Circumstantial Evidence, by Samuel Warren

Experiences of a Barrister, and Confessions of an Attorney

In the second year of my connection with the Northern Circuit, when even junior briefs were much less numerous than acceptable, I was agreeably surprised, as I sat musing on the evening of my arrival in the ancient city of York upon the capricious mode in which those powerful personages the attorneys distributed their valuable favors, by the entrance of one of the most eminent of the race practising in that part of the country, and the forthwith tender of a bulky brief in the Crown Court, on which, as my glance instinctively fell on the interesting figures, I perceived that the large fee, in criminal cases, of fifty guineas was marked. The local newspapers, from which I had occasionally seen extracts, had been for some time busy with the case; and I knew it therefore to be, relatively to the condition in life of the principal person implicated, an important one. Rumor had assigned the conduct of the defence to an eminent leader on the circuit—since, one of our ablest judges; and on looking more closely at the brief, I perceived that that gentleman's name had been crossed out, and mine substituted. The fee also—a much less agreeable alteration—had been, I saw, considerably reduced; in accordance, doubtless, with the attorney's appreciation of the difference of value between a silk and a stuff gown.

"You are not, sir, I believe, retained for the prosecution in the crown against Everett?" said Mr. Sharpe in his brief, business manner.

"I am not, Mr. Sharpe."

"In that case, I beg to tender you the leading-brief for the defence. It was intended, as you perceive, to place it in the hands of our great nisi prius leader, but he will be so completely occupied in that court, that he has been compelled to decline it. He mentioned you; and from what I have myself seen of you in several cases, I have no doubt my unfortunate client will have ample justice done him. Mr. Kingston will be with you."

I thanked Mr. Sharpe for his compliment, and accepted his brief. As the commission would be opened on the following morning, I at once applied myself to a perusal of the bulky paper, aided as I read by the verbal explanations and commentaries of Mr. Sharpe. Our conference lasted several hours; and it was arranged that another should be held early the next morning at Mr. Sharpe's office, at which Mr. Kingston would assist.

Dark, intricate, compassed with fearful mystery, was the case so suddenly submitted to my guidance; and the few faint gleams of light derived from the attorney's research, prescience, and sagacity, served but to render dimly visible a still profounder and blacker abyss of crime than that disclosed by the evidence for the crown. Young as I then was in the profession, no marvel that I felt oppressed by the weight of the responsibility cast upon me; or that, when wearied with thinking, and dizzy with profitless conjecture, I threw myself into bed, perplexing images and shapes of guilt and terror pursued me through my troubled sleep! Happily the next day was not that of trial; for I awoke with a throbbing pulse and burning brain, and should have been but poorly prepared for a struggle involving the issues of life and death. Extremely sensitive, as, under the circumstances, I must necessarily have been, to the arduous nature of the grave duties so unexpectedly devolved upon me; the following résumé of the chief incidents of the case, as confided to me by Mr. Sharpe, will, I think, fully account to the reader for the nervous irritability under which I for the moment, labored:—

Mr. Frederick Everett, the prisoner about to be arraigned before a jury of his countrymen for the frightful crime of murder, had, with his father, Captain Anthony Everett, resided for several years past at Woodlands Manor-House, the seat of Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh, a rich, elderly maiden lady, aunt to the first, and sister by marriage to the last-named gentleman. A generous, pious, high-minded person Mrs. Fitzhugh was represented to have been, but extremely sensitive withal on the score of "family." The Fitzhughs of Yorkshire, she was wont to boast, "came in with the Conqueror;" and any branch of the glorious tree then firmly planted in the soil of England that degraded itself by an alliance with wealth, beauty, or worth, dwelling without the pale of her narrow prejudices, was inexorably cut off from her affections, and, as far as she was able, from her memory. One—the principal of these offenders—had been Mary Fitzhugh, her young, fair, gentle, and only sister. In utter disdain and slight of the dignity of ancestry, she had chosen to unite herself to a gentleman of the name of Mordaunt, who, though possessed of great talents, an unspotted name, and, for his age, high rank in the civil service of the East India Company, had—inexpiable misfortune—a trader for his grandfather! This crime against her "house" Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh resolved never to forgive; and she steadily returned, unopened, the frequent letters addressed to her by her sister, who pined in her distant Indian home for a renewal of the old sisterly love which had watched over and gladdened her life from infancy to womanhood. A long silence—a silence of many years—succeeded; broken at last by the sad announcement that the unforgiven one had long since found an early grave in a foreign land. The letter which brought the intelligence bore the London post-mark, and was written by Captain Everett; to whom, it was stated, Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh's sister, early widowed, had been united in second nuptials, and by whom she had borne a son, Frederick Everett, now nearly twenty years of age. The long-pent-up affection of Mrs. Fitzhugh for her once idolized sister burst forth at this announcement of her death with uncontrollable violence; and, as some atonement for her past sinful obduracy, she immediately invited the husband and son of her long-lost Mary to Woodlands Manor-House, to be henceforth, she said, she hoped their home. Soon after their arrival, Mrs. Fitzhugh made a will—the family property was entirely at her disposal—revoking a former one, which bequeathed the whole of the real and personal property to a distant relative whom she had never seen, and by which all was devised to her nephew, who was immediately proclaimed sole heir to the Fitzhugh estates, yielding a yearly rental of at least £12,000. Nay, so thoroughly was she softened towards the memory of her deceased sister, that the will—of which, as I have stated, no secret was made—provided, in the event of Frederick dying childless, that the property should pass to his father, Mary Fitzhugh's second husband.

No two persons could be more unlike than were the father and son—mentally, morally, physically. Frederick Everett was a fair-haired, blue-eyed young man, of amiable, caressing manners, gentle disposition, and ardent, poetic temperament. His father, on the contrary, was a dark-featured, cold, haughty, repulsive man, ever apparently wrapped up in selfish and moody reveries. Between him and his son there appeared to exist but little of cordial intercourse, although the highly-sensitive and religious tone of mind of Frederick Everett caused him to treat his parent with unvarying deference and respect.

The poetic temperament of Frederick Everett brought him at last, as poetic temperaments are apt to do, into trouble. Youth, beauty, innocence, and grace, united in the person of Lucy Carrington—the only child of Mr. Stephen Carrington, a respectable retired merchant of moderate means, residing within a few miles of Woodlands Manor-House—crossed his path; and spite of his shield of many quarterings, he was vanquished in an instant, and almost without resistance. The at least tacit consent and approval of Mr. Carrington and his fair daughter secured, Mr. Everett, junior—hasty, headstrong lover that he was—immediately disclosed his matrimonial projects to his father and aunt. Captain Everett received the announcement with a sarcastic smile, coldly remarking, that if Mrs. Fitzhugh was satisfied, he had no objection to offer. But, alas! no sooner did her nephew, with much periphrastic eloquence, in part his passion for the daughter of a mere merchant to his aunt, than a vehement torrent of indignant rebuke broke from her lips. She would die rather than consent to so degrading a mésalliance; and should he persist in yielding to such gross infatuation, she would not only disinherit, but banish him her house, and cast him forth a beggar on the world. Language like this, one can easily understand, provoked language from the indignant young man which in less heated moments he would have disdained to utter; and the aunt and nephew parted in fierce anger, and after mutual denunciation of each other—he as a disobedient ingrate, she as an imperious, ungenerous tyrant. The quarrel was with some difficulty patched up by Captain Everett; and with the exception of the change which took place in the disappointed lover's demeanor—from light-hearted gaiety to gloom and sullenness—things, after a few days, went on pretty nearly as before.

The sudden rupture of the hopes Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh had reposed in her nephew as the restorer of the glories of her ancient "house," tarnished by Mary Fitzhugh's marriage, affected dangerously, it soon appeared, that lady's already failing health. A fortnight after the quarrel with her nephew, she became alarmingly ill. Unusual and baffling symptoms showed themselves; and after suffering during eight days from alternate acute pain, and heavy, unconquerable drowsiness, she expired in her nephew's arms. This sudden and fatal illness of his relative appeared to reawaken all Frederick Everett's tenderness and affection for her. He was incessant in his close attendance in the sick-chamber, permitting no one else to administer to his aunt either aliment or medicine. On this latter point, indeed, he insisted, with strange fierceness, taking the medicine with his own hand from the man who brought it; and after administering the prescribed quantity, carefully locking up the remainder in a cabinet in his bed-room.

On the morning of the day that Mrs. Fitzhugh died, her ordinary medical attendant, Mr. Smith, terrified and perplexed by the urgency of the symptoms exhibited by his patient, called in the aid of a locally-eminent physician, Dr. Archer, or Archford—the name is not very distinctly written in my memoranda of these occurrences; but we will call him Archer—who at once changed the treatment till then pursued, and ordered powerful emetics to be administered, without, however, as we have seen, producing any saving or sensible effect. The grief of Frederick Everett, when all hope was over, was unbounded. He threw himself, in a paroxysm of remorse or frenzy, upon the bed, accusing himself of having murdered her, with other strange and incoherent expressions, upon which an intimation soon afterwards made by Dr. Archer threw startling light. That gentleman, conjointly with Mr. Smith, requested an immediate interview with Captain Everett, and Mr. Hardyman, the deceased lady's land-steward and solicitor, who happened to be in the house at the time. The request was of course complied with, and Dr. Archer at once bluntly stated that, in his opinion, poison had been administered to the deceased lady, though of what precise kind he was somewhat at a loss to conjecture—opium essentially, he thought, though certainly not in any of its ordinary preparations—one of the alkaloids probably which chemical science had recently discovered. Be this as it may, a post-mortem examination of the body would clear up all doubts, and should take place as speedily as possible. Captain Everett at once acceded to Dr. Archer's proposal, at the same time observing that he was quite sure the result would entirely disprove that gentleman's assumption. Mr. Hardyman also fully concurred in the necessity of a rigid investigation; and the post-mortem examination should, it was arranged, take place early on the following morning.

"I have another and very painful duty to perform," continued Dr. Archer, addressing Captain Everett. "I find that your son, Mr. Frederick Everett, alone administered medicine and aliment to Mrs. Fitzhugh during her illness. Strange, possibly wholly frenzied expressions, but which sounded vastly like cries of remorse, irrepressible by a person unused to crime, escaped him in my hearing just after the close of the final scene; and—But perhaps, Captain Everett, you had better retire: this is scarcely a subject"—

"Go on, sir," said the captain, over whose countenance a strange expression—to use Dr. Archer's own words—had flashed; "go on: I am better now."

"We all know," resumed Dr. Archer, "how greatly Mr. Frederick Everett gains in wealth by his aunt's death; and that her decease, moreover, will enable him to conclude the marriage to which she was so determinedly opposed. I think, therefore, that, under all the circumstances, we shall be fully justified in placing the young gentleman under such—I will not say custody, but surveillance as will prevent him either from leaving the house, should he imagine himself suspected, or of destroying any evidence which may possibly exist of his guilt, if indeed he be guilty."

"I entirely agree with you, Dr. Archer," exclaimed Mr. Hardyman, who had listened with much excitement to the doctor's narrative; "and will, upon my own responsibility, take the necessary steps for effecting the object you have in view."

"Gentlemen," said Captain Everett, rising from his chair, "you will of course do your duty; but I can take no part, nor offer any counsel, in such a case; I must leave you to your own devices." He then left the apartment.

He had been gone but a few minutes, when Frederick Everett, still in a state of terrible excitement, entered the room, strode fiercely up to Dr. Archer, and demanded how he dared propose, as the butler had just informed him he had done, a dissection of his aunt's body.

"I will not permit it," continued the agitated young man: "I am master here, and I say it shall not be done. What new horror would you evoke? Is it not enough that one of the kindest, best of God's creatures, has perished, but another sacrifice must—What do I say? Enough that I will not permit it. I have seen similar cases-very similar cases in—in India!"

The gentleman so strangely addressed had exchanged significant glances during the delivery of this incoherent speech; and, quite confirmed in their previous impression, Mr. Hardyman, as their spokesman, interrupted the speaker, to inform him that he was the suspected assassin of his aunt! The accusing sentences had hardly passed the solicitor's lips, when the furious young man sprang towards him with the bound of a tiger, and at one blow prostrated him on the floor. He was immediately seized by the two medical gentlemen, and help having been summoned, he was with much difficulty secured, and placed in strict confinement, to await the result of the next day's inquiry.

The examination of the body disclosed the terrible fact, that the deceased lady had perished by acetate of morphine; thus verifying the sagacious guess of Dr. Archer. A minute search was immediately made throughout Mr. Frederick Everett's apartments, and behind one of the drawers of a cabinet in his bedroom—at the back of the shelf or partition upon which the drawer rested, and of course completely hidden by the drawer itself when in its place—was found a flat tin flask, fluted on the outside, and closed with a screw stopper: it was loosely enveloped in a sheet of brown paper, directed "—Everett, Esq., Woodlands Manor-House, Yorkshire;" and upon close examination, a small quantity of white powder, which proved to be acetate of morphine, was found in the flask. Suspicion of young Everett's guilt now became conviction; and, as if to confirm beyond all doubt the soundness of the chain of circumstantial evidence in which he was immeshed, the butler, John Darby, an aged and trusty servant of the late Mrs. Fitzhugh, made on the next day the following deposition before the magistrates:—

"He had taken in, two days before his late mistress was seized with her fatal illness, a small brown paper parcel which had been brought by coach from London, and for which 2s. 10d carriage was charged and paid. The paper found in Mr. Frederick Everett's cabinet was, he could positively swear, from the date and figures marked on it, and the handwriting, the paper wrapper of that parcel. He had given it to young Mr. Everett, who happened to be in the library at the time. About five minutes afterwards, he had occasion to return to the library, to inform him that some fishing-tackle he had ordered was sent home. The door was ajar; and Mr. Frederick did not at first perceive his entrance, as he was standing with his back to the door. The paper parcel he, the butler, had just before delivered was lying open on the table, and Mr. Everett held in one hand a flat tin flask—the witness had no doubt the same found in the cabinet—and in the other a note, which he was reading. He, the witness, coughed, to attract Mr. Everett's attention, who hurriedly turned round, clapped down the flask and the note, shuffling them under the paper wrapper, as if to conceal them, and then, in a very confused manner, and his face as red as flame, asked witness what he wanted there? Witness thought this behavior very strange at the time; but the incident soon passed from his mind, and he had thought no more of it till the finding of the paper and flask as described by the other witnesses."

Mr. Frederick Everett, who had manifested the strangest impassability, a calmness as of despair, throughout the inquiry, which perplexed and disheartened Mr. Sharpe, whose services had been retained by Captain Everett, allowed even this mischievous evidence to pass without a word of comment or explanation; and he was, as a matter of course, fully committed for the wilful murder of his relative. The chain of circumstantial evidence, motive included, was, it was felt, complete—not a link was wanting.

These were the chief incidents disclosed to me by Mr. Sharpe during our long and painful consultation. Of the precise nature of the terrible suspicions which haunted and disturbed me, I shall only in this place say that neither Mr. Sharpe, nor, consequently, myself, would in all probability have guessed or glanced at them, but for the persistent assertions of Miss Carrington, that her lover was madly sacrificing himself from some chimerical motive of honor or duty.

"You do not know, Mr. Sharpe, as I do," she would frequently exclaim with tearful vehemence, "the generous, child-like simplicity, the chivalric enthusiasm, of his character, his utter abnegation of self, and readiness on all occasions to sacrifice his own ease, his own wishes, to forward the happiness of others; and, above all, his fantastic notions of honor—duty, if you will—which would, I feel assured, prompt him to incur any peril, death itself, to shield from danger any one who had claims upon him either of blood or of affection. You know to whom my suspicions point; and how dreadful to think that one so young, so brave, so pious, and so true, should be sacrificed for such a monster as I believe that man to be!"

To all these passionate expostulations the attorney could only reply that vague suspicions were not judicial proofs; and that if Mr. Frederick Everett would persist in his obstinate reserve, a fatal result was inevitable. But Mr. Sharpe readily consented to gratify the wishes of Mr. Carrington and his daughter on one point: he returned the money, not a very large sum, which Captain Everett had sent him, and agreed that Mr. Carrington should supply the funds necessary for the defence of the prisoner.

Our consultation the next day at Mr. Sharpe's was a sad and hopeless one. Nowhere did a gleam of cheerful light break in. The case was overwhelmingly complete against the prisoner. The vague suspicions we entertained pointed to a crime so monstrous, so incredible, that we felt it could not be so much as hinted at upon such, legally considered, slight grounds. The prisoner was said to be an eloquent speaker, and I undertook to draw up the outline of a defence, impugning, with all the dialectic skill I was master of, the conclusiveness of the evidence for the crown. To this, and a host of testimony to character which we proposed to call, rested our faint hopes of "a good deliverance!"

Business was over, and we were taking a glass of wine with Mr. Sharpe, when his chief clerk entered to say that Sergeant Edwards, an old soldier—who had spoken to them some time before relative to a large claim which he asserted he had against Captain Everett, arising out of a legacy bequeathed to him in India, and the best mode of assuring its payment by an annuity, as proposed by the captain—had now called to say that the terms were at last finally arranged, and that he wished to know when Mr. Sharpe would be at leisure to draw up the bond. "He need not fear for his money!" exclaimed Sharpe tartly, "the captain will, I fear, be rich enough before another week has passed over our heads. Tell him to call to-morrow evening; I will see him after I return from court." A few minutes afterwards, I and Mr. Kingston took our leave.

The Crown Court was thronged to suffocation on the following morning, and the excitement of the auditory appeared to be of the intensest kind. Miss Carrington, closely veiled, sat beside her father on one of the side-benches. A true bill against the prisoner had been found on the previous afternoon; and the trial, it had been arranged, to suit the convenience of counsel, should be first proceeded with. The court was presided over by Mr. Justice Grose; and Mr. Gurney—afterwards Mr. Baron Gurney—with another gentleman appeared for the prosecution. As soon as the judge had taken his seat, the prisoner was ordered to be brought in, and a hush of expectation pervaded the assembly. In a few minutes he made his appearance in the dock. His aspect—calm, mournful, and full of patient resignation—spoke strongly to the feelings of the audience, and a low murmur of sympathy ran through the court. He bowed respectfully to the bench, and then his sad, proud eye wandered round the auditory, till it rested on the form of Lucy Carrington, who, overcome by sudden emotion, had hidden her weeping face in her father's bosom. Strong feeling, which he with difficulty mastered, shook his frame, and blanched to a still deeper pallor his fine intellectual countenance. He slowly withdrew his gaze from the agitating spectacle, and his troubled glance meeting that of Mr. Sharpe, seemed to ask why proceedings, which could only have one termination, were delayed. He had not long to wait. The jury were sworn, and Mr. Gurney rose to address them for the crown. Clear, terse, logical, powerful without the slightest pretence to what is called eloquence, his speech produced a tremendous impression upon all who heard it; and few persons mentally withheld their assent to his assertion, as he concluded what was evidently a painful task, "that should he produce evidence substantiating the statement he had made, the man who could then refuse to believe in the prisoner's guilt, would equally refuse credence to actions witnessed by his own bodily eyes."

The different witnesses were then called, and testified to the various facts I have before related. Vainly did Mr. Kingston and I exert ourselves to invalidate the irresistible proofs of guilt so dispassionately detailed. "It is useless," whispered Mr. Sharpe, as I sat down after the cross-examination of the aged butler. "You have done all that could be done; but he is a doomed man, spite of his innocence, of which I feel, every moment that I look at him, the more and more convinced. God help us; we are poor, fallible creatures, with all our scientific machinery for getting at truth!"

The case for the crown was over, and the prisoner was told that now was the time for him to address the jury in answer to the charge preferred against him. He bowed courteously to the intimation, and drawing a paper from his pocket, spoke, after a few preliminary words of course, nearly as follows:—

"I hold in my hand a very acute and eloquent address prepared for me by one of the able and zealous gentlemen who appears to-day as my counsel, and which, but for the iniquitous law which prohibits the advocate of a presumed felon, but possibly quite innocent person, from addressing the jury, upon whose verdict his client's fate depends, would no doubt have formed the subject-matter of an appeal to you not to yield credence to the apparently irrefragable testimony arrayed against me. The substance of this defence you must have gathered from the tenor of the cross-examinations; but so little effect did it produce, I saw, in that form, however ably done, and so satisfied am I that though it were rendered with an angel's eloquence, it would prove utterly impotent to shake the strong conclusions of my guilt, which you, short-sighted, fallible mortals—short-sighted and fallible because mortal!—I mean no disrespect—must have drawn from the body of evidence you have heard, that I will not weary you or myself by reading it. I will only observe that it points especially to the over-roof, so to speak, arrayed against me—to the folly of supposing that an intentional murderer would ostentatiously persist in administering the fatal potion to the victim with his own hands, carefully excluding all others from a chance of incurring suspicion. There are other points, but this is by far the most powerful one; and as I cannot believe that will induce you to return a verdict rescuing me from what the foolish world, judging from appearances, will call a shameful death, but which I, knowing my own heart, feel to be sanctified by the highest motives which can influence man—it would be merely waste of time to repeat them. From the first moment, gentlemen, that this accusation was preferred against me, I felt that I had done with this world; and, young as I am, but for one beloved being whose presence lighted up and irradiated this else cold and barren earth, I should, with little reluctance, have accepted this gift of an apparently severe, but perhaps merciful fate. This life, gentlemen," he continued after a short pause, "it has been well said, is but a battle and a march. I have been struck down early in the combat; but of what moment is that, if it be found by Him who witnesses the world-unnoticed deeds of all his soldiers, that I have earned the victor's crown? Let it be your consolation, gentlemen, if hereafter you should discover that you have sent me to an undeserved death, that you at least will not have hurried a soul spotted with the awful crime of murder before its Maker. And oh," he exclaimed in conclusion, with solemn earnestness, "may all who have the guilt of blood upon them hasten, whilst life is still granted them, to cleanse themselves by repentance of that foul sin, so that not only the sacrifice of one poor life, but that most holy and tremendous one offered in the world's consummate hour, may not for them have been made in vain! My lord and gentlemen, I have no more to say. You will doubtless do your duty: I have done mine."

I was about, a few minutes after the conclusion of this strange and unexpected address, to call our witnesses to character, when, to the surprise of the whole court, and the consternation of the prisoner, Miss Carrington started up, threw aside her veil, and addressing the judge, demanded to be heard.

Queenly, graceful, and of touching loveliness did she look in her vehemence of sorrow—radiant as sunlight in her days of joy she must have been—as she stood up, affection-prompted, regardless of self, of the world, to make one last effort to save her affianced husband.

"What would you say, young lady?" said Mr. Justice Grose, kindly. "If you have anything to testify in favor of the prisoner, you had better communicate with his counsel."

"Not that—not that," she hurriedly replied, as if fearful that her strength would fail before she had enunciated her purpose. "Put, my lord, put Frederick—the prisoner, I mean—on his oath. Bid him declare, as he shall answer at the bar of Almighty God, who is the murderer for whom he is about to madly sacrifice himself, and you will then find"—

"Your request is an absurd one," interrupted the judge with some asperity. "I have no power to question a prisoner."

"Then," shrieked the unfortunate lady, sinking back fainting and helpless in her father's arms, "he is lost—lost!"

She was immediately carried out of court; and as soon as the sensation caused by so extraordinary and painful an incident had subsided, the trial proceeded. A cloud of witnesses to character were called; the judge summed up; the jury deliberated for a few minutes; and a verdict of "guilty" was returned. Sentence to die on the day after the next followed, and all was over!

Yes; all was, we deemed, over; but happily a decree, reversing that of Mr. Justice Grose, had gone forth in Heaven. I was sitting at home about an hour after the court had closed, painfully musing on the events of the day, when the door of the apartment suddenly flew open, and in rushed Mr. Sharpe in a state of great excitement, accompanied by Sergeant Edwards, whom the reader will remember had called the previous day at that gentleman's house. In a few minutes I was in possession of the following important information, elicited by Mr. Sharpe from the half-willing, half-reluctant sergeant, whom he had found waiting for him at his office:—

In the first place, Captain Everett was not the father of the prisoner! The young man was the son of Mary Fitzhugh by her first marriage; and his name, consequently, was Mordaunt, not Everett. His mother had survived her second marriage barely six months. Everett, calculating doubtless upon the great pecuniary advantages which would be likely to result to himself as the reputed father of the heir to a splendid English estate, should the quarrel with Mrs. Eleanor Fitzhugh—as he nothing doubted—be ultimately made up, had brought his deceased wife's infant son up as his own. This was the secret of Edwards and his wife; and to purchase their silence, Captain Everett had agreed to give the bond for an annuity which Mr. Sharpe was to draw up. The story of the legacy was a mere pretence. When Edwards was in Yorkshire before, Everett pacified him for the time with a sum of money, and a promise to do more for him as soon as his reputed son came into the property. He then hurried the cidevant sergeant back to London; and at the last interview he had with him, gave him a note addressed to a person living in one of the streets—I forget which—leading out of the Haymarket, together with a five-pound note, which he was to pay the person to whom the letter was addressed for some very rare and valuable powder, which the captain wanted for scientific purposes, and which Edwards was to forward by coach to Woodlands Manor-House. Edwards obeyed his instructions, and delivered the message to the queer bushy-bearded foreigner to whom it was addressed, who told him that, if he brought him the sum of money mentioned in the note on the following day, he should have the article required. He also bade him bring a well-stoppered bottle to put it in. As the bottle was to be sent by coach, Edwards purchased a tin flask, as affording a better security against breakage; and having obtained the powder, packed it nicely up, and told his niece, who was staying with him at the time, to direct it, as he was in a hurry to go out, to Squire Everett, Woodlands Manor-House, Yorkshire, and then take it to the booking-office. He thought, of course, though he said Squire in a jocular way, that she would have directed it Captain Everett, as she knew him well; but it seemed she had not. Edwards had returned to Yorkshire only two days since, to get his annuity settled, and fortunately was present in court at the trial of Frederick Mordaunt, alias Everett, and at once recognized the tin flask as the one he had purchased and forwarded to Woodlands, where it must in due course have arrived on the day stated by the butler. Terrified and bewildered at the consequences of what he had done, or helped to do, Edwards hastened to Mr. Sharpe, who, by dint of exhortations, threats, and promises, judiciously blended, induced him to make a clean breast of it.

As much astounded as elated by this unlooked-for information, it was some minutes before I could sufficiently concentrate my thoughts upon the proper course to be pursued. I was not, however, long in deciding. Leaving Mr. Sharpe to draw up an affidavit of the facts disclosed, I hastened off to the jail, in order to obtain a thorough elucidation of all the mysteries.

The revulsion of feeling in the prisoner's mind when he learned that the man for whom he had so recklessly sacrificed himself was not only not his father, but a cold-blooded villain, who, according to the testimony of Sergeant Edwards, had embittered, perhaps shortened, his mother's last hours, was immediate and excessive. "I should have taken Lucy's advice!" he bitterly exclaimed, as he strode to and fro in his cell; "have told the truth at all hazards, and have left the rest to God." His explanation of the incidents that had so puzzled us all, was as simple as satisfactory. He had always, from his earliest days, stood much in awe of his father, who in the, to young Mordaunt, sacred character of parent, exercised an irresistible control over him; and when the butler entered the library, he believed for an instant it was his father who had surprised him in the act of reading his correspondence; an act which, however unintentional, would, he knew, excite Captain Everett's fiercest wrath. Hence arose the dismay and confusion which the butler had described. He re-sealed the parcel, and placed it in his reputed father's dressing-room; and thought little more of the matter, till, on entering his aunt's bedroom on the first evening of her illness, he beheld Everett pour a small portion of white powder from the tin flask into the bottle containing his aunt's medicine. The terrible truth at once flashed upon him. A fierce altercation immediately ensued in the father's dressing-room, whither Frederick followed him. Everett persisted that the powder was a celebrated Eastern medicament, which would save, if anything could, his aunt's life. The young man was not of course deceived by this shallow falsehood, and from that moment administered the medicine to the patient with his own hands, and kept the bottles which contained it locked up in his cabinet. "On the very morning of my aunt's death, I surprised him shutting and locking one of my cabinet drawers. So dumbfounded was I with horror and dismay at the sight, that he left the room by a side-door without observing me. You have now the key to my conduct. I loathed to look upon the murderer; but I would have died a thousand deaths rather than attempt to save my own life by the sacrifice of a father's—how guilty soever he might be."

Furnished with this explanation, and the affidavit of Edwards, I waited upon the judge, and obtained not only a respite for the prisoner, but a warrant for the arrest of Captain Everett.

It was a busy evening. Edwards was despatched to London in the friendly custody of an intelligent officer, to secure the person of the foreign-looking vender of subtle poisons; and Mr. Sharpe, with two constables, set off in a postchaise for Woodlands Manor-House. It was late when they arrived there, and the servants informed them that Captain Everett had already retired. They of course insisted upon seeing him; and he presently appeared, wrapped in a dressing-gown, and haughtily demanded their business with him at such an hour. The answer smote him as with a thunderbolt, and he staggered backwards, till arrested by the wall of the apartment, and then sank feebly, nervelessly, into a chair. Eagerly, after a pause, he questioned the intruders upon the nature of the evidence against him. Mr. Sharpe briefly replied that Edwards was in custody, and had revealed everything.

"Is it indeed so?" rejoined Everett, seeming to derive resolution and fortitude from the very extremity of despair. "Then the game is unquestionably lost. It was, however, boldly and skilfully played, and I am not a man to whimper over a fatal turn of the dice. In a few minutes, gentlemen," he added, "I shall have changed my dress, and be ready to accompany you."

"We cannot lose sight of you for an instant," replied Mr. Sharpe. "One of the officers must accompany you."

"Be it so: I shall not detain either him or you long."

Captain Everett, followed by the officer, passed into his dressing-room. He pulled off his gown; and pointing to a coat suspended on a peg at the further extremity of the apartment, requested the constable to reach it for him. The man hastened to comply with his wish. Swiftly, Everett opened a dressing-case which stood on a table near him: the officer heard the sharp clicking of a pistol-lock, and turned swiftly round. Too late! A loud report rang through the house; the room was filled with smoke; and the wretched assassin and suicide lay extended on the floor a mangled corpse!

It would be useless minutely to recapitulate, the final winding-up of this eventful drama. Suffice it to record, that Mr. Frederick Mordaunt was, after a slight delay, restored to freedom and a splendid position in society. After the lapse of a decent interval, he espoused Lucy Carrington. Their eldest son represents in this present parliament one of the English boroughs, and is by no means an undistinguished member of the Commons House.