The summer and autumn had gone by — an eventful season, for with it had vanished from the stage of politics one who had played so dignified and serious a part there. Southampton was dead, Clarendon disgraced and in exile. The Nestor and the Ulysses of the Stuart epic had melted from the scene. Down those stairs by which he had descended on his way to so many a splendid festival, himself a statelier figure than Kings or Princes, the Chancellor had gone to banishment and oblivion. “The lady” had looked for the last time, a laughing Jezebel, from a palace window, exultant at her enemy’s fall; and along the river that had carried such tragic destinies eastward to be sealed in blood, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, had drifted quietly out of the history he had helped to make. The ballast of that grave intellect was flung overboard so that the ship of fools might drift the faster.
But in Westminster Hall, upon this windy November morning, nobody thought of Clarendon. The business of the day was interesting enough to obliterate all considerations of yesterday. The young barristers, who were learning their trade by listening to their betters, had been shivering on their benches in the Common Pleas since nine o’clock, in that chilly corner where every blast from the north or north-east swept over the low wooden partition that enclosed the court, or cut through the chinks in the panelling. The students and juniors were in their usual places, sitting at the feet of their favourite Common-law Judge; but the idlers who came for amusement, to saunter about the hall, haggle for books with the second-hand dealers along the south wall, or flirt with the milliners who kept stalls for bands and other legal finery on the opposite side, or to listen on tiptoe, with an ear above the panelled enclosure, to the quips and cranks or fierce rhetoric of a famous advocate — these to-day gravitated with one accord towards the south-west corner of the Hall, where, in the Court of King’s Bench, Richard Revel, Baron Fareham, of Fareham, Hants, was to be tried by a Buckinghamshire jury for abduction, with fraud, malice, and violence, and for assault, with intent to murder.
The rank of the offender being high, and the indictment known to involve tragic details of family history, there had been much talk of the cause which was on the paper for to-day; and, as a natural consequence, besides the habitual loungers and saunterers, gossips, and book-buyers, there was a considerable sprinkling of persons of quality, who perfumed the not too agreeable atmosphere with pulvilio and Florentine iris powder, and the rustle of whose silks and brocades was audible all over the Hall. Not often did such gowns sweep the dust brought in by plebeian feet, nor such Venetian point collars rub shoulders with the frowsy Norwich drugget worn by hireling perjurers or starveling clerks. The modish world had come down upon the great Norman Hall like a flock of pigeons, sleek, iridescent, all fuss and flutter; and among these unaccustomed visitors there was prodigious impatience for the trial to begin, and a struggle for good places that brought into full play the primitive brutality which underlies the politeness of the civillest people.
Lady Sarah Tewkesbury had risen betimes, and, in her anxiety to secure a good place, had come out in her last night’s “head,” which somewhat damaged edifice of ginger-coloured ringlets and Roman pearls was now visible above the wooden partition of the King’s Bench to the eyes of the commonalty in the hall below, her ladyship being accommodated with a seat among the lawyers.
One of these was a young man in a shabby gown and rumpled wig, but with a fair complexion and tolerable features — a stranger to that court, and better known at Hicks’s Hall, and among city litigators, with whom he had already a certain repute for keen wits and a plausible tongue — about the youngest advocate at the English Bar, and by some people said to be no barrister at all, but to have put on wig and gown two years ago at Kingston Assizes and called himself to the Bar, and stayed there by sheer audacity. This young gentleman, Jeffreys by name, having deserted the city and possible briefs in order to hear the Fareham trial, was inclined to resent being ousted by an obsequious official to make room for Lady Sarah.
“Faith, one would suppose I was her ladyship’s footman and had been keeping her seat for her,” he grumbled, as he reluctantly rose at the Usher’s whispered request, and edged himself sulkily off to a corner where he found just standing-room.
It was a very hard seat which Mr. Jeffreys had vacated, and her ladyship, after sitting there over two hours, nodding asleep a good part of the time, began to feel internal sinkings and flutterings which presaged what she called a “swound,” and necessitated recourse to a crystal flask of strong waters which she had prudently brought in her muff. Other of Lady Fareham’s particular friends were expected — Sir Ralph Masaroon, Lady Lucretia Topham, and more of the same kidney; and even the volatile Rochester had deigned to express an interest in the case.
“The man was mistaken in his métier,” he had told Lady Sarah, when the scandal was discussed in her drawing-room. “The rôle of seducer was not within his means. Any one could see he was in love with the pale sister-in-law by the manner in which he scowled at her; but it is not every woman who can be subjugated by gloom and sullenness, though some of ’em like us tragical. My method has been to laugh away resistance, as my wife will acknowledge, who was the cruellest she I ever tackled, and had baffled all her other servants. Indeed she must have been in Butler’s eye when he wrote —
‘That old Pyg — what d’ye call him — malion
That cut his mistress out of stone,
Had not so hard a hearted one.’
Even Lady Rochester will admit I conquered without heroics,” upon which her ladyship, late mistress Mallett, a beauty and a fortune, smiled assent with all the complacency of a six-months’ bride. “To see a man tried for an attempted abduction is a sight worth a year’s income,” pursued Rochester. “I would travel a hundred miles to behold that rare monster who has failed in his pursuit of one of your obliging sex!”
“Do you think us all so easily won?” asked Lady Sarah, piqued.
“Dear lady, I can but judge by experience. If obdurate to others you have still been kind to me.”
Lady Sarah had nearly emptied her flask of Muscadine before Masaroon elbowed his way to a seat beside her, from which he audaciously dislodged a coffee-house acquaintance, an elderly lawyer upon whom fortune had not smiled, with a condescending civility that was more uncivil than absolute rudeness.
“We’ll share a bottle in Hell after the trial, mon ami,” he said; and on seeing Lady Sarah’s look of horror, he hastened to explain that Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, were the cant names of three taverns which drove a roaring trade in strong drinks under the very roof of the Hall.
“The King’s Attorney-general is prosecuting,” answered Sir Ralph, replying to a question from Lady Sarah, whose inquiries betrayed that dense ignorance of legal technicalities common even to accomplished women. “It is thought the lady’s father would have been glad for the matter to be quashed, his fugitive daughter being restored to his custody — albeit with a damaged character — and her elder sister having run away from her husband.”
“I will not hear you slander my dearest friend,” protested Lady Sarah. “Lady Fareham left her husband, and with good cause, as his after-conduct showed. She did not run away from him.”
“Nay, she had doubtless the assistance of a carriage-and-six. She would scarce foot it from London to Dover. And now she is leading grand train in Paris, and has taken almost as commanding a place as her friend Madame de Longueville, penitent and retired from service.”
“Hyacinth, under all her appearance of silliness, is a remarkably clever woman,” said Lady Sarah, sententiously; “but, pray, Sir Ralph, if Mistress Angela’s father has good reason for not prosecuting his daughter’s lover — indeed I ever thought her an underhand hussy — why does not Sir Denzil Warner — who I hear has been at death’s door — pursue him for assault and battery?”
“Nay, is so still, madam. I question if he be yet out of danger. The gentleman is a kind of puritanical Quixote, and has persistently refused to swear an information against Fareham, whereby I doubt the case will fall through, or his lordship get off with a fine of a thousand or two. We have no longer the blessing of a Star Chamber, to supply state needs out of sinners’ pockets, and mitigate general taxation; but his Majesty’s Judges have a capacious stomach for fines, and his Majesty has no objection to see his subjects’ misdemeanours transmuted into coin.”
And now the business of the day began, the panelled enclosure being by this time crowded almost to suffocation; and Lord Fareham was brought into court.
He was plainly dressed in a dark grey suit, and looked ten years older than when Lady Sarah had last seen him on his wife’s visiting day, an uninterested member of that modish assembly. His eyes were deeper sunken under the strongly marked brows. The threads of iron-grey in his thick black hair were more conspicuous. He carried his head higher than he had been accustomed to carry it, and the broad shoulders were no longer bent in the Stafford stoop. The spectators could see that he had braced himself for the ordeal, and would go through the day’s work like a man of iron.
Proclamation was made for silence, and for information, if any person could give any, concerning the misdemeanour and offence whereof the defendant stood impeached; and the defendant was bid to look to his challenges, and the Jury, being gentlemen of the county of Bucks, were called, challenged, and sworn.
The demand for silence was so far obeyed that there followed a hush within the enclosure of the court; but there was no cessation of the buzz of voices and the tramp of footsteps in the hall, which mingled sounds seemed like the rise and fall of a human ocean, as heard within that panelled sanctuary.
The lawyers took snuff, shuffled on their seats, nudged each other and whispered now and then, during the reading of the indictment; but among Lady Fareham’s friends, and the quality in general, there was a breathless silence and expectancy; and Lady Sarah would gladly have run her hat-pin into a snuffy old Serjeant close beside her, who must needs talk behind his hand to his pert junior.
To her ladyship’s unaccustomed ears that indictment, translated literally from the Latin original, sounded terrible as an impeachment in the subterranean halls of the Vehm Gericht, or in the most select and secret council in the Venetian Doge’s Palace.
The indictment set forth “that the defendant, Richard Revel, Baron Fareham, on the 4th day of July, in the 18th year of our sovereign lord the King that now is, at the parish of St. Nicholas in the Vale, in the county of Bucks, falsely, unlawfully, unjustly, and wickedly, by unlawful and impure ways and means, contriving, practising, and intending the final ruin and destruction of Mrs. Angela Kirkland, unmarried, and one of the daughters of Sir John Kirkland, Knight — the said lady then and there being under the custody, government, and education of the said Sir John Kirkland, her father — he, the said Richard Revel, Baron Fareham, then and there falsely, unlawfully, devilishly, to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect, his most wicked, impious, and devilish intentions aforesaid — the said Richard Revel, Lord Fareham (then and long before, and yet, being the husband of Mrs. Hyacinth, another daughter of the said Sir John Kirkland, Knight, and sister of the said Mrs. Angela), against all laws as well divine as human, impiously, wickedly, impurely, and scandalously, did tempt, invite, and solicit, and by false and lying pretences, oaths, and affirmations, unlawfully, unjustly, and without the leave, and against the will of the aforesaid Sir John Kirkland, Knight, in prosecution of his most wicked intent aforesaid, did carry off the aforesaid Mrs. Angela, she consenting in ignorance of his real purpose, about the hour of twelve in the night-time of the said 4th day of July, in the year aforesaid, and at the aforesaid, parish of St. Nicholas in the Vale, in the county of Bucks aforesaid, out of the dwelling-house of the said Sir John Kirkland, Knight, did take and convey to his own house in the county of Oxford, and did then and there detain her by fraud, and did there keep her hidden in a secret chamber known as the Priest’s Hole in his own house aforesaid, at the hazard of her life, and did oppose her rescue by force of arms, and with his sword, unlawfully, murderously, and devilishly, and in the prosecution of his wicked purpose did stab and wound Sir Denzil Warner, Baronet, the lady’s betrothed husband, from which murderous assault the said Sir Denzil Warner, Baronet, still lies in great sickness and danger of death, to the great displeasure of Almighty God, to the ruin and destruction of the said Mrs. Angela Kirkland, to the grief and sorrow of all her friends, and to the evil and most pernicious example of all others in the like case offending; and against the peace of our said sovereign lord the King, his crown and dignity.”
The defendant having pleaded “Not guilty,” the Jury were charged in the usual manner and with all solemnity.
“If you find him ‘guilty’ you are to say so; if you find him ‘not guilty’ you are to say so, and no more, and hear your evidence.”
The Attorney–General confined himself to a brief out-line of the tragic story, leaving all details to be developed by the witnesses, who were allowed to give their evidence with colloquial freedom and expansiveness.
The first witness was old Reuben, the steward from the Manor Moat, who had not yet emerged from that mental maze in which he had found himself upon beholding the change that had come to pass in the great city, since the well-remembered winter of the King’s execution, and the long frost, when he, Reuben, was last in London. His evidence was confused and confusing; and he drew upon himself much good-natured ridicule from the junior who opened the case. Out of various muddle-headed answers and contradictory statements the facts of Lord Fareham’s unexpected appearance at the Manor Moat, his account of his lady’s illness, and his hurried departure, carrying the young madam with him on horseback, were elicited, and the story of the ruse by which Mrs. Angela Kirkland had been beguiled from her home was made clear to the comprehension of a superior but rustic jury, more skilled in discriminating the points of a horse, the qualities of an ox, or the capacity of a hound, than in differentiating truth and falsehood in a story of wrong-doing.
Sir John Kirkland was the next witness, and the aspect of the man, the noble grey head, fine features, and soldierly carriage, the old-fashioned habit, the fashion of an age not long past, but almost forgotten, enlisted the regard and compassion of Jury and audience.
“Let me perish if it is not a ghost from the civil wars!” whispered Sir Ralph to Lady Sarah. “Mrs. Angela might well be romanesque and unlike the rest of us, with such a father.”
A spasm of pain convulsed Fareham’s face for a moment, as the old Cavalier stood up in the witness-box, towering above the Court in that elevated position, and, after being sworn, took one swift survey of the Bench and Jury, and then fixed his angry gaze upon the defendant, and scarcely shifted it in the whole course of his examination.
“Now, Gentlemen of the Jury,” said the Attorney–General, “we shall tell you what happened at Chilton Abbey, to which place the defendant, under such fraudulent and lying pretences as you have heard of from the last witness, conveyed the young lady. Sir John, I will ask you to acquaint the Jury as fully and straightforwardly as you can with the circumstances of your pursuit, and the defendant’s reception of you and your intended son-in-law, Sir Denzil Warner, whose deposition we have failed to obtain, but who could relate no facts which are not equally within your own knowledge.”
“My words shall be straight and plain, sir, to denounce that unchristian wretch whom, until this miserable business, I trusted as if he had been my son. I came to my house, accompanied by my daughter’s plighted husband, within an hour after that villain conveyed her away; and on hearing my old servant’s story was quick to suspect treachery. Nor was Sir Denzil backward in his fears, which were more instantaneous than mine; and we waited only for the saddling of fresh horses, and rousing a couple of grooms from their beds, fellows that I could trust for prudence and courage, before we mounted again, following in that wretch’s track. We heard of him and his victim at the Inn where they changed horses, she going consentingly, believing she was being taken in this haste to attend a dying sister.”
“And on arriving at the defendant’s house what was your reception?”
“He opposed our entrance, until he saw that we should batter down his door if he shut us out longer. We were not admitted until after I had sent one of my servants for the nearest Constable; and before we had gained an entrance into his house he had contrived to put away my daughter in a wretched hiding-place, planned for the concealment of Romish Priests or other recusants and malefactors, and would have kept her there, I believe, till she had perished in that foul cavern, rather than restore her to her father and natural guardian.”
“That is false, and you know it!” cried Fareham. “My life is of less account to me than a hair of her head. I hid her from you, to save her from your tyranny, and the hateful marriage to which you would have compelled her.”
“Liar! Impudent, barbarous liar!” roared the old Knight, with his right arm raised, and his body half out of the box, as if he would have assaulted the defendant. “Sir John,” said the Judge, “I would be very loath to deal otherwise than becomes me with a person of your quality; but, indeed, this is not so handsome, and we must desire you to be calm.”
“When I remember his infamy, and that vile assumption of my daughter’s passion for him, which he showed in every word and act of that miserable scene.”
He went on to relate the searching of the house, and Warner’s happy inspiration, by which Angela’s hiding-place was discovered, and she rescued in a fainting condition. He described the defendant’s audacious attempt to convey her to the coach which stood ready for her abduction, and his violence in opposing her rescue, and the fight which had well-nigh resulted in Warner’s death.
When Sir John’s story was finished the defendant’s advocate, who had declined to question the old butler, rose to cross-examine this more important witness.
“In your tracing of the defendant’s journey between your house and Chilton you heard of no outcries of resistance upon your daughter’s side?”
“No, sir. She went willingly, under a delusion.”
“And do you think now, sir, as a man of the world, and with some knowledge of women, that your daughter was so easily hoodwinked; she having seen her sister, Lady Fareham, so shortly before, in good health and spirits?”
“Lady Fareham did not appear in good health when she was last at the Manor, and her sister was already uneasy about her.”
“But not so uneasy as to believe her dying, and that it was needful to ride to her helter-skelter in the night-time. Do you not think, sir, that the young lady, who was so quick to comply with his lordship’s summons, and bustled up and was in the saddle ten minutes after he entered the house, and was willing to got without her own woman, or any preparation for travel, had a strong inclination for the journey, and a great kindness for the gentleman who solicited her company?”
“Has that barbarous wretch set you on to slander the lady whose ruin he sought, sir?” asked the Knight, pallid with the white heat of indignation.
“Nay, Sir John, I am no slanderer; but I want the Jury to understand the sentiments and passions which are the springs of action here, and to bear in mind that the case they are hearing is a love story, and they can only come at the truth by remembering their own experience as lovers —”
The deep and angry tones of his client interrupted the silvery-tongued Counsellor.
“If you think to help me, sir, by traducing the lady, I repudiate your advocacy.”
“My lord, you are not allowed to give evidence or to interrupt the Court. You have pleaded not guilty, and it is my duty to demonstrate your innocence. Come, Sir John, do you not know that his lordship’s unhappy passion for his sister-in-law was shared by the subject of it; and that she for a long time opposed all your efforts to bring about a proper alliance for her, solely guided and influenced by this secret passion?”
“I know no such thing.”
“Do I understand, then, that from the time of your first proposals she was willing to marry Sir Denzil Warner?”
“She was not willing.”
“I would have wagered as much. Did you fathom her reason for declining so proper an alliance?”
“I did not trouble myself about her reasons. I knew that time would wear them away.”
“And I doubt you trusted to a father’s authority?”
“No, sir. I promised my daughter that I would not force her inclinations.”
“But you used all methods of persuasion. How long was it before July the 4th that Mrs. Angela consented to marry Sir Denzil?”
“I cannot be over precise upon that point. I have no record of the date.”
“But you have the faculty of memory, sir; and this is a point which a father would not easily forget.”
“It may have been a fortnight before.”
“And until that time the lady was unwilling?”
“She refused positively to accept the match you urged upon her?”
“And finally consented, I will wager, with marked reluctance?”
“No, sir, there was no reluctance. She came to me of her own accord, and surprised me by her submission.”
“That will do, Sir John. You can stand down. I shall now proceed to call a witness who will convince the Jury of my client’s innocence upon the first and chief count in the indictment, abduction with fraud and violence. I shall tell you by the lips of my witness, that if he took the lady away from her home, she being of full age, she went freely consenting, and with knowledge of his purpose.”
“Lies — foul lies!” cried the old Cavalier, almost strangled with passion.
He plucked at the knot of his cravat, trying to loosen it, feeling himself threatened with apoplexy.
“Call Mistress Angela Kirkland,” said the Serjeant, in strong steady tones that contrasted with the indignant father’s hoarse and gasping utterance.
“S’life! the business becomes every moment more interesting,” whispered Lady Sarah. “Will he make that sly slut own her misconduct in open court?”
“If she blush at her slip from virtue, it will be a new sensation in a London law-court to see the colour of shame,” replied Sir Ralph, behind his perfumed glove; “but I warrant she’ll carry matters with a high hand, and feel herself every inch a heroine.”
Angela came into the court attended by her waiting-woman, who remained near the entrance, amid the close-packed crowd of lawyers and onlookers, while her mistress quietly followed the official who conducted her to the witness-box.
She was dressed in black, and her countenance under her neat black hood looked scarcely less white than her lawn neckerchief; but she stood erect and unfaltering in that conspicuous station, and met the eyes of her interrogator with an untroubled gaze. When her lips had touched the dirty little book, greasy with the kisses of innumerable perjurers, the Serjeant began to question her in a tone of odious familiarity.
“Now, my dear young lady, here is a gentleman’s liberty, and perhaps his life, hanging on the breath of those pretty lips; so I want you to answer a few plain questions with as plain speech as you can command, remembering that you are to tell us the truth, and the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Come, now, dear miss, when you left your father’s house on the night of July 4, in this present year, in Lord Fareham’s company, did you go with him of your own free will, and with a knowledge of his purpose?”
“I knew that he loved me.”
A heart-breaking groan from Sir John Kirkland was hushed down by an usher of the court.
“You knew that he loved you, and that he designed to carry you beyond seas?”
“And you were willing to leave your father’s custody and go with the defendant as his paramour?”
There was a pause, and the white cheek crimsoned, and the heavy eyelids fell over agonised eyes.
“I went willingly — because I loved him;” and then with a sudden burst of passion, “I would have died for him, or lived for him. It mattered not which.”
“And she has lied for him — has sworn to a lie — and that to her own dishonour!” cried Sir John, beside himself; whereupon he was sternly bidden to keep silence.
There was no intention that this little Buckinghamshire gentleman should be indulged, to the injury of a person of Lord Fareham’s wealth and consequence. The favour of the Bench obviously leant towards the defendant.
Fareham’s deep tones startled the audience.
“In truth, your Honour, the young lady has belied herself in order to help me,” he said. “I cannot accept acquittal at the cost of her good name.”
“Your lordship has pleaded not guilty.”
“And his lordship’s chivalry would revoke that plea,” cried the Counsel; “this is most irregular. I must beg that the Bench do order the defendant to keep silence. The witness can stand down.”
Angela descended from the witness-box falteringly, and would perhaps have fallen but for her father’s strong grasp, which clutched her arm as she reached the last step.
He dragged her out of the close-packed court, and into the open Hall.
“Wanton!” he hissed in her ear, “shameless wanton!”
She answered nothing; but stood where he held her, with wild eyes looking out of a white, rigid countenance. She had done what she had come there to do. Persuaded by Fareham’s attorney, who had waited upon her at her lodgings when Sir John was out of the way, she had made her ill-considered attempt to save the man she loved, ignorant of the extent of his danger, exaggerating the potential severity of his punishment, in the illimitable fear of a woman for the safety of the being she loves. And now she cared nothing what became of her, cared little even for her father’s anger or distress. There was always the Convent, last refuge of sin or sorrow, which meant the annihilation of the individual, and where the world’s praise or blame had no influence.
Her woman fussed about her with a bottle of strong essence, and Sir John dragged rather than led her along the Hall, to the great door where the coach that had carried her from his London lodgings was in waiting. He saw her seated, with her woman beside her, supporting her, gave the coachman his orders, and then went hastily back to the Court of King’s Bench.
The Court was rising; the Jury, without leaving their seats, had pronounced the defendant guilty of a misdemeanour, not in conveying Sir John Kirkland’s daughter away from her home, to which act she had avowed herself a consenting party; but in detaining her in his house with violence, and in opposition to her father and proper guardian. The Lord Chief Justice expressed his satisfaction at this verdict, and after expatiating with pious horror upon the evil consequences of an ungovernable passion, a guilty, soul-destroying love, a direct inspiration of Satan, sentenced the defendant to pay a fine of ten thousand pounds, upon the payment of which sum he would be set at liberty.
The old Cavalier heard the brief sermon and the sentence, which seemed to him of all punishments the most futile. He had hoped to see his son-in-law sent to the Plantations for life; had been angry at the thought that he would escape the gallows; and for sole penalty the seducer was sentenced to forfeit less than a year’s income. How corrupt and venal was a bench that made the law of the land a nullity when a great personage was the law-breaker!
He flung himself in the defendant’s way as he left the court, and struck him across the breast with the flat of his sword.
“An unarmed man, Sir John! Is that your old-world chivalry?” Fareham asked, quietly.
A crowd was round them and swords were drawn before the officer could interfere. There were friends of Fareham’s in the court, and two of his gentlemen; and Sir John, who was alone, might have been seriously hurt before the authorities could put down the tumult, had not his son-in-law protected him.
“Sheath your swords, if you love me!” he exclaimed, flinging himself in front of Sir John. “I would not have the slightest violence offered to this gentleman.”
“And I would kill you if I had the chance!” cried Sir John; “that is the difference between us. I keep no measures with the man who ruined my daughter.”
“Your daughter is as spotless a saint as the day she left her Convent, and you are a blatant old fool to traduce her,” said Fareham, exasperated, as the Usher led him away.
His detention was no more than a formality; and as he had been previously allowed his liberty upon bail, he was now permitted to return to his own house, where by an order upon his banker he paid the fine, and was henceforward a free man.
The first use he made of his freedom was to rush to Sir John’s lodgings, only to hear that the Cavalier, with his daughter and two servants, had left half an hour earlier in a coach-and-four for Buckinghamshire. The people at the lodgings did not know which road they had taken, or at what Inn they were to lie on the way.
“Well, there will be a better chance of seeing her at the Manor than in London,” Fareham thought; “he cannot keep so close a watch upon her there as in the narrow space of town lodgings.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05