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The day came, and the trial commenced. At the very outset an argument arose between the counsel for the prosecution and the defence; whether the exclamations used by the wife on the night of the murder, accusing her husband, could be given as evidence by those who had heard them. For the defence it was urged, that as a wife could not appear as a witness either against or for her husband, so neither could any expression of hers tending to criminate him, be admissible; on the other hand, it was contended that as confessions were admissible in evidence against a party, so a husband and wife, being as one in the eye of the law, such expressions as these were in the nature of confessions by the party himself, and therefore should be admitted—and so the Recorder decided they should be. In addition to this, other—circumstantial evidence was produced against the prisoner; the poniard, with which Lambert had been stabbed, and which in falling he had borne down out of his slayer's hand, was a jewelled Turkish one, known by many to be the property of the prisoner; and to have been in his possession many years; he having brought it home with him from one of his voyages to the Morea; the watch also was produced, which, with part of the chain, the deceased had held in his clenched hands; it was a small silver one shaped like a tulip,and chequered in alternate squares of dead and bright metal; its dial-plate of dead silver, figured with a bright circle, containing black Roman figures; in the interior, on the works, it bore the inscription—" Thomas Hooke, in Pope's-head-alley," the brother to the celebrated Robert Hooke, who had recently invented the spring pocket-watches. This watch was proved to have also been the property of the prisoner, to have been given by him to his wife, and lately to have been returned by her to him in order to be repaired. These circumstances, together with the natural imputation that was cast upon him by the consideration of who the murdered man was, were all that were adduced against Edwards; and he was called on for his defence in person, being by the mild mercy of the English law, denied the assistance of counsel for that purpose: it being wisely considered, that though a man in the nice intricacies of a civil cause may need technical aid, he cannot possibly do so in a case where the fact of his life being dependent on the success of his pleading, must necessarily induce and assist him to have all his wits about him. The prisoner's situation, however, in this instance, seemed, unaccountably, to have the contrary effect on him, and he appeared quite embarrassed and confused; he averred he could not explain the cause of his wife's extraordinary error; but that an error it certainly had been. For the poniard's being in the man's heart he was equally at a loss to account; and as for the watch, he admitted all that had been proved, OS
but declared that he had put it by about a week before the murder, in a cabinet which he had never since opened, and how it had been removed he was unable to tell. Of course this defence, if such it could be termed, availed him very little, in fact simply nothing. The jury found him guilty; and the Recorder called on him to say why judgment should not be pronounced against him.
The prisoner seemed suddenly to have recovered his old, or gained new powers; he broke out into a strong and passionate appeal, calling on the judge to believe his word, as that of a dying man, that he was innocent, and concluded by solemnly calling upon God so to help him as he spoke the truth. He was condemned; the prisoner hid his face in his hand, and sobbed aloud; he was removed from the bar to his solitary cell.
About half-past ten that night, as the Recorder was sitting alone, dozing in his easy chair over the fire and a tankard of mulled claret, he was suddenly startled by a loud knock at the door, followed up by the announcement of a stranger, who would brook no delay. He saw admitted a young man, whose features were fearfully haggard and drawn, as though with some intense inward struggle; in fact, the good magistrate did not half like his looks, and intimated to his servant that as his clerk was gone home he had better stay in the room, which was on the whole a confused remark, as, in the first place, he knew his servant could not write; and in the second, he did not know whether any writing was required; but the youth relieved the worthy Recorder from his dilemma, by peremptorily stating that the communication he had to make must be made to him alone. The servant therefore withdrew, the Recorder put on his spectacles, and the youth began. "I come to tell you, Sir, that you have this day unjustly condemned an innocent man to death." "Bah! bah! And pray how know you that he is innocent?" "By this token, Sir, that I know who did the deed for which you have condemned Master Edwards to suffer. Lambert's murderer stands before you." The Recorder, horror-stricken at the notion of being so close to a murderer at large, gabbled out an inarticulate ejaculation, something of an equivocal nature betwixt an oath and a prayer, and stretched out his hand towards the silver hand-bell which stood before him on the table; and still more horrified was he when the youth caught his hand, and said, " No, with your leave, Sir." "No; with my leave, Sir! What! mean ye to murder me, with my leave, Sir?" "I will do you no harm, Sir. But my confession shall be a willing and a free one." He removed the hand-bell beyond the Recorder's reach, let go his arm, and retired again to a respectful distance. He then proceeded to relate
it his name was Simon Johnson, that he was an orphan, and had been bred up with great kindness by Master Edwards. In detailing his story, he hinted at an unlawful passion which his mistress had endeavoured to excite in his mind towards her; and to his resistance or carelessness of her wiles he partly attributed her hatred and persecution of him; his home made wretched thereby, he had sought relief in society; unfortunately for him, he had fallen in with some young men of bad character—among others with this very Lambert, who had been among his most strenuous advisers that he should from time to time purloin some of his master's superfluous wealth, for the purpose of supplying himself and his companions with the means of more luxurious living; he had, however, for a long while rejected this advice, until at length goaded by the continual unjust accusations of his mistress, charging him with the very crime he was thus tempted to commit, he had, in truth, done so, and had absconded with several articles of value: but his companions, instead of receiving him with praise, as he had expected, had loaded him with invectives for not bringing them a richer prize. Instigated by their reproaches, and, by a mingled sense of shame and anger, he had intended, by means of a secret key which he had kept, to rob Master Edwards' house on the very night when the murder was committed. Having gained access to the court-yard, he was just about to open the house door, when he heard footsteps; he retired, and concealed himself. From his place of concealment he had seen and heard Mrs Edwards encouraging Lambert, by many fond and endearing professions of love for him, and of hatred of his master, to the murder of her husband; and as Lambert, conquered by her threats and entreaties, was passing him within arm's length, an irresistible impulse had urged him to save his master's life by sacrificing Lambert's; and having done the deed of death, he had leaped the yard wall and fled. The poniard and watch were part of the property he had stolen when he left the house. He ended thus,
; "After I had left the spot, Sir, I fled, I know not whither; for days and days I wandered about in the fields, sleeping in sheds, numbed with cold and half starved, never daring to approach the dwellings of man to relieve my wants, till dark, and then ever feeling as though every eye scowled upon me: and when I left them again, and was again alone in the fields, I would suddenly start and run, with the feeling that I had been followed, and was about to be taken. In vain I strove to overcome these feelings, in vain 1 struggled to reconcile myself to the deed I had done, in vain I represented it to my heart as one of good, as one which had saved a life infinitely more valuable than his whom I had slain: it was all vain, a something within tortured me with unnatural and undefinable terror; and even when I sometimes partially succeeded in allaying tliis feeling, and half convinced myself that 1 had done for the best, it seemed as I heard a voice whisper in my own soul, 'What brought thee to thy master's court-yard that night?' and this set me raving again. Unable longer to bear this torture, I made up my mind to self-slaughter, for the thoughts of delivering myself into the hands of justice drove me almost mad; my heart was hardened against making this even late atonement, and with a reckless daring I resolved on self-slaughter; but how, how to do this, I knew not; drowning was fearful to me, I should have time perhaps to repent; and so with starving, even if nature would allow that trial. I returned to the suburbs, it was this very evening, a lantern hanging on the end of a barber's pole caught my sight. I hastened into the shop, with the intention of destroying myself with the first razor I could lay my hands on; but the shop was quite full. 1 sat down in a corner, doggedly waiting for my time, and paying no heed to the conversation that was going on, till my master's name struck on my ear. I listened: his trial, condemnation, and coming execution, were the general talk. I started up, and with a feeling of thankfulness to God that there was something yet to live for, I think I cried out so, I rushed out of the shop, hurried hither; I am not too late—to—to supply my master's place to-morrow."
The young man sank exhausted in a chair, and dropped his head on the table. The astonished magistrate leant forwards, cautiously extended his hand, seized his hand-bell, rang loud and long, beginning at the same time to call over the names of all the servants he had ever had from the first time of his keeping house. But at the first jingle of the bell Simon started up from the chair, and said, "Ay, I am your prisoner now.'' "Yes, Sir, yes," said the Recorder. "Geoffrey! Williams! very true, Sir—by your leave, Sir—Godwin! Ralph! there's your prisoner, Sir," he added to the one wondering servant, who answered this multitudinous call.
The sequel may be told in a few lines. A reprieve for Edwards was immediately sent to Newgate, which was followed up by a pardon; for having been found guilty, of course he could not be declared innocent. The wretched wife of the merchant died by her own hand, on the morning of her husband's reprieve. Simon was tried for Lambert's murder, of course found guilty, and sentenced to death; but in consideration of the extraordinary circumstances attending his case, this sentence was changed into transportation for life. My Lord Chief Justice Hale delivered a very voluminous judgment on the occasion; the main ground on which he pro-"eded, seems to have been, that as Simon had not been legally discharged by Edwards, he might still be considered in the light of his servant, and that he was therefore, to a certain degree, justifiable in defending his master's life.
Simon died on his passage. Edwards, from the time of his release, became a drivelling idiot: he lived several years. It was not till the death of the old man that a secret was discovered—it was ascertained that Simon was a natural son; and that in preventing the intended assassination of the Merchant, he had unconsciously saved the life of his father.
I Heard a deep and awful groan,
From every land, from every clime,
Came rolling that almighty groan,
Where men have droop'd since earliest time,
Caged in their cells of stone;
It spoke of dark forbidden things,
Of fell corruption's venom'd rust,
And the false faith of treacherous kings,
That trampled on the just.
It breathed of martyr minds, and creeds,
Of weeping eyes and ashy lips—