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[-67-]

CHAPTER XXVI.

NEWGATE.

NEWGATE! what an ominous sound has that word. And yet the horror exists not in the name itself; for it is a very simple compound, and would not grate upon the ear nor produce a shudder throughout the frame, were it applied to any other kind of building.
    It is, then, its associations and the ideas which it conjures up that render the word NEWGATE fearful and full of dark menace.
    At the mere mention of this name, the mind instantaneously becomes filled with visions of vice in all its most hideous forms, and crime in all its most appalling shapes ;- wards and court-yards filled with a population peculiar to themselves, - dark gloomy passages, where the gas burns all day long, and beneath the pavement of which are interred the remains of murderers and other miscreants who have expiated their crimes upon the scaffold,- shelves filled with the casts of the countenances of those wretches, taken the moment after they were cut down from the gibbet, - condemned cells, - the chapel in which funeral sermons are preached upon men yet alive to hear them, but who are doomed to die on the morrow, - the clanking of chains, the banging of huge doors, oaths, prayers, curses, and ejaculations of despair!
    Oh! if it were true that the spirits of the departed are allowed to revisit the earth for certain purposes and on particular occasions, - if the belief of superstition were well founded, and night could be peopled a with the ghosts and spectres of those who sleep in. troubled graves, - what a place of ineffable horrors - what a scene of terrible sights, would Newgate be at midnight! The huge flag-stones of the pavement. would rise, to permit the phantoms of the murderers to issue from their graves. Demons would erect a gibbet at the debtor's door; and, amidst the sinister glare of torches, an executioner from hell would hang those miscreants over again. This would be part of their posthumous punishment, and would occur in the long - long nights of winter. There would be no moon; but all the windows of Newgate looking upon the court-yards (and there are none commanding the streets) would be brilliantly lighted with red flames, coming from an unknown source. And throughout the long passages of the prison would resound the orgies of hell; and skeletons wrapped in winding sheets would shake their fetters; and Greenacre and Good - Courvoisier and Pegsworth - Blakesley and Marchant, with all their predecessors in the walks of murder, would come in fearful procession from the gibbet, returning by the very corridors which they traversed in their way to death on the respective mornings of their execution. Banquets would be served up to them in the condemned cells; demons would minister to them; and their food should be the flesh, and their drink the gore, of the victims whom they had assassinated upon earth!
    All would be horrible - horrible!
    But, heaven be thanked! such scenes are impossible; and never can it be given to the shades of the departed to revisit the haunts which they loved or hated - adored or desecrated, upon earth!
    NEWGATE! - fearful name!
    And Richard Markham was now in Newgate.
    He found, when the massive gates of that terrible prison closed behind him, that the consciousness of innocence will not afford entire consolation, in the dilemma in which unjust suspicions may involve the victim of circumstantial evidence. He scarcely knew in what manner to grapple with the difficulties that beset him ;- he dared not contemplate the probability of a condemnation to some infamous punishment ;- and he could scarcely hope for an acquittal in the face of the testimony that conspired against him.
    He recalled to mind all the events of his infancy and his boyish years, and contrasted his present position with that which he once enjoyed in the society of his father and Eugene.
    His brother ? - aye - what had become of his brother? - that brother, who had left the paternal roof to seek his own fortunes, and who had made so strange an appointment for a distant date, upon the hill-top where the two trees were planted? Four years and four months had passed away since the day on which that appointment was made; and in seven years and eight mouths it was to be kept.
    They were then to compare notes of their adventures and success in life, and decide who was the more prosperous of the two, - Eugene, who was dependent upon his own resources, and had to climb the ladder of fortune step by step ;- or Richard, who, placed by his father's love half-way up that ladder, had only to avail himself, it would have seemed, of his advantageous position to reach the top at his leisure?
    But, alas! probably Eugene was a miserable wanderer upon the face of the earth; perhaps he was mouldering beneath the sod that no parental nor fraternal tears had watered ;- or haply he was languishing in some loathsome dungeon the doors of which served as barriers between him and all communion with his fellow-men!
    It was strange - passing strange that Eugene had never written since his, departure; and that from the fatal evening of his separation an the hill-top all traces of him should have been so suddenly lost.
    Peradventure he had been frustrated, in his sanguine expectations, at his very outset in life! - perchance he had terminated in disgust an existence which was blighted by disappointment?
    [-68-] Such were the topics of Markham's thoughts, as he walked up and dawn the large paved court-yard belonging to that department of the prison to which he had been consigned ;- and, of a surety, they were of no pleasurable description. Uncertainty with regard to his own fate - anxiety in respect to his brother - and the dread that his prospects in this life were irretrievably blighted - added to a feverish impatience of a confinement totally unmerited - all these oppressed his mind.
    That night he had nothing but a basin of gruel and a piece of bread for his supper. He slept in the same ward with a dozen other prisoners, also awaiting their trials: his couch was hard, cold, and wretched; and he was compelled to listen to the ribald talk and vaunts of villany of several of his companions. Their conversation was only varied by such remarks as these:- "Well," said one, " I hope I shan't get before the Common-Serjeant: he's certain to give me toko for yam."
    "I shall be sure to go up the first day of sessions, and most likely before the Recorder, as mine is rather a serious matter," observed a second. " He won't give me more than seven years of it, I know."
    "For my part," said a third. "I'd much sooner wait till the Wednesday, when the Judges comedown: they never give it so severe as them City beaks."
    "I tell you what," exclaimed a fourth, " I shouldn't like to have my meat hashed at evening sittings before the Commissioner in the New Court. He's always so devilish sulky, because he has been disturbed at his wine."
    "Well, you talk of the regular judges that come down on a Wednesday," cried a fifth; " I can only tell you that Baron Griffin and Justice Spikeman are on the rota for next sessions; and I'm blowed if I wouldn't sooner go before the Common-Serjeant a thousand times, than have old Griffin meddle in my case. Why-  if you only look at him, he'll transport you for twenty years."
    At this idea, all the prisoners who had taken part in this conversation, burst out into a loud guffaw - but not a whit the more hearty for being so boisterous.
    "Is it possible," asked Markham, who had listened with some interest to the above discourse,- "is it possible that there can be any advantage to a prisoner to be tried by a particular judge?"
    "Why, of course there is," answered one of the prisoners. " If a swell like you gets before Justice Spikeman, he'll let you off with half or a quarter of what the Recorder or Common-Serjeant would give you: but Baron Griffin would give you just double, because you happened to be well-dressed."
    "Indeed!" ejaculated Markham, whose ideas of the marvellous equality and admirable even-handedness of English justice, were a little shocked by these revelations.
    "Oh! yes," continued his informant, " all the world knows these things. If I go before Spikeman, I shall plead Guilty, and whimper a bit, and he'll be very lenient indeed; but if I'm heard by Griffin. I'll let the case take its chance, because he wouldn't be softened by any show of penitence. So you see, in these matters, one must shape one's conduct according to the judge that one goes before."
    "I understand," said Markham : "even justice is influenced by all kinds of circumstances."
    The conversation then turned upon the respective merits of the various counsel practising at the Central Criminal Court.
    "I have secured Whiffins," said one: "he's a capital fellow - for if he can't make anything out of your case, he instantly begins to bully the judge."
    "Ah! but that produces a bad effect," observed a second; "and old Griffin would soon put him down. I've got Chearnley - he's such a capital fellow to make the witnesses contradict themselves."
    "Well, I prefer Barkson," exclaimed a third; "his voice alone frightens a prosecutor into fits."
    "Smouch and Slike are the worst," said a fourth: "the judges always read the paper, or fall asleep when they address them."
    "Yes - because they are such low fellows, and will take a brief from any one," exclaimed a fifth; " whereas it is totally contrary to etiquette for a barrister to receive instructions from any one but an attorney."
    "The fact is that such men as Smouch and Slike do a case more harm than good, with the judges," observed a sixth. " They haven't the ear of the court - and that's the real truth of it."
    These remarks diminished still more the immense respect which Markham had hitherto entertained for English justice; and he now saw that the barrister who detailed plain and simple facts, did not stand half such a good chance of saving his client as the favoured one "who possessed the ear of the Court."
    By a very natural transition, the discourse turned upon petty juries.
    "I think it will go hard with me," said one, "because I am tried in the City. I wish I had been committed for the Middlesex Sessions at Clerkenwell."
    "Why so!" demanded another prisoner.
    "Because, you see, I'm accused of robbing my master; and as all the jurymen are substantial shopkeepers, they're sure to convict a man in my position, - even if the evidence isn't complete."
    "I'm here for swindling tradesmen at the West-End of the town," said another.
    "Well," exclaimed the first speaker, "the jury will let you off, if  there's the slightest pretence, because they're all City tradesmen, and hate the West-End ones."
    "And I'm here for what is called 'a murderous assault upon a police-constable.' said a third prisoner.
    "Was he a Metropolitan or a City-Policeman?"
    "A Metropolitan."
    "Oh! well - you're safe enough; the jury are sure to believe that he assaulted you first."
    "Thank God for that blessing!"
    "I tell you what goes a good way with Old Bailey Juries - a good appearance. If a poor devil, clothed in rags and very ugly, appears at the bar, the Foreman of the Jury just says, 'Well, gentlemen, I think we may say GUILTY; for my part I never saw such a hang-dog countenance in my life. But if a well- dressed and good-looking fellow is placed in the dock, the Foreman is most likely to say, 'Well, gentlemen, for my part I never can nor will believe that the prisoner could be guilty of such meanness; so I suppose we may say NOT GUILTY, gentlemen.' "
    "Can this be true?" ejaculated Markham.
    "Certainly it is," was the reply. " I will tell you more, too. If a prisoner's counsel don't tip the jury plenty of soft sawder, and tell them that they are enlightened Englishmen, and that they are the main prop, not only of justice, but also of the crown itself, they will be certain to find a verdict of Guilty."
    [-69-] "What infamy!" cried Markham, perfectly astounded at these revelations.
    "Ah! and what's worse still," added his informant, " is that Old Baily juries always, as a matter of course, convict those poor devils who have no counsel."
    "And this is the vaunted palladium of justice and liberty!" said Richard.
    In this way did the prisoners in Markham's ward contrive to pass away an hour or two, for they were allowed no candle and no fire, and had consequently been forced to retire to their wretched couches immediately after dusk.
    The night was thus painfully long and wearisome.
    Markham found upon enquiry that there were two  methods of living in Newgate. One was to subsist upon the gaol allowance: the other to provide for oneself. Those who received the allowance were not permitted to have beer, nor were their friends suffered to add the slightest comfort to their sorry meals; and those who paid for their own food were restricted as to quantity and quality.
    Such is the treatment prisoners experience before they are tried ; - and yet there is an old saying, that every one must be deemed innocent until he be proved guilty. The old saying is a detestable mockery.  Of course Markham determined upon paying for his own food; and when Whittingham called in the morning, he was sent to make the necessary arrangements with the coffee-house keeper in the Old Bailey who enjoyed the monopoly of supplying that compartment of the prison.
    The most painful ordeal which Richard had to undergo during his captivity in Newgate, was his first interview with Mr. Monroe. This gentleman was profoundly affected at the situation of his youthful ward, though not for one moment did he doubt his innocence.
    And here let us mention another revolting humiliation, and unnecessary cruelty to which the untried prisoner is compelled to submit. In each yard is a small enclosure, or cage, of thick iron bars, covered with wire-work; and beyond this fence, at a distance of about two feet, is another row of bars similarly interwoven with wire. The visitor is compelled to stand in this cage to converse with his relative or friend, who is separated from him by the two gratings. All private discourse is consequently impossible.
    What can recompense the prisoner who is acquitted, for all the mortifications, insults, indignities, and privations he has undergone in Newgate previous to that trial which triumphantly proclaims his innocence?
    Relative to the interview between Markham and Monroe, all that it is necessary to state is that the young man's guardian promised to adopt all possible means to prove his innocence, and spare no expense in securing the most intelligent and influential legal assistance. Mr. Monroe moreover intimated his intention of removing the case from the hands of Mac Chizzle to those of a well-known and highly respectable solicitor. Richard declared that he left himself entirely in his guardian's hands, and expressed his deep gratitude for the interest thus demonstrated by that gentleman in his behalf.
    Thus terminated the first interview in Newgate between Markham and his late father's confidential friend.
    He felt somewhat relieved by this visit, and entertained strong hopes of being enabled to prove his innocence upon the day of trial.
    But it then wanted a whole month to the next sessions - thirty horrible days which he would be compelled to pass in Newgate!

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