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most base design; bat being pursued by her father and brother, they fortunately arrived just in time to rescue the young lady from dishonour. The account went on to say that when I found myself disappointed in my diabolical intention I had turned my rage on the brother, upon whom I had committed a dreadful assault, and should no doubt hare killed him had it not been for the interference of the people of the inn; and that when, on the following day, the brother demanded that satisfaction which one gentleman owes to another, I had slunk away, and gone to reside in the country until the affair had blown over.
Being anxious to learn the truth of my mother's illness, and to disabuse her mind as to the circumstances, I wrote to my eldest sister, and explained the affair as it really had happened. In a few days I received an answer, from which I learnt that my mother, although much hurt at what she had read, had not been confined to her bed, nor indeed seriously indisposed. The letter contained a sum of money, and my mother promised to remit me a similar amount every quarter, out of her own private income. This was very acceptable to me, for, although I might have had anything I wanted from my uncle, I did not wish to be beholden to him for my pocket money.
My father's malevolence I could have laughed at, but the base perversion of the truth in every line of the newspaper account of my travelling adventure, was a more serious matter, although I was utterly powerless to help myself, or disabuse the public mind upon the point. The " Heartless Depravity," as it was headed, was so carefully drawn up, that there was no laying hold of the publisher for a libel, if I had even been inclined to figure as a prosecutor in a court of law, which I certainly was not; and when I wrote to the editor of the paper in which the offensive paragraph had appeared, requesting an insertion of the plain facts of the case, the only satisfaction I got was a "Notice to Correspondents:—Job P. is informed that we received the paragraph of which he complains from a highly respectable correspondent, and see no reason to doubt its perfect correctness." One consolation I had, however, in my misfortunes, that no one in the neighbourhood of my uncle's residence was aware of my identity with the " heartless scoundrel," the " disgrace of the family," the " sneaking coward," as I had the pleasure of hearing myself called at my uncle's table when the account was read one evening by a prosing old sergeant whom my uncle kept about him, to an assembly of country squires.
For some weeks after my arrival at my uncle's I was too unwell—sore both in body and mind, to leave the house. However, as nothing sublunary is lasting, I gradually recovered my health and spirits, and accompanied him in most of his outdoor amusements; but my usual ill-luck followed me, or rather I should say accompanied me here, for being out early one morning with a gun looking out for small birds to have a shot at, I discovered, sneaking out from one of the farm buildings, sly Reynard, who no doubt thought to pass unobserved. I was too quick for him, however, for I fired and broke both his hind legs. At the moment I had seized my prize, and was holding it up by the neck, two neighbouring squires, who were on their way to the meet, which was to take place in the neighbourhood, came by on horseback, and I then became aware, by the torrent of abuse which they poured upon me, and threats of a horsewhip, that I had been guilty of a great crime in shooting a fox! and although they afterwards, upon learning who I was, in some sort apologised for their conduct, which they attributed to the heinousness of my offence, I could plainly perceive that I had eternally disgraced myself in their eyes.
This was my first misadventure, to speak of, since I had arrived at my uncle's, for I take no account of breaking crockery ware and glasses, as scarcely a day passed without something of that kind happening; but the killing a fox turned out in the end a more serious annoyance to me than could at first have been imagined, as will be seen in the sequel.
One day, being out with my uncle, in following the hounds we came to a good stiff fence, which the others took with the greatest ease, and which, being mounted on one of my uncle's best horses, I felt very strongly inclined to attempt; when, however, I came close to it, my heart failed me, and I endedvoured to check the animal, but too late to prevent it making the spring, although quite time enough to balk it, and the effect was what might have been expected; instead of clearing the fence, it struck its legs against it, and rolled over on to the other side, breaking its own legs, and so seriously injuring me that I was thought to be dead, I was carried off to the nearest house, and a surgeon sent for, who, upon examining me, found that I had broken an arm, dislocated an ankle, and fractured two ribs.
This kept me a prisoner to the house for two months, and in so far was of benefit to me that it kept me out of mischief—better for me if they had treated me as they did the poor horse that I had maimed, and which they shot on the spot to put it out of its misery, for my life was one continued series of misfortunes, which, if they had involved no one else in their consequences, might have been bearable; but this was not the case, for they generally caused as much annoyance to somebody else as they did to myself; and in this instance I had caused the loss of my uncle's best horse, and one which he valued even above its worth, from the fact of its having been a gift, while a pony, of an old crony of his, who had since gone the way of all flesh. If the worthy old man had not had one of the best tempers in the world, he would at once have got rid of one who was continually getting him into some scrape.
Having sufficiently recovered to be able to stroll about the grounds in the neighbourhood of the house, although not strong enough to mount a horse (for which, indeed, I felt no inclination), I would sometimes pass an afternoon by the side of a beautiful little trout stream that ran very near; although of course I had my usual luck, it served to pass away the time that I found hang heavy on my hands. At other times I would take a gun, and shoot anything that came in my way (always excepting a fox) from a rook to a rabbit, and if I ever had luck in anything it was in this, which made it a rather favourite amusement with me. This, however, was fated to be the cause of the most serious misfortune that ever I met with, and the recollection of which will haunt me to my grave.
Having been out one day shooting, I had just got so far on my return as the barn near which I had shot the fox, when, turning a sharp corner, I came suddenly upon a couple of rabbits, who were enjoying the warmth of the sun by the side of the barn. Without the least hesitation, my gun was at my shoulder, and discharged at the very moment that one of my uncle's domestics, a young woman who had the care of the dairy department, came out from a doorway in the barn not three yards from me, and whose body received the entire contents of my fowling piece. A heart-piercing scream followed the discharge, and she fell to the ground. Several persons were immediately on the spot, but too late to be of any service—she died in less than five minutes!
Stupified with horror, I have but little recollection of what followed, until I found myself placed before a magistrate on a charge of murder. The case was made to appear remarkably clear against me: the report of the gun had been heard, and the girl's shriek, by several witnesses, who had found me on the spot with the gun in my hand; no one else was near, and the young woman herself had pointed me out as her murderer. Having collected my scattered senses, I endeavoured to explain how the accident had happened, but in so very incoherent a manner that my very confusion was taken ae evidence of my guilt. Whilst the inquiry was proceeding, a neighbouring squire, a magistrate also, came in, and on the affair being recounted to him he turned to look at me, and I then saw that he was one of the two who had threatened to horsewhip me for shooting the fox. He immediately recognised me, exclaiming,—" Ah, this is just what might have been expected from such a fellow. Why do you know, (turning to his worthy compeer,) not long since I detected this miscreant in the fact of shooting a fox!"
"Shoot a fox!" exclaimed the other, horror-struck, and then turning to the clerk continued,—" Dubbins, make out his commitment. I believe the man who would shoot a fox would commit any crime!" and I was at once conveyed to the county gaol.!
My uncle, being at a friend's house some miles away, did not hear of it until next day, when he hastened home, and endeavoured to procure my liberation on bail, but the crime was thought of too deep a dye to permit of this, and I lay in gaol for four months before my trial came on. During the time I lay here my mother died, and I have the consolation of believing that I was mainly instrumental in causing her death. Indulgent to me, however, to the last, by her will she left me half her property, (which was at her own disposal,) leaving the other half between my two sisters. My portion was left to my uncle in trust for me, pending my trial, because, by a cruel law, the crown is heir to all the property a criminal is possessed of, by which the widow and the orphan are not only deprived of the husband, and the father, but at the same time robbed of the means of supporting their own existence. This may be truly called visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children.
At length my trial came on. I will not attempt to describe my feelings on being arraigned for the dreadful crime of murder. I could scarcely stand, and it was rather by the motion of my lips than the sound of my voice that the clerk was enabled to announce that I pleaded "Not Guilty."
Of all the juries on the face of the earth, next to a Welsh jury, a Somersetshire jury is the most ignorant, and in the hands of such a jury was my life now placed. Two prisoners had been already sentenced to death that morning, one of them for sheep stealing; and although the case was far from being clear against the man, he was found guilty, "as an example, because there had been a good deal about lately!"
My name was next on the calendar, and the counsel for the prosecution laid the statement of his case before the jury in a very candid manner; he told them * the crime would be so clearly proved by the witnesses he should call that there was no necessity for him to say one word in aggravation; they would be made acquainted with the horrid details of a career of iniquity commencing with seduction and terminating in a double murder! He could not trust himself to dwell upon the case—his feelings overcame him—here was an instance of a lovely woman [she was the most ill-looking female in the whole establishment] being hurried into eternity, with her babe unborn, by the hand of the man who, not content with having robbed her of woman's greatest treasure, had sent her to her final account, with all her sins upon her head—the greatest of which was the one into which that miscreant (pointing to me) had led her!" And here the black hypocrite dropped down into his seat and buried his' face in his white handkerchief, agitating the two tails of his wig as though he were in fit of the ague. The consequence of this display was that there was scarcely a dry eye in the court. Oh Job! Job! an evil star was surely in the ascendant when thou wast born. I found that the case was worse than I had been aware of, for upon the coroner's inquest it had been discovered that the woman was si£ months gone with child, and as no one came forward to confess to the paternity, it was concluded that I had first seduced her, and then, finding unpleasant consequences likely to ensue, had thought, by destroying her, to at once get rid of an annoyance and hide my own guilt .
The counsel, starting up, was proceeding to call his witnesses, when a suggestion was made, that, as there were many to be examined, it would be as well if the jury were allowed to retire for a little refreshment . To this circumstance I verily believe that I owe my life. They were absent about half an hour; and so good use had they made of their time, that when they came back they were in most excellent temper. All the witnesses were examined, and never was a clearer case made out, and so completely to the conviction of the Judge, that he summed up as a mere matter of form, not occupying five minutes. The jury, however, were not so easily satisfied, and it took them an hour to decide my fate. At length they returned, and the Judge began fumbling beneath his little desk for the black cap, when the foreman, in answer to the usual inquiry, replied—" Not Guilty!" The whole court was stultified: the Judge, who appeared to be rather hard of hearing, had just got the cap in his two hands and was going to place it on his head, when his arm was arrested, and he was informed of his mistake. He could hardly believe that it was so, and asked the jury if that was their verdict? They replied that it was their unanimous verdict, and they had come to this decision from a conviction that no beautiful young woman, as the counsel had described her to be, could by any possibility have been seduced by the owner of such a repulsive countenance as that of the prisoner; and that, as no motive for the crime would then remain, they saw no reason why it should not have been the result of mere accident! Yes, my ugly face had saved my neck! It was the first time it ever stood my friend, and in all probability the last .
On my acquittal I returned to my uncle's house, until my affairs should be arranged. Here, however, I made but a short say, my presence in London being necessary. I found my mother's property considerably more than I had expected, and that my portion would produce me about £300 a year. I determined, therefore, to give up all thoughts of a profession, and live upon my income.
I PROCEED ON MY TRAVELS IN SEARCH OF QUIETUDE, AND MEET WITH FBESH TBOtTBLES. CONCLUSION.
I had now become master of a handsome Independence, yet, strange to say, I felt but little of that elation which most young men possess in the acquisition of property. My life, indeed, had been so chequered, so interwoven, as it were, with misfortunes, anxieties, and troubles of one kind or another, that I had fallen into that very wretched state of mind which may be termed "hopeless." I had become sick of myself, and would gladly have changed my being