Peveril of the Peak, by Walter Scott

Chapter 41

Yet, Corah, thou shalt from oblivion pass;

Erect thyself, thou monumental brass,

High as the serpent of thy metal made,

While nations stand secure beneath thy shade.

ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL.

The morning which Charles had spent in visiting the Tower, had been very differently employed by those unhappy individuals, whom their bad fate, and the singular temper of the times, had made the innocent tenants of that state prison, and who had received official notice that they were to stand their trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench at Westminster, on the seventh succeeding day. The stout old Cavalier at first only railed at the officer for spoiling his breakfast with the news, but evinced great feeling when he was told that Julian was to be put under the same indictment.

We intend to dwell only very generally on the nature of their trial, which corresponded, in the outline, with almost all those which took place during the prevalence of the Popish Plot. That is, one or two infamous and perjured evidences, whose profession of common informers had become frightfully lucrative, made oath to the prisoners having expressed themselves interested in the great confederacy of the Catholics. A number of others brought forward facts or suspicions, affecting the character of the parties as honest Protestants and good subjects; and betwixt the direct and presumptive evidence, enough was usually extracted for justifying, to a corrupted court and perjured jury, the fatal verdict of Guilty.

The fury of the people had, however, now begun to pass away, exhausted even by its own violence. The English nation differ from all others, indeed even from those of the sister kingdoms, in being very easily sated with punishment, even when they suppose it most merited. Other nations are like the tamed tiger, which, when once its native appetite for slaughter is indulged in one instance, rushes on in promiscuous ravages. But the English public have always rather resembled what is told of the sleuth-dog, which, eager, fierce, and clamorous in pursuit of his prey, desists from it so soon as blood is sprinkled upon his path.

Men’s minds were now beginning to cool — the character of the witnesses was more closely sifted — their testimonies did not in all cases tally — and a wholesome suspicion began to be entertained of men, who would never say they had made a full discovery of all they knew, but avowedly reserved some points of evidence to bear on future trials.

The King also, who had lain passive during the first burst of popular fury, was now beginning to bestir himself, which produced a marked effect on the conduct of the Crown Counsel, and even the Judges. Sir George Wakeman had been acquitted in spite of Oates’s direct testimony; and public attention was strongly excited concerning the event of the next trial; which chanced to be that of the Peverils, father and son, with whom, I know not from what concatenation, little Hudson the dwarf was placed at the bar of the Court of King’s Bench.

It was a piteous sight to behold a father and son, who had been so long separated, meet under circumstances so melancholy; and many tears were shed, when the majestic old man — for such he was, though now broken with years — folded his son to his bosom, with a mixture of joy, affection, and a bitter anticipation of the event of the impending trial. There was a feeling in the Court that for a moment overcame every prejudice and party feeling. Many spectators shed tears; and there was even a low moaning, as of those who weep aloud.

Such as felt themselves sufficiently at ease to remark the conduct of poor little Geoffrey Hudson, who was scarcely observed amid the preponderating interest created by his companions in misfortune, could not but notice a strong degree of mortification on the part of that diminutive gentleman. He had soothed his great mind by the thoughts of playing the character which he was called on to sustain, in a manner which should be long remembered in that place; and on his entrance, had saluted the numerous spectators, as well as the Court, with a cavalier air, which he meant should express grace, high-breeding, perfect coolness, with a noble disregard to the issue of their proceedings. But his little person was so obscured and jostled aside, on the meeting of the father and son, who had been brought in different boats from the Tower, and placed at the bar at the same moment, that his distress and his dignity were alike thrown into the background, and attracted neither sympathy nor admiration.

The dwarf’s wisest way to attract attention would have been to remain quiet, when so remarkable an exterior would certainly have received in its turn the share of public notice which he so eagerly coveted. But when did personal vanity listen to the suggestions of prudence? — Our impatient friend scrambled, with some difficulty, on the top of the bench intended for his seat; and there, “paining himself to stand a-tiptoe,” like Chaucer’s gallant Sir Chaunticlere, he challenged the notice of the audience as he stood bowing and claiming acquaintance of his namesake Sir Geoffrey the larger, with whose shoulders, notwithstanding his elevated situation, he was scarcely yet upon a level.

The taller Knight, whose mind was occupied in a very different manner, took no notice of these advances upon the dwarf’s part, but sat down with the determination rather to die on the spot than evince any symptoms of weakness before Roundheads and Presbyterians; under which obnoxious epithets, being too old-fashioned to find out party designations of newer date, he comprehended all persons concerned in his present trouble.

By Sir Geoffrey the larger’s change of position, his face was thus brought on a level with that of Sir Geoffrey the less, who had an opportunity of pulling him by the cloak. He of Martindale Castle, rather mechanically than consciously, turned his head towards the large wrinkled visage, which, struggling between an assumed air of easy importance, and an anxious desire to be noticed, was grimacing within a yard of him. But neither the singular physiognomy, the nods and smiles of greeting and recognition into which it was wreathed, nor the strange little form by which it was supported, had at that moment the power of exciting any recollections in the old Knight’s mind; and having stared for a moment at the poor little man, his bulky namesake turned away his head without farther notice.

Julian Peveril, the dwarf’s more recent acquaintance, had, even amid his own anxious feelings, room for sympathy with those of his little fellow-sufferer. As soon as he discovered that he was at the same terrible bar with himself, although he could not conceive how their causes came to be conjoined, he acknowledged him by a hearty shake of the hand, which the old man returned with affected dignity and real gratitude. “Worthy youth,” he said, “thy presence is restorative, like the nepenthe of Homer even in this syncopé of our mutual fate. I am concerned to see that your father hath not the same alacrity of soul as that of ours, which are lodged within smaller compass; and that he hath forgotten an ancient comrade and fellow-soldier, who now stands beside him to perform, perhaps, their last campaign.”

Julian briefly replied, that his father had much to occupy him. But the little man — who, to do him justice, cared no more (in his own phrase) for imminent danger or death, than he did for the puncture of a flea’s proboscis — did not so easily renounce the secret object of his ambition, which was to acquire the notice of the large and lofty Sir Geoffrey Peveril, who, being at least three inches taller than his son, was in so far possessed of that superior excellence, which the poor dwarf, in his secret soul, valued before all other distinctions, although in his conversation, he was constantly depreciating it. “Good comrade and namesake,” he proceeded, stretching out his hand, so as to again to reach the elder Peveril’s cloak, “I forgive your want of reminiscence, seeing it is long since I saw you at Naseby, fighting as if you had as many arms as the fabled Briareus.”

The Knight of Martindale, who had again turned his head towards the little man, and had listened, as if endeavouring to make something out of his discourse, here interrupted him with a peevish, “Pshaw!”

“Pshaw!” repeated Sir Geoffrey the less; “Pshaw is an expression of slight esteem — nay, of contempt — in all languages; and were this a befitting place ——”

But the Judges had now taken their places, the criers called silence, and the stern voice of the Lord Chief Justice (the notorious Scroggs) demanded what the officers meant by permitting the accused to communicate together in open court.

It may here be observed, that this celebrated personage was, upon the present occasion, at a great loss how to proceed. A calm, dignified, judicial demeanour, was at no time the characteristic of his official conduct. He always ranted and roared either on the one side or the other; and of late, he had been much unsettled which side to take, being totally incapable of anything resembling impartiality. At the first trials for the Plot, when the whole stream of popularity ran against the accused, no one had been so loud as Scroggs; to attempt to the character of Oates or Bedloe, or any other leading witnesses, he treated as a crime more heinous than it would have been to blaspheme the Gospel on which they had been sworn — it was a stifling of the Plot, or discrediting of the King’s witnesses — a crime not greatly, if at all, short of high treason against the King himself.

But, of late, a new light had begun to glimmer upon the understanding of this interpreter of the laws. Sagacious in the signs of the times, he began to see that the tide was turning; and that Court favour at least, and probably popular opinion also, were likely, in a short time, to declare against the witnesses, and in favour of the accused.

The opinion which Scroggs had hitherto entertained of the high respect in which Shaftesbury, the patron of the Plot, was held by Charles, had been definitely shaken by a whisper from his brother North to the following effect: “His Lordship has no more interest at Court than your footman.”

This notice, from a sure hand, and received but that morning, had put the Judge to a sore dilemma; for, however indifferent to actual consistency, he was most anxious to save appearances. He could not but recollect how violent he had been on former occasions in favour of these prosecutions; and being sensible at the same time that the credit of the witnesses, though shaken in the opinion of the more judicious, was, amongst the bulk of the people out of doors, as strong as ever, he had a difficult part to play. His conduct, therefore, during the whole trial, resembled the appearance of a vessel about to go upon another tack, when her sails are shivering in the wind, ere they have yet caught the impulse which is to send her forth in a new direction. In a word, he was so uncertain which side it was his interest to favour, that he might be said on that occasion to have come nearer a state of total impartiality than he was ever capable of attaining, whether before or afterwards. This was shown by his bullying now the accused, and now the witnesses, like a mastiff too much irritated to lie still without baying, but uncertain whom he shall first bite.

The indictment was then read; and Sir Geoffrey Peveril heard, with some composure, the first part of it, which stated him to have placed his son in the household of the Countess of Derby, a recusant Papist, for the purpose of aiding the horrible and bloodthirsty Popish Plot — with having had arms and ammunition concealed in his house — and with receiving a blank commission from the Lord Stafford, who had suffered death on account of the Plot. But when the charge went on to state that he had communicated for the same purpose with Geoffrey Hudson, sometimes called Sir Geoffrey Hudson, now, or formerly in the domestic service of the Queen Dowager, he looked at his companion as if he suddenly recalled him to remembrance, and broke out impatiently, “These lies are too gross to require a moment’s consideration. I might have had enough of intercourse, though in nothing but what was loyal and innocent, with my noble kinsman, the late Lord Stafford — I will call him so in spite of his misfortunes — and with my wife’s relation, the Honourable Countess of Derby. But what likelihood can there be that I should have colleagued with a decrepit buffoon, with whom I never had an instant’s communication, save once at an Easter feast, when I whistled a hornpipe, as he danced on a trencher to amuse the company?”

The rage of the poor dwarf brought tears in his eyes, while, with an affected laugh, he said, that instead of those juvenile and festive passages, Sir Geoffrey Peveril might have remembered his charging along with him at Wiggan Lane.

“On my word,” said Sir Geoffrey, after a moment’s recollection, “I will do you justice, Master Hudson — I believe you were there — I think I heard you did good service. But you will allow you might have been near one without his seeing you.”

A sort of titter ran through the Court at the simplicity of the larger Sir Geoffrey’s testimony, which the dwarf endeavoured to control, by standing on his tiptoes, and looking fiercely around, as if to admonish the laughers that they indulged their mirth at their own peril. But perceiving that this only excited farther scorn, he composed himself into a semblance of careless contempt, observing, with a smile, that no one feared the glance of a chained lion; a magnificent simile, which rather increased than diminished the mirth of those who heard it.

Against Julian Peveril there failed not to be charged the aggravated fact, that he had been bearer of letters between the Countess of Derby and other Papists and priests, engaged in the universal treasonable conspiracy of the Catholics; and the attack of the house at Moultrassie Hall — with his skirmish with Chiffinch, and his assault, as it was termed, on the person of John Jenkins, servant to the Duke of Buckingham, were all narrated at length, as so many open and overt acts of treasonable import. To this charge Peveril contented himself with pleading — Not Guilty.

His little companion was not satisfied with so simple a plea; for when he heard it read, as a part of the charge applying to him, that he had received from an agent of the Plot a blank commission as Colonel of a regiment of grenadiers, he replied, in wrath and scorn, that if Goliath of Gath had come to him with such a proposal, and proffered him the command of the whole sons of Anak in a body, he should never have had occasion or opportunity to repeat the temptation to another. “I would have slain him,” said the little man of loyalty, “even where he stood.”

The charge was stated anew by the Counsel for the Crown; and forth came the notorious Doctor Oates, rustling in the full silken canonicals of priesthood, for it was a time when he affected no small dignity of exterior decoration and deportment.

This singular man, who, aided by the obscure intrigues of the Catholics themselves, and the fortuitous circumstance of Godfrey’s murder, had been able to cram down the public throat such a mass of absurdity as his evidence amounts to, had no other talent for imposture than an impudence which set conviction and shame alike at defiance. A man of sense or reflection, by trying to give his plot an appearance of more probability, would most likely have failed, as wise men often to do in addressing the multitude, from not daring to calculate upon the prodigious extent of their credulity, especially where the figments presented to them involve the fearful and the terrible.

Oates was by nature choleric; and the credit he had acquired made him insolent and conceited. Even his exterior was portentous. A fleece of white periwig showed a most uncouth visage, of great length, having the mouth, as the organ by use of which he was to rise to eminence, placed in the very centre of the countenance, and exhibiting to the astonished spectator as much chin below as there was nose and brow above the aperture. His pronunciation, too, was after a conceited fashion of his own, in which he accented the vowels in a manner altogether peculiar to himself.

This notorious personage, such as we have described him, stood forth on the present trial, and delivered his astonishing testimony concerning the existence of a Catholic Plot for the subversion of the government and murder of the King, in the same general outline in which it may be found in every English history. But as the doctor always had in reserve some special piece of evidence affecting those immediately on trial, he was pleased, on the present occasion, deeply to inculpate the Countess of Derby. “He had seen,” as he said, “that honourable lady when he was at the Jesuits’ College at Saint Omer’s. She had sent for him to an inn, or auberge, as it was there termed — the sign of the Golden Lamb; and had ordered him to breakfast in the same room with her ladyship; and afterwards told him, that, knowing he was trusted by the Fathers of the Society, she was determined that he should have a share of her secrets also; and therewithal, that she drew from her bosom a broad sharp-pointed knife, such as butchers kill sheep with, and demanded of him what he thought of it for the purpose; and when he, the witness, said for what purpose she rapt him on the fingers with her fan, called him a dull fellow, and said it was designed to kill the King with.”

Here Sir Geoffrey Peveril could no longer refrain his indignation and surprise. “Mercy of Heaven!” he said, “did ever one hear of ladies of quality carrying butchering knives about them, and telling every scurvy companion she meant to kill the King with them? — Gentleman of the Jury, do but think if this is reasonable — though, if the villain could prove by any honest evidence, that my Lady of Derby ever let such a scum as himself come to speech of her, I would believe all he can say.”

“Sir Geoffrey,” said the Judge, “rest you quiet — You must not fly out — passion helps you not here — the Doctor must be suffered to proceed.”

Doctor Oates went on to state how the lady complained of the wrongs the House of Derby had sustained from the King and the oppression of her religion, and boasted of the schemes of the Jesuits and seminary priests; and how they would be farthered by her noble kinsman of the House of Stanley. He finally averred that both the Countess and the Fathers of the seminary abroad, founded much upon the talents and courage of Sir Geoffrey Peveril and his son — the latter of whom was a member of her family. Of Hudson, he only recollected of having heard one of the Fathers say, that although but a dwarf in stature, he would prove a giant in the cause of the Church.

When he had ended his evidence, there was a pause, until the Judge, as if the thought had suddenly occurred to him, demanded of Dr. Oates, whether he had ever mentioned the names of the Countess of Derby in any of the previous informations which he had lodged before the Privy Council, and elsewhere, upon this affair.

Oates seemed rather surprised at the question, and coloured with anger, as he answered, in his peculiar mode of pronunciation, “Whoy, no, maay laard.”

“And pray, Doctor,” said the Judge, “how came so great a revealer of mysteries as you have lately proved, to have suffered so material a circumstance as the accession of this powerful family to the Plot to have remained undiscovered?”

“Maay laard,” said Oates, with much effrontery, “aye do not come here to have my evidence questioned as touching the Plaat.”

“I do not question your evidence, Doctor,” said Scroggs, for the time was not arrived that he dared treat him roughly; “nor do I doubt the existence of the Plaat, since it is your pleasure to swear to it. I would only have you, for your own sake, and the satisfaction of all good Protestants, to explain why you have kept back such a weighty point of information from the King and country.”

“Maay laard,” said Oates, “I will tell you a pretty fable.”

“I hope,” answered the Judge, “it may be the first and last which you shall tell in this place.”

“Maay laard,” continued Oates, “there was once a faux, who having to carry a goose over a frazen river, and being afraid the aice would not bear him and his booty, did caarry aaver a staane, my laard, in the first instance, to prove the strength of the aice.”

“So your former evidence was but the stone, and now, for the first time, you have brought us the goose?” said Sir William Scroggs; “to tell us this, Doctor, is to make geese of the Court and Jury.”

“I desoire your laardship’s honest construction,” said Oates, who saw the current changing against him, but was determined to pay the score with effrontery. “All men knaw at what coast and praice I have given my evidence, which has been always, under Gaad, the means of awakening this poor naation to the dangerous state in which it staunds. Many here knaw that I have been obliged to faartify my ladging at Whitehall against the bloody Papists. It was not to be thought that I should have brought all the story out at aance. I think your wisdome would have advised me otherwise.”*

* It was on such terms that Dr. Oates was pleased to claim the extraordinary privilege of dealing out the information which he chose to communicate to a court of justice. The only sense in which his story of the fox, stone, and goose could be applicable, is by supposing that he was determined to ascertain the extent of his countrymen’s credulity before supplying it with a full meal.

“Nay, Doctor,” said the Judge, “it is not for me to direct you in this affair; and it is for the Jury to believe you or not; and as for myself, I sit here to do justice to both — the Jury have heard your answer to my question.”

Doctor Oates retired from the witness-box reddening like a turkey-cock, as one totally unused to have such accounts questioned as he chose to lay before the courts of justice; and there was, perhaps, for the first time, amongst the counsel and solicitors, as well as the templars and students of law there present, a murmur, distinct and audible, unfavourable to the character of the great father of the Popish Plot.

Everett and Dangerfield, with whom the reader is already acquainted, were then called in succession to sustain the accusation. They were subordinate informers — a sort of under-spur-leathers, as the cant term went — who followed the path of Oates, with all deference to his superior genius and invention, and made their own fictions chime in and harmonise with his, as well as their talents could devise. But as their evidence had at no time received the full credence into which the impudence of Oates had cajoled the public, so they now began to fall into discredit rather more hastily than their prototype, as the super-added turrets of an ill-constructed building are naturally the first to give way.

It was in vain that Everett, with the precision of a hypocrite, and Dangerfield, with the audacity of a bully, narrated, with added circumstances of suspicion and criminality, their meeting with Julian Peveril in Liverpool, and again at Martindale Castle. It was in vain they described the arms and accoutrements which they pretended to have discovered in old Sir Geoffrey’s possession; and that they gave a most dreadful account of the escape of the younger Peveril from Moultrassie Hall, by means of an armed force.

The Jury listened coldly, and it was visible that they were but little moved by the accusation; especially as the Judge, always professing his belief in the Plot, and his zeal for the Protestant religion, was ever and anon reminding them that presumptions were no proofs — that hearsay was no evidence — that those who made a trade of discovery were likely to aid their researches by invention — and that without doubting the guilt of the unfortunate persons at the bar, he would gladly hear some evidence brought against them of a different nature. “Here we are told of a riot, and an escape achieved by the younger Peveril, at the house of a grave and worthy magistrate, known, I think, to most of us. Why, Master Attorney, bring ye not Master Bridgenorth himself to prove the fact, or all his household, if it be necessary? — A rising in arms is an affair over public to be left on the hearsay tale of these two men — though Heaven forbid that I should suppose they speak one word more than they believe! They are the witnesses for the King — and, what is equally dear to us, the Protestant religion — and witnesses against a most foul and heathenish Plot. On the other hand, here is a worshipful old knight, for such I must suppose him to be, since he has bled often in battle for the King — such, I must say, I suppose him to be, until he is proved otherwise. And here is his son, a hopeful young gentleman — we must see that they have right, Master Attorney.”

“Unquestionably, my lord,” answered the Attorney. “God forbid else! But we will make out these matters against these unhappy gentlemen in a manner more close, if your lordship will permit us to bring in our evidence.”

“Go on, Master Attorney,” said the Judge, throwing himself back in his seat. “Heaven forbid I hinder proving the King’s accusation! I only say, what you know as well as I, that de non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio.”

“We shall then call Master Bridgenorth, as your lordship advised, who I think is in waiting.”

“No!” answered a voice from the crowd, apparently that of a female; “he is too wise and too honest to be here.”

The voice was distinct as that of Lady Fairfax, when she expressed herself to a similar effect on the trial of Charles the First; but the researches which were made on the present occasion to discover the speaker were unsuccessful.

After the slight confusion occasioned by this circumstance was abated, the Attorney, who had been talking aside with the conductors of the prosecution, said, “Whoever favoured us with that information, my lord, had good reason for what they said. Master Bridgenorth has become, I am told, suddenly invisible since this morning.”

“Look you there now, Master Attorney,” said the Judge —“This comes of not keeping the crown witnesses together and in readiness — I am sure I cannot help the consequences.”

“Nor I either, my lord,” said the Attorney pettishly. “I could have proved by this worshipful gentleman, Master Justice Bridgenorth, the ancient friendship betwixt this party, Sir Geoffrey Peveril, and the Countess of Derby, of whose doings and intentions Dr. Oates has given such a deliberate evidence. I could have proved his having sheltered her in his Castle against a process of law, and rescued her, by force of arms, from this very Justice Bridgenorth, not without actual violence. Moreover, I could have proved against young Peveril the whole affray charged upon him by the same worshipful evidence.”

Here the Judge stuck his thumbs into his girdle, which was a favourite attitude of his on such occasions, and exclaimed, “Pshaw, pshaw, Master Attorney! — Tell me not that you could have proved that, or that, or this — Prove what you will, but let it be through the mouths of your evidence. Men are not to be licked out of their lives by the rough side of a lawyer’s tongue.”

“Nor is a foul Plot to be smothered,” said the Attorney, “for all the haste your lordship is in. I cannot call Master Chiffinch neither, as he is employed on the King’s especial affairs, as I am this instant certiorated from the Court at Whitehall.”

“Produce the papers, then, Master Attorney, of which this young man is said to be the bearer,” said the Judge.

“They are before the Privy Council, my lord.”

“Then why do you found on them here?” said the Judge —“This is something like trifling with the Court.”

“Since your lordship gives it that name,” said the Attorney, sitting down in a huff, “you may manage the cause as you will.”

“If you do not bring more evidence, I pray you to charge the Jury,” said the Judge.

“I shall not take the trouble to do so,” said the Crown Counsel. “I see plainly how the matter is to go.”

“Nay, but be better advised,” said Scroggs. “Consider, your case is but half proved respecting the two Peverils, and doth not pinch on the little man at all, saving that Doctor Oates said that he was in a certain case to prove a giant, which seems no very probable Popish miracle.”

This sally occasioned a laugh in the Court, which the Attorney-General seemed to take in great dudgeon.

“Master Attorney,” said Oates, who always interfered in the management of these law-suits, “this is a plain an absolute giving away of the cause — I must needs say it, a mere stoifling of the Plaat.”

“Then the devil who bred it may blow wind into it again, if he lists,” answered the Attorney-General; and, flinging down his brief, he left the Court, as if in a huff with all who were concerned in the affair.

The Judge having obtained silence — for a murmur arose in the Court when the Counsel for the prosecution threw up his brief — began to charge the Jury, balancing, as he had done throughout the whole day, the different opinions by which he seemed alternately swayed. He protested on his salvation that he had no more doubt of the existence of the horrid and damnable conspiracy called the Popish Plot, than he had of the treachery of Judas Iscariot; and that he considered Oates as the instrument under Providence of preserving the nation from all the miseries of his Majesty’s assassination, and of a second Saint Bartholomew, acted in the streets of London. But then he stated it was the candid construction of the law of England, that the worse the crime, the more strong should be the evidence. Here was the case of accessories tried, whilst their principal — for such he should call the Countess of Derby — was unconvicted and at large; and for Doctor Oates, he had but spoke of matters which personally applied to that noble lady, whose words, if she used such in passion, touching aid which she expected in some treasonable matters from these Peverils, and from her kinsmen, or her son’s kinsmen, of the House of Stanley, may have been but a burst of female resentment — dulcis Amaryllidis ira, as the poet hath it. Who knoweth but Doctor Oates did mistake — he being a gentleman of a comely countenance and easy demeanour — this same rap with the fan as a chastisement for lack of courage in the Catholic cause, when, peradventure, it was otherwise meant, as Popish ladies will put, it is said, such neophytes and youthful candidates for orders, to many severe trials. “I speak these things jocularly,” said the Judge, “having no wish to stain the reputation either of the Honourable Countess or the Reverend Doctor; only I think the bearing between them may have related to something short of high treason. As for what the Attorney-General hath set forth of rescues and force, and I wot not what, sure I am, that in a civil country, when such things happen such things may be proved; and that you and I, gentlemen, are not to take them for granted gratuitously. Touching this other prisoner, this Galfridus minimus, he must needs say,” he continued, “he could not discover even a shadow of suspicion against him. Was it to be thought so abortive a creature would thrust himself into depths of policy, far less into stratagems of war? They had but to look at him to conclude the contrary — the creature was, from his age, fitter for the grave than a conspiracy — and by his size and appearance, for the inside of a raree-show, than the mysteries of a plot.”

The dwarf here broke in upon the Judge by force of screaming, to assure him that he had been, simple as he sat there, engaged in seven plots in Cromwell’s time; and, as he proudly added, with some of the tallest men of England. The matchless look and air with which Sir Geoffrey made this vaunt, set all a-laughing, and increased the ridicule with which the whole trial began to be received; so that it was amidst shaking sides and watery eyes that a general verdict of Not Guilty was pronounced, and the prisoners dismissed from the bar.

But a warmer sentiment awakened among those who saw the father and son throw themselves into each other’s arms, and, after a hearty embrace, extend their hands to their poor little companion in peril, who, like a dog, when present at a similar scene, had at last succeeded, by stretching himself up to them and whimpering at the same time, to secure to himself a portion of their sympathy and gratulation.

Such was the singular termination of this trial. Charles himself was desirous to have taken considerable credit with the Duke of Ormond for the evasion of the law, which had been thus effected by his private connivance; and was both surprised and mortified at the coldness with which his Grace replied, that he was rejoiced at the poor gentleman’s safety, but would rather have had the King redeem them like a prince, by his royal prerogative of mercy, than that his Judge should convey them out of the power of the law, like a juggler with his cups and balls.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29