Page images


“ Publicity is the soul of justice."-JEREMY BENTHAM.

“ Injuries we may and do forgive; but insults so debase the mind below its own level, that nothing but revenge can satisfy it."-JUNIUS.

“But time winds up his dread account at last!

Then unsway'd justice, fate's stern gauger, comes,
Testing th’ unlawful measures of our life,
And into the light and wanting balance throws
The dire portentous record of our doom !"

Unpublished Play “The law's an ass.”-MR. BUMBLE.

It was about a week after Lord de Clifford's election dinner that the day was fixed for the trial of the Lees. Cheveley had constantly been to see them, but could gleam no good tidings as to any tangible evidence in their favour beyond Madge Brindal's vague and mysterious prophecies, of which even Mary herself was beginning to weary. Both he and his daughter had passed a sleepless night; and when the day of their doom dawned, even the feeling of conscious innocence that had hitherto supported them seemed to desert them at the idea of the terrible ordeal they had to undergo.

"If I get clear out of that accursed court,” said the old man, as he placed his spectacles and the packet of Lord de Clifford's letters in the side-pocket of his coat, “I'll go to America; there are no lords there."

" It will be time enough to talk of going to America," replied Madge, who had taken great pains in dressing Mary in a new black dress, and was now busily arranging her bright golden hair down her faded but still beautiful face, “when you have seen the real culprits in this business well exposed and properly punished.”

“And what chance is there of that, Madge? Am I not a poor and an injured man ?”

Here a knock came to the door. “Come in,” said Lee; and Mrs. Darby entered, with her apron to her eyes, to hide the tears she did not shed, as she announced that the "two pleesemen were below to show Mr. Lee the way to the courthouse."

“I am ready," said the old man, calmly.

" And so am I," said Mary, in a still more assured voice. “Good-by, darling," added she, stooping to kiss her child, who was sitting on the floor, placing a row of wooden cups and saucers round Wasp, who was patiently sitting within the magic circle, pricking up his ears, and turning his head alternately to and from Madge, his master, and Mary, as they each spoke or moved.

“ Me'll do with oo,” cried the child, starting up, and letting all his playthings fall, as he held out his little arms to his mother.

“No,” said Mary, seizing him in her arms and bursting into tears; “they may drag me to a court of justice, if they like, and I may drag my poor father there, but they never shall drag you there if your mother can help

it !

“ Mary! Mary! is this your firmness ?" said the old man. “I thought you were to be an example to me, and that I was not to see a tear, all woman as you are."

“You shall not see another,” said Mary, gently put. ting down the child, and telling him that he must remain with Madge. “Now I am ready to go.”

It was a fine, fresh autumnal morning, with a bright sun. The judges and barristers had all breakfasted. Mr. Sergeant Puzzlecase had been retained for the plaintiff, who had also had his solicitor, Mr. Helper, down from London. The case was to be tried before Judge Lively, a brother of Lord Shuffleton's; to whom Lord de Clifford had kindly intimated that he hoped he would make the sentence on those poor people as lenient as possible, on account of the poor girl, whom he under. stood was deranged. Mr. Sergeant Puzzlecase had made himself so agreeable at breakfast, with anecdotes of the witnesses he had badgered and the juries he had bamboozled, the innocent people he had inculpated and the guilty ones he had exculpated, that every one felt sorry when business obliged them to separate.

The court was crowded to excess. Cheveley had mingled with the crowd ; and the first persons Mary and her father saw were John Stokes and his wife, the latter sobbing so violently that she was ordered out of court, which had a wonderful effect in subduing her agitation. The din within was now drowned by the clamour from without. It was the cheers of the people as Lord de Clifford alighted from his carriage. Shortly after his arrival the prisoners were placed at the bar. The old man held his daughter's hand. She trembled violently, and never raised her eyes; but he looked calmly, almost triumphantly round. A murmur of compassion ran through the court.

Mr. Sergeant Puzzlecase rose; and gracefully lifting up his gown by placing his left hand behind his back, while his right, pro tempore, rested in his bosom, opened the case for the plaintiff in an eloquent speech, wherein he implored the jury to remember, that although his client had, with his usual benevolent magnanimity, wished (had it been in his power) on the present occasion to have prevented the law taking its course, and, not being able to do so, was anxious that it should be mitigated as much as possible, “Yet, my lord and gentlemen of the jury," continued he, raising the clinched hand of his right arm above his head, and courtesying nearly to the ground as he let it fall again with an electric thump upon the desk, this is an additional reason why you should be doubly guarded how you let aggressing vice triumph through the forbearing clemency of injured virtue! You are not, perhaps, aware, and therefore it becomes my duty to inform you, that the heinous offence of which the prisoner or prisoners at the bar stand charged was, according to our ancient Saxon law, nominally punished with death if the thing stolen was above the value of twelvepence; but the criminal was allowed to redeem his life by a pecuniary ransom: but in the ninth of Henry the First this power of redemption was taken away, and all persons guilty of larceny above the value of twelvepence were directed to be hanged, which law continued in force for a long time; and though, according to the stat. fourth of George the First, the inferior species of theft or petit larceny is only punished by imprisonment or whipping in common law, yet it may be punished by transportation for seven years. It has also been held, that if two persons steal goods to the amount of thirteen pence, it is grand larceny in both; and if one, at different times, steals divers parcels of goods from the same person, which together exceed the value of twelvepence, they may be put together in one endictment, and the offender found guilty of grand larceny. But this is very seldom done; the clemency of juries will often make them bring in larceny to be under twelvepence, when it is really of much greater value. But this, though evidently justifiable and proper when it only reduces the present nominal value of money to the ancient standard, is otherwise a kind of pious perjury; and it is now settled that the value of the property stolen must not only be in the whole of such an amount as the law requires to constitute a capital offence, but the stealing must be to that amount at one and the same particular time.”

The learned gentleman having now sufficiently appealed to the understandings of the jury by completely puzzling them out of their wits, next began to appeal to their feelings.

Here then, gentlemen, is the offence not only clearly established, since the value of the property stolen is between two and three hundred pounds. But what will you say when I tell you that the crime was aggravated by the basest, the blackest, the most unaccountable ingratitude ? I would fain spare you so revolting a detail; but justice commands, and I must obey. What will you think, I say, gentlemen of the jury, when I tell you that the plaintiff was the prisoners' patron, benefactor, I may say friend; for, superior to the accidental distinctions of birth, he is the friend of all mankind. It is only one little year since my noble client, hearing that the defendant's daughter was about to be married, united with his amiable and exemplary mother in bestowing on her a more than adequate dower. This will appear the more magnanimous when I inform you that the unfortunate young woman had been for some time labouring under an aberration of intellect, owing to desertion of an unprincipled seducer in her own walk of life; and that her insanity took the turn of imagining the plaintiff to be her betrayer; a supposition carrying absurdity on the face of it, from the fact of the plaintiff's never having resided at Blichingly till a very short time previous to his going abroad three years ago. Nevertheless, the elder prisoner, without the excuse of his daughter's madness, affects to believe her statement, and repays the most generous patronage and protection by heaping insults of every description upon my noble client and his illustrious mother.”

Here Lord de Clifford, observing the look of fixed contempt and defiance on Lee's face, and that his counsel was taking notes, became very fidgety, and tried to catch Mr. Sergeant Puzzlecase's eye, to make him un


derstand that he need not dwell any longer on that part of the subject.

“But, my lord and gentlemen of the jury,” resumed the learned gentleman, “ the plaintiff's mercy was indeed of an unstrained quality,' for his object was still to return good for evil; and it was only the very day after his last arrival in the county that he ordered the prisoner to be sent for to Blichingly Park, the residence of his illustrious mother, in order that he might be impartially employed with other tradesmen. And what was the result? I blush with indignation while I relate it! The grossest insolence on the part of the prisoner to the Dowager Lady de Clifford's steward; and the abstraction of two valuable diamond studs, the property of her son, value, as the account furnished by Messieurs Stow and Mortimer can testify, three hundred and sixty guineas, besides a gold watch of her ladyship's. To the last the prisoner was hardened and daring in the extreme; for, would you believe it, my lord and gentlemen of the jury, that when the ministers of justice entered his house to search it, he affected to deliver all his keys into their custody with the greatest alacrity. But, mark the sequel! the stolen goods were found in the secret drawer of the prisoner's own private desk! and, on being restored to their lawful possessor, a large brilliant was missing from the centre of one of the studs, To what purpose the absent jewel was converted, you will be at no loss to decide when I tell you, gentlemen of the jury, that, during the prisoner's and his daughetr's stay in the county jail, instead of the bare cell befitting their crime and their fortunes, they were the tenants of luxurious apartments and the consumers of delicate viands in the jailer's house. And was it to the compassion, the humanity, the disinterested benevolence of Mr. Davie Darby, the turnkey, or to the milk of human kindness flowing in the bosom of the amiable Mrs. Dar. by, that the carpenter and his daughter were indebted for these refinements in their seclusion ? No, gentle. men of the jury, it was to the four guineas a week which they paid, and which I can prove that they paid, to Mr. Davie Darby, that they owed it all. Let me, then, conjure you to be cautious how you allow your. selves to be biased by the apparent respectability of age or the should be innocence of youth. "Just as men

« PreviousContinue »