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“I might be worse !” answered the cobbler, with a laugh, and the cronies separated.
The slow-travelling newspaper had scarcely communicated to the highlanders of Cladich that the herd suspected of murdering the widow Kirkpatrick had been taken into custody (dressed in the garb of a sailor), than two officers of the criminal law, to the horror of the simple inhabitants, made their appearance from Inverary, with a warrant for the apprehension of the baker, domesticated now for nearly a year among them.
What was the charge laid against him? One said robbery, another housebreaking, a third murder ; while poor Mary ran about, half distracted, among the crowd, her eyes streaming with tears, exclaiming that "it was only suspicion, nothing but suspicion. Who could accuse Donald of anything?"
When the officers had entered the dwelling of the baker to effect their capture, he was observed by the crowd outside for a moment to assume an attitude of resistance, but the next, saying that the law had made a great mistake, which would soon be cleared up, he quietly surrendered himself to the keeping of its servants. Hugh the fisherman now made his appearance, influenced by his daughter to do this, and the baker, upon seeing him, asked if he would take charge of his shop and effects, which he said were in a manner the same as his own, and with which he might do as he liked. The old man at first hesitated, but a glance at his daughter determined him. Holding out his hand to the baker, which was taken by the latter, not as yet adorned with the handcuffs he was soon to wear, he told him he would look after his things, provided he assured him that they belonged to an honest
“Be certain of this,” replied Donald, “in the meantime, and you shall soon hear from me farther." Mary and he then exchanged their sad farewells; and if Donald now seemed to be deserted by every tint of colour in his countenance, if his voice became broken and his steps unsteady, these appearances were no more, the women said who witnessed them, than were natural under the circumstances. As the party turned their backs upon the village, the inhabitants still stood in groups here and there, discussing the novelty, and the chances for and against the baker. And so seldom, if, indeed, ever before, did such an event arise to disturb the repose and good name of the place, that many of the speakers, that night as they retired to rest, felt as if they were implicated in some strange way, with the one who had been carried off so disgracefully from among them.
The baker and his conductors reached Inverary, but it was only to wait for some conveyance, in those days of slow travelling, for means of getting on to Glasgow, where at last the trio arrived on the third day after leaving Cladich; having made the journey, as the officials asserted,
very speedily. Here more active proceedings were adopted in connection with the prisoner, such as confronting him with the sailor and daft Jock, both still in custody, and once more--the much-tried cobbler. The result of which steps was, that from Glasgow he was straightway sent on, a prisoner still, to the county town in the south near where the deed had been perpetrated, and lodged in the jail there, to be tried for the murder and robbery of the Widow Kirkpatrick, when the judges should visit that town on circuit, about a month later. He wrote to Mary from the prison, requested her to believe nothing she might hear against him, and concluded by assuring her that in a short while he would be with her again, since his counsel had not the slightest doubt of his acquittal, which was only a matter of time. For a few days after the receipt of this letter, Mary was observed to be very desponding. But afterwards, as if inspired by hope and confidence in her lover, she resumed nearly her usual lively demeanour, and though the baker's shop was closed, the old fisherman was not afraid, when the newspaper was read, to be one of the listeners who sat in the little public room of the post-office, to hear tidings of the absentee.
In the interval between the incarceration of the baker and the day it was likely his trial would be held, there seemed to be a hitch in the proceedings, which it was supposed would require much legal acumen and learning to surmount. It was noised abroad that there was a want of proof against the prisoner, or at least, a serious defect in it, and men feared, if he was guilty, he might, nevertheless, escape the punishment he deserved. Rigg and Latimer were still in custody at Glasgow, and up to the week of the trial they continued thus, whence arose another reportthat failing the condemnation of the baker, one or both of them would be brought to trial on the same charge. The public were determined, seemingly, that some one must be hanged, and, as the cobbler said, when again cited as evidence, “ Jeddart (or Jedburgh) before now had hanged a man and then tried him afterwards.”
In this severely just, or it may be called even somewhat cruel spirit, they, however, only felt according to that of the times, when some of the highest administrators of the law were known to be rather disappointed than the reverse when it became inevitable to acquit the criminals tried before them. Capital punishment was then inflicted in all parts of the country for offences, as we now more leniently believe, falling far short of crimes; and the more modern and humane idea of the ultimate abolition of what is termed the last punishment of the law, or that of death, was then unheard of. The instant and wild justice of revenge of the feudal times, in all its bloodthirstiness, had been succeeded by the more legal and less hasty, though scarcely less severe, justice of the times succeeding it. But it remained for our own days, when personal safety is less in danger, to entertain a more merciful idea
of that modern insanity called crime, and to spare the life of the criminal in the hope of his reformation.
« TACKET" SHOES.
The day of trial came, and the excitement out of doors was very great. Many witnesses had been summoned, both on the part of the Crown as prosecutor, and on that of the accused. Among the former, to the amazement of the people, less versed in the subtleties of the law than its learned expounders, there now appeared, apparently at large, although some observers thought they detected the Argus eyes of officials continually directed upon them, Rigg and Latimer. Everyone was certain that there was none saw the deed done, therefore, if the baker was to be convicted, it must be upon circumstantial evidence. And could the private opinions of each of the crowd who surrounded the building where the court sat, as well as those of the occupants of the space allotted to the public within, and including even the witnesses, have been ascertained, such is the diversity of men's minds, as well as such was the apparent likelihood that any of those three individuals named might have been the principal or accessory, according to the rumours which prevailed, it is likely the numbers would have been about equally divided.
The names of the jury were called over, and the solicitor for the Crown began the charge against the prisoner in a calm voice and with a staid demeanour, altogether different, as afterwards appeared, from that of his learned brother engaged for the more arduous task of the defence. He made a plain statement of the facts in his possession, to the effect that the accused, a man of doubtful character, which would be proved in the course of the trial, was seen near the Craig Cottage on the day that the murder was perpetrated, as well as on that following in another part of the country, not far distant. That he had shortly before this left his situation, possessed of no money except some small arrears of wages then paid to him, but which it was believed he afterwards spent in drink in the course of his travels from the neighbouring county to this one, as he had been seen more or less intoxicated on the road, and complained of having spent all he had, adding, that he must get more money by fair means or foul. That since the date of the murder, he had never been seen in either of the neighbourhoods again, nor had anyone who formerly knew him heard of him, until a witness, who would be produced, would prove that he recognised him in a northern county, as it would appear, very much to his annoyance. Further, a few days after the deed was committed, he made his appearance
in Glasgow, disguised in such a way as certainly tended to confuse his recognition afterwards by another witness for the Crown. But that the person was the same who then disposed of a pair of secondhand shoes who now stood arraigned at the bar, the learned counsel felt certain there could remain no doubt in the minds of the jury, when he was in circumstances to explain to them, as he should now do, how these shoes, so strangely, he might even say with reverence, how providentially, these shoes, in the absence (perhaps, after all, only temporary) of complete identification of their seller, came to be fully and unquestionably identified. These shoes, on a slight glance nowise different from the shoes of the agricultural classes in general, but, upon closer inspection, found to possess a peculiarity sufficiently remarkable, would be identified by another and important witness, as having been seen on the feet of a man near the Craig Cottage, on the day of the murder. This witness, however, could not allege exactly that this individual was the prisoner at the bar; yet when it was known that the shoes fitted that person, and exactly corresponded with the print of the feet marks in the soft ground at the cottage, and of which a sketch, or rather impression, was taken at the time, and that he had immediately thereafter endeavoured to evade the law by taking refuge in a distant part of the country, adopting there a trade which he had abandoned for some years, and this under an assumed name, and other false allegations of his circumstances, his guilt would be established, and he doubted not that the jury would return a verdict to that effect.
While the macers of court were getting ready the witnesses for examination, disappointment was evident on the faces of the public at what they considered a lame charge, which was not to be supported either by king's evidence. It was known, too, that the counsel for the defence was a man of more ingenuity than he who had just sat down, and many of the auditory already began to surmise that the prisoner had a fair chance for life. The old cobbler was the first who was placed in the witness-box, and on his way thither grumblingly remarked to the official conducting him, " That the court was surely ill off for evidence, when he was the first in hand.” The oath having been administered to him by one of the judges, a junior counsel began to question him. The looks of the old man since his entering the court, had been fixed upon the judges, or the counsel about to interrogate him, but as the advocate put the question, "Whether he now recognised the prisoner to be the same that sold him the shoes so often mentioned, desiring him to look well at him for the purpose," he turned in the direction indicated, and with a start of surprise, answered with emphasis
“Ay! I am sure now, for his hair is grown and the scar is hidden.” A buzz ran round the court, which was instantly checked. His interrogator, with an expression of unexpected satisfaction, told the witness that this was enough ; and the cobbler was gladly preparing to quit his purgatorial position, when the counsel for the defence arrested his movements, and, to his vexation, directed him to be cross-examined on behalf of the prisoner. He was asked
“Whether he had in any way altered the shoes after he got them in his possession ?"
"No way,” he replied, tartly, "except just giving a lick of blacking to make them look better."
“Had he never repaired them, in any manner added to them or taken from them, either nails, leather, lining, or such like ?”
“Nothing, he had done nothing except putting a bit to the uppers.” “Had he done nothing to the soles ?” "Nothing; the soles did not need it." “ Neither inside nor out ?"
“Losh me !" exclaimed the cobbler, “whoever heard of the inside of a sole being mended ?”.
“Nor put in any additional nails ?"
“None; what would have been the use of that? Only to leave holes in the soles."
“Had he ever examined the shoes so minutely that he could distinguish them from another pair exactly the same ?"
“He had looked at them too long, for he could not get them off his hand at no price; but he saw nothing different in them from other shoes, though the customers appeared to think there was mischief in them, since they never bought them."
He was here told that his cross-examination was over, and he left the court, wondering much at the change that had come over the prisoner, since he saw him only a few weeks before ; "all," as he said, “through a pickle hair.”
The farmer was now called, from whose employment as a miller the prisoner had been dismissed. His testimony bore out the words of the counsel for the Crown, in respect of the bad temper and disorderly habits of the accused, whom he had known for several years, and had then, for the second time, on promise of amendment, retaken into his service, with the result already known. The opposing counsel likewise cross-examined this witness, but failed to elicit any further testimony in favour of the accused than that, although he was considered what was called “a bad lot," he, the witness, would not have believed him capable of committing murder, unless on extraordinary provocation.
The door closed upon the exit of the farmer, and in a moment afterwards opened to admit the imbecile, John Latimer--who, walking