The Character Witness: 1860s

british judge

A young man was tried for murder, having killed a member of a rival faction in a faction fight (writes Aubrey de Vere in his “Recollections”). The judge, reluctant to sentence him to death, on account of his youth, turned to him and said: “Is there any one in court who could speak as to your character?”  

The youth looked round the court, and then said, sadly: “There is no man here, my lord, that I know.”

At that, my grandfather chanced to walk into the grand jury gallery. He saw at once how matters stood. He called out: “You are a queer boy that don’t know a friend when you see him!”

The boy was quick-witted; he answered: “Oh, then, it is myself that is proud to see your honor here this day!”

“Well,” said the judge, “Sir Vere, since you know that boy, will you tell us what you know of him?”

“I will, my lord,” said my grandfather, “and what I can tell you is this — that from the very first day that ever I saw him to this minute, I never knew anything of him that was not good.”

The old tenant ended his tale by striking his hands together and exclaiming: “And he never to have clapped his eye on the boy till that minute!”

The boy escaped being hanged.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 7 February 1898

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, but what of the boy’s subsequent career? Was he transported to where he made a fortune in the gold-fields or sheep-pens of Australia, returning to Ireland a rich and prosperous man to thank his benefactor? Or did he return from prison a hardened ticket-of-leave lag who had learned every species of vice behind bars? In such case, he undoubtedly would have approached his benefactor under the pretext of asking for aid, while planning a burglary of the premises, which invariably went wrong, leaving the former convict mortally wounded by the police.

Inquiring minds naturally want to know.

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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