopped him with someirritation of manner and said that he wished to speak to the gentlemen of thepress who had been admitted to the ceremony. No one gainsaid himand he thusaddressed the reporters: "You gentlemen reportersI wish you to notice thefew words I am going to say. You know what my life has been. It has been

 

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base; but I wish you to noticefor the sake of othershow a man can dieas Iam about to diein fear of the Lord. Gentlemenmy heart says that I feelassured that my sins are forgiven methat I am going to the Kingdom of Heavenor else to the place prepared for those who rest until the great Judgment day. Ido not think I have any enemiesbut if there are any who would be soI wishthem well. Gentlemenall and allI wish them to come to the Kingdom of Heavenwhen they dieas I am going to die." He asked a blessing on the officialsof the prison andin conclusionsent his last wishes and respects to his dearchildren and their mother. "I hope" he said"no one willdisgrace them by taunting them or jeering them on my accountbut to have mercyupon them. God bless youmy dear children. Good-byeand Heaven bless you.Amen: Ohmy Lord Godhave mercy upon me!"

After the cap had been placed over his head Peace asked twice very sharplyas a man who expected to be obeyedfor a drink of water. But this time hisrequest was not compiled with. He died instantaneously and was buried in ArmleyJail.

Had Peace flourished in 1914 instead of 1874his end might have beenhonourable instead of dishonourable. The war of to-day has no doubt saved many aman from a criminal career by turning to worthy account qualities whichdangerous in crimeare useful in war. Absolute fearlessnessagilityresourcecunning and determination; all these are admirable qualities in the soldier; andall these Charles Peace possessed in a signal degree. But fate denied himopportunityhe became a burglar and died on the scaffold. Years of prison lifefailedas they did in those daysto make any impression for good on oneresolute in whatever way he chose to go. Peace was a born fighter. A detectivewho knew him and had on one occasion come near capturing him in Londonsaid

 

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that he was a fair fighterthat he always gave fair warning to those on whom hefiredand thatbeing a dead shotthe many wide shots which he fired are to bereckoned proofs of this. Peace maintained to the last that he had never intendedto kill Dyson. This statement ex-detective Parrock believedand that the fatalshot was fired over Peace's shoulder as he was making off. Though habituallysoberPeace was made intoxicated now and then by the drinkstood him by thosewhom he used to amuse with his musical tricks and antics in public-houses. Atsuch times he would get fuddled and quarrelsome. He was in such a frame of mindon the evening of Dyson's murder. His visit to the Vicar of Ecclesall broughthim little comfort or consolation. It was in this unsatisfactory frame of mindthat he went to Dyson's house. This much the ex-detective would urge in hisfavour. To his neighbours he was an awe-inspiring but kind and sympathetic man."If you want my true opinion of him" says Detective Parrock"hewas a burglar to the backbone but not a murderer at heart. He deserved the fatethat came to him as little as any who in modern times have met with a likeone." Those who are in the fighting line are always the most generous abouttheir adversaries. Parrock as a potential target for Peace's revolvermay haveerred on the side of generositybut there is some truth in what he says.

As Peace himself admittedhis life had been base. He was well aware that hehad misused such gifts as nature had bestowed on him. One must go back tomediæval times to find the counterpart of this daring ruffian whobelieving inpersonal God and devilrefuses until the end to allow either to interfere withhis business in life. In this respect Charles Peace reminds us irresistibly ofour Angevin kings.

There is only one criminal who vies with Charley

 

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Peace in that genial popular regard which makes Charles "Charley" andJohn "Jack" and that is Jack Sheppard. What Jack was to theeighteenth centurythat Charley was to the nineteenth. And each one is in asense typical of his period. Lecky has said that the eighteenth century isricher than any other in the romance of crime. I think it may fairly be saidthat in the nineteenth century the romance of crime ceased to be. In theeighteenth century the scenery and dressesall the stage setting of crime makefor romance; its literature is quaint and picturesque; there is something gayand debonair about the whole business.

Sheppard is typical of all this. There is a certain charm about the rascal;his humour is undeniable; he is a philosophertaking all that comes with easygraceeven his betrayal by his brother and others who should have been loyal tohim. Jack Sheppard has the good-humoured carelessness of that most engaging ofall eighteenth century malefactorsDeacon Brodie. It is quite otherwise withCharley Peace. There is little enough gay or debonair about him. Compared withSheppardPeace is as drab as the surroundings of mid-Victorian crime are drabcompared with the picturesqueness of eighteenth century England.

Crime in the nineteenth century becomes more scientific in its methods and inits detection also. The revolver places a more hastyless decorous weapon thanthe old-fashioned pistol in the hands of the determined burglar. The literatureof crimesuch as it isbecomes vulgar and prosaic. Peace has no charm abouthimno gaietybut he has the virtues of his defects. Heunlike Sheppardshuns company; he works alonenever depending on accomplices; a "tightcock" as Sheppard would have phrased itand not relying on a like qualityof tightness in his fellows. Sheppard is a slave to his womenEdgeworth Bessand Mrs. Maggot; Mrs. Peace and Sue

 

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Thompson are the slaves of Peace. Sheppard loves to stroll openly about theLondon streets in his fine suit of blackhis ruffled shirt and hissilver-hilted sword. Peace lies concealed at Peckham beneath the homely disguiseof old Mr. Thompson. Sheppard is an impPeace a goblin. But both have that giftof personality whichin their own peculiar linelifts them out from the ruckand makes them Jack and Charley to those who like to know famous people bycheery nicknames.

And so we must accept Charles Peace as a remarkable characterwhoseunquestioned gifts as a man of action were squandered on a criminal career;neither better nor worse than a great number of other personswhose goodfortune it has been to develop similar qualities under happier surroundings.There are many more complete villains than the ordinary criminalwho contriveto go through life without offending against the law. Close and scientificinvestigation has shown that the average convicted criminal differsintellectually from the normal person only in a slightly lower level ofintelligencea condition that may well be explained by the fact that theconvicted criminal has been found out. Crime has been happily defined by arecent and most able investigator into the character of the criminal as "anunusual act committed by a perfectly normal person." "The EnglishConvict" a statistical studyby Charles GoringM.D. His Majesty'sStationery Office1913. At the same timeaccording to the same authoritythere is a type of normal person who tends to be convicted of crimeand he isdifferentiated from his fellows by defective physique and mental capacity and anincreased possession of antisocial qualities. Murderers -- at least thoseexecuted for their crimes -- have not for obvious reasons been made the subjectof close scientific observation. Their mental capacity would in all probabilitybe found to be rather higher than that of less ambitious criminals.

 

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How does Peace answer to the definition? Though short in staturehisphysical development left little to be desired: he was activeagileandenjoyed excellent health at all times. For a man of forty-seven he had agedremarkably in appearance. That is probably to be accounted for by mental worry.With two murders on his conscience we know from Sue Thompson that all she learntof his secrets was what escaped from him in his troubled dreams -- Peace maywell have shown traces of mental anxiety. But in all other respects CharlesPeace would seem to have been physically fit. In intellectual capacity he wasundoubtedly above the average of the ordinary criminal. The facts of his careerhis natural giftsspeak for themselves. Of anti-social proclivities he no doubtpossessed his share at the beginningand these were aggravatedas in mostcases they were in his dayby prison life and discipline.

Judged as scientifically as is possible where the human being is concernedPeace stands out physically and intellectually well above the average of hisclassperhaps the most naturally gifted of all those whowithout advantages ofrank or educationhave tried their hands at crime. Ordinary crime for the mostpart would appear to be little better than the last resort of the intellectuallydefectiveand a poor game at that. The only interesting criminals are thoseworthy of something better. Peace was one of these. If his life may be said topoint a moralit is the very simple one that crime is no career for a man ofbrains.


 

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The Career of Robert Butler


Note: There is a report of Butler's trial published in Dunedin. It gives in fullthe speeches and the cross-examination of the witnessesbut not in all casesthe evidence-in-chief. By the kindness of a friend in New Zealand I obtained acopy of the depositions taken before the magistrate; with this I have been ableto supplement the report of the trial. A collection of newspaper cuttingsfurnished me with the details of the rest of Butler's career.

The Career of Robert Butler


Note: There is a report of Butler's trial published in Dunedin. It gives in fullthe speeches and the cross-examination of the witnessesbut not in all casesthe evidence-in-chief. By the kindness of a friend in New Zealand I obtained acopy of the depositions taken before the magistrate; with this I have been ableto supplement the report of the trial. A collection of newspaper cuttingsfurnished me with the details of the rest of Butler's career.

The Career of Robert Butler
I. THE DUNEDIN MURDERS

ON the evening of March 231905Mr. William Mundaya highlyrespected citizen of the town of Tooringain Queenslandwas walking to theneighbouring town of Toowong to attend a masonic gathering. It was about eighto'clockthe moon shining brightly. Nearing ToowongMr. Munday saw amiddle-aged manbearded and wearing a white overcoatstep out into themoonlight from under the shadow of a tree. As Mr. Munday advancedthe man inthe white coat stood directly in his way. "Out with all you haveand quickabout it" he said. Instead of complying with this peremptory summonsMr.Munday attempted to close with him. The man drew back quicklywhipped out arevolverfiredand made off as fast as he could. The bulletafter passingthrough Mr. Munday's left armhad lodged in the stomach. The unfortunategentleman was taken to a neighbouring hospital wherewithin a few hourshe wasdead.

In the meantime a vigorous search was made for his

 

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assailant. Late the same night Constable Hennessyriding a bicyclesaw a manin a white coat who seemed to answer to the description of the assassin. Hedismountedwalked up to him and asked him for a match. The man put his handinside his coat. "What have you got there?" asked the constable."I'll -- soon show you" replied the man in the white coatproducingsuddenly a large revolver. But Hennessy was too quick for him. Landing him oneunder the jawhe sent him to the ground andafter a sharp strugglesecuredhim. Constable Hennessy little knew at the time that his capture in Queenslandof the man in the white coat was almost as notable in the annals of crime as theaffray at Blackheath on an autumn night in 1878when Constable Robinsongrappled successfullywounded as he waswith Charles Peace.

The man taken by Hennessy gave the name of James Whartonand as JamesWharton he was hanged at Brisbane. But before his death it was ascertainedbeyond doubtthough he never admitted it himselfthat Wharton was none otherthan one Robert Butlerwhose career as a criminal and natural wickedness maywell rank him with Charles Peace in the hierarchy of scoundrels. Like PeaceButler wasin the jargon of crimea "hatter" a "lonehand" a solitary who conceived and executed his nefarious designs alone;like Peacehe supplemented an insignificant physique by a liberal employment ofthe revolver; like Peacehe was something of a musicianthe day before hisexecution he played hymns for half an hour on the prison organ; like Peaceheknew when to whine when it suited his purpose; and like Peacethough not withthe same intensityhe could be an uncomfortably persistent loverwhen the fitwas on him. Both men were cynics in their way and viewed their fellow-men with ameasure of contempt. But here parallel ends. Butler

 

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was an intellectualinferior as a craftsman to Peacethe essentiallypracticalunreadnaturally gifted artist. Butler was a man of books. He hadbeen schoolmasterjournalist. He had studied the lives of great menand as acriminalhad devoted especial attention to those of Frederick the Great andNapoleon. Butler's defence in the Dunedin murder trial was a feat of skill quitebeyond the power of Peace. Peace was a religious man after the fashion of themediæval tyrantButler an infidel. Peacedragged into the light of a court ofjusticecut a sorry figure; here Butler shone. Peace escaped a conviction formurder by letting another suffer in his place; Butler escaped a similarexperience by the sheer ingenuity of his defence. Peace had the modesty andreticence of the sincere artist; Butler the loquacious vanity of the literary orforensic coxcomb. Lastlyand it is the supreme differenceButler was amurderer by instinct and convictionas Lacenaire or Ruloff; "a man'slife" he said"was of no more importance than a dog's; naturerespects the one no more than the othera volcanic eruption kills mice and menwith the one hand. The divine command`killkill and spare not' was intendednot only for Joshuabut for men of all time; it is the example of our rulersour Fredericks and Napoleons."

Butler was of the true Prussian mould. "In crime" he would say"as in warno half measures. Let us follow the example of our rulers whoseorders in war run`Killburn and sink' and what you cannot carry awaydestroy.'" Here is the gospel of frightfulness applied almost propheticallyto crime. To Butler murder is a principle of warfare; to Peace it was never morethan a desperate resort or an act the outcome of ungovernable passion.

Ireland can claim the honour of Butler's birth. It took place at Kilkennyabout 1845. At an early age he

 

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left his native land for Australiaand commenced his professional career bybeing sentenced under the name of James Wilson -- the same initials as those ofJames Wharton of Queensland -- to twelve months' imprisonment for vagrancy. Ofthe sixteen years he passed in Victoria he spent thirteen in prisonfirst forstealingthen in steady progression for highway robbery and burglary. Side byside with the practical and efficient education in crime furnished by theVictorian prisons of that dayButler availed himself of the opportunity toeducate his mind. It was during this period that he found inspiration andencouragement in the study of the lives of Frederick and Napoleonbesidesacquiring a knowledge of music and shorthand.

When in 1876 Butler quitted Australia for New Zealandhe was sufficientlyaccomplished to obtain employment as a schoolmaster.

At CromwellOtagounder the name of "C. J. DonellyEsq." Butleropened a "Commercial and Preparatory Academy" and in a prospectusthat recalls Mr. Squeers' famous advertisement of Dotheboys Hallannounced thatthe programme of the Academy would include "readingtaught as an art andupon the most approved principles of elocutionwritingarithmeticeuclidalgebramensurationtrigonometrybook-keepinggeographygrammarspellingand dictation) compositionlogic and debateFrenchLatinshorthandhistorymusicand general lectures on astronomynatural philosophygeologyand othersubjects." The simpler principles of these branches of learning were to be"rendered intelligibleand a firm foundation laid for the acquirement offuture knowledge." Unfortunately a suspicion of theft on Butler's part cutshort the fulfilment of this really splendid programmeand Butler left Cromwellhurriedly for the ampler field of Dunedin. Thereless than a fortnight

 

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after his arrivel{sic}he was sentenced to four years' hard labour for severalburglaries committed in and about that city.

On the 18th of February1880Butler was released from prison. With thatconsummate hypocrisy which was part of the manhe had contrived to enlist thesympathies of the Governor of the Dunedin Jailwho gave himon his departurea suit of clothes and a small sum of money. A detective of the name of Baintried to find him employment. Butler wished to adopt a literary career. He actedas a reporter on the Dunedin Evening Starand gave satisfaction to the editorof that newspaper. An attempt to do some original workin the shape of"Prison Sketches" for another newspaperwas less successful. Bainhad arranged for the publication of the articles in the Sunday Advertiserbutwhen the time came to deliver his manuscriptButler failed to appear. Bainwhose duty it was to keep an eye on Butlerfound him in the street looking wildand haggard. He said that he had found the work "too much for hishead" that he had torn up what he had writtenthat he had nowhere to goand had been to the end of the jetty with the intention of drowning himself.Bain replied somewhat caustically that he thought it a pity he had not done soas nothing would have given him greater joy than going to the end of the jettyand identifying his body. "You speak very plainly" said Butler."Yesand what is moreI mean what I say" replied Bain. Butlerjustified Bain's candour by saying that if he broke out againhe would be worsethan the most savage tiger ever let loose on the community. As a means ofobviating such an outbreakButler suggested thatintellectual employmenthaving failedsome form of manual labour should be found him. Bain compliedwith Butler's requestand got him a job at levelling reclaimed ground

 

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in the neighbourhood of Dunedin. On WednesdayMarch 10Butler started workbut after three hours of it relinquished the effort. Bain saw Butler again inDunedin on the evening of SaturdayMarch 13and made an appointment to meethim at half-past eight that night. Butler did not keep the appointment. Bainsearched the town for himbut he was nowhere to be found.

About the same time Butler had some talk with another member of the Dunedinpolice forceInspector Mallard. They discussed the crimes of Charles Peace andother notable artists of that kind. Butler remarked to Mallard how easy it wouldbe to destroy all traces of a murder by fireand asked the inspector whether ifhe woke up one morning to find some brutal murder had been committedhe wouldnot put it down to him. "NoButler" replied the inspector"thefirst thing I should do would be to look for suspicious circumstancesand mostundoubtedlyif they pointed to youyou would be looked after."

In the early morning of this SaturdayMarch 13the house of a Mr. Stampera solicitor of Dunedinhad been broken intoand some articles of valueamongthem a pair of opera glassesstolen. The house had been set on fireand burnedto the ground. On the morning of the following daySundaythe 14thDunedinwas horrified by the discovery of a far more terrible crimetigerish certainlyin its apparent ferocity. In a house in Cumberland Streeta young marriedcouple and their little baby were cruelly murdered and un{sic}{an??}unsuccessful attempt made to fire the scene of the crime.

About half-past six on Sunday morning a man of the name of Robba carpenteron getting out of bednoticed smoke coming from the house of a neighbor of hisMr. J. M. Dewarwho occupied a small one-floored cottage standing by itself inCumberland Streeta large and broad thoroughfare on the outskirts of the town.Dewar

 

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was a butcher by tradea young mansome eighteen months marriedand father ofa baby girl. Robbon seeing smoke coming from Dewar's housewoke his sonwhowas a member of the fire brigade. The latter got upcrossed the streetandgoing round to the back doorwhich he found wide openentered the house. As hewent along the passage that separated the two front roomsa bedroom andsitting-roomhe called to the inmates to get up. He received no answerbut ashe neared the bedroom he heard a "gurgling" sound. Crawling on hishands and knees he reached the bedroom doorand two feet inside it his righthand touched something. It was the body of a woman; she was still alivebut ina dying condition. Robb dragged her across the passage into the sitting-room. Hegot some waterand extinguished the fire in the bedroom. On the bed lay thebody of Dewar. To all appearances he had been killed in his sleep. By his sidewas the body of the babysuffocated by the smoke. Near the bed was an axebelonging to Dewarstained with blood. It was with this weaponapparentlythat Mr. and Mrs. Dewar had been attacked. Under the bed was a candlestickbelonging also to the Dewarswhich had been used by the murderer in settingfire to the bed. The front window of the sitting-room was openthere were marksof boot nails on the silland on the grass in front of the window a knife wasfound. An attempt had been made to ransack a chest of drawers in the bedroombut some articles of jewellery lying in one of the drawersand a ring on thedressing-table had been left untouched. As far as was knownMr. and Mrs. Dewarwere a perfectly happy and united couple. Dewar had been last seen alive aboutten o'clock on the Saturday night getting off a car near his home. At eleven aneighbour had noticed a light in the Dewars' house. About five o'clock on theSunday morning another neighbour

 

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had been aroused from his sleep by the sound as of something falling heavily. Itwas a wild and boisterous night. Thinking the noise might be the slamming of hisstable doorhe got up and went out to see that it was secure. He then noticedthat a light was burning in the bedroom window of the Dewars' cottage.

Nothing more was known of what had occurred that morning until at half-pastsix Robb saw the smoke coming from Dewars' house. Mrs. Dewarwho alone couldhave told somethingnever recovered consciousness and died on the day followingthe crime. Three considerable wounds sufficient to cause death had beeninflicted on the unfortunate woman's headand five of a similar character onthat of her husband. At the head of the bedwhich stood in the corner of theroomthere was a large smear of blood on the wall just above the door; therewere spots of blood all over the top of the bedand some smaller ones that hadto all appearances spurted on to the panel of the door nearest to the bed.

The investigation of this shocking crime was placed in the hands of DetectiveBainwhose duty it had been to keep an eye on Robert Butlerbut he did not atfirst associate his interesting charge with the commission of the murder. Abouthalf-past six on Sunday evening Bain happened to go to a place called the ScotiaHotelwhere the landlord informed him that one of his servantsa girl namedSarah Gillespiewas very anxious to see him. Her story was this: On the morningof ThursdayMarch 11Robert Butler had come to the hotel; he was wearing adark lavender check suit and carried a top coat and parcel. Butler had stayed inthe hotel all Thursday and slept there that night. He had not slept in the hotelon the Friday nightand Sarah Gillespie had not seen him again until he cameinto the house about five and twenty minutes to seven on Sunday morning. The

 

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girl noticed that he was pale and excitedseemed afraid and worriedas ifsomeone were coming after him. After giving her some money for the landlordhewent upstairsfetched his top coata mufflerand his parcel. Before leavinghe said he would have a pint of beeras he had not breakfasted. He then leftpresumably to catch an early train.

Butler was next seen a few minutes later at a shop near the hotelwhere hebought five tins of salmonand about the same time a milk-boy saw him standingon the kerb in Cumberland Street in a stooping positionhis head turned in thedirection of Dewars' house. A little after ten the same night Butler entered ahotel at a place called Blueskinsome twelve miles distant from Dunedin. He waswearing an overcoat and a light muffler. He sat down at a table in thedining-room and seemed weary and sleepy. Someone standing at the bar said"What a shocking murder that was in Cumberland Street!" Butler starteduplooked steadily from one to the other of the two men who happened to be inthe roomthen sat down again andtaking up a bookappeared to be reading.More than once he put down the book and kept shifting uneasily in his chair.After having some supper he got uppaid his reckoningand left the hotel.

At half-past three the following morningabout fifteen miles from Dunedinon the road to Waikouaititwo constables met a man whom they recognised asButler from a description that had been circulated by the police. The constablesarrested and searched him. They found on him a pair of opera glassestheproperty of Mr. Stamperwhose house had been burgled and burned down on themorning of the 13th. Of this crime Butler acknowledged himself to be theperpetrator. Besides the opera glasses the constables took from Butler two tinsof salmona purse containing four shillings and sixpencea pocket

 

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knifea box of matchesa piece of candleand a revolver and cartridges. Theprisoner was carrying a top coatand was dressed in a dark coat and greytrousersunderneath which he was wearing a white shirtan under flannel and aRob Roy Crimean shirt. One of the constables noticed that there were marks ofblood on his shirt. Another singular feature in Butler's attire was the factthat the outer soles of his boots had been recently removed. When last seen inDunedin Butler had been wearing a moustache; he was now clean shaven.

The same evening a remarkable interview took place in the lock-up atWaikouaiti between Butler and Inspector Mallard. Mallardwho had some reasonfor suspecting Butlerbearing in mind their recent conversationtold theprisoner that he would be charged with the murder in Cumberland Street. For afew secondsaccording to Mallardthe prisoner seemed terribly agitated andappeared to be choking. Recovering himself somewhathe said"If for thatyou can get no evidence against me; and if I am hanged for itI shall be aninnocent manwhatever other crimes I may have committed." Mallard replied"There is evidence to convict you -- the fire was put out." Butlerthan{sic} said that he would ask Mallard a questionbutafter a pausedecidednot to do so. Mallardafter examining Butler's clothestold him that thosewere not the clothes in which he had left the Scotia Hotel. Butler admitted itand said he had thrown those away in the North East Valley. Mallard alluded tothe disappearance of the prisoner's moustache. Butler replied that he had cut itoff on the road. Mallard noticed then the backs of Butler's hands werescratchedas if by contact with bushes. Butler seemed often on the point ofasking questionsbut would then stop and say "NoI won't ask youanything." To the constables who had arrested him Butler remarked"You ought to

 

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remember mebecause I could have shot you if I had wished." When Mallardlater in the evening visited Butler againthe prisoner who was then lying downsaid"I want to speak to you. I want to ask the press not to publish mycareer. Give me fair play. I suppose I shall be convicted and you will see I candie like a man."

A few days after Butler's arrest a ranger on the Town Belta hilloverlooking Dunedinfound a coata hat and silk striped cravatand a few dayslater a pair of trousers folded up and placed under a bush. These articles ofclothing were identified as those which Butler had been seen wearing on theSaturday and Sunday morning. They were examined. There were a number ofbloodstains on themnot one of them larger in size than a peasome almostinvisible. On the front of the trousers about the level of the groin there wereblood spots on both sides. There was blood on the fold of the left breast of thecoat and on the lining of the cuff of the right arm. The shirt Butler waswearing at the time of his arrest was examined also. There were small spots ofbloodabout fourteen altogetheron the neck and shoulder bandsthe rightarmpitthe left sleeveand on both wristbands. Besides the clothesa salmontin was found on the Town Beltand behind a seat in the Botanical Gardensfromwhich a partial view of the Dewars' house in Cumberland Street could beobtainedtwo more salmon tins were foundall three similar to the fivepurchased by Butler on the Sunday morningtwo of which had been in hispossession at the time of his arrest.

Such were the main facts of the case which Butler had to answer whena fewweeks laterhe was put on his trial before the Supreme Court at Dunedin. Thepresiding judge was Mr. Justice Williamsafterwards Sir Joshua Williams and amember of the Privy Council.

 

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The Crown ProsecutorMr. Haggittconducted the case for the Crownand Butlerdefended himself.

 

II. THE TRIAL OF BUTLER

To a man of Butler's egregious vanity his trial was a gloriousopportunity for displaying his intellectual giftssuch as they were. One whohad known him in prison about this time describes him as a strange compound ofvanity and envyblind to his own faults and envious of the material advantagesenjoyed by others. Self-willed and arroganthe could bully or whine with equaleffect. Despising menhe believed that if a man did not possess some requisitequalityhe had only to ape itas few would distinguish between the real andthe sham.

But with all these advantages in the struggle for lifeit is certain thatButler's defence would have been far less effective had be{sic} been denied allprofessional aid. As a matter of factthroughout his trial Butler was beingadvised by three distinguished members of the New Zealand barnow judges of theSupreme Courtwho though not appearing for him in courtgave him the fullbenefit of their assistance outside it. At the same time Butler carried off thething well. Where imagination was requiredButler broke down; he could notwrite sketches of life in prison; that was too much for his pedestrianintellect. But given the facts of a casedealing with a transaction of which healone knew the real truthand aided by the advice and guidance of trainedintellectsButler was unquestionably clever and shrewd enough to make the bestuse of such advantages in meeting the case against him.

 

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Thus equipped for the coming strugglethis high-browed ruffianwith hissemi-intellectual cast of countenancehis jerky restless posturinghissplay-footed waddle"like a lame Muscovy duck" in the graphic wordsof his gaol companionstood up to plead for his life before the Supreme Courtat Dunedin.

It may be said at the outset that Butler profited greatly by the scrupulousfairness shown by the Crown Prosecutor. Mr. Haggitt extended to the prisoner adegree of consideration and forbearancejustified undoubtedly towards anundefended prisoner. Butas we have seenButler was not in reality undefended.At every moment of the trial he was in communication with his legal advisersand being instructed by them how to meet the evidence given against him. Underthese circumstances the unfailing consideration shown him by the CrownProsecutor seems almost excessive. From the first moment of the trial Butler wasfully alive to the necessities of his situation. He refrained from including inhis challenges of the jury the gentleman who was afterwards foreman; he knew hewas all righthe saidbecause he parted his hair in the middlea"softy" in fact. He did not know in all probability that onegentleman on the jury had a rooted conviction that the murder of the Dewars wasthe work of a criminal lunatic. There was certainly nothing in Butler'sdemeanour or behaviour to suggest homicidal mania.

The case against Butler rested on purely circumstantial evidence. No newfacts of importance were adduced at the trial. The stealing of Dewar's wageswhich had been paid to him on the Saturdaywas the motive for the murdersuggested by the Crown. The chief facts pointing to Butler's guilt were: hisconversation with Mallard and Bain previous to the crime; his demeanour afterit; his departure from Dunedin; the removal of his moustache

 

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and the soles of his boots; his change of clothes and the bloodstains found uponthemadded to which was his apparent inability to account for his movements onthe night in question.

Such as the evidence wasButler did little to shake it in cross-examination.His questions were many of them skilful and pointedbut on more than oneoccasion the judge intervened to save him from the danger common to all amateurcross-examinersof not knowing when to stop. He was most successful in dealingwith the medical witnesses. Butler had explained the bloodstains on his clothesas smears that had come from scratches on his handscaused by contact withbushes. This explanation the medical gentlemen with good reason rejected. Butthey went furtherand said that these stains might well have been caused by thespurting and spraying of blood on to the murderer as he struck his victims.Butler was able to show by the position of the bloodstains on the clothes thatsuch an explanation was open to considerable doubt.

Butler's speech in his defence lasted six hoursand was a creditableperformance. Its arrangement is somewhat confused and repetitioussome pointsare over-elaboratedbut on the whole he deals very successfully with most ofthe evidence given against him and exposes the unquestionable weakness of theCrown case. At the outset he declared that he had taken his innocence for hisdefence. "I was not willing" he said"to leave my life in thehands of a stranger. I was willing to incur all the disadvantages which theknowledge of the law might bring upon me. I was willingalsoto enter on thiscase without any experience whatever of that peculiarly acquired art ofcross-examination. I fear I have done wrong. If I had had the assistance of ablecounselmuch more light would have been thrown on this

 

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case than has been." As we have seenButler enjoyed throughout his trialthe informal assistance of three of the most able counsel in New Zealandsothat this heroic attitude of conscious innocence braving all dangers loses mostof its force. Without such assistance his danger might have been very real.

A great deal of the evidence as to his conduct and demeanour at the time ofthe murder Butler met by acknowledging that it was he who had broken into Mr.Stamper's house on the Saturday morningburgled it and set it on fire. Hisconsciousness of guilt in this respect washe saidquite sufficient to accountfor anything strange or furtive in his manner at that time. He was already knownto the police; meeting Bain on the Saturday nighthe felt more than ever surethat he was susspected{sic} of the robbery at Mr. Stamper's; he thereforedecided to leave Dunedin as soon as possible. That nighthe saidhe spentwandering about the streets half drunktaking occasional shelter from thepouring rainuntil six o'clock on the Sunday morningwhen he went to theScotia Hotel. A more detailed account of his movements on the night of theDewars' murder he did notor would notgive.

When he comes to the facts of the murder and his theories as to the natureand motive of the crime -- theories which he developed at rather unnecessarylength for the purpose of his own defence -- his speech is interesting. It willbe recollected that on the discovery of the murdera knife was found on thegrass outside the house. This knife was not the property of the Dewars. InButler's speech he emphasised the opinion that this knife had been brought thereby the murderer: "Horrible though it may bemy conclusion is that hebrought it with the intention of cutting the throats of his victimsand thatfinding they lay in rather an untoward position

 

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he changed his mindandhaving carried out the object with which he enteredthe houseleft the knife andgoing backbrought the axe with which heeffected his purpose. What was the purpose of the murderer? Was it the robberyof Dewar's paltry wages? Was it the act of a tiger broken loose on thecommunity? An act of pure wanton devilry? or was there some more reasonableexplanation of this most atrocious crime?"

Butler rejected altogether the theory of ordinary theft. No thief ofambitious viewshe saidwould pitch upon the house of a poor journeymanbutcher. The killing of the family appeared to him to be the motive: "anenemy hath done this." The murderer seems to have had a knowledge of thepremises; he enters the house and does his work swiftly and promptlyand isgone. "We cannot know" Butler continues"all the passages inthe lives of the murdered man or woman. What can we know of the hundred spitesand jealousies or other causes of malice which might have caused the crime? Ifyou say some obscure quarrelsome spite or jealousy is not likely to have beenthe cause of so dreadful a murderyou cannot revert to the robbery theorywithout admitting a motive much weaker in all its utter needlessness andvagueness. The prominent feature of the murderindeed the only featureis itsruthlessunrelentingdetermined vindictiveness. Every blow seemed to say`Youshall die you shall not live.'"

Whether Butler were the murderer of the Dewars or notthe theory thatrepresented them as having been killed for the purpose of robbery has its weakside all the weaker if Butlera practical and ambitious criminalwere theguilty man.

In 1882two years after Butler's trialthere appeared in a New ZealandnewspaperSocietypublished in Christchurcha series of Prison"Portraits" written evidently

 

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by one who had himself undergone a term of imprisonment. One of the"Portraits" was devoted to an account of Butler. The writer had knownButler in prison. According to the story told him by Butlerthe latter hadarrived in Dunedin with a quantity of jewellery he had stolen in Australia. Thisjewellery he en-trusted to a young woman for safe keeping. After serving hisfirst term of two years' imprisonment in DunedinButler found on his releasethat the young woman had married a man of the name of Dewar. Butler went to Mrs.Dewar and asked for the return of his jewellery; she refused to give it up. Onthe night of the murder he called at the house in Cumberland Street and made alast appeal to herbut in vain. He determined on revenge. During his visit toMrs. Dewar he had had an opportunity of seeing the axe and observing the bestway to break into the house. He watched the husband's returnand decided tokill him as well as his wife on the chance of obtaining his week's wages. Withthe help of the knife which he had found in the backyard of a hotel he openedthe window. The husband he killed in his sleepthe woman waked with the firstblow he struck her. He found the jewellery in a drawer rolled up in a pair ofstockings. He afterwards hid it in a well-marked spot some half-hour before hisarrest.

A few years after its appearance in Societythis account of Butler wasreproduced in an Auckland newspaper. Bainthe detectivewrote a letterquestioning the truth of the writer's statements. He pointed out that whenButler first came to Dunedin he had been at liberty only a fortnight beforeserving his first term of imprisonmentvery little time in which to make theacquaintance of a woman and dispose of the stolen jewellery. He asked whyifButler had hidden the jewellery just before his arresthe had not also hiddenthe opera-glasses which

 

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he had stolen from Mr. Stamper's house. Neither of these comments is veryconvincing. A fortnight seems time enough in which a man of Butler's charactermight get to know a woman and dispose of some jewellery; whileif Butler werethe murderer of Mr. Dewar as well as the burglar who had broken into Stamper'shouseit was part of his plan to acknowledge himself guilty of the latter crimeand use it to justify his movements before and after the murder. Bain is moreconvincing when he states at the conclusion of his letter that he had known Mrs.Dewar from childhood as a "thoroughly good and true woman" whoasfar as he knewhad never in her life had any acquaintance with Butler.

At the same timethe account given by Butler's fellow -- prisonerin whichthe conduct of the murdered woman is represented as constituting the provocationfor the subsequent crimeexplains one peculiar circumstance in connection withthe tragedythe selection of this journeyman butcher and his wife as thevictims of the murderer. It explains the theoryurged so persistently by Butlerin his speech to the jurythat the crime was the work of an enemy of theDewarsthe outcome of some hidden spiteor obscure quarrel; it explains theapparent ferocity of the murderand the improbability of a practical thiefselecting such an unprofitable couple as his prey. The rummaged chest of drawersand the fact that some trifling articles of jewellery were left untouched on thetop of themare consistent with an eager search by the murderer for someparticular object. Against this theory of revenge is the fact that Butler was amalignant ruffian and liar in any casethathaving realised very little incash by the burglary at Stamper's househe would not be particular as to wherehe might get a few shillings morethat he had threatened to do a tigerish deedand that it is characteristic of his vanity to try to

 

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impute to his crime a higher motive than mere greed or necessity.

Butler showed himself not averse to speaking of the murder in CumberlandStreet to at least one of thosewith whom he came in contact in his lateryears. After he had left New Zealand and returned to Australiahe was walkingin a street in Melbourne with a friend when they passed a lady dressed in blackcarrying a baby in her arms. The baby looked at the two men and laughed. Butlerfrowned and walked rapidly away. His companion chaffed himand asked whether itwas the widow or the baby that he was afraid of. Butler was silentbut after atime asked his companion to come into some gardens and sit down on one of theseatsas he had something serious to say to him. For a while Butler sat silent.Then he asked the other if he had ever been in Dunedin. "Yes" was thereply. "Look here" said Butler"you are the only man I evermade any kind of confidant of. You are a good scholarthough I could teach youa lot." After this gracious compliment he went on: "I was once triedin Dunedin on the charge of killing a manwoman and childand althoughinnocentthe crime was nearly brought home to me. It was my own ability thatpulled me through. Had I employed a professional advocateI should not havebeen here to-day talking to you." After describing the murderButler said:"Trying to fire the house was unnecessaryand killing the baby wasunnecessary and cruel. I respect no man's lifefor no man respects mine. A lotof men I have never injured have tried to put a rope round my neck more thanonce. I hate society in generaland one or two individuals in particular. Theman who did that murder in Dunedin hasif anythingmy sympathybut it seemsto me he need not have killed that child." His companion was about tospeak. Butler stopped him.

 

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"Nowdon't ever ask me such a silly question as that" he said."What?" asked his friend. "You were about to ask me if I did thatdeed" replied Butler"and you know perfectly well thatguilty orinnocentthat question would only be answered in one way." "I wasabout to ask nothing of the kind" said the other"for you havealready told me that you were innocent." "Good!" said Butler"then let that be the end of the subjectand never refer to it againexceptperhapsin your own mindwhen you canif you likeremember that Isaid the killing of the child was unnecessary and cruel."

Having developed to the jury his theory of why the crime was committedButler told them thatas far as he was concernedthere were four pointsagainst him on which the Crown relied to prove his guilt. Firstlythere was thefact of his being in the neighbourhood of the crime on the Sunday morning; thathe saidapplied to scores of other people besides himself. Then there was hisalleged disturbed appearance and guilty demeanour. The evidence of that washecontendeddoubtful in any caseand referable to another cause; as also hisleaving Dunedin in the way and at the time he did. He scouted the idea thatmurderers are compelled by some invisible force to betray their guilt. "Thedoings of men" he urged"and their success are regulated by theamount of judgment that they possessandwithout impugning or denying theexistence of ProvidenceI say this is a law that holds good in all caseswhether for evil or good. Murderersif they have the sense and ability anddiscretion to cover up their crimewill escapedo escapeand have escaped.Many peoplewhen they have gravely shaken their heads and said `Murder willout' consider they have done a great deal and gone a long way towards settlingthe question. Wellthislike many other stock formulas of Old World wisdom

 

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is not true. How many murders are there that the world has never heard ofandnever will? How many a murdered manfor instancelies among the gum-trees ofVictoriaor in the old abandoned mining-shafts on the diggingswho is missedby nobodyperhapsbut a pining wife at homeor helpless childrenor an oldmother? But who were their murderers? Where are they? God knowsperhapsbutnobody elseand nobody ever will." The facthe saidthat he was allegedto have walked up Cumberland Street on the Sunday morning and looked in thedirection of the Dewars' house wasunless the causes of superstition and avague and incomplete reasoning were to be accepted as proofevidence rather ofhis innocence than his guilt. He had removed the soles of his bootshe saidinorder to ease his feet in walking; the outer soles had become worn and raggedand in lumps under his feet. He denied that he had told Bainthe detectivethat he would break out as a desperate tiger let loose on the community; what hehad said was that he was tired of living the life of a prairie dog or a tiger inthe jungle.

Butler was more successful when he came to deal with the bloodstains on hisclothes. Thesehe saidwere caused by the blood from the scratches on hishandswhich had been observed at the time of his arrest. The doctors hadrejected this theoryand said that the spots of blood had been impelled fromthe axe or from the heads of the victims as the murderer struck the fatal blow.Butler put on the clothes in courtand was successful in showing that theposition and appearance of certain of the blood spots was not compatible withsuch a theory. "I think" he said"I am fairly warranted insaying that the evidence of these gentlemen isnot to put too fine a point onitworth just nothing at all."

Butler's concluding words to the jury were brief but

 

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emphatic: "I stand in a terrible position. So do you. See that in your wayof disposing of me you deliver yourselves of your responsibilities."

In the exercise of his forbearance towards an undefended prisonerMr.Haggitt did not address the jury for the Crown. At four o'clock the judgecommenced his summingÄup. Mr. Justice Williams impressed on the jury that theymust be satisfiedbefore they could convict the prisonerthat thecircumstances of the crime and the prisoner's conduct were inconsistent with anyother reasonable hypothesis than his guilt. There was little or no evidence thatrobbery was the motive of the crime. The circumstance of the prisoner being outall Saturday night and in the neighbourhood of the crime on Sunday morning onlyamounted to the fact that he had an opportunity shared by a great number ofother persons of committing the murder. The evidence of his agitation anddemeanour at the time of his arrest must be accepted with caution. The evidenceof the blood spots was of crucial importance; there was nothing save this toconnect him directly with the crime. The jury must be satisfied that the bloodon the clothes corresponded with the blood marks whichin all probabilitywould be found on the person who committed the murder. In regard to the medicaltestimony some caution must be exercised. Where medical gentlemen had madeobservationsseen with their own eyesthe direct inference might be highlytrustworthybutwhen they proceeded to draw further inferencesthey might bein danger of looking at facts through the spectacles of theory; "we knowthat people do that in other things besides science -- politicsreligionandso forth." Taking the Crown evidenceat its strongestthere was a missinglink; did the evidence of the bloodstains supply it? These bloodstains werealmost invisible. Could a person be reasonably asked to ex

 

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lain how they came where they did? Could they be accounted for in no otherreasonable way than that the clothes had been worn by the murderer of theDewars?

In spite of a summing-up distinctly favourable to the prisonerthe jury wereout three hours. According to one account of their proceedingstold to thewriterthere was at first a majority of the jurymen in favour of conviction.But it was Saturday night; if they could not come to a decision they were indanger of being locked up over Sunday. For this reason the gentleman who held anobstinate and unshaken belief that the crime was the work of a homicidal maniacfound an unexpected ally in a prominent member of a church choir who was down tosing a solo in his church on Sundayand was anxious not to lose such anopportunity for distinction. Whatever the causeafter three hours' deliberationthe jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty."

Later in the Session Butler pleaded guilty to the burglary at Mr. Stamper'shouseand was sentenced to eighteen years' imprisonment. The severity of thissentence was notthe judge saidintended to mark the strong suspicion underwhich Butler laboured of being a murderer as well as a burglar.

The ends of justice had been served by Butler's acquittal. But in the lightof after eventsit is perhaps unfortunate that the jury did not stretch a pointand so save the life of Mr. Munday of Toowong. Butler underwent his term ofimprisonment in Littleton Jail. There his reputation was most unenviable. He isdescribed by a fellow prisoner as ill-temperedmaliciousdestructivebutcowardly and treacherous. He seems to have done little or no work; he lookedafter the choir and the librarybut was not above breaking up the one andsmashing the otherif the fit seized him.


 

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III. HIS DECLINE AND FALL

IN 1896 Butler was released from prison. The news of hisrelease was described as falling like a bomb-shell among the peacefulinhabitants of Dunedin. In the colony of Victoriawhere Butler had commencedhis careerit was received with an apprehension that was justified bysubsequent events. It was believed that on his release the New Zealandauthorities had shipped Butler off to Rio. But it was not long before he madehis way once more to Australia. From the moment of his arrival in Melbourne hewas shadowed by the police. One or two mysterious occurrences soon led to hisarrest. On June 5 he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment under theCriminal Influx Actwhich makes it a penal offence for any convict to enterVictoria for three years after his release from prison. Not content with thisthe authorities determined to put Butler on trial on two charges of burglary andone of highway robberycommitted since his return to the colony. To one chargeof burglarythat of breaking into a hairdresser's shop and stealing a wigsomerazors and a little moneyButler pleaded guilty.

But the charge of highway robberywhich bore a singular resemblance to thefinal catastrophe in Queenslandhe resisted to the utmostand showed that hisexperience in the Supreme Court at Dunedin had not been lost on him. Athalf-past six one evening in a suburb of Melbourne an elderly gentleman foundhimself confronted by a bearded manwearing a long overcoat and a boxer hat andflourishing a revolverwho told him abruptly to "turn out hispockets." The old man did as

 

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he was told. The robber then asked for his watch and chainsaying"Business must be done." The old gentleman mildly urged that this wasa dangerous business. On being assured that the watch was a gold onethe robberappeared willing to risk the dangerand departed thoroughly satisfied. The oldgentleman afterwards identified Butler as the man who had taken his watch.Another elderly man swore that he had seen Butler at the time of the robbery inthe possession of a fine gold watchwhich he said had been sent him from home.But the watch had not been found in Butler's possession.

On June 18 Butler was put on his trial in the Melbourne Criminal Court beforeMr. Justice Holroydcharged with robbery under arms. His appearance in the dockaroused very considerable interest. "It was the general verdict"wrote one newspaper"that his intellectual head and forehead compared notunfavour-ably with those of the judge." He was decently dressed and worepince-nezwhich he used in the best professional manner as he referred to thevarious documents that lay in front of him. He went into the witness-box andstated that the evening of the crime he had spent according to his custom in thePublic Library. For an hour and a half he addressed the jury. He disputed thepossibility of his identification by his alleged victim. He was "an oldgentleman of sedentary pursuits and not cast in the heroic mould." Such aman would be naturally alarmed and confused at meeting suddenly an armed robber.Nowunder these circumstancescould his recognition of a man whose face washidden by a beardhis head by a boxer hatand his body by a long overcoatbeconsidered trustworthy? And such recognition occurring in the course of a chanceencounter in the darknessthat fruitful mother of error? The

 

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elderly gentleman had described his moustache as a slight onebut the jurycould see that it was full and overhanging. He complained that he had been putup for identification singlynot with other menaccording to the usual custom;the police had said to the prosecutor: "We have here a man that we thinkrobbed youandif he is not the manwe shall be disappointed" to whichthe prosecutor had replied: "Yesand if he is not the manI shall bedisappointed too." For the elderly person who had stated that he had seen agold watch in Butler's possession the latter had nothing but scorn. He was a"lean and slippered pantaloon in Shakespeare's last stage"; and heButlerwould have been a lunatic to have confided in such a man.

The jury acquitted Butleradding as a rider to their verdict that there wasnot sufficient evidence of identification. The third charge against Butler wasnot proceeded with. He was put up to receive sentence for the burglary at thehairdresser's shop. Butler handed to the judge a written statement which Mr.Justice Holroyd described as a narrative that might have been taken from thosesensational newspapers written for nursery-maidsand from whichhe saidhecould not find that Butler had ever done one good thing in the whole course ofhis life. Of that life of fifty years Butler had spent thirty-five in prison.The judge expressed his regret that a man of Butler's knowledgeinformationvanityand utter recklessness of what evil will docould not be put awaysomewhere for the rest of his lifeand sentenced him to fifteen years'imprisonment with hard labour. "An iniquitous and brutal sentence!"exclaimed the prisoner. After a brief altercation with the judgewho said thathe could hardly express the scorn he felt for such a manButler was removed.The judge subsequently

 

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reduced the sentence to one of ten years. Chance or destiny would seemimplacable in their pursuit of Mr. William Munday of Toowong.

Butler after his trial admitted that it was he who had robbed the oldgentleman of his watchand described to the police the house in which it washidden. When the police went there to search they found that the house had beenpulled downbut among the debris they discovered a brown paper parcelcontaining the old gentleman's gold watch and chaina five-chambered revolvera keen-edged butcher's knifeand a mask.

Butler served his term of imprisonment in Victoria"an unmitigatednuisance" to his custodians. On his release in 1904he madeas inDunedinan attempt to earn a living by his pen. He contributed some articles toa Melbourne evening paper on the inconveniences of prison disciplinebut he wasquite unfitted for any sustained effort as a journalist. According to his ownaccountwith the little money he had left he made his way to Sydneythence toBrisbane. He was half-starvedbewildereddespairing; in his own words"if a psychological camera could have been turned on me it would have shownme like a bird fascinated by a serpentfascinated and bewildered by the fate infrontbehindand around me." Months of suffering and privation passedmonths of tramping hundreds of miles with occasional breakdownsmonths ofhunger and sickness; "my actions had become those of a fool; my mind andwill had become a remnant guided or misguided by unreasoning impulse."

It was under the influence of such an impulse that on March 23 Butler had metand shot Mr. Munday at Toowong. On May 24 he was arraigned at Brisbane beforethe Supreme Court of Queensland. But the Butler

 

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who stood in the dock of the Brisbane Criminal Court was very different from theButler who had successfully defended himself at Dunedin and Melbourne. Thespirit had gone out of him; it was rather as a suppliantrepresented bycounselthat he faced the charge of murder. His attitude was one of humble andappropriate penitence. In a weak and nervous voice he told the story of hishardships since his release from his Victorian prison; he would only urge thatthe shooting of Mr. Munday was accidentalcaused by Munday picking up a stoneand attacking him. When about to be sentenced to death he expressed great sorrowand contrition for his crimefor the poor wife and children of his unfortunatevictim. His lifehe saidwas a poor thingbut he would gladly give it fiftytimes over.

The sentence of death was confirmed by the Executive on June 30. To aFreethought advocate who visited him shortly before his executionButler wrotea final confession of faith: "I shall have to find my way across theharbour bar without the aid of any pilot. In these matters I have for many yearscarried an exempt flagandas it has not been carried through caprice origno-ranceI am compelled to carry it to the last. There is an impassable barof what I honestly believe to be the inexorable logic of philosophy and factshistory and experience of the nature of the worldthe human race and myselfbetween me and the views of the communion of any religious organisation. Soinstead of the `depart Christian soul' of the priestI only hope for thecomfort and satisfaction of the last friendly good-bye of any who cares to giveit."

From this positive affirmation of unbelief Butler wilted somewhat at theapproach of death. The day before his execution he spent half an hour playinghymns on

 

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the church organ in the prison; and on the scaffoldwhere his agitationrendered him almost speechlesshe expressed his sorrow for what he had doneand the hope thatif there were a heavenmercy would be shown him.

The Career of Robert Butler
I. THE DUNEDIN MURDERS

ON the evening of March 231905Mr. William Mundaya highlyrespected citizen of the town of Tooringain Queenslandwas walking to theneighbouring town of Toowong to attend a masonic gathering. It was about eighto'clockthe moon shining brightly. Nearing ToowongMr. Munday saw amiddle-aged manbearded and wearing a white overcoatstep out into themoonlight from under the shadow of a tree. As Mr. Munday advancedthe man inthe white coat stood directly in his way. "Out with all you haveand quickabout it" he said. Instead of complying with this peremptory summonsMr.Munday attempted to close with him. The man drew back quicklywhipped out arevolverfiredand made off as fast as he could. The bulletafter passingthrough Mr. Munday's left armhad lodged in the stomach. The unfortunategentleman was taken to a neighbouring hospital wherewithin a few hourshe wasdead.

In the meantime a vigorous search was made for his

 

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assailant. Late the same night Constable Hennessyriding a bicyclesaw a manin a white coat who seemed to answer to the description of the assassin. Hedismountedwalked up to him and asked him for a match. The man put his handinside his coat. "What have you got there?" asked the constable."I'll -- soon show you" replied the man in the white coatproducingsuddenly a large revolver. But Hennessy was too quick for him. Landing him oneunder the jawhe sent him to the ground andafter a sharp strugglesecuredhim. Constable Hennessy little knew at the time that his capture in Queenslandof the man in the white coat was almost as notable in the annals of crime as theaffray at Blackheath on an autumn night in 1878when Constable Robinsongrappled successfullywounded as he waswith Charles Peace.

The man taken by Hennessy gave the name of James Whartonand as JamesWharton he was hanged at Brisbane. But before his death it was ascertainedbeyond doubtthough he never admitted it himselfthat Wharton was none otherthan one Robert Butlerwhose career as a criminal and natural wickedness maywell rank him with Charles Peace in the hierarchy of scoundrels. Like PeaceButler wasin the jargon of crimea "hatter" a "lonehand" a solitary who conceived and executed his nefarious designs alone;like Peacehe supplemented an insignificant physique by a liberal employment ofthe revolver; like Peacehe was something of a musicianthe day before hisexecution he played hymns for half an hour on the prison organ; like Peaceheknew when to whine when it suited his purpose; and like Peacethough not withthe same intensityhe could be an uncomfortably persistent loverwhen the fitwas on him. Both men were cynics in their way and viewed their fellow-men with ameasure of contempt. But here parallel ends. Butler

 

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was an intellectualinferior as a craftsman to Peacethe essentiallypracticalunreadnaturally gifted artist. Butler was a man of books. He hadbeen schoolmasterjournalist. He had studied the lives of great menand as acriminalhad devoted especial attention to those of Frederick the Great andNapoleon. Butler's defence in the Dunedin murder trial was a feat of skill quitebeyond the power of Peace. Peace was a religious man after the fashion of themediæval tyrantButler an infidel. Peacedragged into the light of a court ofjusticecut a sorry figure; here Butler shone. Peace escaped a conviction formurder by letting another suffer in his place; Butler escaped a similarexperience by the sheer ingenuity of his defence. Peace had the modesty andreticence of the sincere artist; Butler the loquacious vanity of the literary orforensic coxcomb. Lastlyand it is the supreme differenceButler was amurderer by instinct and convictionas Lacenaire or Ruloff; "a man'slife" he said"was of no more importance than a dog's; naturerespects the one no more than the othera volcanic eruption kills mice and menwith the one hand. The divine command`killkill and spare not' was intendednot only for Joshuabut for men of all time; it is the example of our rulersour Fredericks and Napoleons."

Butler was of the true Prussian mould. "In crime" he would say"as in warno half measures. Let us follow the example of our rulers whoseorders in war run`Killburn and sink' and what you cannot carry awaydestroy.'" Here is the gospel of frightfulness applied almost propheticallyto crime. To Butler murder is a principle of warfare; to Peace it was never morethan a desperate resort or an act the outcome of ungovernable passion.

Ireland can claim the honour of Butler's birth. It took place at Kilkennyabout 1845. At an early age he

 

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left his native land for Australiaand commenced his professional career bybeing sentenced under the name of James Wilson -- the same initials as those ofJames Wharton of Queensland -- to twelve months' imprisonment for vagrancy. Ofthe sixteen years he passed in Victoria he spent thirteen in prisonfirst forstealingthen in steady progression for highway robbery and burglary. Side byside with the practical and efficient education in crime furnished by theVictorian prisons of that dayButler availed himself of the opportunity toeducate his mind. It was during this period that he found inspiration andencouragement in the study of the lives of Frederick and Napoleonbesidesacquiring a knowledge of music and shorthand.

When in 1876 Butler quitted Australia for New Zealandhe was sufficientlyaccomplished to obtain employment as a schoolmaster.

At CromwellOtagounder the name of "C. J. DonellyEsq." Butleropened a "Commercial and Preparatory Academy" and in a prospectusthat recalls Mr. Squeers' famous advertisement of Dotheboys Hallannounced thatthe programme of the Academy would include "readingtaught as an art andupon the most approved principles of elocutionwritingarithmeticeuclidalgebramensurationtrigonometrybook-keepinggeographygrammarspellingand dictation) compositionlogic and debateFrenchLatinshorthandhistorymusicand general lectures on astronomynatural philosophygeologyand othersubjects." The simpler principles of these branches of learning were to be"rendered intelligibleand a firm foundation laid for the acquirement offuture knowledge." Unfortunately a suspicion of theft on Butler's part cutshort the fulfilment of this really splendid programmeand Butler left Cromwellhurriedly for the ampler field of Dunedin. Thereless than a fortnight

 

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after his arrivel{sic}he was sentenced to four years' hard labour for severalburglaries committed in and about that city.

On the 18th of February1880Butler was released from prison. With thatconsummate hypocrisy which was part of the manhe had contrived to enlist thesympathies of the Governor of the Dunedin Jailwho gave himon his departurea suit of clothes and a small sum of money. A detective of the name of Baintried to find him employment. Butler wished to adopt a literary career. He actedas a reporter on the Dunedin Evening Starand gave satisfaction to the editorof that newspaper. An attempt to do some original workin the shape of"Prison Sketches" for another newspaperwas less successful. Bainhad arranged for the publication of the articles in the Sunday Advertiserbutwhen the time came to deliver his manuscriptButler failed to appear. Bainwhose duty it was to keep an eye on Butlerfound him in the street looking wildand haggard. He said that he had found the work "too much for hishead" that he had torn up what he had writtenthat he had nowhere to goand had been to the end of the jetty with the intention of drowning himself.Bain replied somewhat caustically that he thought it a pity he had not done soas nothing would have given him greater joy than going to the end of the jettyand identifying his body. "You speak very plainly" said Butler."Yesand what is moreI mean what I say" replied Bain. Butlerjustified Bain's candour by saying that if he broke out againhe would be worsethan the most savage tiger ever let loose on the community. As a means ofobviating such an outbreakButler suggested thatintellectual employmenthaving failedsome form of manual labour should be found him. Bain compliedwith Butler's requestand got him a job at levelling reclaimed ground

 

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in the neighbourhood of Dunedin. On WednesdayMarch 10Butler started workbut after three hours of it relinquished the effort. Bain saw Butler again inDunedin on the evening of SaturdayMarch 13and made an appointment to meethim at half-past eight that night. Butler did not keep the appointment. Bainsearched the town for himbut he was nowhere to be found.

About the same time Butler had some talk with another member of the Dunedinpolice forceInspector Mallard. They discussed the crimes of Charles Peace andother notable artists of that kind. Butler remarked to Mallard how easy it wouldbe to destroy all traces of a murder by fireand asked the inspector whether ifhe woke up one morning to find some brutal murder had been committedhe wouldnot put it down to him. "NoButler" replied the inspector"thefirst thing I should do would be to look for suspicious circumstancesand mostundoubtedlyif they pointed to youyou would be looked after."

In the early morning of this SaturdayMarch 13the house of a Mr. Stampera solicitor of Dunedinhad been broken intoand some articles of valueamongthem a pair of opera glassesstolen. The house had been set on fireand burnedto the ground. On the morning of the following daySundaythe 14thDunedinwas horrified by the discovery of a far more terrible crimetigerish certainlyin its apparent ferocity. In a house in Cumberland Streeta young marriedcouple and their little baby were cruelly murdered and un{sic}{an??}unsuccessful attempt made to fire the scene of the crime.

About half-past six on Sunday morning a man of the name of Robba carpenteron getting out of bednoticed smoke coming from the house of a neighbor of hisMr. J. M. Dewarwho occupied a small one-floored cottage standing by itself inCumberland Streeta large and broad thoroughfare on the outskirts of the town.Dewar

 

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was a butcher by tradea young mansome eighteen months marriedand father ofa baby girl. Robbon seeing smoke coming from Dewar's housewoke his sonwhowas a member of the fire brigade. The latter got upcrossed the streetandgoing round to the back doorwhich he found wide openentered the house. As hewent along the passage that separated the two front roomsa bedroom andsitting-roomhe called to the inmates to get up. He received no answerbut ashe neared the bedroom he heard a "gurgling" sound. Crawling on hishands and knees he reached the bedroom doorand two feet inside it his righthand touched something. It was the body of a woman; she was still alivebut ina dying condition. Robb dragged her across the passage into the sitting-room. Hegot some waterand extinguished the fire in the bedroom. On the bed lay thebody of Dewar. To all appearances he had been killed in his sleep. By his sidewas the body of the babysuffocated by the smoke. Near the bed was an axebelonging to Dewarstained with blood. It was with this weaponapparentlythat Mr. and Mrs. Dewar had been attacked. Under the bed was a candlestickbelonging also to the Dewarswhich had been used by the murderer in settingfire to the bed. The front window of the sitting-room was openthere were marksof boot nails on the silland on the grass in front of the window a knife wasfound. An attempt had been made to ransack a chest of drawers in the bedroombut some articles of jewellery lying in one of the drawersand a ring on thedressing-table had been left untouched. As far as was knownMr. and Mrs. Dewarwere a perfectly happy and united couple. Dewar had been last seen alive aboutten o'clock on the Saturday night getting off a car near his home. At eleven aneighbour had noticed a light in the Dewars' house. About five o'clock on theSunday morning another neighbour

 

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had been aroused from his sleep by the sound as of something falling heavily. Itwas a wild and boisterous night. Thinking the noise might be the slamming of hisstable doorhe got up and went out to see that it was secure. He then noticedthat a light was burning in the bedroom window of the Dewars' cottage.

Nothing more was known of what had occurred that morning until at half-pastsix Robb saw the smoke coming from Dewars' house. Mrs. Dewarwho alone couldhave told somethingnever recovered consciousness and died on the day followingthe crime. Three considerable wounds sufficient to cause death had beeninflicted on the unfortunate woman's headand five of a similar character onthat of her husband. At the head of the bedwhich stood in the corner of theroomthere was a large smear of blood on the wall just above the door; therewere spots of blood all over the top of the bedand some smaller ones that hadto all appearances spurted on to the panel of the door nearest to the bed.

The investigation of this shocking crime was placed in the hands of DetectiveBainwhose duty it had been to keep an eye on Robert Butlerbut he did not atfirst associate his interesting charge with the commission of the murder. Abouthalf-past six on Sunday evening Bain happened to go to a place called the ScotiaHotelwhere the landlord informed him that one of his servantsa girl namedSarah Gillespiewas very anxious to see him. Her story was this: On the morningof ThursdayMarch 11Robert Butler had come to the hotel; he was wearing adark lavender check suit and carried a top coat and parcel. Butler had stayed inthe hotel all Thursday and slept there that night. He had not slept in the hotelon the Friday nightand Sarah Gillespie had not seen him again until he cameinto the house about five and twenty minutes to seven on Sunday morning. The

 

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girl noticed that he was pale and excitedseemed afraid and worriedas ifsomeone were coming after him. After giving her some money for the landlordhewent upstairsfetched his top coata mufflerand his parcel. Before leavinghe said he would have a pint of beeras he had not breakfasted. He then leftpresumably to catch an early train.

Butler was next seen a few minutes later at a shop near the hotelwhere hebought five tins of salmonand about the same time a milk-boy saw him standingon the kerb in Cumberland Street in a stooping positionhis head turned in thedirection of Dewars' house. A little after ten the same night Butler entered ahotel at a place called Blueskinsome twelve miles distant from Dunedin. He waswearing an overcoat and a light muffler. He sat down at a table in thedining-room and seemed weary and sleepy. Someone standing at the bar said"What a shocking murder that was in Cumberland Street!" Butler starteduplooked steadily from one to the other of the two men who happened to be inthe roomthen sat down again andtaking up a bookappeared to be reading.More than once he put down the book and kept shifting uneasily in his chair.After having some supper he got uppaid his reckoningand left the hotel.

At half-past three the following morningabout fifteen miles from Dunedinon the road to Waikouaititwo constables met a man whom they recognised asButler from a description that had been circulated by the police. The constablesarrested and searched him. They found on him a pair of opera glassestheproperty of Mr. Stamperwhose house had been burgled and burned down on themorning of the 13th. Of this crime Butler acknowledged himself to be theperpetrator. Besides the opera glasses the constables took from Butler two tinsof salmona purse containing four shillings and sixpencea pocket

 

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knifea box of matchesa piece of candleand a revolver and cartridges. Theprisoner was carrying a top coatand was dressed in a dark coat and greytrousersunderneath which he was wearing a white shirtan under flannel and aRob Roy Crimean shirt. One of the constables noticed that there were marks ofblood on his shirt. Another singular feature in Butler's attire was the factthat the outer soles of his boots had been recently removed. When last seen inDunedin Butler had been wearing a moustache; he was now clean shaven.

The same evening a remarkable interview took place in the lock-up atWaikouaiti between Butler and Inspector Mallard. Mallardwho had some reasonfor suspecting Butlerbearing in mind their recent conversationtold theprisoner that he would be charged with the murder in Cumberland Street. For afew secondsaccording to Mallardthe prisoner seemed terribly agitated andappeared to be choking. Recovering himself somewhathe said"If for thatyou can get no evidence against me; and if I am hanged for itI shall be aninnocent manwhatever other crimes I may have committed." Mallard replied"There is evidence to convict you -- the fire was put out." Butlerthan{sic} said that he would ask Mallard a questionbutafter a pausedecidednot to do so. Mallardafter examining Butler's clothestold him that thosewere not the clothes in which he had left the Scotia Hotel. Butler admitted itand said he had thrown those away in the North East Valley. Mallard alluded tothe disappearance of the prisoner's moustache. Butler replied that he had cut itoff on the road. Mallard noticed then the backs of Butler's hands werescratchedas if by contact with bushes. Butler seemed often on the point ofasking questionsbut would then stop and say "NoI won't ask youanything." To the constables who had arrested him Butler remarked"You ought to

 

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remember mebecause I could have shot you if I had wished." When Mallardlater in the evening visited Butler againthe prisoner who was then lying downsaid"I want to speak to you. I want to ask the press not to publish mycareer. Give me fair play. I suppose I shall be convicted and you will see I candie like a man."

A few days after Butler's arrest a ranger on the Town Belta hilloverlooking Dunedinfound a coata hat and silk striped cravatand a few dayslater a pair of trousers folded up and placed under a bush. These articles ofclothing were identified as those which Butler had been seen wearing on theSaturday and Sunday morning. They were examined. There were a number ofbloodstains on themnot one of them larger in size than a peasome almostinvisible. On the front of the trousers about the level of the groin there wereblood spots on both sides. There was blood on the fold of the left breast of thecoat and on the lining of the cuff of the right arm. The shirt Butler waswearing at the time of his arrest was examined also. There were small spots ofbloodabout fourteen altogetheron the neck and shoulder bandsthe rightarmpitthe left sleeveand on both wristbands. Besides the clothesa salmontin was found on the Town Beltand behind a seat in the Botanical Gardensfromwhich a partial view of the Dewars' house in Cumberland Street could beobtainedtwo more salmon tins were foundall three similar to the fivepurchased by Butler on the Sunday morningtwo of which had been in hispossession at the time of his arrest.

Such were the main facts of the case which Butler had to answer whena fewweeks laterhe was put on his trial before the Supreme Court at Dunedin. Thepresiding judge was Mr. Justice Williamsafterwards Sir Joshua Williams and amember of the Privy Council.

 

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The Crown ProsecutorMr. Haggittconducted the case for the Crownand Butlerdefended himself.

II. THE TRIAL OF BUTLER

To a man of Butler's egregious vanity his trial was a gloriousopportunity for displaying his intellectual giftssuch as they were. One whohad known him in prison about this time describes him as a strange compound ofvanity and envyblind to his own faults and envious of the material advantagesenjoyed by others. Self-willed and arroganthe could bully or whine with equaleffect. Despising menhe believed that if a man did not possess some requisitequalityhe had only to ape itas few would distinguish between the real andthe sham.

But with all these advantages in the struggle for lifeit is certain thatButler's defence would have been far less effective had be{sic} been denied allprofessional aid. As a matter of factthroughout his trial Butler was beingadvised by three distinguished members of the New Zealand barnow judges of theSupreme Courtwho though not appearing for him in courtgave him the fullbenefit of their assistance outside it. At the same time Butler carried off thething well. Where imagination was requiredButler broke down; he could notwrite sketches of life in prison; that was too much for his pedestrianintellect. But given the facts of a casedealing with a transaction of which healone knew the real truthand aided by the advice and guidance of trainedintellectsButler was unquestionably clever and shrewd enough to make the bestuse of such advantages in meeting the case against him.

 

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Thus equipped for the coming strugglethis high-browed ruffianwith hissemi-intellectual cast of countenancehis jerky restless posturinghissplay-footed waddle"like a lame Muscovy duck" in the graphic wordsof his gaol companionstood up to plead for his life before the Supreme Courtat Dunedin.

It may be said at the outset that Butler profited greatly by the scrupulousfairness shown by the Crown Prosecutor. Mr. Haggitt extended to the prisoner adegree of consideration and forbearancejustified undoubtedly towards anundefended prisoner. Butas we have seenButler was not in reality undefended.At every moment of the trial he was in communication with his legal advisersand being instructed by them how to meet the evidence given against him. Underthese circumstances the unfailing consideration shown him by the CrownProsecutor seems almost excessive. From the first moment of the trial Butler wasfully alive to the necessities of his situation. He refrained from including inhis challenges of the jury the gentleman who was afterwards foreman; he knew hewas all righthe saidbecause he parted his hair in the middlea"softy" in fact. He did not know in all probability that onegentleman on the jury had a rooted conviction that the murder of the Dewars wasthe work of a criminal lunatic. There was certainly nothing in Butler'sdemeanour or behaviour to suggest homicidal mania.

The case against Butler rested on purely circumstantial evidence. No newfacts of importance were adduced at the trial. The stealing of Dewar's wageswhich had been paid to him on the Saturdaywas the motive for the murdersuggested by the Crown. The chief facts pointing to Butler's guilt were: hisconversation with Mallard and Bain previous to the crime; his demeanour afterit; his departure from Dunedin; the removal of his moustache

 

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and the soles of his boots; his change of clothes and the bloodstains found uponthemadded to which was his apparent inability to account for his movements onthe night in question.

Such as the evidence wasButler did little to shake it in cross-examination.His questions were many of them skilful and pointedbut on more than oneoccasion the judge intervened to save him from the danger common to all amateurcross-examinersof not knowing when to stop. He was most successful in dealingwith the medical witnesses. Butler had explained the bloodstains on his clothesas smears that had come from scratches on his handscaused by contact withbushes. This explanation the medical gentlemen with good reason rejected. Butthey went furtherand said that these stains might well have been caused by thespurting and spraying of blood on to the murderer as he struck his victims.Butler was able to show by the position of the bloodstains on the clothes thatsuch an explanation was open to considerable doubt.

Butler's speech in his defence lasted six hoursand was a creditableperformance. Its arrangement is somewhat confused and repetitioussome pointsare over-elaboratedbut on the whole he deals very successfully with most ofthe evidence given against him and exposes the unquestionable weakness of theCrown case. At the outset he declared that he had taken his innocence for hisdefence. "I was not willing" he said"to leave my life in thehands of a stranger. I was willing to incur all the disadvantages which theknowledge of the law might bring upon me. I was willingalsoto enter on thiscase without any experience whatever of that peculiarly acquired art ofcross-examination. I fear I have done wrong. If I had had the assistance of ablecounselmuch more light would have been thrown on this

 

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case than has been." As we have seenButler enjoyed throughout his trialthe informal assistance of three of the most able counsel in New Zealandsothat this heroic attitude of conscious innocence braving all dangers loses mostof its force. Without such assistance his danger might have been very real.

A great deal of the evidence as to his conduct and demeanour at the time ofthe murder Butler met by acknowledging that it was he who had broken into Mr.Stamper's house on the Saturday morningburgled it and set it on fire. Hisconsciousness of guilt in this respect washe saidquite sufficient to accountfor anything strange or furtive in his manner at that time. He was already knownto the police; meeting Bain on the Saturday nighthe felt more than ever surethat he was susspected{sic} of the robbery at Mr. Stamper's; he thereforedecided to leave Dunedin as soon as possible. That nighthe saidhe spentwandering about the streets half drunktaking occasional shelter from thepouring rainuntil six o'clock on the Sunday morningwhen he went to theScotia Hotel. A more detailed account of his movements on the night of theDewars' murder he did notor would notgive.

When he comes to the facts of the murder and his theories as to the natureand motive of the crime -- theories which he developed at rather unnecessarylength for the purpose of his own defence -- his speech is interesting. It willbe recollected that on the discovery of the murdera knife was found on thegrass outside the house. This knife was not the property of the Dewars. InButler's speech he emphasised the opinion that this knife had been brought thereby the murderer: "Horrible though it may bemy conclusion is that hebrought it with the intention of cutting the throats of his victimsand thatfinding they lay in rather an untoward position

 

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he changed his mindandhaving carried out the object with which he enteredthe houseleft the knife andgoing backbrought the axe with which heeffected his purpose. What was the purpose of the murderer? Was it the robberyof Dewar's paltry wages? Was it the act of a tiger broken loose on thecommunity? An act of pure wanton devilry? or was there some more reasonableexplanation of this most atrocious crime?"

Butler rejected altogether the theory of ordinary theft. No thief ofambitious viewshe saidwould pitch upon the house of a poor journeymanbutcher. The killing of the family appeared to him to be the motive: "anenemy hath done this." The murderer seems to have had a knowledge of thepremises; he enters the house and does his work swiftly and promptlyand isgone. "We cannot know" Butler continues"all the passages inthe lives of the murdered man or woman. What can we know of the hundred spitesand jealousies or other causes of malice which might have caused the crime? Ifyou say some obscure quarrelsome spite or jealousy is not likely to have beenthe cause of so dreadful a murderyou cannot revert to the robbery theorywithout admitting a motive much weaker in all its utter needlessness andvagueness. The prominent feature of the murderindeed the only featureis itsruthlessunrelentingdetermined vindictiveness. Every blow seemed to say`Youshall die you shall not live.'"

Whether Butler were the murderer of the Dewars or notthe theory thatrepresented them as having been killed for the purpose of robbery has its weakside all the weaker if Butlera practical and ambitious criminalwere theguilty man.

In 1882two years after Butler's trialthere appeared in a New ZealandnewspaperSocietypublished in Christchurcha series of Prison"Portraits" written evidently

 

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by one who had himself undergone a term of imprisonment. One of the"Portraits" was devoted to an account of Butler. The writer had knownButler in prison. According to the story told him by Butlerthe latter hadarrived in Dunedin with a quantity of jewellery he had stolen in Australia. Thisjewellery he en-trusted to a young woman for safe keeping. After serving hisfirst term of two years' imprisonment in DunedinButler found on his releasethat the young woman had married a man of the name of Dewar. Butler went to Mrs.Dewar and asked for the return of his jewellery; she refused to give it up. Onthe night of the murder he called at the house in Cumberland Street and made alast appeal to herbut in vain. He determined on revenge. During his visit toMrs. Dewar he had had an opportunity of seeing the axe and observing the bestway to break into the house. He watched the husband's returnand decided tokill him as well as his wife on the chance of obtaining his week's wages. Withthe help of the knife which he had found in the backyard of a hotel he openedthe window. The husband he killed in his sleepthe woman waked with the firstblow he struck her. He found the jewellery in a drawer rolled up in a pair ofstockings. He afterwards hid it in a well-marked spot some half-hour before hisarrest.

A few years after its appearance in Societythis account of Butler wasreproduced in an Auckland newspaper. Bainthe detectivewrote a letterquestioning the truth of the writer's statements. He pointed out that whenButler first came to Dunedin he had been at liberty only a fortnight beforeserving his first term of imprisonmentvery little time in which to make theacquaintance of a woman and dispose of the stolen jewellery. He asked whyifButler had hidden the jewellery just before his arresthe had not also hiddenthe opera-glasses which

 

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he had stolen from Mr. Stamper's house. Neither of these comments is veryconvincing. A fortnight seems time enough in which a man of Butler's charactermight get to know a woman and dispose of some jewellery; whileif Butler werethe murderer of Mr. Dewar as well as the burglar who had broken into Stamper'shouseit was part of his plan to acknowledge himself guilty of the latter crimeand use it to justify his movements before and after the murder. Bain is moreconvincing when he states at the conclusion of his letter that he had known Mrs.Dewar from childhood as a "thoroughly good and true woman" whoasfar as he knewhad never in her life had any acquaintance with Butler.

At the same timethe account given by Butler's fellow -- prisonerin whichthe conduct of the murdered woman is represented as constituting the provocationfor the subsequent crimeexplains one peculiar circumstance in connection withthe tragedythe selection of this journeyman butcher and his wife as thevictims of the murderer. It explains the theoryurged so persistently by Butlerin his speech to the jurythat the crime was the work of an enemy of theDewarsthe outcome of some hidden spiteor obscure quarrel; it explains theapparent ferocity of the murderand the improbability of a practical thiefselecting such an unprofitable couple as his prey. The rummaged chest of drawersand the fact that some trifling articles of jewellery were left untouched on thetop of themare consistent with an eager search by the murderer for someparticular object. Against this theory of revenge is the fact that Butler was amalignant ruffian and liar in any casethathaving realised very little incash by the burglary at Stamper's househe would not be particular as to wherehe might get a few shillings morethat he had threatened to do a tigerish deedand that it is characteristic of his vanity to try to

 

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impute to his crime a higher motive than mere greed or necessity.

Butler showed himself not averse to speaking of the murder in CumberlandStreet to at least one of thosewith whom he came in contact in his lateryears. After he had left New Zealand and returned to Australiahe was walkingin a street in Melbourne with a friend when they passed a lady dressed in blackcarrying a baby in her arms. The baby looked at the two men and laughed. Butlerfrowned and walked rapidly away. His companion chaffed himand asked whether itwas the widow or the baby that he was afraid of. Butler was silentbut after atime asked his companion to come into some gardens and sit down on one of theseatsas he had something serious to say to him. For a while Butler sat silent.Then he asked the other if he had ever been in Dunedin. "Yes" was thereply. "Look here" said Butler"you are the only man I evermade any kind of confidant of. You are a good scholarthough I could teach youa lot." After this gracious compliment he went on: "I was once triedin Dunedin on the charge of killing a manwoman and childand althoughinnocentthe crime was nearly brought home to me. It was my own ability thatpulled me through. Had I employed a professional advocateI should not havebeen here to-day talking to you." After describing the murderButler said:"Trying to fire the house was unnecessaryand killing the baby wasunnecessary and cruel. I respect no man's lifefor no man respects mine. A lotof men I have never injured have tried to put a rope round my neck more thanonce. I hate society in generaland one or two individuals in particular. Theman who did that murder in Dunedin hasif anythingmy sympathybut it seemsto me he need not have killed that child." His companion was about tospeak. Butler stopped him.

 

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"Nowdon't ever ask me such a silly question as that" he said."What?" asked his friend. "You were about to ask me if I did thatdeed" replied Butler"and you know perfectly well thatguilty orinnocentthat question would only be answered in one way." "I wasabout to ask nothing of the kind" said the other"for you havealready told me that you were innocent." "Good!" said Butler"then let that be the end of the subjectand never refer to it againexceptperhapsin your own mindwhen you canif you likeremember that Isaid the killing of the child was unnecessary and cruel."

Having developed to the jury his theory of why the crime was committedButler told them thatas far as he was concernedthere were four pointsagainst him on which the Crown relied to prove his guilt. Firstlythere was thefact of his being in the neighbourhood of the crime on the Sunday morning; thathe saidapplied to scores of other people besides himself. Then there was hisalleged disturbed appearance and guilty demeanour. The evidence of that washecontendeddoubtful in any caseand referable to another cause; as also hisleaving Dunedin in the way and at the time he did. He scouted the idea thatmurderers are compelled by some invisible force to betray their guilt. "Thedoings of men" he urged"and their success are regulated by theamount of judgment that they possessandwithout impugning or denying theexistence of ProvidenceI say this is a law that holds good in all caseswhether for evil or good. Murderersif they have the sense and ability anddiscretion to cover up their crimewill escapedo escapeand have escaped.Many peoplewhen they have gravely shaken their heads and said `Murder willout' consider they have done a great deal and gone a long way towards settlingthe question. Wellthislike many other stock formulas of Old World wisdom

 

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is not true. How many murders are there that the world has never heard ofandnever will? How many a murdered manfor instancelies among the gum-trees ofVictoriaor in the old abandoned mining-shafts on the diggingswho is missedby nobodyperhapsbut a pining wife at homeor helpless childrenor an oldmother? But who were their murderers? Where are they? God knowsperhapsbutnobody elseand nobody ever will." The facthe saidthat he was allegedto have walked up Cumberland Street on the Sunday morning and looked in thedirection of the Dewars' house wasunless the causes of superstition and avague and incomplete reasoning were to be accepted as proofevidence rather ofhis innocence than his guilt. He had removed the soles of his bootshe saidinorder to ease his feet in walking; the outer soles had become worn and raggedand in lumps under his feet. He denied that he had told Bainthe detectivethat he would break out as a desperate tiger let loose on the community; what hehad said was that he was tired of living the life of a prairie dog or a tiger inthe jungle.

Butler was more successful when he came to deal with the bloodstains on hisclothes. Thesehe saidwere caused by the blood from the scratches on hishandswhich had been observed at the time of his arrest. The doctors hadrejected this theoryand said that the spots of blood had been impelled fromthe axe or from the heads of the victims as the murderer struck the fatal blow.Butler put on the clothes in courtand was successful in showing that theposition and appearance of certain of the blood spots was not compatible withsuch a theory. "I think" he said"I am fairly warranted insaying that the evidence of these gentlemen isnot to put too fine a point onitworth just nothing at all."

Butler's concluding words to the jury were brief but

 

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emphatic: "I stand in a terrible position. So do you. See that in your wayof disposing of me you deliver yourselves of your responsibilities."

In the exercise of his forbearance towards an undefended prisonerMr.Haggitt did not address the jury for the Crown. At four o'clock the judgecommenced his summingÄup. Mr. Justice Williams impressed on the jury that theymust be satisfiedbefore they could convict the prisonerthat thecircumstances of the crime and the prisoner's conduct were inconsistent with anyother reasonable hypothesis than his guilt. There was little or no evidence thatrobbery was the motive of the crime. The circumstance of the prisoner being outall Saturday night and in the neighbourhood of the crime on Sunday morning onlyamounted to the fact that he had an opportunity shared by a great number ofother persons of committing the murder. The evidence of his agitation anddemeanour at the time of his arrest must be accepted with caution. The evidenceof the blood spots was of crucial importance; there was nothing save this toconnect him directly with the crime. The jury must be satisfied that the bloodon the clothes corresponded with the blood marks whichin all probabilitywould be found on the person who committed the murder. In regard to the medicaltestimony some caution must be exercised. Where medical gentlemen had madeobservationsseen with their own eyesthe direct inference might be highlytrustworthybutwhen they proceeded to draw further inferencesthey might bein danger of looking at facts through the spectacles of theory; "we knowthat people do that in other things besides science -- politicsreligionandso forth." Taking the Crown evidenceat its strongestthere was a missinglink; did the evidence of the bloodstains supply it? These bloodstains werealmost invisible. Could a person be reasonably asked to ex

 

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lain how they came where they did? Could they be accounted for in no otherreasonable way than that the clothes had been worn by the murderer of theDewars?

In spite of a summing-up distinctly favourable to the prisonerthe jury wereout three hours. According to one account of their proceedingstold to thewriterthere was at first a majority of the jurymen in favour of conviction.But it was Saturday night; if they could not come to a decision they were indanger of being locked up over Sunday. For this reason the gentleman who held anobstinate and unshaken belief that the crime was the work of a homicidal maniacfound an unexpected ally in a prominent member of a church choir who was down tosing a solo in his church on Sundayand was anxious not to lose such anopportunity for distinction. Whatever the causeafter three hours' deliberationthe jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty."

Later in the Session Butler pleaded guilty to the burglary at Mr. Stamper'shouseand was sentenced to eighteen years' imprisonment. The severity of thissentence was notthe judge saidintended to mark the strong suspicion underwhich Butler laboured of being a murderer as well as a burglar.

The ends of justice had been served by Butler's acquittal. But in the lightof after eventsit is perhaps unfortunate that the jury did not stretch a pointand so save the life of Mr. Munday of Toowong. Butler underwent his term ofimprisonment in Littleton Jail. There his reputation was most unenviable. He isdescribed by a fellow prisoner as ill-temperedmaliciousdestructivebutcowardly and treacherous. He seems to have done little or no work; he lookedafter the choir and the librarybut was not above breaking up the one andsmashing the otherif the fit seized him.


III. HIS DECLINE AND FALL

IN 1896 Butler was released from prison. The news of hisrelease was described as falling like a bomb-shell among the peacefulinhabitants of Dunedin. In the colony of Victoriawhere Butler had commencedhis careerit was received with an apprehension that was justified bysubsequent events. It was believed that on his release the New Zealandauthorities had shipped Butler off to Rio. But it was not long before he madehis way once more to Australia. From the moment of his arrival in Melbourne hewas shadowed by the police. One or two mysterious occurrences soon led to hisarrest. On June 5 he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment under theCriminal Influx Actwhich makes it a penal offence for any convict to enterVictoria for three years after his release from prison. Not content with thisthe authorities determined to put Butler on trial on two charges of burglary andone of highway robberycommitted since his return to the colony. To one chargeof burglarythat of breaking into a hairdresser's shop and stealing a wigsomerazors and a little moneyButler pleaded guilty.

But the charge of highway robberywhich bore a singular resemblance to thefinal catastrophe in Queenslandhe resisted to the utmostand showed that hisexperience in the Supreme Court at Dunedin had not been lost on him. Athalf-past six one evening in a suburb of Melbourne an elderly gentleman foundhimself confronted by a bearded manwearing a long overcoat and a boxer hat andflourishing a revolverwho told him abruptly to "turn out hispockets." The old man did as

 

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he was told. The robber then asked for his watch and chainsaying"Business must be done." The old gentleman mildly urged that this wasa dangerous business. On being assured that the watch was a gold onethe robberappeared willing to risk the dangerand departed thoroughly satisfied. The oldgentleman afterwards identified Butler as the man who had taken his watch.Another elderly man swore that he had seen Butler at the time of the robbery inthe possession of a fine gold watchwhich he said had been sent him from home.But the watch had not been found in Butler's possession.

On June 18 Butler was put on his trial in the Melbourne Criminal Court beforeMr. Justice Holroydcharged with robbery under arms. His appearance in the dockaroused very considerable interest. "It was the general verdict"wrote one newspaper"that his intellectual head and forehead compared notunfavour-ably with those of the judge." He was decently dressed and worepince-nezwhich he used in the best professional manner as he referred to thevarious documents that lay in front of him. He went into the witness-box andstated that the evening of the crime he had spent according to his custom in thePublic Library. For an hour and a half he addressed the jury. He disputed thepossibility of his identification by his alleged victim. He was "an oldgentleman of sedentary pursuits and not cast in the heroic mould." Such aman would be naturally alarmed and confused at meeting suddenly an armed robber.Nowunder these circumstancescould his recognition of a man whose face washidden by a beardhis head by a boxer hatand his body by a long overcoatbeconsidered trustworthy? And such recognition occurring in the course of a chanceencounter in the darknessthat fruitful mother of error? The

 

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elderly gentleman had described his moustache as a slight onebut the jurycould see that it was full and overhanging. He complained that he had been putup for identification singlynot with other menaccording to the usual custom;the police had said to the prosecutor: "We have here a man that we thinkrobbed youandif he is not the manwe shall be disappointed" to whichthe prosecutor had replied: "Yesand if he is not the manI shall bedisappointed too." For the elderly person who had stated that he had seen agold watch in Butler's possession the latter had nothing but scorn. He was a"lean and slippered pantaloon in Shakespeare's last stage"; and heButlerwould have been a lunatic to have confided in such a man.

The jury acquitted Butleradding as a rider to their verdict that there wasnot sufficient evidence of identification. The third charge against Butler wasnot proceeded with. He was put up to receive sentence for the burglary at thehairdresser's shop. Butler handed to the judge a written statement which Mr.Justice Holroyd described as a narrative that might have been taken from thosesensational newspapers written for nursery-maidsand from whichhe saidhecould not find that Butler had ever done one good thing in the whole course ofhis life. Of that life of fifty years Butler had spent thirty-five in prison.The judge expressed his regret that a man of Butler's knowledgeinformationvanityand utter recklessness of what evil will docould not be put awaysomewhere for the rest of his lifeand sentenced him to fifteen years'imprisonment with hard labour. "An iniquitous and brutal sentence!"exclaimed the prisoner. After a brief altercation with the judgewho said thathe could hardly express the scorn he felt for such a manButler was removed.The judge subsequently

 

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reduced the sentence to one of ten years. Chance or destiny would seemimplacable in their pursuit of Mr. William Munday of Toowong.

Butler after his trial admitted that it was he who had robbed the oldgentleman of his watchand described to the police the house in which it washidden. When the police went there to search they found that the house had beenpulled downbut among the debris they discovered a brown paper parcelcontaining the old gentleman's gold watch and chaina five-chambered revolvera keen-edged butcher's knifeand a mask.

Butler served his term of imprisonment in Victoria"an unmitigatednuisance" to his custodians. On his release in 1904he madeas inDunedinan attempt to earn a living by his pen. He contributed some articles toa Melbourne evening paper on the inconveniences of prison disciplinebut he wasquite unfitted for any sustained effort as a journalist. According to his ownaccountwith the little money he had left he made his way to Sydneythence toBrisbane. He was half-starvedbewildereddespairing; in his own words"if a psychological camera could have been turned on me it would have shownme like a bird fascinated by a serpentfascinated and bewildered by the fate infrontbehindand around me." Months of suffering and privation passedmonths of tramping hundreds of miles with occasional breakdownsmonths ofhunger and sickness; "my actions had become those of a fool; my mind andwill had become a remnant guided or misguided by unreasoning impulse."

It was under the influence of such an impulse that on March 23 Butler had metand shot Mr. Munday at Toowong. On May 24 he was arraigned at Brisbane beforethe Supreme Court of Queensland. But the Butler

 

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who stood in the dock of the Brisbane Criminal Court was very different from theButler who had successfully defended himself at Dunedin and Melbourne. Thespirit had gone out of him; it was rather as a suppliantrepresented bycounselthat he faced the charge of murder. His attitude was one of humble andappropriate penitence. In a weak and nervous voice he told the story of hishardships since his release from his Victorian prison; he would only urge thatthe shooting of Mr. Munday was accidentalcaused by Munday picking up a stoneand attacking him. When about to be sentenced to death he expressed great sorrowand contrition for his crimefor the poor wife and children of his unfortunatevictim. His lifehe saidwas a poor thingbut he would gladly give it fiftytimes over.

The sentence of death was confirmed by the Executive on June 30. To aFreethought advocate who visited him shortly before his executionButler wrotea final confession of faith: "I shall have to find my way across theharbour bar without the aid of any pilot. In these matters I have for many yearscarried an exempt flagandas it has not been carried through caprice origno-ranceI am compelled to carry it to the last. There is an impassable barof what I honestly believe to be the inexorable logic of philosophy and factshistory and experience of the nature of the worldthe human race and myselfbetween me and the views of the communion of any religious organisation. Soinstead of the `depart Christian soul' of the priestI only hope for thecomfort and satisfaction of the last friendly good-bye of any who cares to giveit."

From this positive affirmation of unbelief Butler wilted somewhat at theapproach of death. The day before his execution he spent half an hour playinghymns on

 

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the church organ in the prison; and on the scaffoldwhere his agitationrendered him almost speechlesshe expressed his sorrow for what he had doneand the hope thatif there were a heavenmercy would be shown him.


 

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M. Derues


Note: The last word on Derues has been said by M. Georges Claretie in hisexcellent monograph"Derues L'Empoisonneur" Paris. 1907. There is afull account of the case in Vol. V. of Fouquier"Causes Célèbres."

M. Derues


Note: The last word on Derues has been said by M. Georges Claretie in hisexcellent monograph"Derues L'Empoisonneur" Paris. 1907. There is afull account of the case in Vol. V. of Fouquier"Causes Célèbres."

M. Derues
I. THE CLIMBING LITTLE GROCER

M. ETIENNE SAINT-FAUST DE LAMOTTEa provincial nobleman ofancient lineage and moderate healthex-equerry to the Kingde-sired in theyear 1774 to dispose of a property in the countrythe estate of Buisson-Souefnear Villeneuve-le-Roiwhich he had purchased some ten years before out ofmoney acquired by a prudent marriage.

With an eye to the main chance M. de Lamotte had in 1760 ran away with thedaughter of a wealthy citizen of Rheimswho was then staying with her sister inParis. They lived together in the country for some timeand a son was born tothemwhom the father legitimised by subsequently marrying the mother. For a fewyears M. and Mme. de Lamotte dwelt happily together at Buisson-Souef. But astheir boy grew up they became anxious to leave the country and return to Pariswhere M. de Lamotte hoped to be able to obtain for his son some position aboutthe Court of Louis XVI. And so it was that in May1775M. de Lamotte gave apower of attorney to his wife in order that she might go to Paris and negotiatefor the sale of Buisson-Souef.

 

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The legal side of the transaction was placed in the hands of one Jollyaproctor at the Châtelet in Paris.

Now the proctor Jolly had a client with a great desire to acquire a place inthe countryM. Derues de Cyrano de Burylord of CandevilleHerchiesandother places. Here was the very man to comply with the requirements of the deLamottesand such a pleasingreadyaccommodating gentleman into the bargain!Very delicate to all appearancesstrangely paleslightfragile in buildwithhis beardless chin and feminine cast of featurethere was something cat-like inthe soft insinuating smile of this seemingly most amiablecandid and pious ofmen. Always cheerful and optimisticit was quite a pleasure to do business withM. Derues de Cyrano de Bury. The de Lamottes after one or two interviews weredelighted with their prospective purchaser. Everything was speedily settled. M.Derues and his wifea lady belonging to the distinguished family of Nicolaivisited Buisson-Souef. They were enchanted with what they sawand their hostswere hardly less enchanted with their visitors. By the end of December1775the purchase was concluded. M. Derues was to give 130000 livres (about£20000) for the estatethe payments to be made by instalmentsthe first of12000 livres to be paid on the actual signing of the contract of salewhichit was agreedwas to be concluded not later than the first of June1776. Inthe meantimeas an earnest of good faithM. Derues gave Mme. de Lamotte a billfor 4200 livres to fall due on April 11776.

What could be more satisfactory? That M. Derues was a substantial personthere could be no doubt. Through his wife he was entitled to a sum of 250000livres as her share of the property of a wealthy kinsmanoneDespeignes-Duplessisa country gentlemanwho some four years before had beenfound murdered in his

 

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house under mysterious circumstances. The liquidation of the Duplessisinheritanceas soon as the law's delay could be overcomewould place theDerues in a position of affluence fitting a Cyrano de Bury and a Nicolai.

At this time M. Derues was in reality far from affluent. In point of fact hewas insolvent. Nor was his lineagenor that of his wifein any waydistinguished. He had no right to call himself de Cyrano de Bury or Lord ofCandeville. His wife's name was Nicolaisnot Nicolai -- a very importantdifference from the genealogical point of view. The Duplessis inheritancethough certainly existentwould seem to have had little more chance ofrealisation than the mythical Crawford millions of Madame Humbert. And yetcrippled with debtwithout a penny in the worldthis daring grocer of the RueBeaubourgfor such was M. Derues' present condition in lifecould cheerfullyand confidently engage in a transaction as considerable as the purchase of alarge estate for 130000 livres! The origin of so enterprising a gentleman isworthy of attention.

Antoine François Derues was born at Chartres in 1744; his father was a cornmerchant. His parents died when he was three years old. For some time after hisbirth he was assumed to be a girl; it was not until he was twelve years old thatan operation determined his sex to be masculine. Apprenticed by his relatives toa grocerDerues succeeded so well in the business that he was able in 1770 toset up on his own account in Parisand in 1772 he married. Among the grocer'smany friends and acquaintances this marriage created something of a sensationfor Derues let it be known that the lady of his choice was of noble birth and anheiress. The first statement was untrue. The lady was one Marie Louise Nicolaisdaughter of a non-commissioned artillery officerturned coachbuilder. But bysuppressing

 

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the S at the end of her namewhich Derues was careful also to erase in hismarriage contractthe ambitious grocer was able to describe his wife asconnected with the noble house of Nicolaione of the most distinguished of thegreat French families.

There was more truth in the statement that Mme. Derues was an heiress. Akinsman of her motherBéraud by namehad become the heir to a certain MarquisDesprez. Béraud was the son of a small merchant. His mother had married asecond timethe hus-band being the Marquis Desprezand through her Béraud hadinherited the Marquis' property. According to the custom of the timeBéraudon coming into his inheritancetook a title from one of his estates and calledhimself thenceforth the lord of Despeignes-Duplessis. A rudesolitarybrutalmandevoted to sporthe lived alone in his castle of Candevillehated by hisneighboursa terror to poachers. One day he was found lying dead in hisbedroom; he had been shot in the chest; the assassin had escaped through an openwindow.

The mystery of Béraud's murder was never solved. His estate of 200000livres was divided among three cousinsof whom the mother of Mme. Derues wasone. Mme. Derues herself was entitled to a third of his mother's share of theestatethat isone-ninth of the whole. But in 1775 Derues acquired the rest ofthe mother's share on condition that he paid her an annual income of 1200livres. Thus on the liquidation of the Duplessis inheritance Mme. Derues wouldbe entitled nominally to some 66500 livresabout £11000 in English money.But five years had passed since the death of Despeignes-Duplessisand theestate was still in the slow process of legal settlement. If Derues were toreceive the full third of the Duplessis inheritance -- a very unlikelysupposition after four years of liquidation -- 66000

 

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livres would not suffice to pay his ordinary debts quite apart from the purchasemoney of Buisson-Souef. His financial condition was in the last degree critical.Not content with the modest calling of a grocerDerues had turned money-lendera money-lender to spendthrift and embarrassed noblemen. Derues dearly loved alord; he wanted to become one himself; it delighted him to receive dukes andmarquises at the Rue Beaubourgeven if they came there with the avowed objectof raising the wind. The smiling grocerin his everlasting bonnet and flowereddressing-gown à la J. J. Rousseauwas ever ready to oblige the needy scion ofa noble house. What he borrowed at moderate interest from his creditors he lentat enhanced interest to the quality. Duns and bailiffs jostled the dukes andmarquises whose presence at the Rue Beaubourg so impressed the wonderingneighbours of the facile grocer.

This aristocratic money-lending proved a hopeless trade; it only plungedDerues deeper and deeper into the mire of financial disaster. The noblemeneither forgot to pay while they were aliveor on their death were found to beinsolvent. Derues was driven to ordering goods and merchandise on creditandselling them at a lower price for ready money. Victims of this treatment beganto press him seriously for their money or their goods. Desperately he continuedto fence them off with the long expected windfall of the Duplessis inheritance.

Paris was getting too hot for him. Gay and irrepressible as he wasthestrain was severe. If he could only find some retreat in the country where hemight enjoy at once refuge from his creditors and the rank and consequence of acountry gentleman! Nothing -- no fearno disappointmentno disaster -- couldcheck the little grocer's ardent and overmastering desire to be a gentlemanindeeda landed proprietora lord or something

 

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or other. At the beginning of 1775 he had purchased a place near Rueil from aretired coffeehouse-keeperpaying 1000 livres on accountbut the non-paymentof the rest of the purchase-money had resulted in the annulment of the contract.UndefeatedDerues only determined to fly the higher. Having failed to pay 9000livres for a modest estate near Rueilhe had no hesitation in pledging himselfto pay 130000 livres for the lordly domain of Buisson-Souef. So great were hispride and joy on the conclusion of the latter bargain that he amused himself byrehearsing on paper his future style and title: "Antoine François deCyrano Derues de BurySeigneur de Buisson-Souef et Valle Profonde." He isworthy of Thackeray's penthis little grocer-snobwith his grand and ruinousacquaintance with the noble and the greathis spurious titleshis unweariedclimbing of the social ladder.

The confidingif willingdupe of aristocratic impe-cuniosityDerues was apast master of the art of duping others. From the moment of the purchase ofBuisson-Souef all his art was employed in cajoling the trusting and simple deLamottes. Legally Buisson-Souef was his from the signing of the agreement inDecember1775. His first payment was due in April1776. Instead of making itDerues went down to Buisson-Souef with his little girland stayed there as theguests of the de Lamottes for six months. His good humour and piety won allhearts. The village priest especially derived great satisfaction from thesociety of so devout a companion. He entertained his good friendsthe merrylittle manby dressing up as a womana role his smooth face and effeminatefeatures well fitted him to play. If business were alluded tothe merrygentleman railed at the delay and chicanery of lawyers; it was that alone thatpostponed the liquidation of the Duplessis inheritance;

 

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as soon as the lawyers could be got rid ofthe purchase-money of his new estatewould be promptly paid up. But as time went on and no payment was forthcomingthe de Lamottes began to feel a little uneasy. As soon as Derues had departed inNovember M. de Lamotte decided to send his wife to Paris to make furtherinquiries andif possiblebring their purchaser up to the scratch. Mme. deLamotte had developed into a stoutindolent womanof the Mrs. Bloss typefondof staying in bed and taking heavy meals. Her sona fatlethargic youth offourteenaccompanied his mother.

On hearing of Mme. de Lamotte's contemplated visit to ParisDerues wasfilled with alarm. If she were living free and independent in Paris she mightfind out the truth about the real state of his affairsand then good-bye toBuisson-Souef and landed gentility! Noif Mme. de Lamotte were to come toParisshe must come as the guest of the Deruesa pleasant return for thehospitality accorded to the grocer at Buisson-Souef. The invitation was givenand readily accepted; M. de Lamotte still had enough confidence in and likingfor the Derues to be glad of the opportunity of placing his wife under theirroof. And so it was that on December 161776Mme. de Lamotte arrived at Parisand took up her abode at the house of the Derues in the Rue Beaubourg Her sonshe placed at a private school in a neighbouring street.

To Derues there was now one pressing and immediate problem to be solved --how to keep Buisson-Souef as his own without paying for it? To one lesssanguineless daringless impudent and desperate in his needthe problemwould have appeared insoluble. But that was by no means the view of the cheeryand resourceful grocer. He had a solution readywell thought out and bearing tohis mind the stamp of probability. He would

 

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make a fictitious payment of the purchase-money to Mme. de Lamotte. She wouldthen disappeartaking her son with her. Her indiscretion in having been themistress of de Lamotte before she became his wifewould lend colour to hisstory that she had gone off with a former lovertaking with her the money whichDerues had paid her for Buisson-Souef. He would then produce the necessarydocuments proving the payment of the purchase-moneyand Buisson-Souef would behis for good and all.

The prime necessity to the success of this plan was the disappearancewilling or unwillingof Mme. de Lamotte and her son. The former had settleddown quite comfortably beneath the hospitable roof of the Deruesand under thesoothing influence of her host showed little vigour in pressing him for themoney due to herself and her husband. She had already spent a month in quietlyenjoying Paris and the society of her friends whentowards the end of January1770her health and that of her son began to fail. Mme. de Lamotte was seizedwith sickness and internal trouble. Though Derues wrote to her husband that hiswife was well and their business was on the point of conclusionby the 30th ofJanuary Mme. de Lamotte had taken to her bednursed and physicked by the readyDerues. On the 31st the servant at the Rue Beaubourg was told that she could goto her home at Montrougewhither Derues had previously sent his two children.Mme. Derueswho was in an interesting conditionwas sent out for an hour byher husband to do some shopping. Derues was alone with his patient.

In the evening a friendone Bertincame to dine with Derues. Bertin was ashorthustlingcredulousbreathless gentlemanalways in a hurrywith agreat belief in the abilities of M. Derues. He found the little man

 

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in excellent spirits. Bertin asked if he could see Mme. de Lamotte. Mme. Deruessaid that that was impossiblebut that her husband had given her some medicinewhich was working splendidly. The young de Lamotte called to see his mother.Derues took him into her room; in the dim light the boy saw her sleepingandcrept out quietly for fear of disturbing her. The Derues and their friends satdown to dinner. Derues kept jumping up and running into the sick roomfromwhich a horrible smell began to pervade the house. But Derues was radiant at thesuccess of his medicine. "Was there ever such a nurse as I am?" heexclaimed. Bertin remarked that he thought it was a woman's and not a man'splace to nurse a lady under such distressing circumstances. Derues protestedthat it was an occupation he had always liked. Next dayFebruary 1the servantwas still at Montrouge; Mme. Derues was again sent out shopping; again Derueswas alone with his patient. But she was a patient no longer; she had become acorpse. The highly successful medicine administered to the poor lady by herjolly and assiduous nurse had indeed worked wonders.

Derues had bought a large leather trunk. It is possible that to Deruesbelongs the distinction of being the first murderer to put that harmless andnecessary article of travel to a criminal use. He was engaged in hispreparations for coffining Mme. de Lamottewhen a female creditor knockedinsistently at the door. She would take no denial. Clad in his bonnet and gownDerues was compelled to admit her. She saw the large trunkand suspected a bolton the part of her creditor. Derues reassured her; a ladyhe saidwho had beenstopping with them was returning to the country. The creditor departed. Later inthe day Derues came out of the house and summoned some porters. With their helpthe heavy trunk was taken to the house of a sculptora friend of

 

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Derueswho agreed to keep it in his studio until Derues could take it down tohis place in the country. Bertin came in to dinner again that eveningand alsothe young de Lamotte. Derues was gayer than everlaughing and joking with hisguests. He told the boy that his mother had quite recovered and gone toVersailles to see about finding him some post at the Court. "We'll go andsee her there in a day or two" he said"I'll let you knowwhen."

On the following day a smartly dresseddapperbut very pale littlegentlemangiving the name of Ducoudrayhired a vacant cellar in a house in theRue de la Mortellerie. He hadhe saidsome Spanish wine he wanted to storethereand three or four days later M. Ducoudray deposited in this cellar alarge grey trunk. A few days after he employed a man to dig a large hole in thefloor of the cellargiving as his reason for such a proceeding that "therewas no way of keeping wine like burying it." While the man worked at thejobhis genial employer beguiled his labours with merry quips and taleswhichhe illustrated with delightful mimicry. The hole dugthe man was sent about hisbusiness. "I will bury the wine myself" said his employerand on oneor two occasions M. Ducoudray was seen by persons living in the house going inand out of his cellara lighted candle in his hand. One day the pale littlegentleman was observed leaving the cellaraccompanied by a porter carrying alarge trunkand after that the dwellers in the Rue de la Mortellerie saw thepale little gentleman no more.

A few days later M. Derues sent down to his place at Buisson-Souef a largetrunk filled with china. It was received there by M. de Lamotte. Little did thetrusting gentleman guess that it was in this very trunk that the body of hisdear wife had been conveyed to its

 

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last resting place in the cellar of M. Ducoudray in the Rue de la Mortellerie.Nor had M. Mesvrel-Desvergersimportunate creditor of M. Deruesguessed thecontents of the large trunk that he had met his debtor one day early in Februaryconveying through the streets of Paris. Creditors were always interruptingDerues at inconvenient moments. M. Mesvrel-Desvergers had tapped Derues on theshoulderreminded him forcibly of his liability towards himand spoken darklyof possible imprisonment. Derues pointed to the trunk. It containedhe saidasample of wine; he was going to order some more of itand he would then be in aposition to pay his debt. But the creditorstill doubtinghad M. Deruesfollowedand ascertained that he had deposited his sample of wine at a house inthe Rue de la Mortellerie.

On WednesdayFebruary 12a M. Beaupré of Commercy arrived at Versailleswith his nephewa fat boyin reality some fourteen years of agebut given outas older. They hired a room at the house of a cooper named Pecquet. M. Beaupréwas a very pale little gentlemanwho seemed in excellent spiritsin spite ofthe fact that his nephew was clearly anything but well. In-deedso sick andailing did he appear to be that Mme. Pecquet suggested that his uncle shouldcall in a doctor. But M. Beaupré said that that was quite unnecessary; he hadno faith in doctors; he would give the boy a good purge. His illness was duehesaidto a venereal disorder and the drugs which he had been taking in order tocure it; it was a priest the boy needed rather than a doctor. On the Thursdayand Friday the boy's condition showed little improvement; the vomitingcontinued. But on Saturday M. Beaupré declared himself as highly delighted withthe success of his medicine. The same night the boy was dead. The priesturgently sent for by his devout unclearrived to find a corpse.

 

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On the following day "Louis Anotine Beaupréaged twenty-two and ahalf" was buried at Versailleshis pious uncle leaving with the priestsix livres to pay for masses for the repose of his erring nephew's soul.

The same evening M. Derues whoaccording to his own accounthad left Pariswith the young de Lamotte in order to take the boy to his mother in Versaillesreturned home to the Rue Beaubourg. As usualBertin dropped in to dinner. Hefound his host full of merrimentsinging in the lightness of his heart. Indeedhe had reason to be pleasedfor at lasthe told his wife and his friendBuisson-Souef was his. He had seen Mme. de Lamotte at Versailles and paid herthe full purchase-money in goodsounding gold. Andbest joke of allMme. deLamotte had no sooner settled the business than she had gone off with a formerloverher son and her moneyand would in all probability never be heard ofagain. The gay gentleman laughingly reminded his hearers that such an escapadeon the part of Mme. de Lamotte was hardly to be wondered atwhen theyrecollected that her son had been born out of wedlock

To all appearances Mme. de Lamotte had undoubtedly concluded the sale ofBuisson-Souef to Derues and received the price of it before disappearing withher lover. Derues had in his possession a deed of sale signed by Mme. de Lamotteand acknowledging the payment to her by Derues of 100000 livreswhich he hadborrowed for that purpose from an advocate of the name of Duclos. As a fact theloan from Duclos to Derues was fictitious. A legal document proving the loan hadbeen drawn upbut the cash which the notary had demanded to see beforeexecuting the document had been borrowed for a few hours. Duclosa provincialadvocatehad acted in good faithin having been represented to him that suchfictitious transactions were frequently used in

 

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Paris for the purpose of getting over some temporary financial difficulty. Onthe 15th of February the deed of the sale of Buisson-Souef had been brought by awoman to the office of a scrivener employed by Derues; it was already signedbut the woman asked that certain blanks should be filled in and that thedocument should be dated. She was told that the date should be that of the dayon which the parties had signed it. She gave it as February 12. A few days laterDerues called at the office and was told of the lady's visit. "Ah!" hesaid"it was Mme. de Lamotte herselfthe lady who sold me theestate."

In the meantime Deruesthrough his bustling and ubiquitous friend Bertintook good care that the story of Mme. de Lamotte's sale of Buisson-Souef andsubsequent elopement should be spread sedulously abroad. By Bertin it was toldto M. Jollythe proctor in whose hands the de Lamottes had placed the sale ofBuisson-Souef. It was M. Jolly who had in the first instance recommended to themhis client Derues as a possible purchaser. The proctorwho knew Mme. de Lamotteto be a woman devoted to her husband and her homewas astonished to hear of herinfidelitymore especially as the story told by Derues represented her assaying in very coarse terms how little she cared for her husband's honour. Hewas surprisedtoothat she should not have consulted him about the conclusionof the business with Deruesand that Derues himself should have been able tofind so considerable a sum of money as 100000 livres. Butsaid M. Jollyif hewere satisfied that Mme. de Lamotte had taken away the money with herthen hewould deliver up to Derues the power of attorney which M. de Lamotte had leftwith him in 1775giving his wife authority to carry out the sale ofBuisson-Souef. Mme. de Lamottebeing a married woman

 

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the sale of the property to Derues would be legally invalid if the husband'spower of attorney were not in the hands of the purchaser.

 

II. THE GAME OF BLUFF

To Derueson the eve of victorythe statement of Jolly inregard to the power of attorney was a serious reverse. He had never thought ofsuch an instrumentor he would have persuaded Mme. de Lamotte to have gottenpermission of it before her disappearance. Now he must try to get it from Jollyhimself. On the 26th of February he once again raised from a friendly notary afew thousand livres on the Duplessis inheritanceand deposited the deed of saleof Buisson-Souef as further security. His pocket full of goldhe went straightto the office of Jolly. To the surprise of the proctor Derues announced that hehad come to pay him 200 livres which he owed himand apologised for the delay.Taking the gold coins from his pockets he filled his three-cornered hat withconsiderably more than the sum dueand held it out invitingly to M. Jolly. Thenhe proceeded to tell him of his dealings with Mme. de Lamotte. She had offeredhe saidto get the power of attorney for himbut hetrusting in her goodfaithhad said that there was no occasion for hurry; and thenfaithlessungrateful woman that she wasshe had gone off with his money and left him inthe lurch. "But" he added"I trust you absolutelyM. Jollyyou have all my business in your handsand I shall be a good client in thefuture. You have the power of attorney -- you will give it to me?" and herattled the coins in his hat. "I must have it" he went on"Imust have it at any price at any

 

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price" and again the coins danced in his hatwhile his eyes lookedknowingly at the proctor. M. Jolly saw his meaningand his surprise turned toindignation. He told Derues bluntly that he did not believe his storythatuntil he was convinced of its truth he would not part with the power ofattorneyand showed the confounded grocer the door.

Derues hastened home filled with wrathand took counsel with his friendBertin. Bertin knew something of legal process; they would try whether the lawcould not be invoked to compel Jolly to surrender the power of attorney. Bertinwent off to the Civil Lieutenant and applied for an order to oblige M. Jolly togive up the document in question. An order was made that Jolly must eithersurrender it into the hands of Derues or appear before a referee and show causewhy he should not comply with the order. Jolly refused still to give it up orallow a copy of it to be madeand agreed to appear before the referee tojustify his action. In the meantime Deruesgreatly daringhad started forBuisson-Souef to try what "bluff" could do in this serious crisis inhis adventure.

At Buisson-Souef poor M. de Lamotte waitedpuzzled and distressedfor newsfrom his wife. On Saturday17ththe day after the return of Derues fromVersailleshe heard from Mme. Derues that his wife had left Paris and gone withher son to Versailles. A second letter told him that she had completed the saleof Buisson-Souef to Deruesand was still at Versailles trying to obtain somepost for the boy. On February 19 Mme. Derues wrote again expressing surprisethat M. de Lamotte had not had any letter from his wife and asking if he hadreceived some oysters which the Derues had sent him. The distracted husband wasin no mood for oysters. "Do not send me oysters" he writes"Iam too

 

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ill with worry. I thank you for all your kindness to my son. I love him betterthan myselfand God grant he will be good and grateful." The only reply hereceived from the Derues was an assurance that he would see his wife again in afew days.

The days passedbut Mme. de Lamotte made no sign. About four o'clock on theafternoon of February 28Deruesaccompanied by the parish priest ofVilleneuvele-Roipresented himself before M. de Lamotte at Buisson-Souef. Forthe moment M. de Lamotte was rejoiced to see the little man; at last he wouldget news of his wife. But he was disappointed. Derues could tell him only whathe had been told alreadythat his wife had sold their estate and gone away withthe money.

M. de Lamotte was hardly convinced. Howhe asked Derueshad he found the100000 livres to buy Buisson-Souefhe who had not a halfpenny a short timeago? Derues replied that he had borrowed it from a friend; that there was no usein talking about it; the place was his nowhis aloneand M. de Lamotte had nolonger a right to be there; he was very sorrypoor dear gentlemanthat hiswife had gone off and left him without a shillingbut personally he wouldalways be a friend to him and would allow him 3000 livres a year for the restof his life. In the meantimehe saidhe had already sold forty casks of thelast year's vintageand would be obliged if M. de Lamotte would see to theirbeing sent off at once.

By this time the anger and indignation of M. de Lamotte blazed forth. He toldDerues that his story was a pack of liesthat he was still master atBuisson-Souefand not a bottle of wine should leave it. "You are torturingme" he exclaimed"I know something has happened to my wife andchild. I am coming to Paris myselfand if it is as I fearyou shall answer forit with

 

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your head!" Deruesundismayed by this outburstre-asserted his ownershipand departed in defiant moodleaving on the premises a butcher of theneighbourhood to look after his property.

But things were going ill with Derues. M. de Lamotte meant to show fight; hewould have powerful friends to back him; class against classthe little grocerwould be no match for him. It was immediate possession of Buisson-Souef thatDerues wantednot lawsuits; they were expensive and the results uncertain. Hespoke freely to his friends of the difficulties of the situation. What could hedo? The general opinion seemed to be that some fresh news of Mme. de Lamotte --her reappearanceperhaps -- would be the only effective settlement of thedispute. He had made Mme. de Lamotte disappearwhy should he not make herreappear? He was not the man to stick at trifles. His powers of femaleimpersonationwith which he had amused his good friends at Buisson-Souefcouldnow be turned to practical account. On March 5 he left Paris again.

On the evening of March 7 a gentlemanM. Desportes of Parishired a room atthe Hotel Blanc in Lyons. On the following day he went out early in the morningleaving word thatshould a lady whom he was expectingcall to see himshe wasto be shown up to his room. The same morning a gentlemanresembling M.Desportes of Parisbought two lady's dresses at a shop in Lyons. The sameafternoon a lady dressed in black silkwith a hood well drawn over her eyescalled at the office of M. Pourraa notary. The latter was not greatlyattracted by his visitorwhose nose struck him as large for a woman. She saidthat she had spent her youth in Lyonsbut her accent was distinctly Parisian.The lady gave her name as Madame de Lamotteand asked for a power of attorneyby which she could give

 

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her husband the interest due to her on a sum of 30000 livrespart of thepurchase-money of the estate of Buisson-Souefwhich she had recently sold. AsMme. de Lamotte represented herself as having been sent to M. Pourra by arespectable merchant for whom he was in the habit of doing businesshe agreedto draw up the necessary documentaccepting her statement that she and herhusband had separate estates. Mme. de Lamotte said that she would not have timeto wait until the power of attorney was readyand therefore asked M. Pourra tosend it to the parish priest at Villeneuvele-Roi; this he promised to do. Mme.de-Lamotte had called twice during the day at the Hotel Blanc and asked for M.Desportes of Parisbut he was not at home.

While Deruesalias Desportesalias Mme. de Lamottewas masquerading inLyonsevents had been moving swiftly and unfavourably in Paris. Sick withmisgiving and anxietyM. de Lamotte had come there to findif possiblehiswife and child. By a strange coincidence he alighted at an inn in the Rue de laMortellerieonly a few yards from the wine-cellar in which the corpse of hisill-fated wife lay buried. He lost no time in putting his case before theLieutenant of Policewho placed the affair in the hands of one of themagistrates of the Châteletthen the criminal court of Paris. At first themagistrate believed that the case was one of fraud and that Mme. de Lamotte andher son were being kept somewhere in concealment by Derues. But as heinvestigated the circumstances furtherthe evidence of the illness of themother and sonthe date of the disappearance of Mme. de Lamotteand herreputed signature to the deed of sale on February 12led him to suspect that hewas dealing with a case of murder.

When Derues returned to Paris from Lyonson March 11he found that thepolice had already visited the

 

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house and questioned his wifeand that he himself was under close surveillance.A day or two later the advocateDuclosrevealed to the magistrate thefictitious character of the loan of 100000 livreswhich Derues alleged that hehad paid to Mme. de Lamotte as the price of Buisson-Souef. When the new power ofattorney purporting to be signed by Mme. de Lamotte arrived from Lyonsand thesignature was compared with that on the deed of sale of Buisson-Souef to Deruesboth were pronounced to be forgeries. Derues was arrested and lodged in thePrison of For l'Evêque.

The approach of danger had not dashed the spirits of the little mannor washe without partisans in Paris. Opinion in the city was divided as to the truthof his account of Mme. de Lamotte's elopement. The nobility were on the side ofthe injured de Lamottebut the bourgeoisie accepted the grocer's story and mademerry over the deceived husband. Interrogatedhoweverby the magistrate of theChâteletDerues' position became more difficult. Under the stress of closequestioning the flimsy fabric of his financial statements fell to pieces like ahouse of cards. He had to admit that he had never paid Mme. de Lamotte 100000livres; he had paid her only 25000 livres in gold; further pressed he said thatthe 25000 livres had been made up partly in goldpartly in bills; but wherethe gold had come fromor on whom he had drawn the billshe could not explain.Still his position was not desperate; and he knew it. In the absence of Mme. deLamotte he could not be charged with fraud or forgery; and until her body wasdiscoveredit would be impossible to charge him with murder.

A month passed; Mme. Derueswho had made a belated attempt to follow herhusband's example by impersonating Mme. de Lamotte in Parishad been arrested

 

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and imprisoned in the Grand Châtelet; whenon April 18information wasreceived by the authorities which determined them to explore the wine-cellar inthe Rue de la Mortellerie. Whether the woman who had let the cellar to Deruesor the creditor who had met him taking his cask of wine therehad informed theinvestigating magistrateseems uncertain. In any casethe corpse of theunhappy lady was soon brought to light and Derues confronted with it. At firsthe said that he failed to recognise it as the remains of Mme. de Lamottebut hesoon abandoned that rather impossible attitude. He admitted that he had givensome harmless medicine to Mme. de Lamotte during her illnessand thento hishorrorone morning had awakened to find her dead. A fear lest her husband wouldaccuse him of having caused her death had led him to conceal the bodyand alsothat of her son whohe now confessedhad died and been buried by him atVersailles. On April 23 the body of the young de Lamotte was exhumed. Bothbodies were examined by doctorsand they declared themselves satisfied thatmother and son had died "from a bitter and corrosive poison administered insome kind of drink." What the poison was they did not venture to statebutone of their numberin the light of subsequent investigationarrived at theconclusion that Derues had used in both cases corrosive sublimate. How or wherehe had obtained the poison was never discovered.

Justice moved swiftly in Paris in those days. The preliminary investigationin Derues' case was ended on April 28. Two days later his trial commenced beforethe tribunal of the Châtelet. It lasted one day. The judges had before them thedepositions taken by the examining magistrate. Both Derues and his wife wereinterrogated. He maintained that he had not poisoned

 

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either Mme. de Lamotte or her son; his only crimehe saidlay in havingconcealed their deaths. Mme; Derues said: "It is Buisson-Souef that hasruined us! I always told my husband that he was mad to buy these properties -- Iam sure my husband is not a poisoner -- I trusted my husband and believed everyword he said." The court condemned Derues to deathbut deferred judgmentin his wife's case on the ground of her pregnancy.

And now the frailcat-like little man had to brace himself to meet a crueland protracted execution. But sanguine to the lasthe still hoped. An appeallay from the Châtelet to the Parliament of Paris. It was heard on March 5.Derues was brought to the Palais de Justice. The room in which he waited wasfilled with curious spectatorswho marvelled at his coolness and impudence. Herecognised among them a Benedictine monk of his acquaintance. "Mycase" he called out to him"will soon be over; we'll meet again yetand have a good time together." One visitorwishing not to appear toocuriouspretended to be looking at a picture. "Comesir" saidDerues"you haven't come here to see the picturesbut to see me. Have agood look at me. Why study copies of nature when you can look at such aremarkable original as I?" But there were to be no more days of mirth andgaiety for the jesting grocer. His appeal was rejectedand he was ordered forexecution on the morrow.

At six o'clock on the morning of May 6 Derues returned to the Palais deJusticethere to submit to the superfluous torments of the question ordinaryand extraordinary. Though condemned to deathtorture was to be applied in thehope of wringing from the prisoner some sort of confession. The doctors declaredhim too delicate to undergo the torture of pouring cold water into himwhichhis illustrious predecessorMme. de

 

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Brinvilliershad suffered; he was to endure the less severe torture of the"boot." His legs were tightly encased in woodand wedges were thenhammered in until the flesh was crushed and the bones broken. But never a wordof confession was wrung from the suffering creature. Four wedges constitutingthe ordinary torture he endured; at the third of the extraordinary he faintedaway. Put in the front of a fire the warmth restored him. Again he wasquestionedagain he asserted his wife's innocence and his own.

At two o'clock in the afternoon Derues was recovered sufficiently to be takento Notre Dame. Therein front of the Cathedralcandle in hand and rope roundhis neckhe made the amende honorable. But as the sentence was read aloud tothe people Derues reiterated the assertion of his innocence. From Notre Dame hewas taken to the Hotel de Ville. A condemned man had the right to stop there onhis way to executionto make his will and last dying declarations. Deruesavailed himself of this opportunity to protest solemnly and emphatically hiswife's absolute innocence of any complicity in whatever he had done. "Iwant above all" he said"to state that my wife is entirely innocent.She knew nothing. I used fifty cunning devices to hide everything from her. I amspeaking nothing but the truthshe is wholly innocent -- as for meI am aboutto die." His wife was allowed to see him; he enjoined her to bring up theirchildren in the fear of God and love of dutyand to let them know how he haddied. Once againas he took up the pen to sign the record of his last wordshere-asserted her innocence.

Of the last dreadful punishment the offending grocer was to be sparednothing. For an aristocrat like Mme. de Brinvilliers beheading was consideredindignity enough. But Derues must go through with it all; he

 

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must be broken on the wheel and burnt alive and his ashes scattered to the fourwinds of heaven; there was to be no retentum for hima clause sometimesinserted in the sentence permitting the executioner to strangle the brokenvictim before casting him on to the fire. He must endure all to the utmost agonythe law could inflict. It was six o'clock when Derues arrived at the Place deGrèvecrowded to its capacitythe square itselfthe windows of the houses;places had been bought at high pricesstoolsladdersanything that would givea good view of the end of the now famous poisoner.

Pale but calmDerues faced his audience. He was stripped of all but hisshirt; lying flat on the scaffoldhis face looking up to the skyhis headresting on a stonehis limbs were fastened to the wheel. Then with a heavy barof iron the executioner broke them one after anotherand each time he struck afearful cry came from the culprit. The customary three final blows on thestomach were inflictedbut still the little man lived. Alive and brokenhe wasthrown on to the fire. His burnt ashesscattered to the windswere picked upeagerly by the mobreputedas in England the pieces of the hangman's ropetalismans.

Some two months after the execution of her husband Mme. Derues was deliveredin the Conciergerie of a male child; it is hardly surprisingin face of herexperiences during her pregnancythat it was born an idiot. In January1778the judges of the Parliamentby a majority of onedecided that she shouldremain a prisoner in the Conciergerie for another yearwhile judgment in hercase was reserved. In the following August she was charged with having forgedthe signature of Mme. de Lamotte on the deeds of sale. In February1779thetwo experts in handwriting to whom

 

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the question had been submitted decided in her favourand the charge wasabandoned.

But Mme. Derues had a far sternermore implacable andbe it addedmoreunscrupulous adversary than the law in M. de Lamotte. Not content with herhusband's deathM. de Lamotte believed the wife to have been his partner inguiltand thirsted for revenge. To accomplish it he even stooped to subornwitnessesbut the conspiracy was exposedand so strong became the sympathywith the accused woman that a young proctor of the Parliament published apamphlet in her defenceasking for an immediate inquiry into the charges madeagainst hercharges that had in no instance been proved.

At lastin March1779the Parliament decided to finish with the affair. Insecret session the judges metexamined once more all the documents in the caselistened to a report on it from one of their numberinterrogated the now wearyhopeless prisonerandby a large majoritycondemned her to a punishment thatfell only just short of the supreme penalty. On the grounds that she hadwilfully and knowingly participated with her husband in the fraudulent attemptto become possessed of the estate of Buisson-Souefand was strongly suspectedof having participated with him in his greater crimeshe was sentenced to bepublicly floggedbranded on both shoulders with the letter V (Voleuse) andimprisoned for life in the Salpetrière Prison. On March 13in front of theConciergerie Mme. Derues underwent the first part of her punishment. The sameday her hair was cut shortand she was dressed in the uniform of the prison inwhich she was to pass the remainder of her days.

Paris had just begun to forget Mme. Derues when a temporary interestwas-excited in her fortunes by the astonishing intelligence thattwo monthsafter her

 

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condemnationshe had been delivered of a child in her new prison. Itsfatherhood was never determinedandtaken from her motherthe child died infifteen days. Was its birth the result of some passing love affairor some actof drunken violence on the part of her jailorsor had the wretched womanfearing a sentence of deathmade an effort to avert once again the supremepenalty? History does not relate.

Ten years passed. A fellow prisoner in the Salpetrière described Mme. Deruesas "schemingmaliciouscapable of anything." She was accused ofbeing violentand of wishing to revenge herself by setting fire to Paris. Atlength the Revolution broke on Francethe Bastille felland in that same yearan old uncle of Mme. Deruesan ex-soldier of Louis XV.living in Brittanypetitioned for his niece's release. He protested her innocenceand begged thathe might take her to his home and restore her to her children. For three yearshe persisted vainly in his efforts. At lastin the year 1792it seemed as ifthey might be crowned with success. He was told that the case would bere-examined; that it was possible that the Parliament had judged unjustly. Thisgood news came to him in March. But in September of that year there took placethose shocking massacres in the Paris prisonswhich rank high among theatrocities of the Revolution. At four o'clock on the afternoon of September 4the slaughterers visited the Salpetrière Prisonand fifth among their victimsfell the widow of Derues.

M. Derues
I. THE CLIMBING LITTLE GROCER

M. ETIENNE SAINT-FAUST DE LAMOTTEa provincial nobleman ofancient lineage and moderate healthex-equerry to the Kingde-sired in theyear 1774 to dispose of a property in the countrythe estate of Buisson-Souefnear Villeneuve-le-Roiwhich he had purchased some ten years before out ofmoney acquired by a prudent marriage.

With an eye to the main chance M. de Lamotte had in 1760 ran away with thedaughter of a wealthy citizen of Rheimswho was then staying with her sister inParis. They lived together in the country for some timeand a son was born tothemwhom the father legitimised by subsequently marrying the mother. For a fewyears M. and Mme. de Lamotte dwelt happily together at Buisson-Souef. But astheir boy grew up they became anxious to leave the country and return to Pariswhere M. de Lamotte hoped to be able to obtain for his son some position aboutthe Court of Louis XVI. And so it was that in May1775M. de Lamotte gave apower of attorney to his wife in order that she might go to Paris and negotiatefor the sale of Buisson-Souef.

 

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The legal side of the transaction was placed in the hands of one Jollyaproctor at the Châtelet in Paris.

Now the proctor Jolly had a client with a great desire to acquire a place inthe countryM. Derues de Cyrano de Burylord of CandevilleHerchiesandother places. Here was the very man to comply with the requirements of the deLamottesand such a pleasingreadyaccommodating gentleman into the bargain!Very delicate to all appearancesstrangely paleslightfragile in buildwithhis beardless chin and feminine cast of featurethere was something cat-like inthe soft insinuating smile of this seemingly most amiablecandid and pious ofmen. Always cheerful and optimisticit was quite a pleasure to do business withM. Derues de Cyrano de Bury. The de Lamottes after one or two interviews weredelighted with their prospective purchaser. Everything was speedily settled. M.Derues and his wifea lady belonging to the distinguished family of Nicolaivisited Buisson-Souef. They were enchanted with what they sawand their hostswere hardly less enchanted with their visitors. By the end of December1775the purchase was concluded. M. Derues was to give 130000 livres (about£20000) for the estatethe payments to be made by instalmentsthe first of12000 livres to be paid on the actual signing of the contract of salewhichit was agreedwas to be concluded not later than the first of June1776. Inthe meantimeas an earnest of good faithM. Derues gave Mme. de Lamotte a billfor 4200 livres to fall due on April 11776.

What could be more satisfactory? That M. Derues was a substantial personthere could be no doubt. Through his wife he was entitled to a sum of 250000livres as her share of the property of a wealthy kinsmanoneDespeignes-Duplessisa country gentlemanwho some four years before had beenfound murdered in his

 

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house under mysterious circumstances. The liquidation of the Duplessisinheritanceas soon as the law's delay could be overcomewould place theDerues in a position of affluence fitting a Cyrano de Bury and a Nicolai.

At this time M. Derues was in reality far from affluent. In point of fact hewas insolvent. Nor was his lineagenor that of his wifein any waydistinguished. He had no right to call himself de Cyrano de Bury or Lord ofCandeville. His wife's name was Nicolaisnot Nicolai -- a very importantdifference from the genealogical point of view. The Duplessis inheritancethough certainly existentwould seem to have had little more chance ofrealisation than the mythical Crawford millions of Madame Humbert. And yetcrippled with debtwithout a penny in the worldthis daring grocer of the RueBeaubourgfor such was M. Derues' present condition in lifecould cheerfullyand confidently engage in a transaction as considerable as the purchase of alarge estate for 130000 livres! The origin of so enterprising a gentleman isworthy of attention.

Antoine François Derues was born at Chartres in 1744; his father was a cornmerchant. His parents died when he was three years old. For some time after hisbirth he was assumed to be a girl; it was not until he was twelve years old thatan operation determined his sex to be masculine. Apprenticed by his relatives toa grocerDerues succeeded so well in the business that he was able in 1770 toset up on his own account in Parisand in 1772 he married. Among the grocer'smany friends and acquaintances this marriage created something of a sensationfor Derues let it be known that the lady of his choice was of noble birth and anheiress. The first statement was untrue. The lady was one Marie Louise Nicolaisdaughter of a non-commissioned artillery officerturned coachbuilder. But bysuppressing

 

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the S at the end of her namewhich Derues was careful also to erase in hismarriage contractthe ambitious grocer was able to describe his wife asconnected with the noble house of Nicolaione of the most distinguished of thegreat French families.

There was more truth in the statement that Mme. Derues was an heiress. Akinsman of her motherBéraud by namehad become the heir to a certain MarquisDesprez. Béraud was the son of a small merchant. His mother had married asecond timethe hus-band being the Marquis Desprezand through her Béraud hadinherited the Marquis' property. According to the custom of the timeBéraudon coming into his inheritancetook a title from one of his estates and calledhimself thenceforth the lord of Despeignes-Duplessis. A rudesolitarybrutalmandevoted to sporthe lived alone in his castle of Candevillehated by hisneighboursa terror to poachers. One day he was found lying dead in hisbedroom; he had been shot in the chest; the assassin had escaped through an openwindow.

The mystery of Béraud's murder was never solved. His estate of 200000livres was divided among three cousinsof whom the mother of Mme. Derues wasone. Mme. Derues herself was entitled to a third of his mother's share of theestatethat isone-ninth of the whole. But in 1775 Derues acquired the rest ofthe mother's share on condition that he paid her an annual income of 1200livres. Thus on the liquidation of the Duplessis inheritance Mme. Derues wouldbe entitled nominally to some 66500 livresabout £11000 in English money.But five years had passed since the death of Despeignes-Duplessisand theestate was still in the slow process of legal settlement. If Derues were toreceive the full third of the Duplessis inheritance -- a very unlikelysupposition after four years of liquidation -- 66000

 

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livres would not suffice to pay his ordinary debts quite apart from the purchasemoney of Buisson-Souef. His financial condition was in the last degree critical.Not content with the modest calling of a grocerDerues had turned money-lendera money-lender to spendthrift and embarrassed noblemen. Derues dearly loved alord; he wanted to become one himself; it delighted him to receive dukes andmarquises at the Rue Beaubourgeven if they came there with the avowed objectof raising the wind. The smiling grocerin his everlasting bonnet and flowereddressing-gown à la J. J. Rousseauwas ever ready to oblige the needy scion ofa noble house. What he borrowed at moderate interest from his creditors he lentat enhanced interest to the quality. Duns and bailiffs jostled the dukes andmarquises whose presence at the Rue Beaubourg so impressed the wonderingneighbours of the facile grocer.

This aristocratic money-lending proved a hopeless trade; it only plungedDerues deeper and deeper into the mire of financial disaster. The noblemeneither forgot to pay while they were aliveor on their death were found to beinsolvent. Derues was driven to ordering goods and merchandise on creditandselling them at a lower price for ready money. Victims of this treatment beganto press him seriously for their money or their goods. Desperately he continuedto fence them off with the long expected windfall of the Duplessis inheritance.

Paris was getting too hot for him. Gay and irrepressible as he wasthestrain was severe. If he could only find some retreat in the country where hemight enjoy at once refuge from his creditors and the rank and consequence of acountry gentleman! Nothing -- no fearno disappointmentno disaster -- couldcheck the little grocer's ardent and overmastering desire to be a gentlemanindeeda landed proprietora lord or something

 

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or other. At the beginning of 1775 he had purchased a place near Rueil from aretired coffeehouse-keeperpaying 1000 livres on accountbut the non-paymentof the rest of the purchase-money had resulted in the annulment of the contract.UndefeatedDerues only determined to fly the higher. Having failed to pay 9000livres for a modest estate near Rueilhe had no hesitation in pledging himselfto pay 130000 livres for the lordly domain of Buisson-Souef. So great were hispride and joy on the conclusion of the latter bargain that he amused himself byrehearsing on paper his future style and title: "Antoine François deCyrano Derues de BurySeigneur de Buisson-Souef et Valle Profonde." He isworthy of Thackeray's penthis little grocer-snobwith his grand and ruinousacquaintance with the noble and the greathis spurious titleshis unweariedclimbing of the social ladder.

The confidingif willingdupe of aristocratic impe-cuniosityDerues was apast master of the art of duping others. From the moment of the purchase ofBuisson-Souef all his art was employed in cajoling the trusting and simple deLamottes. Legally Buisson-Souef was his from the signing of the agreement inDecember1775. His first payment was due in April1776. Instead of making itDerues went down to Buisson-Souef with his little girland stayed there as theguests of the de Lamottes for six months. His good humour and piety won allhearts. The village priest especially derived great satisfaction from thesociety of so devout a companion. He entertained his good friendsthe merrylittle manby dressing up as a womana role his smooth face and effeminatefeatures well fitted him to play. If business were alluded tothe merrygentleman railed at the delay and chicanery of lawyers; it was that alone thatpostponed the liquidation of the Duplessis inheritance;

 

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as soon as the lawyers could be got rid ofthe purchase-money of his new estatewould be promptly paid up. But as time went on and no payment was forthcomingthe de Lamottes began to feel a little uneasy. As soon as Derues had departed inNovember M. de Lamotte decided to send his wife to Paris to make furtherinquiries andif possiblebring their purchaser up to the scratch. Mme. deLamotte had developed into a stoutindolent womanof the Mrs. Bloss typefondof staying in bed and taking heavy meals. Her sona fatlethargic youth offourteenaccompanied his mother.

On hearing of Mme. de Lamotte's contemplated visit to ParisDerues wasfilled with alarm. If she were living free and independent in Paris she mightfind out the truth about the real state of his affairsand then good-bye toBuisson-Souef and landed gentility! Noif Mme. de Lamotte were to come toParisshe must come as the guest of the Deruesa pleasant return for thehospitality accorded to the grocer at Buisson-Souef. The invitation was givenand readily accepted; M. de Lamotte still had enough confidence in and likingfor the Derues to be glad of the opportunity of placing his wife under theirroof. And so it was that on December 161776Mme. de Lamotte arrived at Parisand took up her abode at the house of the Derues in the Rue Beaubourg Her sonshe placed at a private school in a neighbouring street.

To Derues there was now one pressing and immediate problem to be solved --how to keep Buisson-Souef as his own without paying for it? To one lesssanguineless daringless impudent and desperate in his needthe problemwould have appeared insoluble. But that was by no means the view of the cheeryand resourceful grocer. He had a solution readywell thought out and bearing tohis mind the stamp of probability. He would

 

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make a fictitious payment of the purchase-money to Mme. de Lamotte. She wouldthen disappeartaking her son with her. Her indiscretion in having been themistress of de Lamotte before she became his wifewould lend colour to hisstory that she had gone off with a former lovertaking with her the money whichDerues had paid her for Buisson-Souef. He would then produce the necessarydocuments proving the payment of the purchase-moneyand Buisson-Souef would behis for good and all.

The prime necessity to the success of this plan was the disappearancewilling or unwillingof Mme. de Lamotte and her son. The former had settleddown quite comfortably beneath the hospitable roof of the Deruesand under thesoothing influence of her host showed little vigour in pressing him for themoney due to herself and her husband. She had already spent a month in quietlyenjoying Paris and the society of her friends whentowards the end of January1770her health and that of her son began to fail. Mme. de Lamotte was seizedwith sickness and internal trouble. Though Derues wrote to her husband that hiswife was well and their business was on the point of conclusionby the 30th ofJanuary Mme. de Lamotte had taken to her bednursed and physicked by the readyDerues. On the 31st the servant at the Rue Beaubourg was told that she could goto her home at Montrougewhither Derues had previously sent his two children.Mme. Derueswho was in an interesting conditionwas sent out for an hour byher husband to do some shopping. Derues was alone with his patient.

In the evening a friendone Bertincame to dine with Derues. Bertin was ashorthustlingcredulousbreathless gentlemanalways in a hurrywith agreat belief in the abilities of M. Derues. He found the little man

 

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in excellent spirits. Bertin asked if he could see Mme. de Lamotte. Mme. Deruessaid that that was impossiblebut that her husband had given her some medicinewhich was working splendidly. The young de Lamotte called to see his mother.Derues took him into her room; in the dim light the boy saw her sleepingandcrept out quietly for fear of disturbing her. The Derues and their friends satdown to dinner. Derues kept jumping up and running into the sick roomfromwhich a horrible smell began to pervade the house. But Derues was radiant at thesuccess of his medicine. "Was there ever such a nurse as I am?" heexclaimed. Bertin remarked that he thought it was a woman's and not a man'splace to nurse a lady under such distressing circumstances. Derues protestedthat it was an occupation he had always liked. Next dayFebruary 1the servantwas still at Montrouge; Mme. Derues was again sent out shopping; again Derueswas alone with his patient. But she was a patient no longer; she had become acorpse. The highly successful medicine administered to the poor lady by herjolly and assiduous nurse had indeed worked wonders.

Derues had bought a large leather trunk. It is possible that to Deruesbelongs the distinction of being the first murderer to put that harmless andnecessary article of travel to a criminal use. He was engaged in hispreparations for coffining Mme. de Lamottewhen a female creditor knockedinsistently at the door. She would take no denial. Clad in his bonnet and gownDerues was compelled to admit her. She saw the large trunkand suspected a bolton the part of her creditor. Derues reassured her; a ladyhe saidwho had beenstopping with them was returning to the country. The creditor departed. Later inthe day Derues came out of the house and summoned some porters. With their helpthe heavy trunk was taken to the house of a sculptora friend of

 

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Derueswho agreed to keep it in his studio until Derues could take it down tohis place in the country. Bertin came in to dinner again that eveningand alsothe young de Lamotte. Derues was gayer than everlaughing and joking with hisguests. He told the boy that his mother had quite recovered and gone toVersailles to see about finding him some post at the Court. "We'll go andsee her there in a day or two" he said"I'll let you knowwhen."

On the following day a smartly dresseddapperbut very pale littlegentlemangiving the name of Ducoudrayhired a vacant cellar in a house in theRue de la Mortellerie. He hadhe saidsome Spanish wine he wanted to storethereand three or four days later M. Ducoudray deposited in this cellar alarge grey trunk. A few days after he employed a man to dig a large hole in thefloor of the cellargiving as his reason for such a proceeding that "therewas no way of keeping wine like burying it." While the man worked at thejobhis genial employer beguiled his labours with merry quips and taleswhichhe illustrated with delightful mimicry. The hole dugthe man was sent about hisbusiness. "I will bury the wine myself" said his employerand on oneor two occasions M. Ducoudray was seen by persons living in the house going inand out of his cellara lighted candle in his hand. One day the pale littlegentleman was observed leaving the cellaraccompanied by a porter carrying alarge trunkand after that the dwellers in the Rue de la Mortellerie saw thepale little gentleman no more.

A few days later M. Derues sent down to his place at Buisson-Souef a largetrunk filled with china. It was received there by M. de Lamotte. Little did thetrusting gentleman guess that it was in this very trunk that the body of hisdear wife had been conveyed to its

 

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last resting place in the cellar of M. Ducoudray in the Rue de la Mortellerie.Nor had M. Mesvrel-Desvergersimportunate creditor of M. Deruesguessed thecontents of the large trunk that he had met his debtor one day early in Februaryconveying through the streets of Paris. Creditors were always interruptingDerues at inconvenient moments. M. Mesvrel-Desvergers had tapped Derues on theshoulderreminded him forcibly of his liability towards himand spoken darklyof possible imprisonment. Derues pointed to the trunk. It containedhe saidasample of wine; he was going to order some more of itand he would then be in aposition to pay his debt. But the creditorstill doubtinghad M. Deruesfollowedand ascertained that he had deposited his sample of wine at a house inthe Rue de la Mortellerie.

On WednesdayFebruary 12a M. Beaupré of Commercy arrived at Versailleswith his nephewa fat boyin reality some fourteen years of agebut given outas older. They hired a room at the house of a cooper named Pecquet. M. Beaupréwas a very pale little gentlemanwho seemed in excellent spiritsin spite ofthe fact that his nephew was clearly anything but well. In-deedso sick andailing did he appear to be that Mme. Pecquet suggested that his uncle shouldcall in a doctor. But M. Beaupré said that that was quite unnecessary; he hadno faith in doctors; he would give the boy a good purge. His illness was duehesaidto a venereal disorder and the drugs which he had been taking in order tocure it; it was a priest the boy needed rather than a doctor. On the Thursdayand Friday the boy's condition showed little improvement; the vomitingcontinued. But on Saturday M. Beaupré declared himself as highly delighted withthe success of his medicine. The same night the boy was dead. The priesturgently sent for by his devout unclearrived to find a corpse.

 

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On the following day "Louis Anotine Beaupréaged twenty-two and ahalf" was buried at Versailleshis pious uncle leaving with the priestsix livres to pay for masses for the repose of his erring nephew's soul.

The same evening M. Derues whoaccording to his own accounthad left Pariswith the young de Lamotte in order to take the boy to his mother in Versaillesreturned home to the Rue Beaubourg. As usualBertin dropped in to dinner. Hefound his host full of merrimentsinging in the lightness of his heart. Indeedhe had reason to be pleasedfor at lasthe told his wife and his friendBuisson-Souef was his. He had seen Mme. de Lamotte at Versailles and paid herthe full purchase-money in goodsounding gold. Andbest joke of allMme. deLamotte had no sooner settled the business than she had gone off with a formerloverher son and her moneyand would in all probability never be heard ofagain. The gay gentleman laughingly reminded his hearers that such an escapadeon the part of Mme. de Lamotte was hardly to be wondered atwhen theyrecollected that her son had been born out of wedlock

To all appearances Mme. de Lamotte had undoubtedly concluded the sale ofBuisson-Souef to Derues and received the price of it before disappearing withher lover. Derues had in his possession a deed of sale signed by Mme. de Lamotteand acknowledging the payment to her by Derues of 100000 livreswhich he hadborrowed for that purpose from an advocate of the name of Duclos. As a fact theloan from Duclos to Derues was fictitious. A legal document proving the loan hadbeen drawn upbut the cash which the notary had demanded to see beforeexecuting the document had been borrowed for a few hours. Duclosa provincialadvocatehad acted in good faithin having been represented to him that suchfictitious transactions were frequently used in

 

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Paris for the purpose of getting over some temporary financial difficulty. Onthe 15th of February the deed of the sale of Buisson-Souef had been brought by awoman to the office of a scrivener employed by Derues; it was already signedbut the woman asked that certain blanks should be filled in and that thedocument should be dated. She was told that the date should be that of the dayon which the parties had signed it. She gave it as February 12. A few days laterDerues called at the office and was told of the lady's visit. "Ah!" hesaid"it was Mme. de Lamotte herselfthe lady who sold me theestate."

In the meantime Deruesthrough his bustling and ubiquitous friend Bertintook good care that the story of Mme. de Lamotte's sale of Buisson-Souef andsubsequent elopement should be spread sedulously abroad. By Bertin it was toldto M. Jollythe proctor in whose hands the de Lamottes had placed the sale ofBuisson-Souef. It was M. Jolly who had in the first instance recommended to themhis client Derues as a possible purchaser. The proctorwho knew Mme. de Lamotteto be a woman devoted to her husband and her homewas astonished to hear of herinfidelitymore especially as the story told by Derues represented her assaying in very coarse terms how little she cared for her husband's honour. Hewas surprisedtoothat she should not have consulted him about the conclusionof the business with Deruesand that Derues himself should have been able tofind so considerable a sum of money as 100000 livres. Butsaid M. Jollyif hewere satisfied that Mme. de Lamotte had taken away the money with herthen hewould deliver up to Derues the power of attorney which M. de Lamotte had leftwith him in 1775giving his wife authority to carry out the sale ofBuisson-Souef. Mme. de Lamottebeing a married woman

 

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the sale of the property to Derues would be legally invalid if the husband'spower of attorney were not in the hands of the purchaser.

II. THE GAME OF BLUFF

To Derueson the eve of victorythe statement of Jolly inregard to the power of attorney was a serious reverse. He had never thought ofsuch an instrumentor he would have persuaded Mme. de Lamotte to have gottenpermission of it before her disappearance. Now he must try to get it from Jollyhimself. On the 26th of February he once again raised from a friendly notary afew thousand livres on the Duplessis inheritanceand deposited the deed of saleof Buisson-Souef as further security. His pocket full of goldhe went straightto the office of Jolly. To the surprise of the proctor Derues announced that hehad come to pay him 200 livres which he owed himand apologised for the delay.Taking the gold coins from his pockets he filled his three-cornered hat withconsiderably more than the sum dueand held it out invitingly to M. Jolly. Thenhe proceeded to tell him of his dealings with Mme. de Lamotte. She had offeredhe saidto get the power of attorney for himbut hetrusting in her goodfaithhad said that there was no occasion for hurry; and thenfaithlessungrateful woman that she wasshe had gone off with his money and left him inthe lurch. "But" he added"I trust you absolutelyM. Jollyyou have all my business in your handsand I shall be a good client in thefuture. You have the power of attorney -- you will give it to me?" and herattled the coins in his hat. "I must have it" he went on"Imust have it at any price at any

 

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price" and again the coins danced in his hatwhile his eyes lookedknowingly at the proctor. M. Jolly saw his meaningand his surprise turned toindignation. He told Derues bluntly that he did not believe his storythatuntil he was convinced of its truth he would not part with the power ofattorneyand showed the confounded grocer the door.

Derues hastened home filled with wrathand took counsel with his friendBertin. Bertin knew something of legal process; they would try whether the lawcould not be invoked to compel Jolly to surrender the power of attorney. Bertinwent off to the Civil Lieutenant and applied for an order to oblige M. Jolly togive up the document in question. An order was made that Jolly must eithersurrender it into the hands of Derues or appear before a referee and show causewhy he should not comply with the order. Jolly refused still to give it up orallow a copy of it to be madeand agreed to appear before the referee tojustify his action. In the meantime Deruesgreatly daringhad started forBuisson-Souef to try what "bluff" could do in this serious crisis inhis adventure.

At Buisson-Souef poor M. de Lamotte waitedpuzzled and distressedfor newsfrom his wife. On Saturday17ththe day after the return of Derues fromVersailleshe heard from Mme. Derues that his wife had left Paris and gone withher son to Versailles. A second letter told him that she had completed the saleof Buisson-Souef to Deruesand was still at Versailles trying to obtain somepost for the boy. On February 19 Mme. Derues wrote again expressing surprisethat M. de Lamotte had not had any letter from his wife and asking if he hadreceived some oysters which the Derues had sent him. The distracted husband wasin no mood for oysters. "Do not send me oysters" he writes"Iam too

 

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ill with worry. I thank you for all your kindness to my son. I love him betterthan myselfand God grant he will be good and grateful." The only reply hereceived from the Derues was an assurance that he would see his wife again in afew days.

The days passedbut Mme. de Lamotte made no sign. About four o'clock on theafternoon of February 28Deruesaccompanied by the parish priest ofVilleneuvele-Roipresented himself before M. de Lamotte at Buisson-Souef. Forthe moment M. de Lamotte was rejoiced to see the little man; at last he wouldget news of his wife. But he was disappointed. Derues could tell him only whathe had been told alreadythat his wife had sold their estate and gone away withthe money.

M. de Lamotte was hardly convinced. Howhe asked Derueshad he found the100000 livres to buy Buisson-Souefhe who had not a halfpenny a short timeago? Derues replied that he had borrowed it from a friend; that there was no usein talking about it; the place was his nowhis aloneand M. de Lamotte had nolonger a right to be there; he was very sorrypoor dear gentlemanthat hiswife had gone off and left him without a shillingbut personally he wouldalways be a friend to him and would allow him 3000 livres a year for the restof his life. In the meantimehe saidhe had already sold forty casks of thelast year's vintageand would be obliged if M. de Lamotte would see to theirbeing sent off at once.

By this time the anger and indignation of M. de Lamotte blazed forth. He toldDerues that his story was a pack of liesthat he was still master atBuisson-Souefand not a bottle of wine should leave it. "You are torturingme" he exclaimed"I know something has happened to my wife andchild. I am coming to Paris myselfand if it is as I fearyou shall answer forit with

 

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your head!" Deruesundismayed by this outburstre-asserted his ownershipand departed in defiant moodleaving on the premises a butcher of theneighbourhood to look after his property.

But things were going ill with Derues. M. de Lamotte meant to show fight; hewould have powerful friends to back him; class against classthe little grocerwould be no match for him. It was immediate possession of Buisson-Souef thatDerues wantednot lawsuits; they were expensive and the results uncertain. Hespoke freely to his friends of the difficulties of the situation. What could hedo? The general opinion seemed to be that some fresh news of Mme. de Lamotte --her reappearanceperhaps -- would be the only effective settlement of thedispute. He had made Mme. de Lamotte disappearwhy should he not make herreappear? He was not the man to stick at trifles. His powers of femaleimpersonationwith which he had amused his good friends at Buisson-Souefcouldnow be turned to practical account. On March 5 he left Paris again.

On the evening of March 7 a gentlemanM. Desportes of Parishired a room atthe Hotel Blanc in Lyons. On the following day he went out early in the morningleaving word thatshould a lady whom he was expectingcall to see himshe wasto be shown up to his room. The same morning a gentlemanresembling M.Desportes of Parisbought two lady's dresses at a shop in Lyons. The sameafternoon a lady dressed in black silkwith a hood well drawn over her eyescalled at the office of M. Pourraa notary. The latter was not greatlyattracted by his visitorwhose nose struck him as large for a woman. She saidthat she had spent her youth in Lyonsbut her accent was distinctly Parisian.The lady gave her name as Madame de Lamotteand asked for a power of attorneyby which she could give

 

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her husband the interest due to her on a sum of 30000 livrespart of thepurchase-money of the estate of Buisson-Souefwhich she had recently sold. AsMme. de Lamotte represented herself as having been sent to M. Pourra by arespectable merchant for whom he was in the habit of doing businesshe agreedto draw up the necessary documentaccepting her statement that she and herhusband had separate estates. Mme. de Lamotte said that she would not have timeto wait until the power of attorney was readyand therefore asked M. Pourra tosend it to the parish priest at Villeneuvele-Roi; this he promised to do. Mme.de-Lamotte had called twice during the day at the Hotel Blanc and asked for M.Desportes of Parisbut he was not at home.

While Deruesalias Desportesalias Mme. de Lamottewas masquerading inLyonsevents had been moving swiftly and unfavourably in Paris. Sick withmisgiving and anxietyM. de Lamotte had come there to findif possiblehiswife and child. By a strange coincidence he alighted at an inn in the Rue de laMortellerieonly a few yards from the wine-cellar in which the corpse of hisill-fated wife lay buried. He lost no time in putting his case before theLieutenant of Policewho placed the affair in the hands of one of themagistrates of the Châteletthen the criminal court of Paris. At first themagistrate believed that the case was one of fraud and that Mme. de Lamotte andher son were being kept somewhere in concealment by Derues. But as heinvestigated the circumstances furtherthe evidence of the illness of themother and sonthe date of the disappearance of Mme. de Lamotteand herreputed signature to the deed of sale on February 12led him to suspect that hewas dealing with a case of murder.

When Derues returned to Paris from Lyonson March 11he found that thepolice had already visited the

 

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house and questioned his wifeand that he himself was under close surveillance.A day or two later the advocateDuclosrevealed to the magistrate thefictitious character of the loan of 100000 livreswhich Derues alleged that hehad paid to Mme. de Lamotte as the price of Buisson-Souef. When the new power ofattorney purporting to be signed by Mme. de Lamotte arrived from Lyonsand thesignature was compared with that on the deed of sale of Buisson-Souef to Deruesboth were pronounced to be forgeries. Derues was arrested and lodged in thePrison of For l'Evêque.

The approach of danger had not dashed the spirits of the little mannor washe without partisans in Paris. Opinion in the city was divided as to the truthof his account of Mme. de Lamotte's elopement. The nobility were on the side ofthe injured de Lamottebut the bourgeoisie accepted the grocer's story and mademerry over the deceived husband. Interrogatedhoweverby the magistrate of theChâteletDerues' position became more difficult. Under the stress of closequestioning the flimsy fabric of his financial statements fell to pieces like ahouse of cards. He had to admit that he had never paid Mme. de Lamotte 100000livres; he had paid her only 25000 livres in gold; further pressed he said thatthe 25000 livres had been made up partly in goldpartly in bills; but wherethe gold had come fromor on whom he had drawn the billshe could not explain.Still his position was not desperate; and he knew it. In the absence of Mme. deLamotte he could not be charged with fraud or forgery; and until her body wasdiscoveredit would be impossible to charge him with murder.

A month passed; Mme. Derueswho had made a belated attempt to follow herhusband's example by impersonating Mme. de Lamotte in Parishad been arrested

 

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and imprisoned in the Grand Châtelet; whenon April 18information wasreceived by the authorities which determined them to explore the wine-cellar inthe Rue de la Mortellerie. Whether the woman who had let the cellar to Deruesor the creditor who had met him taking his cask of wine therehad informed theinvestigating magistrateseems uncertain. In any casethe corpse of theunhappy lady was soon brought to light and Derues confronted with it. At firsthe said that he failed to recognise it as the remains of Mme. de Lamottebut hesoon abandoned that rather impossible attitude. He admitted that he had givensome harmless medicine to Mme. de Lamotte during her illnessand thento hishorrorone morning had awakened to find her dead. A fear lest her husband wouldaccuse him of having caused her death had led him to conceal the bodyand alsothat of her son whohe now confessedhad died and been buried by him atVersailles. On April 23 the body of the young de Lamotte was exhumed. Bothbodies were examined by doctorsand they declared themselves satisfied thatmother and son had died "from a bitter and corrosive poison administered insome kind of drink." What the poison was they did not venture to statebutone of their numberin the light of subsequent investigationarrived at theconclusion that Derues had used in both cases corrosive sublimate. How or wherehe had obtained the poison was never discovered.

Justice moved swiftly in Paris in those days. The preliminary investigationin Derues' case was ended on April 28. Two days later his trial commenced beforethe tribunal of the Châtelet. It lasted one day. The judges had before them thedepositions taken by the examining magistrate. Both Derues and his wife wereinterrogated. He maintained that he had not poisoned

 

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either Mme. de Lamotte or her son; his only crimehe saidlay in havingconcealed their deaths. Mme; Derues said: "It is Buisson-Souef that hasruined us! I always told my husband that he was mad to buy these properties -- Iam sure my husband is not a poisoner -- I trusted my husband and believed everyword he said." The court condemned Derues to deathbut deferred judgmentin his wife's case on the ground of her pregnancy.

And now the frailcat-like little man had to brace himself to meet a crueland protracted execution. But sanguine to the lasthe still hoped. An appeallay from the Châtelet to the Parliament of Paris. It was heard on March 5.Derues was brought to the Palais de Justice. The room in which he waited wasfilled with curious spectatorswho marvelled at his coolness and impudence. Herecognised among them a Benedictine monk of his acquaintance. "Mycase" he called out to him"will soon be over; we'll meet again yetand have a good time together." One visitorwishing not to appear toocuriouspretended to be looking at a picture. "Comesir" saidDerues"you haven't come here to see the picturesbut to see me. Have agood look at me. Why study copies of nature when you can look at such aremarkable original as I?" But there were to be no more days of mirth andgaiety for the jesting grocer. His appeal was rejectedand he was ordered forexecution on the morrow.

At six o'clock on the morning of May 6 Derues returned to the Palais deJusticethere to submit to the superfluous torments of the question ordinaryand extraordinary. Though condemned to deathtorture was to be applied in thehope of wringing from the prisoner some sort of confession. The doctors declaredhim too delicate to undergo the torture of pouring cold water into himwhichhis illustrious predecessorMme. de

 

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Brinvilliershad suffered; he was to endure the less severe torture of the"boot." His legs were tightly encased in woodand wedges were thenhammered in until the flesh was crushed and the bones broken. But never a wordof confession was wrung from the suffering creature. Four wedges constitutingthe ordinary torture he endured; at the third of the extraordinary he faintedaway. Put in the front of a fire the warmth restored him. Again he wasquestionedagain he asserted his wife's innocence and his own.

At two o'clock in the afternoon Derues was recovered sufficiently to be takento Notre Dame. Therein front of the Cathedralcandle in hand and rope roundhis neckhe made the amende honorable. But as the sentence was read aloud tothe people Derues reiterated the assertion of his innocence. From Notre Dame hewas taken to the Hotel de Ville. A condemned man had the right to stop there onhis way to executionto make his will and last dying declarations. Deruesavailed himself of this opportunity to protest solemnly and emphatically hiswife's absolute innocence of any complicity in whatever he had done. "Iwant above all" he said"to state that my wife is entirely innocent.She knew nothing. I used fifty cunning devices to hide everything from her. I amspeaking nothing but the truthshe is wholly innocent -- as for meI am aboutto die." His wife was allowed to see him; he enjoined her to bring up theirchildren in the fear of God and love of dutyand to let them know how he haddied. Once againas he took up the pen to sign the record of his last wordshere-asserted her innocence.

Of the last dreadful punishment the offending grocer was to be sparednothing. For an aristocrat like Mme. de Brinvilliers beheading was consideredindignity enough. But Derues must go through with it all; he

 

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must be broken on the wheel and burnt alive and his ashes scattered to the fourwinds of heaven; there was to be no retentum for hima clause sometimesinserted in the sentence permitting the executioner to strangle the brokenvictim before casting him on to the fire. He must endure all to the utmost agonythe law could inflict. It was six o'clock when Derues arrived at the Place deGrèvecrowded to its capacitythe square itselfthe windows of the houses;places had been bought at high pricesstoolsladdersanything that would givea good view of the end of the now famous poisoner.

Pale but calmDerues faced his audience. He was stripped of all but hisshirt; lying flat on the scaffoldhis face looking up to the skyhis headresting on a stonehis limbs were fastened to the wheel. Then with a heavy barof iron the executioner broke them one after anotherand each time he struck afearful cry came from the culprit. The customary three final blows on thestomach were inflictedbut still the little man lived. Alive and brokenhe wasthrown on to the fire. His burnt ashesscattered to the windswere picked upeagerly by the mobreputedas in England the pieces of the hangman's ropetalismans.

Some two months after the execution of her husband Mme. Derues was deliveredin the Conciergerie of a male child; it is hardly surprisingin face of herexperiences during her pregnancythat it was born an idiot. In January1778the judges of the Parliamentby a majority of onedecided that she shouldremain a prisoner in the Conciergerie for another yearwhile judgment in hercase was reserved. In the following August she was charged with having forgedthe signature of Mme. de Lamotte on the deeds of sale. In February1779thetwo experts in handwriting to whom

 

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the question had been submitted decided in her favourand the charge wasabandoned.

But Mme. Derues had a far sternermore implacable andbe it addedmoreunscrupulous adversary than the law in M. de Lamotte. Not content with herhusband's deathM. de Lamotte believed the wife to have been his partner inguiltand thirsted for revenge. To accomplish it he even stooped to subornwitnessesbut the conspiracy was exposedand so strong became the sympathywith the accused woman that a young proctor of the Parliament published apamphlet in her defenceasking for an immediate inquiry into the charges madeagainst hercharges that had in no instance been proved.

At lastin March1779the Parliament decided to finish with the affair. Insecret session the judges metexamined once more all the documents in the caselistened to a report on it from one of their numberinterrogated the now wearyhopeless prisonerandby a large majoritycondemned her to a punishment thatfell only just short of the supreme penalty. On the grounds that she hadwilfully and knowingly participated with her husband in the fraudulent attemptto become possessed of the estate of Buisson-Souefand was strongly suspectedof having participated with him in his greater crimeshe was sentenced to bepublicly floggedbranded on both shoulders with the letter V (Voleuse) andimprisoned for life in the Salpetrière Prison. On March 13in front of theConciergerie Mme. Derues underwent the first part of her punishment. The sameday her hair was cut shortand she was dressed in the uniform of the prison inwhich she was to pass the remainder of her days.

Paris had just begun to forget Mme. Derues when a temporary interestwas-excited in her fortunes by the astonishing intelligence thattwo monthsafter her

 

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condemnationshe had been delivered of a child in her new prison. Itsfatherhood was never determinedandtaken from her motherthe child died infifteen days. Was its birth the result of some passing love affairor some actof drunken violence on the part of her jailorsor had the wretched womanfearing a sentence of deathmade an effort to avert once again the supremepenalty? History does not relate.

Ten years passed. A fellow prisoner in the Salpetrière described Mme. Deruesas "schemingmaliciouscapable of anything." She was accused ofbeing violentand of wishing to revenge herself by setting fire to Paris. Atlength the Revolution broke on Francethe Bastille felland in that same yearan old uncle of Mme. Deruesan ex-soldier of Louis XV.living in Brittanypetitioned for his niece's release. He protested her innocenceand begged thathe might take her to his home and restore her to her children. For three yearshe persisted vainly in his efforts. At lastin the year 1792it seemed as ifthey might be crowned with success. He was told that the case would bere-examined; that it was possible that the Parliament had judged unjustly. Thisgood news came to him in March. But in September of that year there took placethose shocking massacres in the Paris prisonswhich rank high among theatrocities of the Revolution. At four o'clock on the afternoon of September 4the slaughterers visited the Salpetrière Prisonand fifth among their victimsfell the widow of Derues.


 

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Dr. Castaing


Note: There are two reports of the trial of Castaing: "Procés Completd'Edme Samuel Castaing" Paris1823; "Affaire Castaing" Paris1823.

Dr. Castaing


Note: There are two reports of the trial of Castaing: "Procés Completd'Edme Samuel Castaing" Paris1823; "Affaire Castaing" Paris1823.

Dr. Castaing
I. AN UNHAPPY COINCIDENCE

EDME CASTAINGborn at Alençon in 1796was the youngest ofthe three sons of an Inspector-General in the department of Woods and Forests.His elder brother had entered the same service as his fatherthe other brotherwas a staff-captain of engineers. Without being wealthythe familyconsistingof M. and Mme. Castaing and four childrenwas in comfortable circumstances. Theyoung Edme was educated at the College of Angers -- the Alma Mater of Barre andLebiez -- whereintelligent and hard workinghe carried off many prizes. Hedecided to enter the medical professionand at the age of nineteen commencedhis studies at the School of Medicine in Paris. For two years he worked hard andwellliving within the modest allowance made him by his father. At the end ofthat time this young man of two or three-and-twenty formed a passionateattachment for a ladythe widow of a judgeand the mother of three children.Of the genuine depth and sincerity of this passion for a woman who must havebeen considerably older than himselfthere can be no doubt. Henceforth the oneobject in life to Castaing was to make money enough to relieve the comparative

 

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poverty of his adored mistressand place her and her children beyond the reachof want. In 1821 Castaing became a duly qualified doctorand by that time hadadded to the responsibilities of his mistress and himself by becoming the fatherof two childrenwhom she had brought into the world. The lady was exigentandCastaing found it difficult to combine his work with a due regard to her claimson his society. Nor was work plentiful or lucrative. To add to hisembarrassments Castaingin 1818had backed a bill for a friend for 600 francs.To meet it when it fell due two years later was impossibleand desperate werethe efforts made by Castaing and his mother to put off the day of reckoning. Hisfatherdispleased with his son's conductwould do nothing to help him. But hismother spared no effort to extricate him from his difficulties. She begged ahighly placed official to plead with the insistent creditorbut all in vain.There seemed no hope of a further delay when suddenlyin the October of 1822Castaing became the possessor of 100000 francs. How he became possess ed ofthis considerable sum of money forms part of a strange and mysterious story.

Among the friends of Castaing were two young men of about his own ageAuguste and Hippolyte Ballet. Augustethe elderhad the misfortune a few daysafter his birth to incur his mother's lasting dislike. The nurse had let thechild fall from her arms in the mother's presenceand the shock had endangeredMme. Ballet's life. From that moment the mother took a strong aver-sion to herson; he was left to the charge of servants; his meals were taken in the kitchen.As soon as he was five years old he was put out to board elsewherewhile hisbrother Hippolyte and his sister were well cared for at home. The effect of thisunjust neglect on the character of Auguste Ballet wasas may be imaginedhad;

 

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he became indolent and dissipated. His brother Hippolyteon the other handhadjustified the affectionate care bestowed on his upbringing; he had grown into astudiousintelligent youth of a refined and attractive temperament. Unhappilyearly in his life he had developed consumptiona disease he inherited from hismother. As he grew older his health grew steadily worse untilin 1822hisfriends were seriously alarmed at his condition. It became so much graver thatin the August of that yearthe doctors recommended him to take the waters atEnghien. In September he returned to Paris apparently much betterbut onOctober 2 he was seized with sudden illnessand three days later he was dead.

A few years before the death of Hippolyte his father and mother had diedalmost at the same time. M. Ballet had left to each of his sons a fortune ofsome 260000 francs. Though called to the barboth Auguste and Hippolyte Balletwere now men of independent means. After the death of their parentswhateverjealousy Auguste may have felt at the unfair preference which his mother hadshown for her younger sonhad died down. At the time of Hippolyte's death thebrothers were on good termsthough the more prudent Hippolyte disapproved ofhis elder brother's extravagance.

Of Hippolyte Ballet Dr. Castaing had become the fast friend. Apart from hispersonal liking for Castaingit was a source of comfort to Hippolytein hiscritical state of healthto have as his friend one whose medical knowledge wasalways at his service. About the middle of August1822Hippolyteon theadvice of his doctorswent to Enghien to take the waters. There Castaing paidhim frequent visits. He returned to Paris on September 22and seemed to havebenefited greatly by the cure. On TuesdayOctober 1he saw his sisterMme.Martignonand her husband; he seemed wellbut

 

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said that he was having leeches applied to him by his friend Castaing. On theWednesday evening his sister saw him againand found him well and with a goodappetite. On the Thursdayafter a night disturbed by severe attacks ofvomitinghis condition seemed serious. His brother-in-lawwho visited himfound that he had taken to his bedhis face was swollenhis eyes were red. Hissister called in the eveningbut could not see him. The servants told her thather brother was a little better but restingand that he did not wish to bedisturbed; they said that Dr. Castaing had been with him all day. On FridayCastaing himself called on the Martignonsand told them that Hippolyte hadpassed a shockingly bad night. Madame Martignon insisted on going to nurse herbrother herselfbut Castaing refused positively to let her see him; the sightof herhe saidwould be too agitating to the patient. Later in the day Mme.Martignon went to her brother's house. In order to obey Dr. Castaing'sinjunctionsshe dressed herself in some of the clothes of the servant Victoirein the hope that if she went into his bedroom thus disguisedHippolyte wouldnot recognise her. But even this subterfuge was forbidden by Castaingand Mme.Martignon had to content herself with listening in an adjoining room for thesound of her brother's voice. At eight o'clock that evening the Martignonslearnt that Hippolyte was betterbut at ten o'clock they received a messagethat he was dyingand that his brother Auguste had been sent for. Mme.Martignon was prostrated with griefbut her husband hastened to hisbrother-in-law's house. There he found Castaingwho said that the death agonyof his friend was so dreadful that he had not the strength to remain in the roomwith the dying man. Another doctor was sent forbut at ten o'clock thefollowing

 

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morningafter protracted sufferingHippolyte Ballet passed away.

A post-mortem was held on his body. It was made by Drs. Segalas and Castaing.They stated that death was due to pleurisy aggravated by the consumptivecondition of the deceasedwhichhowever seriouswas not of itself likely tohave been so rapidly fatal in its consequences.

Hippolyte had diedleaving a fortune of some 240000 francs. In the previousSeptember he had spoken to the notary Lebreta former clerk of his father'sofhis intention of making a will. He had seen that his brother Auguste wassquandering his share of their inheritance; he told Lebret that whatever hemight leave to Auguste should not be placed at his absolute disposal. To hisservant Victoireduring his last illnessHippolyte had spoken of a will he hadmade which he wished to destroy. If Hippolyte had made such a willdid hedestroy it before his death? In any caseno trace of it was ever found afterhis death. He was presumed to have died intestateand his fortune was dividedthree-quarters of it going to his brother Augustethe remaining quarter to hissisterMme. Martignon.

On the day of Hippolyte's death Auguste Ballet wrote from his brother's houseto one Prignon: "With great grief I have to tell you that I have just lostmy brother; I write at the same time to say that I must have 100000 francsto-day if possible. I have the greatest need of it. Destroy my letterand replyat once. M. Sandrie willI am sureaccommodate me. I am at my poor brother'shousefrom which I am writing." Prignon did as he was askedbut it wastwo days before the stockbrokerSandriecould raise the necessary sum. OnOctober 7 he sold out sufficient of Auguste's stock to realise 100000 francsand the following day gave Prignon

 

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an order on the Bank of France for that amount. The same day Prignon took theorder to Auguste. Accompanied by Castaing and JeanAuguste's black servantAuguste and Prignon drove to the bank. There the order was cashed. Prignon'spart of the business was at an end. He said good-bye to Auguste outside thebank. As the latter got into his cabrioletcarrying the bundle of notesPrignon heard him say to Castaing: "There are the 100000 francs."

Why had Auguste Balletafter his brother's deathsuch urgent need of100000 francs? If the statements of Auguste made to other persons are to bebelievedhe had paid the 100000 francs which he had raised through Prignon toLebrethis father's former clerkwho would seem to have acted as legal andfinancial adviser to his old master's children. According to Auguste's storyhis sisterMme. Martignonhad offered Lebret 80000 francs to preserve a copyof a will made by Hippolyteleaving her the bulk of his fortune. Castainghoweverhad ascertained that Lebret would be willingif Auguste would outbidhis sister and pay 100000 francsto destroy the will so thatHippolyte dyingintestateAuguste would take the greater part of his brother's fortune. Augusteagreed to accept Lebret's termsraised the necessary sumand handed over themoney to Castaingwhoin turngave it to Lebretwho had thereupon destroyedthe copy of the will. Castaingaccording to the evidence of Auguste's mistressan actress of the name of Percilliehad spoken in her presence of havinghimself destroyed one copy of Hippolyte's will before his deathand admittedhaving arranged with Lebret after Hippolyte's death for the destruction of theother copy.

How far was the story told by Augusteand repeated in somewhat differentshape by Castaing to other personstrue? There is no doubt that after the visitto the

 

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Bank of France with Prignon on October 8Auguste and Castaing drove together toLebret's office. The negro servant said that on arriving there one of them gotout of the cab and went up to Lebret's housebut which of the two he would notat first say positively. Later he swore that it was Auguste Ballet. Whateverhappened on that visit to Lebret's -- and it was the theory of the prosecutionthat Castaing and not Auguste had gone up to the office -- the same afternoonAuguste Ballet showed his mistress the seals of the copy of his brother's willwhich Lebret had destroyedand told her that Lebretall through the businesshad refused to deal directly with himand would only act through theintermediary of Castaing.

Did Lebretas a factreceive the 100000 francs? A close examination of hisfinances showed no trace of such a sum. Castaingon the other handon October101822had given a stockbroker a sum of 66000 francs to invest insecurities; on the 11th of the same month he had lent his mother 30000 francs;and on the 14th had given his mistress 4000 francs. Of how this large sum ofmoney had come to Castaing at a time when he was practically insolvent he gavevarious accounts. His final version was that in the will destroyed by AugusteHippolyte Ballet had left him an income for life equivalent to a capital of100000 francsand that Auguste had given him that sum out of respect for hisbrother's wishes. If that explanation were trueit was certainly strange thatshortly after his brother's death Auguste Ballet should have expressed surpriseand suspicion to a friend on hearing that Castaing had been buying stock to thevalue of 8000 francs. If he had given Castaing 100000 francs for himselfthere was no occasion for surprise or suspicion at his investing 8000. ThatAuguste had paid out 100000 francs to some one

 

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in October the state of his finances at his death clearly proved. According tothe theory of the prosecutionAuguste believed that he had paid that money toLebret through the intermediary of Castaingand not to Castaing himself. Hencehis surprise at hearing that Castaingwhom he knew to be impecuniouswasinvesting such a sum as 8000 francs.

No money had ever reached Lebret. His honesty and good faith weredemonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt; no copy of any will of HippolyteBallet had ever been in his possession. But Castaing had shown Auguste Ballet acopy of his brother's willthe seals of which Auguste had shown to hismistress. In all probabilityand possibly at the instigation of CastaingHip-polyte Ballet had made a willleaving the greater part of his property tohis sister. Somehow or other Castaing had got possession of this will. On hisdeath Castaing had invented the story of Mme. Martignon's bribe to Lebretandso persuaded Auguste to outbid her. He had ingeniously kept Auguste and Lebretapart by representing Lebret as refusing to deal direct with Augusteand bythese means had secured to his own use the sum of 100000 francswhich Augustebelieved was being paid to Lebret as the price of his alleged destruction of hisbrother's will. The plot was ingenious and successful. To Lebret and theMartignons Castaing said that Hippolyte had made a will in Mme. Martignon'sfavourbut had destroyed it himself some days before his death. The Martignonsexpressed themselves as glad that Hip-polyte had done sofor they feared lestsuch a will should have provoked resentment against them on the part of Auguste.By keeping Auguste and Lebret apartCastaing prevented awkward explanations.The only possible danger of discovery lay in Auguste's incautious admissions tohis mistress and friends; but even had

 

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the fact of the destruction of the will come to the ears of the Martignonsitis unlikely that they would have taken any steps involving the disgrace ofAuguste.

Castaing had enriched himself considerably by the opportune death of hisfriend Hippolyte. It might be made a matter of unfriendly comment thaton thefirst day of May preceding that sad eventCastaing had purchased ten grains ofacetate of morphia from a chemist in Parisand on September 18less than amonth before Hippolyte's deathhe had purchased another ten grains of acetateof morphia from the same chemist. The subject of poisons had always been afavourite branch of Castaing's medical studiesespecially vegetable poisons;morphia is a vegetable poison.

Castaing's position relative to Auguste Ballet was now a strong one. Theywere accomplices in the unlawful destruction of Hippolyte's will. Augustebelieved it to be in his friend's power to ruin him at any time by revealing hisdealings with Lebret. Butmore than thatto Augustewho believed that his100000 francs had gone into Lebret's pocketCastaing could represent himselfas so far unrewarded for his share in the business; Lebret had taken all themoneywhile he had received no recompense of any kind for the trouble he hadtaken and the risk he was encountering on his friend's behalf. Whatever themotivefrom fear or gratitudeAuguste Ballet was persuaded to make a willleaving Dr. Edme Samuel Castaing the whole of his fortunesubject to a fewtrifling legacies. But Auguste's feelings towards his sole legatee were nolonger cordial. To one or two of his friends he expressed his growing distastefor Cas-taing's society.

Dr. Castaing can hardly have failed to observe this change. He knew Augusteto be reckless and extravagant with his money; he learnt that he had realisedanother

 

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100000 francs out of his securitiesand that he kept the money locked up in adrawer in his desk. If Auguste's fortune were dissipated by extravaganceor herevoked his willCastaing stood to lose heavily. As time went on Castaing feltless and less sure that he could place much reliance on the favourabledisposition or thrift of Auguste. The latter had fallen in love with a newmistress; he began to entertain expensively; even if he should not change hismind and leave his money away from Castaingthere might very soon be no moneyto leave. At the end of May1823Castaing consulted a cousin of hisMalassisa notary's clerkas to the validity of a will made by a sick man in favour ofhis medical attendant. He said that he had a patient gravely ill whonotwishing to leave his money to his sisterwhom he dislikedintended to leave itto him. Malassis reassured him as to the validity of such a willand gave himthe necessary instructions for preparing it. On May 29 Castaing sent Malassisthe will of Auguste Ballet with the following note"I send you the will ofM. Ballets examine it and keep it as his representative." The will wasdated December 11822and made Castaing sole legatee. On the same day that thewill was deposited with MalassisCastaing and Auguste Ballet started to-getheron a little two days' trip into the country. To his friends Auguste seemed inthe best of health and spirits; so much so that his housekeeper remarked as heleft how well he was lookingand Castaing echoed her remarksaying that helooked like a prince!

During the afternoon the two friends visited Saint Germainthen returned toParisand at seven o'clock in the evening arrived at the Tête Noire Hotel atSaint Cloudwhere they took a double-bedded roomCastaing paying five francsin advance. They spent the following dayFridayMay 30in walking about theneighbourhood

 

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dined at the hotel at sevenwent out again and returned about nine o'clock.Soon after their return Castaing ordered some warmed wine to be sent up to thebedroom. It was taken up by one of the maid-servants. Two glasses were mixedwith lemon and sugar which Castaing had brought with him. Both the young mendrank of the beverage. Auguste complained that it was sourand thought that hehad put too much lemon in it. He gave his glass to the servant to tastewhoalso found the drink sour. Shortly after she left the room and went upstairs tothe bedside of one of her fellow-servants who was ill. Castaingfor no apparentreasonfollowed her up and stayed in the room for about five minutes. Augustespent a bad nightsuffering from internal painsand in the morning his legswere so swollen that he could not put on his boots.

Castaing got up at four o'clock that morning and asked one of the servants tolet him out. Two hours later he drove up in a cabriolet to the door of a chemistin Parisand asked for twelve grains of tartar emeticwhich he wanted to mixin a wash according to a prescription of Dr. Castaing. But he did not tell thechemist that he was Dr. Castaing himself. An hour later Cas-taing arrived at theshop of another chemistChevalierwith whom he had already some acquaintance;he had bought acetate of morphia from him some months beforeand had discussedwith him then the effects of vegetable poisons. On this particular morning hebought of his assistant thirty-six grains of acetate of morphiapayingas amedical manthree francs fifty centimes for it instead of the usual price offour francs. Later in the morning Castaing returned to Saint Clouda distanceof ten miles from Parisand said that he had been out for a long walk. He foundAuguste ill in bed. Castaing asked for some cold milkwhich was taken up to thebedroom

 

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by one of the servants. Shortly after this Castaing went out again. During hisabsence Auguste was seized with violent pains and sickness. When Castaingreturned he found his friend in the care of the people of the hotel. He toldthem to throw away the matter that had been vomitedas the smell was offensiveand Auguste told them to do as his friend directed. Castaing proposed to sendfor a doctor from Parisbut Auguste insisted that a local doctor should becalled in at once.

Accordingly Dr. Pigache of Saint Cloud was summoned. He arrived at the hotelabout eleven o'clock. Before seeing the patient Castaing told the doctor that hebelieved him to be suffering from cholera. Pigache asked to see the mattervomited but was told that it had been thrown away. He prescribed a careful dietlemonade and a soothing draught.

Dr. Pigache returned at three o'clockwhen he found that the patient hadtaken some lemonadebutaccording to Castainghad refused to take thedraught. He called again that afternoon. Ballet was much better; he said that hewould be quite well if he could get some sleepand expressed a wish to returnto Paris. Dr. Pigache dissuaded him from this and leftsaying that he wouldcome again in the evening. Castaing said that that would be unnecessaryand itwas agreed that Pigache should see the patient again at eight o'clock the nextmorning. During the afternoon Castaing sent a letter to Paris to JeanAuguste'snegro servanttelling him to take the two keys of his master's desk to hiscousin Malassis. But the negro distrusted Castaing. He knew of the will whichhis master had made in the doctor's favour. Rather than compromise himself byany injudicious acthe brought the keys to Saint Cloud and there handed themover to Castaing.

When Jean arrived his master complained to him of

 

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feeling very ill. Jean said that he hoped he would be well enough to go back toParis the following dayto which Auguste replied"I don't think so. Butif I am lucky enough to get away to-morrowI shall leave fifty francs for thepoor here." About eleven o'clock that night Castaingin Jean's presencegave the sick man a spoonful of the draught prescribed by Dr. Pigache. Four orfive minutes later Auguste was seized with terrible convulsionsfollowed byunconsciousness. Dr. Pigache was sent for. He found Ballet lying on his backunconscioushis throat strainedhis mouth shut and his eyes fixed; the pulsewas weakhis body covered with cold sweat; and every now and then he was seizedwith strong convulsions. The doctor asked Castaing the cause of the suddenchange in Ballet's condition. Castaing replied that it had commenced shortlyafter he had taken a spoonful of the draught which the doctor had prescribed forhim. Dr. Pigache bled the patient and applied twenty leeches. He returned aboutsix; Ballet was sinkingand Castaing appeared to be greatly upset. He told thedoctor what an unhappy coincidence it was that he should have been present atthe deathbeds of both Hippolyte and his brother Auguste; and that the positionwas the more distressing for him as he was the sole heir to Auguste's fortune.To M. Pelletana professor of medicinewho had been sent for to St. Cloud inthe early hours of Sunday morningCastaing appeared to be in a state of greatgrief and agitation; he was shedding tears. Pelletan was from the firstimpressed by the suspicious nature of the caseand pointed out to Castaing theawkwardness of his situation as heir to the dying man. "You're right"replied Castaing"my position is dreadfulhorrible. In my great grief Ihad never thought of it till nowbut now you make me see it clearly. Do youthink there will be an investigation?" Pelletan answered that he

 

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should be compelled to ask for a post-mortem. "Ah! You will be doing me thegreatest service" said Castaing"I beg you to insist on apost-mortem. You will be acting as a second father to me in doing so." Theparish priest was sent for to administer extreme unction to the dying man. Tothe parish clerk who accompanied the priest Castaing said"I am losing afriend of my childhood" and both priest and clerk went away greatlyedified by the sincere sorrow and pious demeanour of the young doctor. Aboutmid-day on SundayJune 1Auguste Ballet died.

During the afternoon Castaing left the hotel for some hoursand that sameafternoon a young man about twenty-five years of ageshort and fairleft aletter at the house of Malassis. The letter was from Castaing and said"Mydear friendBallet has just diedbut do nothing before to-morrowMonday. Iwill see you and tell youyes or nowhether it is time to act. I expect thathis brother-in-lawM. Martignonwhose face is pock-marked and who carries adecorationwill call and see you. I have said that I did not know whatdispositions Ballet may have madebut that before his death he had told me togive you two little keys which I am going to deliver to you myself to-morrowMonday. I have not said that we are cousinsbut only that I had seen you onceor twice at Ballet'swith whom you were friendly. So say nothing till I haveseen youbut whatever you dodon't say you are a relative of mine." Whenhe returned to the hotel Castaing found MartignonLebretand one or twofriends of Auguste already assembled. It was only that morning that Martignonhad received from Castaing any intimation of his brother-in-law's criticalcondition. From the first Castaing was regarded with suspicion; the nature ofthe illnessthe secrecy maintained about it by Castaingthe coincidence

 

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of some of the circumstances with those of the death of Hippolyteall combinedto excite suspicion. Asked if Auguste had left a will Castaing said no; but thenext day he admitted its existenceand said that it was in the hands ofMalassis.

MondayJune 2was the day fixed for the post-mortem; it was performed inthe hotel at Saint Cloud. Castaing was still in the hotel under provisionalarrest. While the post-mortem was going on his agitation was extreme; he keptopening the door of the room in which he was confinedto hear if possible somenews of the result. At last M. Pelletan obtained permission to inform him of theverdict of the doctors. It was favourable to Castaing; no trace of death byviolence or poison had been discovered.

The medical men declared death to be due to an inflammation of the stomachwhich could be attributed to natural causes; that the inflammation had subsided;that it had been succeeded by cerebral inflammationwhich frequently followsinflammation of the stomachand may have been aggravated in this case byexposure to the sun or by over-indulgence of any kind.

 

II. THE TRIAL OF DR. CASTAING

CASTAING expectedas a result of the doctors' reportimmediate release. In this he was disappointed; he was placed under stricterarrest and taken to Pariswhere a preliminary investigation commencedlastingfive months. During the early part of his imprisonment Castaing feignedinsanitygoing to disgusting lengths in the hope of convincing those about himof the reality of

 

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his madness. But after three days of futile effort he gave up the attemptandturned his attention to more practical means of defence. In the prison atVersailleswhither he had been removed from Parishe got on friendly termswith a prisonerone Goupilwho was awaiting trial for some unimportantoffence. To Goupil Castaing described the cruelty of his position and the causesthat had led to his wrongful arrest. He admitted his unfortunate possession ofthe poisonand said that the 100000 francs which he had invested he hadinherited from an uncle. Through Goupil he succeeded in communicating with hismother in the hope that she would use her influence to stifle some of the moreserious evidence against him. Through other prisoners he tried to get at thechemists from whom he had bought acetate of morphiaand persuade them to saythat the preparation of morphia which he had purchased was harmless.

The trial of Castaing commenced before the Paris Assize Court on November 101823. He was charged with the murder of Hippolyte Balletthe destruction of adocument containing the final dispositions of Hippolyte's propertyand with themurder of Auguste Ballet. The three charges were to be tried simultaneously. TheAct of Accusation in Castaing's case is a remarkable documentcovering ahundred closely-printed pages. It is a well-reasonedgraphic and unfairstatement of the case for the prosecution. It tells the whole story of thecrimeand inserts everything that can possibly prejudice the prisoner in theeyes of the jury. As an exampleit quotes against Castaing a letter of hismistress in whichin the course of some quarrelshe had written to him sayingthat his mother had said some "horrible things" (des horreurs) of him;but what those "horrible things" were was not revealednor were theyever alluded to again

 

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in the course of the trialnor was his mistress called as a witnessthoughpayments of money by Castaing to her formed an important part of the evidenceagainst him. Againthe evidence of Goupilhis fellow prisoneras to theincriminating statements made to him by Castaing is given in the Act ofAccusationbut Goupil himself was not called at the trial.

During the reading of the Act of Accusation by the Clerk of the CourtCastaing listened calmly. Only when some allusion was made to his mistress andtheir children did he betray any sign of emotion. As soon as the actual facts ofthe case were set out he was all attentionmaking notes busily. He is describedas rather attractive in appearancehis face longhis features regularhisforehead highhis hairfair in colourbrushed back from the brows; he worerather large side-whiskers. One of the witnesses at Saint Cloud said thatCastaing looked more like a priest than a doctor; his downcast eyesgentlevoicequiet and unassuming demeanourlent him an air of patience and humility.

The interrogatory of Castaing by the presiding judge lasted all the afternoonof the first day of the trial and the morning of the second. The opening part ofit dealt with the murder of Hippolyte Balletand elicited little or nothingthat was fresh. Beyond the purchase of acetate of morphia previous toHippolyte's deathwhich Castaing reluctantly admittedthere was no seriousevidence against himand before the end of the trial the prosecution abandonedthat part of the charge.

Questioned by the President as to the destruction of Hippolyte Ballet's willCastaing admitted that he had seen a draft of a will executed by Hippolyte infavour of his sisterbut he denied having told Auguste that Lebret had in hispossession a copy which he was prepared to destroy for 100000 francs. Asked toexplain the assertion

 

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of Mlle. PercilliéAuguste's mistressthat statements to this effect had beenmade in her presence by both Auguste Ballet and himselfhe said that it was nottrue; that he had never been to her house. "What motive" he wasasked"could Mlle. Percillié have for accusing you?" "She hatedme" was the reply"because I had tried to separate Auguste fromher." Castaing denied that he had driven with Auguste to Lebret's office onOctober 8. Asked to explain his sudden possession of 100000 francs at a momentwhen he was apparently without a pennyhe repeated his statement that Augustehad given him the capital sum as an equivalent for an income of 4000 francswhich his brother had intended to leave him. "Whywhen first asked if youhad re-ceived anything from Augustedid you say you had received nothing?"was the question. "It was a thoughtless statement" was the answer."Why" pursued the President"should you not have admitted atonce a fact that went to prove your own good faith? Ifhoweverthis fact betrueit does not explain the mysterious way in which Auguste asked Prignon toraise for him 100000 francs; and unless those 100000 francs were given to youit is impossible to account for them. It is important to your case that youshould give the jury a satisfactory explanation on this point." Castaingcould only repeat his previous explanations.

The interrogatory was then directed to the death of Auguste Ballet. Castaingsaid that Auguste Ballet had left him all his fortune on account of adisagreement with his sister. Asked whyafter Auguste's deathhe had at firstdenied all knowledge of the will made in his favour and deposited by him withMalassishe could give no satisfactory reason. Coming to the facts of thealleged poisoning of Auguste Balletthe President asked Castaing whyshortlyafter the warm wine was brought

 

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up on the night of May 30he went up to the room where one of the servants ofthe hotel was lying sick. Castaing replied that he was sent for by the wife ofthe hotel-keeper. This the woman denied; she said that she did not even knowthat he was a doctor. "According to the prosecution" said the judge"you left the room in order to avoid drinking your share of the wine."Castaing said that he had drunk half a cupful of it. The judge reminded him thatto one of the witnesses Castaing had said that he had drunk only a little.

A ridiculous statement made by Castaing to explain the purchase of morphiaand antimony in Paris on May 31 was brought up against him. Shortly after hisarrest Castaing had said that the cats and dogs about the hotel had made such anoise on the night of May 30 that they had disturbed the rest of Augustewhoin the early morninghad asked Castaing to get some poison to kill them. He hadaccordingly gone all the wayabout ten milesto Paris at four in the morningto purchase antimony and morphia to kill cats and dogs. All the people of thehotel denied that there had been any such disturbance on the night in question.Castaing now said that he had bought the poisons at Auguste's requestpartly tokill the noisy cats and dogsand partly for the purpose of their makingexperiments on animals. Asked why he had not given this second reason beforehesaid that as Auguste was not a medical man it would have been damaging to hisreputation to divulge the fact of his wishing to make unauthorised experimentson animals. "Why go to Paris for the poison?" asked the judge"there was a chemist a few yards from the hotel. And when in Pariswhy goto two chemists?" To all these questions Castaing's answers were such as tolead the President to express a doubt as to whether they were likely to convincethe jury. Castaing was obliged to

 

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admit that he had allowedif not orderedthe evacuations of the sick man to bethrown away. He stated that he had thrown away the morphia and antimonywhichhe had bought in Parisin the closets of the hotelbecauseowing to theconcatenation of circumstanceshe thought that he would be suspected of murder.In reply to a question from one of the juryCastaing said that he had mixed theacetate of morphia and tartar emetic together before reaching Saint Cloudbutwhy he had done so he could not explain.

The medical evidence at the trial was favourable to the accused. Orfilathefamous chemist of that daysaid thatthough the symptoms in Auguste Ballet'scase might be attributed to poisoning by acetate of morphia or some othervegetable poisonat the same time they could be equally well attributed tosudden illness of a natural kind. The liquidstaken from the stomach of Ballethad yielded on analysis no trace of poison of any sort. The convulsive symptomspresent in Ballet's case were undoubtedly a characteristic result of a severedose of acetate of morphia. It was asserted some years later by one medicalauthority in Palmer's case that it might have been morphia and not strychninethat had caused the tetanic symptoms which preceded Cook's death. Castaing saidthat he had mixed the acetate of morphia and tartar emetic togetherbut in anycase no trace of either poison was found in Auguste's bodyand his illnessmightfrom all appearanceshave been occasioned by natural causes. Someattempt was made by the prosecution to prove that the apoplexy to whichHippolyte Ballet had finally succumbedmight be attributed to a vegetablepoison; one of the doctors expressed an opinion favourable to that conclusion"as a man but not as a physician." But the evidence did not gofurther.

To the young priest-like doctor the ordeal of his trial

 

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was a severe one. It lasted eight days. It was only at midday on the sixth daythat the evidence was concluded. Not only was Castaing compelled to submit to along interrogatory by the Presidentbutafter each witness had given his orher evidencethe prisoner was called on to refute or explain any pointsunfavourable to him. This he did brieflywith varying success; as the trialwent onwith increasing embarrassment. A great deal of the evidence givenagainst Castaing was hearsayand would have been inadmissible in an Englishcourt of justice. Statements made by Auguste to other persons about Castaingwere freely admitted. But more serious was the evidence of Mlle. PercilliéAuguste's mistress. She swore that on one occasion in her presence Castaing hadreproached Auguste with ingratitude; he had complained that he had destroyed onecopy of Hippolyte Ballet's willand for Auguste's sake had procured thedestruction of the otherand that yetin spite of all thisAuguste hesitatedto entrust him with 100000 francs. Asked what he had to say to this statementCastaing denied its truth. He hadhe saidonly been in Mlle. Percillié'shouse onceand then not with Auguste Ballet. Mlle. Percillié adhered to thetruth of her evidenceand the President left it to the jury to decide betweenthem.

A Mme. Duranda patient of Castainggave some curious evidence as to astory told her by the young doctor. He said that a friend of hissuffering fromlung diseasehad been persuaded into making a will in his sister's favour. Thesister had offered a bribe of 80000 francs to her brother's lawyer to persuadehim to make such a willand paid one of his clerks 3000 francs for drawing itup. Castaingin his friend's interestand in order to expose the fraudinvited the clerk to come and see him. His friendhidden in an alcove in theroomoverheard the conversation between

 

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Castaing and the clerkand so learnt the details of his sister's intrigue. Heat once destroyed the will and became reconciled with his brotherwhom he hadbeen about to disinherit. After his death the brotherout of gratitudehadgiven Castaing 100000 francs.

President: Castaingdid you tell this story to Mme. Durand?

Castaing: I don't recollect.

Avocat-Général: But Mme. Durand says that you did.

Castaing: I don't recollect.

President: You always say that you don't recollect; that is no answer. Haveyouyes or nomade such a statement to Mme. Durand?

Castaing: I don't recollect; if I had said itI should recollect it.

Another lady whom Castaing had attended free of charge sworewith a gooddeal of reluctancethat Castaing had told her a somewhat similar story asaccounting for his possession of 100000 francs.

Witnesses were called for the defence who spoke to the diligence and goodconduct of Castaing as a medical student; and eighteenwhom he had treated freeof expensetestified to his kindness and generosity. "All thesewitnesses" said the President"speak to your generosity; butforthat very reasonyou must have made little profit out of your professionandhad little opportunity for saving anything" to which Castaing replied:"These are not the only patients I attended; I have not called those whopaid me for my services." At the same time Cas-taing found it impossible toprove that he had ever made a substantial living by the exercise of hisprofession.

One of the medical witnesses called for the defenceM. Chaussierhadvolunteered the remark that the absence of any trace of poison in the portionsof Auguste

 

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Ballet's body submitted to analysisconstituted an absence of the corpusdelicti. To this the President replied that that was a question of criminal lawand no concern of his. But in his speech for the prosecution theAvocat-Général dealt with the point raised at some length -- a point whichifit had held good as a principle of English lawwould have secured the acquittalof so wicked a poisoner as Palmer. He quoted from the famous French lawyerd'Aguesseau: "The corpus delicti is no other thing than the delictumitself; but the proofs of the delictum are infinitely variable according to thenature of things; they may be general or specialprincipal or accessorydirector indirect; in a wordthey form that general effect (ensemble) which goes todetermine the conviction of an honest man." If such a contention as M.Chaussier's were correctsaid the Avocat-Généralthen it would be impossiblein a case of poisoning to convict a prisoner after his victim's deathorifhis victim survivedto convict him of the attempt to poison. He reminded thejury of that paragraph in the Code of Criminal Procedure which instructed themas to their duties: "The Law does not ask you to give the reasons that haveconvinced you; it lays down no rules by which you are to decide as to thefullness or sufficiency of proof . . . it only asks you one question: `Have youan inward conviction?'" "If" he said"the actual traces ofpoison are a material proof of murder by poisonthen a new paragraph must beadded to the Criminal Code -- `Sincehowevervegetable poisons leave no tracepoisoning by such means may be committed with impunity.'" To poisoners hewould say in future: "Bunglers that you aredon't use arsenic or anymineral poison; they leave traces; you will be found out. Use vegetable poisons;poison your fatherspoison your motherspoison all your familiesand theirinheritance will be yours -- fear nothing;

 

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you will go unpunished! You have committed murder by poisoningit is true; butthe corpus delicti will not be there because it can't be there!" This was acasehe urgedof circumstantial evidence. "We have" he said"gone through a large number of facts. Of these there is not one that doesnot go directly to the proof of poisoningand that can only be explained on thesupposition of poisoning; whereasif the theory of the defence be admittedallthese factsfrom the first to the lastbecome meaningless and absurd. They canonly be refuted by arguments or explanations that are childish andridiculous."

Castaing was defended by two advocates -- Roussela schoolfellow of hisandthe famous Berryerreckoned by some the greatest French orator since Mirabeau.Both advocates were allowed to address the jury. Roussel insisted on theimportance of the corpus delicti. "The delictum" he said"isthe effectthe guilty man merely the cause; it is useless to deal with thecause if the effect is uncertain" and he cited a case in which a woman hadbeen sent for trialcharged with murdering her husband; the moral proof of herguilt seemed conclusivewhen suddenly her husband appeared in court alive andwell. The advocate made a good deal of the fact that the remains of the draughtprescribed by Dr. Pigachea spoonful of which Castaing had given to AugusteBallethad been analysed and showed no trace of poison. Against this theprosecution set the evidence of the chemist at Saint Cloudwho had made up theprescription. He said that the same day he had made up a second prescriptionsimilar to that of Dr. Pigachebut not made out for Auguste Balletwhichcontainedin addition to the other ingredientsacetate of morphia. Theoriginal of this prescription he had given to a friend of Castaingwho had cometo his shop and asked him for

 

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it a few days after Ballet's death. It would seem therefore that there had beentwo bottles of medicineone of which containing morphia had disappeared.

M. Roussel combatted the suggestion that the family of Castaing were in astate of indigence. He showed that his father had an income of 10000 francswhile his two brothers were holding good positionsone as an officer in thearmythe other as a government official. The mistress of Castaing herepresented as enjoying an income of 5000 francs. He protested against thequantity of hearsay evidence that had been admitted into the case. "InEngland" he said"when a witness is calledhe is asked `What haveyou seen?' If he can only testify to mere talkand hearsayhe is notheard." He quoted the concluding paragraph of the will of Auguste Ballet asshowing his friendly feeling towards Castaing: "It is only after carefulreflection that I have made this final disposition of my propertyin order tomark the sincere friendship which I have never for one moment ceased to feel forMM. CastaingBriant and Leuchérein order to recognise the faithful loyaltyof my servantsand deprive M. and Mme. Martignonmy brother-in-law and sisterof all rights to which they might be legally entitled on my deathfullypersuaded in soul and conscience thatin doing soI am giving to each theirjust and proper due." "Is this" asked M. Roussel"adocument wrested by surprise from a weak manextorted by trickery? Is he notacting in the full exercise of his faculties? He forgets no oneand justifieshis conduct."

When M. Roussel came to the incident of the noisy cats and dogs at SaintCloudhe was as ingenious as the circumstances permitted: "A seriouscharge engrosses public attention; men's minds are concentrated on the largebroad aspects of the case; they are in a state of unnatural excitement. They seeonly the greatness

 

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the solemnity of the accusationand thensuddenlyin the midst of all that isof such tragic and surpassing interestcomes this trivial fact about cats anddogs. It makes an unfavourable impressionbecause it is dramatically out ofkeeping with the tragedy of the story. But we are not here to construct a drama.Nogentlemenlook at it merely as a trivial incident of ordinaryeverydaylifeand you will see it in its proper light." M. Roussel concluded bysaying that Castaing's most eloquent advocateif he could have been presentwould have been Auguste Ballet. "If Providence had permitted him to enterthis courthe would cry out to you`Save my friend's life! His heart isundefiled! He is innocent!'"

M. Roussel concluded his speech at ten o'clock on Sunday nightNovember 16.The next morning Berryer addressed the jury. His speech in defence of Castaingis not considered one of his most successful efforts. He gave personal testimonyas to the taste of acetate of morphia. He said that with the help of his ownchemist he had put a quarter of a grain of the acetate into a large spoonful ofmilkand had found it so insupportably bitter to the taste that he could notkeep it in his mouth. Ifhe contendedBallet had been poisoned by tartaremeticthen twelve grains given in milk would have given it an insipid tasteand vomiting immediately after would have got rid of the poison. Laterinvestigations have shown thatin cases of antimonial poisoningvomiting doesnot necessarily get rid of all the poisonand the convulsions in which AugusteBallet died are symptomatic of poisoning either by morphia or antimony. InconclusionBerryer quoted the words addressed by one of the Kings of France tohis judges: "When God has not vouchsafed clear proof of a crimeit is asign that He does not wish that man should determine itbut leaves its judgmentto a higher tribunal."

 

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The Avocat-Généralin replymade a telling answer to M. Roussel's attemptto minimise the importance of the cats and dogs: "He has spoken of thedrama of lifeand of its ordinary everyday incidents. If there is drama in thiscaseit is of Castaing's making. As to the ordinary incidents of everyday lifea man buys poisonbrings it to the bedside of his sick friendsaying it is forexperiments on cats and dogsthe friend diesthe otherhis sole heirafterforetelling his deathtakes possession of his keysand proceeds to gather upthe spoils -- are these ordinary incidents of every-day life?"

It was nine o'clock at night when the jury retired to consider their verdict.They returned into court after two hours' deliberation. They found the prisoner"Not Guilty" of the murder of Hippolyte Ballet"Guilty" ofdestroying his willand "Guilty" by seven votes to five of the murderof Auguste Ballet. Asked if he had anything to say before judgment was givenCastaingin a very loud voicesaid "No; but I shall know how to diethough I am the victim of ill-fortuneof fatal circum-stance. I shall go tomeet my two friends. I am accused of having treacherously murdered them. Thereis a Providence above us! If there is such a thing as an immortal soulI shallsee Hippolyte and Auguste Ballet again. This is no empty declamation; I don'task for human pity" (raising his hands to heaven)"I look to God'smercyand shall go joyfully to the scaffold. My conscience is clear. It willnot reproach me even when I feel" (putting his hands to his neck)."Alas! It is easier to feel what I am feeling than to express what I darenot express." (In a feeble voice): "You have desired my death; youhave it!" The judges retired to consider the sentence. The candles weregutteringthe light of the lamps was beginning to fade; the aspect of the courtgrim and terrible. M. Roussel broke down and

 

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burst into tears. Castaing leant over to his old schoolfellow: "CourageRoussel" he said; "you have always believed me innocentand I aminnocent. Embrace for me my fathermy mothermy brothersmy child." Heturned to a group of young advocates standing near: "And youyoung peoplewho have listened to my trialattend also my execution; I shall be as firm thenas I am now. All I ask is to die soon. I should be ashamed to plead formercy." The judges returned. Castaing was condemned to deathand orderedto pay 100000 francs damages to the family of Auguste Ballet.

Castaing was not ashamed to appeal to the Court of Cassation for a revisionof his trialbut on December 4 his appeal was rejected. Two days later he wasexecuted. He had attempted suicide by means of poisonwhich one of his friendshad brought to him in prisonconcealed inside a watch. His courage failed himat the lastand he met his death in a state of collapse.

It is not oftenhappilythat a young man of gentle birth and good educationis a double murderer at twenty-six. And such a softhumbleinsinuating youngman too! -- good to his mothergood to his mistressfond of his childrenkindto his patients. Yet this gentle creature can deliberately poison his twofriends. Was ever such a contradictory fellow?

Dr. Castaing
I. AN UNHAPPY COINCIDENCE

EDME CASTAINGborn at Alençon in 1796was the youngest ofthe three sons of an Inspector-General in the department of Woods and Forests.His elder brother had entered the same service as his fatherthe other brotherwas a staff-captain of engineers. Without being wealthythe familyconsistingof M. and Mme. Castaing and four childrenwas in comfortable circumstances. Theyoung Edme was educated at the College of Angers -- the Alma Mater of Barre andLebiez -- whereintelligent and hard workinghe carried off many prizes. Hedecided to enter the medical professionand at the age of nineteen commencedhis studies at the School of Medicine in Paris. For two years he worked hard andwellliving within the modest allowance made him by his father. At the end ofthat time this young man of two or three-and-twenty formed a passionateattachment for a ladythe widow of a judgeand the mother of three children.Of the genuine depth and sincerity of this passion for a woman who must havebeen considerably older than himselfthere can be no doubt. Henceforth the oneobject in life to Castaing was to make money enough to relieve the comparative

 

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poverty of his adored mistressand place her and her children beyond the reachof want. In 1821 Castaing became a duly qualified doctorand by that time hadadded to the responsibilities of his mistress and himself by becoming the fatherof two childrenwhom she had brought into the world. The lady was exigentandCastaing found it difficult to combine his work with a due regard to her claimson his society. Nor was work plentiful or lucrative. To add to hisembarrassments Castaingin 1818had backed a bill for a friend for 600 francs.To meet it when it fell due two years later was impossibleand desperate werethe efforts made by Castaing and his mother to put off the day of reckoning. Hisfatherdispleased with his son's conductwould do nothing to help him. But hismother spared no effort to extricate him from his difficulties. She begged ahighly placed official to plead with the insistent creditorbut all in vain.There seemed no hope of a further delay when suddenlyin the October of 1822Castaing became the possessor of 100000 francs. How he became possess ed ofthis considerable sum of money forms part of a strange and mysterious story.

Among the friends of Castaing were two young men of about his own ageAuguste and Hippolyte Ballet. Augustethe elderhad the misfortune a few daysafter his birth to incur his mother's lasting dislike. The nurse had let thechild fall from her arms in the mother's presenceand the shock had endangeredMme. Ballet's life. From that moment the mother took a strong aver-sion to herson; he was left to the charge of servants; his meals were taken in the kitchen.As soon as he was five years old he was put out to board elsewherewhile hisbrother Hippolyte and his sister were well cared for at home. The effect of thisunjust neglect on the character of Auguste Ballet wasas may be imaginedhad;

 

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he became indolent and dissipated. His brother Hippolyteon the other handhadjustified the affectionate care bestowed on his upbringing; he had grown into astudiousintelligent youth of a refined and attractive temperament. Unhappilyearly in his life he had developed consumptiona disease he inherited from hismother. As he grew older his health grew steadily worse untilin 1822hisfriends were seriously alarmed at his condition. It became so much graver thatin the August of that yearthe doctors recommended him to take the waters atEnghien. In September he returned to Paris apparently much betterbut onOctober 2 he was seized with sudden illnessand three days later he was dead.

A few years before the death of Hippolyte his father and mother had diedalmost at the same time. M. Ballet had left to each of his sons a fortune ofsome 260000 francs. Though called to the barboth Auguste and Hippolyte Balletwere now men of independent means. After the death of their parentswhateverjealousy Auguste may have felt at the unfair preference which his mother hadshown for her younger sonhad died down. At the time of Hippolyte's death thebrothers were on good termsthough the more prudent Hippolyte disapproved ofhis elder brother's extravagance.

Of Hippolyte Ballet Dr. Castaing had become the fast friend. Apart from hispersonal liking for Castaingit was a source of comfort to Hippolytein hiscritical state of healthto have as his friend one whose medical knowledge wasalways at his service. About the middle of August1822Hippolyteon theadvice of his doctorswent to Enghien to take the waters. There Castaing paidhim frequent visits. He returned to Paris on September 22and seemed to havebenefited greatly by the cure. On TuesdayOctober 1he saw his sisterMme.Martignonand her husband; he seemed wellbut

 

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said that he was having leeches applied to him by his friend Castaing. On theWednesday evening his sister saw him againand found him well and with a goodappetite. On the Thursdayafter a night disturbed by severe attacks ofvomitinghis condition seemed serious. His brother-in-lawwho visited himfound that he had taken to his bedhis face was swollenhis eyes were red. Hissister called in the eveningbut could not see him. The servants told her thather brother was a little better but restingand that he did not wish to bedisturbed; they said that Dr. Castaing had been with him all day. On FridayCastaing himself called on the Martignonsand told them that Hippolyte hadpassed a shockingly bad night. Madame Martignon insisted on going to nurse herbrother herselfbut Castaing refused positively to let her see him; the sightof herhe saidwould be too agitating to the patient. Later in the day Mme.Martignon went to her brother's house. In order to obey Dr. Castaing'sinjunctionsshe dressed herself in some of the clothes of the servant Victoirein the hope that if she went into his bedroom thus disguisedHippolyte wouldnot recognise her. But even this subterfuge was forbidden by Castaingand Mme.Martignon had to content herself with listening in an adjoining room for thesound of her brother's voice. At eight o'clock that evening the Martignonslearnt that Hippolyte was betterbut at ten o'clock they received a messagethat he was dyingand that his brother Auguste had been sent for. Mme.Martignon was prostrated with griefbut her husband hastened to hisbrother-in-law's house. There he found Castaingwho said that the death agonyof his friend was so dreadful that he had not the strength to remain in the roomwith the dying man. Another doctor was sent forbut at ten o'clock thefollowing

 

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morningafter protracted sufferingHippolyte Ballet passed away.

A post-mortem was held on his body. It was made by Drs. Segalas and Castaing.They stated that death was due to pleurisy aggravated by the consumptivecondition of the deceasedwhichhowever seriouswas not of itself likely tohave been so rapidly fatal in its consequences.

Hippolyte had diedleaving a fortune of some 240000 francs. In the previousSeptember he had spoken to the notary Lebreta former clerk of his father'sofhis intention of making a will. He had seen that his brother Auguste wassquandering his share of their inheritance; he told Lebret that whatever hemight leave to Auguste should not be placed at his absolute disposal. To hisservant Victoireduring his last illnessHippolyte had spoken of a will he hadmade which he wished to destroy. If Hippolyte had made such a willdid hedestroy it before his death? In any caseno trace of it was ever found afterhis death. He was presumed to have died intestateand his fortune was dividedthree-quarters of it going to his brother Augustethe remaining quarter to hissisterMme. Martignon.

On the day of Hippolyte's death Auguste Ballet wrote from his brother's houseto one Prignon: "With great grief I have to tell you that I have just lostmy brother; I write at the same time to say that I must have 100000 francsto-day if possible. I have the greatest need of it. Destroy my letterand replyat once. M. Sandrie willI am sureaccommodate me. I am at my poor brother'shousefrom which I am writing." Prignon did as he was askedbut it wastwo days before the stockbrokerSandriecould raise the necessary sum. OnOctober 7 he sold out sufficient of Auguste's stock to realise 100000 francsand the following day gave Prignon

 

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an order on the Bank of France for that amount. The same day Prignon took theorder to Auguste. Accompanied by Castaing and JeanAuguste's black servantAuguste and Prignon drove to the bank. There the order was cashed. Prignon'spart of the business was at an end. He said good-bye to Auguste outside thebank. As the latter got into his cabrioletcarrying the bundle of notesPrignon heard him say to Castaing: "There are the 100000 francs."

Why had Auguste Balletafter his brother's deathsuch urgent need of100000 francs? If the statements of Auguste made to other persons are to bebelievedhe had paid the 100000 francs which he had raised through Prignon toLebrethis father's former clerkwho would seem to have acted as legal andfinancial adviser to his old master's children. According to Auguste's storyhis sisterMme. Martignonhad offered Lebret 80000 francs to preserve a copyof a will made by Hippolyteleaving her the bulk of his fortune. Castainghoweverhad ascertained that Lebret would be willingif Auguste would outbidhis sister and pay 100000 francsto destroy the will so thatHippolyte dyingintestateAuguste would take the greater part of his brother's fortune. Augusteagreed to accept Lebret's termsraised the necessary sumand handed over themoney to Castaingwhoin turngave it to Lebretwho had thereupon destroyedthe copy of the will. Castaingaccording to the evidence of Auguste's mistressan actress of the name of Percilliehad spoken in her presence of havinghimself destroyed one copy of Hippolyte's will before his deathand admittedhaving arranged with Lebret after Hippolyte's death for the destruction of theother copy.

How far was the story told by Augusteand repeated in somewhat differentshape by Castaing to other personstrue? There is no doubt that after the visitto the

 

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Bank of France with Prignon on October 8Auguste and Castaing drove together toLebret's office. The negro servant said that on arriving there one of them gotout of the cab and went up to Lebret's housebut which of the two he would notat first say positively. Later he swore that it was Auguste Ballet. Whateverhappened on that visit to Lebret's -- and it was the theory of the prosecutionthat Castaing and not Auguste had gone up to the office -- the same afternoonAuguste Ballet showed his mistress the seals of the copy of his brother's willwhich Lebret had destroyedand told her that Lebretall through the businesshad refused to deal directly with himand would only act through theintermediary of Castaing.

Did Lebretas a factreceive the 100000 francs? A close examination of hisfinances showed no trace of such a sum. Castaingon the other handon October101822had given a stockbroker a sum of 66000 francs to invest insecurities; on the 11th of the same month he had lent his mother 30000 francs;and on the 14th had given his mistress 4000 francs. Of how this large sum ofmoney had come to Castaing at a time when he was practically insolvent he gavevarious accounts. His final version was that in the will destroyed by AugusteHippolyte Ballet had left him an income for life equivalent to a capital of100000 francsand that Auguste had given him that sum out of respect for hisbrother's wishes. If that explanation were trueit was certainly strange thatshortly after his brother's death Auguste Ballet should have expressed surpriseand suspicion to a friend on hearing that Castaing had been buying stock to thevalue of 8000 francs. If he had given Castaing 100000 francs for himselfthere was no occasion for surprise or suspicion at his investing 8000. ThatAuguste had paid out 100000 francs to some one

 

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in October the state of his finances at his death clearly proved. According tothe theory of the prosecutionAuguste believed that he had paid that money toLebret through the intermediary of Castaingand not to Castaing himself. Hencehis surprise at hearing that Castaingwhom he knew to be impecuniouswasinvesting such a sum as 8000 francs.

No money had ever reached Lebret. His honesty and good faith weredemonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt; no copy of any will of HippolyteBallet had ever been in his possession. But Castaing had shown Auguste Ballet acopy of his brother's willthe seals of which Auguste had shown to hismistress. In all probabilityand possibly at the instigation of CastaingHip-polyte Ballet had made a willleaving the greater part of his property tohis sister. Somehow or other Castaing had got possession of this will. On hisdeath Castaing had invented the story of Mme. Martignon's bribe to Lebretandso persuaded Auguste to outbid her. He had ingeniously kept Auguste and Lebretapart by representing Lebret as refusing to deal direct with Augusteand bythese means had secured to his own use the sum of 100000 francswhich Augustebelieved was being paid to Lebret as the price of his alleged destruction of hisbrother's will. The plot was ingenious and successful. To Lebret and theMartignons Castaing said that Hippolyte had made a will in Mme. Martignon'sfavourbut had destroyed it himself some days before his death. The Martignonsexpressed themselves as glad that Hip-polyte had done sofor they feared lestsuch a will should have provoked resentment against them on the part of Auguste.By keeping Auguste and Lebret apartCastaing prevented awkward explanations.The only possible danger of discovery lay in Auguste's incautious admissions tohis mistress and friends; but even had

 

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the fact of the destruction of the will come to the ears of the Martignonsitis unlikely that they would have taken any steps involving the disgrace ofAuguste.

Castaing had enriched himself considerably by the opportune death of hisfriend Hippolyte. It might be made a matter of unfriendly comment thaton thefirst day of May preceding that sad eventCastaing had purchased ten grains ofacetate of morphia from a chemist in Parisand on September 18less than amonth before Hippolyte's deathhe had purchased another ten grains of acetateof morphia from the same chemist. The subject of poisons had always been afavourite branch of Castaing's medical studiesespecially vegetable poisons;morphia is a vegetable poison.

Castaing's position relative to Auguste Ballet was now a strong one. Theywere accomplices in the unlawful destruction of Hippolyte's will. Augustebelieved it to be in his friend's power to ruin him at any time by revealing hisdealings with Lebret. Butmore than thatto Augustewho believed that his100000 francs had gone into Lebret's pocketCastaing could represent himselfas so far unrewarded for his share in the business; Lebret had taken all themoneywhile he had received no recompense of any kind for the trouble he hadtaken and the risk he was encountering on his friend's behalf. Whatever themotivefrom fear or gratitudeAuguste Ballet was persuaded to make a willleaving Dr. Edme Samuel Castaing the whole of his fortunesubject to a fewtrifling legacies. But Auguste's feelings towards his sole legatee were nolonger cordial. To one or two of his friends he expressed his growing distastefor Cas-taing's society.

Dr. Castaing can hardly have failed to observe this change. He knew Augusteto be reckless and extravagant with his money; he learnt that he had realisedanother

 

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100000 francs out of his securitiesand that he kept the money locked up in adrawer in his desk. If Auguste's fortune were dissipated by extravaganceor herevoked his willCastaing stood to lose heavily. As time went on Castaing feltless and less sure that he could place much reliance on the favourabledisposition or thrift of Auguste. The latter had fallen in love with a newmistress; he began to entertain expensively; even if he should not change hismind and leave his money away from Castaingthere might very soon be no moneyto leave. At the end of May1823Castaing consulted a cousin of hisMalassisa notary's clerkas to the validity of a will made by a sick man in favour ofhis medical attendant. He said that he had a patient gravely ill whonotwishing to leave his money to his sisterwhom he dislikedintended to leave itto him. Malassis reassured him as to the validity of such a willand gave himthe necessary instructions for preparing it. On May 29 Castaing sent Malassisthe will of Auguste Ballet with the following note"I send you the will ofM. Ballets examine it and keep it as his representative." The will wasdated December 11822and made Castaing sole legatee. On the same day that thewill was deposited with MalassisCastaing and Auguste Ballet started to-getheron a little two days' trip into the country. To his friends Auguste seemed inthe best of health and spirits; so much so that his housekeeper remarked as heleft how well he was lookingand Castaing echoed her remarksaying that helooked like a prince!

During the afternoon the two friends visited Saint Germainthen returned toParisand at seven o'clock in the evening arrived at the Tête Noire Hotel atSaint Cloudwhere they took a double-bedded roomCastaing paying five francsin advance. They spent the following dayFridayMay 30in walking about theneighbourhood

 

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dined at the hotel at sevenwent out again and returned about nine o'clock.Soon after their return Castaing ordered some warmed wine to be sent up to thebedroom. It was taken up by one of the maid-servants. Two glasses were mixedwith lemon and sugar which Castaing had brought with him. Both the young mendrank of the beverage. Auguste complained that it was sourand thought that hehad put too much lemon in it. He gave his glass to the servant to tastewhoalso found the drink sour. Shortly after she left the room and went upstairs tothe bedside of one of her fellow-servants who was ill. Castaingfor no apparentreasonfollowed her up and stayed in the room for about five minutes. Augustespent a bad nightsuffering from internal painsand in the morning his legswere so swollen that he could not put on his boots.

Castaing got up at four o'clock that morning and asked one of the servants tolet him out. Two hours later he drove up in a cabriolet to the door of a chemistin Parisand asked for twelve grains of tartar emeticwhich he wanted to mixin a wash according to a prescription of Dr. Castaing. But he did not tell thechemist that he was Dr. Castaing himself. An hour later Cas-taing arrived at theshop of another chemistChevalierwith whom he had already some acquaintance;he had bought acetate of morphia from him some months beforeand had discussedwith him then the effects of vegetable poisons. On this particular morning hebought of his assistant thirty-six grains of acetate of morphiapayingas amedical manthree francs fifty centimes for it instead of the usual price offour francs. Later in the morning Castaing returned to Saint Clouda distanceof ten miles from Parisand said that he had been out for a long walk. He foundAuguste ill in bed. Castaing asked for some cold milkwhich was taken up to thebedroom

 

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by one of the servants. Shortly after this Castaing went out again. During hisabsence Auguste was seized with violent pains and sickness. When Castaingreturned he found his friend in the care of the people of the hotel. He toldthem to throw away the matter that had been vomitedas the smell was offensiveand Auguste told them to do as his friend directed. Castaing proposed to sendfor a doctor from Parisbut Auguste insisted that a local doctor should becalled in at once.

Accordingly Dr. Pigache of Saint Cloud was summoned. He arrived at the hotelabout eleven o'clock. Before seeing the patient Castaing told the doctor that hebelieved him to be suffering from cholera. Pigache asked to see the mattervomited but was told that it had been thrown away. He prescribed a careful dietlemonade and a soothing draught.

Dr. Pigache returned at three o'clockwhen he found that the patient hadtaken some lemonadebutaccording to Castainghad refused to take thedraught. He called again that afternoon. Ballet was much better; he said that hewould be quite well if he could get some sleepand expressed a wish to returnto Paris. Dr. Pigache dissuaded him from this and leftsaying that he wouldcome again in the evening. Castaing said that that would be unnecessaryand itwas agreed that Pigache should see the patient again at eight o'clock the nextmorning. During the afternoon Castaing sent a letter to Paris to JeanAuguste'snegro servanttelling him to take the two keys of his master's desk to hiscousin Malassis. But the negro distrusted Castaing. He knew of the will whichhis master had made in the doctor's favour. Rather than compromise himself byany injudicious acthe brought the keys to Saint Cloud and there handed themover to Castaing.

When Jean arrived his master complained to him of

 

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feeling very ill. Jean said that he hoped he would be well enough to go back toParis the following dayto which Auguste replied"I don't think so. Butif I am lucky enough to get away to-morrowI shall leave fifty francs for thepoor here." About eleven o'clock that night Castaingin Jean's presencegave the sick man a spoonful of the draught prescribed by Dr. Pigache. Four orfive minutes later Auguste was seized with terrible convulsionsfollowed byunconsciousness. Dr. Pigache was sent for. He found Ballet lying on his backunconscioushis throat strainedhis mouth shut and his eyes fixed; the pulsewas weakhis body covered with cold sweat; and every now and then he was seizedwith strong convulsions. The doctor asked Castaing the cause of the suddenchange in Ballet's condition. Castaing replied that it had commenced shortlyafter he had taken a spoonful of the draught which the doctor had prescribed forhim. Dr. Pigache bled the patient and applied twenty leeches. He returned aboutsix; Ballet was sinkingand Castaing appeared to be greatly upset. He told thedoctor what an unhappy coincidence it was that he should have been present atthe deathbeds of both Hippolyte and his brother Auguste; and that the positionwas the more distressing for him as he was the sole heir to Auguste's fortune.To M. Pelletana professor of medicinewho had been sent for to St. Cloud inthe early hours of Sunday morningCastaing appeared to be in a state of greatgrief and agitation; he was shedding tears. Pelletan was from the firstimpressed by the suspicious nature of the caseand pointed out to Castaing theawkwardness of his situation as heir to the dying man. "You're right"replied Castaing"my position is dreadfulhorrible. In my great grief Ihad never thought of it till nowbut now you make me see it clearly. Do youthink there will be an investigation?" Pelletan answered that he

 

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should be compelled to ask for a post-mortem. "Ah! You will be doing me thegreatest service" said Castaing"I beg you to insist on apost-mortem. You will be acting as a second father to me in doing so." Theparish priest was sent for to administer extreme unction to the dying man. Tothe parish clerk who accompanied the priest Castaing said"I am losing afriend of my childhood" and both priest and clerk went away greatlyedified by the sincere sorrow and pious demeanour of the young doctor. Aboutmid-day on SundayJune 1Auguste Ballet died.

During the afternoon Castaing left the hotel for some hoursand that sameafternoon a young man about twenty-five years of ageshort and fairleft aletter at the house of Malassis. The letter was from Castaing and said"Mydear friendBallet has just diedbut do nothing before to-morrowMonday. Iwill see you and tell youyes or nowhether it is time to act. I expect thathis brother-in-lawM. Martignonwhose face is pock-marked and who carries adecorationwill call and see you. I have said that I did not know whatdispositions Ballet may have madebut that before his death he had told me togive you two little keys which I am going to deliver to you myself to-morrowMonday. I have not said that we are cousinsbut only that I had seen you onceor twice at Ballet'swith whom you were friendly. So say nothing till I haveseen youbut whatever you dodon't say you are a relative of mine." Whenhe returned to the hotel Castaing found MartignonLebretand one or twofriends of Auguste already assembled. It was only that morning that Martignonhad received from Castaing any intimation of his brother-in-law's criticalcondition. From the first Castaing was regarded with suspicion; the nature ofthe illnessthe secrecy maintained about it by Castaingthe coincidence

 

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of some of the circumstances with those of the death of Hippolyteall combinedto excite suspicion. Asked if Auguste had left a will Castaing said no; but thenext day he admitted its existenceand said that it was in the hands ofMalassis.

MondayJune 2was the day fixed for the post-mortem; it was performed inthe hotel at Saint Cloud. Castaing was still in the hotel under provisionalarrest. While the post-mortem was going on his agitation was extreme; he keptopening the door of the room in which he was confinedto hear if possible somenews of the result. At last M. Pelletan obtained permission to inform him of theverdict of the doctors. It was favourable to Castaing; no trace of death byviolence or poison had been discovered.

The medical men declared death to be due to an inflammation of the stomachwhich could be attributed to natural causes; that the inflammation had subsided;that it had been succeeded by cerebral inflammationwhich frequently followsinflammation of the stomachand may have been aggravated in this case byexposure to the sun or by over-indulgence of any kind.

II. THE TRIAL OF DR. CASTAING

CASTAING expectedas a result of the doctors' reportimmediate release. In this he was disappointed; he was placed under stricterarrest and taken to Pariswhere a preliminary investigation commencedlastingfive months. During the early part of his imprisonment Castaing feignedinsanitygoing to disgusting lengths in the hope of convincing those about himof the reality of

 

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his madness. But after three days of futile effort he gave up the attemptandturned his attention to more practical means of defence. In the prison atVersailleswhither he had been removed from Parishe got on friendly termswith a prisonerone Goupilwho was awaiting trial for some unimportantoffence. To Goupil Castaing described the cruelty of his position and the causesthat had led to his wrongful arrest. He admitted his unfortunate possession ofthe poisonand said that the 100000 francs which he had invested he hadinherited from an uncle. Through Goupil he succeeded in communicating with hismother in the hope that she would use her influence to stifle some of the moreserious evidence against him. Through other prisoners he tried to get at thechemists from whom he had bought acetate of morphiaand persuade them to saythat the preparation of morphia which he had purchased was harmless.

The trial of Castaing commenced before the Paris Assize Court on November 101823. He was charged with the murder of Hippolyte Balletthe destruction of adocument containing the final dispositions of Hippolyte's propertyand with themurder of Auguste Ballet. The three charges were to be tried simultaneously. TheAct of Accusation in Castaing's case is a remarkable documentcovering ahundred closely-printed pages. It is a well-reasonedgraphic and unfairstatement of the case for the prosecution. It tells the whole story of thecrimeand inserts everything that can possibly prejudice the prisoner in theeyes of the jury. As an exampleit quotes against Castaing a letter of hismistress in whichin the course of some quarrelshe had written to him sayingthat his mother had said some "horrible things" (des horreurs) of him;but what those "horrible things" were was not revealednor were theyever alluded to again

 

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in the course of the trialnor was his mistress called as a witnessthoughpayments of money by Castaing to her formed an important part of the evidenceagainst him. Againthe evidence of Goupilhis fellow prisoneras to theincriminating statements made to him by Castaing is given in the Act ofAccusationbut Goupil himself was not called at the trial.

During the reading of the Act of Accusation by the Clerk of the CourtCastaing listened calmly. Only when some allusion was made to his mistress andtheir children did he betray any sign of emotion. As soon as the actual facts ofthe case were set out he was all attentionmaking notes busily. He is describedas rather attractive in appearancehis face longhis features regularhisforehead highhis hairfair in colourbrushed back from the brows; he worerather large side-whiskers. One of the witnesses at Saint Cloud said thatCastaing looked more like a priest than a doctor; his downcast eyesgentlevoicequiet and unassuming demeanourlent him an air of patience and humility.

The interrogatory of Castaing by the presiding judge lasted all the afternoonof the first day of the trial and the morning of the second. The opening part ofit dealt with the murder of Hippolyte Balletand elicited little or nothingthat was fresh. Beyond the purchase of acetate of morphia previous toHippolyte's deathwhich Castaing reluctantly admittedthere was no seriousevidence against himand before the end of the trial the prosecution abandonedthat part of the charge.

Questioned by the President as to the destruction of Hippolyte Ballet's willCastaing admitted that he had seen a draft of a will executed by Hippolyte infavour of his sisterbut he denied having told Auguste that Lebret had in hispossession a copy which he was prepared to destroy for 100000 francs. Asked toexplain the assertion

 

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of Mlle. PercilliéAuguste's mistressthat statements to this effect had beenmade in her presence by both Auguste Ballet and himselfhe said that it was nottrue; that he had never been to her house. "What motive" he wasasked"could Mlle. Percillié have for accusing you?" "She hatedme" was the reply"because I had tried to separate Auguste fromher." Castaing denied that he had driven with Auguste to Lebret's office onOctober 8. Asked to explain his sudden possession of 100000 francs at a momentwhen he was apparently without a pennyhe repeated his statement that Augustehad given him the capital sum as an equivalent for an income of 4000 francswhich his brother had intended to leave him. "Whywhen first asked if youhad re-ceived anything from Augustedid you say you had received nothing?"was the question. "It was a thoughtless statement" was the answer."Why" pursued the President"should you not have admitted atonce a fact that went to prove your own good faith? Ifhoweverthis fact betrueit does not explain the mysterious way in which Auguste asked Prignon toraise for him 100000 francs; and unless those 100000 francs were given to youit is impossible to account for them. It is important to your case that youshould give the jury a satisfactory explanation on this point." Castaingcould only repeat his previous explanations.

The interrogatory was then directed to the death of Auguste Ballet. Castaingsaid that Auguste Ballet had left him all his fortune on account of adisagreement with his sister. Asked whyafter Auguste's deathhe had at firstdenied all knowledge of the will made in his favour and deposited by him withMalassishe could give no satisfactory reason. Coming to the facts of thealleged poisoning of Auguste Balletthe President asked Castaing whyshortlyafter the warm wine was brought

 

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up on the night of May 30he went up to the room where one of the servants ofthe hotel was lying sick. Castaing replied that he was sent for by the wife ofthe hotel-keeper. This the woman denied; she said that she did not even knowthat he was a doctor. "According to the prosecution" said the judge"you left the room in order to avoid drinking your share of the wine."Castaing said that he had drunk half a cupful of it. The judge reminded him thatto one of the witnesses Castaing had said that he had drunk only a little.

A ridiculous statement made by Castaing to explain the purchase of morphiaand antimony in Paris on May 31 was brought up against him. Shortly after hisarrest Castaing had said that the cats and dogs about the hotel had made such anoise on the night of May 30 that they had disturbed the rest of Augustewhoin the early morninghad asked Castaing to get some poison to kill them. He hadaccordingly gone all the wayabout ten milesto Paris at four in the morningto purchase antimony and morphia to kill cats and dogs. All the people of thehotel denied that there had been any such disturbance on the night in question.Castaing now said that he had bought the poisons at Auguste's requestpartly tokill the noisy cats and dogsand partly for the purpose of their makingexperiments on animals. Asked why he had not given this second reason beforehesaid that as Auguste was not a medical man it would have been damaging to hisreputation to divulge the fact of his wishing to make unauthorised experimentson animals. "Why go to Paris for the poison?" asked the judge"there was a chemist a few yards from the hotel. And when in Pariswhy goto two chemists?" To all these questions Castaing's answers were such as tolead the President to express a doubt as to whether they were likely to convincethe jury. Castaing was obliged to

 

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admit that he had allowedif not orderedthe evacuations of the sick man to bethrown away. He stated that he had thrown away the morphia and antimonywhichhe had bought in Parisin the closets of the hotelbecauseowing to theconcatenation of circumstanceshe thought that he would be suspected of murder.In reply to a question from one of the juryCastaing said that he had mixed theacetate of morphia and tartar emetic together before reaching Saint Cloudbutwhy he had done so he could not explain.

The medical evidence at the trial was favourable to the accused. Orfilathefamous chemist of that daysaid thatthough the symptoms in Auguste Ballet'scase might be attributed to poisoning by acetate of morphia or some othervegetable poisonat the same time they could be equally well attributed tosudden illness of a natural kind. The liquidstaken from the stomach of Ballethad yielded on analysis no trace of poison of any sort. The convulsive symptomspresent in Ballet's case were undoubtedly a characteristic result of a severedose of acetate of morphia. It was asserted some years later by one medicalauthority in Palmer's case that it might have been morphia and not strychninethat had caused the tetanic symptoms which preceded Cook's death. Castaing saidthat he had mixed the acetate of morphia and tartar emetic togetherbut in anycase no trace of either poison was found in Auguste's bodyand his illnessmightfrom all appearanceshave been occasioned by natural causes. Someattempt was made by the prosecution to prove that the apoplexy to whichHippolyte Ballet had finally succumbedmight be attributed to a vegetablepoison; one of the doctors expressed an opinion favourable to that conclusion"as a man but not as a physician." But the evidence did not gofurther.

To the young priest-like doctor the ordeal of his trial

 

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was a severe one. It lasted eight days. It was only at midday on the sixth daythat the evidence was concluded. Not only was Castaing compelled to submit to along interrogatory by the Presidentbutafter each witness had given his orher evidencethe prisoner was called on to refute or explain any pointsunfavourable to him. This he did brieflywith varying success; as the trialwent onwith increasing embarrassment. A great deal of the evidence givenagainst Castaing was hearsayand would have been inadmissible in an Englishcourt of justice. Statements made by Auguste to other persons about Castaingwere freely admitted. But more serious was the evidence of Mlle. PercilliéAuguste's mistress. She swore that on one occasion in her presence Castaing hadreproached Auguste with ingratitude; he had complained that he had destroyed onecopy of Hippolyte Ballet's willand for Auguste's sake had procured thedestruction of the otherand that yetin spite of all thisAuguste hesitatedto entrust him with 100000 francs. Asked what he had to say to this statementCastaing denied its truth. He hadhe saidonly been in Mlle. Percillié'shouse onceand then not with Auguste Ballet. Mlle. Percillié adhered to thetruth of her evidenceand the President left it to the jury to decide betweenthem.

A Mme. Duranda patient of Castainggave some curious evidence as to astory told her by the young doctor. He said that a friend of hissuffering fromlung diseasehad been persuaded into making a will in his sister's favour. Thesister had offered a bribe of 80000 francs to her brother's lawyer to persuadehim to make such a willand paid one of his clerks 3000 francs for drawing itup. Castaingin his friend's interestand in order to expose the fraudinvited the clerk to come and see him. His friendhidden in an alcove in theroomoverheard the conversation between

 

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Castaing and the clerkand so learnt the details of his sister's intrigue. Heat once destroyed the will and became reconciled with his brotherwhom he hadbeen about to disinherit. After his death the brotherout of gratitudehadgiven Castaing 100000 francs.

President: Castaingdid you tell this story to Mme. Durand?

Castaing: I don't recollect.

Avocat-Général: But Mme. Durand says that you did.

Castaing: I don't recollect.

President: You always say that you don't recollect; that is no answer. Haveyouyes or nomade such a statement to Mme. Durand?

Castaing: I don't recollect; if I had said itI should recollect it.

Another lady whom Castaing had attended free of charge sworewith a gooddeal of reluctancethat Castaing had told her a somewhat similar story asaccounting for his possession of 100000 francs.

Witnesses were called for the defence who spoke to the diligence and goodconduct of Castaing as a medical student; and eighteenwhom he had treated freeof expensetestified to his kindness and generosity. "All thesewitnesses" said the President"speak to your generosity; butforthat very reasonyou must have made little profit out of your professionandhad little opportunity for saving anything" to which Castaing replied:"These are not the only patients I attended; I have not called those whopaid me for my services." At the same time Cas-taing found it impossible toprove that he had ever made a substantial living by the exercise of hisprofession.

One of the medical witnesses called for the defenceM. Chaussierhadvolunteered the remark that the absence of any trace of poison in the portionsof Auguste

 

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Ballet's body submitted to analysisconstituted an absence of the corpusdelicti. To this the President replied that that was a question of criminal lawand no concern of his. But in his speech for the prosecution theAvocat-Général dealt with the point raised at some length -- a point whichifit had held good as a principle of English lawwould have secured the acquittalof so wicked a poisoner as Palmer. He quoted from the famous French lawyerd'Aguesseau: "The corpus delicti is no other thing than the delictumitself; but the proofs of the delictum are infinitely variable according to thenature of things; they may be general or specialprincipal or accessorydirector indirect; in a wordthey form that general effect (ensemble) which goes todetermine the conviction of an honest man." If such a contention as M.Chaussier's were correctsaid the Avocat-Généralthen it would be impossiblein a case of poisoning to convict a prisoner after his victim's deathorifhis victim survivedto convict him of the attempt to poison. He reminded thejury of that paragraph in the Code of Criminal Procedure which instructed themas to their duties: "The Law does not ask you to give the reasons that haveconvinced you; it lays down no rules by which you are to decide as to thefullness or sufficiency of proof . . . it only asks you one question: `Have youan inward conviction?'" "If" he said"the actual traces ofpoison are a material proof of murder by poisonthen a new paragraph must beadded to the Criminal Code -- `Sincehowevervegetable poisons leave no tracepoisoning by such means may be committed with impunity.'" To poisoners hewould say in future: "Bunglers that you aredon't use arsenic or anymineral poison; they leave traces; you will be found out. Use vegetable poisons;poison your fatherspoison your motherspoison all your familiesand theirinheritance will be yours -- fear nothing;

 

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you will go unpunished! You have committed murder by poisoningit is true; butthe corpus delicti will not be there because it can't be there!" This was acasehe urgedof circumstantial evidence. "We have" he said"gone through a large number of facts. Of these there is not one that doesnot go directly to the proof of poisoningand that can only be explained on thesupposition of poisoning; whereasif the theory of the defence be admittedallthese factsfrom the first to the lastbecome meaningless and absurd. They canonly be refuted by arguments or explanations that are childish andridiculous."

Castaing was defended by two advocates -- Roussela schoolfellow of hisandthe famous Berryerreckoned by some the greatest French orator since Mirabeau.Both advocates were allowed to address the jury. Roussel insisted on theimportance of the corpus delicti. "The delictum" he said"isthe effectthe guilty man merely the cause; it is useless to deal with thecause if the effect is uncertain" and he cited a case in which a woman hadbeen sent for trialcharged with murdering her husband; the moral proof of herguilt seemed conclusivewhen suddenly her husband appeared in court alive andwell. The advocate made a good deal of the fact that the remains of the draughtprescribed by Dr. Pigachea spoonful of which Castaing had given to AugusteBallethad been analysed and showed no trace of poison. Against this theprosecution set the evidence of the chemist at Saint Cloudwho had made up theprescription. He said that the same day he had made up a second prescriptionsimilar to that of Dr. Pigachebut not made out for Auguste Balletwhichcontainedin addition to the other ingredientsacetate of morphia. Theoriginal of this prescription he had given to a friend of Castaingwho had cometo his shop and asked him for

 

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it a few days after Ballet's death. It would seem therefore that there had beentwo bottles of medicineone of which containing morphia had disappeared.

M. Roussel combatted the suggestion that the family of Castaing were in astate of indigence. He showed that his father had an income of 10000 francswhile his two brothers were holding good positionsone as an officer in thearmythe other as a government official. The mistress of Castaing herepresented as enjoying an income of 5000 francs. He protested against thequantity of hearsay evidence that had been admitted into the case. "InEngland" he said"when a witness is calledhe is asked `What haveyou seen?' If he can only testify to mere talkand hearsayhe is notheard." He quoted the concluding paragraph of the will of Auguste Ballet asshowing his friendly feeling towards Castaing: "It is only after carefulreflection that I have made this final disposition of my propertyin order tomark the sincere friendship which I have never for one moment ceased to feel forMM. CastaingBriant and Leuchérein order to recognise the faithful loyaltyof my servantsand deprive M. and Mme. Martignonmy brother-in-law and sisterof all rights to which they might be legally entitled on my deathfullypersuaded in soul and conscience thatin doing soI am giving to each theirjust and proper due." "Is this" asked M. Roussel"adocument wrested by surprise from a weak manextorted by trickery? Is he notacting in the full exercise of his faculties? He forgets no oneand justifieshis conduct."

When M. Roussel came to the incident of the noisy cats and dogs at SaintCloudhe was as ingenious as the circumstances permitted: "A seriouscharge engrosses public attention; men's minds are concentrated on the largebroad aspects of the case; they are in a state of unnatural excitement. They seeonly the greatness

 

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the solemnity of the accusationand thensuddenlyin the midst of all that isof such tragic and surpassing interestcomes this trivial fact about cats anddogs. It makes an unfavourable impressionbecause it is dramatically out ofkeeping with the tragedy of the story. But we are not here to construct a drama.Nogentlemenlook at it merely as a trivial incident of ordinaryeverydaylifeand you will see it in its proper light." M. Roussel concluded bysaying that Castaing's most eloquent advocateif he could have been presentwould have been Auguste Ballet. "If Providence had permitted him to enterthis courthe would cry out to you`Save my friend's life! His heart isundefiled! He is innocent!'"

M. Roussel concluded his speech at ten o'clock on Sunday nightNovember 16.The next morning Berryer addressed the jury. His speech in defence of Castaingis not considered one of his most successful efforts. He gave personal testimonyas to the taste of acetate of morphia. He said that with the help of his ownchemist he had put a quarter of a grain of the acetate into a large spoonful ofmilkand had found it so insupportably bitter to the taste that he could notkeep it in his mouth. Ifhe contendedBallet had been poisoned by tartaremeticthen twelve grains given in milk would have given it an insipid tasteand vomiting immediately after would have got rid of the poison. Laterinvestigations have shown thatin cases of antimonial poisoningvomiting doesnot necessarily get rid of all the poisonand the convulsions in which AugusteBallet died are symptomatic of poisoning either by morphia or antimony. InconclusionBerryer quoted the words addressed by one of the Kings of France tohis judges: "When God has not vouchsafed clear proof of a crimeit is asign that He does not wish that man should determine itbut leaves its judgmentto a higher tribunal."

 

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The Avocat-Généralin replymade a telling answer to M. Roussel's attemptto minimise the importance of the cats and dogs: "He has spoken of thedrama of lifeand of its ordinary everyday incidents. If there is drama in thiscaseit is of Castaing's making. As to the ordinary incidents of everyday lifea man buys poisonbrings it to the bedside of his sick friendsaying it is forexperiments on cats and dogsthe friend diesthe otherhis sole heirafterforetelling his deathtakes possession of his keysand proceeds to gather upthe spoils -- are these ordinary incidents of every-day life?"

It was nine o'clock at night when the jury retired to consider their verdict.They returned into court after two hours' deliberation. They found the prisoner"Not Guilty" of the murder of Hippolyte Ballet"Guilty" ofdestroying his willand "Guilty" by seven votes to five of the murderof Auguste Ballet. Asked if he had anything to say before judgment was givenCastaingin a very loud voicesaid "No; but I shall know how to diethough I am the victim of ill-fortuneof fatal circum-stance. I shall go tomeet my two friends. I am accused of having treacherously murdered them. Thereis a Providence above us! If there is such a thing as an immortal soulI shallsee Hippolyte and Auguste Ballet again. This is no empty declamation; I don'task for human pity" (raising his hands to heaven)"I look to God'smercyand shall go joyfully to the scaffold. My conscience is clear. It willnot reproach me even when I feel" (putting his hands to his neck)."Alas! It is easier to feel what I am feeling than to express what I darenot express." (In a feeble voice): "You have desired my death; youhave it!" The judges retired to consider the sentence. The candles weregutteringthe light of the lamps was beginning to fade; the aspect of the courtgrim and terrible. M. Roussel broke down and

 

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burst into tears. Castaing leant over to his old schoolfellow: "CourageRoussel" he said; "you have always believed me innocentand I aminnocent. Embrace for me my fathermy mothermy brothersmy child." Heturned to a group of young advocates standing near: "And youyoung peoplewho have listened to my trialattend also my execution; I shall be as firm thenas I am now. All I ask is to die soon. I should be ashamed to plead formercy." The judges returned. Castaing was condemned to deathand orderedto pay 100000 francs damages to the family of Auguste Ballet.

Castaing was not ashamed to appeal to the Court of Cassation for a revisionof his trialbut on December 4 his appeal was rejected. Two days later he wasexecuted. He had attempted suicide by means of poisonwhich one of his friendshad brought to him in prisonconcealed inside a watch. His courage failed himat the lastand he met his death in a state of collapse.

It is not oftenhappilythat a young man of gentle birth and good educationis a double murderer at twenty-six. And such a softhumbleinsinuating youngman too! -- good to his mothergood to his mistressfond of his childrenkindto his patients. Yet this gentle creature can deliberately poison his twofriends. Was ever such a contradictory fellow?

Professor Webster


Note: The best report of Webster's trial is that edited by Bemis. The followingtracts in the British Museum have been consulted by the writer: "Appendixto the Webster Trial" Boston1850: "Thoughts on the Conviction ofWebster"; "The Boston Tragedy" by W. E. Bigelow.

IT is not often that the gaunt spectre of murder invades the cloistered calmof academic life. Yet such a strange and unwonted tragedy befell HarvardUniversity in the year 1849when John W. WebsterProfessor of Chemistrytookthe life of Dr. George Parkmana distinguished citizen of Boston. The scene ofthe crimethe old Medical Schoolnow a Dental Hospitalis still standingorwas when the present writer visited Boston in 1907. It is a large and ratherdreary red-brickthree-storied buildingsituated in the lower part of thecityflanked on its west side by the mud flats leading down to the CharlesRiver. The first floor consists of two large roomsseparated from each other bythe main entrance hallwhich is approached by a flight of steps leading up fromthe street level. Of these two roomsthe leftas you face the buildingisfitted up as a lecture-room. In the year 1849 it was the lecture-room ofProfessor Webster. Behind the lecture-room is a laboratoryknown as the upperlaboratorycommunicating by a private staircase with the lower laboratorywhich occupies the left wing of the ground floor. A small passageentered by adoor on the left-hand side of the front of the buildingseparated this lowerlaboratory from the dissecting-rooman out-house built on to the

 

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west wall of the collegebut now demolished. From this description it will beseen that any personprovided with the necessary keyscould enter the collegeby the side-door near the dissecting room on the ground floorand pass upthrough the lower and upper laboratory into Professor Webster's lecture-roomwithout entering any other part of the building. The Professor of Chemistrybylocking the doors of his lecture-rooms and the lower laboratorycouldif hewishedmake himself perfectly secure against intrusionand come and go by theside-door without attracting much attention. These rooms are little altered atthe present time from their arrangement in 1849. The lecture-room and laboratoryare used for the same purposes to-day; the lower laboratorya dismal chambernow disused and somewhat rearrangedis still recognisable as the scene of theProfessor's chemical experiments.

On the second floor of the hospital is a museumonce anatomicalnow dental.One of the principal objects of interest in this museum is a plaster cast of thejaws of Dr. George Parkmanmade by a well-known dentist of BostonDr. Keepinthe year 1846. In that year the new medical college was formally opened. Dr.Parkmana wealthy and public-spirited citizen of Bostonhad given the piece oflandon which the college had been erected. He had been invited to be presentat the opening ceremony. In anticipation of being asked to make a speech on thisoccasion Dr. Parkmanwhose teeth were few and far betweenhad himself fittedby Dr. Keep with a complete set of false teeth. Oliver Wendell HolmesthenProfessor of Anatomy at Harvardwho was present at the opening of the collegenoticed how very nice and white the doctor's teeth appeared to be. It was thediscovery of the remains of these same admirable teeth three years later in thefurnace in Professor

 

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Webster's lower laboratory that led to the conviction of Dr. Parkman's murderer.By a strange coincidence the doctor met his death in the very college which hisgenerosity had helped to build. Though to-day the state of the college hasdeclined from the medical to the dentalhis memory still lives within its wallsby the cast of his jaws preserved in the dental museum as a relic of a caseinwhich the art of dentistry did signal service to the cause of justice.

In his lifetime Dr. Parkman was a well-known figure in the streets of Boston.His peculiar personal appearance and eccentric habits combined to make himsomething of a character. As he walked through the streets he presented aremarkable appearance. He was exceptionally talllonger in the body than thelegs; his lower jaw protruded some half an inch beyond the upper; he carried hisbody bent forward from the small of his back. He seemed to be always in a hurry;so impetuous was he thatif his horse did not travel fast enough to please himhe would get off its backandleaving the steed in the middle of the streethasten on his way on foot. A just and generous manhe was extremely punctiliousin matters of businessand uncom-promising in his resentment of any form offalsehood or deceit. It was the force of his resentment in such a case that costhim his life.

The doctor was unfailingly punctual in taking his meals. Dr. Kingsleyduringthe fourteen years he had acted as his agenthad always been able to make sureof finding him at home at his dinner hourhalf-past two o'clock. But on FridayNovember 231849to his surprise and that of his familyDr. Parkman did notcome home to dinner; and their anxiety was increased when the day passedandthere was still no sign of the doctor's return. Inquiries were made. From

 

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these it appeared that Dr. Parkman had been last seen alive between one and twoo'clock on the Friday afternoon. About half-past one he had visited a grocer'sshop in Bridge Streetmade some purchasesand left behind him a paper bagcontaining a lettucewhichhe saidhe would call for on his way home. Shortlybefore two o'clock he was seen by a workmanat a distance of forty or fiftyfeet from the Medical Collegegoing in that direction. From that moment allcertain trace of him was lost. His family knew that he had made an appointmentfor half-past one that daybut where and with whom they did not know. As amatter of factProfessor John W. Webster had appointed that hour to receive Dr.Parkman in his lecture-room in the Medical College.

John W. Webster was at this time Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy inHarvard Universitya Doctor of Medicine and a Member of the American Academy ofArts and Sciencesthe London Geological Society and the St. PetersburgMineralogical Society. He was the author of several works on geology andchemistrya man now close on sixty years of age. His countenance was genialhis manner mild and unassuming; he was clean shavenwore spectaclesand lookedyounger than his years.

Professor Webster was popular with a large circle of friends. To those wholiked him he was a man of pleasing and attractive mannersartistic in histastes -- he was especially fond of music -- not a very profound or remarkablechemistbut a pleasant social companion. His temper was hasty and irritable.Spoilt in his boyhood as an only childhe was self-willed and self-indulgent.His wife and daughters were better liked than he. By unfriendly criticics{sic}the Professor was thought to be selfishfonder of the good things of the tableand a

 

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good cigar than was consistent with his duty to his family or the smallness ofhis income. His fathera successful apothecary at Bostonhad died in 1833leaving Johnhis only sona fortune of some £ 10000. In rather less than tenyears Webster had run through the whole of his inheritance. He had built himselfa costly mansion in Cambridgespent a large sum of money in collectingmineralsand delighted to exercise lavish hospitality. By living consistentlybeyond his means he found himself at length entirely dependent on hisprofessional earnings. These were small. His salary as Professor was fixed at£240 a year; the rest of his income he derived from the sale of tickets for hislectures at the Medical College. That income was insufficient to meet his wants.I have given these sums of money in their English equivalents in order to givethe reader an idea of the smallness of the sum which brought about the tragedy.

As early as 1842 he had borrowed £80 from his friend Dr. Parkman. It was toParkman's good offices that he owed his appointment as a Professor at Harvard;they had entered the University as under-graduates in the same year. Up to 1847Webster had repaid Parkman twenty pounds of his debt; butin that year he foundit necessary to raise a further loan of £490which was subscribed by a fewfriendsamong them Parkman him-self. As a security for the repayment of thisloanthe professor executed a mortgage on his valuable collection of mineralsin favour of Parkman. In the April of 1848 the Professor's financialdifficulties became so serious that he was threatened with an execution in hishouse. In this predicament he went to a Mr. ShawDr. Parkman's brother-in-lawand begged a loan of £240offering him as security a bill of sale on thecollection of mineralswhich he had already mortgaged to Parkman. Shaw acceptedthe securityand lent the money. Shaw

 

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would seem to have had a good deal of sympathy with Webster's embarrassments; heconsidered the Professor's income very inadequate to his positionand showedhimself quite ready at a later period to waive his debt altogether.

Dr. Parkman was a less easy-going creditor. Forbearing and patient as long ashe was dealt with fairlyhe was merciless where he thought he detected trickeryor evasion. His forbearance and his patience were utterly exhaustedhis angerand indignation strongly arousedwhen he learnt from Shaw that Webster hadgiven him as security for his debt a bill of sale on the collection of mineralsalready mortgaged to himself. From the moment of the discovery of this act ofdishonesty on the part of WebsterParkman pursued his debtor with unrelentingseverity. He threatened him with an action at law; he said openly that he wasneither an honourablehonestnor upright man; he tried to appropriate to thepayment of his debt the fees for lectures which Mr. PetteeWebster's agentcollected on the Professor's behalf. He even visited Webster in his lecture-roomand sat glaring at him in the front row of seatswhile the Professor wasstriving under these somewhat unfavourable conditions to impart instruction tohis pupils -- a proceeding which the Doctor's odd cast of features must haveaggravated in no small degree.

It was early in November that Parkman adopted these aggressive tactics. Onthe 19th of that month Webster and the janitor of the CollegeEphraimLittlefieldwere working in the upper laboratory. It was dark; they had litcandles. Webster was reading a chemical book. As he looked up from the book hesaw Parkman standing in the doorway leading from the lecture-room. "Dr.Websterare you ready for me to-night?" asked Park-man. "No"replied the other"I am not ready to-night."

 

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After a little further conversation in regard to the mortgageParkman departedwith the ominous remark"Doctorsomething must be done to-morrow."

Unfortunately the Professor was not in a position to do anything. He had nomeans sufficient to meet his creditor's demands; and that creditor wasunrelenting. On the 22nd Parkman rode into Cambridgewhere Webster livedtopress him furtherbut failed to find him. Webster's patiencenone too great atany timewas being sorely tried. To whom could he turn? What further resourcewas open to him? There was none. He determined to see his creditor once more. At8 o'clock on the morning of Friday the 23rdWebster called at Dr. Parkman'shouse and made the appointment for their meeting at the Medical College athalf-past oneto which the Doctor had been seen hastening just before hisdisappearance. At nine o'clock the same morning Petteethe agenthad called onthe Professor at the College and paid him by cheque a balance of £28 due on hislecture ticketsinforming him at the same time thatowing to the trouble withDr. Parkmanhe must decline to receive any further sums of money on his behalf.Webster replied that Parkman was a nervousexcitable mansubject to mentalaberrationsbut he added"You will have no further trouble with Dr.Parkmanfor I have settled with him." It is difficult to see how theProfessor could have settledor proposed to settlewith his creditor on thatday. A balance of £28 at his bankand the £18 which Mr. Pettee had paid tohim that morningrepresented the sum of Professor Webster's fortune on FridayNovember 231849.

Since the afternoon of that day the search for the missing Parkman had beenunremitting. On the Saturday his friends communicated with the police. On Sundayhand-bills were issued stating the fact of the Doctor's

 

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disappearanceand on Mondaythe 26tha description and the offer of aconsiderable reward for the discovery of his body were circulated both in andout of the city. Two days later a further reward was offered. But these effortswere fruitless. The only person who gave any information beyond that afforded bythose who had seen the Doctor in the streets on the morning of hisdisappearancewas Professor Webster. About four o'clock on the Sunday afternoonthe Professor called at the house of the Revd. Francis Parkmanthe Doctor'sbrother. They were intimate friends. Webster had for a time attended Parkman'schapel; and Mr. Parkman had baptised the Professor's grand-daughter. On thisSunday afternoon Mr. Parkman could not help remarking Webster's peculiar manner.With a bare greeting and no expression of condolence with the family's distresshis visitor entered abruptly and nervously on the object of his errand. He hadcalledhe saidto tell Mr. Parkman that he had seen his brother at the MedicalCollege on Friday afternoonthat he had paid him £90 which he owed himandthat the Doctor had in the course of their interview taken out a paper anddashed his pen through itpresumably as an acknowledgment of the liquidation ofthe Professor's debt. Having communicated this intelligence to the somewhatastonished gentlemanWebster left him as abruptly as he had come.

Another relative of Dr. Parkmanhis nephewMr. Parkman Blakein the courseof inquiries as to his uncle's fatethought it right to see Webster.Accordingly he went to the college on Mondaythe 26thabout eleven o'clock inthe morning. Though not one of his lecture daysthe janitor Littlefieldinformed him that the Professor was in his room. The door of the lecture --roomhoweverwas found to be lockedand it was only after considerable delaythat Mr. Blake gained admittance.

 

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As he descended the steps to the floor of the lecture-room Websterdressed in aworking suit of blue overalls and wearing on his head a smoking capcame infrom the back door. Instead of advancing to greet his visitorhe stood fixed tothe spotand waitedas if defensivelyfor Mr. Blake to speak. In answer toMr. Blake's questions Webster described his interview with Dr. Parkman on theFriday afternoon. He gave a very similar account of it to that he had alreadygiven to Mr. Francis Parkman. He added that at the end of their interview he hadasked the Doctor for the return of the mortgageto which the latter hadreplied"I haven't it with mebut I will see it is properlycancelled." Mr. Blake asked Webster if he could recollect in what form ofmoney it was that he had paid Dr. Parkman. Webster answered that he could onlyrecollect a bill of £20 on the New Zealand Bank: pressed on this pointheseemed to rather avoid any further inquiries. Mr. Blake left himdissatisfiedwith the result of his visit.

One particular in Webster's statement was unquestionably strangeif notincredible. He hadhe saidpaid Parkman a sum of £90which he had given himpersonallyand represented the Doctor as having at their interview promised tocancel the mortgage on the collection of minerals which Webster had given assecurity for the loan of £490 that had been subscribed by Park-man and four ofhis friends. Now £120 of this loan was still owing. If Webster's statement weretrueParkman had a perfect right to cancel Webster's personal debt to himself;but he had no right to cancel entirely the mortgage on the mineralsso long asmoney due to others on that mortgage was yet unpaid. Was it conceivable that oneso strict and scrupulous in all monetary transactions as Parkman would havesettled his own personal

 

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claimand then sacrificed in so discreditable a manner the claims of othersfor the satisfaction of which he had made himself responsible?

There was yet another singular circumstance. On Saturdaythe 24ththe dayafter his settlement with ParkmanWebster paid into his own account at theCharles River Bank the cheque for £18lecture feeshanded over to him by theagent Pettee just before Dr. Parkman's visit on the Friday. This sum had notap-parently gone towards the making up of the £90which Webster said that hehad paid to Parkman that day. The means by which Webster had been enabled tosettle this debt became more mysterious than ever.

On TuesdayNovember 27the Professor received three other visitors in hislecture-room. These were police officers whoin the course of their search forthe missing manfelt it their duty to examinehowever perfunctorilytheMedical College. With apologies to the Professorthey passed through hislecture room to the laboratory at the backand from thencedown the privatestairspast a privyinto the lower laboratory. As they passed the privy one ofthe officers asked what place it was. "Dr. Webster's privatelavatory" replied the janitorwho was conducting them. At that momentWebster's voice called them away to examine the store-room in the lowerlaboratoryand after a cursory examination the officers departed.

The janitorEphraim Littlefielddid not take the op-portunity afforded himby the visit of the police officers to impart to them the feelings ofuneasiness; which the conduct of Professor Webster during the last three dayshad excited in his breast. There were circumstances in the Professor's behaviourwhich could not fail to attract the attention of a manwhose businessthroughout the day was to dust and sweep the Collegelight the fires and

 

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overlook generally the order and cleanliness of the building.

Littlefieldit will be rememberedhad seen Dr. Parkman on the Monday beforehis disappearancewhen he visited Webster at the Collegeand been present atthe interviewin the course of which the Doctor told Webster that"something must be done." That Monday morning Webster askedLittlefield a number of questions about the dissecting-room vaultwhich wassituated just outside the door of the lower laboratory. He asked how it wasbuiltwhether a light could be put into itand how it was reached for thepurpose of repair. On the following Thursdaythe day before Parkman'sdisappearancethe Professor told Littlefield to get him a pint of blood fromthe Massachusetts Hospital; he said that he wanted it for an experiment. On themorning of Fridaythe day of Parkman's disappearanceLittlefield informed theProfessor that he had been unsuccessful in his efforts to get the bloodas theyhad not been bleeding anyone lately at the hospital. The same morningLittlefield found to his surprise a sledge-hammer behind the door of theProfessor's back room; he presumed that it had been left there by masonsandtook it down to the lower laboratory. This sledge-hammer Littlefield never sawagain. About a quarter to two that afternoon Littlefieldstanding at the frontdoorafter his dinnersaw Dr. Parkman coming towards the College. At twoo'clock Littlefield went up to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes' roomimmediatelyabove Professor Webster'sto help the Doctor to clear his table after hislecturewhich was the last delivered that day. About a quarter of an hour laterhe let Dr. Holmes outlocked the front door and began to clear out the stovesin the other lecture-rooms. When he reached Webster's he was surprised to findthat both doorsthat of the lecture room and that of the lower

 

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laboratorywere either locked or bolted. He could hear nothing but the runningof water in one of the sinks. About half-past five Littlefield saw the Professorcoming down the back stairs with a lighted candle in his hand. Webster blew outthe candle and left the building. Late that night Littlefield again tried theProfessor's doors; they were still fastened. The janitor was surprised at thisas he had never known such a thing to happen before.

On Saturdaythe 24ththough not lecturing that daythe Professor came tothe College in the morning. He told Littlefield to light the stove in the lowerlaboratory. When Littlefield made to pass from the lecture-room into theProfessor's private room at the backand so down by the private stairs to thelower laboratorythe Professor stopped him and told him to go round by the doorin front of the building. The whole of that day and Sundaythe Professor'sdoors remained fast. On Sunday evening at sunset Littlefieldwho was talkingwith a friend in North Grove Streetthe street that faces the Collegewasaccosted by Webster. The Professor asked him if he recollected Parkman's visitto the College on Fridaythe 23rdandon his replying in the affirmativetheProfessor described to him their interview and the repayment of his debt.Littlefield was struck during their conversation by the uneasiness of theProfessor's bearing; contrary to his habit he seemed unable to look him in thefacehis manner was confusedhis face pale.

During the whole of Mondayexcept for a visit from Mr. Parkman BlakeProfessor Webster was again locked alone in his laboratory. Neither that nightnor early Tuesday morningcould Littlefield get into the Professor's rooms toperform his customary duties. On Tuesday the Professor lectured at twelveo'clockand later received the visit of the police officers that has been

 

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described already. At four o'clock that afternoonthe Professor's bell rang.Littlefield answered it. The Professor asked the janitor whether he had boughthis turkey for Thanksgiving Daywhich was on the following Thursday.Littlefield said that he had not done so yet. Webster then handed him an orderon his provision dealer. "Take that" he said"and get a niceturkey; perhaps I shall want you to do some odd jobs for me." Littlefieldthanked himand said that he would be glad to do anything for him that hecould. The janitor was the more surprised at Webster's generosity on thisoccasionas this turkey was the first present he had received at theProfessor's hands during the seven years he had worked in the College.Littlefield saw the Professor again about half-past six that evening as thelatter was leaving the College. The janitor asked him if he wanted any morefires lighted in his roomsbecause owing to the holidays there were to be nofurther lectures that week. Webster said that he did notand asked Littlefieldwhether he were a freemason. The janitor said "Yes" and with thatthey parted.

Littlefield was curious. The mysterious activity of the Professor ofChemistry seemed to him more than unusual. His perplexity was increased on thefollowing day. Though on account of the holidays all work had been suspended atthe College for the remainder of the weekWebster was again busy in his roomearly Wednesday morning. Littlefield could hear him moving about. In vain didthe janitor look through the keyholebore a hole in the doorpeep under it;all he could get was a sight of the Professor's feet moving about thelaboratory. Perplexity gave way to apprehension when in the course of theafternoon Littlefield discovered that the outer wall of the lower laboratory wasso hot that he could hardly bear to place his hand on it. On the outer side ofthis

 

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wall was a furnace sometimes used by the Professor in his chemical experiments.How came it to be so heated? The Professor had told Littlefield on Tuesday thathe should not be requiring any fires during the remainder of the week.

The janitor determined to resolve his suspicions. He climbed up to the backwindows of the lower laboratoryfound one of them unfastenedand let himselfin. Butbeyond evidences of the considerable fires that had been kept burningduring the last few daysLittlefield saw nothing to excite peculiar attention.Still he was uneasy. Those he met in the street kept on telling him that Dr.Parkman would be found in the Medical College. He felt that he himself wasbeginning to be suspected of having some share in the mysterywhilst in his ownmind he became more certain every day that the real solution lay within thewalls of Professor Webster's laboratory. His attention had fixed itselfparticularly on the lavatory at the foot of the stairs connecting the upper andlower laboratories. This room he found to be locked and the keya large onehad disappeared. He recollected that when the police officers had paid theirvisit to the collegethe Professor had diverted their attention as they wereabout to inspect this room. The only method by whichunknown to the Professorand without breaking open the doorLittlefield could examine the vault of thisretiring room was by going down to the basement floor of the college and digginga hole through the wall into the vault itself. This he determined to do.

On ThursdayThanksgiving DayLittlefield commenced operations with ahatchet and a chisel. Progress was slowas that evening he had been invited toattend a festal gathering. On Friday the janitorbefore resuming workacquainted two of the Professors of the college with his proposed investigationand received their sanction

 

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As Websterhoweverwas going constantly in and out of his roomshe could makelittle further progress that day. The Professor had come into town early in themorning. Before going to the college he purchased some fishhooks and gave ordersfor the making of a strong tin box with firm handlesa foot and a half squareand a little more than a foot in depth; during the rest of the day he had beenbusy in his rooms until he left the college about four o'clock. Not till thenwas the watchful janitor able to resume his labours. Armed with a crowbarheworked vigorously until he succeeded in penetrating the wall sufficiently toadmit a light into the vault of the lavatory. The first objects which the lightrevealed to his eyeswere the pelvis of a man and two parts of a human leg.

Leaving his wife in charge of the remainsLittlefield went immediately tothe house of Professor Bigelowand informed him of the result of his search.They returned to the college some twenty minutes lateraccompanied by the CityMarshal. The human remains -- a pelvisa thigh and a leg -- were taken out ofthe vaultand on a further search some pieces of bone were removed from one ofthe furnaces in the lower laboratory. The City Marshal at once dispatched threeof his officers to Cambridgeto the house of Professor Webster.

To his immediate circle of friends and relations the conduct of the Professorduring this eventful week had betrayed no unwonted discomposure or disturbanceof mind. His evenings had been spent either at the house of friendsor at hisownplaying whistor reading Milton's "Allegro" and"Penseroso" to his wife and daughters. On Friday eveningabout eighto'clockas the Professor was saying good-bye to a friend on the steps of hishouse at Cambridgethe three police officers drove up to the door and asked himto accompany them to the

 

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Medical College. It was proposedthey saidto make a further search there thateveningand his presence was considered advisable. Webster assentedimmediatelyput on his bootshis hat and coatand got into the hired coach.As they drove towards the cityWebster spoke to the officers of Parkman'sdisappearanceand suggested that they should stop at the house of a lady whohe saidcould give them some peculiar information on that subject. As theyentered Bostonhe remarked that they were taking the wrong direction forreaching the college. One of the officers replied that the driver might be"green" but that he would find his way to the college in time. Atlength the coach stopped. One of the officers alightedand invited hiscompanions to follow him into the office of the Leverett Street Jail. Theyobeyed. The Professor asked what it all meant; he was informed that he mustconsider himself in custodycharged with the murder of Dr. George Parkman.Webstersomewhat taken abackdesired that word should be sent to his familybut was dissuaded from his purpose for the time being. He was searchedandamong other articles taken from him was a key some four or five inches long; itwas the missing lavatory key. Whilst one of the officers withdrew to make out amittimusthe Professor asked one of the others if they had found Dr. Parkman.The officer begged him not to question him. "You might tell me somethingabout it" pleaded Webster. "Where did they find him? Did they findthe whole body? Ohmy children! What will they do? What will they think of me?Where did you get the information?" The officers asked him if anybody hadaccess to his apartments but himself. "Nobody" he replied"butthe porter who makes the fire." Thenafter a pausehe exclaimed:"That villain! I am a ruined man." He was walking up and down wringinghis handswhen one of

 

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the officers saw him put one hand into his waistcoat pocketand raise it to hislips. A few moments later the unhappy man was seized with violent spasms. He wasunable to standand was laid down in one of the cells. From this distressingstate he was roused shortly before elevento be taken to the college. He wasquite incapable of walkingand had to be supported by two of the officers. Hewas present there while his rooms were searched; but his state was painful inthe extreme. He asked for waterbut trembled so convulsively that he could onlysnap at the tumbler like a dog; his limbs were rigid; tears and sweat poureddown his cheeks. On the way back to the jailone of the officersmoved by hisconditionexpressed his pity for him. "Do you pity me? Are you sorry forme? What for?" asked Webster. "To see you so excited" repliedthe officer. "Oh! that's it" said the Professor.

The whole night through the prisoner lay without movingand not until thefollowing afternoon were his limbs relaxed sufficiently to allow of his sittingup. As his condition improvedhe grew more confident. "That is no more Dr.Parkman's body" he said"than mine. How in the world it came there Idon't know" and he added: "I never liked the looks of Littlefield thejanitor; I opposed his coming there all I could."

In the meantime a further examination of the Professor's rooms on Saturdayhad resulted in the discoveryin a tea-chest in the lower laboratoryof athoraxthe left thigh of a legand a hunting knife embedded in tan and coveredover with minerals; some portions of bone and teeth were found mixed with theslag and cinders of one of the furnaces; also some fish-hooks and a quantity oftwinethe latter identical with a piece of twine that had been tied round thethigh found in the chest.

 

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Two days later the Professor furnished unwittingly some additional evidenceagainst himself. On the Monday evening after his arrest he wrote from prison toone of his daughters the following letter:

"MY DEAREST MARIANNE-- I wrote Mama yesterday; I had a good sleep lastnightand dreamt of you all. I got my clothes offfor the first timeandawoke in the morning quite hungry. It was a long time before my first breakfastfrom Parker's came; and it was relishedI can assure you. At one o'clock I wasnotified that I must appear at the court room. All was arranged with greatregard to my comfortand went off better than I had anticipated. On my return Ihad a bit of turkey and rice from Parker's. They send much more than I can eatand I have directed the steward to distribute the surplus to any poor ones here.

"If you will send me a small canister of teaI can make my own. Alittle pepper I may want some day. I would send the dirty clothesbut they weretaken to dry. Tell Mama not to open the little bundle I gave her theother daybut to keep it just as she received it. With many kisses to you all.Good night! -- From your affectionate "FATHER."

"P.S. -- My tongue troubles me yet very muchand I must have bitten itin my distress the other night; it is painful and swollenaffecting my speech.Had Mama better send for Nancy? I think so; or Aunt Amelia."

"Couple of coloured neck handkerchiefsone Madras."

This letterwhich shows an anxiety about his personal comfort singular inone so tragically situatedpassed through the hands of the keeper of the jail.He was struck by the words underlined"not to open" in regard

 

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to the small bundle confided to Mrs. Webster. He called the attention of thepolice to this phrase. They sent immediately an officer armed with a searchwarrant to the Professor's house. He received from Mrs. Webster among otherpapers a package whichon being openedwas found to contain the two notesgiven by Webster to Parkman as acknowledgments of his indebtedness to him in1842 and 1847and a paper showing the amount of his debts to Parkman in 1847.There were daubs and erasures made across these documentsand across one waswritten twice over the word "paid." All these evidences of paymentsand cancellations appeared on examination to be in the handwriting of theProfessor.

After an inquest lasting nine days the coroner's jury declared the remainsfound in the college to be those of Dr. George Parkmanand that the deceasedhad met his death at the hands of Professor J. W. Webster. The prisoner waivedhis right to a magisterial investigationand on January 261850the GrandJury returned a true bill. But it was not until March 17 that the Professor'strial opened before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. The proceedings wereconducted with that dignity and propriety which we look for in the courts ofthat State. The principal features in the defence were an attempt to impugn thetestimony of the janitor Littlefieldand to question the possibility of theidentification of the remains of Parkman's teeth. There was a further attempt toprove that the deceased had been seen by a number of persons in the streets ofBoston on the Friday afternoonafter his visit to the Medical College. Thewitness Littlefield was unshaken by a severe cross-examination. The veryreluctance with which Dr. Keep gave his fatal evidenceand the support given tohis conclusions by distinguished testimony told strongly in favour of theabsolute trustworthiness of his statements. The evidence

 

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called to prove that the murdered man had been seen alive late on Fridayafternoon was highly inconclusive.

Contrary to the advice of his counselWebster addressed the jury himself. Hecomplained of the conduct of his caseand enumerated various points that hiscounsel had omitted to makewhich he conceived to be in his favour. The valueof his statements may be judged by the fact that he called God to witness thathe had not written any one of the anonymous letterspurporting to give a trueaccount of the doctor's fatewhich had been received by the police at the timeof Parkman's disappearance. After his condemnation Webster confessed to theauthorship of at least one of them.

The jury retired at eight o'clock on the eleventh day of the trial. Theywould seem to have approached their duty in a most solemn and devout spiritandit was with the greatest reluctance and after some searching of heart that theybrought themselves to find the prisoner guilty of wilful murder. On hearingtheir verdictthe Professor sank into a seatanddropping his headrubbedhis eyes behind his spectacles as if wiping away tears. On the following morningthe Chief Justice sentenced him to death after a well-meaning speech of quiteunnecessary length and elaborationat the conclusion of which the condemned manwept freely.

A petition for a writ of error having been dismissedthe Professor in Julyaddressed a petition for clemency to the Council of the State. Dr. Putnamwhohad been attending Webster in the jailread to the Council a confession whichhe had persuaded the prisoner to make. According to this statement Webster hadon the Friday afternoonstruck Parkman on the head with a heavy wooden stick ina wild moment of rageinduced by the violent taunts and threats of hiscreditor. Appalled by his deedhe had in panic locked himself in his roomand

 

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proceeded with desperate haste to dismember the body; he had placed it for thatpurpose in the sink in his back roomthrough which was running a constantstream of water that carried away the blood. Some portions of the body he hadburnt in the furnace; those in the lavatory and the tea-chest he had concealedthereuntil he should have had an opportunity of getting rid of them.

In this statement Professor Webster denied all premeditation. Dr. Putnamasked him solemnly whether he had notimmediately before the crimemeditatedat any time on the advantages that would accrue to him from Parkman's death.Webster replied "Neverbefore God!" He hadhe protestedno idea ofdoing Parkman an injury until the bitter tongue of the latter provoked him."I am irritable and violent" he said"a quickness and briefviolence of temper has been the besetting sin of my life. I was an only childmuch indulgedand I have never secured the control over my passions that Iought to have acquired early; and the consequence is -- all this!" Hedenied having told Parkman that he was going to settle with him that afternoonand said that he had asked him to come to the college with the sole object ofpleading with him for further indulgence. He explained his convulsive seizure atthe time of his arrest by his having taken a dose of strychninewhich he hadcarried in his pocket since the crime. In spite of these statements and theprayers of the unfortunate man's wife and daughterswhountil his confessionto Dr. Putnamhad believed implicity in his innocencethe Council decided thatthe law must take its courseand fixed August 30 as the day of execution.

The Professor resigned himself to his fate. He sent for Littlefield and hiswifeand expressed his regret for any injustice he had done them: "All yousaid was true. You have misrepresented nothing." Asked by the sheriff

 

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whether he was to understand from some of his expressions that he contemplatedan attempt at suicide"Why should I?" he replied"all theproceedings in my case have been just . . . and it is just that I should dieupon the scaffold in accordance with that sentence." "Everybody isright" he said to the keeper of the jail"and I am wrong. And I feelthatif the yielding up of my life to the injured law will atoneeven in partfor the crime I have committedthat is a consolation."

In a letter to the Reverend Francis Parkman he expressed deep contrition forhis guilt. He added one sentence which may perhaps fairly express the measure ofpremeditation that accompanied his crime. "I had never" he wrote"until the two or three last interviews with your brotherfelt towards himanything but gratitude for his many acts of kindness and friendship."

Professor Webster met his death with fortitude and resignation. That hedeserved his fate few will be inclined to deny. The attempt to procure bloodthe questions about the dissecting-room vaultthe appointment made with Parkmanat the collegethe statement to Petteeall point to some degree ofpremeditationor at least would make it appear that the murder of Parkman hadbeen considered by him as a possible eventuality. His accusation of Littlefielddeprives him of a good deal of sympathy. On the other handthe age and positionof Websterthe aggravating persistency of Parkmanhis threats anddenunciationscoupled with his own shortness of tempermake it conceivablethat he may have killed his victim on a sudden and overmastering provocationinwhich case he had better at once have acknowledged his crime instead of making arepulsive attempt to conceal it. But for the evidence of Dr. Keep he wouldpossibly have escaped punishment altogether. Save for the portions of his falseteeththere was not sufficient evidence

 

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to identify the remains found in the college as those of Parkman. Without theseteeth the proof of the corpus delicti would have been incompleteand soafforded Webster a fair chance of acquittal.

The Mysterious Mr. Holmes


Note: "The Holmes-Pitezel Case" by F. B. Geyer1896; "Holmes'Own Story" Philadelphia1895; and "Celebrated Criminal Cases ofAmerica" by T. S. DukeSan Franciscoare the authorities for thisaccount of the case.

The Mysterious Mr. Holmes
I. HONOUR AMONGST THIEVES

IN the year 1894 Mr. Smitha carpenterof Philadelphiahadpatented a new saw-set. Wishing to make some money out of his inventionMr.Smith was attracted by the sign:
B. F. PERRY
PATENTS BOUGHT AND SOLD which he saw stretched across the window of atwo-storied house1316 Callowhill Street. He entered the house and made theacquaintance of Mr. Perrya talldarkbony manto whom he explained themerits of his invention. Perry listened with interestand asked for a model. Inthe meantime he suggested that Smith should do some carpenter's work for him inthe house. Smith agreedand on August 22while at work there saw a man enterthe house and go up with Perry to a room on the second story.

A few days later Smith called at Callowhill Street to ask Perry about thesale of the patent. He waited half an hour in the shop belowcalled out toPerry

 

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whohe thoughtmight be in the rooms abovereceived no answer and went away.Next daySeptember 4Smith returnedfound the place just as he had left itthe day before; called Perry againbut again got no answer. Surprisedhe wentupstairsand in the back room of the second story the morning sunshinestreaming through the windowshowed him the dead body of a manhis facecharred beyond recognitionlying with his feet to the window and his head tothe door. There was evidence of some sort of explosion: a broken bottle that hadcontained an inflammable substancea broken pipe filled with tobaccoand aburnt match lay by the side of the body.

The general appearance of the dead man answered to that of B. F. Perry. Amedical examination of the body showed that death had been suddenthat therehad been paralysis of the involuntary musclesand that the stomachbesidesshowing symptoms of alcoholic irritationemitted a strong odour of chloroform.An inquest was heldand a verdict returned that B. F. Perry had died ofcongestion of the lungs caused by the inhalation of flame or chloroform. Afterlying in the mortuary for eleven days the body was buried.

In the meantime the Philadelphia branch of the Fidelity Mutual LifeAssociation had received a letter from one Jephtha D. Howean attorney at St.Louisstating that the deceased B. F. Perry was Benjamin F. Pitezel of thatcitywho had been insured in their office for a sum of ten thousand dollars.The insurance had been effected in Chicago in the November of 1893. Mr. Howeproposed to come to Philadelphia with some members of the Pitezel family toidentify the remains. Referring to their Chicago branchthe insurance companyfound that the only person who would seem to have known Pitezel when in thatcitywas a certain H. H. Holmesliving at

 

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WilmetteIllinois. They got into communication with Mr. Holmesand forwardedto him a cutting from a newspaperwhich stated erroneously that the death of B.F. Perry had taken place in Chicago.

On September 18 they received a letter from Mr. Holmesin which he offeredwhat assistance he could toward the identification of B. F. Perry as B. F.Pitezel. He gave the name of a dentist in Chicago who would be able to recogniseteeth which he had made for Pitezeland himself furnished a description of themanespecially of a malformation of the knee and a warty growth on the back ofthe neck by which he could be further identified. Mr. Holmes offeredif hisexpenses were paidto come to Chicago to view the body. Two days later he wroteagain saying that he had seen by other papers that Perry's death had taken placein Philadelphia and not in Chicagoand that as he had to be in Baltimore in aday or twohe would run over to Philadelphia and visit the office of theFidelity Life Association.

On September 20 the assiduous Mr. Holmes called at the office of theAssociation in Philadelphiainquired anxiously about the nature and cause ofPerry's deathgave again a description of him andon learning that Mr. Howethe attorney from St. Louiswas about to come to Philadelphia to represent thewidowMrs. Pitezeland complete the identificationsaid that he would returnto give the company any further help he could in the matter. The following dayMr. Jephtha D. Howeattorney of St. Louisarrived in Philadelphiaaccompaniedby Alice Pitezela daughter of the deceased. Howe explained that Pitezel hadtaken the name of Perry owing to financial difficulties. The company said thatthey accepted the fact that Perry and Pitezel were one and the same manbutwere not convinced that the body was Pitezel's body. The visit of Holmes wasmentioned.

 

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Howe said that he did not know Mr. Holmesbut would be willing to meet him. Atthis moment Holmes arrived at the office. He was introduced to Howe as astrangerand recognised as a friend by Alice Pitezela shyawkward girl offourteen or fifteen years of age. It was then arranged that all the partiesshould meet again next day to identifyif possiblethe bodywhich had beendisinterred for that purpose.

The unpleasant duty of identifying the rapidly decomposing remains wasgreatly curtailed by the readiness of Mr. Holmes. When the party met on the 22ndat the Potter's Fieldwhere the body had been disinterred and laid outthedoctor present was unable to find the distinctive marks which would show Perryand Pitezel to have been the same man. Holmes at once stepped into the breachtook off his coatrolled up his sleevesput on the rubber glovesand taking asurgeon's knife from his pocketcut off the wart at the back of the neckshowed the injury to the legand revealed also a bruised thumb-nail which hadbeen another distinctive mark of Pitezel. The body was then covered up all butthe teeth; the girl Alice was brought inand she said that the teeth appearedto be like those of her father. The insurance company declared themselvessatisfiedand handed to Mr. Howe a cheque for 9175 dollarsand to Mr. Holmesten dollars for his expenses. Smiththe carpenterhad been present at theproceedings at the Potter's Field. For a moment he thought he detected alikeness in Mr. Holmes to the man who had visited Perry at Callowhill Street onAugust 22 and gone upstairs with himbut he did not feel sure enough of thefact to make any mention of it.

In the prison at St. Louis there languished in the year 1894 one MarionHedgspethserving a sentence of twenty years' imprisonment for an audacioustrain robbery.

 

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On the night of November 301891the "'Friscow express from St. Louis hadbeen boarded by four ruffiansthe express car blown open with dynamiteand10000 dollars carried off. Hedgspeth and another man were tried for therobberyand sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment. On October 91894Hegspeth{sic} made a statement to the Governor of the St. Louis prisonwhich hesaid he wished to be communicated to the Fidelity Mutual Life Association. Inthe previous July Hedgspeth said that he had met in the prison a man of the nameof H. M. Howardwho was charged with fraudbut had been released on bail laterin the month. While in prison Howard told Hedgspeth that he had devised a schemefor swindling an insurance company of 10000 dollarsand promised Hedgspeththatif he would recommend him a lawyer suitable for such an enterpriseheshould have 500 dollars as his share of the proceeds. Hedgspeth recommendedJephtha D. Howe. The latter entered with enthusiasm into the schemeand toldHedgspeth that he thought Mr. Howard "one of the smoothest andslickest" men he had ever known. A corpse was to be found answering toPitezel's descriptionand to be so treated as to appear to have been the victimof an accidental explosionwhile Pitezel himself would disappear to Germany.From Howe Hedgspeth learnt that the swindle had been carried out successfullybut he had never received from Howard the 500 dollars promised him.Consequentlyhe had but little compunction in divulging the plot to theauthorities.

It was realised at once that H. M. Howard and H. H. Holmes were the samepersonand that Jephtha D. Howe and Mr. Holmes were not the strangers to eachother that they had affected to be when they met in Philadelphia. Thoughsomewhat doubtful of the truth of Hedgspeth's statementthe insurance companydecided to set

 

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Pinkerton's detectives on the track of Mr. H. H. Holmes. After more than amonth's search he was traced to his father's house at GilmantonN. H.andarrested in Boston on November 17.

Inquiry showed thatearly in 1894Holmes and Pitezel had acquired some realproperty at Fort Worth in Texas and commenced building operationsbut had soonafter left Texas under a cloudarising from the theft of a horse and otherdubious transactions. Holmes had obtained the property at Fort Worth from a MissMinnie Williamsand transferred it to Pitezel. Pitezel was a drunken"crook" of mean intelligencea mesmeric subject entirely under theinfluence of Holmeswho claimed to have considerable hypnotic powers. Pitezelhad a wife living at St. Louis and five childrenthree girls -- DessieAliceand Nellie -- a boyHowardand a baby in arms. At the time of Holmes' arrestMrs. Pitezelwith her eldest daughterDessieand her little babywas livingat a house rented by Holmes at BurlingtonVermont. She also was arrested on acharge of complicity in the insurance fraud and brought to Boston.

Two days after his arrest Holmeswho dreaded being sent back to Texas on acharge of horse-stealingfor which in that State the punishment is apt to berough and readymade a statement to the policein which he acknowledged thefraud practised by him and Pitezel on the insurance company. The bodysubstituted for Pitezel had been obtainedsaid Holmesfrom a doctor in NewYorkpacked in a trunk and sent to Philadelphiabut he declined for thepresent to give the doctor's name. Pitezelhe saidhad gone with three of hischildren -- AliceNellie and Howard -- to South America. This facthoweverHolmes had not communicated to Mrs. Pitezel. When she arrived at Bostonthepoor woman was in great distress of mind. Questioned by the officersshe

 

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attempted to deny any complicity in the fraudbut her real anxiety was to getnews of her husband and her three children. Alice she had not seen since thegirl had gone to Philadelphia to identify the supposed remains of her father.Shortly after this Holmes had come to Mrs. Pitezel at St. Louisand taken awayNellie and Howard to join Alicewhohe saidwas in the care of a widow ladyat OvingtonKentucky. Since then Mrs. Pitezel had seen nothing of the childrenor her husband. At Holmes' direction she had gone to DetroitTorontoOgdensberg andlastlyto Burlington in the hope of meeting either Pitezel orthe childrenbut in vain. She believed that her husband had deserted her; heronly desire was to recover her children.

On November 20 Holmes and Mrs. Pitezel were transferred from Boston toPhiladelphiaand therealong with Benjamin Pitezel and Jephtha D. Howewerecharged with defrauding the Fidelity Life Association of 10000 dollars. Soonafter his arrival in Philadelphia Holmeswho was never averse to talkingwasasked by an inspector of the insurance company who it was that had helped him todouble up the body sent from New York and pack it into the trunk. He repliedthat he had done it alonehaving learned the trick when studying medicine inMichigan. The inspector recollected that the body when removed from CallowhillStreet had been straight and rigid. He asked Holmes what trick he had learnt inthe course of his medical studies by which it was possible to re-stiffen a bodyonce the rigor mortis had been broken. To this Holmes made no reply. But herealised his mistakeand a few weeks later volunteered a second statement. Henow said that Pitezelin a fit of depressionaggravated by his drinkinghabitshad committed suicide on the third story of the house in CallowhillStreet. There Holmes had found his body

 

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carried it down on to the floor belowand arranged it in the manner agreed uponfor deceiving the insurance company. Pitezelhe saidhad taken his life bylying on the floor and allowing chloroform to run slowly into his mouth througha rubber tube placed on a chair. The three childrenHolmes now statedhad goneto England with a friend of hisMiss Minnie Williams.

Miss Minnie Williams was the ladyfrom whom Holmes was said to have acquiredthe property in Texas which he and Pitezel had set about developing. There wasquite a tragedyaccording to Holmesconnected with the life of Miss Williams.She had come to Holmes in 1893as secretaryat a drug store which he was thenkeeping in Chicago. Their relations had become more intimateand later in theyear Miss Williams wrote to her sisterNanniesaying that she was going to bemarriedand inviting her to the wedding. Nannie arrivedbut unfortunately aviolent quarrel broke out between the two sistersand Holmes came home to findthat Minnie in her rage had killed her sister. He had helped her out of thetrouble by dropping Nannie's body into the Chicago lake. After such adistressing occurrence Miss Williams was only too glad of the opportunity ofleaving America with the Pitezel children. In the meantime Holmesunder thename of Bondand Pitezelunder that of Lymanhad proceeded to deal with MissWilliams' property in Texas.

For women Holmes would always appear to have possessed some power ofattractiona power of which he availed himself generously. Holmeswhose realname was Herman W. Mudgettwas thirty-four years of age at the time of hisarrest. As a boy he had spent his life farming in Vermontafter which he hadtaken up medicine and acquired some kind of medical degree. In the course of histraining Holmes and a fellow studentfinding

 

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a body that bore a striking resemblance to the latter; obtained 1000 dollarsfrom an insurance company by a fraud similar to that in which Holmes had engagedsubsequently with Pitezel. After spending some time on the staff of a lunaticasylum in PennsylvaniaHolmes set up as a druggist in Chicago. His affairs inthis city prosperedand he was enabled to erectat the corner of Wallace andSixty-Third Streetsthe four-storied building known later as "HolmesCastle." It was a singular structure. The lower part consisted of a shopand offices. Holmes occupied the second floorand had a laboratory on thethird. In his office was a vaultair proof and sound proof. In the bathroom atrap-doorcovered by a rugopened on to a secret staircase leading down to thecellarand a similar staircase connected the cellar with the laboratory. In thecellar was a large grate. To this building Miss Minnie Williams had invited hersister to come for her wedding with Holmesand it was in this buildingaccording to Holmesthat the tragedy of Nannie's untimely death occurred.

In hoping to become Holmes' wifeMiss Minnie Williams was not to enjoy anexclusive privilege. At the time of his arrest Holmes had three wiveseachignorant of the others' existence. He had married the first in 1878under thename of Mudgettand was visiting her at BurlingtonVermontwhen the Pinkertondetectives first got on his track. The second he had married at Chicagounderthe name of Howardand the third at Denver as recently as January1894underthe name of Holmes. The third Mrs. Holmes had been with him when he came toPhiladelphia to identify Pitezel's body. The appearance of Holmes wascommonplacebut he was a man of plausible and ingratiating addressapparentcandourand able in case of necessity to "let loose" as he phrasedit"the fount of emotion."


 

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The year 1895 opened to find the much enduring Holmes still a prisoner inPhiladelphia. The authorities seemed in no haste to indict him for fraud; theirinterest was concentrated rather in endeavouring to find the whereabouts of MissWilliams and her childrenand of one Edward Hatchwhom Holmes had described ashelping him in arranging for their departure. The "great humiliation"of being a prisoner was very distressing to Holmes.



"I only know the sky has lost its blue
The days are weary and the night is drear."

These struck him as two beautiful lines very appropriate to his situation. Hemade a New Year's resolve to give up meat during his close confinement. Thevisits of his third wife brought him some comfort. He was "agreeablysurprised" to find thatas an unconvicted prisonerhe could order in hisown meals and receive newspapers and periodicals. But he was hurt at anunfriendly suggestion on the part of the authorities that Pitezel had not diedby his own handand that Edward Hatch was but a figment of his richimagination. He would like to have been released on bailbut in the sameunfriendly spirit was informed thatif he werehe would be detained on acharge of murder. And so the months dragged on. Holmesstudiouspatientinjuredthe authorities puzzledsuspicionsbaffled -- still no news of MissWilliams or the three children. It was not until June 3 that Holmes was put onhis trial for fraudand the following day pleaded guilty. Sentence waspostponed.

The same day Holmes was sent for to the office of the District Attorneywhothus addressed him: "It is strongly suspectedHolmesthat you have notonly murdered Pitezelbut that you have killed the children. The

 

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best way to remove this suspicion is to produce the children at once. Nowwhereare they?" Unfriendly as was this approachHolmes met it calmlyreiterated his previous statement that the children had gone with Miss Williamsto Englandand gave her address in London80 Veder or Vadar StreetwherehesaidMiss Williams had opened a massage establishment. He offered to draw upand insert a cipher advertisement in the New York Heraldby means of whichhesaidMiss Williams and he had agreed to communicateand almost tearfully headded"Why should I kill innocent children?"

Asked to give the name of any person who had seen Miss Williams and thechildren in the course of their journeyings in Americahe resented thedisbelief implied in such a questionand strong was his manly indignation whenone of the gentlemen present expressed his opinion that the story was a lie frombeginning to end. This rude estimate of Holmes' veracity washoweverin somedegree confirmed when a cipher advertisement published in the New York Heraldaccording to Holmes' directionsproduced no reply from Miss Williamsandinquiry showed that no such street as Veder or Vadar Street was to be found inLondon.

In spite of these disappointmentsHolmes' quiet confidence in his own goodfaith continued unshaken. When the hapless Mrs. Pitezel was releasedhe wroteher a long letter. "Knowing me as you do" he said"can youimagine me killing little and innocent childrenespecially without anymotive?" But even Mrs. Pitezel was not wholly reassured. She recollectedhow Holmes had taken her just before his arrest to a house he had rented atBurlingtonVermonthow he had written asking her to carry a package ofnitro-glycerine from the bottom to the top of the houseand how one day she hadfound him busily removing the boards in the cellar.


 

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II
THE WANDERING ASSASSIN

THE District Attorney and the Insurance Company were not inagreement as to the fate of the Pitezel children. The former still inclined tothe hope and belief that they were in England with Miss Williamsbut theinsurance company took a more sinister view. No trace of them existed except atin box found among Holmes' effectscontaining letters they had written totheir mother and grandparents from CincinnatiIndianapolisand Detroitwhichhad been given to Holmes to dispatch but had never reached their destination.The box contained letters from Mrs. Pitezel to her childrenwhich Holmes hadpresumably intercepted. It was decided to make a final attempt to resolve alldoubts by sending an experienced detective over the route taken by the childrenin America. He was to make exhaustive inquiries in each city with a view totracing the visits of Holmes or the three children. For this purpose a detectiveof the name of Geyer was chosen. The record of his search is a remarkable storyof patient and persistent investigation.

Alice Pitezel had not seen her mother since she had gone with Holmes toidentify her father's remains in Philadelphia. From there Holmes had taken herto Indianapolis. In the meantime he had visited Mrs. Pitezel at St. Louisandtaken away with him the girlNellieand the boyHowardalleging as hisreason for doing so that they and Alice were to join their fatherwhosetemporary effacement was necessary to carry out successfully the fraud on theinsurance companyto which Mrs. Pitezel had been from the first an unwillingparty. HolmesNellie and Howard had joined Alice at Indianapolis

 

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and from there all four were believed to have gone to Cincinnati. It was hereaccordinglyon June 271895that Geyer commenced his search.

After calling at a number of hotelsGeyer found that on FridaySeptember281894a mangiving the name of Alexander E. Cookand three children hadstayed at a hotel called the Atlantic House. Geyer recollected that Holmeswhenlater on he had sent Mrs. Pitezel to the house in Burlingtonhad described heras Mrs. A. E. Cook andthough not positivethe hotel clerk thought that herecognised in the photographs of Holmes and he three childrenwhich Geyershowed himthe four visitors to the hotel. They had left the Atlantic House thenext dayand on that same daythe 29thGeyer found that Mr. A. E. Cook andthree children had registered at the Bristol Hotelwhere they had stayed untilSunday the 30th.

Knowing Holmes' habit of renting housesGeyer did not confine his enquiriesto the hotels. He visited a number of estate agents and learnt that a man and aboyidentified as Holmes and Howard Pitezelhad occupied a house No. 305Poplar Street. The man had given the name of A. C. Hayes. He had taken the houseon Friday the 28thand on the 29th had driven up to it with the boy in afurniture wagon. A curious neighbourinterested in the advent of a newcomersaw the wagon arriveand was somewhat astonished to observe that the onlyfurniture taken into the house was a large iron cylinder stove. She was stillfurther surprised whenon the following dayMr. Hayes told her that he was notgoing after all to occupy the houseand made her a present of the cylinderstove.

From Cincinnati Geyer went to Indianapolis. Here inquiry showed that onSeptember 30 three children had been brought by a man identified as Holmes tothe Hotel

 

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Englishand registered in the name of Canning. This was the maiden name of Mrs.Pitezel. The children had stayed at the hotel one night. After that Geyer seemedto lose track of them until he was reminded of a hotel then closedcalled theCircle House. With some difficulty he got a sight of the books of the hotelandfound that the three Canning children had arrived there on October 1 and stayeduntil the 10th. From the former proprietor of the hotel he learnt that Holmeshad described himself as the children's uncleand had said that Howard was abad boywhom he was trying to place in some institution. The children seldomwent out; they would sit in their room drawing or writingoften they were foundcrying; they seemed homesick and unhappy.

There are letters of the children written from Indianapolis to their mothersletters found in Holmes' possessionwhich had never reached her. In theseletters they ask their mother why she does not write to them. She had writtenbut her letters were in Holmes' possession. Alice writes that she is reading"Uncle Tom's Cabin." She has read so much that her eyes hurt; theyhave bought a crystal pen for five cents which gives them some amusement; theyhad been to the Zoo in Cincinnati the Sunday before: "I expect this Sundaywill pass away slower than I don't know -- Howard is two (sic) dirty to be seenout on the street today." Sometimes they go and watch a man who paints"genuine oil paintings" in a shoe storewhich are given away withevery dollar purchase of shoes -- "he can paint a picture in one and a halfminutesain't that quick!" Howard was getting a little troublesome."I don't like to tell you" writes Alice"but you ask meso Iwill have to. Howard won't mind me at all. He wanted a book and I got £ife ofGeneral Sheridan' and it is awful nicebut now he don't read it at allhardly." Poor Howard! One morning

 

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says AliceMr. Holmes told him to stay in and wait for himas he was coming totake him outbut Howard was disobedientand when Mr. Holmes arrived he hadgone out. Better for Howard had he never returned! "We have written two orthree letters to you" Alice tells her mother"and I guess you willbegin to get them now. She will not get them. Mr. Holmes is so very particularthat the insurance company shall get no clue to the whereabouts of any member ofthe Pitezel family.

Geyer knew that from Indianapolis Holmes had gone to Detroit. He ascertainedthat two girls"Etta and Nellie Canning" had registered on October12 at the New Western Hotel in that cityand from there had moved on the 15thto a boarding-house in Congress Street. From Detroit Alice had written to hergrandparents. It was cold and wetshe wrote; she and Etta had colds and chappedhands: "We have to stay in all the time. All that Nell and I can do is todrawand I get so tired sitting that I could get up and fly almost. I wish Icould see you all. I am getting so homesick that I don't know what to do. Isuppose Wharton (their baby brother) walks by this timedon't he? I would liketo have him herehe would pass away the time a good deal." As a factlittle Whartonhis mother and sister Dessiewere at this very moment inDetroitwithin ten minutes' walk of the hotel at which Holmes had registered"Etta and Nellie Canning."

On October 14 there had arrived in that city a wearyanxious-looking womanwith a girl and a little baby. They took a room at Geis's Hotelregistering asMrs. Adams and daughter. Mrs. Adams seemed in great distress of mindand neverleft her room.

The housekeeperbeing shown their photographsidentified the woman and thegirl as Mrs. Pitezel and her eldest daughter Dessie. As the same time there had

 

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been staying at another hotel in Detroit a Mr. and Mrs. Holmeswhosephotographs showed them to be the Mr. Holmes in question and his third wife.These three parties -- the two childrenMrs. Pitezel and her babyand thethird Mrs. Holmes -- were all ignorant of each other's presence in Detroit; andunder the secret guidance of Mr. Holmes the three parties (still unaware oftheir proximity to each otherleft Detroit for Canadaarriving in Toronto onor about October 18and registering at three separate hotels. The only one whohad not to all appearances reached Toronto was the boy Howard.

In Toronto "Alice and Nellie Canning" stayed at the Albion Hotel.They arrived there on October 19and left on the 25th. During their stay a manidentified as Holmeshad called every morning for the two childrenand takenthem out; but they had come back aloneusually in time for supper. On the 25thhe had called and taken them outbut they had not returned to supper. Afterthat date Geyer could find no trace of them. Bearing in mind Holmes' custom ofrenting houseshe compiled a list of all the house agents in Torontoandlaboriously applied to each one for information. The process was a slow oneandthe result seemed likely to be disappointing.

To aid his search Geyer decided to call in the assistance of the Press. Thenewspapers readily published long accounts of the case and portraits of Holmesand the children. At lastafter eight days of patient and untiringinvestigationafter following up more than one false clueGeyer received areport that there was a house -- No. 16 St. Vincent Street -- which had beenrented in the previous October by a man answering to the description of Holmes.The information came from an old Scottish gentleman living next door. Geyerhastened to see him. The old gentleman said that the man who had occupied

 

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No. 16 in October had told him that he had taken the house for his widowedsisterand he recognised the photograph of Alice Pitezel as one of the twogirls accompanying him. The only furniture the man had taken into the house wasa beda mattress and a trunk. During his stay at No. 16 this man had called onhis neighbour about four o'clock one afternoon and borrowed a spadesaying thathe wanted to dig a place in the cellar where his widowed sister could keeppotatoes; he had returned the spade the following morning. The lady to whom thehouse belonged recognised Holmes' portrait as that of the man to whom she hadlet No. 16.

At last Geyer seemed to be on the right track. He hurried back to St. VincentStreetborrowed from the old gentleman at No. 18 the very spade which he hadlent to Holmes in the previous Octoberand got the permission of the presentoccupier of No. 16 to make a search. In the centre of the kitchen Geyer found atrap-door leading down into a small cellar. In one corner of the cellar he sawthat the earth had been recently dug up. With the help of the spade the looseearth was removedand at a depth of some three feetin a state of advanceddecompositionlay the remains of what appeared to be two children. A little toywooden egg with a snake inside itbelonging to the Pitezel childrenhad beenfound by the tenant who had taken the house after Holmes; a later tenant hadfound stuffed into the chimneybut not burntsome clothing that answered thedescription of that worn by Alice and Etta Pitezel; and by the teeth and hair ofthe two corpses Mrs. Pitezel was able to identify them as those of her twodaughters. The very day that Alice and Etta had met their deaths at St. VincentStreettheir mother had been staying near them at a hotel in the same cityandlater on the same day Holmes had persuaded her to leave Toronto for Ogdensburg.He said

 

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that they were being watched by detectivesand so it would be impossible forher husband to come to see her there.

But the problem was not yet wholly solved. What had become of Howard? So farGeyer's search had shown that Holmes had rented three housesone in Cincinnatione in Detroitand one in Toronto. Howard had been with his sisters at thehotels in Indianapolisand in Detroit the house agents had said thatwhenHolmes had rented a house therehe had been accompanied by a boy. Yet anexhaustive search of that house had revealed no trace of him. Geyer returned toDetroit and again questioned the house agents; on being pressed theirrecollection of the boy who had accompanied Holmes seemed very vague anduncertain. This served only to justify a conclusion at which Geyer had alreadyarrivedthat Howard had never reached Detroitbut had disappeared inIndianapolis. Alice's letterswritten from therehad described how Holmes hadwanted to take Howard out one day and how the boy had refused to stay in andwait for him. In the same way Holmes had called for the two girls at the AlbionHotel in Toronto on October 25 and taken them out with himafter which they hadnever been seen alive except by the old gentleman at No. 18 St. Vincent Street.

If Geyer could discover that Holmes had not departed in Indianapolis from hisusual custom of renting houseshe might be on the high way to solving themystery of Howard's fate. Accordingly he returned to Indianapolis.

In the meantimeHolmesin his prison at Philadelphialearnt of thediscovery at Toronto. "On the morning of the 16th of July" he writesin his journal"my newspaper was delivered to me about 8.30 a.m.and Ihad hardly opened it before I saw in large headlines the announcement of thefinding of the children in Toronto. For the

 

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moment it seemed so impossible that I was inclined to think it was one of thefrequent newspaper excitements that had attended the earlier part of the casebutin attempting to gain some accurate comprehension of what was stated in thearticleI became convinced that at least certain bodies had been found thereand upon comparing the date when the house was hired I knew it to be the same aswhen the children had been in Toronto; and thus being forced to realise theawfulness of what had probably happenedI gave up trying to read the articleand saw instead the two little faces as they had looked when I hurriedly leftthem -- felt the innocent child's kiss so timidly givenand heard again theirearnest words of farewelland realised that I had received another burden tocarry to my grave with meequalif not worsethan the horrors of NannieWilliams' death."

Questioned by the district attorneyHolmes met this fresh evidence byevoking once again the mythical Edward Hatch and suggesting that Miss MinnieWilliamsin a "hellish wish for vengeance" because of Holmes' fancieddesertionand in order to make it appear probable that heand not shehadmurdered her sisterhad prompted Hatch to commit the horrid deed. Holmes askedto be allowed to go to Toronto that he might collect any evidence which he couldfind there in his favour. The district attorney refused his request; he haddetermined to try Holmes in Philadelphia. "What more couldbe said?"writes Holmes. Indeedunder the circumstancesand in the unaccountable absenceof Edward Hatch and Minnie Williamsthere was little more to be said.

Detective Geyer reopened his search in Indianapolis by obtaining a list ofadvertisements of houses to let in the city in 1894. Nine hundred of these werefollowed up in vain. He then turned his attention to the small

 

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towns lying around Indianapolis with no happier result. Geyer wrote in somethingof despair to his superiors: "By Monday we will have searched everyoutlying town except Irvington. After IrvingtonI scarcely know where we shallgo." Thither he went on August 27exactly two months from the day on whichhis quest had begun. As he entered the town he noticed the advertisement of anestate agent. He called at the office and found a "pleasant-faced oldgentleman" who greeted him amiably. Once again Geyer opened his now soiledand ragged packet of photographsand asked the gentleman if in October1894he had let a house to a man who said that he wanted one for a widowed sister. Heshowed him the portrait of Holmes.

The old man put on his glasses and looked at the photograph for some time.Yeshe saidhe did remember that he had given the keys of a cottage inOctober1894to a man of Holmes' appearanceand he recollected the man themore distinctly for the uncivil abruptness with which he had asked for the keys;"I felt" he said"he should have had more respect for my greyhairs."

From the old gentleman's office Geyer hastened to the cottageand made atonce for the cellar. There he could find no sign of recent disturbance. Butbeneath the floor of a piazza adjoining the house he found the remains of atrunkanswering to the description of that which the Pitezel children had hadwith themand in an outhouse he discovered the inevitable stoveHolmes' oneindispensable piece of furniture. It was stained with blood on the top. Aneighbour had seen Holmes in the same October drive up to the house in thefurniture wagon accompanied by a boyand later in the day Holmes had asked himto come over to the cottage and help him to put up a stove. The neighbour askedhim why he

 

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did not use gas; Holmes replied that he did not think gas was healthy forchildren. While the two men were putting up the stovethe little boy stood byand watched them. After further search there were discovered in the cellarchimney some bonesteetha pelvis and the baked remains of a stomachliverand spleen.

Medical examination showed them to be the remains of a child between sevenand ten years of age. A spinning topa scarf-pina pair of shoes and somearticles of clothing that had belonged to the little Pitezelshad been found inthe house at different timesand were handed over to Geyer.

His search was ended. On September 1 he returned to Philadelphia.

Holmes was put on his trial on October 281895before the Court of Oyer andTerminer in Philadelphiacharged with the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. In thecourse of the trial the district attorney offered to put in evidence showingthat Holmes had also murdered the three children of Pitezelcontending thatsuch evidence was admissible on the ground that the murders of the children andtheir father were parts of the same transaction. The judge refused to admit theevidencethough expressing a doubt as to its inadmissibility. The defence didnot dispute the identity of the body found in Callowhill Streetbut contendedthat Pitezel had committed suicide. The medical evidence negatived such atheory. The position of the bodyits condition when discoveredwere entirelyinconsistent with self-destructionand the absence of irritation in the stomachshowed that the chloroform found there must have been poured into it afterdeath. In all probabilityHolmes had chloroformed Pitezel when he was drunk orasleep. He had taken the chloroform to Callowhill Street as a proposedingredient in a solution for cleaning clotheswhich he and Pitezel

 

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were to patent. It was no doubt with the help of the same drug that he had doneto death the little childrenand failing the nitro-glycerinewith that drug hehad intended to put Mrs. Pitezel and her two remaining children out of the wayat the house in Burlington; for after his trial there was found therehiddenaway in the cellara bottle containing eight or ten ounces of chloroform.

Though assisted by counselHolmes took an active part in his defence. Hebetrayed no feeling at the sight of Mrs. Pitezelthe greater part of whosefamily he had destroyedbut the appearance of his third wife as a witness hemade an opportunity for "letting loose the fount of emotion" takingcare to inform his counsel beforehand that he intended to perform this touchingfeat. He was convicted and sentenced to death on November 2.

Previous to the trial of Holmes the police had made an exhaustiveinvestigation of the mysterious building in Chicago known as "Holmes'Castle." The result was sufficiently sinister. In the stove in the cellarcharred human bones were foundand in the middle of the room stood a largedissecting table stained with blood. On digging up the cellar floor some humanribssections of vertebrae and teeth were discovered buried in quicklimeandin other parts of the "castle" the police found more charred bonessome metal buttonsa trunkand a piece of a watch chain. The trunk and pieceof watch chain were identified as having belonged to Miss Minnie Williams.

Inquiry showed that Miss Williams had entered Holmes' employment as a typistin 1893and had lived with him at the castle. In the latter part of the yearshe had invited her sisterNannieto be present at her wedding with Holmes.Nannie had come to Chicago for that purposeand since then the two sisters hadnever

 

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been seen alive. In February in the following year Pitezelunder the name ofLymanhad deposited at Fort WorthTexasa deed according to which a man namedBond had transferred to him property in that city which had belonged to MissWilliamsand shortly afterHolmesunder the name of Prattjoined him at FortWorthwhereupon the two commenced building on Miss Williams' land.

Other mysterious cases besides those of the Williams sisters revealed theBluebeard-like character of this latterday castle of Mr. Holmes. In 1887 a manof the name of Connor entered Holmes' employment. He brought with him to thecastle a handsomeintelligent wife and a little girl of eight or nine years ofage. After a short time Connor quarrelled with his wife and went awayleavingMrs. Connor and the little girl with Holmes. After 1892 Mrs. Connor and herdaughter had disappearedbut in August1895the police found in the castlesome clothes identified as theirsand the janitorQuinlanadmitted havingseen the dead body of Mrs. Connor in the castle. Holmesquestioned in hisprison in Philadelphiasaid that Mrs. Connor had died under an operationbutthat he did not know what had become of the little girl.

In the year of Mrs. Connor's disappearancea typist named Emily Cigrandwhohad been employed in a hospital in which Benjamin Pitezel had been a patientwas recommended by the latter to Holmes. She entered his employmentand she andHolmes soon became intimatepassing as "Mr. and Mrs. Gordon." EmilyCigrand had been in the habit of writing regularly to her parents in Indianabut after December 61892they had never heard from her againnor could anyfurther trace of her be found.

A man who worked for Holmes as a handy man at

 

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the castle stated to the police that in 1892 Holmes had given him a skeleton ofa man to mountand in January1893showed him in the laboratory another maleskeleton with some flesh still on itwhich also he asked him to mount. As therewas a set of surgical instruments in the laboratory and also a tank filled witha fluid preparation for removing fleshthe handy man thought that Holmes wasengaged in some kind of surgical work.

About a month before his executionwhen Holmes' appeals from his sentencehad failed and death appeared imminenthe sold to the newspapers for 7500dollars a confession in which he claimed to have committed twenty-seven murdersin the course of his career. The day after it appeared he declared the wholeconfession to be a "fake." He was tiredhe saidof being accused bythe newspapers of having committed every mysterious murder that had occurredduring the last ten years. When it was pointed out to him that the account givenin his confession of the murder of the Pitezel children was clearly untruehereplied"Of courseit is not truebut the newspapers wanted a sensationand they have got it." The confession was certainly sensational enough tosatisfy the most exacting of penny-a-linersand a lasting tribute to Holmes'undoubted power of extravagant romancing.

According to his storysome of his twenty-seven victims had met their deathby poisonsome by more violent methodssome had died a lingering death in theair-tight and sound-proof vault of the castle. Most of these he mentioned bynamebut some of these were proved afterwards to be alive. Holmes had actuallyperpetratedin all probabilityabout ten murders. Butgiven further time andopportunitythere is no reason why this peripatetic assassin should not haveattained to the considerable

 

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figure with which he credited himself in his bogus confession.

Holmes was executed in Philadelphia on May 71896. He seemed to meet hisfate with indifference.

The motive of Holmes in murdering Pitezel and three of his children and inplanning to murder his wife and remaining childrenoriginated in allprobability in a quarrel that occurred between Pitezel and himself in the Julyof 1894. Pitezel had tired apparently of Holmes and his doingsand wanted tobreak off the connection. But he must have known enough of Holmes' past to makehim a dangerous enemy. It was Pitezel who had introduced to Holmes EmilyCigrandthe typistwho had disappeared so mysteriously in the castle; Pitezelhad been his partner in the fraudulent appropriation of Miss Minnie Williams'property in Texas; it is more than likelythereforethat Pitezel knewsomething of the fate of Miss Williams and her sister. By revivingwithPitezel's helphis old plan for defrauding insurance companiesHolmes saw theopportunity of making 10000 dollarswhich he needed sorelyand at the sametime removing his inconvenient and now lukewarm associate. Having killed Pitezeland received the insurance moneyHolmes appropriated to his own use the greaterpart of the 10000 dollarsgiving Mrs. Pitezel in return for her share of theplunder a bogus bill for 5000 dollars. Having robbed Mrs. Pitezel of both herhusband and her moneyto this thoroughgoing criminal there seemed only onesatisfactory way of escaping detectionand that was to exterminate her and thewhole of her family.

Had Holmes not confided his scheme of the insurance fraud to Hedgspeth in St.Louis prison and then broken faith with himthere is no reason why the fraudshould ever have been discovered. The subsequent murders had been so cunninglycontrived thathad the Insurance Company

 

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not put the Pinkerton detectives on his trackHolmes would in all probabilityhave ended by successfully disposing of Mrs. PitezelDessieand the baby atthe house in BurlingtonVermontand the entire Pitezel family would havedisappeared as completely as his other victims.

Holmes admitted afterwards that his one mistake had been his confiding toHedgspeth his plans for defrauding an insurance company -- a mistaketheunfortunate results of which might have been avoidedif he had kept faith withthe train robber and given him the 500 dollars which he had promised.

The case of Holmes illustrates the practical as well as the purely ethicalvalue of "honour among thieves" and shows how a comparativelyinsignificant misdeed may ruin a great and comprehensive plan of crime. To dareto attempt the extermination of a family of seven personsand to succeed sonearly in effecting itcould be the work of no tyrono beginner like J. B.Troppmann. It was the act of one who having already succeeded in putting out ofthe way a number of other persons undetectedmight well and justifiably believethat he was born for greater and more compendious achievements in robbery andmurder than any who had gone before him. One can almost subscribe to America'sclaim that Holmes is the "greatest criminal" of a century boasting nomean record in such persons.

In the remarkable character of his achievements as an assassin we are apt tolose sight of Holmes' singular skill and daring as a liar and a bigamist. As aninstance of the former may be cited his audacious explanation to his familywhen they heard of his having married a second time. He said that he had metwith a serious accident to his headand that when he left the hospitalfoundthat he had entirely lost his memory; thatwhile in this

 

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state of oblivionhe had married again and thenwhen his memory returnedrealised to his horror his unfortunate position. Plausibility would seem to havebeen one of Holmes' most useful gifts; men and women alike -- particularly thelatter -- he seems to have deceived with ease. His appearance was commonplacein no way suggesting the conventional criminalhis manner courteousingratiating and seemingly candidand like so many scoundrelshe could playconsummately the man of sentiment. The weak spot in Holmes' armour as an enemyof society was a dangerous tendency to loquacitythe defect no doubt of hisqualities of plausible and insinuating address and ever ready mendacity.


Professor Webster


Note: The best report of Webster's trial is that edited by Bemis. The followingtracts in the British Museum have been consulted by the writer: "Appendixto the Webster Trial" Boston1850: "Thoughts on the Conviction ofWebster"; "The Boston Tragedy" by W. E. Bigelow.

IT is not often that the gaunt spectre of murder invades the cloistered calmof academic life. Yet such a strange and unwonted tragedy befell HarvardUniversity in the year 1849when John W. WebsterProfessor of Chemistrytookthe life of Dr. George Parkmana distinguished citizen of Boston. The scene ofthe crimethe old Medical Schoolnow a Dental Hospitalis still standingorwas when the present writer visited Boston in 1907. It is a large and ratherdreary red-brickthree-storied buildingsituated in the lower part of thecityflanked on its west side by the mud flats leading down to the CharlesRiver. The first floor consists of two large roomsseparated from each other bythe main entrance hallwhich is approached by a flight of steps leading up fromthe street level. Of these two roomsthe leftas you face the buildingisfitted up as a lecture-room. In the year 1849 it was the lecture-room ofProfessor Webster. Behind the lecture-room is a laboratoryknown as the upperlaboratorycommunicating by a private staircase with the lower laboratorywhich occupies the left wing of the ground floor. A small passageentered by adoor on the left-hand side of the front of the buildingseparated this lowerlaboratory from the dissecting-rooman out-house built on to the

 

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west wall of the collegebut now demolished. From this description it will beseen that any personprovided with the necessary keyscould enter the collegeby the side-door near the dissecting room on the ground floorand pass upthrough the lower and upper laboratory into Professor Webster's lecture-roomwithout entering any other part of the building. The Professor of Chemistrybylocking the doors of his lecture-rooms and the lower laboratorycouldif hewishedmake himself perfectly secure against intrusionand come and go by theside-door without attracting much attention. These rooms are little altered atthe present time from their arrangement in 1849. The lecture-room and laboratoryare used for the same purposes to-day; the lower laboratorya dismal chambernow disused and somewhat rearrangedis still recognisable as the scene of theProfessor's chemical experiments.

On the second floor of the hospital is a museumonce anatomicalnow dental.One of the principal objects of interest in this museum is a plaster cast of thejaws of Dr. George Parkmanmade by a well-known dentist of BostonDr. Keepinthe year 1846. In that year the new medical college was formally opened. Dr.Parkmana wealthy and public-spirited citizen of Bostonhad given the piece oflandon which the college had been erected. He had been invited to be presentat the opening ceremony. In anticipation of being asked to make a speech on thisoccasion Dr. Parkmanwhose teeth were few and far betweenhad himself fittedby Dr. Keep with a complete set of false teeth. Oliver Wendell HolmesthenProfessor of Anatomy at Harvardwho was present at the opening of the collegenoticed how very nice and white the doctor's teeth appeared to be. It was thediscovery of the remains of these same admirable teeth three years later in thefurnace in Professor

 

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Webster's lower laboratory that led to the conviction of Dr. Parkman's murderer.By a strange coincidence the doctor met his death in the very college which hisgenerosity had helped to build. Though to-day the state of the college hasdeclined from the medical to the dentalhis memory still lives within its wallsby the cast of his jaws preserved in the dental museum as a relic of a caseinwhich the art of dentistry did signal service to the cause of justice.

In his lifetime Dr. Parkman was a well-known figure in the streets of Boston.His peculiar personal appearance and eccentric habits combined to make himsomething of a character. As he walked through the streets he presented aremarkable appearance. He was exceptionally talllonger in the body than thelegs; his lower jaw protruded some half an inch beyond the upper; he carried hisbody bent forward from the small of his back. He seemed to be always in a hurry;so impetuous was he thatif his horse did not travel fast enough to please himhe would get off its backandleaving the steed in the middle of the streethasten on his way on foot. A just and generous manhe was extremely punctiliousin matters of businessand uncom-promising in his resentment of any form offalsehood or deceit. It was the force of his resentment in such a case that costhim his life.

The doctor was unfailingly punctual in taking his meals. Dr. Kingsleyduringthe fourteen years he had acted as his agenthad always been able to make sureof finding him at home at his dinner hourhalf-past two o'clock. But on FridayNovember 231849to his surprise and that of his familyDr. Parkman did notcome home to dinner; and their anxiety was increased when the day passedandthere was still no sign of the doctor's return. Inquiries were made. From

 

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these it appeared that Dr. Parkman had been last seen alive between one and twoo'clock on the Friday afternoon. About half-past one he had visited a grocer'sshop in Bridge Streetmade some purchasesand left behind him a paper bagcontaining a lettucewhichhe saidhe would call for on his way home. Shortlybefore two o'clock he was seen by a workmanat a distance of forty or fiftyfeet from the Medical Collegegoing in that direction. From that moment allcertain trace of him was lost. His family knew that he had made an appointmentfor half-past one that daybut where and with whom they did not know. As amatter of factProfessor John W. Webster had appointed that hour to receive Dr.Parkman in his lecture-room in the Medical College.

John W. Webster was at this time Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy inHarvard Universitya Doctor of Medicine and a Member of the American Academy ofArts and Sciencesthe London Geological Society and the St. PetersburgMineralogical Society. He was the author of several works on geology andchemistrya man now close on sixty years of age. His countenance was genialhis manner mild and unassuming; he was clean shavenwore spectaclesand lookedyounger than his years.

Professor Webster was popular with a large circle of friends. To those wholiked him he was a man of pleasing and attractive mannersartistic in histastes -- he was especially fond of music -- not a very profound or remarkablechemistbut a pleasant social companion. His temper was hasty and irritable.Spoilt in his boyhood as an only childhe was self-willed and self-indulgent.His wife and daughters were better liked than he. By unfriendly criticics{sic}the Professor was thought to be selfishfonder of the good things of the tableand a

 

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good cigar than was consistent with his duty to his family or the smallness ofhis income. His fathera successful apothecary at Bostonhad died in 1833leaving Johnhis only sona fortune of some £ 10000. In rather less than tenyears Webster had run through the whole of his inheritance. He had built himselfa costly mansion in Cambridgespent a large sum of money in collectingmineralsand delighted to exercise lavish hospitality. By living consistentlybeyond his means he found himself at length entirely dependent on hisprofessional earnings. These were small. His salary as Professor was fixed at£240 a year; the rest of his income he derived from the sale of tickets for hislectures at the Medical College. That income was insufficient to meet his wants.I have given these sums of money in their English equivalents in order to givethe reader an idea of the smallness of the sum which brought about the tragedy.

As early as 1842 he had borrowed £80 from his friend Dr. Parkman. It was toParkman's good offices that he owed his appointment as a Professor at Harvard;they had entered the University as under-graduates in the same year. Up to 1847Webster had repaid Parkman twenty pounds of his debt; butin that year he foundit necessary to raise a further loan of £490which was subscribed by a fewfriendsamong them Parkman him-self. As a security for the repayment of thisloanthe professor executed a mortgage on his valuable collection of mineralsin favour of Parkman. In the April of 1848 the Professor's financialdifficulties became so serious that he was threatened with an execution in hishouse. In this predicament he went to a Mr. ShawDr. Parkman's brother-in-lawand begged a loan of £240offering him as security a bill of sale on thecollection of mineralswhich he had already mortgaged to Parkman. Shaw acceptedthe securityand lent the money. Shaw

 

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would seem to have had a good deal of sympathy with Webster's embarrassments; heconsidered the Professor's income very inadequate to his positionand showedhimself quite ready at a later period to waive his debt altogether.

Dr. Parkman was a less easy-going creditor. Forbearing and patient as long ashe was dealt with fairlyhe was merciless where he thought he detected trickeryor evasion. His forbearance and his patience were utterly exhaustedhis angerand indignation strongly arousedwhen he learnt from Shaw that Webster hadgiven him as security for his debt a bill of sale on the collection of mineralsalready mortgaged to himself. From the moment of the discovery of this act ofdishonesty on the part of WebsterParkman pursued his debtor with unrelentingseverity. He threatened him with an action at law; he said openly that he wasneither an honourablehonestnor upright man; he tried to appropriate to thepayment of his debt the fees for lectures which Mr. PetteeWebster's agentcollected on the Professor's behalf. He even visited Webster in his lecture-roomand sat glaring at him in the front row of seatswhile the Professor wasstriving under these somewhat unfavourable conditions to impart instruction tohis pupils -- a proceeding which the Doctor's odd cast of features must haveaggravated in no small degree.

It was early in November that Parkman adopted these aggressive tactics. Onthe 19th of that month Webster and the janitor of the CollegeEphraimLittlefieldwere working in the upper laboratory. It was dark; they had litcandles. Webster was reading a chemical book. As he looked up from the book hesaw Parkman standing in the doorway leading from the lecture-room. "Dr.Websterare you ready for me to-night?" asked Park-man. "No"replied the other"I am not ready to-night."

 

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After a little further conversation in regard to the mortgageParkman departedwith the ominous remark"Doctorsomething must be done to-morrow."

Unfortunately the Professor was not in a position to do anything. He had nomeans sufficient to meet his creditor's demands; and that creditor wasunrelenting. On the 22nd Parkman rode into Cambridgewhere Webster livedtopress him furtherbut failed to find him. Webster's patiencenone too great atany timewas being sorely tried. To whom could he turn? What further resourcewas open to him? There was none. He determined to see his creditor once more. At8 o'clock on the morning of Friday the 23rdWebster called at Dr. Parkman'shouse and made the appointment for their meeting at the Medical College athalf-past oneto which the Doctor had been seen hastening just before hisdisappearance. At nine o'clock the same morning Petteethe agenthad called onthe Professor at the College and paid him by cheque a balance of £28 due on hislecture ticketsinforming him at the same time thatowing to the trouble withDr. Parkmanhe must decline to receive any further sums of money on his behalf.Webster replied that Parkman was a nervousexcitable mansubject to mentalaberrationsbut he added"You will have no further trouble with Dr.Parkmanfor I have settled with him." It is difficult to see how theProfessor could have settledor proposed to settlewith his creditor on thatday. A balance of £28 at his bankand the £18 which Mr. Pettee had paid tohim that morningrepresented the sum of Professor Webster's fortune on FridayNovember 231849.

Since the afternoon of that day the search for the missing Parkman had beenunremitting. On the Saturday his friends communicated with the police. On Sundayhand-bills were issued stating the fact of the Doctor's

 

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disappearanceand on Mondaythe 26tha description and the offer of aconsiderable reward for the discovery of his body were circulated both in andout of the city. Two days later a further reward was offered. But these effortswere fruitless. The only person who gave any information beyond that afforded bythose who had seen the Doctor in the streets on the morning of hisdisappearancewas Professor Webster. About four o'clock on the Sunday afternoonthe Professor called at the house of the Revd. Francis Parkmanthe Doctor'sbrother. They were intimate friends. Webster had for a time attended Parkman'schapel; and Mr. Parkman had baptised the Professor's grand-daughter. On thisSunday afternoon Mr. Parkman could not help remarking Webster's peculiar manner.With a bare greeting and no expression of condolence with the family's distresshis visitor entered abruptly and nervously on the object of his errand. He hadcalledhe saidto tell Mr. Parkman that he had seen his brother at the MedicalCollege on Friday afternoonthat he had paid him £90 which he owed himandthat the Doctor had in the course of their interview taken out a paper anddashed his pen through itpresumably as an acknowledgment of the liquidation ofthe Professor's debt. Having communicated this intelligence to the somewhatastonished gentlemanWebster left him as abruptly as he had come.

Another relative of Dr. Parkmanhis nephewMr. Parkman Blakein the courseof inquiries as to his uncle's fatethought it right to see Webster.Accordingly he went to the college on Mondaythe 26thabout eleven o'clock inthe morning. Though not one of his lecture daysthe janitor Littlefieldinformed him that the Professor was in his room. The door of the lecture --roomhoweverwas found to be lockedand it was only after considerable delaythat Mr. Blake gained admittance.

 

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As he descended the steps to the floor of the lecture-room Websterdressed in aworking suit of blue overalls and wearing on his head a smoking capcame infrom the back door. Instead of advancing to greet his visitorhe stood fixed tothe spotand waitedas if defensivelyfor Mr. Blake to speak. In answer toMr. Blake's questions Webster described his interview with Dr. Parkman on theFriday afternoon. He gave a very similar account of it to that he had alreadygiven to Mr. Francis Parkman. He added that at the end of their interview he hadasked the Doctor for the return of the mortgageto which the latter hadreplied"I haven't it with mebut I will see it is properlycancelled." Mr. Blake asked Webster if he could recollect in what form ofmoney it was that he had paid Dr. Parkman. Webster answered that he could onlyrecollect a bill of £20 on the New Zealand Bank: pressed on this pointheseemed to rather avoid any further inquiries. Mr. Blake left himdissatisfiedwith the result of his visit.

One particular in Webster's statement was unquestionably strangeif notincredible. He hadhe saidpaid Parkman a sum of £90which he had given himpersonallyand represented the Doctor as having at their interview promised tocancel the mortgage on the collection of minerals which Webster had given assecurity for the loan of £490 that had been subscribed by Park-man and four ofhis friends. Now £120 of this loan was still owing. If Webster's statement weretrueParkman had a perfect right to cancel Webster's personal debt to himself;but he had no right to cancel entirely the mortgage on the mineralsso long asmoney due to others on that mortgage was yet unpaid. Was it conceivable that oneso strict and scrupulous in all monetary transactions as Parkman would havesettled his own personal

 

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claimand then sacrificed in so discreditable a manner the claims of othersfor the satisfaction of which he had made himself responsible?

There was yet another singular circumstance. On Saturdaythe 24ththe dayafter his settlement with ParkmanWebster paid into his own account at theCharles River Bank the cheque for £18lecture feeshanded over to him by theagent Pettee just before Dr. Parkman's visit on the Friday. This sum had notap-parently gone towards the making up of the £90which Webster said that hehad paid to Parkman that day. The means by which Webster had been enabled tosettle this debt became more mysterious than ever.

On TuesdayNovember 27the Professor received three other visitors in hislecture-room. These were police officers whoin the course of their search forthe missing manfelt it their duty to examinehowever perfunctorilytheMedical College. With apologies to the Professorthey passed through hislecture room to the laboratory at the backand from thencedown the privatestairspast a privyinto the lower laboratory. As they passed the privy one ofthe officers asked what place it was. "Dr. Webster's privatelavatory" replied the janitorwho was conducting them. At that momentWebster's voice called them away to examine the store-room in the lowerlaboratoryand after a cursory examination the officers departed.

The janitorEphraim Littlefielddid not take the op-portunity afforded himby the visit of the police officers to impart to them the feelings ofuneasiness; which the conduct of Professor Webster during the last three dayshad excited in his breast. There were circumstances in the Professor's behaviourwhich could not fail to attract the attention of a manwhose businessthroughout the day was to dust and sweep the Collegelight the fires and

 

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overlook generally the order and cleanliness of the building.

Littlefieldit will be rememberedhad seen Dr. Parkman on the Monday beforehis disappearancewhen he visited Webster at the Collegeand been present atthe interviewin the course of which the Doctor told Webster that"something must be done." That Monday morning Webster askedLittlefield a number of questions about the dissecting-room vaultwhich wassituated just outside the door of the lower laboratory. He asked how it wasbuiltwhether a light could be put into itand how it was reached for thepurpose of repair. On the following Thursdaythe day before Parkman'sdisappearancethe Professor told Littlefield to get him a pint of blood fromthe Massachusetts Hospital; he said that he wanted it for an experiment. On themorning of Fridaythe day of Parkman's disappearanceLittlefield informed theProfessor that he had been unsuccessful in his efforts to get the bloodas theyhad not been bleeding anyone lately at the hospital. The same morningLittlefield found to his surprise a sledge-hammer behind the door of theProfessor's back room; he presumed that it had been left there by masonsandtook it down to the lower laboratory. This sledge-hammer Littlefield never sawagain. About a quarter to two that afternoon Littlefieldstanding at the frontdoorafter his dinnersaw Dr. Parkman coming towards the College. At twoo'clock Littlefield went up to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes' roomimmediatelyabove Professor Webster'sto help the Doctor to clear his table after hislecturewhich was the last delivered that day. About a quarter of an hour laterhe let Dr. Holmes outlocked the front door and began to clear out the stovesin the other lecture-rooms. When he reached Webster's he was surprised to findthat both doorsthat of the lecture room and that of the lower

 

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laboratorywere either locked or bolted. He could hear nothing but the runningof water in one of the sinks. About half-past five Littlefield saw the Professorcoming down the back stairs with a lighted candle in his hand. Webster blew outthe candle and left the building. Late that night Littlefield again tried theProfessor's doors; they were still fastened. The janitor was surprised at thisas he had never known such a thing to happen before.

On Saturdaythe 24ththough not lecturing that daythe Professor came tothe College in the morning. He told Littlefield to light the stove in the lowerlaboratory. When Littlefield made to pass from the lecture-room into theProfessor's private room at the backand so down by the private stairs to thelower laboratorythe Professor stopped him and told him to go round by the doorin front of the building. The whole of that day and Sundaythe Professor'sdoors remained fast. On Sunday evening at sunset Littlefieldwho was talkingwith a friend in North Grove Streetthe street that faces the Collegewasaccosted by Webster. The Professor asked him if he recollected Parkman's visitto the College on Fridaythe 23rdandon his replying in the affirmativetheProfessor described to him their interview and the repayment of his debt.Littlefield was struck during their conversation by the uneasiness of theProfessor's bearing; contrary to his habit he seemed unable to look him in thefacehis manner was confusedhis face pale.

During the whole of Mondayexcept for a visit from Mr. Parkman BlakeProfessor Webster was again locked alone in his laboratory. Neither that nightnor early Tuesday morningcould Littlefield get into the Professor's rooms toperform his customary duties. On Tuesday the Professor lectured at twelveo'clockand later received the visit of the police officers that has been

 

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described already. At four o'clock that afternoonthe Professor's bell rang.Littlefield answered it. The Professor asked the janitor whether he had boughthis turkey for Thanksgiving Daywhich was on the following Thursday.Littlefield said that he had not done so yet. Webster then handed him an orderon his provision dealer. "Take that" he said"and get a niceturkey; perhaps I shall want you to do some odd jobs for me." Littlefieldthanked himand said that he would be glad to do anything for him that hecould. The janitor was the more surprised at Webster's generosity on thisoccasionas this turkey was the first present he had received at theProfessor's hands during the seven years he had worked in the College.Littlefield saw the Professor again about half-past six that evening as thelatter was leaving the College. The janitor asked him if he wanted any morefires lighted in his roomsbecause owing to the holidays there were to be nofurther lectures that week. Webster said that he did notand asked Littlefieldwhether he were a freemason. The janitor said "Yes" and with thatthey parted.

Littlefield was curious. The mysterious activity of the Professor ofChemistry seemed to him more than unusual. His perplexity was increased on thefollowing day. Though on account of the holidays all work had been suspended atthe College for the remainder of the weekWebster was again busy in his roomearly Wednesday morning. Littlefield could hear him moving about. In vain didthe janitor look through the keyholebore a hole in the doorpeep under it;all he could get was a sight of the Professor's feet moving about thelaboratory. Perplexity gave way to apprehension when in the course of theafternoon Littlefield discovered that the outer wall of the lower laboratory wasso hot that he could hardly bear to place his hand on it. On the outer side ofthis

 

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wall was a furnace sometimes used by the Professor in his chemical experiments.How came it to be so heated? The Professor had told Littlefield on Tuesday thathe should not be requiring any fires during the remainder of the week.

The janitor determined to resolve his suspicions. He climbed up to the backwindows of the lower laboratoryfound one of them unfastenedand let himselfin. Butbeyond evidences of the considerable fires that had been kept burningduring the last few daysLittlefield saw nothing to excite peculiar attention.Still he was uneasy. Those he met in the street kept on telling him that Dr.Parkman would be found in the Medical College. He felt that he himself wasbeginning to be suspected of having some share in the mysterywhilst in his ownmind he became more certain every day that the real solution lay within thewalls of Professor Webster's laboratory. His attention had fixed itselfparticularly on the lavatory at the foot of the stairs connecting the upper andlower laboratories. This room he found to be locked and the keya large onehad disappeared. He recollected that when the police officers had paid theirvisit to the collegethe Professor had diverted their attention as they wereabout to inspect this room. The only method by whichunknown to the Professorand without breaking open the doorLittlefield could examine the vault of thisretiring room was by going down to the basement floor of the college and digginga hole through the wall into the vault itself. This he determined to do.

On ThursdayThanksgiving DayLittlefield commenced operations with ahatchet and a chisel. Progress was slowas that evening he had been invited toattend a festal gathering. On Friday the janitorbefore resuming workacquainted two of the Professors of the college with his proposed investigationand received their sanction

 

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As Websterhoweverwas going constantly in and out of his roomshe could makelittle further progress that day. The Professor had come into town early in themorning. Before going to the college he purchased some fishhooks and gave ordersfor the making of a strong tin box with firm handlesa foot and a half squareand a little more than a foot in depth; during the rest of the day he had beenbusy in his rooms until he left the college about four o'clock. Not till thenwas the watchful janitor able to resume his labours. Armed with a crowbarheworked vigorously until he succeeded in penetrating the wall sufficiently toadmit a light into the vault of the lavatory. The first objects which the lightrevealed to his eyeswere the pelvis of a man and two parts of a human leg.

Leaving his wife in charge of the remainsLittlefield went immediately tothe house of Professor Bigelowand informed him of the result of his search.They returned to the college some twenty minutes lateraccompanied by the CityMarshal. The human remains -- a pelvisa thigh and a leg -- were taken out ofthe vaultand on a further search some pieces of bone were removed from one ofthe furnaces in the lower laboratory. The City Marshal at once dispatched threeof his officers to Cambridgeto the house of Professor Webster.

To his immediate circle of friends and relations the conduct of the Professorduring this eventful week had betrayed no unwonted discomposure or disturbanceof mind. His evenings had been spent either at the house of friendsor at hisownplaying whistor reading Milton's "Allegro" and"Penseroso" to his wife and daughters. On Friday eveningabout eighto'clockas the Professor was saying good-bye to a friend on the steps of hishouse at Cambridgethe three police officers drove up to the door and asked himto accompany them to the

 

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Medical College. It was proposedthey saidto make a further search there thateveningand his presence was considered advisable. Webster assentedimmediatelyput on his bootshis hat and coatand got into the hired coach.As they drove towards the cityWebster spoke to the officers of Parkman'sdisappearanceand suggested that they should stop at the house of a lady whohe saidcould give them some peculiar information on that subject. As theyentered Bostonhe remarked that they were taking the wrong direction forreaching the college. One of the officers replied that the driver might be"green" but that he would find his way to the college in time. Atlength the coach stopped. One of the officers alightedand invited hiscompanions to follow him into the office of the Leverett Street Jail. Theyobeyed. The Professor asked what it all meant; he was informed that he mustconsider himself in custodycharged with the murder of Dr. George Parkman.Webstersomewhat taken abackdesired that word should be sent to his familybut was dissuaded from his purpose for the time being. He was searchedandamong other articles taken from him was a key some four or five inches long; itwas the missing lavatory key. Whilst one of the officers withdrew to make out amittimusthe Professor asked one of the others if they had found Dr. Parkman.The officer begged him not to question him. "You might tell me somethingabout it" pleaded Webster. "Where did they find him? Did they findthe whole body? Ohmy children! What will they do? What will they think of me?Where did you get the information?" The officers asked him if anybody hadaccess to his apartments but himself. "Nobody" he replied"butthe porter who makes the fire." Thenafter a pausehe exclaimed:"That villain! I am a ruined man." He was walking up and down wringinghis handswhen one of

 

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the officers saw him put one hand into his waistcoat pocketand raise it to hislips. A few moments later the unhappy man was seized with violent spasms. He wasunable to standand was laid down in one of the cells. From this distressingstate he was roused shortly before elevento be taken to the college. He wasquite incapable of walkingand had to be supported by two of the officers. Hewas present there while his rooms were searched; but his state was painful inthe extreme. He asked for waterbut trembled so convulsively that he could onlysnap at the tumbler like a dog; his limbs were rigid; tears and sweat poureddown his cheeks. On the way back to the jailone of the officersmoved by hisconditionexpressed his pity for him. "Do you pity me? Are you sorry forme? What for?" asked Webster. "To see you so excited" repliedthe officer. "Oh! that's it" said the Professor.

The whole night through the prisoner lay without movingand not until thefollowing afternoon were his limbs relaxed sufficiently to allow of his sittingup. As his condition improvedhe grew more confident. "That is no more Dr.Parkman's body" he said"than mine. How in the world it came there Idon't know" and he added: "I never liked the looks of Littlefield thejanitor; I opposed his coming there all I could."

In the meantime a further examination of the Professor's rooms on Saturdayhad resulted in the discoveryin a tea-chest in the lower laboratoryof athoraxthe left thigh of a legand a hunting knife embedded in tan and coveredover with minerals; some portions of bone and teeth were found mixed with theslag and cinders of one of the furnaces; also some fish-hooks and a quantity oftwinethe latter identical with a piece of twine that had been tied round thethigh found in the chest.

 

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Two days later the Professor furnished unwittingly some additional evidenceagainst himself. On the Monday evening after his arrest he wrote from prison toone of his daughters the following letter:

"MY DEAREST MARIANNE-- I wrote Mama yesterday; I had a good sleep lastnightand dreamt of you all. I got my clothes offfor the first timeandawoke in the morning quite hungry. It was a long time before my first breakfastfrom Parker's came; and it was relishedI can assure you. At one o'clock I wasnotified that I must appear at the court room. All was arranged with greatregard to my comfortand went off better than I had anticipated. On my return Ihad a bit of turkey and rice from Parker's. They send much more than I can eatand I have directed the steward to distribute the surplus to any poor ones here.

"If you will send me a small canister of teaI can make my own. Alittle pepper I may want some day. I would send the dirty clothesbut they weretaken to dry. Tell Mama not to open the little bundle I gave her theother daybut to keep it just as she received it. With many kisses to you all.Good night! -- From your affectionate "FATHER."

"P.S. -- My tongue troubles me yet very muchand I must have bitten itin my distress the other night; it is painful and swollenaffecting my speech.Had Mama better send for Nancy? I think so; or Aunt Amelia."

"Couple of coloured neck handkerchiefsone Madras."

This letterwhich shows an anxiety about his personal comfort singular inone so tragically situatedpassed through the hands of the keeper of the jail.He was struck by the words underlined"not to open" in regard

 

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to the small bundle confided to Mrs. Webster. He called the attention of thepolice to this phrase. They sent immediately an officer armed with a searchwarrant to the Professor's house. He received from Mrs. Webster among otherpapers a package whichon being openedwas found to contain the two notesgiven by Webster to Parkman as acknowledgments of his indebtedness to him in1842 and 1847and a paper showing the amount of his debts to Parkman in 1847.There were daubs and erasures made across these documentsand across one waswritten twice over the word "paid." All these evidences of paymentsand cancellations appeared on examination to be in the handwriting of theProfessor.

After an inquest lasting nine days the coroner's jury declared the remainsfound in the college to be those of Dr. George Parkmanand that the deceasedhad met his death at the hands of Professor J. W. Webster. The prisoner waivedhis right to a magisterial investigationand on January 261850the GrandJury returned a true bill. But it was not until March 17 that the Professor'strial opened before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. The proceedings wereconducted with that dignity and propriety which we look for in the courts ofthat State. The principal features in the defence were an attempt to impugn thetestimony of the janitor Littlefieldand to question the possibility of theidentification of the remains of Parkman's teeth. There was a further attempt toprove that the deceased had been seen by a number of persons in the streets ofBoston on the Friday afternoonafter his visit to the Medical College. Thewitness Littlefield was unshaken by a severe cross-examination. The veryreluctance with which Dr. Keep gave his fatal evidenceand the support given tohis conclusions by distinguished testimony told strongly in favour of theabsolute trustworthiness of his statements. The evidence

 

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called to prove that the murdered man had been seen alive late on Fridayafternoon was highly inconclusive.

Contrary to the advice of his counselWebster addressed the jury himself. Hecomplained of the conduct of his caseand enumerated various points that hiscounsel had omitted to makewhich he conceived to be in his favour. The valueof his statements may be judged by the fact that he called God to witness thathe had not written any one of the anonymous letterspurporting to give a trueaccount of the doctor's fatewhich had been received by the police at the timeof Parkman's disappearance. After his condemnation Webster confessed to theauthorship of at least one of them.

The jury retired at eight o'clock on the eleventh day of the trial. Theywould seem to have approached their duty in a most solemn and devout spiritandit was with the greatest reluctance and after some searching of heart that theybrought themselves to find the prisoner guilty of wilful murder. On hearingtheir verdictthe Professor sank into a seatanddropping his headrubbedhis eyes behind his spectacles as if wiping away tears. On the following morningthe Chief Justice sentenced him to death after a well-meaning speech of quiteunnecessary length and elaborationat the conclusion of which the condemned manwept freely.

A petition for a writ of error having been dismissedthe Professor in Julyaddressed a petition for clemency to the Council of the State. Dr. Putnamwhohad been attending Webster in the jailread to the Council a confession whichhe had persuaded the prisoner to make. According to this statement Webster hadon the Friday afternoonstruck Parkman on the head with a heavy wooden stick ina wild moment of rageinduced by the violent taunts and threats of hiscreditor. Appalled by his deedhe had in panic locked himself in his roomand

 

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proceeded with desperate haste to dismember the body; he had placed it for thatpurpose in the sink in his back roomthrough which was running a constantstream of water that carried away the blood. Some portions of the body he hadburnt in the furnace; those in the lavatory and the tea-chest he had concealedthereuntil he should have had an opportunity of getting rid of them.

In this statement Professor Webster denied all premeditation. Dr. Putnamasked him solemnly whether he had notimmediately before the crimemeditatedat any time on the advantages that would accrue to him from Parkman's death.Webster replied "Neverbefore God!" He hadhe protestedno idea ofdoing Parkman an injury until the bitter tongue of the latter provoked him."I am irritable and violent" he said"a quickness and briefviolence of temper has been the besetting sin of my life. I was an only childmuch indulgedand I have never secured the control over my passions that Iought to have acquired early; and the consequence is -- all this!" Hedenied having told Parkman that he was going to settle with him that afternoonand said that he had asked him to come to the college with the sole object ofpleading with him for further indulgence. He explained his convulsive seizure atthe time of his arrest by his having taken a dose of strychninewhich he hadcarried in his pocket since the crime. In spite of these statements and theprayers of the unfortunate man's wife and daughterswhountil his confessionto Dr. Putnamhad believed implicity in his innocencethe Council decided thatthe law must take its courseand fixed August 30 as the day of execution.

The Professor resigned himself to his fate. He sent for Littlefield and hiswifeand expressed his regret for any injustice he had done them: "All yousaid was true. You have misrepresented nothing." Asked by the sheriff

 

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whether he was to understand from some of his expressions that he contemplatedan attempt at suicide"Why should I?" he replied"all theproceedings in my case have been just . . . and it is just that I should dieupon the scaffold in accordance with that sentence." "Everybody isright" he said to the keeper of the jail"and I am wrong. And I feelthatif the yielding up of my life to the injured law will atoneeven in partfor the crime I have committedthat is a consolation."

In a letter to the Reverend Francis Parkman he expressed deep contrition forhis guilt. He added one sentence which may perhaps fairly express the measure ofpremeditation that accompanied his crime. "I had never" he wrote"until the two or three last interviews with your brotherfelt towards himanything but gratitude for his many acts of kindness and friendship."

Professor Webster met his death with fortitude and resignation. That hedeserved his fate few will be inclined to deny. The attempt to procure bloodthe questions about the dissecting-room vaultthe appointment made with Parkmanat the collegethe statement to Petteeall point to some degree ofpremeditationor at least would make it appear that the murder of Parkman hadbeen considered by him as a possible eventuality. His accusation of Littlefielddeprives him of a good deal of sympathy. On the other handthe age and positionof Websterthe aggravating persistency of Parkmanhis threats anddenunciationscoupled with his own shortness of tempermake it conceivablethat he may have killed his victim on a sudden and overmastering provocationinwhich case he had better at once have acknowledged his crime instead of making arepulsive attempt to conceal it. But for the evidence of Dr. Keep he wouldpossibly have escaped punishment altogether. Save for the portions of his falseteeththere was not sufficient evidence

 

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to identify the remains found in the college as those of Parkman. Without theseteeth the proof of the corpus delicti would have been incompleteand soafforded Webster a fair chance of acquittal.


 

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The Mysterious Mr. Holmes


Note: "The Holmes-Pitezel Case" by F. B. Geyer1896; "Holmes'Own Story" Philadelphia1895; and "Celebrated Criminal Cases ofAmerica" by T. S. DukeSan Franciscoare the authorities for thisaccount of the case.

The Mysterious Mr. Holmes
I. HONOUR AMONGST THIEVES

IN the year 1894 Mr. Smitha carpenterof Philadelphiahadpatented a new saw-set. Wishing to make some money out of his inventionMr.Smith was attracted by the sign:
B. F. PERRY
PATENTS BOUGHT AND SOLD which he saw stretched across the window of atwo-storied house1316 Callowhill Street. He entered the house and made theacquaintance of Mr. Perrya talldarkbony manto whom he explained themerits of his invention. Perry listened with interestand asked for a model. Inthe meantime he suggested that Smith should do some carpenter's work for him inthe house. Smith agreedand on August 22while at work there saw a man enterthe house and go up with Perry to a room on the second story.

A few days later Smith called at Callowhill Street to ask Perry about thesale of the patent. He waited half an hour in the shop belowcalled out toPerry

 

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whohe thoughtmight be in the rooms abovereceived no answer and went away.Next daySeptember 4Smith returnedfound the place just as he had left itthe day before; called Perry againbut again got no answer. Surprisedhe wentupstairsand in the back room of the second story the morning sunshinestreaming through the windowshowed him the dead body of a manhis facecharred beyond recognitionlying with his feet to the window and his head tothe door. There was evidence of some sort of explosion: a broken bottle that hadcontained an inflammable substancea broken pipe filled with tobaccoand aburnt match lay by the side of the body.

The general appearance of the dead man answered to that of B. F. Perry. Amedical examination of the body showed that death had been suddenthat therehad been paralysis of the involuntary musclesand that the stomachbesidesshowing symptoms of alcoholic irritationemitted a strong odour of chloroform.An inquest was heldand a verdict returned that B. F. Perry had died ofcongestion of the lungs caused by the inhalation of flame or chloroform. Afterlying in the mortuary for eleven days the body was buried.

In the meantime the Philadelphia branch of the Fidelity Mutual LifeAssociation had received a letter from one Jephtha D. Howean attorney at St.Louisstating that the deceased B. F. Perry was Benjamin F. Pitezel of thatcitywho had been insured in their office for a sum of ten thousand dollars.The insurance had been effected in Chicago in the November of 1893. Mr. Howeproposed to come to Philadelphia with some members of the Pitezel family toidentify the remains. Referring to their Chicago branchthe insurance companyfound that the only person who would seem to have known Pitezel when in thatcitywas a certain H. H. Holmesliving at

 

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WilmetteIllinois. They got into communication with Mr. Holmesand forwardedto him a cutting from a newspaperwhich stated erroneously that the death of B.F. Perry had taken place in Chicago.

On September 18 they received a letter from Mr. Holmesin which he offeredwhat assistance he could toward the identification of B. F. Perry as B. F.Pitezel. He gave the name of a dentist in Chicago who would be able to recogniseteeth which he had made for Pitezeland himself furnished a description of themanespecially of a malformation of the knee and a warty growth on the back ofthe neck by which he could be further identified. Mr. Holmes offeredif hisexpenses were paidto come to Chicago to view the body. Two days later he wroteagain saying that he had seen by other papers that Perry's death had taken placein Philadelphia and not in Chicagoand that as he had to be in Baltimore in aday or twohe would run over to Philadelphia and visit the office of theFidelity Life Association.

On September 20 the assiduous Mr. Holmes called at the office of theAssociation in Philadelphiainquired anxiously about the nature and cause ofPerry's deathgave again a description of him andon learning that Mr. Howethe attorney from St. Louiswas about to come to Philadelphia to represent thewidowMrs. Pitezeland complete the identificationsaid that he would returnto give the company any further help he could in the matter. The following dayMr. Jephtha D. Howeattorney of St. Louisarrived in Philadelphiaaccompaniedby Alice Pitezela daughter of the deceased. Howe explained that Pitezel hadtaken the name of Perry owing to financial difficulties. The company said thatthey accepted the fact that Perry and Pitezel were one and the same manbutwere not convinced that the body was Pitezel's body. The visit of Holmes wasmentioned.

 

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Howe said that he did not know Mr. Holmesbut would be willing to meet him. Atthis moment Holmes arrived at the office. He was introduced to Howe as astrangerand recognised as a friend by Alice Pitezela shyawkward girl offourteen or fifteen years of age. It was then arranged that all the partiesshould meet again next day to identifyif possiblethe bodywhich had beendisinterred for that purpose.

The unpleasant duty of identifying the rapidly decomposing remains wasgreatly curtailed by the readiness of Mr. Holmes. When the party met on the 22ndat the Potter's Fieldwhere the body had been disinterred and laid outthedoctor present was unable to find the distinctive marks which would show Perryand Pitezel to have been the same man. Holmes at once stepped into the breachtook off his coatrolled up his sleevesput on the rubber glovesand taking asurgeon's knife from his pocketcut off the wart at the back of the neckshowed the injury to the legand revealed also a bruised thumb-nail which hadbeen another distinctive mark of Pitezel. The body was then covered up all butthe teeth; the girl Alice was brought inand she said that the teeth appearedto be like those of her father. The insurance company declared themselvessatisfiedand handed to Mr. Howe a cheque for 9175 dollarsand to Mr. Holmesten dollars for his expenses. Smiththe carpenterhad been present at theproceedings at the Potter's Field. For a moment he thought he detected alikeness in Mr. Holmes to the man who had visited Perry at Callowhill Street onAugust 22 and gone upstairs with himbut he did not feel sure enough of thefact to make any mention of it.

In the prison at St. Louis there languished in the year 1894 one MarionHedgspethserving a sentence of twenty years' imprisonment for an audacioustrain robbery.

 

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On the night of November 301891the "'Friscow express from St. Louis hadbeen boarded by four ruffiansthe express car blown open with dynamiteand10000 dollars carried off. Hedgspeth and another man were tried for therobberyand sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment. On October 91894Hegspeth{sic} made a statement to the Governor of the St. Louis prisonwhich hesaid he wished to be communicated to the Fidelity Mutual Life Association. Inthe previous July Hedgspeth said that he had met in the prison a man of the nameof H. M. Howardwho was charged with fraudbut had been released on bail laterin the month. While in prison Howard told Hedgspeth that he had devised a schemefor swindling an insurance company of 10000 dollarsand promised Hedgspeththatif he would recommend him a lawyer suitable for such an enterpriseheshould have 500 dollars as his share of the proceeds. Hedgspeth recommendedJephtha D. Howe. The latter entered with enthusiasm into the schemeand toldHedgspeth that he thought Mr. Howard "one of the smoothest andslickest" men he had ever known. A corpse was to be found answering toPitezel's descriptionand to be so treated as to appear to have been the victimof an accidental explosionwhile Pitezel himself would disappear to Germany.From Howe Hedgspeth learnt that the swindle had been carried out successfullybut he had never received from Howard the 500 dollars promised him.Consequentlyhe had but little compunction in divulging the plot to theauthorities.

It was realised at once that H. M. Howard and H. H. Holmes were the samepersonand that Jephtha D. Howe and Mr. Holmes were not the strangers to eachother that they had affected to be when they met in Philadelphia. Thoughsomewhat doubtful of the truth of Hedgspeth's statementthe insurance companydecided to set

 

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Pinkerton's detectives on the track of Mr. H. H. Holmes. After more than amonth's search he was traced to his father's house at GilmantonN. H.andarrested in Boston on November 17.

Inquiry showed thatearly in 1894Holmes and Pitezel had acquired some realproperty at Fort Worth in Texas and commenced building operationsbut had soonafter left Texas under a cloudarising from the theft of a horse and otherdubious transactions. Holmes had obtained the property at Fort Worth from a MissMinnie Williamsand transferred it to Pitezel. Pitezel was a drunken"crook" of mean intelligencea mesmeric subject entirely under theinfluence of Holmeswho claimed to have considerable hypnotic powers. Pitezelhad a wife living at St. Louis and five childrenthree girls -- DessieAliceand Nellie -- a boyHowardand a baby in arms. At the time of Holmes' arrestMrs. Pitezelwith her eldest daughterDessieand her little babywas livingat a house rented by Holmes at BurlingtonVermont. She also was arrested on acharge of complicity in the insurance fraud and brought to Boston.

Two days after his arrest Holmeswho dreaded being sent back to Texas on acharge of horse-stealingfor which in that State the punishment is apt to berough and readymade a statement to the policein which he acknowledged thefraud practised by him and Pitezel on the insurance company. The bodysubstituted for Pitezel had been obtainedsaid Holmesfrom a doctor in NewYorkpacked in a trunk and sent to Philadelphiabut he declined for thepresent to give the doctor's name. Pitezelhe saidhad gone with three of hischildren -- AliceNellie and Howard -- to South America. This facthoweverHolmes had not communicated to Mrs. Pitezel. When she arrived at Bostonthepoor woman was in great distress of mind. Questioned by the officersshe

 

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attempted to deny any complicity in the fraudbut her real anxiety was to getnews of her husband and her three children. Alice she had not seen since thegirl had gone to Philadelphia to identify the supposed remains of her father.Shortly after this Holmes had come to Mrs. Pitezel at St. Louisand taken awayNellie and Howard to join Alicewhohe saidwas in the care of a widow ladyat OvingtonKentucky. Since then Mrs. Pitezel had seen nothing of the childrenor her husband. At Holmes' direction she had gone to DetroitTorontoOgdensberg andlastlyto Burlington in the hope of meeting either Pitezel orthe childrenbut in vain. She believed that her husband had deserted her; heronly desire was to recover her children.

On November 20 Holmes and Mrs. Pitezel were transferred from Boston toPhiladelphiaand therealong with Benjamin Pitezel and Jephtha D. Howewerecharged with defrauding the Fidelity Life Association of 10000 dollars. Soonafter his arrival in Philadelphia Holmeswho was never averse to talkingwasasked by an inspector of the insurance company who it was that had helped him todouble up the body sent from New York and pack it into the trunk. He repliedthat he had done it alonehaving learned the trick when studying medicine inMichigan. The inspector recollected that the body when removed from CallowhillStreet had been straight and rigid. He asked Holmes what trick he had learnt inthe course of his medical studies by which it was possible to re-stiffen a bodyonce the rigor mortis had been broken. To this Holmes made no reply. But herealised his mistakeand a few weeks later volunteered a second statement. Henow said that Pitezelin a fit of depressionaggravated by his drinkinghabitshad committed suicide on the third story of the house in CallowhillStreet. There Holmes had found his body

 

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carried it down on to the floor belowand arranged it in the manner agreed uponfor deceiving the insurance company. Pitezelhe saidhad taken his life bylying on the floor and allowing chloroform to run slowly into his mouth througha rubber tube placed on a chair. The three childrenHolmes now statedhad goneto England with a friend of hisMiss Minnie Williams.

Miss Minnie Williams was the ladyfrom whom Holmes was said to have acquiredthe property in Texas which he and Pitezel had set about developing. There wasquite a tragedyaccording to Holmesconnected with the life of Miss Williams.She had come to Holmes in 1893as secretaryat a drug store which he was thenkeeping in Chicago. Their relations had become more intimateand later in theyear Miss Williams wrote to her sisterNanniesaying that she was going to bemarriedand inviting her to the wedding. Nannie arrivedbut unfortunately aviolent quarrel broke out between the two sistersand Holmes came home to findthat Minnie in her rage had killed her sister. He had helped her out of thetrouble by dropping Nannie's body into the Chicago lake. After such adistressing occurrence Miss Williams was only too glad of the opportunity ofleaving America with the Pitezel children. In the meantime Holmesunder thename of Bondand Pitezelunder that of Lymanhad proceeded to deal with MissWilliams' property in Texas.

For women Holmes would always appear to have possessed some power ofattractiona power of which he availed himself generously. Holmeswhose realname was Herman W. Mudgettwas thirty-four years of age at the time of hisarrest. As a boy he had spent his life farming in Vermontafter which he hadtaken up medicine and acquired some kind of medical degree. In the course of histraining Holmes and a fellow studentfinding

 

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a body that bore a striking resemblance to the latter; obtained 1000 dollarsfrom an insurance company by a fraud similar to that in which Holmes had engagedsubsequently with Pitezel. After spending some time on the staff of a lunaticasylum in PennsylvaniaHolmes set up as a druggist in Chicago. His affairs inthis city prosperedand he was enabled to erectat the corner of Wallace andSixty-Third Streetsthe four-storied building known later as "HolmesCastle." It was a singular structure. The lower part consisted of a shopand offices. Holmes occupied the second floorand had a laboratory on thethird. In his office was a vaultair proof and sound proof. In the bathroom atrap-doorcovered by a rugopened on to a secret staircase leading down to thecellarand a similar staircase connected the cellar with the laboratory. In thecellar was a large grate. To this building Miss Minnie Williams had invited hersister to come for her wedding with Holmesand it was in this buildingaccording to Holmesthat the tragedy of Nannie's untimely death occurred.

In hoping to become Holmes' wifeMiss Minnie Williams was not to enjoy anexclusive privilege. At the time of his arrest Holmes had three wiveseachignorant of the others' existence. He had married the first in 1878under thename of Mudgettand was visiting her at BurlingtonVermontwhen the Pinkertondetectives first got on his track. The second he had married at Chicagounderthe name of Howardand the third at Denver as recently as January1894underthe name of Holmes. The third Mrs. Holmes had been with him when he came toPhiladelphia to identify Pitezel's body. The appearance of Holmes wascommonplacebut he was a man of plausible and ingratiating addressapparentcandourand able in case of necessity to "let loose" as he phrasedit"the fount of emotion."


 

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The year 1895 opened to find the much enduring Holmes still a prisoner inPhiladelphia. The authorities seemed in no haste to indict him for fraud; theirinterest was concentrated rather in endeavouring to find the whereabouts of MissWilliams and her childrenand of one Edward Hatchwhom Holmes had described ashelping him in arranging for their departure. The "great humiliation"of being a prisoner was very distressing to Holmes.



"I only know the sky has lost its blue
The days are weary and the night is drear."

These struck him as two beautiful lines very appropriate to his situation. Hemade a New Year's resolve to give up meat during his close confinement. Thevisits of his third wife brought him some comfort. He was "agreeablysurprised" to find thatas an unconvicted prisonerhe could order in hisown meals and receive newspapers and periodicals. But he was hurt at anunfriendly suggestion on the part of the authorities that Pitezel had not diedby his own handand that Edward Hatch was but a figment of his richimagination. He would like to have been released on bailbut in the sameunfriendly spirit was informed thatif he werehe would be detained on acharge of murder. And so the months dragged on. Holmesstudiouspatientinjuredthe authorities puzzledsuspicionsbaffled -- still no news of MissWilliams or the three children. It was not until June 3 that Holmes was put onhis trial for fraudand the following day pleaded guilty. Sentence waspostponed.

The same day Holmes was sent for to the office of the District Attorneywhothus addressed him: "It is strongly suspectedHolmesthat you have notonly murdered Pitezelbut that you have killed the children. The

 

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best way to remove this suspicion is to produce the children at once. Nowwhereare they?" Unfriendly as was this approachHolmes met it calmlyreiterated his previous statement that the children had gone with Miss Williamsto Englandand gave her address in London80 Veder or Vadar StreetwherehesaidMiss Williams had opened a massage establishment. He offered to draw upand insert a cipher advertisement in the New York Heraldby means of whichhesaidMiss Williams and he had agreed to communicateand almost tearfully headded"Why should I kill innocent children?"

Asked to give the name of any person who had seen Miss Williams and thechildren in the course of their journeyings in Americahe resented thedisbelief implied in such a questionand strong was his manly indignation whenone of the gentlemen present expressed his opinion that the story was a lie frombeginning to end. This rude estimate of Holmes' veracity washoweverin somedegree confirmed when a cipher advertisement published in the New York Heraldaccording to Holmes' directionsproduced no reply from Miss Williamsandinquiry showed that no such street as Veder or Vadar Street was to be found inLondon.

In spite of these disappointmentsHolmes' quiet confidence in his own goodfaith continued unshaken. When the hapless Mrs. Pitezel was releasedhe wroteher a long letter. "Knowing me as you do" he said"can youimagine me killing little and innocent childrenespecially without anymotive?" But even Mrs. Pitezel was not wholly reassured. She recollectedhow Holmes had taken her just before his arrest to a house he had rented atBurlingtonVermonthow he had written asking her to carry a package ofnitro-glycerine from the bottom to the top of the houseand how one day she hadfound him busily removing the boards in the cellar.

Partnership in Crime

Partnership in Crime
I. THE WIDOW GRAS


Note: Report of the trial of the woman Gras and Gaudry in the Gazette desTribunaux. The case is dealt with also by Macé in his "FemmesCriminelles."

1. THE CHARMER

JENNY AMENAIDE BREACOURT was born in Paris in the year 1837.Her father was a printerher mother sold vegetables. The parents neglected thechildbut a lady of title took pity on herand when she was five years oldadopted her. Even as a little girl she was haughty and imperious. At the age ofeight she refused to play with another child on the ground of her companion'ssocial inferiority. "The daughter of a Baroness" she said"cannot play with the daughter of a wine-merchant." When she waseleven years oldher parents took her away from her protectress and sent herinto the streets to sell gingerbread -- a dangerous experience for a child oftender years. After six years of street lifeAmenaide sought out herbenefactress and begged her to take her back. The Baroness consentedand foundher employment in a silk manufactory. One day the girlnow eighteen years oldattended the wedding of one of her companions in the factory. She returned homeafter the ceremony thoughtful. She said that she wanted to get married. TheBaroness did not take her statement seriouslyand on the grocer calling

 

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one daysaid in jest to Amenaide"You want a husbandthere's one."But Amenaide was in earnest. She accepted the suggestion andto the Baroness'surpriseinsisted on taking the grocer as her husband. Reluctantly the goodlady gave her consentand in 1855 Amenaide Brécourt became the wife of thegrocer Gras.

A unionso hasty and ill-consideredwas not likely to be of long duration.With the help of the worthy Baroness the newly married couple started a grocerybusiness. But Amenaide was too economical for her husband and mother-in-law.Quarrels ensuedrecriminations. In a spirit of unamiable prophecy husband andwife foretold each other's future. "You will die in a hospital" saidthe wife. "You will land your carcase in prison" retorted thehusband. In both instances they were correct in their anticipations. One day thehusband disappeared. For a short time Amenaide returned to her long-sufferingprotectressand then she too disappeared.

When she is heard of againAmenaide Brécourt has become Jeanne de la Cour.Jeanne de la Cour is a courtesan. She has tried commerceactingliteraturejournalismand failed at them all. Henceforth men are to make her fortune forher. Such charms as she may possesssuch allurements as she can offershe isready to employ without heart or feeling to accomplish her end. Without realpassionshe has an almost abnormalerotic sensibilitywhich serves in itsstead. She cares only for one personher sister. To her Jeanne de la Courunfolded her philosophy of life. While pretending to love menshe is going tomake them suffer. They are to be her playthingsshe knows how to snare them:"All is dust and lies. So much the worse for the men who get in my way. Menare mere stepping-stones to me. As soon as they begin to fail or are played outI put them scornfully aside. Society is a vast chess-board

 

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men the pawnssome whitesome black; I move them as I pleaseand break themwhen they bore me."

The early years of Jeanne de la Cour's career as a Phryne were hardly moresuccessful than her attempts at literatureacting and journalism. True to herphilosophyshe had driven one lovera Germanto suicideand brought anotherto his death by over-doses of cantharides. On learning of the death of thefirstshe reflected patriotically"One German the less in Paris!"That of the second elicited the matter-of-fact comment"It was bound tohappen; he had no moderation." A third admirerwho died in a hospitalwasdismissed as "a fool whoin spite of allstill respects women." Butin ruining her loversshe had ruined her own health. In 1865 she was compelledto enter a private asylum. There she is described as "dark in complexionwith dark expressive eyesvery paleand of a nervous temperamentagreeableand pretty." She was suffering at the time of her admission from hystericalseizuresaccompanied by insane exaltationconvulsions and loss of speech. Inspeaking of her humble parents she said"I don't know such people";her manner was bombasticand she was fond of posing as a fine lady.

After a few months Jeanne de la Cour was discharged from the asylum as curedand on the advice of her doctors went to Vittel. There she assumed the rank ofBaroness and recommenced her careerbut this time in a more reasonable andbusinesslike manner. Her commentswritten to her sisteron her fellow guestsat the hotel are caustic. She mocks at some respectable married women who aretrying to convert her to Catholicism. To others who refuse her recognitionshemakes herself so mischievous and objectionable that in self-defence they arefrightened into acknowledging her. Admirers among men she has manyex-ministersprefects. It was

 

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at Vittel that occurred the incident of the wounded pigeon. There had been somepigeon-shooting. One of the wounded birds flew into the room of the Baroness dela Cour. She took pity on ittended ittaught it not to be afraid of her andto stay in her room. So touching was her conduct considered by some of those whoheard itthat she was nicknamed "the Charmer." But she is well awareshe writes to her sisterthat with the true ingratitude of the malethe pigeonwill leave her as soon as it needs her help no longer. Howeverfor the moment"disfigured as it isbeautiful or ugly" she loves it. "Don'tforget" she writes"that a woman who is practical and foreseeingshe too enjoys her pigeon shootingbut the birds are her lovers."

Shortly after she left Vittel an event occurred which afforded Jeanne de laCour the prospect of acquiring that settled position in life which"practical and foreseeing" she now regarded as indispensable to herfuture welfare. Her husbandGrasdiedas she had foretoldin the CharityHospital. The widow was free. If she could bring down her birdit was now inher power to make it hers for life. Henceforth all her efforts were directed tothat end. She was reaching her fortieth yearher hair was turning greyhercharms were waning. Povertydegradationa miserable old agea return to thewretched surroundings of her childhoodsuch she knew to be the fate of many ofher kind. There was nothing to be hoped for from the generosity of men. Herlovers were leaving her. Blackmailspeculation on the Bourseeven thedesperate expedient of a supposititious childall these she tried as means ofacquiring a competence. But fortune was shy of the widow. There was need fordispatch. The time was drawing near when it might be man's unkind privilege toput her scornfully aside as a thing spent and done with. She must bring down her

 

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birdand that quickly. It was at this critical point in the widow's careerinthe year 1873that she met at a public ball for the first time Georges de SaintPierre. For obvious reasons I have suppressed the real name of the widow'slover.

Georges de Saint Pierre was twenty years of age when he made the acquaintanceof the Widow Gras. He had lost his mother at an early ageand since then livedwith relatives in the country. He was a young man of independent meansidleofa simpleconfiding and affectionate disposition. Four months after his firstmeeting with the widow they met again. The end of the year 1873 saw thecommencement of an intimacywhich to all appearances was characterised by amore lasting and sincere affection than is usually associated with unions ofthis kind. There can be no doubt that during the three years the Widow Gras wasthe mistress of Georges de Saint Pierreshe had succeeded in subjugatingentirely the senses and the affection of her young lover. In spite of the twentyyears between themGeorges de Saint Pierre idolised his middle-aged mistress.She was astute enough to play not only the loverbut the mother to thismotherless youth. After three years of intimacy he writes to her: "It isenough for me that you love mebecause I don't weary youand II love youwith all my heart. I cannot bear to leave you. We will live happily together.You will always love me trulyand as for memy loving care will ever protectyou. I don't know what would become of me if I did not feel that your lovewatched over me." The confidence of Georges in the widow was absolute.Whenin 1876he spent six months in Egypthe made her free of his rooms inParisshe was at liberty to go there when she liked; he trusted her entirelyidolised her. Whatever her faultshe was blind to them. "Your form"he writes"is ever before my

 

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eyes; I wish I could enshrine your pure heart in gold and crystal."

The widow's conquestto all appearanceswas complete. But Georges was veryyoung. He had a family anxious for his future; they knew of his liaison; theywould be hopefulno doubtof one day breaking it off and of marrying him tosome desirable young person. From the widow's point of view the situation lackedfinality. How was that to be secured?

One daytoward the end of the year 1876after the return of Georges fromEgyptthe widow happened to be at the house of a frienda ballet dancer. Shesaw her friend lead into the room a young man; he was sightlessand her friendwith tender care guided him to a seat on the sofa. The widow was touched by thespectacle. When they were aloneshe inquired of her friend the reason of hersolicitude for the young man. "I love this victim of nature" shereplied"and look after him with every care. He is youngrichwithoutfamilyand is going to marry me. Like youI am just on forty; my hair isturning greymy youth vanishing. I shall soon be cast adrift on the seaawreck. This boy is the providential spar to which I am going to cling that I mayreach land in safety." "You meanthen" said the widow"that you will soon be beyond the reach of want?" "Yes"answered the friend"I needn't worry any more about the future.""I congratulate you" said the widow"and what is moreyourlover will never see you grow old."

To be cast adrift on the sea and to have found a providential spar! The widowwas greatly impressed by her friend's rare good fortune. Indeedher experiencegave the widow furiously to thinkas she revolved in her brain variousexpedients by which Georges de Saint Pierre might become the "providentialspar" in her own

 

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impending wreck. The picture of the blind young man tenderly cared fordependent utterly on the ministrations of his devoted wifefixed itself in thewidow's mind; there was something inexpressibly pathetic in the picturewhilstits practical significance had its sinister appeal to one in her situation.

At this point in the story there appears on the scene a character asremarkable in his way as the widow herselfremarkable at least for his share inthe drama that is to follow. Nathalis Gaudryof humble parentagerude anduncultivatedhad been a playmate of the widow when she was a child in herparents' house. They had grown up togetherbutafter Gaudry entered the armyhad lost sight of each other. Gaudry served through the Italian war of 1859gaining a medal for valour. In 1864 he had married. Eleven years later his wifediedleaving him with two children. He came to Paris and obtained employment inan oil refinery at Saint Denis. His character was excellent; he was a goodworkmanhonesthard-workinghis record unblemished. When he returned toParisGaudry renewed his friendship with the companion of his youth. But JeanneBrécourt was now Jeanne de la Courliving in refinement and some luxurymoving in a sphere altogether remote from and unapproachable by the humbleworkman in an oil refinery. He could do no more than worship from afar thisstrange beingto him wonderfully seductive in her charm and distinction.

On her side the widow was quite friendly toward her homely admirer. Sherefused to marry himas he would have wishedbut she did her best withoutsuccess to marry him to others of her acquaintance. Neither a sempstress nor aninferior actress could she persuadefor all her zealto unite themselves witha hand in an oil milla widower with two children. It is typical of

 

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the widow's nervous energy that she should have undertaken so hopeless a task.In the meantime she made use of her admirer. On Sundays he helped her in herapartmentcarried coalsbottled winescrubbed the floorsand made himselfgenerally useful. He was supposed by those about the house to be her brother.Occasionallyin the absence of a maidthe widow allowed him to attend on herpersonallyeven to assist her in her toilette and perform for her such officesas one woman would perform for another. The man soon came to be madly in lovewith the woman; his passionexcited but not gratifiedenslaved and consumedhim. To some of his fellow-workmen who saw him moody and pre-occupiedheconfessed that he ardently desired to marry a friend of his childhoodnot aworking woman but a lady.

Such was the situation and state of mind of Nathalis Gaudry wheninNovember1876he received a letter from the widowin which she wrote"Come at once. I want you on a matter of business. Tell your employer it isa family affair; I will make up your wages." In obedience to this messageGaudry was absent from the distillery from the 17th to the 23rd of November.

The "matter of business" about which the widow wished to consultwith Gaudry turned out to be a scheme of revenge. She told him that she had beenbasely defrauded by a man to whom she had entrusted money. She desired to berevenged on himand could think of no better way than to strike at his dearestaffections by seriously injuring his son. This she proposed to do with the helpof a knuckle-dusterwhich she produced and gave to Gaudry. Armed with thisformidable weaponGaudry was to strike her enemy's son so forcibly in the pitof the stomach as to disable him for life. The widow offered to point out toGaudry the young man whom he was to attack. She took him outside the young man'sclub and

 

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showed him his victim. He was Georges de Saint Pierre.

The good fortune of her friendthe ballet-dancerhad proved a veritabletoxin in the intellectual system of the Widow Gras. The poison of envydisappointmentsuspicionapprehension had entered into her soul. Of what useto her was a loverhowever generous and faithfulwho was free to take her upand lay her aside at will? But such was her situation relative to Georges deSaint Pierre. She remembered that the wounded pigeonas long as it wasdependent on her kind officeshad been-compelled to stay by her side;recoveredit had flown away. Only a pigeonmaimed beyond hope of recoverycould she be sure of compelling to be hers for all timetied to her by itshelpless infirmitytoo suffering and disfigured to be lured from its captivity.And soin accordance with her philosophy of lifethe widowby a blow in thepit of the stomach with a knuckle-dusterwas to bring down her bird whichhenceforth would be tended and cared for by "the Charmer" to her ownsatisfaction and the admiration of all beholders.

For some reasonthe natural reluctance of Gaudryor perhaps a feeling ofcompunction in the heart of the widowthis plan was not put into immediateexecution. Possibly she hesitated before adopting a plan more cruelmoreefficacious. Her hesitation did not last long.

With the dawn of the year 1877 the vigilant apprehension of the widow wasroused by the tone of M. de Saint Pierre's letters. He wrote from his home inthe country"I cannot bear leaving youand I don't mean to. We will livetogether." But he adds that he is depressed by difficulties with hisfamily"not about money or business but of a kind he can only communicateto her verbally." To the widow it was clear that these difficulties mustrelate to the subject of marriage. The character of Georges was not a strongone; sooner or later he might

 

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yield to the importunities of his family; her reign would be endeda modest andinsufficient pension the utmost she could hope for. She had passed the meridianof her life as a charmer of menher health was giving wayshe was greedyambitiousacquisitive. In January she asked her nephewwho worked as a gilderto get her some vitriol for cleaning her copper. He complied with her request.

During Jeanne de la Cour's brief and unsuccessful appearance as an actressshe had taken part in a play with the rather cumbrous titleWho Puts out theEyes must Pay for Them. The widow may have forgotten this event; its occurrenceso many years before may have been merely a sinister coincidence. But theincident of the ballet-dancer and her sightless lover was fresh in her mind.

Early in January the widow wrote to Georgeswho was in the countryandasked him to take her to the masked ball at the Opera on the 13th. Her lover wasrather surprised at her requestnor did he wish to appear with her at so publica gathering. "I don't understand" he writes"why you are soanxious to go to the Opera. I can't see any real reason for your wanting to tireyourself out at such a disreputable gathering. Howeverif you are happy andwelland promise to be carefulI will take you. I would be the last personmydear little wifeto deny you anything that would give you pleasure." Butfor some reason Georges was unhappydepressed. Some undefined presentiment ofevil seems to have oppressed him. His brother noticed his pre-occupation.

He himself alludes to it in writing to his mistress: "I am depressedthis evening. For a very little I could break down altogether and give way totears. You can't imagine what horrid thoughts possess me. If I felt your loveclose to meI should be less sad." Against his better inclination Georgespromised to take the widow

 

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to the ball on the 13th. He was to come to Paris on the night of the 12th.

2. THE WOUNDED PIGEON

ON the afternoon of January 11Gaudry called to see thewidow. There had been an accident at the distillery that morningand work wassuspended for three days. The widow showed Gaudry the bottle containing thevitriol which her nephew had procured for her use. She was illsufferingshesaid; the only thing that could make her well again would be the execution ofher revenge on the son of the man who had defrauded her so wickedly: "Makehim sufferhere are the meansand I swear I will be yours." She dropped alittle of the vitriol on to the floor to show its virulent effect. At firstGaudry was shockedhorrified. He protested that he was a soldierthat he couldnot do such a deed; he suggested that he should provoke the young man to a dueland kill him. "That is no use" said the widowalways sensitive tosocial distinctions; "he is not of your classhe would refuse to fightwith you." Mad with desire for the womanhis senses irritated and excitedthe ultimate gratification of his passion held alluringly before himthe honestsoldier consented to play the cowardly ruffian. The trick was done. The widowexplained to her accomplice his method of proceeding. The building in the Rue deBoulognein which the widow had her apartmentstood at the end of a drive sometwenty-seven and a half yards long and five and a half yards wide. Abouthalf-way up the driveon either sidethere were two small housesorpavilionsstanding by themselves and occupied by single gentlemen. The wholewas shut off

 

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from the street by a large gategenerally kept closedin which a smaller gateserved to admit persons going in or out. According to the widow's plantheyoung manher enemy's sonwas to take her to the ball at the Opera on thenight of January 13. Gaudry was to wait in her apartment until their return.When he heard the bell ringwhich communicated with the outer gatehe was tocome downtake his place in the shadow of one of the pavilions on either sideof the driveand from the cover of this position fling in the face of the youngman the vitriol which she had given him. The widow herselfunder the pretenceof closing the smaller gatewould be well behind the victimand take care toleave the gate open so that Gaudry could make his escape.

In spite of his reluctancehis sense of forebodingGeorges de Saint Pierrecame to Paris on the night of the 12thwhich he spent at the widow's apartment.He went to his own rooms on the morning of the 13th.

This eventful daywhichto quote Iagowas either to "make or fordoquite" the widowfound her as calmcool and deliberate in the executionof her purpose as the Ancient himself. Gaudry came to her apartment about fiveo'clock in the afternoon. The widow showed him the vitriol and gave him finaldirections. She wouldshe saidreturn from the ball about three o'clock in themorning. Gaudry was then sent away till ten o'clockas Georges was dining withher. He returned at half-past ten and found the widow dressingarraying herselfin a pink domino and a blonde wig. She was in excellent spirits. When Georgescame to fetch hershe put Gaudry into an alcove in the drawing-room which wascurtained off from the rest of the room. Always thoughtfulshe had placed astool there that he might rest himself. Gaudry could hear her laughing andjoking with her lover. She reproached him playfully with hindering her in her

 

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dressing. To keep him quietshe gave him a book to readMontaigne's"Essays." Georges opened it and read the thirty-fifth chapter of thesecond bookthe essay on "Three Good Women" which tells how threebrave women of antiquity endured death or suffering in order to share theirhusbands' fate. Curiously enoughthe essay concludes with these wordsalmostprophetic for the unhappy reader: "I am enforced to liveand sometimes tolive is magnanimity." Whilst Georges went to fetch a cabthe widowreleased Gaudry from his place of concealmentexhorted him to have courageandpromised himif he succeededthe accomplishment of his desire. And so the gaycouple departed for the ball. There the widow's high spiritsher completeenjoymentwere remarked by more than one of her acquaintances; she danced onedance with her loverand with another young man made an engagement for thefollowing week.

Meanwhileat the Rue de BoulogneGaudry sat and waited in the widow'sbedroom. From the window he could see the gate and the lights of the cab thatwas to bring the revellers home. The hours passed slowly. He tried to read thevolume of Montaigne where Georges had left it openbut the words conveyedlittle to himand he fell asleep. Between two and three o'clock in the morninghe was waked by the noise of wheels. They had returned. He hurried downstairsand took up his position in the shadow of one of the pavilions. As Georges deSaint Pierre walked up the drive alonefor the widow had stayed behind tofasten the gatehe thought he saw the figure of a man in the darkness. The nextmoment he was blinded by the burning liquid flung in his face. The widow hadbrought down her pigeon.

At first she would seem to have succeeded perfectly in her attempt. Georgeswas injured for lifethe sight of one eye gonethat of the other threatenedhis face

 

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sadly disfigured. Neither he nor anyone else suspected the real author of thecrime. It was believed that the unfortunate man had been mistaken for some otherpersonand made by accident the victim of an act of vengeance directed againstanother. Georges was indeed all the widow's nowlodged in her own house tonurse and care for. She undertook the duty with every appearance of affectionatedevotion. The unhappy patient was consumed with gratitude for her untiringsolicitude; thirty nights she spent by his bedside. His belief in her wasabsolute. It was his own wish that she alone should nurse him. His family werekept awayany attempts his relatives or friends made to see or communicate withhim frustrated by the zealous widow.

It was this uncompromising attitude on her part toward the friends ofGeorgesand a rumour which reached the ears of one of them that she intended assoon as possible to take her patient away to Italythat sounded the first noteof danger to her peace of mind. This friend happened to be acquainted with theson of one of the Deputy Public Prosecutors in Paris. To that official heconfided his belief that there were suspicious circumstances in the case ofGeorges de Saint Pierre. The judicial authorities were informed and the caseplaced in the hands of an examining magistrate. On February 2nearly a monthafter the crimethe magistrateaccompanied by Macéthen a commissary ofpoliceafterwards head of the Detective Departmentpaid a visit to the Rue deBoulogne. Their reception was not cordial. It was only after they had made knowntheir official character that they got audience of the widow. She entered theroomcarrying in her hand a surgical spraywith which she played nervouslywhile the men of the law asked to see her charge. She replied that it wasimpossible. Macé placed himself in front of the door by which she had entered

 

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and told her that her attitude was not seemly. "Leave that sprayalone" he said; "it might shoot over usand then perhaps we shouldbe sprinkled as M. de Saint Pierre was." From that momentwrites Macéissue was joined between the widow and himself.

The magistrate insisted on seeing the patient. He sat by his bedside. M. deSaint Pierre told him thathaving no enemieshe was sure he had been thevictim of some mistakeand thatas he claimed no damages for his injurieshedid not wish his misfortune to be made public. He wanted to be left alone withhis brave and devoted nurseand to be spared the nervous excitement of ameeting with his family. He intendedhe addedto leave Paris shortly forchange of scene and air. The widow cut short the interview on the ground thather patient was tired. It was inhumanshe saidto make him suffer so. Themagistratebefore leavingasked her whither she intended taking her patient.She replied"To Italy." Thatsaid the magistratewould beimpossible until his inquiry was closed. In the meantime she might take him toany place within the Department of the Seine; but she must be prepared to beunder the surveillance of M. Macéwho would have the right to enter her housewhenever he should think it expedient. With this disconcerting intelligence themen of the law took leave of the widow.

She was no longer to be left in undisturbed possession of her prize. Hermovements were watched by two detectives. She was seen to go to the bachelorlodgings of Georges and take away a portable deskwhich contained money andcorrespondence. More mysterioushoweverwas a visit she paid to the CharonneCemeterywhere she had an interview with an unknownwho was dressed in theclothes of a workman. She left the cemetery aloneand the detectives lost trackof her companion.

 

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This meeting took place on February 11. Shortly after the widow left Paris withGeorges de Saint Pierre for the suburb of Courbevoie.

Macé had elicited certain facts from the porter at the Rue de Boulogne andother witnesseswhich confirmed his suspicion that the widow had played asinister part in her lover's misfortune. Her insistence that he should take herto the ball on January 13; the fact thatcontrary to the ordinary politeness ofa gentlemanhe was walking in front of her at the time of the attack; and thatsomeone must have been holding the gate open to enable the assailant to escapeit was a heavy gatewhichif left to itself after being openedwould swingtoo quickly on its hinges and shut of its own accord -- these facts weresufficient to excite suspicion. The disappearancetooof the man callinghimself her brotherwho had been seen at her apartment on the afternoon of the13thcoupled with the mysterious interview in the cemeterysuggested thepossibility of a crime in which the widow had had the help of an accomplice. Tofacilitate investigation it was necessary to separate the widow from her lover.The examining magistratehaving ascertained from a medical report that such aseparation would not be hurtful to the patientordered the widow to be sentback to Parisand the family of M. de Saint Pierre to take her place. Thechange was made on March 6. On leaving Courbevoie the widow was taken to theoffice of Macé. There the commissary informed her that she must considerherself under provisional arrest. "But who" she asked indignantly"is to look after my Georges?" "His family" was the curtreply. The widowwalking up and down the room like a pantherstormed andthreatened. When she had in some degree recovered herselfMacé asked hercertain questions. Why had she insisted on her lover going to the ball? She

 

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had done nothing of the kind. How was it his assailant had got away so quicklyby the open gate? She did not know. What was the name and address of her reputedbrother? She was not going to deliver an honest father of a family into theclutches of the police. What was the meaning of her visit to the CharonneCemetery? She went there to praynot to keep assignations. "And if youwant to know" she exclaimed"I have had typhoid feverwhich makesme often forget things. So I shall say nothing more -- nothing -- nothing."

Taken before the examining magistrateher attitude continued to be defiantand arrogant. "Your cleverest policemen" she told the magistrate"will never find any evidence against me. Think well before you send me toprison. I am not the woman to live long among thieves and prostitutes."Before deciding finally whether the widow should be thrown into such uncongenialsocietythe magistrate ordered Macé to search her apartment in the Rue deBoulogne.

On entering the apartment the widow asked that all the windows should beopened. "Let in the air" she said; "the police are coming in;they make a nasty smell." She was invited to sit-down while the officersmade their search. Her letters and papers were carefully examined; theypresented a strange mixture of order and disorder. Carefully kept account booksof her personal expenses were mixed up with billets douspaints and pomadesmoneylenders' circularsbella-donna and cantharides. But most astounding of allwere the contents of the widows' prie-Dieu. In this devotional article offurniture were stored all the inmost secrets of her profligate career.Affectionate letters from the elderly gentleman on whom she had imposed asupposititious child lay side by side with a black-edged cardon which waswritten the last message of a young lover who had

 

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killed himself on her account. "Jeannein the flush of my youth I diebecause of youbut I forgive you. -- M." With these genuine outpourings ofmisplaced affection were mingled the indecent verses of a more vulgar admirerand little jars of hashish. The widowunmoved by this rude exposure of her wayof lifeonly broke her silence to ask Macé the current prices on the StockExchange.

One discoveryhoweverdisturbed her equanimity. In the drawer of acupboardhidden under some linenMacé found a leather case containing a sheafof partially-burnt letters. As he was about to open it the widow protested thatit was the property of M. de Saint Pierre. Regardless of her protestMacéopened the caseandlooking through the letterssaw that they were addressedto M. de Saint Pierre and were plainly of an intimate character. "I foundthem on the floor near the stove in the dining-room" said the widow"and I kept them. I admit it was a wrong thing to dobut Georges willforgive me when he knows why I did it." From his better acquaintance withher character Macé surmised that an action admitted by the widow to be"wrong" was in all probability something worse. Without delay he tookthe prisoner back to his officeand himself left for Courbevoiethere toenlightenif possibleher unhappy victim as to the real character of hisenchantress.

The interview was a painful one. The lover refused to hear a word against hismistress. "Jeanne is my Antigone" he said. "She has lavished onme all her careher tendernessher loveand she believes in God." Macétold him of her pastof the revelations contained in the prie-Dieu of this truebelieverbut he could make no impression. "I forgive her pastI accepther presentand please understand meno one has the power to separate me fromher." It was only when Macé placed in his hands the bundle of burntlettersthat he might feel what he could not seeand read him some passagesfrom themthat the unhappy man realised the full extent of his mistress'treachery. Feeling himself dangerously illdying perhapsM. de Saint Pierrehad told the widow to bring from his rooms to the Rue de Boulogne the contentsof his private desk. It contained some letters compromising to a woman's honour.These he was anxious to destroy before it was too late. As he went through thepapershis eyes bandagedhe gave them to the widow to throw into the stove. Hecould hear the fire burning and feel its warmth. He heard the widow take up thetongs. He asked her why she did so. She answered that it was to keep the burningpapers inside the stove. Now from Macé he learnt the real truth. She had usedthe tongs to take out some of the letters half burntletters which in herpossession might be one day useful instruments for levying blackmail on herlover. "To blind me" exclaimed M. de Saint Pierre"to torturemeand then profit by my condition to lie to meto betray me -- it's infamous-- infamous!" His dream was shattered. Macé had succeeded in his task; thedisenchantment of M. de Saint Pierre was complete. That night the fastidiouswidow joined the thieves and prostitutes in the St. Lazare Prison.

It was all very well to imprison the widowbut her participation in theoutrage on M. de Saint Pierre was by no means established. The reputed brotherwho had been in the habit of attending on her at the Rue de Boulognestilleluded the searches of the police. In silence lay the widow's only hope ofbaffling her enemies. Unfortunately for the widowconfinement told on hernerves. She became anxiousexcited. Her very ignorance of what was going onaround herher lover's silence

 

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made her apprehensive; she began to fear the worst. At length -- the widowalways had an itch for writing -- she determined to communicate at all costswith Gaudry and invoke his aid. She wrote appealing to him to come forward andadmit that he was the man the police were seekingfor sheltering whom she hadbeen thrown into prison. She drew a harrowing picture of her sufferings in jail.She had refused food and been forcibly fed; she would like to dash her headagainst the walls. If any misfortune overtake Gaudryshe promises to adopt hisson and leave him a third of her property. She persuaded a fellow-prisoner; anItalian dancer undergoing six months' imprisonment for theftwho was on thepoint of being releasedto take the letter and promise to deliver it to Gaudryat Saint Denis. On her release the dancer told her lover of her promise. Herefused to allow her to mix herself up in such a caseand destroyed the letter.Then the dancer blabbed to othersuntil her story reached the ears of thepolice. Macé sent for her. At first she could remember only that the nameNathalis occurred in the letterbut after visiting accidentally the Cathedralat Saint Denisshe recollected that this Nathalis lived thereand worked in anoil factory. It was easy after this for the police to trace Gaudry. He wasarrested. At his houseletters from the widow were foundwarning him not tocome to her apartmentand appointing to meet him in Charonne Cemetery. Gaudrymade a full confession. It was his passion for the widowand a promise on herpart to marry himwhichhe saidhad induced him to perpetrate so abominable acrime. He was sent to the Mazas Prison.

In the meantime the Widow Gras was getting more and more desperate. Hercomplete ignorance tormented her. At last she gave up all hopeand twiceattempted suicide with powdered glass and verdigris. On May 12

 

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the examining magistrate confronted her with Gaudry. The man told his storythewidow feigned surprise that the "friend of her childhood" shouldmalign her so cruelly. But to her desperate appeals Gaudry would only reply"It is too late!" They were sent for trial.

The trial of the widow and her accomplice opened before the Paris AssizeCourt on July 231877and lasted three days. The widow was defended byLachaudone of the greatest criminal advocates of Francethe defender ofMadame LafargeLa PommeraisTroppmannand Marshal Bazaine. M. Demange (famouslater for his defence of Dreyfus) appeared for Gaudry. The case had arousedconsiderable interest. Among those present at the trial were Halévythedramatistand Mounet-Sully and Coquelinfrom the Comédie Française. FernandRodays thus described the widow in the Figaro: "She looks more than herageof moderate heightwell madeneither blatant nor ill at easewithnothing of the air of a woman of the town. Her hands are small. Her bust isflatand her back roundher hair quite white. Beneath her brows glitter twojet-black eyes -- the eyes of a tigressthat seem to breathe hatred andrevenge."

Gaudry was interrogated first. Asked by the President the motive of hiscrimehe answered"I was mad for Madame Gras; I would have done anythingshe told me. I had known her as a childI had been brought up with her. Then Isaw her again. I loved herI was mad for herI couldn't resist it. Her wishwas law to me."

Asked if Gaudry had spoken the truththe widow said that he lied. ThePresident asked what could be his motive for accusing her unjustly. The widowwas silent. Lachaud begged her to answer. "I cannot" she faltered.The President invited her to sit down. After a pause the widow seemed to recoverher nerve.

 

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President: Was Gaudry at your house while you were at the ball?

Widow: Nono! He daren't look me in the face and say so.

President: But he is looking at you now.

Widow: Nohe daren't! (She fixes her eyes on Gaudrywho lowers his head.)

President: Iwhose duty it is to interrogate youlook you in the face andrepeat my question: Was Gaudry at your house at half-past ten that night?

Widow: No.

President: You hear herGaudry?

Gaudry: YesMonsieurbut I was there.

Widow: It is absolutely impossible! Can anyone believe me guilty of such athing.

President: Woman Grasyou prefer to feign indignation and deny everything.You have the right. I will read your examination before the examiningmagistrate. I see M. Lachaud makes a gesturebut I must beg the counsel for thedefence not to impart unnecessary passion into these proceedings.

Lachaud: My gesture was merely meant to express that the woman Gras is on hertrialand that under the circumstances her indignation is natural.

President: Very good.

The appearance in the witness box of the widow's unhappy victim evokedsympathy. He gave his evidence quietlywithout resentment or indignation. As hetold his story the widowwhose eyes were fixed on him all the timemurmured:"Georges! Georges! Defend me! Defend me!" "I state thefacts" he replied.

The prisoners could only defend themselves by trying to throw on each otherthe guilt of the crime. M. Demange represented Gaudry as acting under theinfluence of his passion for the Widow Gras. Lachaudon the

 

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other handattributed the crime solely to Gaudry's jealousy of the widow'sloverand contended that he was the sole author of the outrage.

The jury by their verdict assigned to the widow the greater share ofresponsibility. She was found guilty in the full degreebut to Gaudry wereaccorded extenuating circumstances. The widow was condemned to fifteen years'penal servitudeher accomplice to five years' imprisonment.

It is dreadful to think how very near the Widow Gras came to accomplishingsuccessfully her diabolical crime. A little less percipitancy on her partandshe might have secured the fruits of her cruelty. Her undoubted powers offascinationin spite of the fiendishness of her real characterare doublyproved by the devotion of her lover and the guilt of her accomplice. At the sametimewith that strange contradiction inherent in human naturethe Jekyll andHyde elements whichin varying degreeare present in all men and womentheWidow Gras had a genuine love for her young sister. Her hatred of men wasreasoneddeliberatemerciless and implacable. There is something almost sadicin the combination in her character of erotic sensibility with extreme cruelty.


 

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II. VITALIS AND MARIE BOYER


Note: I found the story of this case in a brochure published in Paris as one ofa series of modern causes célèbres. I have compared it with the reports of thetrial in the Gazette des Tribunaux.

IN the May of 1874in the town of MontpellierM. Boyera retired merchantsome forty-six years of agelay dying. For some months previous to his death hehad been confined to his bedcrippled by rheumatic gout. As the hour of hisdeath drew nearM. Boyer was filled with a great longing to see his daughterMariea girl of fifteenand embrace her for the last time. The girl was beingeducated in a convent at Marseilles. One of M. Boyer's friends offered to gothere to fetch her. On arriving at the conventhe was told that Marie hadbecome greatly attracted by the prospect of a religious life. "You arehappy" the Mother Superior had written to her mother"very happynever to have allowed the impure breath of the world to have soiled this littleflower. She loves you and her father more than one can say." Her father'sfriend found the girl dressed in the costume of a noviceand was told that shehad expressed her desire to takeone dayher final vows. He informed Marie ofher father's dying stateof his earnest wish to see her for the last timeandtold her that he had come to take her to his bedside. "Take me away fromhere?" she exclaimed. The Mother Superiorsurprised at her apparentreluctance to go

 

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impressed on her the duty of acceding to her father's wish. To the astonishmentof bothMarie refused to leave the convent. If she could save her father'slifeshe saidshe would gobutas that was impossible and she dreaded goingout into the world againshe would stay and pray for her father in the chapelof the conventwhere her prayers would be quite as effective as by his bedside.In vain the friend and the Mother Superior tried to bend her resolution.

Happily M. Boyer died before he could learn of his daughter's singularrefusal. But it had made an unfavourable impression on the friend's mind. Helooked on Marie as a girl without real feelingan egoisther religion purelysuperficialhiding a cold and selfish disposition; he felt some doubt as to thefuture development of her character.

M. Boyer left a widowa dark handsome womanforty years of age. Some twentyyears before his deathMarie Salat had come to live with M. Boyer as a domesticservant. He fell in love with hershe became his mistressand a few monthsbefore the birth of MarieM. Boyer made her his wife. Madame Boyer was at hearta woman of ardent and voluptuous passions that only wanted opportunity to becomecareless in their gratification. Her husband's long illness gave her such anopportunity. At the time of his death she was carrying on an intrigue with abookseller's assistantLeon Vitalisa young man of twenty-one. Her bed-riddenhusbandignorant of her infidelityaccepted gratefully the help of Vitaliswhom his wife described as a relativein the regulation of his affairs. Atlength the unsuspecting Boyer died. The night of his death Madame Boyer spentwith her lover.

The mother had never felt any great affection for her only child. During herhusband's lifetime she was glad

 

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to have Marie out of the way at the convent. But the death of M. Boyer changedthe situation. He had left almost the whole of his fortuneabout 100000francsto his daughterappointing her mother her legal guardian with a rightto the enjoyment of the income on the capital until Marie should come of age.Madame Boyer had not hitherto taken her daughter's religious devotion veryseriously. But now that the greater part of her husband's fortune was left toMarieshe realised thatshould her daughter persist in her intention of takingthe veilthat fortune would in a very few years pass into the hands of thesisterhood. Without delay Madame Boyer exercised her authorityand withdrewMarie from the convent. The girl quitted it with every demonstration of genuineregret.

Marie Boyer when she left the convent was growing into a tall and attractivewomanher figure slight and eleganther hair and eyes darkdainty andcharming in her manner. Removed from the influences of convent lifeherreligious devotion became a thing of the past. In her new surroundings she gaveherself up to the enjoyments of music and the theatre. She realised that she wasa pretty girlwhose beauty well repaid the hours she now spent in the adornmentof her person. The charms of Marie were not lost on Leon Vitalis. Mean andsignificant in appearanceVitalis would seem to have been one of those men whowithout any great physical recommendationhave the knack of making themselvesattractive to women. After her husband's death Madame Boyer had yielded herselfcompletely to his influence and her own undoubted passion for him. She had givenhim the money with which to purchase a business of his own as a second-handbookseller. This trade the enterprising and greedy young man combined withmoney-lending and he clandestine sale of improper books and photographs.

 

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To such a man the coming of Marie Boyer was a significant event. She wasyoungermore attractive than her mother; in a very few years the whole of herfather's fortune would be hers. Slowly Vitalis set himself to win the girl'saffections. The mother's suspicions were aroused; her jealousy was excited. Shesent Marie to complete her education at a convent school in Lyons. This was inthe April of 1875. By this time Marie and Vitalis had become friendly enough toarrange to correspond clandestinely during the girl's absence from home. Mariewas so far ignorant of the relations of Vitalis with her mother.

Her daughter sent awayMadame Boyer surrendered herself with completeabandonment to her passion for her lover. At Castelnauclose to Montpelliershe bought a small country house. There she could give full rein to her desire.To the scandal of the occasional passer-by she and her lover would bathe in astream that passed through the propertyand sport together on the grass.Indoors there were always books from Vitalis' collection to stimulate theirlascivious appetites. This life of pastoral impropriety lasted until the middleof Augustwhen Marie Boyer came home from Lyons.

Vitalis would have concealed from the young girl as long as he could thenature of his relations with Madame Boyerbut his mistress by her owndeliberate conduct made all concealment impossible. Whether from the utterrecklessness of her passion for Vitalisor a desire to kill in her daughter'sheart any attachment which she may have felt towards her loverthe motherparaded openly before her daughter the intimacy of her relations with Vitalisand with the help of the literature with which the young bookseller suppliedherset about corrupting her child's mind to her own depraved level. The effectof her extraordinary conduct washoweverthe

 

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opposite to what she had intended. The mind of the young girl was corrupted; shewas familiarised with vice. But in her heart she did not blame Vitalis for whatshe saw and suffered; she pitiedshe excused him. It was her mother whom shegrew to hatewith a hate all the more determined for the cold passionlessexterior beneath which it was concealed. Madame Boyer's deliberate display ofher passion for Vitalis served only to aggravate and intensify in Marie Boyer anunnatural jealousy that was fast growing up between mother and daughter.

Marie did not return to the school at Lyons. In the winter of 1875MadameBoyer gave up the country house andwith her daughtersettled in one of thesuburbs of Montpellier. In the January of 1876 a theft occurred in her householdwhich obliged Madame Boyer to communicate with the police. Spendthrift andincompetent in the management of her affairsshe was hoarding and suspiciousabout money itself. Cash and bonds she would hide away in unexpected placessuch as booksdresseseven a soup tureen. One of her most ingenious hidingplaces was a portrait of her late husbandbehind which she concealed somebearer bonds in landed securityamounting to about 11000 francs. One day inJanuary these bonds disappeared. She suspected a theftand informed the police.Three days later she withdrew her complaintand no more was heard of thematter. As Marie and Vitalis were the only persons who could have known hersecretthe inference is obvious. Whenlater in the yearVitalis announced hisintention of going to Paris on businesshis mistress expressed to him the hopethat he would "have a good time" with her bonds. Vitalis left forParis. But there was now a distinct understanding between Marie and himself.Vitalis had declared himself her lover and asked her to marry him. The followingletterwritten to him by Marie Boyer in

 

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the October of 1876shows her attitude toward his proposal:

"I thank you very sincerely for your letterwhich has

given me very great-pleasurebecause it tells me that you

are well. It sets my mind at restfor my feelings towards

you are the same as ever. I don't say they are those of

lovefor I don't know myself; I don't know what such

feelings are. But I feel a real affection for you which may

well turn to love. How should I not hold in affectionate

remembrance one who has done everything for me? But love

does not come to order. So I can't and don't wish to give

any positive answer about our marriage -- all depends on

circumstances. I don't want any promise from youI want you

to be as free as I am. I am not fickleyou know me well

enough for that. So don't ask me to give you any promise.

You may find my letter a little cold. But I know too much of

life to pledge myself lightly. I assure you I think on it

often. Sometimes I blush when I think what marriage means."

Madame Boyerdispleased at the thefthad let her lover go without any greatreluctance. No sooner had he gone than she began to miss him. Life seemed dullwithout him. Mother and daughter were united at least in their common regret atthe absence of the young bookseller. To vary the monotony of existenceto findif possible a husband for her daughterMadame Boyer decided to leaveMontpellier for Marseillesand there start some kind of business. The daughterwho foresaw greater amusement and pleasure in the life of a large cityassentedwillingly. On October 61876they arrived at Marseillesand soon after Madamebought at a price considerably higher than their valuetwo shops adjoining

 

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one another in the Rue de la République. One was a cheese shopthe other amilliner's. The mother arranged that she should look after the cheese shopwhile her daughter presided over the milliner's. The two shops were next door toone another. Behind the milliner's was a drawing-roombehind the cheese shop akitchen; these two rooms communicated with each other by a large dark room atthe back of the building. In the kitchen was a trap-door leading to a cellar.The two women shared a bedroom in an adjoining house.

Vitalis had opposed the scheme of his mistress to start shop-keeping inMarseilles. He knew how unfitted she was to undertake a business of any kind.But neither mother nor daughter would relinquish the plan. It remained thereforeto make the best of it. Vitalis saw that he must get the business into his ownhands; and to do thatto obtain full control of Madame Boyer's affairshe mustcontinue to play the lover to her. To the satisfaction of the two womenheannounced his intention of coming to Marseilles in the New Year of 1877. It wasarranged that he should pass as a nephew of Madame Boyerthe cousin of Marie.He arrived at Marseilles on January 1and received a cordial welcome. Of thedomestic arrangements that ensuedit is sufficient to say that they werecalculated to whet the jealousy and inflame the hatred that Marie felt towardsher motherwho now persisted as before in parading before her daughter theintimacy of her relations with Vitalis.

In these circumstances Vitalis succeeded in extracting from his mistress apower of attorneygiving him authority to deal with her affairs and sell thetwo businesseswhich were turning out unprofitable. This donehe told Mariewhose growing attachment to himstrange as it may seemhad turned to lovethat now at last they could be free. He would sell the two shopsand with

 

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the money released by the sale they could go away together. Suddenly MadameBoyer fell illand was confined to her bed. Left to themselvesthe growingpassion of Marie Boyer for Vitalis culminated in her surrender. But for the sickmother the happiness of the lovers was complete. If only her illness were moreseriousmore likely to be fatal in its result! "If only God would takeher!" said Vitalis. "Yes" replied her daughter"she hascaused us so much suffering!"

To Madame Boyer her illness had brought hours of tormentand at lastremorse. She realised the duplicity of her lovershe knew that he meant todesert her for her daughtershe saw what wrong she had done that daughtershesuspected even that Marie and Vitalis were poisoning her. Irreligious till nowher thoughts turned to religion. As soon as she could leave her bed she would goto Mass and make atonement for her sin; she would recover her power of attorneyget rid of Vitalis for good and alland send her daughter back to a convent.But it was too late. Nemesis was swift to overtake the hapless woman. Try as hemightVitalis had found it impossible to sell the shops at anything but aworthless figure. He had no money of his ownwith which to take Marie away. Heknew that her mother had resolved on his instant dismissal.

As soon as Madame Boyer was recovered sufficiently to leave her bedsheturned on her former loverdenounced his treacheryaccused him of robbing andswindling herand bade him go without delay. To Vitalis dismissal meant ruinto Marie it meant the loss of her lover. During her illness the two young peoplehad wished Madame Boyer deadbut she had recovered. Providence or Nature havingrefused to assist Vitalishe resolved to fall back on art. He gave up a wholenight's rest to the consideration of the question. As a result

 

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of his deliberations he suggested to the girl of seventeen the murder of hermother. "This must end" said Vitalis. "Yesit must"replied Marie. Vitalis asked her if she had any objection to such a crime. Mariehesitatedthe victim was her mother. Vitalis reminded her what sort of a mothershe had been to her. The girl said that she was terrified at the sight of blood;Vitalis promised that her mother should be strangled. At length Marie consented.That night on some slight pretext Madame Boyer broke out into violent reproachesagainst her daughter. She little knew that every reproach she uttered servedonly to harden in her daughter's heart her unnatural resolve.

On the morning of March 19 Madame Boyer rose early to go to Mass. Before shewent outshe reminded Vitalis that this was his last day in her servicethatwhen she returned she would expect to find him gone. It was after seven when sheleft the house. The lovers had no time to lose; the deed must be doneimmediately on the mother's return. They arranged that Vitalis should get rid ofthe shop-boyand thatas soon as he had goneMarie should shut and lock thefront doors of the two shops. At one o'clock Madame Boyer came back. Sheexpressed her astonishment and disgust that Vitalis still lingeredandthreatened to send for the police to turn him out. Vitalis told the shop-boythat he could go away for a few hours; they had some family affairs to settle.The boy departed. Madame Boyertired after her long morning in the townwasresting on a sofa in the sitting-roomat the back of the milliner's shop.Vitalis entered the roomand after a few heated wordsstruck her a violentblow in the chest. She fell back on the sofacalling to her daughter to come toher assistance. The daughter sought to drown her mother's cries by banging thedoorsand opening and shutting drawers. Vitalis

 

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who was now trying to throttle his victimcalled to Marie to shut the frontdoors of the two shops. To do so Marie had to pass through the sitting-roomandwas a witness to the unsuccessful efforts of Vitalis to strangle her mother.Having closed the doorsshe retired into the milliner's shop to await theissue. After a few moments her lover called to her for the large cheese knife;he had caught up a kitchen knifebut in his struggles it had slipped from hisgrasp. Quickly Marie fetched the knife and returned to the sitting-room. There adesperate struggle was taking place between the man and woman. At one moment itseemed as if Madame Boyer would get the better of Vitaliswhom nature had notendowed greatly for work of this kind. Marie came to his aid. She kicked andbeat her motheruntil at last the wretched creature released her hold and sankback exhausted. With the cheese knifewhich her daughter had fetchedVitaliskilled Madame Boyer.

They were murderers nowthe young lovers. What to do with the body? The boywould be coming back soon. The cellar under the kitchen seemed the obvious placeof concealment. With the help of a cord the body was lowered into the cellarand Marie washed the floor of the sitting-room. The boy came back. He askedwhere Madame Boyer was. Vitalis told him that she was getting ready to return toMontpellier the same eveningand that he had arranged to go with herbut thathe had no intention of doing so; he would accompany her to the stationhe saidand then at the last momentjust as the train was startingslip away and lether go on her journey alone. To the boywho knew enough of the inner history ofthe household to enjoy the piquancy of the situationsuch a trick seemed quiteamusing. He went away picturing in his mind the scene at the railway station andits humorous possibilities.

 

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At seven o'clock Vitalis and Marie Boyer were alone once more with themurdered woman. They had the whole night before them. Vitalis had alreadyconsidered the matter of the disposal of the body. He had bought a pick andspade. He intended to bury his former mistress in the soil under the cellar.After that had been donehe and Marie would sell the business for what it wouldfetchand go to Brussels -- an admirable planwhich two unforeseencircumstances defeated. The Rue de la République was built on a rockblastedout for the purpose. The shop-boy had gone to the station that evening to enjoythe joke whichhe believedwas to be played on his mistress.

When Vitalis tried to dig a grave into the ground beneath the cellar herealised the full horror of the disappointment. What was to be done? They mustthrow the body into the sea. But how to get it there? The crime of Billoiranold soldierwho the year before in Paris had killed his mistress in a fit ofanger and cut up her bodywas fresh in the recollection of Vitalis. The guiltycouple decided to dismember the body of Madame Boyer and so disfigure her faceas to render it unrecognisable. In the presence of MarieVitalis did thisandthe two lovers set out at midnight to discover some place convenient for thereception of the remains. They found the harbour too busy for their purposeanddecided to wait until the morrowwhen they would go farther afield. Theyreturned home and retired for the nightoccupying the bed in which Madame Boyerhad slept the night before.

On the morning of the 20th the lovers rose earlyand a curious neighbourlooking through the keyholesaw them counting joyously money and valuablesasthey took them from Madame Boyer's cash-box. When the shop-boy arrivedhe askedVitalis for news of Madame

 

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Boyer. Vitalis told him that he had gone with her to the stationthat she hadtaken the train to Montpellierand thatin accordance with his planhe hadgiven her the slip just as the train was starting. This the boy knew to befalse: he had been to the station himself to enjoy the funand had seen neitherVitalis nor Madame Boyer. He began to suspect some mystery. In the eveningwhenthe shops had been closedand he had been sent about his businesshe waitedand watched. In a short time he saw Vitalis and Marie Boyer leave the housetheformer dragging a hand-cart containing two large parcelswhile Marie walked byhis side. They travelled some distance with their burdenleaving the citybehind themhoping to find some deserted spot along the coast where they couldconceal the evidence of their crime. Their nerves were shaken by meeting with acustom-house officerwho asked them what it was they had in the cart. Vitalisanswered that it was a traveller's luggageand the officer let them pass on.But soon afterafraid to risk another such experiencethe guilty couple turnedout the parcels into a ditchcovered them with stones and sandand hurriedhome.

The next daythe shop-boy and the inquisitive neighbour having consultedtogetherwent to the Commissary of Police and told him of the mysteriousdisappearance of Madame Boyer. The Commissary promised to investigate thematterand had just dismissed his informants when word was brought to him ofthe discoveryin a ditch outside Marseillesof two parcels containing humanremains. He called back the boy and took him to view the body at the Morgue. Theboy was ableby the clothesto identify the body as that of his late mistress.The Commissary went straight to the shops in the Rue de la Républiquewhere hefound the young lovers preparing for flight. At first they denied all

 

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knowledge of the crimeand said that Madame Boyer had gone to Montpellier. Theywere arrestedand it was not long before they both confessed their guilt to theexamining magistrate.

Vitalis and Marie Boyer were tried before the Assize Court at Aix on July 21877. Vitalis is described as mean and insignificant in appearancethinround-backedof a bilious complexion; Marie Boyer as a prettydark girlherfeatures cold in expressiondainty and elegant. At her trial she seemed to bestill so greatly under the influence of Vitalis that during her interrogatorythe President sent him out of court. To the examining magistrate Marie Boyerindescribing her mother's murderhad written"I cannot think how I came totake part in it. Iwho wouldn't have stayed in the presence of a corpse for allthe money in the world." Vitalis was condemned to deathand was executedon August 17. He died fearful and penitentacknowledging his miserable careerto be a warning to misguided youth. Extenuating circumstances were accorded toMarie Boyerand she was sentenced to penal servitude for life. Her conduct inprison was so repentant and exemplary that she was released in 1892.

M. Proala distinguished French judgeand the author of some importantworks on crimeacted as the examining magistrate in the case of Vitalis andMarie Boyer. He thus sums up his impression of the two criminals: "Here isan instance of how greed and baseness on the one sidelust and jealousy on theotherbring about by degrees a change in the characters of criminalsandafter some hesitationthe suggestion and accomplishment of parricideIs itnecessary to seek an explanation of the crime in any psychic abnormality whichis negatived to all appearances by the antecedents of the guilty pair? Is itnecessary to ask it of anatomy or physiology? Is

 

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not the crime the result of moral degradation gradually asserting itself in twoindividualswhose moral and intellectual faculties are the same as those ofother menbut who fallstep by stepinto vice and crime? It is by asuccession of wrongful acts that a man first reaches the frontier of crime andthen at length crosses it."


 

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III. THE FENAYROU CASE


Note: There is an account of this case in Bataille "Causes Criminelles etMondaines" (1882)and in Macé's book"Femmes Criminelles." Itis alluded to in "Souvenirs d'un Président d'Assises" by Bérard desGlajeux.

THE murder of the chemist Aubert by Marin Fenayrou and his wife Gabrielle wasperpetrated near Paris in the year 1882. In its beginning the story iscommonplace enough. Fenayrou was the son of a small chemist in the South ofFranceand had come to Paris from the Aveyron Department to follow his father'svocation. He obtained a situation as apprentice in the Rue de la Ferme desMathurins in the shop of a M. Gibon. On the death of M. Gibon his widow thoughtshe saw in Fenayrou a man capable of carrying on her late husband's business.She gave her daughter in marriage to her apprenticeand installed him in theshop. The ungrateful son-in-lawsure of his wife and his business and contraryto his express promiseturned the old lady out of the house. This occurred inthe year 1870Fenayrou being then thirty years of agehis wifeGabrielleseventeen.

They were an ill-assorted and unattractive couple. The mana compound ofcoarse brutality and shrewd cunningwas at heart lazy and selfishthe woman aspoilt childin whom a real want of feeling was supplied by a shallowsentimentalism. Vain of the superior refinement conferred on her by a goodmiddle-class educationshe despised and soon came to loathe her coarse husbandand lapsed into a condition of disappointment and discontent

 

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that was only relieved superficially by an extravagant devotion to religiousexercises.

It was in 1875when the disillusionment of Mme. Fenayrou was completethather husband received into his shop a pupila youth of twenty-oneLouis Aubert.He was the son of a Norman tradesman. The ambitious father had wished his son toenter the churchbut the son preferred to be a chemist. He was a shrewdhard-working fellowwith an eye to the main chance and a taste for pleasuresthat cost him nothingjovialbut vulgar and self-satisfiedthe kind of manwhohaving enjoyed the favours of womantreats her with arrogance andcontempttill from loving she comes to loathe him -- a characteristic exampleaccording to M. Bourgetof le faux homme à femmes. Such was AubertFenayrou'spupil. He was soon to become something more than pupil.

Fenayrou as chemist had not answered to the expectations of hismother-in-law. His innate laziness and love of coarse pleasures had assertedthemselves. At first his wife had shared in the enjoymentsbut as time went onand after the birth of their two childrenthings became less prosperous. Shewas left at home while Fenayrou spent his time in drinking bocks of beerbetting and attending race-meetings. It was necessaryunder thesecircumstancesthat someone should attend to the business of the shop. In AubertFenayrou found a ready and willing assistant.

From 1876 to 1880save for an occasional absence for military serviceAubert lived with the Fenayrousmanaging the business and making love to thebored and neglected wifewho after a few months became his mistress. DidFenayrou know of this intrigue or not? That is a crucial question in the case.If he did notit was not for want of warning from certain of his friends

 

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and neighboursto whom the intrigue was a matter of common knowledge. Did herefuse to believe in his wife's guilt? ordependent as he was for his living onthe exertions of his assistantdid he deliberately ignore itrelying on hiswife's attractions to keep the assiduous Aubert at work in the shop? In any caseAubert's arrogancewhich had increased with the consciousness of his importanceto the husband and his conquest of the wifeled in August of 1880to arupture. Aubert left the Fenayrous and bought a business of his own on theBoulevard Malesherbes.

Before his departure Aubert had tried to persuade Mme. Gibon to sell up herson-in-law by claiming from him the unpaid purchase-money for her husband'sshop. He represented Fenayrou as an idle gamblerand hinted that he would findher a new purchaser. Such an underhand proceeding was likely to provokeresentment if it should come to the ears of Fenayrou. During the two years thatelapsed between his departure from Fenayrou's house and his murderAubert hadprospered in his shop on the Boulevard Malesherbeswhilst the fortunes of theFenayrous had steadily deteriorated.

At the end of the year 1881 Fenayrou sold his shop and went with his familyto live on one of the outer boulevardsthat of Gouvion-Saint-Cyr. He hadobtained a post in a shady mining companyin which he had persuaded hismother-in-law to invest 20000 francs. He had attempted also to make money byselling fradulent imitations of a famous table-water. For this offenceat thebeginning of 1882he was condemned by the Correctional Tribunal of Paris tothree months' imprisonment and 1000 francs costs.

In March of 1882 the situation of the Fenayrous was parlousthat of Aubertstill prosperous.

Since Aubert's departure Mme. Fenayrou had entertained

 

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another lovera gentleman on the staff of a sporting newspaperone ofFenayrou's turf acquaintances. This gentleman had found her a cold mistresspreferring the ideal to the real. As a murderess Madame Fenayrou overcame thisweakness.

If we are to believe Fenayrou's storythe most critical day in his life wasMarch 221882for it was on that dayaccording to his accountthat he learntfor the first time of his wife's intrigue with Aubert. Horrified and enraged atthe discoveryhe took from her her nuptial wreathher wedding-ringherjewelleryremoved from its frame her picture in charcoal which hung in thedrawing-roomand told herparalysed with terrorthat the only means of savingher life was to help him to murder her lover.

Two months laterwith her assistancethis outraged husband accomplished hispurpose with diabolical deliberation. He must have been well aware thathad heacted on the natural impulse of the moment and revenged himself then and thereon Auberthe would have committed what is regarded by a French jury as the mostvenial of crimesand would have escaped with little or no punishment. Hepreferredfor reasons of his ownto set about the commission of a deliberateand cold-blooded murder that bears the stamp of a more sinister motive than thevengeance of a wronged husband.

The only step he took after the alleged confession of his wife on March 22was to go to a commissary of police and ask him to recover from Aubert certainletters of his wife's that were in his possession. This the commissary refusedto do. Mme. Gibonthe mother-in-lawwas sent to Aubert to try to recover thelettersbut Aubert declined to give them upand wrote to Mme. Fenayrou:

 

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"Madameto my displeasure I have had a visit this

morning from your motherwho has come to my home and made a

most unnecessary scene and reproached me with facts so

serious that I must beg you to see me without delay. It

concerns your honour and mine. . . . I have no fear of being

confronted with your husband and yourself. I am readywhen

you wishto justify myself. . . . Please do all you can to

prevent a repetition of your mother's visit or I shall have

to call in the police."

It is clear that the Fenayrous attached the utmost importance to the recoveryof this correspondencewhich disappeared with Aubert's death. Was the primemotive of the murder the recovery and destruction of these letters? Was Aubertpossessed of some knowledge concerning the Fenayrous that placed them at hismercy? It would seem so. To a friend who had warned him of the danger to whichhis intimacy with Gabrielle Fenayrou exposed himAubert had replied"Bah!I've nothing to fear. I hold them in my power." The nature of the holdwhich Aubert boasted that he possessed over these two persons remains theunsolved mystery of the case"that limit of investigation" in thewords of a French judge"one finds in most great casesbeyond whichjustice strays into the unknown."

That such a hold existedAubert's own statement and the desperate attemptsmade by the Fenayrous to get back these letterswould seem to prove beyondquestion. Had Aubert consented to return themwould he have saved his life? Itseems probable. As it washe was doomed. Fenayrou hated him. They had had a rowon a race-coursein the course of which Aubert had humiliated his formermaster. More than thisAubert had boasted openly of his relations with Mme.Fenayrouand the fact

 

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had reached the ears of the husband. Fenayrou believed alsothough erroneouslythat Aubert had informed against him in the matter of the table-water fraud.Whether his knowledge of Aubert's relations with his wife was recent or of longstandinghe had other grounds of hate against his former pupil. He himself hadfailed in lifebut he saw his rival prosperousarrogant in his prosperitythreateningdangerous to his peace of mind; he envied and feared as well ashated him. Cruelcunning and sinisterFenayrou spent the next two months inthe meditation of a revenge that was not only to remove the man he fearedbutwas to give him a truly fiendish opportunity of satisfying his ferocious hatred.

And the wife what of her share in the business? Had she also come to hateAubert? Or did she seek to expiate her guilt by assisting her husband in thepunishment of her seducer? A witness at the trial described Mme. Fenayrou as"a soft paste" that could be moulded equally well to vice or virtueawoman destitute of real feeling or strength of willwhounder the direction ofher husbandcarried out implicitlyprecisely and carefully her part in anatrocious murderwhose only effort to prevent the commission of such a deed wasto slip away into a church a few minutes before she was to meet the man she wasdecoying to his deathand pray that his murder might be averted. Her religioussenselike the images in the hat of Louis XI.was a source of comfort andconsolation in the doing of evilbut powerless to restrain her from the actitselfin the presence of a will stronger than her own. At the time of hisdeath Aubert contemplated marriageand had advertised for a wife. If Mme.Fenayrou was aware of thisit may have served to stimulate her resentmentagainst her loverbut there seems little reason to doubt thatleft to herselfshe would never have had the will or the energy to give that

 

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resentment practical expression. It required the dictation of the vindictive andmalevolent Fenayrou to crystallise her hatred of Aubert into a deliberateparticipation in his murder.

Eight or nine miles north-west of Paris lies the small town of Chatouapleasant country resort for tired Parisians. Here Madeleine Brohanthe famousactresshad inhabited a small villaa two-storied building. At the beginningof 1882 it was to let. In the April of that year a person of the name of"Hess" agreed to take it at a quarterly rent of 1200 francsand paid300 in advance. "Hess" was no other than Fenayrou -- the villa thathad belonged to Madeleine Brohan the scene chosen for Aubert's murder. Fenayrouwas determined to spare no expense in the execution of his design: it was tocost him some 3000 francs before he had finished with it.

As to the actual manner of his betrayer's deaththe outraged husband foundit difficult to make up his mind. It was not to be promptnor was unnecessarysuffering to be avoided. At first he favoured a pair of "infernal"opera-glasses that concealed a couple of steel points whichby means of aspringwould dart out into the eyes of anyone using them and destroy theirsight. This rather elaborate and uncertain machine was abandoned later in favourof a trap for catching wolves. This was to be placed under the tableand seizein its huge iron teeth the legs of the victim. In the end simplicityin theshape of a hammer and sword-stickwon the day. An assistant was taken in theperson of Lucien Fenayroua brother of Marin.

This humble and obliging individuala maker of children's toysregarded hisbrother the chemist with something like veneration as the gentleman and man ofeducation of the family. Fifty francs must have seemed to him an almostsuperfluous inducement to assist in the

 

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execution of what appeared to be an act of legitimate vengeancean affair offamily honour in which the wife and brother of the injured husband were in dutybound to participate. Mme. Fenayrouwith characteristic superstitionchose theday of her boy's first communion to broach the subject of the murder to Lucien.By what was perhaps more than coincidenceAscension DayMay 18was selectedas the day for the crime itself. There were practical reasons also. It was aThursday and a public holiday. On Thursdays the Fenayrou children spent the daywith their grandmotherand at holiday time there was a special midnight trainfrom Chatou to Paris that would enable the murderers to return to town after thecommission of their crime. A goat chaise and twenty-six feet of gas piping hadbeen purchased by Fenayrou and taken down to the villa.

Nothing remained but to secure the presence of the victim. At the directionof her husband Mme. Fenayrou wrote to Aubert on May 14a letter in which sheprotested her undying love for himand expressed a desire to resume theirprevious relations. Aubert demurred at firstbutas she became more pressingyielded at length to her suggestion. If it cost him nothingAubert was the lastman to decline an invitation of the kind. A trip to Chatou was arranged forAscension DayMay 18by the train leaving Paris from the St. Lazare Stationat half-past eight in the evening.

On the afternoon of that day Fenayrouhis wife and his brother sent thechildren to their grandmother and left Paris for Chatou at three o'clock.Arrived therethey went to the villaFenayrou carrying the twenty-six feet ofgas-piping wound round him like some huge hunting-horn. He spent the afternoonin beating out the piping till it was flatand in making a gag. He tried totake up the flooring in the kitchenbut this plan for the

 

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concealment of the body was abandoned in favour of the river. As soon as thesepreparationsin which he was assisted by his two relativeshad been completedFenayrou placed a candlesome matches and the sword-stick on the drawing-roomtable and returned to Paris.

The three conspirators dined together heartily in the Avenue de Clichy --soupfishentréesweet and cheesewashed down by a bottle of claret and apint of burgundycoffee to followwith a glass of chartreuse for Madame. Tothe waiter the party seemed in the best of spirits. Dinner endedthe two menreturned to Chatou by the 7.35 trainleaving Gabrielle to follow an hour laterwith Aubert. Fenayrou had taken three second-class return tickets for his wifehis brother and himselfand a single for their visitor. It was during theinterval between the departure of her husband and her meeting with Aubert thatMme. Fenayrou went into the church of St. Louis d'Antin and prayed.

At half-past eight she met Aubert at the St. Lazare Stationgave him histicket and the two set out for Chatou -- a strange journey Mme. Fenayrou wasasked what they talked about in the railway carriage. "Mere nothings"she replied. Aubert abused her mother; for her own partshe was very agitated-- trés emotionnée. It was about half-past nine when they reached theirdestination. The sight of the little villa pleased Aubert. "Ah!" hesaid"this is good. I should like a house like this and twenty thousandfrancs a year!" As he entered the hallsurprised at the darknessheexclaimed: "The devil! it's precious dark! `tu saisGabrielleque je nesuis pas un héros d'aventure.'" The woman pushed him into thedrawing-room. He struck a match on his trousers. Fenayrouwho had been lurkingin the darkness in his shirt sleevesmade a blow at him with the hammerbut itwas ineffectual. A struggle ensued. The room was

 

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plunged in darkness. Gabrielle waited outside. After a littleher husbandcalled for a light; she came in and lit a candle on the mantelpiece. Fenayrouwas getting the worst of the encounter. She ran to his helpand dragged off hisopponent. Fenayrou was free. He struck again with the hammer. Aubert fellandfor some ten minutes Fenayrou stood over the battered and bleeding man abusingand insulting himexulting in his vengeance. Then he stabbed him twice with thesword-stickand so ended the business.

The murderers had to wait till past eleven to get rid of the bodyas thestreets were full of holiday-makers. When all was quiet they put it into thegoat chaisewrapped round with the gas-pipingand wheeled it on to the Chatoubridge. To prevent noise they let the body down by a rope into the water. It washeavier than they thoughtand fell with a loud splash into the river."Hullo!" exclaimed a night-fishermanwho was mending his tackle notfar from the bridge"there go those butchers againchucking their filthinto the Seine!"

As soon as they had taken the chaise back to the villathe three assassinshurried to the station to catch the last train. Arriving there a little beforetheir timethey went into a neighbouring cafe. Fenayrou had three bocksLucienoneand Madame another glass of chartreuse. So home to Paris. Lucien reachedhis house about two in the morning. "Well" asked his wife"didyou have a good day?" "Splendid" was the reply.

Eleven days passed. Fenayrou paid a visit to the villa to clean it and put itin order. Otherwise he went about his business as usualattending racemeetingsindulging in a picnic and a visit to the Salon. On May 27 a man namedBaillywhoby a strange coincidencewas known by the nickname of "theChemist" walking by the riverhad his attention called by a bargeman to acorpse that

 

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was floating on the water. He fished it out. It was that of Aubert. In spite ofa gag tired over his mouth the water had got into the bodyandnotwithstandingthe weight of the lead pipingit had risen to the surface.

As soon as the police had been informed of the disappearance of Auberttheirsuspicions had fallen on the Fenayrous in consequence of the request which MarinFenayrou had made to the commissary of police to aid him in the recovery fromAubert of his wife's letters. But there had been nothing further in theirconduct to provoke suspicion. Whenhoweverthe body was discovered and at thesame time an anonymous letter received denouncing the Fenayrous as the murderersof Aubertthe police decided on their arrest. On the morning of June 8 M.Macéthen head of the Detective Departmentcalled at their house. He foundFenayrou in a dressing-gown. This righteous avenger of his wife's seductiondenied his guiltlike any common criminalbut M. Macé handed him over to oneof his mento be taken immediately to Versailles. He himself took charge ofMadameandin the first-class carriage full of peoplein which they travelledtogether to Versaillesshe whispered to the detective a full confession of thecrime.

Macé has left us an account of this singular railway journey. It was twoo'clock in the afternoon. In the carriage were five ladies and a young man whowas reading La Vie Parisienne. Mme. Fenayrou was silent and thoughtful."You're thinking of your present position?" asked the detective."NoI'm thinking of my mother and my dear children." "They don'tseem to care much about their father" remarked Macé. "Perhapsnot." "Why?" asked M. Macé. "Because of his violenttemper" was the reply. After some further conversation and the departureat Courbevoie of the young man with La Vie ParisienneMme. Fenayrou asked

 

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abruptly: "Do you think my husband guilty?" "I'm sure ofit." "So does Aubert's sister." "Certainly" answeredM. Macé; "she looks on the crime as one of revenge." "But mybrother-in-law" urged the woman"could have had no motive forvengeance against Aubert." Macé answered coldly that he would have toexplain how he had employed his time on Ascension Day. "You see criminalseverywhere" answered Madame.

After the train had left St. Cloudwhere the other occupants of the carriagehad alightedthe detective and his prisoner were alonefree of interruptiontill Versailles should be reached. Hitherto they had spoken in whispers; nowMacé seized the opportunity to urge the woman to unbosom herself to himtoreveal her part in the crime. She burst into tears. There was an interval ofsilence; then she thanked Macé for the kindness and consideration he had shownher. "You wish me" she asked"to betray my husband?""Without any design or intention on your part" discreetly answeredthe detective; "but by the sole force of circumstances you are placed insuch a position that you cannot help betraying him."

Whether convinced or not of this tyranny of circumstanceMme. Fenayrouobeyed her mentorand calmlycoldlywithout regret or remorsetold him thestory of the assassination. Towards the end of her narration she softened alittle. "I know I am a criminal" she exclaimed. "Since thismorning I have done nothing but lie. I am sick of it; it makes me suffer toomuch. Don't tell my husband until this evening that I have confessed; there's noneedforafter what I have told youyou can easily expose his falsehoods andso get at the truth."

That evening the three prisoners -- Lucien had been arrested at the same timeas the other two -- were brought to Chatou. Identified by the gardener as thelessee of

 

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the villaFenayrou abandoned his protestations of innocence and admitted hisguilt. The crime was then and there reconstituted in the presence of theexamining magistrate. With the help of a gendarmewho impersonated AubertFenayrou repeated the incidents of the murder. The goat-chaise was wheeled tothe bridgeand there in the presence of an indignant crowdthe murderer showedhow the body had been lowered into the river.

After a magisterial investigation lasting two monthswhich failed to shedany new light on the more mysterious elements in the caseFenayrouhis wifeand brother were indicted on August 19 before the Assize Court for theSeine-et-Oise Departmentsitting at Versailles.

The attitude of the three culprits was hardly such as to provoke thesympathies of even a French jury. Fenayrou seemed to be giving a clumsy andunconvincing performance of the rôle of the wronged husband; his heavy figureclothed in an ill-fitting suit of "blue dittos" his ill-kempt redbeard and bock-stained moustache did not help him in his impersonation. Mme.Fenayroupalecolourlessinsignificantwas cold and impenetrable. Shedescribed the murder of her lover "as if she were giving her cook ahousehold recipe for making apricot Jam." Lucien was humble and lachrymose.

In his interrogatory of the husband the PresidentM. Bérard des Glajeuxshowed himself frankly sceptical as to the ingenuousness of Fenayrou's motivesin assassinating Aubert. "Nowwhat was the motive of this horriblecrime?" he asked. "Revenge" answered Fenayrou.

President: But consider the care you took to hide the body and destroy alltrace of your guilt; that is not the way in which a husband sets out to avengehis honour;

 

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these are the methods of the assassin! With your wife's help you could havecaught Aubert in flagrante delicto and killed him on the spotand the law wouldhave absolved you. Instead of which you decoy him into a hideous snare. Publicopinion suggests that jealousy of your former assistant's successandmortification at your own failurewere the real motives. Or was it not perhapsthat you had been in the habit of rendering somewhat dubious services to some ofyour promiscuous clients?

Fenayrou: Nothing of the kindI swear it!

President: Do not protest too much. Remember that among your acquaintancesyou were suspected of cheating at cards. As a chemist you had been convinced offraud. Perhaps Aubert knew something against you. Some act of poisoningorabortionin which you had been concerned? Many witnesses have believed this.Your mother-in-law is said to have remarked"My son-in-law will end injail."

Fenayrou (bursting into tears): This is too dreadful.

President: And Dr. Durandan old friend of Aubertremembers the deceasedsaying to him"One has nothing to fear from people one holds in one'shands."

Fenayrou: I don't know what he meant.

President: Orconsidering the crueltycowardicethe cold calculationdisplayed in the commission of the crimeshall we say this was a woman's not aman's revenge. You have said your wife acted as your slave -- was it not theother way about?

Fenayrou: No; it was my revengemine alone.

The view that regarded Mme. Fenayrou as a softmalleable paste was not theview of the President.

"Why" he asked the woman"did you commit this horriblemurderdecoy your lover to his death?" "Because I had repented"was the answer; "I had wronged

 

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my husbandand since he had been condemned for fraudI loved him the more forbeing unfortunate. And then I feared for my children."

President: Is that really the case?

Mme. Fenayrou: Certainly it is.

President: Then your whole existence has been one of lies and hypocrisy.Whilst you were deceiving your husband and teaching your children to despise himyou were covering him with caresses. You have played false to both husband andlover -- to Aubert in decoying him to his deathto your husband by denouncinghim directly you were arrested. You have betrayed everybody. The only person youhave not betrayed is yourself. What sort of a woman are you? As you and Aubertwent into the drawing-room on the evening of the murder you said loudly"This is the way" so that your husbandhearing your voice outsideshould not strike you by mistake in the darkness. If Lucien had not told us thatyou attacked Aubert whilst he was struggling with your husbandwe should neverhave known itfor you would never have admitted itand your husband has allalong refused to implicate you. . . . You have said that you had ceased to carefor your lover: he had ceased to care for you. He was prosperoushappyaboutto marry: you hated himand you showed your hate whenduring the murderyouflung yourself upon him and cried"Wretch!" Is that the behaviour ofa woman who represents herself to have been the timid slave of her husband? No.This crime is the revenge of a cowardly and pitiless womanwho writes down inher account book the expenses of the trip to Chatou andafter the murderpicnics merrily in the green fields. It was you who steeled your husband to thetask.

How far the President was justified in thus inverting the parts played by thehusband and wife in the crime

 

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must be a matter of opinion. In his volume of Souvenirs M. Bérard des Glajeuxmodifies considerably the view which he perhaps felt it his duty to express inhis interrogatory of Gabrielle Fenayrou. He describes her as soft and flexibleby naturethe repentant slave of her husbandseeking to atone for her wrong tohim by helping him in his revenge. The one feature in the character of Mme.Fenayrou that seems most clearly demonstrated is its absolute insensibilityunder any circumstances whatsoever.

The submissive Lucien had little to say for himselfnor could any motive forjoining in the murder beyond a readiness to oblige his brother be suggested. Inhis Souvenirs M. Bérard des Glajeux states that to-day it would seem to beclearly established that Lucien acted blindly at the bidding of hissister-in-law"qu'il avait beaucoup aimée et qui n'avait pas étécruelle à son égard."

The evidence recapitulated for the most part the facts already set out. Thedescription of Mme. Fenayrou by the gentleman on the sporting newspaper who hadsucceeded Aubert in her affections isunder the circumstancesinteresting:"She was sadmelancholy; I questioned herand she told me she was marriedto a coarse man who neglected herfailed to understand herand had never lovedher. I became her lover butexcept on a few occasionsour relations were thoseof good friends. She was a woman with few material wantsaffectionateexpansivean idealistone who had suffered much and sought from without ahappiness her marriage had never brought her. I believe her to have been theblind tool of her husband."

From motives of delicacy the evidence of this gentleman was read in hispresence; he was not examined orally. His eulogy of his mistress is loyal.Against

 

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it may be set the words of the Procureur de la RépubliqueM. Delegorgue:"Never has a more thorough-paceda more hideous monster been seated in thedock of an assize court. This woman is the personification of falsehooddepravitycowardice and treachery. She is worthy of the supreme penalty."The jury were not of this opinion. They preferred to regard Mme. Fenayrou asplaying a secondary part to that of her husband. They accorded in both her caseand that of Lucien extenuating circumstances. The woman was sentenced to penalservitude for lifeLucien to seven years. Fenayroufor whose conduct the jurycould find no extenuationwas condemned to death.

It is the custom in certain assize towns for the Presidentafter pronouncingsentenceto visit a prisoner who had been ordered for execution. M. Bérard desGlajeux describes his visit to Fenayrou at Versailles. He was already in prisondresssobbing. His iron naturewhich during five days had never flinchedhadbroken down; but it was not for himself he weptbut for his wifehis childrenhis brother; of his own fate he took no account. At the same moment his wife wasin the lodge of the courthouse waiting for the cab that was to take her to herprison. Freed from the anxieties of the trialknowing her life to be sparedwithout so much as a thought for the husband whom she had never lovedshe hadtidied herself upand nowwith all the ease of a womanwhose misfortunes havenot destroyed her self-possessionwas doing the honours of the jail. It was shewho received her judge.

But Fenayrou was not to die. The Court of Cassationto which he had made theusual appeal after condemnationdecided that the proceedings at Versailles hadbeen vitiated by the fact that the evidence of Gabrielle Fenayrou's second loverhad not been taken orallywithin

 

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the requirements of the criminal code; consequently a new trial was orderedbefore the Paris Assize Court. This second trialwhich commenced on October 12saved Fenayrou's head. The Parisian jury showed themselves more lenient thantheir colleagues at Versailles. Not only was Fenayrou accorded extenuatingcircumstancesbut Lucien was acquitted altogether. The only person to whomthese new proceedings brought no benefit was Mme. Fenayrouwhose sentenceremained unaltered.

Marin Fenayrou was sent to New Caledonia to serve his punishment. There hewas allowed to open a dispensarybutproving dishonesthe lost his licenseand became a ferryman -- a very Charon for terrestrial passengers. He died inNew Caledonia of cancer of the liver.

Gabrielle Fenayrou made an exemplary prisonerso exemplary thatowing toher good conduct and a certain ascendancy she exercised over herfellow-prisonersshe was made forewoman of one of the workshops. Whilst holdingthis position she had the honour of receivingamong those entrusted to herchargeanother GabriellemurderessGabrielle Bompardthe history of whosecrime is next to be related.


 

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IV. EYRAUD AND BOMPARD


Note: There are accounts of this case in Bataille "Causes Criminelles etMondaines" 1890and in Volume X. of Fouquier "CausesCélèbres." "L'Affaire Gouffé" by Dr. LacassagneLyons1891and Goron "L'Amour Criminel" may be consulted.

ON July 27in the year 1889the Parisian police were informed of thedisappearance of one Goufféa bailiff. He had been last seen by two friends onthe Boulevard Montmartre at about ten minutes past seven on the evening of the26tha Friday. Since then nothing had been heard of himeither at his officein the Rue Montmartreor at his private house in the Rue Rougemont. This wassurprising in the case of a man of regular habits even in his irregularitiesrobust healthand cheerful spirits.

Gouffé was a widowerforty-two years of age. He had three daughters wholived happily with him in the Rue Rougemont. He did a good trade as bailiff andprocess-serverand at times had considerable sums of money in his possession.These he would never leave behind him at his officebut carry home at the endof the day's workexcept on Fridays. Friday nights Gouffé always spent awayfrom home. As the society he sought on these nights was of a promiscuouscharacterhe was in the habit of leaving at his office any large sum of moneythat had come into his hands during the day.

About nine o'clock on this particular Friday nightJuly 26the hall-porterat Gouffé's office in the Rue Montmartre heard someonewhom he had taken atfirst to be the bailiff himselfenter the hall and go upstairs to

 

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the officewhere he remained a few minutes. As he descended the stairs theporter came out of his lodge andseeing it was a strangeraccosted him. Butthe man hurried away without giving the porter time to see his face.

When the office was examined the next day everything was found in perfectorderand a sum of 14000 francshidden away behind some papersuntouched.The safe had not been tampered with; there wasin shortnothing unusual aboutthe room except ten long matches that were lying half burnt on the floor.

On hearing of the bailiff's disappearance and the mysterious visitor to hisofficethe policewho were convinced that Gouffé had been the victim of somecriminal designinquired closely into his habitshis friendshis associatesmen and women. But the one man who could have breathed the name that would haveset the police on the track of the real culprits wasfor reasons of his ownsilent. The police examined many personsbut without arriving at any usefulresult.

Howeveron August 15in a thicket at the foot of a slope running down fromthe road that passes through the district of Milleryabout ten miles fromLyonsa roadmenderattracted by a peculiar smelldiscovered the remains ofwhat appeared to be a human body. They were wrapped in a clothbut sodecomposed as to make identification almost impossible. M. Goronat that timehead of the Parisian detective policebelieved them to be the remains ofGouffébut a relative of the missing manwhom he sent to Lyonsfailed toidentify them. Two days after the discovery of the corpsethere were found nearMillery the broken fragments of a trunkthe lock of which fitted a key that hadbeen picked up near the body. A label on the trunk showed that it had beendispatched from Paris to Lyons on July 27188 --but the final figure of thedate was obliterated. Reference

 

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to the books of the railway company showed that on July 271889the dayfollowing the disappearance of Goufféa trunk similar in size and weight tothat found near Millery had been sent from Paris to Lyons.

The judicial authorities at Lyons scouted the idea that either the corpse orthe trunk found at Millery had any connection with the disappearance of Gouffé.When M. Goronbent on following up what he believed to be important clueswenthimself to Lyons he found that the remainsafter being photographedhad beeninterred in the common burying-ground. The young doctor who had made the autopsyproduced triumphantly some hair taken from the head of the corpse and showed M.Goron that whilst Gouffé's hair was admittedly auburn and cut shortthis wasblackand had evidently been worn long. M. Goronafter looking carefully atthe hairasked for some distilled water. He put the lock of hair into it andafter a few minutes' immersioncleansed of the bloodgrease and dust that hadcaked them togetherthe hairs appeared clearly to be short and auburn. Thedoctor admitted his error.

Fortified by this successGoron was able to procure the exhumation of thebody. A fresh autopsy was performed by Dr. Lacassagnethe eminent medicaljurist of the Lyons School of Medicine. He was able to pronounce with certaintythat the remains were those of the bailiffGouffé. An injury to the rightanklea weakness of the right legthe absence of a particular tooth and otheradmitted peculiarities in Gouffé's physical conformationwere present in thecorpseplacing its identity beyond question. This second post-mortem revealedfurthermore an injury to the thyroid cartilage of the larynx that had beeninflicted beyond any doubt whateverdeclared Dr. Lacassagnebefore death.

 

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There was little reason to doubt that Gouffé had been the victim of murderby strangulation.

But by whom had the crime been committed? It was now the end of November.Four months had passed since the bailiff's murderand the police had no clue toits perpetrators. At one time a friend of Gouffé's had been suspected andplaced under arrestbut he was released for want of evidence.

One day toward the close of Novemberin the course of a conversation with M.Gorona witness who had known Gouffé surprised him by saying abruptly"There's another man who disappeared about the same time as Gouffé."M. Goron pricked up his ears. The witness explained that he had not mentionedthe fact beforeas he had not connected it with his friend's disappearance; theman's namehe saidwas EyraudMichel EyraudM. Goron made some inquires asto this Michel Eyraud. He learnt that he was a married manforty-six years ofageonce a distiller at Sévresrecently commission-agent to a bankrupt firmthat he had left France suddenlyabout the time of the disappearance ofGoufféand that he had a mistressone Gabrielle Bompardwho had disappearedwith him. Instinctively M. Goron connected this fugitive couple with the fate ofthe murdered bailiff.

Confirmation of his suspicions was to come from London. The remains of thetrunk found at Millery had been skilfully put together and exposed at the Morguein Pariswhilst the Gouffé family had offered a reward of 500 francs toanybody who could in any way identify the trunk. Beyond producing a large cropof anonymous lettersin one of which the crime was attributed to GeneralBoulangerthen in Jerseythese measures seemed likely to prove fruitless. Butone day in Decemberfrom the keeper of a boarding-house in Gower StreetM.Goron received a letter informing him that the

 

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writer believed that Eyraud and Gabrielle Bompard had stayed recently at hishouseand that on July 14 the womanwhom he knew only as"Gabrielle" had left for Francecrossing by Newhaven and Dieppeandtaking with her a large and almost empty trunkwhich she had purchased inLondon. Inquires made by the French detectives established the correctness ofthis correspondent's information. An assistant at a trunk shop in the EustonRoad was able to identify the trunk -- brought over from Paris for the purpose-- as one purchased in his shop on July 12 by a Frenchman answering to thedescription of Michel Eyraud. The wife of the boarding-house keeper recollectedhaving expressed to Gabrielle her surprise that she should buy such an enormouspiece of luggage when she had only one dress to put into it. "Oh that's allright" answered Gabrielle smilingly"we shall have plenty to fill itwith in Paris!" Gabrielle had gone to Paris with the trunk on July 14comeback to London on the 17thand on the 20th she and Eyraud returned together toParis From these facts it seemed more than probable that these two were theassassins so eagerly sought for by the policeand it seemed clear also that themurder had been done in Paris. But what had become of this couplein whatstreetin what house in Paris had the crime been committed? These werequestions the police were powerless to answer.

The year 1889 came to an endthe murderers were still at large. But onJanuary 211890M. Goron found lying on his table a large letter bearing theNew York postmark. He opened itand to his astonishment read at the end thesignature "Michel Eyraud." It was a curious letterbut undoubtedlygenuine. In it Eyraud protested against the suspicions directed against himself;they werehe wrotemerely unfortunate coincidences. Gouffé had been hisfriend; he had had no share what

 

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in his death; his only misfortune had been his association with "thatserpentGabrielle Bompard." He had certainly bought a large trunk for herbut she told him that she had sold it. They had gone to America togetherhe toavoid financial difficulties in which he had been involved by the dishonesty ofthe Jews. There Gabrielle had deserted him for another man. He concluded a verylong letter by declaring his belief in Gabrielle's innocence -- "the greattrouble with her is that she is such a liar and also has a dozen lovers afterher." He promised thatas soon as he learnt that Gabrielle had returned toParishe wouldof his own free willplace himself in the hands of M. Goron.

He was to have an early opportunity of redeeming his pledgefor on the dayfollowing the receipt of his letter a shortwell-made womandressed neatly inblackwith dyed hairgreyish-blue eyesgood teetha disproportionately largehead and a lively and intelligent expression of facepresented herself at thePrefecture of Police and asked for an interview with the Prefect. Requested togive her nameshe repliedwith a smile"Gabrielle Bompard." She wasaccompanied by a middle-aged gentlemanwho appeared to be devoted to her.Gabrielle Bompard and her friend were taken to the private room of M. LozéthePrefect of Police. Therein a half-amused waywithout the least concernsitting at times on the edge of the Prefect's writing-tableGabrielle Bompardtold how she had been the unwilling accomplice of her loverEyraudin themurder of the bailiffGouffé. The crimeshe statedhad been committed in No.3 in the Rue Tronson-Ducoudraybut she had not been present; she knew nothingof it but what had been told her by Eyraud. After the murder she had accompaniedhim to America; there they had met the middle-aged gentlemanher companion.Eyraud had

 

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proposed that they should murder and rob himbut she had divulged the plot tothe gentleman and asked him to take her away. It was acting on his advice thatshe had returned to Francedetermined to give her evidence to the judicialauthorities in Paris. The middle-aged gentleman declared himself ready to vouchfor the truth of a great part of this interesting narrative. There they bothimagined apparently that the affair would be ended. They were extremelysurprised when the Prefectafter listening to their statementssent for adetective-inspector who showed Gabrielle Bompard a warrant for her arrest. Afteran affecting partingat least on the part of the middle-aged gentlemanGabrielle Bompard was taken to prison. There she soon recovered her spiritswhich had at no time been very gravely depressed by her critical situation.

According to Eyraud's lettersif anyone knew anything about Gouffé'smurderit was Gabrielle Bompard; according to the woman's statementit wasEyraudand Eyraud alonewho had committed it. As they were both liars -- thewoman perhaps the greater liar of the two -- their statements are not to betaken as other than forlorn attempts to shift the blame on to each other'sshoulders.

Before extracting from their various avowalswhich grew more complete astime went onthe story of the crimelet us follow Eyraud in his flight fromjusticewhich terminated in the May of 1890 by his arrest in Havana.

Immediately after the arrest of Gabrielletwo French detectives set out forAmerica to trace and run down if possible her deserted lover. For more than amonth they traversed Canada and the United States in search of their prey. Thetrack of the fugitive was marked from New York to San Francisco by acts ofthieving and

 

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swindling. At the former city he had made the acquaintance of a wealthy Turkfrom whomunder the pretence of wishing to be photographed in ithe hadborrowed a magnificent oriental robe. The photograph was takenbut Eyraudforgot to return the costly robe.

At another time he was lodging in the same house as a young American actorcalled in the French accounts of the incident "Sir Stout." To"Sir Stout" Eyraud would appear to have given a most convincingperformance of the betrayed husband; his wifehe saidhad deserted him foranother man; he raved and stormed audibly in his bedroomdeploring his fate andvowing vengeance. These noisy representations so impressed "Sir Stout"thaton the outraged husband declaring himself to be a Mexican for the momentwithout fundsthe benevolent comedian lent him eighty dollarswhichit isalmost needless to addhe never saw again. In narrating this incident to theFrench detectives"Sir Stout" describes Eyraud's performance asgreatsurpassing even those of Coquelin.

Similar stories of theft and debauchery met the detectives at every turnbuthelped in a great measure by the publicity the American newspapers gave tothe movements of his pursuersEyraud was able to elude themand in March theyreturned to France to concert further plans for his capture.

Eyraud had gone to Mexico. From there he had written a letter to M.Rochefort's newspaperL'Intransigeantin which he declared Gouffé to havebeen murdered by Gabrielle and an unknown. Butwhen official inquiries weremade in Mexico as to his whereaboutsthe bird had flown.

At Havanain Cubathere lived a French dressmaker and clothes-merchantnamed Puchen. In the month of February a strangerragged and unkemptbutevidently

 

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a fellow-countrymanvisited her shop and offered to sell her a superb Turkishcostume. The contrast between the wretchedness of the vendor and themagnificence of his wares struck Madame Puchen at the time. But her surprise wasconverted into suspicion when she read in the American newspapers a descriptionof the Turkish garment stolen by Michel Eyraudthe reputed assassin of thebailiff Gouffé. It was one morning in the middle of May that Mme. Puchen readthe description of the robe that had been offered her in February by her strangevisitor. To her astonishmentabout two o'clock the same afternoonshe saw thestranger standing before her door. She beckoned to himand asked him if hestill had his Turkish robe with him; he seemed confusedand said that he hadsold it. The conversation drifted on to ordinary topics; the stranger describedsome of his recent adventures in Mexico. "Oh!" exclaimed thedressmaker"they say Eyraudthe murdereris in Mexico! Did you comeacross him? Were you in Paris at the time of the murder?" The strangeranswered in the negativebut his face betrayed his uneasiness. "Do youknow you're rather like him?" said the womanin a half -- joking way. Thestranger laughedand shortly after went outsaying he would return. He didreturn on May 15bringing with him a number of the République Illustrée thatcontained an almost unrecognisable portrait of Eyraud. He said he had picked itup in a cafe. "What a blackguard he looks!" he exclaimed as he threwthe paper on the table. But the dressmaker's suspicions were not allayed by thestranger's uncomplimentary reference to the murderer. As soon as he had goneshe went to the French Consul and told him her story.

By one of those singular coincidences that are inadmissable in fiction ordramabut occur at times in real lifethere happened to be in Havanaof allplacesa man

 

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who had been employed by Eyraud at the time that he had owned a distillery atSévres. The Consulon hearing the statement of Mme. Puchensent for this manand told him that a person believed to be Eyraud was in Havana. As the man leftthe Consulatewhom should he meet in the street but Eyraud himself! Thefugitive had been watching the movements of Mme. Puchen; he had suspectedafterthe interviewthat the woman would denounce him to the authorities. He now sawthat disguise was useless. He greeted his ex-employétook him into a caféthere admitted his identity and begged him not to betray him. It was midnightwhen they left the cafe. Eyraudrepenting of his confidenceand no doubtanxious to rid himself of a dangerous witnesstook his friend into anill-lighted and deserted street; but the friendconscious of his delicatesituationhailed a passing cab and made off as quickly as he could.

Next daythe 20ththe search for Eyraud was set about in earnest. TheSpanish authoritiesinformed of his presence in Havanadirected the police tospare no effort to lay hands on him. The Hotel Romaat which he had beenstayingwas visited; but Eyraudscenting dangerhad gone to an hotel oppositethe railway station. His things were packed ready for flight on the followingmorning. How was he to pass the night? True to his instinctsa house ofill-fameat which he had been entertained alreadyseemed the safest and mostpleasant refuge; butwhenseedy and shabbyhe presented himself at the doorhe was sent back into the street. It was past one in the morning. The lonelymurderer wandered aimlessly in the streetsrestlessnervousa prey toapprehensionnot knowing where to go. Again the man from Sévres met him."It's all up with me!" said Eyraudand disappeared in the darkness.At two in the morning a police officerwho had been patrolling the town insearch

 

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of the criminalsawin the distancea man walking to and froseeminglyuncertain which way to turn. Hearing footsteps the man turned round and walkedresolutely past the policemansaying good-night in Spanish. "Who are you?What's your address?" the officer asked abruptly. "GorskiHotelRoma!" was the answer. This was enough for the officer. Eyraud wasknow{sic} to have passed as "Gorski" the Hotel Roma had already beensearched as one of his hiding-places. To seize and handcuff "Gorski"was the work of a moment. An examination of the luggage left by the so-calledGorski at his last hotel and a determined attempt at suicide made by theirprisoner during the night proved conclusively that to the Spanish police was thecredit of having laid by the heelsten months after the commission of thecrimeMichel Eyraudone of the assassins of the bailiff Gouffé.

On June 16 Eyraud was delivered over to the French police. He reached Franceon the 20thand on July 1 made his first appearance before the examiningmagistrate.

It will be well at this point in the narrative to describe how Eyraud andGabrielle Bompard came to be associated together in crime. Gabrielle Bompard wastwenty-two years of age at the time of her arrestthe fourth child of amerchant of Lillea stronghardworkingrespectable man. Her motheradelicate womanhad died of lung disease when Gabrielle was thirteen. Even as achild lying and viciousthinking only of men and clothesGabrielleafterbeing expelled as incorrigible from four educational establishmentsstayed at afifth for some three years. There she astonished those in authority over her byher precocious propensity for viceher treacherous and lying dispositionand alewdness of tongue rare in one of her age and

 

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comparative inexperience. At eighteen she returned to her father's houseonlyto quit it for a lover whomshe allegedhad hypnotised and then seduced her.Gabrielle was singularly susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Her father imploredthe family doctor to endeavour to persuade herwhile in the hypnotic statetoreform her deplorable conduct. The doctor did his best but with no success. Hedeclared Gabrielle to be a neuropathwho had not found in her home suchinfluences as would have tended to overcome her vicious instincts. Perhaps thedoctor was inclined to sympathise rather too readily with his patientif we areto accept the report of those distinguished medical gentlemen whoat a laterdateexamined carefully into the mental and physical characteristics ofGabrielle Bompard.

This girl of twenty had developed into a supreme instance of the"unmoral" womanthe conscienceless egoistmorally colour-blindvainlewdthe intelligence quick and alert but having no influence whatever onconduct. One instance will suffice to show the sinister levitythe utterabsence of all moral sense in this strange creature.

After the murder of GoufféGabrielle spent the night alone with the trunkcontaining the bailiff's corpse. Asked by M. Goron what were her sensationsduring this ghastly vigilshe replied with a smile"You'd never guesswhat a funny idea come into my head! You see it was not very pleasant for mebeing thus tête-à-tête with a corpseI couldn't sleep. So I thought what funit would be to go into the street and pick up some respectable gentleman fromthe provinces. I'd bring him up to the roomand just as he was beginning toenjoy himself say`Would you like to see a bailiff?' open the trunk suddenlyandbefore he could recover from his horrorrun out into the street and fetchthe police. Just think what a fool

 

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the respectable gentleman would have looked when the officers came!"

Such callousness is almost unsurpassed in the annals of criminalinsensibility. Nero fiddling over burning RomeThurtell fresh from the murderof Weareinviting Huntthe singer and his accompliceto "tip them astave" after supperEdwardsthe Camberwell murdererreading with gustoto friends the report of a fashionable divorce casepost from the murder of ayoung married couple and their baby -- even examples such as these pale beforethe levity of the "little demon" as the French detectives christenedGabrielle.

Such was Gabrielle Bompard whenon July 26exactly one year to a day beforethe murder of Goufféshe met in Paris Michel Eyraud. These two were made foreach other. If Gabrielle were unmoralEyraud was immoral. Forty-six at the timeof Gouffé's murderhe was sufficiently practised in vice to appreciate andenjoy the flagrantly vicious propensities of the young Gabrielle. All his lifeEyraud had spent his substance in debauchery. His passions were violent and attimes uncontrollablebut unlike many remarkable men of a similar temperamentthis strong animalism was not in his case accompanied by a capacity for vigorousintellectual exertion or a great power of work. "Understand this"said Eyraud to one of the detectives who brought him back to France"Ihave never done any workand I never will do any work." To him work wasderogatory; better anything than that. Unfortunately it could not be avoidedaltogetherbut with Eyraud such work as he was compelled at different times toendure was only a means for procuring money for his degraded pleasuresand whenhonest work became too troublesomedishonesty served in its stead. When he metGabrielle he was almost at the end of his tetherbankrupt and discredited. At apinch he might

 

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squeeze a little money out of his wifewith whom he continued to live in spiteof his open infidelities.

Save for such help as he could get from her small dowryhe was withoutresources. A deserter from the army during the Mexican war in 1869he had sincethen engaged in various commercial enterprisesall of which had failedchieflythrough his own extravaganceviolence and dishonesty. Gabrielle was quick toempty his pockets of what little remained in them. The proceeds of her ownimmoralitywhich Eyraud was quite ready to sharesoon proved insufficient toreplenish them. Confronted with ruinEyraud and Gompard hit on a plan by whichthe woman should decoy some would-be admirer to a convenient trysting-place.Theredead or alivethe victim was to be made the means of supplying theirwants.

On further reflection dead seemed more expedient than aliveextortion from aliving victim too risky an enterprise. Their plans were carefully prepared.Gabrielle was to hire a ground-floor apartmentso that any noisesuch asfootsteps or the fall of a bodywould not be heard by persons livingunderneath.

At the beginning of July1889Eyraud and Bompard were in London. There theybought at a West End draper's a red and white silk girdleand at a shop inGower Street a large travelling trunk. They boughtalso in Londonaboutthirteen feet of cordinga pulley andon returning to Paris on July 20sometwenty feet of packing-clothwhich Gabriellesitting at her window on the finesummer eveningssewed up into a large bag.

The necessary ground-floor apartment had been found at No. 3 RueTronson-Ducoudray. Here Gabrielle installed herself on July 24. The bedroom wasconvenient for the assassins' purposethe bed standing in an alcove separatedby curtains from the rest of the room. To the

 

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beam forming the crosspiece at the entrance into the alcove Eyraud fixed apulley. Through the pulley ran a ropehaving at one end of it a swivelso thata manhiding behind the curtains couldby pulling the rope stronglyhaul upanything that might be attached to the swivel at the other end. It was with thehelp of this simple piece of mechanism and a good long pull from Eyraud that theimpecunious couple hoped to refill their pockets.

The victim was chosen on the 25th. Eyraud had already known of Gouffé'sexistencebut on that dayThursdayin a conversation with a common friendEyraud learnt that the bailiff Gouffé was richthat he was in the habit ofhaving considerable sums of money in his careand that on Friday nights Gouffémade it his habit to sleep from home. There was no time to lose. The next dayGabrielle accosted Gouffé as he was going to his déjeuner andafter somelittle conversation agreed to meet him at eight o'clock that evening.

The afternoon was spent in preparing for the bailiff's reception in the RueTronson-Ducoudray. A lounge-chair was so arranged that it stood with its back tothe alcovewithin which the pulley and rope had been fixed by Eyraud. Goufféwas to sit on the chairGabrielle on his knee. Gabrielle was then playfully toslip round his neckin the form of a noosethe cord of her dressing gown andunseen by himattach one end of it to the swivel of the rope held by Eyraud.Her accomplice had only to give a strong pull and the bailiff's course was run.One writer on the case has suggested that the story of the murder by rope andpulley was invented by Eyraud and Bompard to mitigate the full extent of theirguiltand that the bailiff was strangled while in bed with the woman. But thepurchase of the necessary materials in London would seem to imply a morepractical motive for the use of rope and pulley.

At six o'clock Eyraud and Bompard dined togetherafter

 

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which Eyraud returned to the apartmentwhilst Bompard went to meet Gouffé nearthe Madeline Church. What occurred afterwards at No. 3 Rue Tronson-Ducoudray isbest described in the statement made by Eyraud at his trial.

"At a quarter past eight there was a ring at the bell. I hid myselfbehind the curtain. Gouffé came in. `You've a nice little nest here' he said.`Yesa fancy of mine' replied Gabrielle`Eyraud knows nothing about it.' `Ohyou're tired of him' asked Gouffé. `Yes' she replied`that's all over.'Gabrielle drew Gouffé down on to the chair. She showed him the cord of herdressing-gown and said that a wealthy admirer had given it to her. `Veryelegant' said Gouffé`but I didn't come here to see that.'

"She then sat on his knee andas if in playslipped the cord round hisneck; then putting her hand behind himshe fixed the end of the cord into theswiveland said to him laughingly`What a nice necktie it makes!' That was thesignal. Eyraud pulled the cord vigorously andin two minutesGouffé hadceased to live."

Eyraud took from the dead man his watch and ring150 francs and his keys.With these he hurried to Gouffé's office and made a fevered search for money.It was fruitless. In his trembling haste the murderer missed a sum of 14000francs that was lying behind some papersand returnedbaffled and despairingto his mistress and the corpse. The crime had been a ghastly failure. Fortifiedby brandy and champagneand with the help of the womanEyraud stripped thebodyput it into the bag that had been sewn by Gabrielleand pushed the baginto the trunk. Leaving his mistress to spend the night with their hatefulluggageEyraud returned home andin his own words"worn out by theexcitement of the dayslept heavily."

 

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The next day Eyraudafter saying good-bye to his wife and daughterleftwith Gabrielle for Lyons. On the 28th they got rid at Millery of the body ofGouffé and the trunk in which it had travelled; his boots and clothes theythrew into the sea at Marseilles. There Eyraud borrowed 500 francs from hisbrother. Gabrielle raised 2000 francs in Pariswhere they spent August 18 and19after which they left for Englandand from England sailed for America.During their short stay in Paris Eyraud had the audacity to call at theapartment in the Rue Tronson-Ducoudray for his hatwhich he had left behind; inthe hurry of the crime he had taken away Gouffé's by mistake.

Eyraud had been brought back to Paris from Cuba at the end of June1890.Soon after his returnin the room in which Gouffé had been done to death andin the presence of the examining magistrateM. Goronand some fifteen otherpersonsEyraud was confronted with his accomplice. Each denied vehementlywithhatred and passionthe other's story. Neither denied the murderbut each triedto represent the other as the more guilty of the two. Eyraud said that thesuggestion and plan of the crime had come from Gabrielle; that she had placedaround Gouffé's neck the cord that throttled him. Gabrielle attributed theinception of the murder to Eyraudand said that he had strangled the bailiffwith his own hands.

Eyraudsince his returnhad seemed indifferent to his own fate; whatever itmight behe wished that his mistress should share it. He had no objection togoing to the guillotine as long as he was sure that Gabrielle would accompanyhim. She sought to escape such a consummation by representing herself as a mereinstrument in Eyraud's hands. It was even urged in her defence that

 

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in committing the crimeshe had acted under the influence of hypnoticsuggestion on the part of her accomplice. Three doctors appointed by theexamining magistrate to report on her mental state came unanimously to theconclusion thatthough undoubtedly susceptible to hypnotic suggestiontherewas no ground for thinking that she had been acting under such influence whenshe participated in the murder of Gouffé. Intellectually the medical gentlemenfound her alert and sane enoughbut morally blind.

The trial of Eyraud and Bompard took place before the Paris Assize Court onDecember 161890. It had been delayed owing to the proceedings of anenterprising journalist. The names of the jurymen who were to be called on toserve at the assize had been published. The journalist conceived the brilliantidea of interviewing some of these gentlemen.

He succeeded in seeing four of thembut in his article which appeared in theMatin newspaper said that he had seen twenty-one. Nine of themhe statedhaddeclared themselves in favour of Gabrielle Bompardbut in some of these he haddiscerned a certain "eroticism of the pupil of the eye" to which heattributed their leniency. A month's imprisonment was the reward of theseflights of journalistic imagination.

A further scandal in connection with the trial was caused by the lavishdistribution of tickets of admission to all sorts and kinds of persons by thepresiding judgeM. Robertwhose occasional levities in the course of theproceedings are melancholy reading. As a result of his indulgence a circular wasissued shortly after the trial by M. Falliéresthen Minister of Justicelimiting the powers of presidents of assize in admitting visitors into thereserved part of the court.

The proceedings at the trial added little to the known

 

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facts of the case. Both Eyraud and Bompard continued to endeavour to shift theblame on to each other's shoulders. A curious feature of the trial was theappearance for the defence of a M. Liégeoisa professor of law at Nancy. Tothe dismay of the Courthe took advantage of a clause in the Code of CriminalInstruction which permits a witness to give his evidence without interruptionto deliver an address lasting four hours on hypnotic suggestion. He undertook toprove thatnot only Gabrielle Bompardbut TroppmannMadame WeissandGabrielle Fenayrou alsohad committed murder under the influence of suggestion.Moll in his "Hypnotism" (London1909) states thatafter GabrielleBompard's release M. Liégeois succeeded in putting her into a hypnotic statein which she re-acted the scene in which the crime was originally suggested toher. The value of such experiments with a woman as mischievous and untruthful asGabrielle Bompard must be very doubtful. No trustworthy instance seems to berecorded in which a crime has been committed underor brought about byhypnotic or post-hypnotic suggestionthoughaccording to Moll"thepossibility of such a crime cannot be unconditionally denied." In replyingto this rather fantastic defencethe Procureur-GénéralM. Quesnay deBeaurepairequoted a statement of Dr. Brouardelthe eminent medical jurist whohad been called for the prosecutionthat "there exists no instance of acrimeor attempted crime committed under the influence of hypnoticsuggestion." As to the influence of Eyraud over BompardM. de Beaurepairesaid: "The one outstanding fact that has been eternally true for sixthousand years is that the stronger will can possess the weaker: that is nopeculiar part of the history of hypnotism; it belongs to the history of theworld. Dr. Liégeois himselfin coming to this court to-dayhas fallen avictim to the suggestion of the young advocate who has persuaded him to comehere to air his theories." The Court wisely declined to allow an attempt tobe made to hypnotise the woman Bompard in the presence

 

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of her judgesand M. Henri Roberther advocatein his appeal to the jurythrew over altogether any idea of hypnotic suggestionresting his plea on themoral weakness and irresponsibility of his client.

In sheer wickedness there seems little enough to choose between Eyraud andBompard. Butin asking a verdict without extenuating circumstances against thewomanthe Procureur-Général was by no means insistent. He could nothe saidask for lesshis duty would not permit it: "But I am ready to confess thatmy feelings as a man suffer by the duty imposed on me as a magistrate. On oneoccasionat the outset of my careerit fell to my lot to ask from a jury thehead of a woman. I felt then the same kind of distress of mind I feel to-day.The jury rejected my demand; they accorded extenuating circumstances; thoughdefeatedI left the court a happier man. What are you going to do to-daygentlemen? It rests with you. What I cannot ask of youyou have the right toaccord. But when the supreme moment comes to return your verdictremember thatyou have sworn to judge firmly and fearlessly." The jury accordedextenuating circumstances to the womanbut refused them to the man. After atrial lasting four days Eyraud was sentenced to deathBompard to twenty yearspenal servitude.

At first Eyraud appeared to accept his fate with resignation. He wrote to hisdaughter that he was tired of lifeand that his death was the best thing thatcould happen for her mother and herself. Butas time went on and the efforts ofhis advocate to obtain a commutation of his sentence held out some hope ofreprieveEyraud became more reluctant to quit the world.

"There are grounds for a successful appeal" he wrote"I ampretty certain that my sentence will be commuted. . . . You ask me what I do?Nothing much. I can't

 

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write; the pens are so bad. I read part of the timesmoke pipesand sleep agreat deal. Sometimes I play cardsand talk a little. I have a room as large asyours at Sévres. I walk up and down itthinking of you all."

But his hopes were to be disappointed. The Court of Cassation rejected hisappeal. A petition was addressed to President Carnotbutwith a firmness thathas not characterised some of his successors in officehe refused to commutethe sentence.

On the morning of February 31891Eyraud noticed that the warderswhousually went off duty at six o'clockremained at their posts. An hour later theGovernor of the Roquette prison entered his celland informed him that the timehad come for the execution of the sentence. Eyraud received the intelligencequietly. The only excitement he betrayed was a sudden outburst of violentanimosity against M. Constansthen Minister of the Interior. Eyraud had been aBoulangistand so may have nourished some resentment against the Minister whoby his adroitnesshad helped to bring about the General's ruin. Whatever hisprecise motivehe suddenly exclaimed that M. Constans was his murderer:"It's he who is having me guillotined; he's got what he wanted; I supposenow he'll decorate Gabrielle!" He died with the name of the hated Ministeron his lips.

II
THE WANDERING ASSASSIN

THE District Attorney and the Insurance Company were not inagreement as to the fate of the Pitezel children. The former still inclined tothe hope and belief that they were in England with Miss Williamsbut theinsurance company took a more sinister view. No trace of them existed except atin box found among Holmes' effectscontaining letters they had written totheir mother and grandparents from CincinnatiIndianapolisand Detroitwhichhad been given to Holmes to dispatch but had never reached their destination.The box contained letters from Mrs. Pitezel to her childrenwhich Holmes hadpresumably intercepted. It was decided to make a final attempt to resolve alldoubts by sending an experienced detective over the route taken by the childrenin America. He was to make exhaustive inquiries in each city with a view totracing the visits of Holmes or the three children. For this purpose a detectiveof the name of Geyer was chosen. The record of his search is a remarkable storyof patient and persistent investigation.

Alice Pitezel had not seen her mother since she had gone with Holmes toidentify her father's remains in Philadelphia. From there Holmes had taken herto Indianapolis. In the meantime he had visited Mrs. Pitezel at St. Louisandtaken away with him the girlNellieand the boyHowardalleging as hisreason for doing so that they and Alice were to join their fatherwhosetemporary effacement was necessary to carry out successfully the fraud on theinsurance companyto which Mrs. Pitezel had been from the first an unwillingparty. HolmesNellie and Howard had joined Alice at Indianapolis

 

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and from there all four were believed to have gone to Cincinnati. It was hereaccordinglyon June 271895that Geyer commenced his search.

After calling at a number of hotelsGeyer found that on FridaySeptember281894a mangiving the name of Alexander E. Cookand three children hadstayed at a hotel called the Atlantic House. Geyer recollected that Holmeswhenlater on he had sent Mrs. Pitezel to the house in Burlingtonhad described heras Mrs. A. E. Cook andthough not positivethe hotel clerk thought that herecognised in the photographs of Holmes and he three childrenwhich Geyershowed himthe four visitors to the hotel. They had left the Atlantic House thenext dayand on that same daythe 29thGeyer found that Mr. A. E. Cook andthree children had registered at the Bristol Hotelwhere they had stayed untilSunday the 30th.

Knowing Holmes' habit of renting housesGeyer did not confine his enquiriesto the hotels. He visited a number of estate agents and learnt that a man and aboyidentified as Holmes and Howard Pitezelhad occupied a house No. 305Poplar Street. The man had given the name of A. C. Hayes. He had taken the houseon Friday the 28thand on the 29th had driven up to it with the boy in afurniture wagon. A curious neighbourinterested in the advent of a newcomersaw the wagon arriveand was somewhat astonished to observe that the onlyfurniture taken into the house was a large iron cylinder stove. She was stillfurther surprised whenon the following dayMr. Hayes told her that he was notgoing after all to occupy the houseand made her a present of the cylinderstove.

From Cincinnati Geyer went to Indianapolis. Here inquiry showed that onSeptember 30 three children had been brought by a man identified as Holmes tothe Hotel

 

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Englishand registered in the name of Canning. This was the maiden name of Mrs.Pitezel. The children had stayed at the hotel one night. After that Geyer seemedto lose track of them until he was reminded of a hotel then closedcalled theCircle House. With some difficulty he got a sight of the books of the hotelandfound that the three Canning children had arrived there on October 1 and stayeduntil the 10th. From the former proprietor of the hotel he learnt that Holmeshad described himself as the children's uncleand had said that Howard was abad boywhom he was trying to place in some institution. The children seldomwent out; they would sit in their room drawing or writingoften they were foundcrying; they seemed homesick and unhappy.

There are letters of the children written from Indianapolis to their mothersletters found in Holmes' possessionwhich had never reached her. In theseletters they ask their mother why she does not write to them. She had writtenbut her letters were in Holmes' possession. Alice writes that she is reading"Uncle Tom's Cabin." She has read so much that her eyes hurt; theyhave bought a crystal pen for five cents which gives them some amusement; theyhad been to the Zoo in Cincinnati the Sunday before: "I expect this Sundaywill pass away slower than I don't know -- Howard is two (sic) dirty to be seenout on the street today." Sometimes they go and watch a man who paints"genuine oil paintings" in a shoe storewhich are given away withevery dollar purchase of shoes -- "he can paint a picture in one and a halfminutesain't that quick!" Howard was getting a little troublesome."I don't like to tell you" writes Alice"but you ask meso Iwill have to. Howard won't mind me at all. He wanted a book and I got £ife ofGeneral Sheridan' and it is awful nicebut now he don't read it at allhardly." Poor Howard! One morning

 

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says AliceMr. Holmes told him to stay in and wait for himas he was coming totake him outbut Howard was disobedientand when Mr. Holmes arrived he hadgone out. Better for Howard had he never returned! "We have written two orthree letters to you" Alice tells her mother"and I guess you willbegin to get them now. She will not get them. Mr. Holmes is so very particularthat the insurance company shall get no clue to the whereabouts of any member ofthe Pitezel family.

Geyer knew that from Indianapolis Holmes had gone to Detroit. He ascertainedthat two girls"Etta and Nellie Canning" had registered on October12 at the New Western Hotel in that cityand from there had moved on the 15thto a boarding-house in Congress Street. From Detroit Alice had written to hergrandparents. It was cold and wetshe wrote; she and Etta had colds and chappedhands: "We have to stay in all the time. All that Nell and I can do is todrawand I get so tired sitting that I could get up and fly almost. I wish Icould see you all. I am getting so homesick that I don't know what to do. Isuppose Wharton (their baby brother) walks by this timedon't he? I would liketo have him herehe would pass away the time a good deal." As a factlittle Whartonhis mother and sister Dessiewere at this very moment inDetroitwithin ten minutes' walk of the hotel at which Holmes had registered"Etta and Nellie Canning."

On October 14 there had arrived in that city a wearyanxious-looking womanwith a girl and a little baby. They took a room at Geis's Hotelregistering asMrs. Adams and daughter. Mrs. Adams seemed in great distress of mindand neverleft her room.

The housekeeperbeing shown their photographsidentified the woman and thegirl as Mrs. Pitezel and her eldest daughter Dessie. As the same time there had

 

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been staying at another hotel in Detroit a Mr. and Mrs. Holmeswhosephotographs showed them to be the Mr. Holmes in question and his third wife.These three parties -- the two childrenMrs. Pitezel and her babyand thethird Mrs. Holmes -- were all ignorant of each other's presence in Detroit; andunder the secret guidance of Mr. Holmes the three parties (still unaware oftheir proximity to each otherleft Detroit for Canadaarriving in Toronto onor about October 18and registering at three separate hotels. The only one whohad not to all appearances reached Toronto was the boy Howard.

In Toronto "Alice and Nellie Canning" stayed at the Albion Hotel.They arrived there on October 19and left on the 25th. During their stay a manidentified as Holmeshad called every morning for the two childrenand takenthem out; but they had come back aloneusually in time for supper. On the 25thhe had called and taken them outbut they had not returned to supper. Afterthat date Geyer could find no trace of them. Bearing in mind Holmes' custom ofrenting houseshe compiled a list of all the house agents in Torontoandlaboriously applied to each one for information. The process was a slow oneandthe result seemed likely to be disappointing.

To aid his search Geyer decided to call in the assistance of the Press. Thenewspapers readily published long accounts of the case and portraits of Holmesand the children. At lastafter eight days of patient and untiringinvestigationafter following up more than one false clueGeyer received areport that there was a house -- No. 16 St. Vincent Street -- which had beenrented in the previous October by a man answering to the description of Holmes.The information came from an old Scottish gentleman living next door. Geyerhastened to see him. The old gentleman said that the man who had occupied

 

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No. 16 in October had told him that he had taken the house for his widowedsisterand he recognised the photograph of Alice Pitezel as one of the twogirls accompanying him. The only furniture the man had taken into the house wasa beda mattress and a trunk. During his stay at No. 16 this man had called onhis neighbour about four o'clock one afternoon and borrowed a spadesaying thathe wanted to dig a place in the cellar where his widowed sister could keeppotatoes; he had returned the spade the following morning. The lady to whom thehouse belonged recognised Holmes' portrait as that of the man to whom she hadlet No. 16.

At last Geyer seemed to be on the right track. He hurried back to St. VincentStreetborrowed from the old gentleman at No. 18 the very spade which he hadlent to Holmes in the previous Octoberand got the permission of the presentoccupier of No. 16 to make a search. In the centre of the kitchen Geyer found atrap-door leading down into a small cellar. In one corner of the cellar he sawthat the earth had been recently dug up. With the help of the spade the looseearth was removedand at a depth of some three feetin a state of advanceddecompositionlay the remains of what appeared to be two children. A little toywooden egg with a snake inside itbelonging to the Pitezel childrenhad beenfound by the tenant who had taken the house after Holmes; a later tenant hadfound stuffed into the chimneybut not burntsome clothing that answered thedescription of that worn by Alice and Etta Pitezel; and by the teeth and hair ofthe two corpses Mrs. Pitezel was able to identify them as those of her twodaughters. The very day that Alice and Etta had met their deaths at St. VincentStreettheir mother had been staying near them at a hotel in the same cityandlater on the same day Holmes had persuaded her to leave Toronto for Ogdensburg.He said

 

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that they were being watched by detectivesand so it would be impossible forher husband to come to see her there.

But the problem was not yet wholly solved. What had become of Howard? So farGeyer's search had shown that Holmes had rented three housesone in Cincinnatione in Detroitand one in Toronto. Howard had been with his sisters at thehotels in Indianapolisand in Detroit the house agents had said thatwhenHolmes had rented a house therehe had been accompanied by a boy. Yet anexhaustive search of that house had revealed no trace of him. Geyer returned toDetroit and again questioned the house agents; on being pressed theirrecollection of the boy who had accompanied Holmes seemed very vague anduncertain. This served only to justify a conclusion at which Geyer had alreadyarrivedthat Howard had never reached Detroitbut had disappeared inIndianapolis. Alice's letterswritten from therehad described how Holmes hadwanted to take Howard out one day and how the boy had refused to stay in andwait for him. In the same way Holmes had called for the two girls at the AlbionHotel in Toronto on October 25 and taken them out with himafter which they hadnever been seen alive except by the old gentleman at No. 18 St. Vincent Street.

If Geyer could discover that Holmes had not departed in Indianapolis from hisusual custom of renting houseshe might be on the high way to solving themystery of Howard's fate. Accordingly he returned to Indianapolis.

In the meantimeHolmesin his prison at Philadelphialearnt of thediscovery at Toronto. "On the morning of the 16th of July" he writesin his journal"my newspaper was delivered to me about 8.30 a.m.and Ihad hardly opened it before I saw in large headlines the announcement of thefinding of the children in Toronto. For the

 

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moment it seemed so impossible that I was inclined to think it was one of thefrequent newspaper excitements that had attended the earlier part of the casebutin attempting to gain some accurate comprehension of what was stated in thearticleI became convinced that at least certain bodies had been found thereand upon comparing the date when the house was hired I knew it to be the same aswhen the children had been in Toronto; and thus being forced to realise theawfulness of what had probably happenedI gave up trying to read the articleand saw instead the two little faces as they had looked when I hurriedly leftthem -- felt the innocent child's kiss so timidly givenand heard again theirearnest words of farewelland realised that I had received another burden tocarry to my grave with meequalif not worsethan the horrors of NannieWilliams' death."

Questioned by the district attorneyHolmes met this fresh evidence byevoking once again the mythical Edward Hatch and suggesting that Miss MinnieWilliamsin a "hellish wish for vengeance" because of Holmes' fancieddesertionand in order to make it appear probable that heand not shehadmurdered her sisterhad prompted Hatch to commit the horrid deed. Holmes askedto be allowed to go to Toronto that he might collect any evidence which he couldfind there in his favour. The district attorney refused his request; he haddetermined to try Holmes in Philadelphia. "What more couldbe said?"writes Holmes. Indeedunder the circumstancesand in the unaccountable absenceof Edward Hatch and Minnie Williamsthere was little more to be said.

Detective Geyer reopened his search in Indianapolis by obtaining a list ofadvertisements of houses to let in the city in 1894. Nine hundred of these werefollowed up in vain. He then turned his attention to the small

 

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towns lying around Indianapolis with no happier result. Geyer wrote in somethingof despair to his superiors: "By Monday we will have searched everyoutlying town except Irvington. After IrvingtonI scarcely know where we shallgo." Thither he went on August 27exactly two months from the day on whichhis quest had begun. As he entered the town he noticed the advertisement of anestate agent. He called at the office and found a "pleasant-faced oldgentleman" who greeted him amiably. Once again Geyer opened his now soiledand ragged packet of photographsand asked the gentleman if in October1894he had let a house to a man who said that he wanted one for a widowed sister. Heshowed him the portrait of Holmes.

The old man put on his glasses and looked at the photograph for some time.Yeshe saidhe did remember that he had given the keys of a cottage inOctober1894to a man of Holmes' appearanceand he recollected the man themore distinctly for the uncivil abruptness with which he had asked for the keys;"I felt" he said"he should have had more respect for my greyhairs."

From the old gentleman's office Geyer hastened to the cottageand made atonce for the cellar. There he could find no sign of recent disturbance. Butbeneath the floor of a piazza adjoining the house he found the remains of atrunkanswering to the description of that which the Pitezel children had hadwith themand in an outhouse he discovered the inevitable stoveHolmes' oneindispensable piece of furniture. It was stained with blood on the top. Aneighbour had seen Holmes in the same October drive up to the house in thefurniture wagon accompanied by a boyand later in the day Holmes had asked himto come over to the cottage and help him to put up a stove. The neighbour askedhim why he

 

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did not use gas; Holmes replied that he did not think gas was healthy forchildren. While the two men were putting up the stovethe little boy stood byand watched them. After further search there were discovered in the cellarchimney some bonesteetha pelvis and the baked remains of a stomachliverand spleen.

Medical examination showed them to be the remains of a child between sevenand ten years of age. A spinning topa scarf-pina pair of shoes and somearticles of clothing that had belonged to the little Pitezelshad been found inthe house at different timesand were handed over to Geyer.

His search was ended. On September 1 he returned to Philadelphia.

Holmes was put on his trial on October 281895before the Court of Oyer andTerminer in Philadelphiacharged with the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. In thecourse of the trial the district attorney offered to put in evidence showingthat Holmes had also murdered the three children of Pitezelcontending thatsuch evidence was admissible on the ground that the murders of the children andtheir father were parts of the same transaction. The judge refused to admit theevidencethough expressing a doubt as to its inadmissibility. The defence didnot dispute the identity of the body found in Callowhill Streetbut contendedthat Pitezel had committed suicide. The medical evidence negatived such atheory. The position of the bodyits condition when discoveredwere entirelyinconsistent with self-destructionand the absence of irritation in the stomachshowed that the chloroform found there must have been poured into it afterdeath. In all probabilityHolmes had chloroformed Pitezel when he was drunk orasleep. He had taken the chloroform to Callowhill Street as a proposedingredient in a solution for cleaning clotheswhich he and Pitezel

 

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were to patent. It was no doubt with the help of the same drug that he had doneto death the little childrenand failing the nitro-glycerinewith that drug hehad intended to put Mrs. Pitezel and her two remaining children out of the wayat the house in Burlington; for after his trial there was found therehiddenaway in the cellara bottle containing eight or ten ounces of chloroform.

Though assisted by counselHolmes took an active part in his defence. Hebetrayed no feeling at the sight of Mrs. Pitezelthe greater part of whosefamily he had destroyedbut the appearance of his third wife as a witness hemade an opportunity for "letting loose the fount of emotion" takingcare to inform his counsel beforehand that he intended to perform this touchingfeat. He was convicted and sentenced to death on November 2.

Previous to the trial of Holmes the police had made an exhaustiveinvestigation of the mysterious building in Chicago known as "Holmes'Castle." The result was sufficiently sinister. In the stove in the cellarcharred human bones were foundand in the middle of the room stood a largedissecting table stained with blood. On digging up the cellar floor some humanribssections of vertebrae and teeth were discovered buried in quicklimeandin other parts of the "castle" the police found more charred bonessome metal buttonsa trunkand a piece of a watch chain. The trunk and pieceof watch chain were identified as having belonged to Miss Minnie Williams.

Inquiry showed that Miss Williams had entered Holmes' employment as a typistin 1893and had lived with him at the castle. In the latter part of the yearshe had invited her sisterNannieto be present at her wedding with Holmes.Nannie had come to Chicago for that purposeand since then the two sisters hadnever

 

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been seen alive. In February in the following year Pitezelunder the name ofLymanhad deposited at Fort WorthTexasa deed according to which a man namedBond had transferred to him property in that city which had belonged to MissWilliamsand shortly afterHolmesunder the name of Prattjoined him at FortWorthwhereupon the two commenced building on Miss Williams' land.

Other mysterious cases besides those of the Williams sisters revealed theBluebeard-like character of this latterday castle of Mr. Holmes. In 1887 a manof the name of Connor entered Holmes' employment. He brought with him to thecastle a handsomeintelligent wife and a little girl of eight or nine years ofage. After a short time Connor quarrelled with his wife and went awayleavingMrs. Connor and the little girl with Holmes. After 1892 Mrs. Connor and herdaughter had disappearedbut in August1895the police found in the castlesome clothes identified as theirsand the janitorQuinlanadmitted havingseen the dead body of Mrs. Connor in the castle. Holmesquestioned in hisprison in Philadelphiasaid that Mrs. Connor had died under an operationbutthat he did not know what had become of the little girl.

In the year of Mrs. Connor's disappearancea typist named Emily Cigrandwhohad been employed in a hospital in which Benjamin Pitezel had been a patientwas recommended by the latter to Holmes. She entered his employmentand she andHolmes soon became intimatepassing as "Mr. and Mrs. Gordon." EmilyCigrand had been in the habit of writing regularly to her parents in Indianabut after December 61892they had never heard from her againnor could anyfurther trace of her be found.

A man who worked for Holmes as a handy man at

 

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the castle stated to the police that in 1892 Holmes had given him a skeleton ofa man to mountand in January1893showed him in the laboratory another maleskeleton with some flesh still on itwhich also he asked him to mount. As therewas a set of surgical instruments in the laboratory and also a tank filled witha fluid preparation for removing fleshthe handy man thought that Holmes wasengaged in some kind of surgical work.

About a month before his executionwhen Holmes' appeals from his sentencehad failed and death appeared imminenthe sold to the newspapers for 7500dollars a confession in which he claimed to have committed twenty-seven murdersin the course of his career. The day after it appeared he declared the wholeconfession to be a "fake." He was tiredhe saidof being accused bythe newspapers of having committed every mysterious murder that had occurredduring the last ten years. When it was pointed out to him that the account givenin his confession of the murder of the Pitezel children was clearly untruehereplied"Of courseit is not truebut the newspapers wanted a sensationand they have got it." The confession was certainly sensational enough tosatisfy the most exacting of penny-a-linersand a lasting tribute to Holmes'undoubted power of extravagant romancing.

According to his storysome of his twenty-seven victims had met their deathby poisonsome by more violent methodssome had died a lingering death in theair-tight and sound-proof vault of the castle. Most of these he mentioned bynamebut some of these were proved afterwards to be alive. Holmes had actuallyperpetratedin all probabilityabout ten murders. Butgiven further time andopportunitythere is no reason why this peripatetic assassin should not haveattained to the considerable

 

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figure with which he credited himself in his bogus confession.

Holmes was executed in Philadelphia on May 71896. He seemed to meet hisfate with indifference.

The motive of Holmes in murdering Pitezel and three of his children and inplanning to murder his wife and remaining childrenoriginated in allprobability in a quarrel that occurred between Pitezel and himself in the Julyof 1894. Pitezel had tired apparently of Holmes and his doingsand wanted tobreak off the connection. But he must have known enough of Holmes' past to makehim a dangerous enemy. It was Pitezel who had introduced to Holmes EmilyCigrandthe typistwho had disappeared so mysteriously in the castle; Pitezelhad been his partner in the fraudulent appropriation of Miss Minnie Williams'property in Texas; it is more than likelythereforethat Pitezel knewsomething of the fate of Miss Williams and her sister. By revivingwithPitezel's helphis old plan for defrauding insurance companiesHolmes saw theopportunity of making 10000 dollarswhich he needed sorelyand at the sametime removing his inconvenient and now lukewarm associate. Having killed Pitezeland received the insurance moneyHolmes appropriated to his own use the greaterpart of the 10000 dollarsgiving Mrs. Pitezel in return for her share of theplunder a bogus bill for 5000 dollars. Having robbed Mrs. Pitezel of both herhusband and her moneyto this thoroughgoing criminal there seemed only onesatisfactory way of escaping detectionand that was to exterminate her and thewhole of her family.

Had Holmes not confided his scheme of the insurance fraud to Hedgspeth in St.Louis prison and then broken faith with himthere is no reason why the fraudshould ever have been discovered. The subsequent murders had been so cunninglycontrived thathad the Insurance Company

 

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not put the Pinkerton detectives on his trackHolmes would in all probabilityhave ended by successfully disposing of Mrs. PitezelDessieand the baby atthe house in BurlingtonVermontand the entire Pitezel family would havedisappeared as completely as his other victims.

Holmes admitted afterwards that his one mistake had been his confiding toHedgspeth his plans for defrauding an insurance company -- a mistaketheunfortunate results of which might have been avoidedif he had kept faith withthe train robber and given him the 500 dollars which he had promised.

The case of Holmes illustrates the practical as well as the purely ethicalvalue of "honour among thieves" and shows how a comparativelyinsignificant misdeed may ruin a great and comprehensive plan of crime. To dareto attempt the extermination of a family of seven personsand to succeed sonearly in effecting itcould be the work of no tyrono beginner like J. B.Troppmann. It was the act of one who having already succeeded in putting out ofthe way a number of other persons undetectedmight well and justifiably believethat he was born for greater and more compendious achievements in robbery andmurder than any who had gone before him. One can almost subscribe to America'sclaim that Holmes is the "greatest criminal" of a century boasting nomean record in such persons.

In the remarkable character of his achievements as an assassin we are apt tolose sight of Holmes' singular skill and daring as a liar and a bigamist. As aninstance of the former may be cited his audacious explanation to his familywhen they heard of his having married a second time. He said that he had metwith a serious accident to his headand that when he left the hospitalfoundthat he had entirely lost his memory; thatwhile in this

 

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state of oblivionhe had married again and thenwhen his memory returnedrealised to his horror his unfortunate position. Plausibility would seem to havebeen one of Holmes' most useful gifts; men and women alike -- particularly thelatter -- he seems to have deceived with ease. His appearance was commonplacein no way suggesting the conventional criminalhis manner courteousingratiating and seemingly candidand like so many scoundrelshe could playconsummately the man of sentiment. The weak spot in Holmes' armour as an enemyof society was a dangerous tendency to loquacitythe defect no doubt of hisqualities of plausible and insinuating address and ever ready mendacity.


 

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Partnership in Crime

Partnership in Crime
I. THE WIDOW GRAS


Note: Report of the trial of the woman Gras and Gaudry in the Gazette desTribunaux. The case is dealt with also by Macé in his "FemmesCriminelles."

1. THE CHARMER

JENNY AMENAIDE BREACOURT was born in Paris in the year 1837.Her father was a printerher mother sold vegetables. The parents neglected thechildbut a lady of title took pity on herand when she was five years oldadopted her. Even as a little girl she was haughty and imperious. At the age ofeight she refused to play with another child on the ground of her companion'ssocial inferiority. "The daughter of a Baroness" she said"cannot play with the daughter of a wine-merchant." When she waseleven years oldher parents took her away from her protectress and sent herinto the streets to sell gingerbread -- a dangerous experience for a child oftender years. After six years of street lifeAmenaide sought out herbenefactress and begged her to take her back. The Baroness consentedand foundher employment in a silk manufactory. One day the girlnow eighteen years oldattended the wedding of one of her companions in the factory. She returned homeafter the ceremony thoughtful. She said that she wanted to get married. TheBaroness did not take her statement seriouslyand on the grocer calling

 

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one daysaid in jest to Amenaide"You want a husbandthere's one."But Amenaide was in earnest. She accepted the suggestion andto the Baroness'surpriseinsisted on taking the grocer as her husband. Reluctantly the goodlady gave her consentand in 1855 Amenaide Brécourt became the wife of thegrocer Gras.

A unionso hasty and ill-consideredwas not likely to be of long duration.With the help of the worthy Baroness the newly married couple started a grocerybusiness. But Amenaide was too economical for her husband and mother-in-law.Quarrels ensuedrecriminations. In a spirit of unamiable prophecy husband andwife foretold each other's future. "You will die in a hospital" saidthe wife. "You will land your carcase in prison" retorted thehusband. In both instances they were correct in their anticipations. One day thehusband disappeared. For a short time Amenaide returned to her long-sufferingprotectressand then she too disappeared.

When she is heard of againAmenaide Brécourt has become Jeanne de la Cour.Jeanne de la Cour is a courtesan. She has tried commerceactingliteraturejournalismand failed at them all. Henceforth men are to make her fortune forher. Such charms as she may possesssuch allurements as she can offershe isready to employ without heart or feeling to accomplish her end. Without realpassionshe has an almost abnormalerotic sensibilitywhich serves in itsstead. She cares only for one personher sister. To her Jeanne de la Courunfolded her philosophy of life. While pretending to love menshe is going tomake them suffer. They are to be her playthingsshe knows how to snare them:"All is dust and lies. So much the worse for the men who get in my way. Menare mere stepping-stones to me. As soon as they begin to fail or are played outI put them scornfully aside. Society is a vast chess-board

 

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men the pawnssome whitesome black; I move them as I pleaseand break themwhen they bore me."

The early years of Jeanne de la Cour's career as a Phryne were hardly moresuccessful than her attempts at literatureacting and journalism. True to herphilosophyshe had driven one lovera Germanto suicideand brought anotherto his death by over-doses of cantharides. On learning of the death of thefirstshe reflected patriotically"One German the less in Paris!"That of the second elicited the matter-of-fact comment"It was bound tohappen; he had no moderation." A third admirerwho died in a hospitalwasdismissed as "a fool whoin spite of allstill respects women." Butin ruining her loversshe had ruined her own health. In 1865 she was compelledto enter a private asylum. There she is described as "dark in complexionwith dark expressive eyesvery paleand of a nervous temperamentagreeableand pretty." She was suffering at the time of her admission from hystericalseizuresaccompanied by insane exaltationconvulsions and loss of speech. Inspeaking of her humble parents she said"I don't know such people";her manner was bombasticand she was fond of posing as a fine lady.

After a few months Jeanne de la Cour was discharged from the asylum as curedand on the advice of her doctors went to Vittel. There she assumed the rank ofBaroness and recommenced her careerbut this time in a more reasonable andbusinesslike manner. Her commentswritten to her sisteron her fellow guestsat the hotel are caustic. She mocks at some respectable married women who aretrying to convert her to Catholicism. To others who refuse her recognitionshemakes herself so mischievous and objectionable that in self-defence they arefrightened into acknowledging her. Admirers among men she has manyex-ministersprefects. It was

 

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at Vittel that occurred the incident of the wounded pigeon. There had been somepigeon-shooting. One of the wounded birds flew into the room of the Baroness dela Cour. She took pity on ittended ittaught it not to be afraid of her andto stay in her room. So touching was her conduct considered by some of those whoheard itthat she was nicknamed "the Charmer." But she is well awareshe writes to her sisterthat with the true ingratitude of the malethe pigeonwill leave her as soon as it needs her help no longer. Howeverfor the moment"disfigured as it isbeautiful or ugly" she loves it. "Don'tforget" she writes"that a woman who is practical and foreseeingshe too enjoys her pigeon shootingbut the birds are her lovers."

Shortly after she left Vittel an event occurred which afforded Jeanne de laCour the prospect of acquiring that settled position in life which"practical and foreseeing" she now regarded as indispensable to herfuture welfare. Her husbandGrasdiedas she had foretoldin the CharityHospital. The widow was free. If she could bring down her birdit was now inher power to make it hers for life. Henceforth all her efforts were directed tothat end. She was reaching her fortieth yearher hair was turning greyhercharms were waning. Povertydegradationa miserable old agea return to thewretched surroundings of her childhoodsuch she knew to be the fate of many ofher kind. There was nothing to be hoped for from the generosity of men. Herlovers were leaving her. Blackmailspeculation on the Bourseeven thedesperate expedient of a supposititious childall these she tried as means ofacquiring a competence. But fortune was shy of the widow. There was need fordispatch. The time was drawing near when it might be man's unkind privilege toput her scornfully aside as a thing spent and done with. She must bring down her

 

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birdand that quickly. It was at this critical point in the widow's careerinthe year 1873that she met at a public ball for the first time Georges de SaintPierre. For obvious reasons I have suppressed the real name of the widow'slover.

Georges de Saint Pierre was twenty years of age when he made the acquaintanceof the Widow Gras. He had lost his mother at an early ageand since then livedwith relatives in the country. He was a young man of independent meansidleofa simpleconfiding and affectionate disposition. Four months after his firstmeeting with the widow they met again. The end of the year 1873 saw thecommencement of an intimacywhich to all appearances was characterised by amore lasting and sincere affection than is usually associated with unions ofthis kind. There can be no doubt that during the three years the Widow Gras wasthe mistress of Georges de Saint Pierreshe had succeeded in subjugatingentirely the senses and the affection of her young lover. In spite of the twentyyears between themGeorges de Saint Pierre idolised his middle-aged mistress.She was astute enough to play not only the loverbut the mother to thismotherless youth. After three years of intimacy he writes to her: "It isenough for me that you love mebecause I don't weary youand II love youwith all my heart. I cannot bear to leave you. We will live happily together.You will always love me trulyand as for memy loving care will ever protectyou. I don't know what would become of me if I did not feel that your lovewatched over me." The confidence of Georges in the widow was absolute.Whenin 1876he spent six months in Egypthe made her free of his rooms inParisshe was at liberty to go there when she liked; he trusted her entirelyidolised her. Whatever her faultshe was blind to them. "Your form"he writes"is ever before my

 

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eyes; I wish I could enshrine your pure heart in gold and crystal."

The widow's conquestto all appearanceswas complete. But Georges was veryyoung. He had a family anxious for his future; they knew of his liaison; theywould be hopefulno doubtof one day breaking it off and of marrying him tosome desirable young person. From the widow's point of view the situation lackedfinality. How was that to be secured?

One daytoward the end of the year 1876after the return of Georges fromEgyptthe widow happened to be at the house of a frienda ballet dancer. Shesaw her friend lead into the room a young man; he was sightlessand her friendwith tender care guided him to a seat on the sofa. The widow was touched by thespectacle. When they were aloneshe inquired of her friend the reason of hersolicitude for the young man. "I love this victim of nature" shereplied"and look after him with every care. He is youngrichwithoutfamilyand is going to marry me. Like youI am just on forty; my hair isturning greymy youth vanishing. I shall soon be cast adrift on the seaawreck. This boy is the providential spar to which I am going to cling that I mayreach land in safety." "You meanthen" said the widow"that you will soon be beyond the reach of want?" "Yes"answered the friend"I needn't worry any more about the future.""I congratulate you" said the widow"and what is moreyourlover will never see you grow old."

To be cast adrift on the sea and to have found a providential spar! The widowwas greatly impressed by her friend's rare good fortune. Indeedher experiencegave the widow furiously to thinkas she revolved in her brain variousexpedients by which Georges de Saint Pierre might become the "providentialspar" in her own

 

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impending wreck. The picture of the blind young man tenderly cared fordependent utterly on the ministrations of his devoted wifefixed itself in thewidow's mind; there was something inexpressibly pathetic in the picturewhilstits practical significance had its sinister appeal to one in her situation.

At this point in the story there appears on the scene a character asremarkable in his way as the widow herselfremarkable at least for his share inthe drama that is to follow. Nathalis Gaudryof humble parentagerude anduncultivatedhad been a playmate of the widow when she was a child in herparents' house. They had grown up togetherbutafter Gaudry entered the armyhad lost sight of each other. Gaudry served through the Italian war of 1859gaining a medal for valour. In 1864 he had married. Eleven years later his wifediedleaving him with two children. He came to Paris and obtained employment inan oil refinery at Saint Denis. His character was excellent; he was a goodworkmanhonesthard-workinghis record unblemished. When he returned toParisGaudry renewed his friendship with the companion of his youth. But JeanneBrécourt was now Jeanne de la Courliving in refinement and some luxurymoving in a sphere altogether remote from and unapproachable by the humbleworkman in an oil refinery. He could do no more than worship from afar thisstrange beingto him wonderfully seductive in her charm and distinction.

On her side the widow was quite friendly toward her homely admirer. Sherefused to marry himas he would have wishedbut she did her best withoutsuccess to marry him to others of her acquaintance. Neither a sempstress nor aninferior actress could she persuadefor all her zealto unite themselves witha hand in an oil milla widower with two children. It is typical of

 

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the widow's nervous energy that she should have undertaken so hopeless a task.In the meantime she made use of her admirer. On Sundays he helped her in herapartmentcarried coalsbottled winescrubbed the floorsand made himselfgenerally useful. He was supposed by those about the house to be her brother.Occasionallyin the absence of a maidthe widow allowed him to attend on herpersonallyeven to assist her in her toilette and perform for her such officesas one woman would perform for another. The man soon came to be madly in lovewith the woman; his passionexcited but not gratifiedenslaved and consumedhim. To some of his fellow-workmen who saw him moody and pre-occupiedheconfessed that he ardently desired to marry a friend of his childhoodnot aworking woman but a lady.

Such was the situation and state of mind of Nathalis Gaudry wheninNovember1876he received a letter from the widowin which she wrote"Come at once. I want you on a matter of business. Tell your employer it isa family affair; I will make up your wages." In obedience to this messageGaudry was absent from the distillery from the 17th to the 23rd of November.

The "matter of business" about which the widow wished to consultwith Gaudry turned out to be a scheme of revenge. She told him that she had beenbasely defrauded by a man to whom she had entrusted money. She desired to berevenged on himand could think of no better way than to strike at his dearestaffections by seriously injuring his son. This she proposed to do with the helpof a knuckle-dusterwhich she produced and gave to Gaudry. Armed with thisformidable weaponGaudry was to strike her enemy's son so forcibly in the pitof the stomach as to disable him for life. The widow offered to point out toGaudry the young man whom he was to attack. She took him outside the young man'sclub and

 

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showed him his victim. He was Georges de Saint Pierre.

The good fortune of her friendthe ballet-dancerhad proved a veritabletoxin in the intellectual system of the Widow Gras. The poison of envydisappointmentsuspicionapprehension had entered into her soul. Of what useto her was a loverhowever generous and faithfulwho was free to take her upand lay her aside at will? But such was her situation relative to Georges deSaint Pierre. She remembered that the wounded pigeonas long as it wasdependent on her kind officeshad been-compelled to stay by her side;recoveredit had flown away. Only a pigeonmaimed beyond hope of recoverycould she be sure of compelling to be hers for all timetied to her by itshelpless infirmitytoo suffering and disfigured to be lured from its captivity.And soin accordance with her philosophy of lifethe widowby a blow in thepit of the stomach with a knuckle-dusterwas to bring down her bird whichhenceforth would be tended and cared for by "the Charmer" to her ownsatisfaction and the admiration of all beholders.

For some reasonthe natural reluctance of Gaudryor perhaps a feeling ofcompunction in the heart of the widowthis plan was not put into immediateexecution. Possibly she hesitated before adopting a plan more cruelmoreefficacious. Her hesitation did not last long.

With the dawn of the year 1877 the vigilant apprehension of the widow wasroused by the tone of M. de Saint Pierre's letters. He wrote from his home inthe country"I cannot bear leaving youand I don't mean to. We will livetogether." But he adds that he is depressed by difficulties with hisfamily"not about money or business but of a kind he can only communicateto her verbally." To the widow it was clear that these difficulties mustrelate to the subject of marriage. The character of Georges was not a strongone; sooner or later he might

 

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yield to the importunities of his family; her reign would be endeda modest andinsufficient pension the utmost she could hope for. She had passed the meridianof her life as a charmer of menher health was giving wayshe was greedyambitiousacquisitive. In January she asked her nephewwho worked as a gilderto get her some vitriol for cleaning her copper. He complied with her request.

During Jeanne de la Cour's brief and unsuccessful appearance as an actressshe had taken part in a play with the rather cumbrous titleWho Puts out theEyes must Pay for Them. The widow may have forgotten this event; its occurrenceso many years before may have been merely a sinister coincidence. But theincident of the ballet-dancer and her sightless lover was fresh in her mind.

Early in January the widow wrote to Georgeswho was in the countryandasked him to take her to the masked ball at the Opera on the 13th. Her lover wasrather surprised at her requestnor did he wish to appear with her at so publica gathering. "I don't understand" he writes"why you are soanxious to go to the Opera. I can't see any real reason for your wanting to tireyourself out at such a disreputable gathering. Howeverif you are happy andwelland promise to be carefulI will take you. I would be the last personmydear little wifeto deny you anything that would give you pleasure." Butfor some reason Georges was unhappydepressed. Some undefined presentiment ofevil seems to have oppressed him. His brother noticed his pre-occupation.

He himself alludes to it in writing to his mistress: "I am depressedthis evening. For a very little I could break down altogether and give way totears. You can't imagine what horrid thoughts possess me. If I felt your loveclose to meI should be less sad." Against his better inclination Georgespromised to take the widow

 

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to the ball on the 13th. He was to come to Paris on the night of the 12th.

2. THE WOUNDED PIGEON

ON the afternoon of January 11Gaudry called to see thewidow. There had been an accident at the distillery that morningand work wassuspended for three days. The widow showed Gaudry the bottle containing thevitriol which her nephew had procured for her use. She was illsufferingshesaid; the only thing that could make her well again would be the execution ofher revenge on the son of the man who had defrauded her so wickedly: "Makehim sufferhere are the meansand I swear I will be yours." She dropped alittle of the vitriol on to the floor to show its virulent effect. At firstGaudry was shockedhorrified. He protested that he was a soldierthat he couldnot do such a deed; he suggested that he should provoke the young man to a dueland kill him. "That is no use" said the widowalways sensitive tosocial distinctions; "he is not of your classhe would refuse to fightwith you." Mad with desire for the womanhis senses irritated and excitedthe ultimate gratification of his passion held alluringly before himthe honestsoldier consented to play the cowardly ruffian. The trick was done. The widowexplained to her accomplice his method of proceeding. The building in the Rue deBoulognein which the widow had her apartmentstood at the end of a drive sometwenty-seven and a half yards long and five and a half yards wide. Abouthalf-way up the driveon either sidethere were two small housesorpavilionsstanding by themselves and occupied by single gentlemen. The wholewas shut off

 

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from the street by a large gategenerally kept closedin which a smaller gateserved to admit persons going in or out. According to the widow's plantheyoung manher enemy's sonwas to take her to the ball at the Opera on thenight of January 13. Gaudry was to wait in her apartment until their return.When he heard the bell ringwhich communicated with the outer gatehe was tocome downtake his place in the shadow of one of the pavilions on either sideof the driveand from the cover of this position fling in the face of the youngman the vitriol which she had given him. The widow herselfunder the pretenceof closing the smaller gatewould be well behind the victimand take care toleave the gate open so that Gaudry could make his escape.

In spite of his reluctancehis sense of forebodingGeorges de Saint Pierrecame to Paris on the night of the 12thwhich he spent at the widow's apartment.He went to his own rooms on the morning of the 13th.

This eventful daywhichto quote Iagowas either to "make or fordoquite" the widowfound her as calmcool and deliberate in the executionof her purpose as the Ancient himself. Gaudry came to her apartment about fiveo'clock in the afternoon. The widow showed him the vitriol and gave him finaldirections. She wouldshe saidreturn from the ball about three o'clock in themorning. Gaudry was then sent away till ten o'clockas Georges was dining withher. He returned at half-past ten and found the widow dressingarraying herselfin a pink domino and a blonde wig. She was in excellent spirits. When Georgescame to fetch hershe put Gaudry into an alcove in the drawing-room which wascurtained off from the rest of the room. Always thoughtfulshe had placed astool there that he might rest himself. Gaudry could hear her laughing andjoking with her lover. She reproached him playfully with hindering her in her

 

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dressing. To keep him quietshe gave him a book to readMontaigne's"Essays." Georges opened it and read the thirty-fifth chapter of thesecond bookthe essay on "Three Good Women" which tells how threebrave women of antiquity endured death or suffering in order to share theirhusbands' fate. Curiously enoughthe essay concludes with these wordsalmostprophetic for the unhappy reader: "I am enforced to liveand sometimes tolive is magnanimity." Whilst Georges went to fetch a cabthe widowreleased Gaudry from his place of concealmentexhorted him to have courageandpromised himif he succeededthe accomplishment of his desire. And so the gaycouple departed for the ball. There the widow's high spiritsher completeenjoymentwere remarked by more than one of her acquaintances; she danced onedance with her loverand with another young man made an engagement for thefollowing week.

Meanwhileat the Rue de BoulogneGaudry sat and waited in the widow'sbedroom. From the window he could see the gate and the lights of the cab thatwas to bring the revellers home. The hours passed slowly. He tried to read thevolume of Montaigne where Georges had left it openbut the words conveyedlittle to himand he fell asleep. Between two and three o'clock in the morninghe was waked by the noise of wheels. They had returned. He hurried downstairsand took up his position in the shadow of one of the pavilions. As Georges deSaint Pierre walked up the drive alonefor the widow had stayed behind tofasten the gatehe thought he saw the figure of a man in the darkness. The nextmoment he was blinded by the burning liquid flung in his face. The widow hadbrought down her pigeon.

At first she would seem to have succeeded perfectly in her attempt. Georgeswas injured for lifethe sight of one eye gonethat of the other threatenedhis face

 

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sadly disfigured. Neither he nor anyone else suspected the real author of thecrime. It was believed that the unfortunate man had been mistaken for some otherpersonand made by accident the victim of an act of vengeance directed againstanother. Georges was indeed all the widow's nowlodged in her own house tonurse and care for. She undertook the duty with every appearance of affectionatedevotion. The unhappy patient was consumed with gratitude for her untiringsolicitude; thirty nights she spent by his bedside. His belief in her wasabsolute. It was his own wish that she alone should nurse him. His family werekept awayany attempts his relatives or friends made to see or communicate withhim frustrated by the zealous widow.

It was this uncompromising attitude on her part toward the friends ofGeorgesand a rumour which reached the ears of one of them that she intended assoon as possible to take her patient away to Italythat sounded the first noteof danger to her peace of mind. This friend happened to be acquainted with theson of one of the Deputy Public Prosecutors in Paris. To that official heconfided his belief that there were suspicious circumstances in the case ofGeorges de Saint Pierre. The judicial authorities were informed and the caseplaced in the hands of an examining magistrate. On February 2nearly a monthafter the crimethe magistrateaccompanied by Macéthen a commissary ofpoliceafterwards head of the Detective Departmentpaid a visit to the Rue deBoulogne. Their reception was not cordial. It was only after they had made knowntheir official character that they got audience of the widow. She entered theroomcarrying in her hand a surgical spraywith which she played nervouslywhile the men of the law asked to see her charge. She replied that it wasimpossible. Macé placed himself in front of the door by which she had entered

 

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and told her that her attitude was not seemly. "Leave that sprayalone" he said; "it might shoot over usand then perhaps we shouldbe sprinkled as M. de Saint Pierre was." From that momentwrites Macéissue was joined between the widow and himself.

The magistrate insisted on seeing the patient. He sat by his bedside. M. deSaint Pierre told him thathaving no enemieshe was sure he had been thevictim of some mistakeand thatas he claimed no damages for his injurieshedid not wish his misfortune to be made public. He wanted to be left alone withhis brave and devoted nurseand to be spared the nervous excitement of ameeting with his family. He intendedhe addedto leave Paris shortly forchange of scene and air. The widow cut short the interview on the ground thather patient was tired. It was inhumanshe saidto make him suffer so. Themagistratebefore leavingasked her whither she intended taking her patient.She replied"To Italy." Thatsaid the magistratewould beimpossible until his inquiry was closed. In the meantime she might take him toany place within the Department of the Seine; but she must be prepared to beunder the surveillance of M. Macéwho would have the right to enter her housewhenever he should think it expedient. With this disconcerting intelligence themen of the law took leave of the widow.

She was no longer to be left in undisturbed possession of her prize. Hermovements were watched by two detectives. She was seen to go to the bachelorlodgings of Georges and take away a portable deskwhich contained money andcorrespondence. More mysterioushoweverwas a visit she paid to the CharonneCemeterywhere she had an interview with an unknownwho was dressed in theclothes of a workman. She left the cemetery aloneand the detectives lost trackof her companion.

 

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This meeting took place on February 11. Shortly after the widow left Paris withGeorges de Saint Pierre for the suburb of Courbevoie.

Macé had elicited certain facts from the porter at the Rue de Boulogne andother witnesseswhich confirmed his suspicion that the widow had played asinister part in her lover's misfortune. Her insistence that he should take herto the ball on January 13; the fact thatcontrary to the ordinary politeness ofa gentlemanhe was walking in front of her at the time of the attack; and thatsomeone must have been holding the gate open to enable the assailant to escapeit was a heavy gatewhichif left to itself after being openedwould swingtoo quickly on its hinges and shut of its own accord -- these facts weresufficient to excite suspicion. The disappearancetooof the man callinghimself her brotherwho had been seen at her apartment on the afternoon of the13thcoupled with the mysterious interview in the cemeterysuggested thepossibility of a crime in which the widow had had the help of an accomplice. Tofacilitate investigation it was necessary to separate the widow from her lover.The examining magistratehaving ascertained from a medical report that such aseparation would not be hurtful to the patientordered the widow to be sentback to Parisand the family of M. de Saint Pierre to take her place. Thechange was made on March 6. On leaving Courbevoie the widow was taken to theoffice of Macé. There the commissary informed her that she must considerherself under provisional arrest. "But who" she asked indignantly"is to look after my Georges?" "His family" was the curtreply. The widowwalking up and down the room like a pantherstormed andthreatened. When she had in some degree recovered herselfMacé asked hercertain questions. Why had she insisted on her lover going to the ball? She

 

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had done nothing of the kind. How was it his assailant had got away so quicklyby the open gate? She did not know. What was the name and address of her reputedbrother? She was not going to deliver an honest father of a family into theclutches of the police. What was the meaning of her visit to the CharonneCemetery? She went there to praynot to keep assignations. "And if youwant to know" she exclaimed"I have had typhoid feverwhich makesme often forget things. So I shall say nothing more -- nothing -- nothing."

Taken before the examining magistrateher attitude continued to be defiantand arrogant. "Your cleverest policemen" she told the magistrate"will never find any evidence against me. Think well before you send me toprison. I am not the woman to live long among thieves and prostitutes."Before deciding finally whether the widow should be thrown into such uncongenialsocietythe magistrate ordered Macé to search her apartment in the Rue deBoulogne.

On entering the apartment the widow asked that all the windows should beopened. "Let in the air" she said; "the police are coming in;they make a nasty smell." She was invited to sit-down while the officersmade their search. Her letters and papers were carefully examined; theypresented a strange mixture of order and disorder. Carefully kept account booksof her personal expenses were mixed up with billets douspaints and pomadesmoneylenders' circularsbella-donna and cantharides. But most astounding of allwere the contents of the widows' prie-Dieu. In this devotional article offurniture were stored all the inmost secrets of her profligate career.Affectionate letters from the elderly gentleman on whom she had imposed asupposititious child lay side by side with a black-edged cardon which waswritten the last message of a young lover who had

 

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killed himself on her account. "Jeannein the flush of my youth I diebecause of youbut I forgive you. -- M." With these genuine outpourings ofmisplaced affection were mingled the indecent verses of a more vulgar admirerand little jars of hashish. The widowunmoved by this rude exposure of her wayof lifeonly broke her silence to ask Macé the current prices on the StockExchange.

One discoveryhoweverdisturbed her equanimity. In the drawer of acupboardhidden under some linenMacé found a leather case containing a sheafof partially-burnt letters. As he was about to open it the widow protested thatit was the property of M. de Saint Pierre. Regardless of her protestMacéopened the caseandlooking through the letterssaw that they were addressedto M. de Saint Pierre and were plainly of an intimate character. "I foundthem on the floor near the stove in the dining-room" said the widow"and I kept them. I admit it was a wrong thing to dobut Georges willforgive me when he knows why I did it." From his better acquaintance withher character Macé surmised that an action admitted by the widow to be"wrong" was in all probability something worse. Without delay he tookthe prisoner back to his officeand himself left for Courbevoiethere toenlightenif possibleher unhappy victim as to the real character of hisenchantress.

The interview was a painful one. The lover refused to hear a word against hismistress. "Jeanne is my Antigone" he said. "She has lavished onme all her careher tendernessher loveand she believes in God." Macétold him of her pastof the revelations contained in the prie-Dieu of this truebelieverbut he could make no impression. "I forgive her pastI accepther presentand please understand meno one has the power to separate me fromher." It was only when Macé placed in his hands the bundle of burntlettersthat he might feel what he could not seeand read him some passagesfrom themthat the unhappy man realised the full extent of his mistress'treachery. Feeling himself dangerously illdying perhapsM. de Saint Pierrehad told the widow to bring from his rooms to the Rue de Boulogne the contentsof his private desk. It contained some letters compromising to a woman's honour.These he was anxious to destroy before it was too late. As he went through thepapershis eyes bandagedhe gave them to the widow to throw into the stove. Hecould hear the fire burning and feel its warmth. He heard the widow take up thetongs. He asked her why she did so. She answered that it was to keep the burningpapers inside the stove. Now from Macé he learnt the real truth. She had usedthe tongs to take out some of the letters half burntletters which in herpossession might be one day useful instruments for levying blackmail on herlover. "To blind me" exclaimed M. de Saint Pierre"to torturemeand then profit by my condition to lie to meto betray me -- it's infamous-- infamous!" His dream was shattered. Macé had succeeded in his task; thedisenchantment of M. de Saint Pierre was complete. That night the fastidiouswidow joined the thieves and prostitutes in the St. Lazare Prison.

It was all very well to imprison the widowbut her participation in theoutrage on M. de Saint Pierre was by no means established. The reputed brotherwho had been in the habit of attending on her at the Rue de Boulognestilleluded the searches of the police. In silence lay the widow's only hope ofbaffling her enemies. Unfortunately for the widowconfinement told on hernerves. She became anxiousexcited. Her very ignorance of what was going onaround herher lover's silence

 

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made her apprehensive; she began to fear the worst. At length -- the widowalways had an itch for writing -- she determined to communicate at all costswith Gaudry and invoke his aid. She wrote appealing to him to come forward andadmit that he was the man the police were seekingfor sheltering whom she hadbeen thrown into prison. She drew a harrowing picture of her sufferings in jail.She had refused food and been forcibly fed; she would like to dash her headagainst the walls. If any misfortune overtake Gaudryshe promises to adopt hisson and leave him a third of her property. She persuaded a fellow-prisoner; anItalian dancer undergoing six months' imprisonment for theftwho was on thepoint of being releasedto take the letter and promise to deliver it to Gaudryat Saint Denis. On her release the dancer told her lover of her promise. Herefused to allow her to mix herself up in such a caseand destroyed the letter.Then the dancer blabbed to othersuntil her story reached the ears of thepolice. Macé sent for her. At first she could remember only that the nameNathalis occurred in the letterbut after visiting accidentally the Cathedralat Saint Denisshe recollected that this Nathalis lived thereand worked in anoil factory. It was easy after this for the police to trace Gaudry. He wasarrested. At his houseletters from the widow were foundwarning him not tocome to her apartmentand appointing to meet him in Charonne Cemetery. Gaudrymade a full confession. It was his passion for the widowand a promise on herpart to marry himwhichhe saidhad induced him to perpetrate so abominable acrime. He was sent to the Mazas Prison.

In the meantime the Widow Gras was getting more and more desperate. Hercomplete ignorance tormented her. At last she gave up all hopeand twiceattempted suicide with powdered glass and verdigris. On May 12

 

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the examining magistrate confronted her with Gaudry. The man told his storythewidow feigned surprise that the "friend of her childhood" shouldmalign her so cruelly. But to her desperate appeals Gaudry would only reply"It is too late!" They were sent for trial.

The trial of the widow and her accomplice opened before the Paris AssizeCourt on July 231877and lasted three days. The widow was defended byLachaudone of the greatest criminal advocates of Francethe defender ofMadame LafargeLa PommeraisTroppmannand Marshal Bazaine. M. Demange (famouslater for his defence of Dreyfus) appeared for Gaudry. The case had arousedconsiderable interest. Among those present at the trial were Halévythedramatistand Mounet-Sully and Coquelinfrom the Comédie Française. FernandRodays thus described the widow in the Figaro: "She looks more than herageof moderate heightwell madeneither blatant nor ill at easewithnothing of the air of a woman of the town. Her hands are small. Her bust isflatand her back roundher hair quite white. Beneath her brows glitter twojet-black eyes -- the eyes of a tigressthat seem to breathe hatred andrevenge."

Gaudry was interrogated first. Asked by the President the motive of hiscrimehe answered"I was mad for Madame Gras; I would have done anythingshe told me. I had known her as a childI had been brought up with her. Then Isaw her again. I loved herI was mad for herI couldn't resist it. Her wishwas law to me."

Asked if Gaudry had spoken the truththe widow said that he lied. ThePresident asked what could be his motive for accusing her unjustly. The widowwas silent. Lachaud begged her to answer. "I cannot" she faltered.The President invited her to sit down. After a pause the widow seemed to recoverher nerve.

 

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President: Was Gaudry at your house while you were at the ball?

Widow: Nono! He daren't look me in the face and say so.

President: But he is looking at you now.

Widow: Nohe daren't! (She fixes her eyes on Gaudrywho lowers his head.)

President: Iwhose duty it is to interrogate youlook you in the face andrepeat my question: Was Gaudry at your house at half-past ten that night?

Widow: No.

President: You hear herGaudry?

Gaudry: YesMonsieurbut I was there.

Widow: It is absolutely impossible! Can anyone believe me guilty of such athing.

President: Woman Grasyou prefer to feign indignation and deny everything.You have the right. I will read your examination before the examiningmagistrate. I see M. Lachaud makes a gesturebut I must beg the counsel for thedefence not to impart unnecessary passion into these proceedings.

Lachaud: My gesture was merely meant to express that the woman Gras is on hertrialand that under the circumstances her indignation is natural.

President: Very good.

The appearance in the witness box of the widow's unhappy victim evokedsympathy. He gave his evidence quietlywithout resentment or indignation. As hetold his story the widowwhose eyes were fixed on him all the timemurmured:"Georges! Georges! Defend me! Defend me!" "I state thefacts" he replied.

The prisoners could only defend themselves by trying to throw on each otherthe guilt of the crime. M. Demange represented Gaudry as acting under theinfluence of his passion for the Widow Gras. Lachaudon the

 

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other handattributed the crime solely to Gaudry's jealousy of the widow'sloverand contended that he was the sole author of the outrage.

The jury by their verdict assigned to the widow the greater share ofresponsibility. She was found guilty in the full degreebut to Gaudry wereaccorded extenuating circumstances. The widow was condemned to fifteen years'penal servitudeher accomplice to five years' imprisonment.

It is dreadful to think how very near the Widow Gras came to accomplishingsuccessfully her diabolical crime. A little less percipitancy on her partandshe might have secured the fruits of her cruelty. Her undoubted powers offascinationin spite of the fiendishness of her real characterare doublyproved by the devotion of her lover and the guilt of her accomplice. At the sametimewith that strange contradiction inherent in human naturethe Jekyll andHyde elements whichin varying degreeare present in all men and womentheWidow Gras had a genuine love for her young sister. Her hatred of men wasreasoneddeliberatemerciless and implacable. There is something almost sadicin the combination in her character of erotic sensibility with extreme cruelty.

II. VITALIS AND MARIE BOYER


Note: I found the story of this case in a brochure published in Paris as one ofa series of modern causes célèbres. I have compared it with the reports of thetrial in the Gazette des Tribunaux.

IN the May of 1874in the town of MontpellierM. Boyera retired merchantsome forty-six years of agelay dying. For some months previous to his death hehad been confined to his bedcrippled by rheumatic gout. As the hour of hisdeath drew nearM. Boyer was filled with a great longing to see his daughterMariea girl of fifteenand embrace her for the last time. The girl was beingeducated in a convent at Marseilles. One of M. Boyer's friends offered to gothere to fetch her. On arriving at the conventhe was told that Marie hadbecome greatly attracted by the prospect of a religious life. "You arehappy" the Mother Superior had written to her mother"very happynever to have allowed the impure breath of the world to have soiled this littleflower. She loves you and her father more than one can say." Her father'sfriend found the girl dressed in the costume of a noviceand was told that shehad expressed her desire to takeone dayher final vows. He informed Marie ofher father's dying stateof his earnest wish to see her for the last timeandtold her that he had come to take her to his bedside. "Take me away fromhere?" she exclaimed. The Mother Superiorsurprised at her apparentreluctance to go

 

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impressed on her the duty of acceding to her father's wish. To the astonishmentof bothMarie refused to leave the convent. If she could save her father'slifeshe saidshe would gobutas that was impossible and she dreaded goingout into the world againshe would stay and pray for her father in the chapelof the conventwhere her prayers would be quite as effective as by his bedside.In vain the friend and the Mother Superior tried to bend her resolution.

Happily M. Boyer died before he could learn of his daughter's singularrefusal. But it had made an unfavourable impression on the friend's mind. Helooked on Marie as a girl without real feelingan egoisther religion purelysuperficialhiding a cold and selfish disposition; he felt some doubt as to thefuture development of her character.

M. Boyer left a widowa dark handsome womanforty years of age. Some twentyyears before his deathMarie Salat had come to live with M. Boyer as a domesticservant. He fell in love with hershe became his mistressand a few monthsbefore the birth of MarieM. Boyer made her his wife. Madame Boyer was at hearta woman of ardent and voluptuous passions that only wanted opportunity to becomecareless in their gratification. Her husband's long illness gave her such anopportunity. At the time of his death she was carrying on an intrigue with abookseller's assistantLeon Vitalisa young man of twenty-one. Her bed-riddenhusbandignorant of her infidelityaccepted gratefully the help of Vitaliswhom his wife described as a relativein the regulation of his affairs. Atlength the unsuspecting Boyer died. The night of his death Madame Boyer spentwith her lover.

The mother had never felt any great affection for her only child. During herhusband's lifetime she was glad

 

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to have Marie out of the way at the convent. But the death of M. Boyer changedthe situation. He had left almost the whole of his fortuneabout 100000francsto his daughterappointing her mother her legal guardian with a rightto the enjoyment of the income on the capital until Marie should come of age.Madame Boyer had not hitherto taken her daughter's religious devotion veryseriously. But now that the greater part of her husband's fortune was left toMarieshe realised thatshould her daughter persist in her intention of takingthe veilthat fortune would in a very few years pass into the hands of thesisterhood. Without delay Madame Boyer exercised her authorityand withdrewMarie from the convent. The girl quitted it with every demonstration of genuineregret.

Marie Boyer when she left the convent was growing into a tall and attractivewomanher figure slight and eleganther hair and eyes darkdainty andcharming in her manner. Removed from the influences of convent lifeherreligious devotion became a thing of the past. In her new surroundings she gaveherself up to the enjoyments of music and the theatre. She realised that she wasa pretty girlwhose beauty well repaid the hours she now spent in the adornmentof her person. The charms of Marie were not lost on Leon Vitalis. Mean andsignificant in appearanceVitalis would seem to have been one of those men whowithout any great physical recommendationhave the knack of making themselvesattractive to women. After her husband's death Madame Boyer had yielded herselfcompletely to his influence and her own undoubted passion for him. She had givenhim the money with which to purchase a business of his own as a second-handbookseller. This trade the enterprising and greedy young man combined withmoney-lending and he clandestine sale of improper books and photographs.

 

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To such a man the coming of Marie Boyer was a significant event. She wasyoungermore attractive than her mother; in a very few years the whole of herfather's fortune would be hers. Slowly Vitalis set himself to win the girl'saffections. The mother's suspicions were aroused; her jealousy was excited. Shesent Marie to complete her education at a convent school in Lyons. This was inthe April of 1875. By this time Marie and Vitalis had become friendly enough toarrange to correspond clandestinely during the girl's absence from home. Mariewas so far ignorant of the relations of Vitalis with her mother.

Her daughter sent awayMadame Boyer surrendered herself with completeabandonment to her passion for her lover. At Castelnauclose to Montpelliershe bought a small country house. There she could give full rein to her desire.To the scandal of the occasional passer-by she and her lover would bathe in astream that passed through the propertyand sport together on the grass.Indoors there were always books from Vitalis' collection to stimulate theirlascivious appetites. This life of pastoral impropriety lasted until the middleof Augustwhen Marie Boyer came home from Lyons.

Vitalis would have concealed from the young girl as long as he could thenature of his relations with Madame Boyerbut his mistress by her owndeliberate conduct made all concealment impossible. Whether from the utterrecklessness of her passion for Vitalisor a desire to kill in her daughter'sheart any attachment which she may have felt towards her loverthe motherparaded openly before her daughter the intimacy of her relations with Vitalisand with the help of the literature with which the young bookseller suppliedherset about corrupting her child's mind to her own depraved level. The effectof her extraordinary conduct washoweverthe

 

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opposite to what she had intended. The mind of the young girl was corrupted; shewas familiarised with vice. But in her heart she did not blame Vitalis for whatshe saw and suffered; she pitiedshe excused him. It was her mother whom shegrew to hatewith a hate all the more determined for the cold passionlessexterior beneath which it was concealed. Madame Boyer's deliberate display ofher passion for Vitalis served only to aggravate and intensify in Marie Boyer anunnatural jealousy that was fast growing up between mother and daughter.

Marie did not return to the school at Lyons. In the winter of 1875MadameBoyer gave up the country house andwith her daughtersettled in one of thesuburbs of Montpellier. In the January of 1876 a theft occurred in her householdwhich obliged Madame Boyer to communicate with the police. Spendthrift andincompetent in the management of her affairsshe was hoarding and suspiciousabout money itself. Cash and bonds she would hide away in unexpected placessuch as booksdresseseven a soup tureen. One of her most ingenious hidingplaces was a portrait of her late husbandbehind which she concealed somebearer bonds in landed securityamounting to about 11000 francs. One day inJanuary these bonds disappeared. She suspected a theftand informed the police.Three days later she withdrew her complaintand no more was heard of thematter. As Marie and Vitalis were the only persons who could have known hersecretthe inference is obvious. Whenlater in the yearVitalis announced hisintention of going to Paris on businesshis mistress expressed to him the hopethat he would "have a good time" with her bonds. Vitalis left forParis. But there was now a distinct understanding between Marie and himself.Vitalis had declared himself her lover and asked her to marry him. The followingletterwritten to him by Marie Boyer in

 

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the October of 1876shows her attitude toward his proposal:

"I thank you very sincerely for your letterwhich has

given me very great-pleasurebecause it tells me that you

are well. It sets my mind at restfor my feelings towards

you are the same as ever. I don't say they are those of

lovefor I don't know myself; I don't know what such

feelings are. But I feel a real affection for you which may

well turn to love. How should I not hold in affectionate

remembrance one who has done everything for me? But love

does not come to order. So I can't and don't wish to give

any positive answer about our marriage -- all depends on

circumstances. I don't want any promise from youI want you

to be as free as I am. I am not fickleyou know me well

enough for that. So don't ask me to give you any promise.

You may find my letter a little cold. But I know too much of

life to pledge myself lightly. I assure you I think on it

often. Sometimes I blush when I think what marriage means."

Madame Boyerdispleased at the thefthad let her lover go without any greatreluctance. No sooner had he gone than she began to miss him. Life seemed dullwithout him. Mother and daughter were united at least in their common regret atthe absence of the young bookseller. To vary the monotony of existenceto findif possible a husband for her daughterMadame Boyer decided to leaveMontpellier for Marseillesand there start some kind of business. The daughterwho foresaw greater amusement and pleasure in the life of a large cityassentedwillingly. On October 61876they arrived at Marseillesand soon after Madamebought at a price considerably higher than their valuetwo shops adjoining

 

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one another in the Rue de la République. One was a cheese shopthe other amilliner's. The mother arranged that she should look after the cheese shopwhile her daughter presided over the milliner's. The two shops were next door toone another. Behind the milliner's was a drawing-roombehind the cheese shop akitchen; these two rooms communicated with each other by a large dark room atthe back of the building. In the kitchen was a trap-door leading to a cellar.The two women shared a bedroom in an adjoining house.

Vitalis had opposed the scheme of his mistress to start shop-keeping inMarseilles. He knew how unfitted she was to undertake a business of any kind.But neither mother nor daughter would relinquish the plan. It remained thereforeto make the best of it. Vitalis saw that he must get the business into his ownhands; and to do thatto obtain full control of Madame Boyer's affairshe mustcontinue to play the lover to her. To the satisfaction of the two womenheannounced his intention of coming to Marseilles in the New Year of 1877. It wasarranged that he should pass as a nephew of Madame Boyerthe cousin of Marie.He arrived at Marseilles on January 1and received a cordial welcome. Of thedomestic arrangements that ensuedit is sufficient to say that they werecalculated to whet the jealousy and inflame the hatred that Marie felt towardsher motherwho now persisted as before in parading before her daughter theintimacy of her relations with Vitalis.

In these circumstances Vitalis succeeded in extracting from his mistress apower of attorneygiving him authority to deal with her affairs and sell thetwo businesseswhich were turning out unprofitable. This donehe told Mariewhose growing attachment to himstrange as it may seemhad turned to lovethat now at last they could be free. He would sell the two shopsand with

 

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the money released by the sale they could go away together. Suddenly MadameBoyer fell illand was confined to her bed. Left to themselvesthe growingpassion of Marie Boyer for Vitalis culminated in her surrender. But for the sickmother the happiness of the lovers was complete. If only her illness were moreseriousmore likely to be fatal in its result! "If only God would takeher!" said Vitalis. "Yes" replied her daughter"she hascaused us so much suffering!"

To Madame Boyer her illness had brought hours of tormentand at lastremorse. She realised the duplicity of her lovershe knew that he meant todesert her for her daughtershe saw what wrong she had done that daughtershesuspected even that Marie and Vitalis were poisoning her. Irreligious till nowher thoughts turned to religion. As soon as she could leave her bed she would goto Mass and make atonement for her sin; she would recover her power of attorneyget rid of Vitalis for good and alland send her daughter back to a convent.But it was too late. Nemesis was swift to overtake the hapless woman. Try as hemightVitalis had found it impossible to sell the shops at anything but aworthless figure. He had no money of his ownwith which to take Marie away. Heknew that her mother had resolved on his instant dismissal.

As soon as Madame Boyer was recovered sufficiently to leave her bedsheturned on her former loverdenounced his treacheryaccused him of robbing andswindling herand bade him go without delay. To Vitalis dismissal meant ruinto Marie it meant the loss of her lover. During her illness the two young peoplehad wished Madame Boyer deadbut she had recovered. Providence or Nature havingrefused to assist Vitalishe resolved to fall back on art. He gave up a wholenight's rest to the consideration of the question. As a result

 

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of his deliberations he suggested to the girl of seventeen the murder of hermother. "This must end" said Vitalis. "Yesit must"replied Marie. Vitalis asked her if she had any objection to such a crime. Mariehesitatedthe victim was her mother. Vitalis reminded her what sort of a mothershe had been to her. The girl said that she was terrified at the sight of blood;Vitalis promised that her mother should be strangled. At length Marie consented.That night on some slight pretext Madame Boyer broke out into violent reproachesagainst her daughter. She little knew that every reproach she uttered servedonly to harden in her daughter's heart her unnatural resolve.

On the morning of March 19 Madame Boyer rose early to go to Mass. Before shewent outshe reminded Vitalis that this was his last day in her servicethatwhen she returned she would expect to find him gone. It was after seven when sheleft the house. The lovers had no time to lose; the deed must be doneimmediately on the mother's return. They arranged that Vitalis should get rid ofthe shop-boyand thatas soon as he had goneMarie should shut and lock thefront doors of the two shops. At one o'clock Madame Boyer came back. Sheexpressed her astonishment and disgust that Vitalis still lingeredandthreatened to send for the police to turn him out. Vitalis told the shop-boythat he could go away for a few hours; they had some family affairs to settle.The boy departed. Madame Boyertired after her long morning in the townwasresting on a sofa in the sitting-roomat the back of the milliner's shop.Vitalis entered the roomand after a few heated wordsstruck her a violentblow in the chest. She fell back on the sofacalling to her daughter to come toher assistance. The daughter sought to drown her mother's cries by banging thedoorsand opening and shutting drawers. Vitalis

 

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who was now trying to throttle his victimcalled to Marie to shut the frontdoors of the two shops. To do so Marie had to pass through the sitting-roomandwas a witness to the unsuccessful efforts of Vitalis to strangle her mother.Having closed the doorsshe retired into the milliner's shop to await theissue. After a few moments her lover called to her for the large cheese knife;he had caught up a kitchen knifebut in his struggles it had slipped from hisgrasp. Quickly Marie fetched the knife and returned to the sitting-room. There adesperate struggle was taking place between the man and woman. At one moment itseemed as if Madame Boyer would get the better of Vitaliswhom nature had notendowed greatly for work of this kind. Marie came to his aid. She kicked andbeat her motheruntil at last the wretched creature released her hold and sankback exhausted. With the cheese knifewhich her daughter had fetchedVitaliskilled Madame Boyer.

They were murderers nowthe young lovers. What to do with the body? The boywould be coming back soon. The cellar under the kitchen seemed the obvious placeof concealment. With the help of a cord the body was lowered into the cellarand Marie washed the floor of the sitting-room. The boy came back. He askedwhere Madame Boyer was. Vitalis told him that she was getting ready to return toMontpellier the same eveningand that he had arranged to go with herbut thathe had no intention of doing so; he would accompany her to the stationhe saidand then at the last momentjust as the train was startingslip away and lether go on her journey alone. To the boywho knew enough of the inner history ofthe household to enjoy the piquancy of the situationsuch a trick seemed quiteamusing. He went away picturing in his mind the scene at the railway station andits humorous possibilities.

 

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At seven o'clock Vitalis and Marie Boyer were alone once more with themurdered woman. They had the whole night before them. Vitalis had alreadyconsidered the matter of the disposal of the body. He had bought a pick andspade. He intended to bury his former mistress in the soil under the cellar.After that had been donehe and Marie would sell the business for what it wouldfetchand go to Brussels -- an admirable planwhich two unforeseencircumstances defeated. The Rue de la République was built on a rockblastedout for the purpose. The shop-boy had gone to the station that evening to enjoythe joke whichhe believedwas to be played on his mistress.

When Vitalis tried to dig a grave into the ground beneath the cellar herealised the full horror of the disappointment. What was to be done? They mustthrow the body into the sea. But how to get it there? The crime of Billoiranold soldierwho the year before in Paris had killed his mistress in a fit ofanger and cut up her bodywas fresh in the recollection of Vitalis. The guiltycouple decided to dismember the body of Madame Boyer and so disfigure her faceas to render it unrecognisable. In the presence of MarieVitalis did thisandthe two lovers set out at midnight to discover some place convenient for thereception of the remains. They found the harbour too busy for their purposeanddecided to wait until the morrowwhen they would go farther afield. Theyreturned home and retired for the nightoccupying the bed in which Madame Boyerhad slept the night before.

On the morning of the 20th the lovers rose earlyand a curious neighbourlooking through the keyholesaw them counting joyously money and valuablesasthey took them from Madame Boyer's cash-box. When the shop-boy arrivedhe askedVitalis for news of Madame

 

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Boyer. Vitalis told him that he had gone with her to the stationthat she hadtaken the train to Montpellierand thatin accordance with his planhe hadgiven her the slip just as the train was starting. This the boy knew to befalse: he had been to the station himself to enjoy the funand had seen neitherVitalis nor Madame Boyer. He began to suspect some mystery. In the eveningwhenthe shops had been closedand he had been sent about his businesshe waitedand watched. In a short time he saw Vitalis and Marie Boyer leave the housetheformer dragging a hand-cart containing two large parcelswhile Marie walked byhis side. They travelled some distance with their burdenleaving the citybehind themhoping to find some deserted spot along the coast where they couldconceal the evidence of their crime. Their nerves were shaken by meeting with acustom-house officerwho asked them what it was they had in the cart. Vitalisanswered that it was a traveller's luggageand the officer let them pass on.But soon afterafraid to risk another such experiencethe guilty couple turnedout the parcels into a ditchcovered them with stones and sandand hurriedhome.

The next daythe shop-boy and the inquisitive neighbour having consultedtogetherwent to the Commissary of Police and told him of the mysteriousdisappearance of Madame Boyer. The Commissary promised to investigate thematterand had just dismissed his informants when word was brought to him ofthe discoveryin a ditch outside Marseillesof two parcels containing humanremains. He called back the boy and took him to view the body at the Morgue. Theboy was ableby the clothesto identify the body as that of his late mistress.The Commissary went straight to the shops in the Rue de la Républiquewhere hefound the young lovers preparing for flight. At first they denied all

 

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knowledge of the crimeand said that Madame Boyer had gone to Montpellier. Theywere arrestedand it was not long before they both confessed their guilt to theexamining magistrate.

Vitalis and Marie Boyer were tried before the Assize Court at Aix on July 21877. Vitalis is described as mean and insignificant in appearancethinround-backedof a bilious complexion; Marie Boyer as a prettydark girlherfeatures cold in expressiondainty and elegant. At her trial she seemed to bestill so greatly under the influence of Vitalis that during her interrogatorythe President sent him out of court. To the examining magistrate Marie Boyerindescribing her mother's murderhad written"I cannot think how I came totake part in it. Iwho wouldn't have stayed in the presence of a corpse for allthe money in the world." Vitalis was condemned to deathand was executedon August 17. He died fearful and penitentacknowledging his miserable careerto be a warning to misguided youth. Extenuating circumstances were accorded toMarie Boyerand she was sentenced to penal servitude for life. Her conduct inprison was so repentant and exemplary that she was released in 1892.

M. Proala distinguished French judgeand the author of some importantworks on crimeacted as the examining magistrate in the case of Vitalis andMarie Boyer. He thus sums up his impression of the two criminals: "Here isan instance of how greed and baseness on the one sidelust and jealousy on theotherbring about by degrees a change in the characters of criminalsandafter some hesitationthe suggestion and accomplishment of parricideIs itnecessary to seek an explanation of the crime in any psychic abnormality whichis negatived to all appearances by the antecedents of the guilty pair? Is itnecessary to ask it of anatomy or physiology? Is

 

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not the crime the result of moral degradation gradually asserting itself in twoindividualswhose moral and intellectual faculties are the same as those ofother menbut who fallstep by stepinto vice and crime? It is by asuccession of wrongful acts that a man first reaches the frontier of crime andthen at length crosses it."

III. THE FENAYROU CASE


Note: There is an account of this case in Bataille "Causes Criminelles etMondaines" (1882)and in Macé's book"Femmes Criminelles." Itis alluded to in "Souvenirs d'un Président d'Assises" by Bérard desGlajeux.

THE murder of the chemist Aubert by Marin Fenayrou and his wife Gabrielle wasperpetrated near Paris in the year 1882. In its beginning the story iscommonplace enough. Fenayrou was the son of a small chemist in the South ofFranceand had come to Paris from the Aveyron Department to follow his father'svocation. He obtained a situation as apprentice in the Rue de la Ferme desMathurins in the shop of a M. Gibon. On the death of M. Gibon his widow thoughtshe saw in Fenayrou a man capable of carrying on her late husband's business.She gave her daughter in marriage to her apprenticeand installed him in theshop. The ungrateful son-in-lawsure of his wife and his business and contraryto his express promiseturned the old lady out of the house. This occurred inthe year 1870Fenayrou being then thirty years of agehis wifeGabrielleseventeen.

They were an ill-assorted and unattractive couple. The mana compound ofcoarse brutality and shrewd cunningwas at heart lazy and selfishthe woman aspoilt childin whom a real want of feeling was supplied by a shallowsentimentalism. Vain of the superior refinement conferred on her by a goodmiddle-class educationshe despised and soon came to loathe her coarse husbandand lapsed into a condition of disappointment and discontent

 

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that was only relieved superficially by an extravagant devotion to religiousexercises.

It was in 1875when the disillusionment of Mme. Fenayrou was completethather husband received into his shop a pupila youth of twenty-oneLouis Aubert.He was the son of a Norman tradesman. The ambitious father had wished his son toenter the churchbut the son preferred to be a chemist. He was a shrewdhard-working fellowwith an eye to the main chance and a taste for pleasuresthat cost him nothingjovialbut vulgar and self-satisfiedthe kind of manwhohaving enjoyed the favours of womantreats her with arrogance andcontempttill from loving she comes to loathe him -- a characteristic exampleaccording to M. Bourgetof le faux homme à femmes. Such was AubertFenayrou'spupil. He was soon to become something more than pupil.

Fenayrou as chemist had not answered to the expectations of hismother-in-law. His innate laziness and love of coarse pleasures had assertedthemselves. At first his wife had shared in the enjoymentsbut as time went onand after the birth of their two childrenthings became less prosperous. Shewas left at home while Fenayrou spent his time in drinking bocks of beerbetting and attending race-meetings. It was necessaryunder thesecircumstancesthat someone should attend to the business of the shop. In AubertFenayrou found a ready and willing assistant.

From 1876 to 1880save for an occasional absence for military serviceAubert lived with the Fenayrousmanaging the business and making love to thebored and neglected wifewho after a few months became his mistress. DidFenayrou know of this intrigue or not? That is a crucial question in the case.If he did notit was not for want of warning from certain of his friends

 

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and neighboursto whom the intrigue was a matter of common knowledge. Did herefuse to believe in his wife's guilt? ordependent as he was for his living onthe exertions of his assistantdid he deliberately ignore itrelying on hiswife's attractions to keep the assiduous Aubert at work in the shop? In any caseAubert's arrogancewhich had increased with the consciousness of his importanceto the husband and his conquest of the wifeled in August of 1880to arupture. Aubert left the Fenayrous and bought a business of his own on theBoulevard Malesherbes.

Before his departure Aubert had tried to persuade Mme. Gibon to sell up herson-in-law by claiming from him the unpaid purchase-money for her husband'sshop. He represented Fenayrou as an idle gamblerand hinted that he would findher a new purchaser. Such an underhand proceeding was likely to provokeresentment if it should come to the ears of Fenayrou. During the two years thatelapsed between his departure from Fenayrou's house and his murderAubert hadprospered in his shop on the Boulevard Malesherbeswhilst the fortunes of theFenayrous had steadily deteriorated.

At the end of the year 1881 Fenayrou sold his shop and went with his familyto live on one of the outer boulevardsthat of Gouvion-Saint-Cyr. He hadobtained a post in a shady mining companyin which he had persuaded hismother-in-law to invest 20000 francs. He had attempted also to make money byselling fradulent imitations of a famous table-water. For this offenceat thebeginning of 1882he was condemned by the Correctional Tribunal of Paris tothree months' imprisonment and 1000 francs costs.

In March of 1882 the situation of the Fenayrous was parlousthat of Aubertstill prosperous.

Since Aubert's departure Mme. Fenayrou had entertained

 

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another lovera gentleman on the staff of a sporting newspaperone ofFenayrou's turf acquaintances. This gentleman had found her a cold mistresspreferring the ideal to the real. As a murderess Madame Fenayrou overcame thisweakness.

If we are to believe Fenayrou's storythe most critical day in his life wasMarch 221882for it was on that dayaccording to his accountthat he learntfor the first time of his wife's intrigue with Aubert. Horrified and enraged atthe discoveryhe took from her her nuptial wreathher wedding-ringherjewelleryremoved from its frame her picture in charcoal which hung in thedrawing-roomand told herparalysed with terrorthat the only means of savingher life was to help him to murder her lover.

Two months laterwith her assistancethis outraged husband accomplished hispurpose with diabolical deliberation. He must have been well aware thathad heacted on the natural impulse of the moment and revenged himself then and thereon Auberthe would have committed what is regarded by a French jury as the mostvenial of crimesand would have escaped with little or no punishment. Hepreferredfor reasons of his ownto set about the commission of a deliberateand cold-blooded murder that bears the stamp of a more sinister motive than thevengeance of a wronged husband.

The only step he took after the alleged confession of his wife on March 22was to go to a commissary of police and ask him to recover from Aubert certainletters of his wife's that were in his possession. This the commissary refusedto do. Mme. Gibonthe mother-in-lawwas sent to Aubert to try to recover thelettersbut Aubert declined to give them upand wrote to Mme. Fenayrou:

 

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"Madameto my displeasure I have had a visit this

morning from your motherwho has come to my home and made a

most unnecessary scene and reproached me with facts so

serious that I must beg you to see me without delay. It

concerns your honour and mine. . . . I have no fear of being

confronted with your husband and yourself. I am readywhen

you wishto justify myself. . . . Please do all you can to

prevent a repetition of your mother's visit or I shall have

to call in the police."

It is clear that the Fenayrous attached the utmost importance to the recoveryof this correspondencewhich disappeared with Aubert's death. Was the primemotive of the murder the recovery and destruction of these letters? Was Aubertpossessed of some knowledge concerning the Fenayrous that placed them at hismercy? It would seem so. To a friend who had warned him of the danger to whichhis intimacy with Gabrielle Fenayrou exposed himAubert had replied"Bah!I've nothing to fear. I hold them in my power." The nature of the holdwhich Aubert boasted that he possessed over these two persons remains theunsolved mystery of the case"that limit of investigation" in thewords of a French judge"one finds in most great casesbeyond whichjustice strays into the unknown."

That such a hold existedAubert's own statement and the desperate attemptsmade by the Fenayrous to get back these letterswould seem to prove beyondquestion. Had Aubert consented to return themwould he have saved his life? Itseems probable. As it washe was doomed. Fenayrou hated him. They had had a rowon a race-coursein the course of which Aubert had humiliated his formermaster. More than thisAubert had boasted openly of his relations with Mme.Fenayrouand the fact

 

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had reached the ears of the husband. Fenayrou believed alsothough erroneouslythat Aubert had informed against him in the matter of the table-water fraud.Whether his knowledge of Aubert's relations with his wife was recent or of longstandinghe had other grounds of hate against his former pupil. He himself hadfailed in lifebut he saw his rival prosperousarrogant in his prosperitythreateningdangerous to his peace of mind; he envied and feared as well ashated him. Cruelcunning and sinisterFenayrou spent the next two months inthe meditation of a revenge that was not only to remove the man he fearedbutwas to give him a truly fiendish opportunity of satisfying his ferocious hatred.

And the wife what of her share in the business? Had she also come to hateAubert? Or did she seek to expiate her guilt by assisting her husband in thepunishment of her seducer? A witness at the trial described Mme. Fenayrou as"a soft paste" that could be moulded equally well to vice or virtueawoman destitute of real feeling or strength of willwhounder the direction ofher husbandcarried out implicitlyprecisely and carefully her part in anatrocious murderwhose only effort to prevent the commission of such a deed wasto slip away into a church a few minutes before she was to meet the man she wasdecoying to his deathand pray that his murder might be averted. Her religioussenselike the images in the hat of Louis XI.was a source of comfort andconsolation in the doing of evilbut powerless to restrain her from the actitselfin the presence of a will stronger than her own. At the time of hisdeath Aubert contemplated marriageand had advertised for a wife. If Mme.Fenayrou was aware of thisit may have served to stimulate her resentmentagainst her loverbut there seems little reason to doubt thatleft to herselfshe would never have had the will or the energy to give that

 

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resentment practical expression. It required the dictation of the vindictive andmalevolent Fenayrou to crystallise her hatred of Aubert into a deliberateparticipation in his murder.

Eight or nine miles north-west of Paris lies the small town of Chatouapleasant country resort for tired Parisians. Here Madeleine Brohanthe famousactresshad inhabited a small villaa two-storied building. At the beginningof 1882 it was to let. In the April of that year a person of the name of"Hess" agreed to take it at a quarterly rent of 1200 francsand paid300 in advance. "Hess" was no other than Fenayrou -- the villa thathad belonged to Madeleine Brohan the scene chosen for Aubert's murder. Fenayrouwas determined to spare no expense in the execution of his design: it was tocost him some 3000 francs before he had finished with it.

As to the actual manner of his betrayer's deaththe outraged husband foundit difficult to make up his mind. It was not to be promptnor was unnecessarysuffering to be avoided. At first he favoured a pair of "infernal"opera-glasses that concealed a couple of steel points whichby means of aspringwould dart out into the eyes of anyone using them and destroy theirsight. This rather elaborate and uncertain machine was abandoned later in favourof a trap for catching wolves. This was to be placed under the tableand seizein its huge iron teeth the legs of the victim. In the end simplicityin theshape of a hammer and sword-stickwon the day. An assistant was taken in theperson of Lucien Fenayroua brother of Marin.

This humble and obliging individuala maker of children's toysregarded hisbrother the chemist with something like veneration as the gentleman and man ofeducation of the family. Fifty francs must have seemed to him an almostsuperfluous inducement to assist in the

 

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execution of what appeared to be an act of legitimate vengeancean affair offamily honour in which the wife and brother of the injured husband were in dutybound to participate. Mme. Fenayrouwith characteristic superstitionchose theday of her boy's first communion to broach the subject of the murder to Lucien.By what was perhaps more than coincidenceAscension DayMay 18was selectedas the day for the crime itself. There were practical reasons also. It was aThursday and a public holiday. On Thursdays the Fenayrou children spent the daywith their grandmotherand at holiday time there was a special midnight trainfrom Chatou to Paris that would enable the murderers to return to town after thecommission of their crime. A goat chaise and twenty-six feet of gas piping hadbeen purchased by Fenayrou and taken down to the villa.

Nothing remained but to secure the presence of the victim. At the directionof her husband Mme. Fenayrou wrote to Aubert on May 14a letter in which sheprotested her undying love for himand expressed a desire to resume theirprevious relations. Aubert demurred at firstbutas she became more pressingyielded at length to her suggestion. If it cost him nothingAubert was the lastman to decline an invitation of the kind. A trip to Chatou was arranged forAscension DayMay 18by the train leaving Paris from the St. Lazare Stationat half-past eight in the evening.

On the afternoon of that day Fenayrouhis wife and his brother sent thechildren to their grandmother and left Paris for Chatou at three o'clock.Arrived therethey went to the villaFenayrou carrying the twenty-six feet ofgas-piping wound round him like some huge hunting-horn. He spent the afternoonin beating out the piping till it was flatand in making a gag. He tried totake up the flooring in the kitchenbut this plan for the

 

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concealment of the body was abandoned in favour of the river. As soon as thesepreparationsin which he was assisted by his two relativeshad been completedFenayrou placed a candlesome matches and the sword-stick on the drawing-roomtable and returned to Paris.

The three conspirators dined together heartily in the Avenue de Clichy --soupfishentréesweet and cheesewashed down by a bottle of claret and apint of burgundycoffee to followwith a glass of chartreuse for Madame. Tothe waiter the party seemed in the best of spirits. Dinner endedthe two menreturned to Chatou by the 7.35 trainleaving Gabrielle to follow an hour laterwith Aubert. Fenayrou had taken three second-class return tickets for his wifehis brother and himselfand a single for their visitor. It was during theinterval between the departure of her husband and her meeting with Aubert thatMme. Fenayrou went into the church of St. Louis d'Antin and prayed.

At half-past eight she met Aubert at the St. Lazare Stationgave him histicket and the two set out for Chatou -- a strange journey Mme. Fenayrou wasasked what they talked about in the railway carriage. "Mere nothings"she replied. Aubert abused her mother; for her own partshe was very agitated-- trés emotionnée. It was about half-past nine when they reached theirdestination. The sight of the little villa pleased Aubert. "Ah!" hesaid"this is good. I should like a house like this and twenty thousandfrancs a year!" As he entered the hallsurprised at the darknessheexclaimed: "The devil! it's precious dark! `tu saisGabrielleque je nesuis pas un héros d'aventure.'" The woman pushed him into thedrawing-room. He struck a match on his trousers. Fenayrouwho had been lurkingin the darkness in his shirt sleevesmade a blow at him with the hammerbut itwas ineffectual. A struggle ensued. The room was

 

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plunged in darkness. Gabrielle waited outside. After a littleher husbandcalled for a light; she came in and lit a candle on the mantelpiece. Fenayrouwas getting the worst of the encounter. She ran to his helpand dragged off hisopponent. Fenayrou was free. He struck again with the hammer. Aubert fellandfor some ten minutes Fenayrou stood over the battered and bleeding man abusingand insulting himexulting in his vengeance. Then he stabbed him twice with thesword-stickand so ended the business.

The murderers had to wait till past eleven to get rid of the bodyas thestreets were full of holiday-makers. When all was quiet they put it into thegoat chaisewrapped round with the gas-pipingand wheeled it on to the Chatoubridge. To prevent noise they let the body down by a rope into the water. It washeavier than they thoughtand fell with a loud splash into the river."Hullo!" exclaimed a night-fishermanwho was mending his tackle notfar from the bridge"there go those butchers againchucking their filthinto the Seine!"

As soon as they had taken the chaise back to the villathe three assassinshurried to the station to catch the last train. Arriving there a little beforetheir timethey went into a neighbouring cafe. Fenayrou had three bocksLucienoneand Madame another glass of chartreuse. So home to Paris. Lucien reachedhis house about two in the morning. "Well" asked his wife"didyou have a good day?" "Splendid" was the reply.

Eleven days passed. Fenayrou paid a visit to the villa to clean it and put itin order. Otherwise he went about his business as usualattending racemeetingsindulging in a picnic and a visit to the Salon. On May 27 a man namedBaillywhoby a strange coincidencewas known by the nickname of "theChemist" walking by the riverhad his attention called by a bargeman to acorpse that

 

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was floating on the water. He fished it out. It was that of Aubert. In spite ofa gag tired over his mouth the water had got into the bodyandnotwithstandingthe weight of the lead pipingit had risen to the surface.

As soon as the police had been informed of the disappearance of Auberttheirsuspicions had fallen on the Fenayrous in consequence of the request which MarinFenayrou had made to the commissary of police to aid him in the recovery fromAubert of his wife's letters. But there had been nothing further in theirconduct to provoke suspicion. Whenhoweverthe body was discovered and at thesame time an anonymous letter received denouncing the Fenayrous as the murderersof Aubertthe police decided on their arrest. On the morning of June 8 M.Macéthen head of the Detective Departmentcalled at their house. He foundFenayrou in a dressing-gown. This righteous avenger of his wife's seductiondenied his guiltlike any common criminalbut M. Macé handed him over to oneof his mento be taken immediately to Versailles. He himself took charge ofMadameandin the first-class carriage full of peoplein which they travelledtogether to Versaillesshe whispered to the detective a full confession of thecrime.

Macé has left us an account of this singular railway journey. It was twoo'clock in the afternoon. In the carriage were five ladies and a young man whowas reading La Vie Parisienne. Mme. Fenayrou was silent and thoughtful."You're thinking of your present position?" asked the detective."NoI'm thinking of my mother and my dear children." "They don'tseem to care much about their father" remarked Macé. "Perhapsnot." "Why?" asked M. Macé. "Because of his violenttemper" was the reply. After some further conversation and the departureat Courbevoie of the young man with La Vie ParisienneMme. Fenayrou asked

 

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abruptly: "Do you think my husband guilty?" "I'm sure ofit." "So does Aubert's sister." "Certainly" answeredM. Macé; "she looks on the crime as one of revenge." "But mybrother-in-law" urged the woman"could have had no motive forvengeance against Aubert." Macé answered coldly that he would have toexplain how he had employed his time on Ascension Day. "You see criminalseverywhere" answered Madame.

After the train had left St. Cloudwhere the other occupants of the carriagehad alightedthe detective and his prisoner were alonefree of interruptiontill Versailles should be reached. Hitherto they had spoken in whispers; nowMacé seized the opportunity to urge the woman to unbosom herself to himtoreveal her part in the crime. She burst into tears. There was an interval ofsilence; then she thanked Macé for the kindness and consideration he had shownher. "You wish me" she asked"to betray my husband?""Without any design or intention on your part" discreetly answeredthe detective; "but by the sole force of circumstances you are placed insuch a position that you cannot help betraying him."

Whether convinced or not of this tyranny of circumstanceMme. Fenayrouobeyed her mentorand calmlycoldlywithout regret or remorsetold him thestory of the assassination. Towards the end of her narration she softened alittle. "I know I am a criminal" she exclaimed. "Since thismorning I have done nothing but lie. I am sick of it; it makes me suffer toomuch. Don't tell my husband until this evening that I have confessed; there's noneedforafter what I have told youyou can easily expose his falsehoods andso get at the truth."

That evening the three prisoners -- Lucien had been arrested at the same timeas the other two -- were brought to Chatou. Identified by the gardener as thelessee of

 

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the villaFenayrou abandoned his protestations of innocence and admitted hisguilt. The crime was then and there reconstituted in the presence of theexamining magistrate. With the help of a gendarmewho impersonated AubertFenayrou repeated the incidents of the murder. The goat-chaise was wheeled tothe bridgeand there in the presence of an indignant crowdthe murderer showedhow the body had been lowered into the river.

After a magisterial investigation lasting two monthswhich failed to shedany new light on the more mysterious elements in the caseFenayrouhis wifeand brother were indicted on August 19 before the Assize Court for theSeine-et-Oise Departmentsitting at Versailles.

The attitude of the three culprits was hardly such as to provoke thesympathies of even a French jury. Fenayrou seemed to be giving a clumsy andunconvincing performance of the rôle of the wronged husband; his heavy figureclothed in an ill-fitting suit of "blue dittos" his ill-kempt redbeard and bock-stained moustache did not help him in his impersonation. Mme.Fenayroupalecolourlessinsignificantwas cold and impenetrable. Shedescribed the murder of her lover "as if she were giving her cook ahousehold recipe for making apricot Jam." Lucien was humble and lachrymose.

In his interrogatory of the husband the PresidentM. Bérard des Glajeuxshowed himself frankly sceptical as to the ingenuousness of Fenayrou's motivesin assassinating Aubert. "Nowwhat was the motive of this horriblecrime?" he asked. "Revenge" answered Fenayrou.

President: But consider the care you took to hide the body and destroy alltrace of your guilt; that is not the way in which a husband sets out to avengehis honour;

 

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these are the methods of the assassin! With your wife's help you could havecaught Aubert in flagrante delicto and killed him on the spotand the law wouldhave absolved you. Instead of which you decoy him into a hideous snare. Publicopinion suggests that jealousy of your former assistant's successandmortification at your own failurewere the real motives. Or was it not perhapsthat you had been in the habit of rendering somewhat dubious services to some ofyour promiscuous clients?

Fenayrou: Nothing of the kindI swear it!

President: Do not protest too much. Remember that among your acquaintancesyou were suspected of cheating at cards. As a chemist you had been convinced offraud. Perhaps Aubert knew something against you. Some act of poisoningorabortionin which you had been concerned? Many witnesses have believed this.Your mother-in-law is said to have remarked"My son-in-law will end injail."

Fenayrou (bursting into tears): This is too dreadful.

President: And Dr. Durandan old friend of Aubertremembers the deceasedsaying to him"One has nothing to fear from people one holds in one'shands."

Fenayrou: I don't know what he meant.

President: Orconsidering the crueltycowardicethe cold calculationdisplayed in the commission of the crimeshall we say this was a woman's not aman's revenge. You have said your wife acted as your slave -- was it not theother way about?

Fenayrou: No; it was my revengemine alone.

The view that regarded Mme. Fenayrou as a softmalleable paste was not theview of the President.

"Why" he asked the woman"did you commit this horriblemurderdecoy your lover to his death?" "Because I had repented"was the answer; "I had wronged

 

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my husbandand since he had been condemned for fraudI loved him the more forbeing unfortunate. And then I feared for my children."

President: Is that really the case?

Mme. Fenayrou: Certainly it is.

President: Then your whole existence has been one of lies and hypocrisy.Whilst you were deceiving your husband and teaching your children to despise himyou were covering him with caresses. You have played false to both husband andlover -- to Aubert in decoying him to his deathto your husband by denouncinghim directly you were arrested. You have betrayed everybody. The only person youhave not betrayed is yourself. What sort of a woman are you? As you and Aubertwent into the drawing-room on the evening of the murder you said loudly"This is the way" so that your husbandhearing your voice outsideshould not strike you by mistake in the darkness. If Lucien had not told us thatyou attacked Aubert whilst he was struggling with your husbandwe should neverhave known itfor you would never have admitted itand your husband has allalong refused to implicate you. . . . You have said that you had ceased to carefor your lover: he had ceased to care for you. He was prosperoushappyaboutto marry: you hated himand you showed your hate whenduring the murderyouflung yourself upon him and cried"Wretch!" Is that the behaviour ofa woman who represents herself to have been the timid slave of her husband? No.This crime is the revenge of a cowardly and pitiless womanwho writes down inher account book the expenses of the trip to Chatou andafter the murderpicnics merrily in the green fields. It was you who steeled your husband to thetask.

How far the President was justified in thus inverting the parts played by thehusband and wife in the crime

 

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must be a matter of opinion. In his volume of Souvenirs M. Bérard des Glajeuxmodifies considerably the view which he perhaps felt it his duty to express inhis interrogatory of Gabrielle Fenayrou. He describes her as soft and flexibleby naturethe repentant slave of her husbandseeking to atone for her wrong tohim by helping him in his revenge. The one feature in the character of Mme.Fenayrou that seems most clearly demonstrated is its absolute insensibilityunder any circumstances whatsoever.

The submissive Lucien had little to say for himselfnor could any motive forjoining in the murder beyond a readiness to oblige his brother be suggested. Inhis Souvenirs M. Bérard des Glajeux states that to-day it would seem to beclearly established that Lucien acted blindly at the bidding of hissister-in-law"qu'il avait beaucoup aimée et qui n'avait pas étécruelle à son égard."

The evidence recapitulated for the most part the facts already set out. Thedescription of Mme. Fenayrou by the gentleman on the sporting newspaper who hadsucceeded Aubert in her affections isunder the circumstancesinteresting:"She was sadmelancholy; I questioned herand she told me she was marriedto a coarse man who neglected herfailed to understand herand had never lovedher. I became her lover butexcept on a few occasionsour relations were thoseof good friends. She was a woman with few material wantsaffectionateexpansivean idealistone who had suffered much and sought from without ahappiness her marriage had never brought her. I believe her to have been theblind tool of her husband."

From motives of delicacy the evidence of this gentleman was read in hispresence; he was not examined orally. His eulogy of his mistress is loyal.Against

 

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it may be set the words of the Procureur de la RépubliqueM. Delegorgue:"Never has a more thorough-paceda more hideous monster been seated in thedock of an assize court. This woman is the personification of falsehooddepravitycowardice and treachery. She is worthy of the supreme penalty."The jury were not of this opinion. They preferred to regard Mme. Fenayrou asplaying a secondary part to that of her husband. They accorded in both her caseand that of Lucien extenuating circumstances. The woman was sentenced to penalservitude for lifeLucien to seven years. Fenayroufor whose conduct the jurycould find no extenuationwas condemned to death.

It is the custom in certain assize towns for the Presidentafter pronouncingsentenceto visit a prisoner who had been ordered for execution. M. Bérard desGlajeux describes his visit to Fenayrou at Versailles. He was already in prisondresssobbing. His iron naturewhich during five days had never flinchedhadbroken down; but it was not for himself he weptbut for his wifehis childrenhis brother; of his own fate he took no account. At the same moment his wife wasin the lodge of the courthouse waiting for the cab that was to take her to herprison. Freed from the anxieties of the trialknowing her life to be sparedwithout so much as a thought for the husband whom she had never lovedshe hadtidied herself upand nowwith all the ease of a womanwhose misfortunes havenot destroyed her self-possessionwas doing the honours of the jail. It was shewho received her judge.

But Fenayrou was not to die. The Court of Cassationto which he had made theusual appeal after condemnationdecided that the proceedings at Versailles hadbeen vitiated by the fact that the evidence of Gabrielle Fenayrou's second loverhad not been taken orallywithin

 

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the requirements of the criminal code; consequently a new trial was orderedbefore the Paris Assize Court. This second trialwhich commenced on October 12saved Fenayrou's head. The Parisian jury showed themselves more lenient thantheir colleagues at Versailles. Not only was Fenayrou accorded extenuatingcircumstancesbut Lucien was acquitted altogether. The only person to whomthese new proceedings brought no benefit was Mme. Fenayrouwhose sentenceremained unaltered.

Marin Fenayrou was sent to New Caledonia to serve his punishment. There hewas allowed to open a dispensarybutproving dishonesthe lost his licenseand became a ferryman -- a very Charon for terrestrial passengers. He died inNew Caledonia of cancer of the liver.

Gabrielle Fenayrou made an exemplary prisonerso exemplary thatowing toher good conduct and a certain ascendancy she exercised over herfellow-prisonersshe was made forewoman of one of the workshops. Whilst holdingthis position she had the honour of receivingamong those entrusted to herchargeanother GabriellemurderessGabrielle Bompardthe history of whosecrime is next to be related.