Page:Once a Week Volume 8.djvu/66

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

58

ONCE A WEEK.

[Jan. 10, 1863.


open to very grave question. It is not indeed, as then, that the moral character of the individuals themselves rests under any suspicion, for, so far as I have been able to learn, both the servant-of-all-work, and her lover, John Styles, are perfectly respectable people; whilst the young man Aldridge, though certainly a foolish and perhaps rather a dissipated young fellow, has a very fair character from the house of business in which he is now employed. But the evidence of the two former is, as will be seen, greatly diminished in value by the circumstances under which it was obtained, whilst, in the latter, there is so clear a suspicion of animus as cannot but throw still greater doubts upon evidence in itself sufficiently questionable—and rendered yet more so by other circumstances which will hereafter more fully appear.

It was this man Aldridge, whose letter, as you will remember, led to the investigation, of which the result is now before you; and his statement hereto annexed, that first gave substance to the suspicions of foul play on the part of the Baron, and, in conjunction with the discovery of the enclosed papers, subsequently induced me to extend my inquiries to the cases of Mr. and Mrs. Anderton. I confess that, notwithstanding the doubt with which his statement is surrounded, I am still inclined to accept it as substantially true, though possibly somewhat coloured by personal feeling against the Baron. The point, however, has seemed to me of sufficient importance to justify the occupying a considerable portion of this present division of the case with such evidence as I have been able to gather respecting the circumstances of his final ejectment, and it will be for you to determine between the story as told by himself and that of Baron R**.

With regard to the other two witnesses who, by one of those singular coincidences that, in criminal cases, seem so often to occur, are able to confirm in some degree the evidence of Aldridge, there is, I think, less difficulty. They had certainly no business where they were, but the circumstances are such as to fully acquit them of any felonious intent, while even had such existed, it would be difficult to see how the fact of such intent could have exercised any influence over their present statements. It is moreover quite clear that there has been no collusion upon the subject.

I have now only to refer, in conclusion, to the fragment of paper found in the Baron’s rooms in Russell Place, and the marked copy of the “Zoist,” belonging to the late Mr. Anderton, to which Mr. Morton referred in his statement[1] as having formed the subject of discussion at Mr. Anderton’s house on the evening of the 13th of October, 1854. The first of these is a portion of a letter, which I have endeavoured, so far as possible, to complete. Admitting that I have done so correctly, and coupling it with the fact of the visit which, as I have been able to ascertain, was paid by a foreign lady to the Baron “very early in the morning” following the death of Madame R**, it appears to throw no inconsiderable light upon the extraordinary circumstances of the death of Madame R**. The bearing of the latter upon the case will be perhaps less clear. I have no hesitation in admitting that when the connection first suggested itself to my own mind, I at once dismissed it as too absurd to be entertained for a moment. But I feel bound to add that the further my inquiries have progressed, the more strongly this apparent connection has forced itself upon me as the only clue to a maze of coincidences such as it has never before been my lot to encounter, and that while even now unable to accept it as a fact, I find it still more impossible to thrust it altogether on one side. I have therefore left the matter for your decision, merely pointing out, as I have before, in the opening portion of my report, that, even admitting the influence of these passages upon the mind of the Baron, and the ultimate success of the plan founded upon their suggestion, that success, however extraordinary, may not necessarily involve, as at first appears, the admission of those monstrous assertions of the “mesmeric” journal on which it was based.

With these observations, I now submit to your consideration the concluding portion of the evidence, after which it will only be necessary for me to take a brief review of the whole case before leaving it finally in your hands.

2.—Statement of Mrs. Jackson.

My name is Mary Jackson. I live in Goswell Street, City Road. I am a monthly and sick-nurse. In June, 1856, I was engaged to nurse Madame R**. I was recommended to the Baron by Dr. Marsden, who lodged in the same house. I have often nursed for him. Madame R** was not very ill. I don’t think she was ill enough to require a nurse. Of course she was the better for one—everybody always is—but she could have done without one. I came by the Baron’s wish. He was anxious like. The poor gentleman was very fond of his wife. I never saw such a good husband. I am sure no other husband would have done what he did, and she so cold to him. I don’t think she cared about him at all. She hardly ever spoke to him unless it was when he spoke first. She never spoke much. She always seemed frightened; especially when the Baron was there. She certainly seemed to be afraid of him, but I can’t tell why. He was always kind to her. He was the nicest and most civil-spoken gentleman I ever knew. It was not that he was not particular. Quite the reverse. I wish all husbands were half so particular, and then nurses wouldn’t so often get into trouble. Everything used to be done like clockwork. Every morning he used to give me a paper what was to be given in the day. I mean medicine and food. A list of everything, with the time it was to be taken. Everything used to be ready, and I used to give it regular. No one else ever used to give anything. The Baron never gave anything himself. Never at all. I am quite sure of that. He used to say that it was nurse’s business, and so it is. He often said he had seen so much sickness he had learned never to interfere with the nurse, and I only wish all other gentlemen would do the same. He used to be very particular about the physic. We always have the
  1. Section II. 2.