Mr. Justice Harbottle
by J.S. Le Fanu
ON this case Doctor Hesselius has
inscribed nothing more than the words, "Harman's
Report," and a simple reference to his own
extraordinary Essay on "The Interior Sense, and the
Conditions of the Opening thereof."
The reference is to Vol. I, Section 317, Note
Za. The note to which reference is thus made,
simply says: "There are two accounts of the remarkable
case of the Honourable Mr. Justice Harbottle, one furnished
to me by Mrs. Trimmer, of Tunbridge Wells (June, 1805); the
other at a much later date, by Anthony Harman, Esq. I much
prefer the former; in the first place, because it is minute
and detailed, and written, it seems to me, with more caution
and knowledge; and in the next, because the letters from Dr.
Hedstone, which are embodied in it, furnish matter of the
highest value to a right apprehension of the nature of the
case. It was one of the best declared cases of an opening of
the interior sense which I have met with. It was affected
too by the phenomenon which occurs so frequently as to
indicate a law of these eccentric conditions; that is to
say, it exhibited what I may term the contagious character
of this sort of intrusion of the spirit-world upon the
proper domain of matter. So soon as the spirit-action has
established itself in the case of one patient, its developed
energy begins to radiate, more or less effectually, upon
others. The interior vision of the child was opened; as was,
also, that of its mother, Mrs. Pyneweck; and both the
interior vision and hearing of the scullery-maid were opened
on the same occasion. After-appearances are the result of
the law explained in Vol. II, Sections 17 to 49. The common
centre of association, simultaneously recalled, unites, or
reunites, as the case may be, for a period measured, as we
see, in Section 37. The maximum will extend to days,
the minimum is little more than a second. We see the
operation of this principle perfectly displayed, in certain
cases of lunacy, of epilepsy, of catalepsy, and of mania, of
a peculiar and painful character, though unattended by
incapacity of business."
The memorandum of the case of Judge
Harbottle, which was written by Mrs. Trimmer, of Tunbridge
Wells, which Doctor Hesselius thought the better of the two,
I have been unable to discover among his papers. I found in
his escritoire a note to the effect that he had lent the
Report of Judge Harbottle's case, written by Mrs. Trimmer,
to Dr. F. Heyne. To that learned and able gentleman
accordingly I wrote, and received from him, in his reply,
which was full of alarms and regrets, on account of the
uncertain safety of that "valuable MS.," a line
written long since by Dr. Hesselius, which completely
exonerated him, inasmuch as it acknowledged the safe return
of the papers. The narrative of Mr. Harman is, therefore,
the only one available for this collection. The late Dr.
Hesselius, in another passage of the note that I have cited,
says, "As to the facts (non-medical) of the case, the
narrative of Mr. Harman exactly tallies with that furnished
by Mrs. Trimmer." The strictly scientific view of the
case would scarcely interest the popular reader; and,
possibly, for the purposes of this selection, I should, even
had I both papers to choose between, have referred that of
Mr. Harman, which is given in full in the following pages.
THE JUDGE'S HOUSE
THIRTY years ago an elderly man, to
whom I paid quarterly a small annuity charged on some
property of mine, came on the quarter-day to receive it. He
was a dry, sad, quiet man, who had known better days, and
had always maintained an unexceptionable character. No
better authority could be imagined for a ghost story.
He told me one, though with a manifest
reluctance; he was drawn into the narration by his choosing
to explain, what I should not have remarked, that he had
called two days earlier than that week after the strict day
of payment, which he had usually allowed to elapse. His
reason was a sudden determination to change his lodgings,
and the consequent necessity of paying his rent a little
before it was due.
He lodged in a dark street in Westminster, in
a spacious old house, very warm, being wainscoted from top
to bottom, and furnished with no undue abundance of windows,
and those fitted with thick sashes and small panes.
This house was, as the bills upon the windows
testified, offered to be sold or let. But no one seemed to
care to look at it.
A thin matron, in rusty black silk, very
taciturn, with large, steady, alarmed eyes, that seemed to
look in your face, to read what you might have seen in the
dark rooms and passages through which you had passed, was in
charge of it, with a solitary "maid-of-all-work"
under her command. My poor friend had taken lodgings in this
house, on account of their extraordinary cheapness. He had
occupied them for nearly a year without the slightest
disturbance, and was the only tenant, under rent, in the
house. He had two rooms; a sitting-room and a bed-room with
a closet opening from it, in which he kept his books and
papers locked up. He had gone to his bed, having also locked
the outer door. Unable to sleep, he had lighted a candle,
and after having read for a time, had laid the book beside
him. He heard the old clock at the stair-head strike one;
and very shortly after, to his alarm, he saw the
closet-door, which he thought he had locked, open
stealthily, and a slight dark man, particularly sinister,
and somewhere about fifty, dressed in mourning of a very
antique fashion, such a suit as we see in Hogarth, entered
the room on tip-toe. He was followed by an elder man, stout,
and blotched with scurvy, and whose features, fixed as a
corpse's, were stamped with dreadful force with a character
of sensuality and villany.
This old man wore a flowered silk
dressing-gown and ruffles, and he remarked a gold ring on
his finger, and on his head a cap of velvet, such as, in the
days of perukes, gentlemen wore in undress.
This direful old man carried in his ringed
and ruffled hand a coil of rope; and these two figures
crossed the floor diagonally, passing the foot of his bed,
from the closet door at the farther end of the room, at the
left, near the window, to the door opening upon the lobby,
close to the bed's head, at his right.
He did not attempt to describe his sensations
as these figures passed so near him. He merely said, that so
far from sleeping in that room again, no consideration the
world could offer would induce him so much as to enter it
again alone, even in the daylight. He found both doors, that
of the closet and that of the room opening upon the lobby,
in the morning fast locked as he had left them before going
In answer to a question of mine, he said that
neither appeared the least conscious of his presence. They
did not seem to glide, but walked as living men do, but
without any sound, and he felt a vibration on the floor as
they crossed it. He so obviously suffered from speaking
about the apparitions, that I asked him no more questions.
There were in his description, however,
certain coincidences so very singular, as to induce me, by
that very post, to write to a friend much my senior, then
living in a remote part of England, for the information
which I knew he could give me. He had himself more than once
pointed out that old house to my attention, and told me,
though very briefly, the strange story which I now asked him
to give me in greater detail.
His answer satisfied me; and the following
pages convey its substance.
Your letter (he wrote) tells me you desire
some particulars about the closing years of the life of Mr.
Justice Harbottle, one of the judges of the Court of Common
Pleas. You refer, of course, to the extraordinary
occurrences that made that period of his life long after a
theme for "winter tales" and metaphysical
speculation. I happen to know perhaps more than any other
man living of those mysterious particulars.
The old family mansion, when I revisited
London, more than thirty years ago, I examined for the last
time. During the years that have passed since then, I hear
that improvement, with its preliminary demolitions, has been
doing wonders for the quarter of Westminster in which it
stood. If I were quite certain that the house had been taken
down, I should have no difficulty about naming the street in
which it stood. As what I have to tell, however, is not
likely to improve its letting value, and as I should not
care to get into trouble, I prefer being silent on that
How old the house was, I can't tell. People
said it was built by Roger Harbottle, a Turkey merchant, in
the reign of King James I. I am not a good opinion upon such
questions; but having been in it, though in its forlorn and
deserted state, I can tell you in a general way what it was
like. It was built of dark-red brick, and the door and
windows were faced with stone that had turned yellow by
time. It receded some feet from the line of the other houses
in the street, and it had a florid and fanciful rail of iron
about the broad steps that invited your ascent to the
hall-door, in which were fixed, under a file of lamps among
scrolls and twisted leaves, two immense
"extinguishers," like the conical caps of fairies,
into which, in old times, the footmen used to thrust their
flambeaux when their chairs or coaches had set down their
great people, in the hall or at the steps, as the case might
be. That hall is panelled up to the ceiling, and has a large
fire-place. Two or three stately old rooms open from it at
each side. The windows of these are tall, with many small
panes. Passing through the arch at the back of the hall, you
come upon the wide and heavy well-staircase. There is a back
staircase also. The mansion is large, and has not as much
light, by any means, in proportion to its extent, as modern
houses enjoy. When I saw it, it had long been untenanted,
and had the gloomy reputation beside of a haunted house.
Cobwebs floated from the ceilings or spanned the corners of
the cornices, and dust lay thick over everything. The
windows were stained with the dust and rain of fifty years,
and darkness had thus grown darker.
When I made it my first visit, it was in
company with my father, when I was still a boy, in the year
1808. I was about twelve years old, and my imagination
impressible, as it always is at that age. I looked about me
with great awe. I was here in the very centre and scene of
those occurrences which I had heard recounted at the
fireside at home, with so delightful a horror.
My father was an old bachelor of nearly sixty
when he married. He had, when a child, seen Judge Harbottle
on the bench in his robes and wig a dozen times at least
before his death, which took place in 1748, and his
appearance made a powerful and unpleasant impression, not
only on his imagination, but upon his nerves.
The Judge was at that time a man of some
sixty-seven years. He had a great mulberry-coloured face, a
big, carbuncled nose, fierce eyes, and a grim and brutal
mouth. My father, who was young at the time, thought it the
most formidable face he had ever seen; for there were
evidences of intellectual power in the formation and lines
of the forehead. His voice was loud and harsh, and gave
effect to the sarcasm which was his habitual weapon on the
This old gentleman had the reputation of
being about the wickedest man in England. Even on the bench
he now and then showed his scorn of opinion. He had carried
cases his own way, it was said, in spite of counsel,
authorities, and even of juries, by a sort of cajolery,
violence, and bamboozling, that somehow confused and
overpowered resistance. He had never actually committed
himself; he was too cunning to do that. He had the character
of being, however, a dangerous and unscrupulous judge; but
his character did not trouble him. The associates he chose
for his hours of relaxation cared as little as he did about
ONE night during the session of 1746
this old Judge went down in his chair to wait in one of the
rooms of the House of Lords for the result of a division in
which he and his order were interested.
This over, he was about to return to his
house close by, in his chair; but the night had become so
soft and fine that he changed his mind, sent it home empty,
and with two footmen, each with a flambeau, set out on foot
in preference. Gout had made him rather a slow pedestrian.
It took him some time to get through the two or three
streets he had to pass before reaching his house.
In one of those narrow streets of tall
houses, perfectly silent at that hour, he overtook, slowly
as he was walking, a very singular-looking old gentleman.
He had a bottle-green coat on, with a cape to
it, and large stone buttons, a broad-leafed low-crowned hat,
from under which a big powdered wig escaped; he stooped very
much, and supported his bending knees with the aid of a
crutch-handled cane, and so shuffled and tottered along
"I ask your pardon, sir," said this
old man, in a very quavering voice, as the burly Judge came
up with him, and he extended his hand feebly towards his
Mr. Justice Harbottle saw that the man was by
no means poorly dressed, and his manner that of a gentleman.
The Judge stopped short, and said, in his
harsh peremptory tones, "Well, sir, how can I serve
"Can you direct me to Judge Harbottle's
house? I have some intelligence of the very last importance
to communicate to him."
"Can you tell it before witnesses?"
asked the Judge.
"By no means; it must reach his
ear only," quavered the old man earnestly.
"If that be so, sir, you have only to
accompany me a few steps farther to reach my house, and
obtain a private audience; for I am Judge Harbottle."
With this invitation the infirm gentleman in
the white wig complied very readily; and in another minute
the stranger stood in what was then termed the front parlour
of the Judge's house, tête-à-tête
with that shrewd and dangerous functionary.
He had to sit down, being very much
exhausted, and unable for a little time to speak; and then
he had a fit of coughing, and after that a fit of gasping;
and thus two or three minutes passed, during which the Judge
dropped his roquelaure on an arm-chair, and threw his
cocked-hat over that.
The venerable pedestrian in the white wig
quickly recovered his voice. With closed doors they remained
together for some time.
There were guests waiting in the
drawing-rooms, and the sound of men's voices laughing, and
then of a female voice singing to a harpsichord, were heard
distinctly in the hall over the stairs; for old Judge
Harbottle had arranged one of his dubious jollifications,
such as might well make the hair of godly men's heads stand
upright for that night.
This old gentleman in the powdered white wig,
that rested on his stooped shoulders, must have had
something to say that interested the Judge very much; for he
would not have parted on easy terms with the ten minutes and
upwards which that conference filched from the sort of
revelry in which he most delighted, and in which he was the
roaring king, and in some sort the tyrant also, of his
The footman who showed the aged man out
observed that the Judge's mulberry-coloured face, pimples
and all, were bleached to a dingy yellow, and there was the
abstraction of agitated thought in his manner, as he bid the
stranger good-night. The servant saw that the conversation
had been of serious import, and that the Judge was
Instead of stumping upstairs forthwith to his
scandalous hilarities, his profane company, and his great
china bowl of punch--the identical bowl from which a bygone
Bishop of London, good easy man, had baptised this Judge's
grandfather, now clinking round the rim with silver ladles,
and hung with scrolls of lemon-peel--instead, I say, of
stumping and clambering up the great staircase to the cavern
of his Circean enchantment, he stood with his big nose
flattened against the window-pane, watching the progress of
the feeble old man, who clung stiffly to the iron rail as he
got down, step by step, to the pavement.
The hall-door had hardly closed, when the old
Judge was in the hall bawling hasty orders, with such
stimulating expletives as old colonels under excitement
sometimes indulge in now-a-days, with a stamp or two of his
big foot, and a waving of his clenched fist in the air. He
commanded the footman to overtake the old gentleman in the
white wig, to offer him his protection on his way home, and
in no case to show his face again without having ascertained
where he lodged, and who he was, and all about him.
"By--, sirrah! if you fail me in this,
you doff my livery to-night!"
Forth bounced the stalwart footman, with his
heavy cane under his arm, and skipped down the steps, and
looked up and down the street after the singular figure, so
easy to recognize.
What were his adventures I shall not tell you
The old man, in the conference to which he
had been admitted in that stately panelled room, had just
told the Judge a very strange story. He might be himself a
conspirator; he might possibly be crazed; or possibly his
whole story was straight and true.
The aged gentleman in the bottle-green coat,
on finding himself alone with Mr. Justice Harbottle, had
become agitated. He said:
"There is, perhaps you are not aware, my
lord, a prisoner in Shrewsbury jail, charged with having
forged a bill of exchange for a hundred and twenty pounds,
and his name is Lewis Pyneweck, a grocer of that town."
"Is there?" says the Judge, who
knew well that there was.
"Yes, my lord," says the old man.
"Then you had better say nothing to
affect this case. If you do, by ---- I'll commit you! for
I'm to try it," says the Judge, with his terrible look
"I am not going to do anything of the
kind, my lord; of him or his case I know nothing, and care
nothing. But a fact has come to my knowledge which it
behoves you to well consider."
"And what may that fact be?"
inquired the Judge; "I'm in haste, sir, and beg you
will use dispatch."
"It has come to my knowledge, my lord,
that a secret tribunal is in process of formation, the
object of which is to take cognizance of the conduct of the
judges; and first, of your conduct, my lord: it is
a wicked conspiracy."
"Who are of it?" demands the Judge.
"I know not a single name as yet. I know
but the fact, my lord; it is most certainly true."
"I'll have you before the Privy Council,
sir," says the Judge.
"That is what I most desire; but not for
a day or two, my lord."
"And why so?"
"I have not as yet a single name, as I
told your lordship; but I expect to have a list of the most
forward men in it, and some other papers connected with the
plot, in two or three days."
"You said one or two just now."
"About that time, my lord."
"Is this a Jacobite plot?"
"In the main I think it is, my
"Why, then, it is political. I have
tried no State prisoners, nor am like to try any such. How,
then, doth it concern me?"
"From what I can gather, my lord, there
are those in it who desire private revenges upon certain
"What do they call their cabal?"
"The High Court of Appeal, my
"Who are you, sir? What is your
"Hugh Peters, my lord."
"That should be a Whig name?"
"It is, my lord."
"Where do you lodge, Mr. Peters?"
"In Thames Street, my lord, over against the sign of
the 'Three Kings.'"
"'Three Kings?' Take care one be not too
many for you, Mr Peters! How come you, an honest Whig, as
you say, to be privy to a Jacobite plot? Answer me
"My lord, a person in whom I take an
interest has been seduced to take a part in it; and being
frightened at the unexpected wickedness of their plans, he
is resolved to become an informer for the Crown."
"He resolves like a wise man, sir. What
does he say of the persons? Who are in the plot? Doth he
"Only two, my lord; but he will be
introduced to the club in a few days, and he will then have
a list, and more exact information of their plans, and above
all of their oaths, and their hours and places of meeting,
with which he wishes to be acquainted before they can have
any suspicions of his intentions. And being so informed, to
whom, think you, my lord, had he best go then?"
"To the king's attorney-general
straight. But you say this concerns me, sir, in particular?
How about this prisoner, Lewis Pyneweck? Is he one of
"I can't tell, my lord; but for some
reason, it is thought your lordship will be well advised if
you try him not. For if you do, it is feared 'twill shorten
"So far as I can learn, Mr. Peters, this
business smells pretty strong of blood and treason. The
king's attorney-general will know how to deal with it. When
shall I see you again, sir?"
"If you give me leave, my lord, either
before your lordship's court sits, or after it rises,
to-morrow. I should like to come and tell your lordship what
"Do so, Mr. Peters, at nine o'clock
to-morrow morning. And see you play me no trick, sir, in
this matter; if you do, by sir, I'll lay you by the
"You need fear no trick from me, my
lord; had I not wished to serve you, and acquit my own
conscience, I never would have come all this way to talk
with your lordship."
"I'm willing to believe you, Mr. Peters;
I'm willing to believe you, sir."
And upon this they parted.
"He has either painted his face, or he
is consumedly sick," thought the old Judge.
The light had shone more effectually upon his
features as he turned to leave the room with a low bow, and
they looked, he fancied, unnaturally chalky.
"D-- him!" said the Judge
ungraciously, as he began to scale the stairs: "he has
half-spoiled my supper."
But if he had, no one but the Judge himself
perceived it, and the evidence was all, as anyone might
perceive, the other way.
IN the meantime the footman
dispatched in pursuit of Mr. Peters speedily overtook that
feeble gentleman. The old man stopped when he heard the
sound of pursuing steps, but any alarms that may have
crossed his mind seemed to disappear on his recognizing the
livery. He very gratefully accepted the proffered
assistance, and placed his tremulous arm within the
servant's for support. They had not gone far, however, when
the old man stopped suddenly, saying:
"Dear me! as I live, I have dropped it.
You heard it fall. My eyes, I fear, won't serve me, and I'm
unable to stoop low enough; but if you will look,
you shall have half the find. It is a guinea; I carried it
in my glove."
The street was silent and deserted. The
footman had hardly descended to what he termed his
"hunkers," and begun to search the pavement about
the spot which the old man indicated, when Mr. Peters, who
seemed very much exhausted, and breathed with difficulty,
struck him a violent blow, from above, over the back of the
head with a heavy instrument, and then another; and leaving
him bleeding and senseless in the gutter, ran like a
lamp-lighter down a lane to the right, and was gone.
When, an hour later, the watchman brought the
man in livery home, still stupid and covered with blood,
Judge Harbottle cursed his servant roundly, swore he was
drunk, threatened him with an indictment for taking bribes
to betray his master, and cheered him with a perspective of
the broad street leading from the Old Bailey to Tyburn, the
cart's tail, and the hangman's lash.
Notwithstanding this demonstration, the Judge
was pleased. It was a disguised "affidavit man,"
or footpad, no doubt, who had been employed to frighten him.
The trick had fallen through.
A "court of appeal," such as the
false Hugh Peters had indicated, with assassination for its
sanction, would be an uncomfortable institution for a
"hanging judge" like the Honourable Justice
Harbottle. That sarcastic and ferocious administrator of the
criminal code of England, at that time a rather pharisaical,
bloody and heinous system of justice, had reasons of his own
for choosing to try that very Lewis Pyneweck, on whose
behalf this audacious trick was devised. Try him he would.
No man living should take that morsel out of his mouth.
Of Lewis Pyneweck, of course, so far as the
outer world could see, he knew nothing. He would try him
after his fashion, without fear, favour, or affection.
But did he not remember a certain thin man,
dressed in mourning, in whose house, in Shrewsbury, the
Judge's lodgings used to be, until a scandal of his
ill-treating his wife came suddenly to light? A grocer with
a demure look, a soft step, and a lean face as dark as
mahogany, with a nose sharp and long, standing ever so
little awry, and a pair of dark steady brown eyes under
thinly-traced black brows--a man whose thin lips wore always
a faint unpleasant smile.
Had not that scoundrel an account to settle
with the Judge? had he not been troublesome lately? and was
not his name Lewis Pyneweck, some time grocer in Shrewsbury,
and now prisoner in the jail of that town?
The reader may take it, if he pleases, as a
sign that Judge Harbottle was a good Christian, that he
suffered nothing ever from remorse. That was undoubtedly
true. He had, nevertheless, done this grocer, forger, what
you will, some five or six years before, a grievous wrong;
but it was not that, but a possible scandal, and possible
complications, that troubled the learned Judge now.
Did he not, as a lawyer, know, that to bring
a man from his shop to the dock, the chances must be at
least ninety-nine out of a hundred that he is guilty?
A weak man like his learned brother
Withershins was not a judge to keep the high-roads safe, and
make crime tremble. Old Judge Harbottle was the man to make
the evil-disposed quiver, and to refresh the world with
showers of wicked blood, and thus save the innocent, to the
refrain of the ancient saw he loved to quote:
"Foolish pity Ruins a city."
In hanging that fellow he could not be wrong.
The eye of a man accustomed to look upon the dock could not
fail to read "villain" written sharp and clear in
his plotting face. Of course he would try him, and no one
A saucy-looking woman, still handsome, in a
mob-cap gay with blue ribbons, in a saque of flowered silk,
with lace and rings on, much too fine for the Judge's
housekeeper, which nevertheless she was, peeped into his
study next morning, and, seeing the Judge alone, stepped in.
"Here's another letter from him, come by
the post this morning. Can't you do nothing for him?"
she said wheedlingly, with her arm over his neck, and her
delicate finger and thumb fiddling with the lobe of his
"I'll try," said Judge Harbottle,
not raising his eyes from the paper he was reading.
"I knew you'd do what I asked you,"
The Judge clapt his gouty claw over his
heart, and made her an ironical bow.
"What," she asked, "will you
"Hang him," said the Judge with a
"You don't mean to; no, you don't, my
little man," said she, surveying herself in a mirror on
"I'm d--d but I think you're falling in
love with your husband at last!" said Judge Harbottle.
"I'm blest but I think you're growing
jealous of him," replied the lady with a laugh.
"But no; he was always a bad one to me; I've done with
him long ago."
"And he with you, by George! When he
took your fortune, and your spoons, and your ear-rings, he
had all he wanted of you. He drove you from his house; and
when he discovered you had made yourself comfortable, and
found a good situation, he'd have taken your guineas, and
your silver, and your ear-rings over again, and then allowed
you half-a-dozen years more to make a new harvest for his
mill. You don't wish him good; if you say you do, you
She laughed a wicked, saucy laugh, and gave
the terrible Rhadamanthus a playful tap on the chops.
"He wants me to send him money to fee a
counsellor," she said, while her eyes wandered over the
pictures on the wall, and back again to the looking-glass;
and certainly she did not look as if his jeopardy troubled
her very much.
"Confound his impudence, the
scoundrel!" thundered the old Judge, throwing
himself back in his chair, as he used to do in furore
on the bench, and the lines of his mouth looked brutal, and
his eyes ready to leap from his sockets. "If you answer
his letter from my house to please yourself, you'll write
your next from somebody else's to please me. You understand,
my pretty witch, I'll not be pestered. Come, no pouting;
whimpering won't do. You don't care a brass farthing for the
villain, body or soul. You came here but to make a row. You
are one of Mother Carey's chickens; and where you come, the
storm is up. Get you gone, baggage! get you
gone!" he repeated, with a stamp; for a knock
at the halldoor made her instantaneous disappearance
I need hardly say that the venerable Hugh
Peters did not appear again. The Judge never mentioned him.
But oddly enough, considering how he laughed to scorn the
weak invention which he had blown into dust at the very
first puff, his white-wigged visitor and the conference in
the dark front parlour was often in his memory.
His shrewd eye told him that allowing for
change of tints and such disguises as the playhouse affords
every night, the features of this false old man, who had
turned out too hard for his tall footman, were identical
with those of Lewis Pyneweck.
Judge Harbottle made his registrar call upon
the crown solicitor and tell him that there was a man in
town who bore a wonderful resemblance to a prisoner in
Shrewsbury jail named Lewis Pyneweck, and to make inquiry
through the post forthwith whether anyone was personating
Pyneweck in prison, and whether he had thus or otherwise
made his escape.
The prisoner was safe, however, and no
question as to his identity.
INTERRUPTION IN COURT
IN due time Judge Harbottle went
circuit; and in due time the judges were in Shrewsbury. News
travelled slowly in those days, and newspapers, like the
wagons and stage-coaches, took matters easily. Mrs.
Pyneweck, in the Judge's house, with a diminished
household--the greater part of the Judge's servants having
gone with him, for he had given up riding circuit, and
travelled in his coach in state--kept house rather
solitarily at home.
In spite of quarrels, in spite of mutual
injuries--some of them inflicted by herself, enormous--in
spite of a married life of spited bickerings--a life in
which there seemed no love or liking or forbearance, for
years--now that Pyneweck stood in near danger of death,
something like remorse came suddenly upon her. She knew that
in Shrewsbury were transacting the scenes which were to
determine his fate. She knew she did not love him; but she
could not have supposed, even a fortnight before, that the
hour of suspense could have affected her so powerfully.
She knew the day on which the trial was
expected to take place. She could not get it out of her head
for a minute; she felt faint as it drew towards evening.
Two or three days passed; and then she knew
that the trial must be over by this time. There were floods
between London and Shrewsbury, and news was long delayed.
She wished the floods would last for ever. It was dreadful
waiting to hear; dreadful to know that the event was over,
and that she could not hear till self-willed rivers
subsided; dreadful to know that they must subside and the
news come at last.
She had some vague trust in the Judge's
good-nature, and much in the resources of chance and
accident. She had contrived to send the money he wanted. He
would not be without legal advice and energetic and skilled
At last the news did come--a long arrear all
in a gush: a letter from a female friend in Shrewsbury; a
return of the sentences, sent up for the Judge; and most
important, because most easily got at, being told with great
aplomb and brevity, the long-deferred intelligence of the
Shrewsbury Assizes in the Morning Advertiser.
Like an impatient reader of a novel, who reads the last page
first, she read with dizzy eyes the list of the executions.
Two were respited, seven were hanged; and in
that capital catalogue was this line:
She had to read it half-a-dozen times over
before she was sure she understood it. Here was the
"Executed accordingly, on Friday the 13th instant, to
"Thomas Primer, alias Duck--highway robbery.
"Flora Guy--stealing to the value of 11s.
"Lewis Pyneweck--forgery, bill of exchange."
And when she reached this, she read it over
and over, feeling very cold and sick.
This buxom housekeeper was known in the house
as Mrs. Carwell--Carwell being her maiden name, which she
No one in the house except its master knew
her history. Her introduction had been managed craftily. No
one suspected that it had been concerted between her and the
old reprobate in scarlet and ermine.
Flora Carwell ran up the stairs now and
snatched her little girl, hardly seven years of age, whom
she met on the lobby, hurriedly up in her arms, and carried
her into her bedroom, without well knowing what she was
doing, and sat down, placing the child before her. She was
not able to speak. She held the child before her, and looked
in the little girl's wondering face, and burst into tears of
She thought the Judge could have saved him. I
daresay he could. For a time she was furious with him, and
hugged and kissed her bewildered little girl, who returned
her gaze with large round eyes.
That little girl had lost her father, and
knew nothing of the matter. She had been always told that
her father was dead long ago.
A woman, coarse, uneducated, vain, and
violent, does not reason, or even feel, very distinctly; but
in these tears of consternation were mingling a
self-upbraiding. She felt afraid of that little child.
But Mrs. Carwell was a person who lived not
upon sentiment, but upon beef and pudding; she consoled
herself with punch; she did not trouble herself long even
with resentments; she was a gross and material person, and
could not mourn over the irrevocable for more than a limited
number of hours, even if she would.
Judge Harbottle was soon in London again.
Except the gout, this savage old epicurean never knew a
day's sickness. He laughed, and coaxed, and bullied away the
young woman's faint upbraidings, and in a little time Lewis
Pyneweck troubled her no more; and the Judge secretly
chuckled over the perfectly fair removal of a bore, who
might have grown little by little into something very like a
It was the lot of the Judge whose adventures
I am now recounting to try criminal cases at the Old Bailey
shortly after his return. He had commenced his charge to the
jury in a case of forgery, and was, after his wont,
thundering dead against the prisoner, with many a hard
aggravation and cynical gibe, when suddenly all died away in
silence, and, instead of looking at the jury, the eloquent
Judge was gaping at some person in the body of the court.
Among the persons of small importance who
stand and listen at the sides was one tall enough to show
with a little I prominence; a slight mean figure, dressed in
seedy black, lean and dark of visage. He had just handed a
letter to the crier, before he caught the Judge's eye.
That Judge descried, to his amazement, the
features of Lewis Pyneweck. He had the usual faint
thin-lipped smile; and with his blue chin raised in air, and
as it seemed quite unconscious of the distinguished notice
he had attracted, he was stretching his low cravat with his
crooked fingers, while he slowly turned his head from side
to side--a process which enabled the Judge to see distinctly
a stripe of swollen blue round his neck, which indicated, he
thought, the grip of the rope.
This man, with a few others, had got a
footing on a step, from which he could better see the court.
He now stepped down, and the Judge lost sight of him.
His lordship signed energetically with his
hand in the direction in which this man had vanished. He
turned to the tipstaff. His first effort to speak ended in a
gasp. He cleared his throat, and told the astounded official
to arrest that man who had interrupted the court.
"He's but this moment gone down
there. Bring him in custody before me, within ten
minutes' time, or I'll strip your gown from your shoulders
and fine the sheriff!" he thundered, while his eyes
flashed round the court in search of the functionary.
Attorneys, counsellors, idle spectators,
gazed in the direction in which Mr. Justice Harbottle had
shaken his gnarled old hand. They compared notes. Not one
had seen anyone making a disturbance. They asked one another
if the Judge was losing his head.
Nothing came of the search. His lordship
concluded his charge a great deal more tamely; and when the
jury retired, he stared round the court with a wandering
mind, and looked as if he would not have given sixpence to
see the prisoner hanged.
THE Judge had received the letter;
had he known from whom it came, he would no doubt have read
it instantaneously. As it was he simply read the direction:
To the Honourable The Lord Justice Elijah
Harbottle, One of his Majesty's Justices of the Honourable
Court of Common Pleas.
It remained forgotten in his pocket till he
When he pulled out that and others from the
capacious pocket of his coat, it had its turn, as he sat in
his library in his thick silk dressing-gown; and then he
found its contents to be a closely-written letter, in a
clerk's hand, and an enclosure in "secretary
hand," as I believe the angular scrivenary of
law-writings in those days was termed, engrossed on a bit of
parchment about the size of this page. The letter said:
"I am ordered by the High Court of
Appeal to acquaint your lordship, in order to your better
preparing yourself for your trial, that a true bill hath
been sent down, and the indictment lieth against your
lordship for the murder of one Lewis Pyneweck of Shrewsbury,
citizen, wrongfully executed for the forgery of a bill of
exchange, on the --th day of ---- last, by reason of the
Wilful perversion of the evidence, and the undue pressure
put upon the jury, together with the illegal admission of
evidence by your lordship, well knowing the same to be
illegal, by all which the promoter of the prosecution of the
said indictment, before the High Court of Appeal, hath lost
"And the trial of the said indictment, I
am farther ordered to acquaint your lordship, is fixed for
the 10th day of next ensuing, by the right honourable the
Lord Chief Justice Twofold, of the court aforesaid, to wit,
the High Court of Appeal, on which day it will most
certainly take place. And I am farther to acquaint your
lordship, to prevent any surprise or miscarriage, that your
case stands first for the said day, and that the said High
Court of Appeal sits day and night, and never rises; and
herewith, by order of the said court, I furnish your
lordship with a copy (extract) of the record in this case,
except of the indictment, whereof, notwithstanding, the
substance and effect is supplied to your lordship in this
Notice. And farther I am to inform you, that in case the
jury then to try your lordship should find you guilty, the
right honourable the Lord Chief Justice will, in passing
sentence of death upon you, fix the day of execution for the
10th day of ----, being one calendar month from the day of
It was signed by
Officer of the Crown
Solicitor in the Kingdom
of Life and Death."
The Judge glanced through the parchment.
"'Sblood! Do they think a man like me is
to be bamboozled by their buffoonery?"
The Judge's coarse features were wrung into
one of his sneers; but he was pale. Possibly, after all,
there was a conspiracy on foot. It was queer. Did they mean
to pistol him in his carriage? or did they only aim at
Judge Harbottle had more than enough of
animal courage. He was not afraid of highwaymen, and he had
fought more than his share of duels, being a foul-mouthed
advocate while he held briefs at the bar. No one questioned
his fighting qualities. But with respect to this particular
case of Pyneweck, he lived in a house of glass. Was there
not his pretty, dark-eyed, over-dressed housekeeper, Mrs.
Flora Carwell? Very easy for people who knew Shrewsbury to
identify Mrs. Pyneweck, if once put upon the scent; and had
he not stormed and worked hard in that case? Had he not made
it hard sailing for the prisoner? Did he not know very well
what the bar thought of it? It would be the worst scandal
that ever blasted Judge.
So much there was intimidating in the matter,
but nothing more. The Judge was a little bit gloomy for a
day or two after, and more testy with everyone than usual.
He locked up the papers; and about a week
after he asked his housekeeper, one day, in the library:
"Had your husband never a brother?"
Mrs. Carwell squalled on this sudden
introduction of the funereal topic, and cried exemplary
"piggins full," as the Judge used pleasantly to
say. But he was in no mood for trifling now, and he said
"Come, madam! this wearies me. Do it
another time; and give me an answer to my question." So
Pyneweck had no brother living. He once had
one; but he died in Jamaica.
"How do you know he is dead? "
asked the Judge.
"Because he told me so."
"Not the dead man."
"Pyneweck told me so."
"Is that all?" sneered the Judge.
He pondered this matter; and time went on.
The Judge was growing a little morose, and less enjoying.
The subject struck nearer to his thoughts than he fancied it
could have done. But so it is with most undivulged
vexations, and there was no one to whom he could tell this
It was now the ninth; and Mr. Justice
Harbottle was glad. He knew nothing would come of it. Still
it bothered him; and to-morrow would see it well over.
[What of the paper I have cited? No one saw
it during his life; no one, after his death. He spoke of it
to Dr. Hedstone; and what purported to be "a
copy," in the old Judge's handwriting, was found. The
original was nowhere. Was it a copy of an illusion, incident
to brain disease? Such is my belief.]
JUDGE HARBOTTLE went this night to
the play at Drury Lane. He was one of those old fellows who
care nothing for late hours, and occasional knocking about
in pursuit of pleasure. He had appointed with two cronies of
Lincoln's Inn to come home in his coach with him to sup
after the play.
They were not in his box, but were to meet
him near the entrance, and get into his carriage there; and
Mr. Justice Harbottle, who hated waiting, was looking a
little impatiently from the window.
The Judge yawned.
He told the footman to watch for Counsellor
Thavies and Counsellor Beller, who were coming; and, with
another yawn, he laid his cocked hat on his knees, closed
his eyes, leaned back in his corner, wrapped his mantle
closer about him, and began to think of pretty Mrs.
And being a man who could sleep like a
sailor, at a moment's notice, he was thinking of taking a
nap. Those fellows had no business to keep a judge waiting.
He heard their voices now. Those rake-hell
counsellors were laughing, and bantering, and sparring after
their wont. The carriage swayed and jerked, as one got in,
and then again as the other followed. The door clapped, and
the coach was now jogging and rumbling over the pavement.
The Judge was a little bit sulky. He did not care to sit up
and open his eyes. Let them suppose he was asleep. He heard
them laugh with more malice than good-humour, he thought, as
they observed it. He would give them a d--d hard knock or
two when they got to his door, and till then he would
counterfeit his nap.
The clocks were chiming twelve. Beller and
Thavies were silent as tombstones. They were generally
loquacious and merry rascals.
The Judge suddenly felt himself roughly
seized and thrust from his corner into the middle of the
seat, and opening his eyes, instantly he found himself
between his two companions.
Before he could blurt out the oath that was
at his lips, he saw that they were two
strangers--evil-looking fellows, each with a pistol in his
hand, and dressed like Bow Street officers.
The Judge clutched at the check-string. The
coach pulled up. He stared about him. They were not among
houses; but through the windows, under a broad moonlight, he
saw a black moor stretching lifelessly from right to left,
with rotting trees, pointing fantastic branches in the air,
standing here and there in groups, as if they held up their
arms and twigs like fingers, in horrible glee at the Judge's
A footman came to the window. He knew his
long face and sunken eyes. He knew it was Dingly Chuff,
fifteen years ago a footman in his service, whom he had
turned off at a moment's notice, in a burst of jealousy, and
indicted for a missing spoon. The man had died in prison of
The Judge drew back in utter amazement. His
armed companions signed mutely; and they were again gliding
over this unknown moor.
The bloated and gouty old man, in his horror,
considered the question of resistance. But his athletic days
were long over. This moor was a desert. There was no help to
be had. He was in the hands of strange servants, even if his
recognition turned out to be delusion, and they were under
the command of his captors. There was nothing for it but
submission, for the present.
Suddenly the coach was brought nearly to a
standstill, so that the prisoner saw an ominous sight from
It was a gigantic gallows beside the road; it
stood three-sided, and from each of its three broad beams at
top depended in chains some eight or ten bodies, from
several of which the cere-clothes had dropped away, leaving
the skeletons swinging lightly by their chains. A tall
ladder reached to the summit of the structure, and on the
peat beneath lay bones.
On the top of the dark transverse beam facing
the road, from which, as from the other two completing the
triangle of death, dangled a row of these unfortunates in
chains, a hangman, with a pipe in his mouth, much as we see
him in the famous print of the "Idle Apprentice,"
though here his perch was ever so much higher, was reclining
at his ease and listlessly shying bones, from a little heap
at his elbow, at the skeletons that hung round, bringing
down now a rib or two, now a hand, now half a leg. A
long-sighted man could have discerned that he was a dark
fellow, lean; and from continually looking down on the earth
from the elevation over which, in another sense, he always
hung, his nose, his lips, his chin were pendulous and loose,
and drawn down into a monstrous grotesque.
This fellow took his pipe from his mouth on
seeing the coach, stood up, and cut some solemn capers high
on his beam, and shook a new rope in the air, crying with a
voice high and distant as the caw of a raven hovering over a
gibbet, "A rope for Judge Harbottle!"
The coach was now driving on at its old swift
So high a gallows as that, the Judge had
never, even in his most hilarious moments, dreamed of. He
thought he must be raving. And the dead footman! He shook
his ears and strained his eyelids; but if he was dreaming,
he was unable to awake himself.
There was no good in threatening these
scoundrels. A brutum fulmen might bring a real one on
Any submission to get out of their hands, and
then heaven and earth he would move to unearth and hunt them
Suddenly they drove round a corner of a vast
white building, and under a porte-cochère.
CHIEF JUSTICE TWOFOLD
THE Judge found himself in a
corridor lighted with dingy oil lamps, the walls of bare
stone; it looked like a passage in a prison. His guards
placed him in the hands of other people. Here and there he
saw bony and gigantic soldiers passing to and fro, with
muskets over their shoulders. They looked straight before
them, grinding their teeth, in bleak fury, with no noise but
the clank of their shoes. He saw these by glimpses, round
corners, and at the ends of passages, but he did not
actually pass them by.
And now, passing under a narrow doorway, he
found himself in the dock, confronting a judge in his
scarlet robes, in a large court-house. There was nothing to
elevate this Temple of Themis above its vulgar kind
elsewhere. Dingy enough it looked, in spite of candles
lighted in decent abundance. A case had just closed, and the
last juror's back was seen escaping through the door in the
wall of the jury-box. There were some dozen barristers, some
fiddling with pen and ink, others buried in briefs, some
beckoning with the plumes of their pens, to their attorneys,
of whom there were no lack; there were clerks to-ing and
fro-ing, and the officers of the court, and the registrar,
who was handing up a paper to the judge; and the tipstaff,
who was presenting a note at the end of his wand to a king's
counsel over the heads of the crowd between. If this was the
High Court of Appeal, which never rose day or night, it
might account for the pale and jaded aspect of everybody in
it. An air of indescribable gloom hung upon the pallid
features of all the people here; no one ever smiled; all
looked more or less secretly suffering.
"The King against Elijah
Harbottle!" shouted the officer.
"Is the appellant Lewis Pyneweck in
court?" asked Chief-Justice Twofold, in a voice of
thunder, that shook the woodwork of the court, and boomed
down the corridors.
Up stood Pyneweck from his place at the
"Arraign the prisoner!" roared the
Chief: and Judge Harbottle felt the panels of the dock round
him, and the floor and the rails quiver in the vibrations of
that tremendous voice.
The prisoner, in limine, objected to
this pretended court, as being a sham, and non-existent in
point of law; and then, that, even if it were a court
constituted by law (the Judge was growing dazed), it had not
and could not have any jurisdiction to try him for his
conduct on the bench.
Whereupon the chief-justice laughed suddenly,
and everyone in court, turning round upon the prisoner,
laughed also, till the laugh grew and roared all round like
a deafening acclamation; he saw nothing but glittering eyes
and teeth, a universal stare and grin; but though all the
voices laughed, not a single face of all those that
concentrated their gaze upon him looked like a laughing
face. The mirth subsided as suddenly as it began.
The indictment was read. Judge Harbottle
actually pleaded! He pleaded "Not Guilty." A jury
were sworn. The trial proceeded. Judge Harbottle was
bewildered. This could not be real. He must be either mad,
or going mad, he thought.
One thing could not fail to strike even him.
This Chief-Justice Twofold, who was knocking him about at
every turn with sneer and gibe, and roaring him down with
his tremendous voice, was a dilated effigy of himself; an
image of Mr. Justice Harbottle, at least double his size,
and with all his fierce colouring, and his ferocity of eye
and visage, enhanced awfully.
Nothing the prisoner could argue, cite, or
state, was permitted to retard for a moment the march of the
case towards its catastrophe.
The chief-justice seemed to feel his power
over the jury, and to exult and riot in the display of it.
He glared at them, he nodded to them; he seemed to have
established an understanding with them. The lights were
faint in that part of the court. The jurors were mere
shadows, sitting in rows; the prisoner could see a dozen
pair of white eyes shining, coldly, out of the darkness; and
whenever the judge in his charge, which was contemptuously
brief, nodded and grinned and gibed, the prisoner could see,
in the obscurity, by the dip of all these rows of eyes
together, that the jury nodded in acquiescence.
And now the charge was over, the huge
chief-justice leaned back panting and gloating on the
prisoner. Everyone in the court turned about, and gazed with
steadfast hatred on the man in the dock. From the jury-box
where the twelve sworn brethren were whispering together, a
sound in the general stillness, like a prolonged
"hiss-s-s!" was heard; and then, in answer to the
challenge of the officer, "How say you, gentlemen of
the jury, guilty or not guilty?" came in a melancholy
voice the finding, " Guilty."
The place seemed to the eyes of the prisoner
to grow gradually darker and darker, till he could discern
nothing distinctly but the lumen of the eyes that were
turned upon him from every bench and side and corner and
gallery of the building. The prisoner doubtless thought that
he had quite enough to say, and conclusive, why sentence of
death should not be pronounced upon him; but the lord
chief-justice puffed it contemptuously away, like so much
smoke, and proceeded to pass sentence of death upon the
prisoner, having named the tenth of the ensuing month for
Before he had recovered the stun of this
ominous farce, in obedience to the mandate, "Remove the
prisoner," he was led from the dock. The lamps seemed
all to have gone out, and there were stoves and
charcoal-fires here and there, that threw a faint crimson
light on the walls of the corridors through which he passed.
The stones that composed them looked now enormous, cracked
He came into a vaulted smithy, where two men,
naked to the waist, with heads like bulls, round shoulders,
and the arms of giants, were welding red-hot chains together
with hammers that pelted like thunderbolts.
They looked on the prisoner with fierce red
eyes, and rested on their hammers for a minute; and said the
elder to his companion, "Take out Elijah Harbottle's
gyves"; and with a pincers he plucked the end which lay
dazzling in the fire from the furnace.
"One end locks," said he, taking
the cool end of the iron in one hand, while with the grip of
a vice he seized the leg of the Judge and locked the ring
round his ankle. "The other," he said with a grin,
The iron band that was to form the ring for
the other leg lay still red hot upon the stone floor, with
brilliant sparks sporting up and down its surface.
His companion, in his gigantic hands, seized
the old Judge's other leg, and pressed his foot immovably to
the stone floor; while his senior, in a twinkling, with a
masterly application of pincers and hammer, sped the glowing
bar round his ankle so tight that the skin and sinews smoked
and bubbled again, and old Judge Harbottle uttered a yell
that seemed to chill the very stones and make the iron
chains quiver on the wall.
Chains, vaults, smiths, and smithy all
vanished in a moment; but the pain continued. Mr. Justice
Harbottle was suffering torture all round the ankle on which
the infernal smiths had just been operating.
His friends, Thavies and Beller, were
startled by the Judge's roar in the midst of their elegant
trifling about a marriage à-la-mode case which was
going on. The Judge was in panic as well as pain. The street
lamps and the light of his own hall door restored him.
"I'm very bad," growled he between
his set teeth; "my foot's blazing. Who was he that hurt
my foot? 'Tis the gout--'tis the gout!" he said,
awaking completely. "How many hours have we been coming
from the playhouse? 'Sblood, what has happened on the way?
I've slept half the night!"
There had been no hitch or delay, and they
had driven home at a good pace.
The Judge, however, was in gout; he was
feverish too; and the attack, though very short, was sharp;
and when, in about a fortnight, it subsided, his ferocious
joviality did not return. He could not get this dream, as he
chose to call it, out of his head.
SOMEBODY HAS GOT INTO THE HOUSE
PEOPLE remarked that the Judge was
in the vapours. His doctor said he should go for a fortnight
Whenever the Judge fell into a brown study he
was always conning over the terms of the sentence pronounced
upon him in his vision--"in one calendar month from the
date of this day"; and then the usual form, "and
you shall be hanged by the neck till you are dead,"
etc. "That will be the 10th--I'm not much in the way of
being hanged. I know what stuff dreams are, and I laugh at
them; but this is continually in my thoughts, as if it
forecast misfortune of some sort. I wish the day my dream
gave me were passed and over. I wish I were well purged of
my gout. I wish I were as I used to be. 'Tis nothing but
vapours, nothing but a maggot." The copy of the
parchment and letter which had announced his trial with many
a snort and sneer he would read over and over again, and the
scenery and people of his dream would rise about him in
places the most unlikely, and steal him in a moment from all
that surrounded him into a world of shadows.
The Judge had lost his iron energy and
banter. He was growing taciturn and morose. The Bar remarked
the change, as well they might. His friends thought him ill.
The doctor said he was troubled with hypochondria, and that
his gout was still lurking in his system, and ordered him to
that ancient haunt of crutches and chalk-stones, Buxton.
The Judge's spirits were very low; he was
frightened about himself; and he described to his
housekeeper, having sent for her to his study to drink a
dish of tea, his strange dream in his drive home from Drury
Lane Playhouse. He was sinking into the state of nervous
dejection in which men lose their faith in orthodox advice,
and in despair consult quacks, astrologers, and nursery
story-tellers. Could such a dream mean that he was to have a
fit, and so die on the 10th? She did not think so. On the
contrary, it was certain some good luck must happen on that
The Judge kindled; and for the first time for
many days he looked for a minute or two like himself, and he
tapped her on the cheek with the hand that was not in
"Odsbud! odsheart! you dear rogue! I had
forgot. There is young Tom--yellow Tom, my nephew, you know,
lies sick at Harrogate; why shouldn't he go that day as well
as another, and if he does, I get an estate by it? Why,
lookee, I asked Doctor Hedstone yesterday if I was like to
take a fit any time, and he laughed, and swore I was the
last man in town to go off that way."
The Judge sent most of his servants down to
Buxton to make his lodgings and all things comfortable for
him. He was to follow in a day or two.
It was now the 9th; and the next day well
over, he might laugh at his visions and auguries.
On the evening of the 9th, Dr. Hedstone's
footman knocked at the Judge's door. The Doctor ran up the
dusky stairs to the drawing-room. It was a March evening,
near the hour of sunset, with an east wind whistling sharply
through the chimney-stacks. A wood fire blazed cheerily on
the hearth. And Judge Harbottle, in what was then called a
brigadier-wig, with his red roquelaure on, helped the
glowing effect of the darkened chamber, which looked red all
over like a room on fire.
The Judge had his feet on a stool, and his
huge grim purple face confronted the fire and seemed to pant
and swell, as the blaze alternately spread upward and
collapsed. He had fallen again among his blue devils, and
was thinking of retiring from the Bench, and of fifty other
But the Doctor, who was an energetic son of
Æsculapius, would listen to no croaking, told the
Judge he was full of gout, and in his present condition no
judge even of his own case, but promised him leave to
pronounce on all those melancholy questions a fortnight
In the meantime the Judge must be very
careful. He was overcharged with gout, and he must not
provoke an attack till the waters of Buxton should do that
office for him in their own salutary way.
The Doctor did not think him perhaps quite so
well as he pretended, for he told him he wanted rest, and
would be better if he went forthwith to his bed.
Mr. Gerningham, his valet, assisted him, and
gave him his drops; and the Judge told him to wait in his
bedroom till he should go to sleep.
Three persons that night had specially odd
stories to tell.
The housekeeper had got rid of the trouble of
amusing her little girl at this anxious time, by giving her
leave to run about the sitting-rooms and look at the
pictures and china, on the usual condition of touching
nothing. It was not until the last gleam of sunset had for
some time faded, and the twilight had so deepened that she
could no longer discern the colours on the china figures on
the chimneypiece or in the cabinets, that the child returned
to the housekeeper's room to find her mother.
To her she related, after some prattle about
the china, and the pictures, and the Judge's two grand wigs
in the dressing-room o� the library, an adventure of an
In the hall was placed, as was customary in
those times, the sedan-chair which the master of the house
occasionally used, covered with stamped leather and studded
with gilt nails, and with its red silk blinds down. In this
case, the doors of this old-fashioned conveyance were
locked, the windows up, and, as I said, the blinds down, but
not so closely that the curious child could not peep
underneath one of them, and see into the interior.
A parting beam from the setting sun, admitted
through the window of a back room, shot obliquely through
the open door and, lighting on the chair, shone with a dull
transparency through the crimson blind.
To her surprise, the child saw in the shadow
a thin man, dressed in black, seated in it; he had sharp
dark features; his nose, she fancied, a little awry, and his
brown eyes were looking straight before him; his hand was on
his thigh, and he stirred no more than the waxen figure she
had seen at Southwark fair.
A child is so often lectured for asking
questions, and on the propriety of silence, and the superior
wisdom of its elders, that it accepts most things at last in
good faith; and the little girl acquiesced respectfully in
the occupation of the chair by this mahogany-faced person as
being all right and proper.
It was not until she asked her mother who
this man was, and observed her scared face as she questioned
her more minutely upon the appearance of the stranger, that
she began to understand that she had seen something
Mrs. Carwell took the key of the chair from
its nail over the footman's shelf, and led the child by the
hand up to the hall, having a lighted candle in her other
hand. She stopped at a distance from the chair, and placed
the candlestick in the child's hand.
"Peep in, Margery, again, and try if
there's anything there," she whispered; "hold the
candle near the blind so as to throw its light through the
The child peeped, this time with a very
solemn face, and intimated at once that he was gone.
"Look again, and be sure," urged
The little girl was quite certain; and Mrs.
Carwell, with her mob-cap of lace and cherry-coloured
ribbons, and her dark brown hair, not yet powdered, over a
very pale face, unlocked the door, looked in, and beheld
"All a mistake, child, you see."
"There! ma'am! see there! He's gone
round the corner," said the child.
"Where?" said Mrs. Carwell,
stepping backward a step.
"Into that room."
"Tut, child! 'twas the shadow,"
cried Mrs. Carwell, angrily, because she was frightened.
"I moved the candle." But she clutched one of the
poles of the chair, which leant against the wall in the
corner, and pounded the floor furiously with one end of it,
being afraid to pass the open door the child had pointed to.
The cook and two kitchen-maids came running
upstairs, not knowing what to make of this unwonted alarm.
They all searched the room; but it was still
and empty, and no sign of anyone's having been there.
Some people may suppose that the direction
given to her thoughts by this odd little incident will
account for a very strange illusion which Mrs. Carwell
herself experienced about two hours later.
THE JUDGE LEAVES HIS HOUSE
MRS. FLORA CARWELL was going up the
great staircase with a posset for the Judge in a china bowl,
on a little silver tray.
Across the top of the well-staircase there
runs a massive oak rail; and, raising her eyes accidentally,
she saw an extremely odd-looking stranger, slim and long,
leaning carelessly over with a pipe between his finger and
thumb. Nose, lips, and chin seemed all to droop downward
into extraordinary length, as he leant his odd peering face
over the banister. In his other hand he held a coil of rope,
one end of which escaped from under his elbow and hung over
Mrs. Carwell, who had no suspicion at the
moment that he was not a real person, and fancied that he
was someone employed in cording the Judge's luggage, called
to know what he was doing there.
Instead of answering he turned about and
walked across the lobby, at about the same leisurely pace at
which she was ascending, and entered a room, into which she
followed him. It was an uncarpeted and unfurnished chamber.
An open trunk lay upon the floor empty, and beside it the
coil of rope; but except herself there was no one in the
Mrs. Carwell was very much frightened, and
now concluded that the child must have seen the same ghost
that had just appeared to her. Perhaps, when she was able to
think it over, it was a relief to believe so; for the face,
figure, and dress described by the child were awfully like
Pyneweck; and this certainly was not he.
Very much scared and very hysterical, Mrs.
Carwell ran down to her room, afraid to look over her
shoulder, and got some companions about her, and wept, and
talked, and drank more than one cordial, and talked and wept
again, and so on, until, in those early days, it was ten
o'clock, and time to go to bed.
A scullery-maid remained up finishing some of
her scouring and "scalding" for some time after
the other servants--who, as I said, were few in number--that
night had got to their beds. This was a low-browed,
broad-faced, intrepid wench with black hair, who did not
"vally a ghost not a button," and treated the
housekeeper's hysterics with measureless scorn.
The old house was quiet now. It was near
twelve o'clock, no sounds were audible except the muffled
wailing of the wintry winds, piping high among the roofs and
chimneys, or rumbling at intervals, in under gusts, through
the narrow channels of the street.
The spacious solitudes of the kitchen level
were awfully dark, and this sceptical kitchen-wench was the
only person now up and about in the house. She hummed tunes
to herself, for a time; and then stopped and listened; and
then resumed her work again. At last, she was destined to be
more terrified than even was the housekeeper.
There was a back kitchen in this house, and
from this she heard, as if coming from below its
foundations, a sound like heavy strokes, that seemed to
shake the earth beneath her feet. Sometimes a dozen in
sequence, at regular intervals; sometimes fewer. She walked
out softly into the passage, and was surprised to see a
dusky glow issuing from this room, as if from a charcoal
The room seemed thick with smoke.
Looking in, she very dimly beheld a monstrous
figure, over a furnace, beating with a mighty hammer the
rings and rivets of a chain.
The strokes, swift and heavy as they looked,
sounded hollow and distant. The man stopped, and pointed to
something on the floor, that, through the smoky haze,
looked, she thought, like a dead body. She remarked no more;
but the servants in the room close by, startled from their
sleep by a hideous scream, found her in a swoon on the
flags, close to the door, where she had just witnessed this
Startled by the girl's incoherent
asseverations that she had seen the Judge's corpse on the
floor, two servants having first searched the lower part of
the house, went rather frightened upstairs to inquire
whether their master was well. They found him, not in his
bed, but in his room. He had a table with candles burning at
his bedside, and was getting on his clothes again; and he
swore and cursed at them roundly in his old style, telling
them that he had business, and that he would discharge on
the spot any scoundrel who should dare to disturb him again.
So the invalid was left to his quietude.
In the morning it was rumoured here and there
in the street that the Judge was dead. A servant was sent
from the house three doors away, by Counsellor Traverse, to
inquire at Judge Harbottle's hall door.
The servant who opened it was pale and
reserved, and would only say that the Judge was ill. He had
had a dangerous accident; Doctor Hedstone had been with him
at seven o'clock in the morning.
There were averted looks, short answers, pale
and frowning faces, and all the usual signs that there was a
secret that sat heavily upon their minds, and the time for
disclosing which had not yet come. That time would arrive
when the coroner had arrived, and the mortal scandal that
had befallen the house could be no longer hidden. For that
morning Mr. Justice Harbottle had been found hanging by the
neck from the banister at the top of the great staircase,
and quite dead.
There was not the smallest sign of any
struggle or resistance. There had not been heard a cry or
any other noise in the slightest degree indicative of
violence. There was medical evidence to show that, in his
atrabilious state, it was quite on the cards that he might
have made away with himself. The jury found accordingly that
it was a case of suicide. But to those who were acquainted
with the strange story which Judge Harbottle had related to
at least two persons, the fact that the catastrophe occurred
on the morning of March 10th seemed a startling coincidence.
A few days after, the pomp of a great funeral
attended him to the grave; and so, in the language of
Scripture, "the rich man died, and was buried."