A Baby Saves Its Mother: 1873

victorian mother

A Baby Proves its Mother’s Innocence

[Paris Correspondence London Paper.]

A poor, pale, wan seamstress was arrested for theft. She appeared at the bar with a baby of eleven or twelve months in her arms, her child. She went to get work one day, and stole three gold coins of 10 f. each. The money was missed soon after she left her employer, and the servant was sent to her rooms to claim it. The servant found her about to quit her rooms with the three gold coins in her hand. She said to the servant, “I was going to carry them back to you.” Nevertheless she was carried to the Commissioner of Police and he ordered her to be sent before the Police Court, for trial. She was too poor to engage a lawyer, and when asked by the Judge what she had to say for herself, she answered: ‘The day I went to my employer’s, I carried my child with me. It was in my arms as it is now. I was not paying attention to it. There were several gold coins on the mantelpiece, and unknown to me it stretched out its little hand, and seized three pieces, which I did not observe until I got home. I at once put on my bonnet, and was going back to my employer to return them, when I was arrested. This is the solemn truth, as I hope for Heaven’s mercy.’

“The court could not believe this story. They upbraided the mother for her impudence in endeavoring to palm off such a manifest lie for the truth. They besought her for her own sake to retract so absurd a tale, for it could have no effect, but oblige the court to sentence her to a much severer punishment than they were disposed to inflict upon one so young and evidently steeped so deep in poverty. These appeals had no effect, except to strengthen the poor mother’s pertinacious adherence to her original story. As this firmness was sustained by that look of innocence which the most adroit criminal can never counterfeit, the court were at some loss to discover what decision justice demanded. To relieve their embarrassment, one of the judges proposed to renew the scene described by the mother. Three gold coins were placed on the clerk’s table. The mother was requested to assume the position in which she said she stood at her employer’s house. There was then a breathless pause in court. The baby soon discovered the bright coin, eyed it for a moment, smiled, and then stretched forth its tiny hand and clutched them in its fingers with a miser’s eagerness. The mother was acquitted.” The Dayspring, Vol. 2, 1873

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The little creature in the story above illustrates the trials of motherhood; only in this case, the “trial” was a literal one. Those tiny fingers, so adorably small; so fiendishly quick….

Mrs Daffodil could, if she wished, give examples that contradict the notion that an adroit criminal can never counterfeit that “look of innocence,” but never mind. One is never quite certain about statutes of limitation….

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of the mothers in her readership the happiest of days and the most amiable of children.

See these previous posts on baby books and royal mothers in the nursery.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

 

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