« PreviousContinue »
that you take down my story as I tell it; we shall save time in the adoption of this course, and as I have been cautioned, it will be better that if I commit myself I should do it voluntarily and in my own way, and not in response to questions put by the Court. The case of Lord St. Barnard against Philip Ransford, the deceased, is well known to all of you, through the reports in the newspapers. I was his solicitor. In conducting the prisoner's defence I did not exceed my instructions ; indeed, my cross-examination was founded upon statements much more damaging than the points I endeavoured to bring out.
The inspector of police whispered to the coroner, who said he thought Mr. Cuffing was wandering from the business in hand.
Mr. Cuffing: Not at all.
The Foreman : Mr. Coroner, we would like to hear all that the witness has to say. Being a lawyer, we think he might be left to judge for himself what is right and wrong as to the manner in which he conducts himself before us, especially seeing that he has been cautioned.
The Coroner: Very well, gentlemen; I have no objection.
Mr. Cuffing : I will not dwell upon the details of the BarnardRansford case, which stands adjourned, as you are aware, until Monday next I hope Lord St. Barnard will be present to do an act of justice to my client as well as to the lady who has been so shamefully maligned. (Sensation.) After the release of my client from prison, he became more depressed than he was during his incarceration, and from expressing a wish that he had never moved in the business, he began to show such signs of remorse as induced me to question him more closely and severely than I had ever done before. The result was that in a moment of weakness and repentance he confessed to me that the whole of his charges against Lady St. Barnard were untrue.
The jury held their breath. For a moment you could hear a pin drop. The coroner looked at the police-inspector, who laid down his pen
and leaned back in his chair, covered with astonishment. Mr. Cuffing: I can quite understand your surprise, and I hope your gratification, at this announcement. Before now clients have made confessions to their advocates which have remained closed secrets for all time. Mr. Coroner and gentlemen of the jury, the moment Ransford burst into tears and fell sobbing upon my desk, letting out the pent-up feeling of many days, I said “You must make atonement. You must confess in open court.” “What,” he said, “ and be sent back to prison ?” was his reply. "No," I said, “ for that
would be unprofessional. An advocate must not injure his client.” I commended him for trusting me, and promised that he should not suffer for it; but I insisted upon our doing justice to the injured lady and her husband. (Applause.) With the consent of my client I waited upon Lord St. Barnard, and with some difficulty induced his lordship to listen to me. I succeeded in obtaining his lordship's consent to meet my client, and to do it quickly, as he had shown unmistakable signs of a nervousness which, I feared, might lead to aberration of mind. He talked of killing himself; said he was unfit to live; and otherwise conducted himself in quite an alarming manner. Lord St. Barnard came to my office, and upon his word of honour and in the terms of this document, which I now produce(sensation)-agreed not to continue the prosecution, if my client made a clean breast of the whole matter. I did not let Lord St. Barnard know the full nature of the statement my client was prepared to make, because, of course, I had his interests to protect as far as possible; but I put the business in such a light that there was finally a mutual exchange of documents, and my client was to be allowed to go abroad free and unfettered, and on the publication of the confession at the adjournment on Monday next Lord St. Barnard was to place in my hands £10,000 for investment during Ransford's lifetime in trust, the interest to be paid as long as Ransford remained abroad, and to be forfeited, with a recommencement of the prosecution, if ever he returned to England. This part of the understanding was a verbal agreement; but what I now tell you is ratified by the document which I lay before you, and by the copy of Philip Ransford's confession, which I can produce, if necessary; but I
I propose to reserve that for my statement at Bow Street on Monday next. [" Quite right,” said the foreman.] Now, Mr. Coroner, we come to the sad incident of yesterday. It had been arranged that, as soon as possible after the delivery of the confession to Lord St. Barnard, my client should go abroad. The document was handed to his lordship yesterday prior to his lordship going to the Continent to join Lady St. Barnard ; and knowing Mr. Jeffs, who had once been a client of mine in a prize-fighting case, which some of you gentlemen may remember, I thought the best course would be to meet there and take the steamer in the river. I notified this to his lordship, and he approved of it; and his lordship said curiously enough he was going out from Erith in a friend's yacht that very night, as soon as the tide served. (Jeffs had obtained some information which led Cuffing to guess that the Fairy, which had got up steam and been waiting off Purfleet, was the vessel in which his
lordship had left the river; indeed, there was a witness whom, at Cuffing's suggestion, Jeffs had sent down to Gravesend on business, who would put this pretty well on record if he had been called.] I wrote to the Steamship Company, and yesterday afternoon had arranged to go down to the Cuttle Fish, and see my friend off. He had been drinking, and I fancy was bordering on an attack of delirium tremens. At the last moment, when he had packed his bag, he said I should not go with him; he would go alone; he cursed me and grew furious, and all of a sudden fell upon me and tried to strangle me—(sensation)
he took a revolver from my pocket-I have always carried a revolver since I lived in America-flung it into the opposite room, pulled another from his own pocket, threatened to shoot me, and ended by forcing a gag into my mouth, and tying me to his bedstead. He then left me. I could not move for a long time, but finally got free, and hurried to the train, following him to Erith. I engaged a boat, and on landing encountered Jeffs. I asked him if the gentleman had arrived, and he said “Yes, a long time ago.” I said I was later than I expected, and hurried to the house. I dare say I was a little excited; for, apart from the treatment I had received, I feared that something serious might happen; I did not know what, but I was really not surprised to find my client dead. He was the sort of person to commit suicide, and he had threatened to do so more than once. He suffered from remorse to such an extent that he taunted me with being his solicitor, and said I ought not to have believed him. Yesterday, in his mad passion, he associated me with the cause of his anguish, and assaulted me as I have stated. And this, gentlemen, is all I have to say, unless you have any questions to ask.
The Coroner : At present I think it will be best to take Mr. Cuffing's statement as it stands. It will be necessary to adjourn the inquiry
The inspector of police said it was only just to inform the Court that the condition of the deceased's rooms at Piccadilly quite bore out Mr. Cuffing's description of the struggle which had taken place there ; but the officer said nothing about the condition of Cuffing's chambers, though the lawyer was quite prepared with a plausible explanation upon that point if he had been called upon.
The Coroner : Gentlemen, I do not propose to hear further evidence to-day; we will adjourn until tomorrow morning at ten o'clock.
Cuffing went to London. He had a widowed sister living in one of the numerous courts in Bow Street. For years he had neither
seen nor heard of her ; but he went straight to her house, with his bag, from Charing Cross Station. She was not well off, and his offer to take her first floor at a weekly rent of twenty-five shillings, together with many expressions of affectionate regard, made his visit perfectly satisfactory. If she were ever asked when he took the rooms she must forget the exact date; he had a reason for this, and the widow saw no difficulty in complying. Cuffing thereupon went to two newspaper offices and succeeded in getting an advertisement in the next morning's publications announcing that he had removed his offices to the court in question. During the night he pasted a similar notice on the door in Casel Street, and the next day the policeman who had examined the premises could not satisfy his chief whether the notice was there on the previous day or not. Cuffing having played these last cards set about making himself comfortable in his new quarters, and sat down to wait results.
DREAMS AND REALITIES.
In the meantime Lady St. Barnard was happy in a delicious unconsciousness. She was rambling through the fields at Dunelm ; she was walking down the Bailey with admiring eyes upon her; she was in church waiting for her grandfather to finish his closing voluntary with the sunbeams wandering into the chancel. It was a hot summer Sunday with her long ago. The bells were chiming. The sun slumbered on the river. The water was a mirror for the tall cathedral towers. There was no sound beyond the drowsy hum of the bells as their music fell through the trees. The laburnums were yellow with blossoms, and the scent of the lilac filled the hot pulsations of the air.
Lord St. Barnard sat beside her, but she did not recognise him ; she only muttered in her delirium. If he could have understood that there was anything akin to happiness in her dreaming he would have felt consoled for her want of recognition. If Kalmat had known that she saw him, during her mental wanderings, on that summer Sunday in the cathedral city, he also would have felt that there was a tinge of light in the gravity of the situation. The doctor said there was no cause for serious alarm. His patient was strong, and she had inherited a fine constitution. He hoped to see her fit to travel in a few weeks. The fever was abating somewhat. It must run its course.
While the patient was still dreaming, Lord St. Barnard and Kalmat had a conversation about her. It was on the second day after their arrival in Boulogne, and the first time that Lord St. Barnard had left her for more than a quarter of an hour at
a time. They were sitting in the hotel yard. It was Saturday morning following after the Sunday when Lady St. Barnard disappeared. What a world of events had happened in those few days!
“She was wonderfully beautiful as a girl," said Kalmat; "you will not be jealous of my admiration ?"
“ Jealous !" said his lordship, smiling.
She wore a light silk dress with lilac flowers in the pattern of it, slightly open at the neck. Do you know the bust of Clytie ?—the original, I think, is in the British Museum.”
“ I know it well.”
“She was like that bust-her head was just as gracefully set upon her shoulders. I used to call her Clytie. Not to any one but myself. I had an exquisite bust of Clytie in my room. I used to talk to it."
“ You have the true poetic temperament,” said his lordship.
“ If talking to inanimate things is evidence of the poetic temperament, I have it strongly; for I have talked by the hour to trees and rivers. There are a cluster of oaks and pines overlooking the Sacramento Valley which are in full possession of some of my most secret thoughts. There was an Indian girl in that distant village. I used to think her like Mary Waller. She had a similar soft expression
The chief, her father, was killed, and I obtained permission to have her educated. I sent her to Boston three years ago, and have had remarkable accounts of her progress.
My first idea was when she came of age, if her heart were not engaged in the meantime, to offer her my hand and after a tour through Europe to settle down in the golden West. Poor Shaseta, I suppose she will regard me more as a parent than a lover.”
“ You have wandered a long way from Dunelm."
“I fear I am becoming garrulous,” said Kalmat. “That Sunday in Dunelm and your wife! I shall never forget the radiant beauty of her girlhood; and on that Sunday in particular, old Waller at the organ seemed as if he had set it to music and was repeating the nature of it in an harmonious and melodic idyll. He was a master of sweet sounds; she might have inspired and warmed a statue into life. Shaseta was about her age when first I saw her, and the
of the eye.