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[-86-]

CHAPTER XXXII.

THE OLD BAILEY 

    THE sessions of the Central Criminal Court commenced.
    The street of the Old Bailey was covered with straw; and the pavement in the neighbourhood of the doors of the court on one side, and of the public-houses on the other, was crowded with policemen, the touters of the barristers and attornies practising criminal law, and the friends of the prisoners whose trials were expected to come on that day.
    The press-yard, which is situate between the solid granite wall of Newgate and the Court-house, was also flooded with living waves, which rolled onwards from the street to the flight of steps leading into the gallery of the Old Court. In former times, prisoners who refused to plead, were pressed beneath immense weights, until they would consent to declare themselves guilty or not guilty. This odious punishment was inflicted in that enclosure : hence its name of the press-yard.
    It cannot be necessary to describe the court-house, with its dark sombre walls, and its huge ventilator at the top. Alas! the golden bowl of hope has been broken within those walls, and the knell of many a miserable wretch has been rung upon its tribunals from the lips of the judge!
    The street of the Old Bailey presents quite an animated appearance during the sessions ;- but it is horrible to reflect that numbers of the policemen who throng in that thoroughfare upon those occasions, have trumped up the charges for which prisoners have been committed for trial, in order to obtain a holiday, and extort from the county the expenses of attending as witnesses.
    At the time of which our tale treats, the sheriffs were accustomed to provide two dinners for the judges every day ; one at three, and the other at five o'clock, so that those who could not attend the first, were enabled to take their seats at the second. Marrow puddings, beef-steaks, and boiled rounds of beef, invariably formed the staple commodities of these repasts ; and it was the duty of the ordinary chaplains of Newgate to act as vice-presidents at both meals. This ceremony was always performed by those reverend gentlemen the ecclesiastical gourmands contrived, during sessions, to eat two dinners every day, and wash each down with a very tolerable allowance of wine.
    We said that the Sessions commenced. On the Monday and Tuesday, the Recorder in the Old Court, and the Common Sergeant in the New, tried those prisoners who were charged with minor offences: on the Wednesday the Judges upon the rota took their seats on the bench of the Old Court.
    Richard Markham's name stood first for trial upon the list on that day. He was conducted from Newgate by means of a subterraneous passage, running under the Press-yard, into the dock of the Court.
    The Hall was crowded to excess, for the case had produced a profound sensation. The moment Markham appeared in the dock, every eye was fixed upon him. His countenance was very pale; but his demeanour was firm. He cast one glance around, and then looked only towards the twelve men who were to decide upon his fate. Close by the dock stood Mr. Monroe : Whittingham was in the gallery ;- the Baronet, Chichester, and Talbot lounged together near the reporters' box.
    The Jury were sworn, and the counsel for the prosecution stated the case. He observed that the prisoner at the bar was a young man who, upon his [-87-] majority, would become possessed of a considerable fortune; but that in the mean time he had no doubt fallen into bad company, for it would be proved that he was arrested by the police at a common gambling house in the evening of the very same day on which he had committed the offence with which he was now charged. it was but natural to presume that this young man had imbibed the habit of gaming, and, having thereby involved himself in pecuniary embarrassments, had adopted the desperate and fatal expedient of obtaining money by means of forged Bank-notes, rather than communicate his situation to his guardian. Where he procured these forged notes, it was impossible to say it would, however, be satisfactorily proved to the jury that he passed a forged note for five hundred pounds at the banking-house of Messrs —, and that when he was arrested a second note for fifty pounds was found upon his person. Several concurrent circumstances established the guilt of the prisoner. On the evening previous to his arrest, the prisoner dined with Sir Rupert Harborough, Mr. Chichester, and Mr. Talbot; and when these gentlemen proposed a walk after dessert, the prisoner requested them to accompany him to a common gaming-house in the Quadrant. They refused ; but finding him determined to visit that den, they agreed to go with him, with the friendly intention of taking care that he was not plundered of his money, he being considerably excited by the wine he had been drinking. Ere he set out, the prisoner enquired if either of his companions could change him a fifty pound note; but neither gentleman had sufficient gold to afford the accommodation required. Now was it not fair to presume that the prisoner intended to pass off upon one of his friends the very forged fifty-pound note subsequently found upon him ! On the following day, the prisoner - the moment he was released from custody on the charge of being found in a common gaming-house - hurried home, and ordered his servants to prepare for his immediate departure for the continent. He moreover wrote two letters, which would be read to the jury, - one to a lady, and the other to his guardian, - and both containing unequivocal admission of his guilt. The learned counsel then read the letters, and commented upon their contents at some length There were several expressions (he said) which clearly tended to self-crimination.- "Circumstances of a very peculiar nature, and which I cannot at present explain, compel me to quit London thus abruptly." "1 could ,sot have remained in London another minute with safety to myself." "I conceive it to be my duty - in consequence of rumours which may shortly reach you concerning me - to inform you that I have this moment only awoke to the fearful perils of the career in which I have for some weeks past been blindly hurrying along, till at length yesterday—  ." "l am penitent, deeply penitent: let this statement induce you to defend and protect my reputation." The last paragraph but one which concluded so abruptly with the words, "till at length yesterday —" clearly pointed to the crime with which the prisoner was now charged and the last paragraph of all undeniably implored Mr. Monroe, the young man's guardian, to hush up the matter the moment it should reach his ears.
    The clerk at the banking-house, who changed the five hundred pound note for the prisoner, then gave his evidence.
    At length Sir Rupert Harborough was called into the witness-box; and he deposed that the prisoner had dined with him on the evening previous to his arrest; that he very pressingly solicited him (Sir Rupert), and Mr. Chichester, and Mr. Talbot, to accompany him to the gambling-house; and that he moreover, enquired if either of them could accommodate him with change for a fifty pound note.
    Mr. Chichester was called next. He stated the line of defence adopted by the prisoner at Bow-street, and positively denied having ever given the prisoner any notes to change for him.
    Markham's counsel cross-examined this witness with great severity.
    "What are you, sir ?"
    "A private gentleman."
    "What are your means of subsistence?"
    "I receive an allowance from my father."
    "Who is your father? Now, take care, sir,, how you answer that question."
    "He is a commercial man, sir."
    "Is he not a tradesman?"
    "Well, - he is a tradesman, then - if you like it."
    "Yes, - I do like it. Now - upon your oath - is he not a pawnbroker in Brick-lane, Bethnal Green?"
    "He is a goldsmith in a large way of business, and lends money occasionally "
    "Ha!" complacently observed the counsel for the defence. "Go on, sir: lends money occasionally "
    "Upon real security, I suppose," added Chichester, taken considerably aback by these questions.
    "Upon deposits; let us give things their proper names. He lends money upon flannel petticoats - watches - flat-irons, &c." observed the barrister, with withering sarcasm. " But I have not done with you yet, sir. Was your father - this very respectable pawnbroker - ever elevated to the peerage?"
    "He was not, sir."
    "Then how come you by the distinction of Honourable prefixed to your name?"
    Mr. Chichester hung down his head, and made no reply. The counsel for the prisoner repeated the question in a deliberate and emphatic matter. At length, Mr. Chichester was fairly bullied into a humble acknowledgment "that he had no right to the distinction, but that he had assumed it as a convenient West-End appendage." The cross examination then proceeded.
    "Did you not travel under the name of Winchester?"
    "I did - in Germany."
    "With what motive did you assume a false name?"
   
"I had no particular motive."
    "Did you not leave England in debt? and were you not afraid of your bills of exchange following you abroad?"
    "There is some truth in that; but the most honourable men are frequently involved in pecuniary difficulties."
    "Answer my questions, sir, and make no observations. You will leave me to do that, if you please. Now sir - tell the jury whether you were not accompanied by a valet or coachman in your German trip?"
    "1 am always accustomed to travel with a domestic."
    "A man who runs away from his creditors should have more delicacy than to waste his money in such a manner. When you were at Baden-baden, were you not involved in some gambling transactions which compelled you to quit the Grand-Duchy abruptly?"
    [-88-] "I certainly had a dispute with a gentleman at cards: and I left the town next morning."
    "Yes - and you left your clothes and your servant behind you - and your bill unpaid at the hotel?"
    "But I have since met my servant, and paid him more than double the wages then due."
    "You may stand down, sir," said the counsel for the defence - a permission of which the witness availed himself with surprising alacrity.
    The counsel for the prosecution now called Mr. Whittingham. The poor butler ascended the witness-box with a rueful countenance; and, after an immense amount of badgering and baiting, admitted that his young master had meditated a sudden and abrupt departure from England, the very day upon which he was arrested, in his cross-examination he declared that the motives of the journey were founded upon certain regrets which Richard entertained at having permitted himself to be led away by Messrs. Chichester and Talbot, and Sir Rupert Harborough.
    "And, my Lords," ejaculated the old domestic, elevating his voice, "Master Richard is no more guilty of this here circumwention than either one of your Lordships; but the man, that did it all is that there Chichester, which bilked his wally-de-shamble, and that wulgar fellow, Talbot, which called me a tulip."
    This piece of eloquence was delivered with much feeling; and the Judges smiled -  for they appreciated the motives of the honest old domestic.
    The officer who arrested Markham, proved that he found upon his person, when he searched him at Bow Street, a pocket-book, containing between thirty and forty pounds. in notes and gold, together with a note for fifty pounds.
    A clerk from the Bank of England proved that both the note for five hundred pounds changed at the bankers, and the one for fifty just alluded to, were forgeries.
    The case for the prosecution here closed; and the Judges retired to partake of some refreshment.
    Markham had leisure to think over the proceedings of the morning. He was literally astounded when he contemplated the diabolical perjury committed by Sir Rupert Harborough and Mr. Chichester; but he entertained the most sanguine hope that the discredit thrown upon the character of the latter would render his testimony worthless. He shuddered when he reflected how ingeniously the counsel for the prosecution had grouped together those circumstances which told against him; and then again a ray of satisfaction animated his countenance, when he remembered that his counsel would speedily show those circumstances in a new light.
    The Judges returned: silence prevailed throughout the hall; and the prisoner's counsel rose for the defence. Richard seated himself in the dock, and prepared to listen with the greatest attention to the speech of his advocate ; and Whittingham placed his hand in a curved position behind his ear, in order to assist that organ on the present important occasion.
    The counsel for the defence began by giving some account of the family and social position of the prisoner, who was born of parents accustomed to move in the first rank of life, and who was the heir to a fortune of no inconsiderable amount. During his minority, his guardian, who was then present, had promised to allow the prisoner six hundred rounds a-year. With these pecuniary advantages it was absurd to suppose that young man of education - a young man whose noble and honourable feelings had been the object of remark on the part of all his friends, and who had only to express a want to his guardian, in order to receive its immediate gratification - it was absurd to imagine that such an individual would either enter into a conspiracy with others, or plan by himself, for the purpose of raising money upon forged notes. No -  this young man was one of a most generous and confiding disposition; and, as he had seen but little of the world, he was totally unacquainted with its wiles and artifices. Thus was he made the dupe of some designing villains, at his very outset upon life. The whole history of the present transaction was to be summed up in a few words. A gang of conspirators had hit upon the desperate mode of passing forged notes, in order to retrieve their ruined fortunes. Not as magnanimous as the highwayman who perils his own existence while he perpetrates a crime, these men required a tool of whom they might make use, and who could be at any time sacrificed to save them. This instrument - this scapegoat, was the prisoner at the bar. The witness, whose real name was Chichester. but who, by his own confession, had travelled on the Continent under another denomination, was not a person on whom the Jury could place any reliance. He had assumed a distinction to which he as by no means entitled - he had affected all the arrogance and importance of a man of rank and fashion, - whereas he was the son of a pawnbroker in the refined locality of Brick-Lane, Bethnal Green! Endowed with much impudence, clever in imitating the manners of his superiors, and well versed in all the intricacies and subtleties of the world, this possessor of assumed distinctions - this swaggering imitator of a class far above him - this adventurer, with fascinating conversation, ready wit, amusing anecdote, and fashionable attire,-  this roué of the present day, with jewellery about his person, and gold in his pocket - allowing ever an engaging smile to play upon his lips, and professing unmitigated disgust at the slightest appearance of vulgarity in another,- this individual - this Mr. Chichester was the principal witness whom the counsel for the prosecution had brought forward. But no English Jury would condemn a fellow creature upon such testimony - the testimony of one who was compelled to fly ignominiously and precipitately from Baden, on account of some rascality at cards, and who left his domestic in a strange land, pennyless, ignorant of the language, and surrounded by the odium which also attached itself to the name of his master. The prisoner had no motive in passing forged notes, because he was wealthy ;- but Mr. Chichester had a motive, because he evidently lived far beyond the means which his father could allow him.
    The learned counsel here related the manner in which Richard had been induced to change the larger note, and had become possessed of the smaller.
    He then proceeded to observe, that the letters addressed to Mrs. Arlington and Mr. Monroe related to the fact that the prisoner's eyes had been suddenly opened to the characters of his associates, and to the career of dissipation in which they were leading him. The phrase upon which so much stress had been laid- "till at length yesterday—" alluded to the suicide of a young officer, which had taken place while the prisoner was at the gambling- house, whither he had been inveigled instead of inveigling others. "He could not have remained in London another minute with safety to himself." And why? because these associates whom he had [-89-] 

accidentally picked up, would not leave him quiet. They regularly beset him. "He was penitent;"  and he hoped that Mr. Monroe would "defend and protect his reputation." Yes-when the newspaper reports conveyed to the knowledge of that gentleman the fact that his ward had been arrested in a common gambling-house, and fined for being there. The letters were written hurriedly, and were ambiguous: thus they were susceptible of more than one interpretation. Let the jury interpret them in favour of the prisoner. It was better to send a dozen guilty men back again into society, terrible as that evil  would be, than to condemn one innocent person. Then, with regard to the precipitate departure: the witness Whittingham had shown, in his a cross-examination, that the prisoner's object was to escape from the three men whose characters were suddenly unveiled to him. It was a said, that the prisoner had requested those three individuals to accompany him to the gaming-house, and that they at first refused. Oh! amazing fastidiousness - especially on the part of Mr. Arthur Chichester, who had been [-90-] compelled to decamp from Baden, for cheating at a cards! Then it was stated that the prisoner asked for change for a fifty-pound note; and it was said, that he would have availed himself of that accommodation to pass a forged note. Why - he (the learned counsel) had already explained how that fifty-pound note came into the prisoner's possession - his own gold having been transferred by Mr. Chichester to Sir Rupert Harborough's writing desk! The learned counsel concluded, by asking how it happened that no other forged Bank of England notes - no copper-plates to print them with - no materials for such a fraud, were found at the prisoner's house? Could it be supposed that a young man with his prospects would risk his reputation and his safety for a few hundreds of pounds? The idea was preposterous. The prisoner's counsel entered into a few minute points of the evidence which told in favour of his client, and a wound up with a powerful appeal to the jury in his behalf.
    Richard followed, with a absorbing interest, the able defence made for him by his counsel; and his soul was filled with hope as each fact and argument in his favour was divested of all mystery, and lucidly exhibited to the consideration of the court.
    Mr. Monroe was summoned to the witness box, and he proved the statements made by the prisoner's counsel relative to the pecuniary position of his ward. Snoggles, the ostler, followed, and very freely stated all the particulars of his late master's precipitate decampment from Baden.
    Thus terminated the case for the defence.
    The counsel of the prosecution - according to that odious right which gives the accusing party the last word in those instances where the defendant has called witnesses - rose to reply. He stated that neither the wealth nor the social position of an a individual afforded a certain guarantee against crime. Besides, the law must not always be swayed by the apparent absence of motives; because some of the most extraordinary deeds of turpitude upon record had never been traced to a source which could satisfactorily account for their origin. The perpetration was the, object which the jury had to keep in view; and the use of evidence was to prove or deny that perpetration by some particular individual. A forgery had been committed, and money obtained by the prisoner at the bar through the agency of that forgery. The defence had not attempted to deny that the prisoner was the individual a who had thus obtained the money. The point to be considered was, whether the prisoner knew the note to be a forged one; and be (the learned counsel) considered that an assemblage of circumstances of a most unequivocal nature stamped the prisoner a with that guilt. Mr. Chichester's evidence went to show that he himself never gave any notes to the prisoner. Even if Chichester were proved to be a disreputable person, there was nothing beyond the prisoner's mere assertion (made through his counsel) to prove that he had received the two notes from Chichester. Mr. Chichester had certainly assumed another name during his German tour, but it was for the purpose of avoiding arrest in a foreign land upon bills of exchange which might have been sent from England after him. He had, moreover, assumed the distinction of Honourable - a foolish vanity, but by no means a crime; for half the Englishmen who were called Captain, were no more captains than he (the learned counsel) was.
    The senior judge now summoned up the evidence to the jury; and the most profound interest was still manifested by all present in the proceedings. The learned judge occupied nearly two hours in hit charge to the jury, whom he put in possession of all the points of the case which it was necessary to consider.
    The jury retired, and debated for a considerable a time upon their verdict.
    This was the dread interval of suspense. Richard's countenance was deadly pale; and his lips were firmly compressed in order to prevent any sudden ebullition of feeling - a weakness to which he seemed for a moment inclined to yield. Mr. Monroe did not entertain much hope; the summing up of the judge had been unfavourable to Markham. As for Whittingham, he shook his head dolefully from time to time, and murmured, loud enough to be heard by those near him, "Oh! Master Richard, Master Richard! who would ever have propulgated an opinion that you would have been brought into such a fixture as this? It's all along of them fellers which call butlers tu1ips!"
    How singularly reckless is the mind of man with regard to the destinies of those to whom he is not connected by any ties of blood or friendship! While the jury were absent, discussing their verdict, the various barristers assembled round the table, began chattering together, and laughing, and telling pleasant anecdotes, as if the fate of a fellow-creature was by no means compromised at that moment. The counsel for the prosecution, who had done his duty by exerting all his talents, all his energies, and all his eloquence, to obtain the conviction of a youth who had never injured him, and whom he had never seen before, coolly took up a newspaper and perused it with evident gratification; while, at a little distance from him, stood the individual whom he had so zealously and earnestly sought to render miserable for life!
    How strange! - how horribly depraved and vitiated must be that state of society in which hundreds of talented men are constantly employed, with large recompense, in procuring the condemnation of their fellow-creatures to the scaffold, the hulks, or eternal banishment! And what an idea must we entertain of our vaunted condition of consummate civilization, when we behold these learned men calling to their aid every miserable chicanery, every artificial technicality, and every possible exaggeration, to pursue the accused prisoner either to the platform of the gibbet, to loathsome dungeons, or to the horrors of Norfolk Island. Does society avenge? - or does it a merely make examples of the wicked to warn others from sin? If the enquirer who asks himself or us these questions, would only attend the Central Criminal Court, he would hear the barrister for the prosecution imploring, coaxing, and commanding the a jury to return such a verdict as will either condemn a human being to the scaffold, or separate him for ever from home, wife, children, kindred, and friends! He would find men straining every nerve, availing themselves of every miserable legal quirk and quibble, torturing their imaginations to find arguments, calling subtlety and mystification to their aid, shamefully exaggerating trivial incidents into important facts, dealing in misrepresentation and false deduction, substituting and dovetailing facts to suit their purposes, omitting others which tell against their own case, almost falling upon their knees to the jury, and staking their very reputation on the results, - and all these dishonourable, disgraceful, vile, and inhuman means and efforts exerted and called into action for the sake of sending a fellow-creature to the scaffold, or separating him for ever from the family that is  [-91-] dependant upon him, and that will starve without him!
    O God! is it possible that man can have been made for such sad purposes? is it possible that the being whom thou hast created after thine own image, should be so demon-like in heart? 
    Oh! if the prisoner standing in the dock had inflicted some terrible injury upon the honour or the family of the barrister who holds a brief against him, then were it easy to comprehend that profound anxiety on the part of this barrister, to send the a trembling criminal to the gallows! But, no - that barrister has no revenge to gratify - no hatred to assuage - no malignity to appease; he toils to take away that man's life, with all his strength, with all his talent, and with all his energy, because he has received gold to do his best to obtain a conviction!
    Ah! what a hideous traffic in flesh and blood! 
    And if any one were to say to that barrister, "Thou art a blood-thirsty and merciless wretch," he would answer coolly and confidently, "No: on the other hand, I subscribe to philanthropic institutions !"
    The jury returned and the feeling uppermost in their minds was satisfaction at the prospect of being so speedily dismissed to their respective homes, where they would pursue their efforts after wealth, and speedily forget the youth whom they had condemned to punishment, and whose prospects they had blasted.
    For their verdict was Guilty!
   
And the judges hastened to terminate the proceedings.
    Richard was commanded to rise, and receive the sentence of the court. He obeyed with a kind of mechanical precision - for his mental energies were entirely prostrated. The voice of the judge addressing him rang like the chimes of distant bells in his ears ;- the numerous persons whom he beheld around, appeared to be all moving and agitating like an immense crowd assembled to witness an execution.
    He stood up as he was commanded ; and the Judge proceeded to pass sentence upon him. He said that the court took his youth into consideration, and that there were circumstances which would render a very lenient sentence satisfactory to that society which had been outraged. The court accordingly condemned him to two years' imprisonment in the Giltspur Street Compter, without hard  labour.
    "That's all!" said the spectators to each other; and they appeared disappointed!
    The audience then separated.

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