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THE YOUNG SAILMAKER.
In the year 1723, a young man, who was serving his apprenticeship in London to a master sailmaker, got leave to visit his mother, to spend the Christmas holidays. She lived a few miles beyond Deal, in Kent. He walked the journey ; and on his arrival at Deal in the evening, being much fatigued, and also troubled with a bowel complaint, he applied to the landlady of a public-house, who was acquainted with his mother, for a night's lodging. Her house was full, and every bed occupied ; but she told him that if he would sleep with her uncle, who had lately come ashore, and was boatswain of an Indiaman, he should be welcome. He was glad to accept the offer, and after spending the evening with his new comrade, they retired to rest.
In the middle of the night he was attacked with his complaint, and wakening his bedfellow, he asked him the way to the garden. The boatswain told him to go through the kitchen ; but as he would find it difficult to open the door into the yard, the latch being out of order, he desired him to take a knife out of his pocket, with which he could raise the latch. The young man did as he was directed, and after remaining nearly half an hour in the yard he returned to his bed, but was much surprised to find his companion had risen and gone. Being impatient to visit his mother and friends, he also arose before day, and pursued his journey, and arrived at home at noon. The landlady, who had been told of his intention to depart early, was not surprised; but not seeing her uncle in the morning, she went to call him. She was dreadfully shocked to find the bed stained with blood, and every inquiry after her uncle was in vain.
The alarm now became general, and on further examination, marks of blood were traced from the bedroom into the street, and at intervals down to the edge of the pier-head. Rumour was immediately busy, and suspicion fell of course on the young man who slept with him, that he had committed the murder and thrown the body over the pier into the sea. A warrant was issued against him, and he was taken that evening at his mother's house. On his being examined and searched, marks of blood were discovered on his shirt and trousers, and in his pocket were a knife and a remarkable silver coin, both of which the landlady swore positively were her uncle's property, and that she saw them in his possession on the evening he retired to rest with the young man. On these strong circumstances the unfortunate youth was found guilty.
He related all the above particulars in his defence; but as he could not account for the marks of blood on his person, unless that he got them when he returned to the bed, nor for the silver coin being in his possession, his story was not credited. The certainty of the boatswain's disappearance, and the blood at the pier, traced from
his bedroom, were supposed to be too evident signs of his being murdered ; and even the judge was so convinced of his guilt, that he ordered the execution to take place in three days. At the fatal tree the youth declared his innocence, and persisted in it with such affecting asseverations, that many pitied him, though none doubted the justness of his sentence.
The executioners of those days were not so expert at their trade as modern ones, nor were drops and platforms invented. The young man was very tall ; his feet sometimes touched the ground; and some of his friends who surrounded the gallows contrived to give the body some support as it was suspended. After being cut down, those friends bore it speedily away in a coffin, and in the course of a few hours animation was restored, and the innocent saved. When he was able to move, his friends insisted on his quitting the country, and never returning: He accordingly travelled by night to Portsmouth, where he entered on board a man-of-war on the point of sailing for a distant part of the world ; and as he changed his name, and disguised his person, his melancholy story never was discovered.
After a few years of service, during which his exemplary conduct was the cause of his promotion through the lower grades, he was at last made a master's mate, and his ship being paid off in the West Indies, he and a few more of the crew were transferred to another man-of-war, which had just arrived short of hands from a different station. What were his feelings of astonishment, and then of delight and ecstacy, when almost the first person he saw on board his new ship was the identical boatswain for whose murder he had been tried, condemned, and executed five years before! Nor was the surprise of the old boatswain much less when he heard the story.
An explanation of all the mysterious circumstances then took place. It appeared that the boatswain had been bled for a ain in the side by the barber, unknown to his niece, on the day of the young man's arrival at Deal; that when the young man wakened him, and retired to the yard, he found the bandage had come off his arm during the night, and that the blood was howing afresh. Being alarmed, he rose to go to the barber, who lived across the street, but a press-gang laid hold of him just as he left the public-house. They hurried him to the pier, where their boat was waiting; a few minutes brought them on board a frigate then under-way for the East Indies; and he omitted ever writing home to account for his sudden disappearance. Thus were the chief circumstances explained by the two friends thus strangely met. The silver coin being found in the possession of the young man could only be explained by the conjecture, that when he took the knife out of the boatswain's pocket in the dark, it is probable, as the coin was in the same pocket, it stuck between the blades of
the knife, and in this manner became the strongest proof against him.
On their return to England, this wonderful explanation was told to the judge and jury who tried the cause, and it is probable they never after convicted a man on circumstantial evidence. It also made a great noise in Kent at the time.*
THOMAS GEDDELY'S CASE.
Thomas Geddely lived as a waiter with Mrs Hannah Williams, who kept a public-house at York. It being a house of much business, and the mistress very assiduous therein, she was deemed in wealthy circumstances. One morning her scrutoire was found broken open and robbed, and Thomas Geddely disappearing at the same time, no doubt was entertained as to the robber. About a twelvemonth after, a man calling himself James Crow came to York, and worked a few days for a precarious subsistence in carrying goods as a porter. Many accosted him as Thomas Geddely. He declared he did not know them, that his name was James Crow, and that he never was at York before. But this was held as merely a trick to save himself from the consequences of the robbery committed in the house of Mrs Williams, when he lived with her as waiter.
His mistress was sent for, and in the midst of many people instantly singled him out, called him by his name (Thomas Geddely), and charged him with his unfaithfulness and ingratitude in robbing her. He was directly hurried before a justice-of-peace; but on his examination absolutely affirmed that he was not Thomas Geddely, that he knew no such person, that he never was at York before, and that his name was James Crow. Not, however, giving a good account of himself, but rather admitting that he was a vagabond and petty rogue, and Mrs Williams and another person swearing positively to his person, he was committed to York Castle for trial at the next assizes.
On arraignment, he pled not guilty, still denying that he was the person he was taken for; but Mrs Williams and some others made oath that he was the identical Thomas Geddely who lived with her when she was robbed; and a servant girl deposed that she had seen him, on the very morning of the robbery, in the room where the scrutoire was broken open, with a poker in his hand. The prisoner, being unable to prove an alibi, was found guilty of the robbery. Hé was soon after executed, but persisted to his latest breath in
* We present this case as usually recounted by popular tradition, without vouching for its accuracy. If true, the jury, it will be observed, had no proof of the murder, as the body was not found. We doubt that any judge would have sanctioned such a gross perversion of justice.
affirming that he was not Thomas Geddely, and that his name was James Crow.
And so it proved! Some time after, the true Thomas Geddely, who, on robbing his mistress, had fled from York to Ireland, was taken up in Dublin for a crime of the same stamp, and there condemned and executed. Between his conviction and execution, and again at the fatal tree, he confessed himself to be the very Thomas Geddely who had committed the robbery at York for which the unfortunate James Crow had been executed.
We must add, that a gentleman, an inhabitant of York, happening to be in Dublin at the time of Geddely's trial and execution, and who knew him when he lived with Mrs Williams, declared that the resemblance between the two men was so exceedingly great, that it was next to impossible to distinguish their persons asunder.
BRADFORD THE INNKEEPER.
Jonathan Bradford kept an inn in Oxfordshire, on the London road to Oxford. He bore a respectable character. Mr Hayes, a gentleman of fortune, being on his way to Oxford on a visit to a relation, put up at Bradford's. He there joined company with two gentlemen, with whom he supped, and in conversation unguardedly mentioned that he had then about him a considerable sum of money. In due time they retired to their respective chambers; the gentlemen to a two-bedded room, leaving, as is customary with many, a candle burning in the chimney corner. Some hours after they were in bed, one of the gentlemen being awake, thought he heard a deep groan in an adjoining chamber; and this being repeated, he softly awoke his friend. They listened together, and the groans increasing, as of one dying and in pain, they both instantly arose, and proceeded silently to the door of the next chamber, from which the groans had seemed to come. The door being ajar, they saw a light in the room. They entered, but it is impossible to paint their consternation on perceiving a person weltering in his blood in the bed, and a man standing over him with a dark lantern in one hand, and a knife in the other! The man seemed as much petrified as themselves, but his terror carried with it all the appearance of guilt. The gentlemen soon discovered that the murdered person was the stranger with whom they had that night supped, and that the man who was standing over him was their host. They seized Bradford directly, disarmed him of his knife, and charged him with being the murderer. He assumed by this time the air of innocence, positively denied the crime, and asserted that he came there with the same humane intentions as themselves; for that, hearing a noise, which was succeeded by a groaning, he got out of bed, struck á light, armed himself with a knife for his defence, and had but that minute
entered the room before them. These assertions were of little avail; he was kept in close custody till the morning, and then taken before a neighbouring justice-of-the-peace. Bradford still denied the murder, but with such apparent indications of guilt, that the justice hesitated not to make use of this extraordinary expression on writing his mittimus, 'Mr Bradford, either you or myself committed this murder.'
This remarkable affair became a topic of conversation to the whole country. Bradford was condemned by the general voice of every company. In the midst of all this predetermination, came on the assizes at Oxford. Bradford was brought to trial; he pled not guilty. Nothing could be stronger than the evidence of the two gentlemen. They testified to the finding Mr Hayes murdered in his bed, Bradford at the side of the body with a light and a knife, and that knife, and the hand which held it, bloody. They stated that, on their entering the room, he betrayed all the signs of a guilty man; and that, but a few minutes preceding, they had heard the groans of the deceased.
Bradford's defence on his trial was the same as before : he had heard a noise; he suspected that some villainy was transacting; he struck a light, snatched up the knife, the only weapon at hand, to defend himself, and entered the room of the deceased. He averred that the terrors he betrayed were merely the feelings natural to innocence, as well as guilt, on beholding so horrid a scene. The defence, however, could not but be considered as weak, contrasted with the several powerful circumstances against him. Never was circumstantial evidence so strong, so far as it went. There was little need for comment from the judge in summing up the evidence; no room appeared for extenuation; and the prisoner was declared guilty by the jury without their even leaving the box.
Bradford was executed shortly after, still declaring that he was not the murderer, nor privy to the murder, of Mr Hayes; but he died disbelieved by all.
Yet were these assertions not untrue! The murder was actually committed by the footman of Mr Hayes; and the assassin, immediately on stabbing his master, rifled his pockets of his money, gold watch, and snuff-box, and then escaped back to his own room. This could scarcely have been effected, as after-circumstances shewed, more than two seconds before Bradford's entering the unfortunate gentleman's chamber. The world owes this information to remorse of conscience on the part of the footman (eighteen months after the execution of Bradford) when laid on a bed of sickness. It was a death-bed repentance, and by that death the law lost its victim.
It were to be wished that this account could close here; but there is more to be told. Bradford, though innocent of the murder, and not even privy to it, was nevertheless a murderer in design. He