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Circumstantial Evidence

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There is one grim old story told in ancient law books, of a miirder committed at an inn. It was a little country inn, in a ratlier unfrequented placo, and i there on one wintry night arrived two j sets of guests. One party consisted of j an eldeily invalided gentleman and Lis man-servant; the other, of two : men, friends, traveling together. The ; accommodation was lather limited, and the man-servant was stowed away in a i loft. The two friends agreed to share : one chamber, while the old gentleman ! was to occupy that next to theirs. The three gentlemen spent the eveniDg together in the common room, the landlord and the man-servant coming to and fro in attendanee. It transpired, somehow, that the elderly invalid was i ing in possession of considerable j bles. This matter was touehed upon but lightly ; in fact, it was little more than an "inference which might be ; drawn from something he said. About j midnight all the travelers retired to i rest. An hour or two after, one of the ! friends awoke. Lying in silence, he heard something likc a groan, and, on j its being repe&ted, he aroused his companion, and both listened. The sound came from the next apartment. They sprung to their feet, and, thinking their iicighlior niiglit b suddeüly and ' gerously ill, tliey hastily struck a light ! and went to liis room. Bilt they found I they had been anticipated; light j ready streamed from nis opened door, and at his bedside stood the landlord, witli a faoe of horror, and in his hand a Í bloody knife. As the gentlemen j tered the room, the invalid gave a last groan and expired from a deadly wound j in his throat. Naturally, the two gentlemen seized j and seeured the landlord. Between the telltale weapon in his hand and the ! treme dismay and trepidation which he manifested, he might almost be said to be taken in the act. They roused : the house. The few sleepy servants came hurrying in, among them the footman of the murdered man. So great was the host's terror that it was some time before he could utter a single word which might put a different ! plexion on the case. At last he found ' wits to de lare that, like the gentlemen, : he had beèii roused by the groans. and, I fearing robbers, had armed himself with j a knife and hurried forth, hoping to be in time to give help ; that when he saw ', the awful sight ín the bedchamber the Jmife had fallen from his hand into the ] blood, and he had remained for a few moments powerless. Such a story seemed credible enough, but there were sundry circumstances which instantly falsified it. The room ! where the landlord had slept was too ! mote from the scène of the murder for I any groans to have reaohed it ; and the j cnife was not one of those in ordinary use, which might have been hastily ''■■ natchedup,butresembled others which vere kept locked in a chest in his bedroom. Of these circumstances he could offer no explanation, nor yet of undry ejaculations he had uttered whcn irst surprised. In spite of his protestatious of innocence, in which, somehow, there seemed always a curious reservation, he was condemned to die. The night before lis execution he made a singular conession. He acknowledged that his cupidity had been so excited by the idea oL his visitor's valuables that he had resolved to kill him, and to possess himself of thetn. For this purpose he took out a knife and stole from his bedroom. Probably in the preoccupation of his horrible enterprise he had heard no footstep nor any groan ; and the tirst thing that warned Mm that all was not right was the finding of the visitor's bedroom-door unlatched. When his light feil on the awful scène, and he saw his own crime had been anticipated, his knife feil from his palsied hand, and when he found himself in the grasp of his accusers he had cried that " God's judgments were on him." He owned that, thongh he was in act guiltless of the murder, yet he was justly judged. But though he died with every appearance of sincere repentance, the general impre.ssion was that even his final confession was but another vagary of a ciiminal nature, playing with truth and falsehood to the very end. But, yearsafterward, a clergyman was summoned to receive the last confldences of a man sinking in consumption. This was the servant of the murdered invalid. Then he owned that it was he who had slain his master. He had stolen frora his remote loft, and had just inflicted the mortal wound when he was disturbed by the landlord's approaching footsteps, and flecl barefoot in an opposite direetion, regained his bed, and remained there until he was summoned by the cries of the other lodgers. He indicated how and where he had disposed of the weapon with whicli he kiHed his master, details which were subsequently verified. He was too near death to be seized by justice, but the partioulars of his confession were made public, thongh in this cilho. the story cannot be concluded by tlie formula with which the prim ol( hvw reporters generally sum up such tragedies, "That the innocente of the other man was thus coniplctely vindicated." Par more piteous was the story of William Shaw, who lived in Edinburgk in 1721. He was a respectable tradesman, and he liad a daughter named Catherine, who, unhappily, had tronblesome love affairs. Her own heart inelined to one John Lawson, to wliom her father objected, saying that he was a profligate youth, addicted to every kind of dissipation. Shaw forbade tho lover bis house, and, when he found that Catherine still saw him clandes tinely, the father imprisoned the daughter on bis own premisos. Whether Shaw was too hard, or whethcr Catherine was too willful, nobody can say. There is one element in the case which draws sympathy to the girl. There was not only a lover to be given up, but a lover to be accopted. While Shaw banished John Lawson, he nrged forward the suit of one Bobertson. Catherine passionately declared that she would die sooner than marry tbis man, and many altercations were overheard between the fatber and daughter. The family seems to have consisted of these two only, and they lived in one of tbose "flats," or suites of rooms, opening from a common stair, whicb were common in Edinburgb then, as now, though in London, except in the Inns of Court, tbey are a modern innovation. Uuder somewhat imperfect arrangement tb is plan of building offers facilities for hewring high voices or heavy falls. The nearest neigbbors of the Slmws, a family named Morison, often overheard the quarrels of the father and daughter. Without troubling themselves to listen, they eould bear words wbich the girl screamed shrilly in her grief and rage. James Morison, as he sat following his occupation as a watch-case maker, heard Catherine giving vent to such expressions as "barbarity!" "cruelty!" and "death!" Presently he heard somebody leave the room, shutting the door noisily and locking it. For some minutes afterward there was silence. Tben he heard several faint groans in what seemed Catherine's voice. He feit alarmed, and called the attention of others to the sound. Tbey went to the door of Sbaw's flat and listened there. Presently they heard the daughter faintly exclaim : " Cruel father, you are the cause of my death ! " They knocked imperatively fór admittance ; there was no answer ; and, calling the aid of the town gnard, they forced the lock. Catherine was found lying in a pool of blood, with a knife besid.e her. She was in the agonies of death, and quite speechless, but when a neigbbor bent over her and inquired if it was her father who had done tbis, she was just ablo to mnke au affirmative motion witb her head, and then expired. At this very moment William Shaw retiirned. At the sight of bis daughter he turned pale, trembled, and wasready to sink, which after all was only natural. Blood upon his shirt bore less doubtful witness against him. He was hurried before the magistrates, and on bis trial he fully admitted the angry terms on which he and his daughter had lived of late, also the bitterness of the quarrel before their last parting; but he declared that be left her then unhurt and well. He persisted that the blood on bis shirt was tliere in consequence of his having . bied himself, eomc days before, and the bandage beeoming untied, but of this ! he could oífer no corroborativo evidence. So he was found guilty, and hanged in chains at Leith Walk. Exactly one ycar later the new tenant of Wïlliam Shaw's flat was making some rearrangernents in his room, setting up a cupboard, or shelves, or something j which led him to pay particular attention to the skirting-board round the flreplace. Suddenly he caught siglit of a paper which seemed to have fallen behind it. He took it out, and when he i had nnfolded it he read the following j letter: " Barbarous father, jour cruelty in having put it out of my power ever to join my fate to that of the only man I could love, and tyrannically insisting on my marrying one whom I had always hated, has made me form a resolution to put an end to an existence which has become a burden to me. My death I lay to your charge. When you read tliis, consider yourself as the inhuman wretch who plunged the murderous knife into the bosom of unhappy Catlierine Shaw." Many relations and friends readily recognized the handwriting. The high flown language, the egotism of tone, ' alike reveal a mind poisoned by the style of romance iu fashion at that epoch, and make us feel with the poor I father, who was probably honestly dei sirous to save his child from real j ery, though, perhaps, he did not take ; the best way to do so. It reads like ! solemn irony that the Magistrates of ' Edinburgh ordered the body of WillI iam Shaw to be taken from the gibbet ! (the bones were still hanging in chains, according to the ghastly old custom) ' and given to his family for interment. And "as the only reparation to his I memory, and tho honor of his surviving i relations, they caused a pair of colors j to be waved over his grave in token of j innocence ! " Far less pathetic, but scarcely less grim, is the story of three gentlemen supping together at a Norfolk tavern in the year 1684. One became deeply intoxicated ; then the others, also somewhat inflamed by wine, quarreled, and one snatched up the sword of the dranken man and stabbed the other to the heart. And not till years after the drunkard had been tried and executed for the murder did the other, then dying in extreme misery in France, acknowl edge that he, and he only, liad done the deed. In the year 1660 two men named Perry and their mother were hangedfor the murder of a man who liad never been nmrdered at all. Mr. Harrison, Lady Campden's stewiird, having boen collecting his rents, suddenly disappeared. John PeiTy aecused Lis mother, himself, and his brother of having robbed Mr. Harrison in the previons year, and of having again robbed him and murdered him on the night when he was missed. The mother nnd Richard Perry denied all knowledge of the matter ; but at length pleadedguilty to the first indictment nnder some pressure of polioy. The other indictment was not then proceeded with, on tho ground that the body was not foimd. But John persisted in his story, and at the next assize they were all tried for murder. John then retracted his confession, and said he must have been mad. Nevertheless, they were all condemned. Some years after Mr. Harrison appeared alive, and thus accounted for his mysterious absence : "After receiving kis rents he had been set npon by a gang of rnffians, darried to the seaside, put on shipboavd and sold as a slave to the Turks. After his master's death he escaped, and with great difficulty. working his way, flrst to Lisbon, and thence to Dover, he arrived in England, as our law book coolly says, to the surprise of all the country." The last story we shnll teil is another tale of an inn. The Rising Sun was the name of a public house on the high I road between York and Newcastle. It was kept by a man named Harris, assisted by two servants, a man named Morgan, and a maid. One evening % ■ blacksmith stopped at the Kising Sun, supped and slept there. Early next t inoniing the hostler, Morgan, went to a neighboring magistrate and gave information that his master, Harris, had just murdered the tmveler in his bed. The traveler was foand at the public house lying dead, with every j anee of having been strangled. Harris was apprehended, but positively denied the charge. Morgan as positively affirmed it. Morgan deposed that he saw ! his master on the bed strangling the stranger. Harris declared that he ï'ound the man in a fit, and tried to assist him. Morgan further said that he had ward seen his master rirling the pockets of the deceased. Harris denied everything, and mediI cal evidence was brought forward to I prove that all the marks on his body might have arisen from natural causes. The inn-keeper was on the point of being discharged, when the maid-servant requested to bo sworn. She deposed that almost directlyupon Harris coming down on the morning of the traveler's death, she (being in a back wash-house, unknown to her master) saw him go j into tho garden, take some gold from his pocket, wrap it up, and bury it ! under a tree in a certain corner. Harris was observed to be confused at this information. An offieer was sent with the girl, and he dug up a packet containing L30 at the spot which she indicated. Harris then acknowledged having hidden the money, but he did so with such reluctance, and with so many evasions, that he was instantly committed for trial. At the trial Morgan again deposed that he had seen the murder committed. The girl again swore to the coneealing of the money, and the constable proved having fouud it according to her statement. Harris had nothing to say except that Morgan's evidence was entirely false, that the buried money was his own, put away for better seeurity. The Judge eummocl lip; the jury fnnnrl the prÏMoner guilty, and he was condemned to die. Harris seems to have taken his senj tonoe meekly. He peroisircl in hi in nocence, and only lamented the sordidness of temper, which, he said, had led him into a general distrustfulness, and into such ways as this of hiding his money, which had proved his ruin. After his master's death Morgan and the maid were married. They lived very unhappily, and at last thewife disclosed the whole story. They had both known their master's miserly te nper, and the girl had found out that he buried money in the garden, a fact which she reported to Morgan. They resolved to let him go on doing so until it should amount to a considerable sum, when they purposed to seize it and to decamp. One day Harris and Morgan had a bitter quarrel, and the master struck the man, whose sullen temper instantly formed a resolution to revenge himself. j At this crisis the blacksmith arrived. The next morning Morgan himself found him dead in his bed. With diabolical inspiration he resolved to charge his master with the murder, and to i plunder that master's hoard while he was in pnson, mus ac once grauiymg his liatred and his greed. Of this scheme he apprised the girl, and secured her approval. But when she found that j the aocusation was not sufficiently ; ported, while some words dropped in court led her to fear that if her master was released her lover might be apprehended, she resolved to sacrifico both the money and her master to secure the safety of the wretch Morgan. After this confession she and her husband were both thrown into prison, but cscaped their public punishment by dying of jail fever. It was afterwards found, by some quite unexpected information, that the blacksmith had had two previous attacks of apoplexy, and had never, at any one time, owned as much L5 in money.


Old News
Michigan Argus