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jauntily into the witness-box and the dignified presence of the judges overlooking it, with a new hat on his head, as if to show that he had at last got such a decent head-covering, the said hat was dexterously, and before he was aware, whipped off that crowning member of his body by the officer in attendance upon him. The crowd of people in the court at the sight could scarcely restrain their surprise from bursting into voice, as they recognised the idiot, who had been only the day before conveyed privately into the town, along with Rigg, and with which event only those few persons were acquainted who were bound to keep silence thereon. The poor being seemed to all appearance quiet, if he could not be called collected, and as some of the onlookers remarked, who had been familiar with him all his life, "Jock was just as likely as wiser folk, to know what was right from wrong." But at this strange apparition in a court of justice, this seemingly forlorn hope, thus cited on the part of the Crown, clearly for want of better evidence, the counsel for the defence started to his feet, and with much assurance, first remonstrated against such evidence being admissible, and then waxing bolder, as it were, dared the court to accept it. "There never was such testimony," he argued, "cited in the country before, and never would be again; it was contrary to all precedent, to all law, all religion -indeed all common sense ;" and he was certain, he added, looking round the court for approval, he would be corroborated in this statement by every man present, were they in circumstances to give their opinion.
Jock hung down his head, looked at his enemy from out the corners of his eyes, but, as became his position, said nothing. The judges consulted together; it was in their power to reject or accept a witness, and the counsel for the Crown looked anxiously as to the decision. A pause, and then the presiding judge, addressing Jock, asked him "if he knew the nature of an oath ?"
"Fine, sir,” replied Jock, looking up while he spoke the words at the judge, and then down again at his hands, with which he seemed greatly at a loss what to do, divested as they were of their usual companion, a stick, or a twig, or a straw, as might be.
"Will you tell me what an oath requires?" continued the judge, in a low voice, and with as simple a manner as he could assume.
"To speak the truth before God and man," answered Jock, with a sort of vague solemnity, without, however, this time looking at the judge, as if in presence of a still higher than him, while a suppressed murmur of applause pervaded the auditory.
"Let him be sworn," now said his interrogator, as if satisfied, and one of the other judges at his side, desiring Jock to hold up his right hand, to place his left upon the book, to look at him and to repeat the words which he should pronounce, began the formula. Jock evidently
trembled as he underwent this part of the trial, and made some mistakes as to words, which he seemed very eager to correct, but he got through it better than those who placed him there anticipated, and the singular examination began. The defeated counsel, whose objections had been thus overruled, silently taking refuge in the hope that though the witness might seem tolerably calm at the beginning, he would show his defects before his supporters were done with him, and he would do his best to assist in the break-down.
The second counsel for the Crown, turning kindly to the imbecile, who now seemed busy looking round about him, as if to espy any of his acquaintances who might be in the court, but apparently carefully avoiding to look at the prisoner, as if he dreaded the face of the latter might confuse him, asked him to declare where he was on the night of the murder.
"In Brown's old barn with Willie," he answered; with an air of satisfaction.
"Where did you go next morning?" continued the examiner.
"Away past Tibby's, down the burn;" replied the witness, with less lucidity.
"Yes," proceeded the counsel; "but on what highroad did you walk, to what place were you going?"
The witness seemed puzzled by the question, which, simple though it was, he appeared for some moments to find a difficulty in answering. "Take time to recollect," here observed one of the judges; "there is no hurry."
At length Jock looked up
"I was going nowhere, I sat down behind a bush on the road." "Just so," continued the counsel; "but I wish you to tell me the name of that road, or where it led to?"
A pause, and then the witness blurted out these words, so rapidly that they seemed as if they were choking him.
"It just went on and on, a far way past Tibby's."
As it appeared to be of no use pushing this portion of the inquiry further, the counsel next asked
"If he met any person on that road?"
"Ay!" answered Jock readily enough, with a cunning smile; "I saw Tam coming, but he did not see me."
"You mean the prisoner?"
'Ay," replied Jock, "just him, and I thought I would fight him, so I louped (jumped) out on him, and he knocked me down for it, but we were friends after.”
"When did you see him after that?" was asked next.
"An awful long time," answered the witness, with a great show of wards 01;"for he had lost his hair, and had not even a whisker left."
The counsel for the defence was here observed to smile sarcastically at the want of intelligence betrayed by the answer. The examiner persevered :
"Tell me where you next saw him? this will be enough."
"I do not know," answered Jock, with a scared and helpless expression in his countenance; "a wild place, a high place, he had me nearly down it."
"Can you not remember the name of it?"
Jock seemed to think a little, and then said
"They all spoke in the Erse," meaning the Gaelic tongue.
The counsel was aware that they must not protract the examination much longer, or he would be likely to fail in the end he desired to arrive at, so he shifted the ground, and inquired
"With what intention he (the witness) had come to the authorities at Glasgow ?"
"Because they wanted me," was the answer.
"Can you read?" asked the counsel.
"No, but I can say the carritch" (catechism).
This was so little to the purpose that the counsel was fain to conclude the examination by putting his leading question.
"How did it occur to you at Glasgow that the prisoner might be the murderer of the widow Kirkpatrick?"
Might be only !
Then Jock was not to prove the murder after all, thought many of those outside the legal circle. There was a dead silence; Jock hung his head down, let his arms fall listlessly by his side, and looked beseechingly from his interrogator to the judges, and then back again to the former, ending with a deep sigh, but no words came forth. The presiding judge, looking compassionately at the perplexed imbecile, reminded him that as this would be the last question, he should do his best to answer it. In a low weary voice, Jock replied feebly
"I cannot answer," and then leant heavily against the witness-box. The judge hesitated, but the counsel for the prosecution, urged to extremity, again hazarded inquiry.
"It was your own thought, was it not?"
"It was God's!" the imbecile replied, in a scarcely audible whisper, as he now sank to the floor, and was assisted from the court, to be again subjected to examination by the counsel on the other side, when he recovered from the strain upon his weak brain, and the unusual effort to exercise it.
The medical gentleman was next examined, who had inspected the body of the widow, and then some other witnesses, whose evidence of less importance need not be detailed. About an hour had elapsed when the court was informed that Latimer was again able to enter the witnessVOL. VI.
box. As he resumed his place with hurried steps, he swung his arms violently about, while his inflamed and angry countenance was turned upon the accused, and the observers, from these indications, assuming that he had been improperly supplied with spiritous liquor, apprehended some outbreak from him. Such, however, was not the case; no stimulants are allowed to witnesses in the Scottish courts, unless in cases of illness, and there had been no exception made for the restoration of the imbecile, who had been furnished with food only, and permitted such rest as the interval gave. But the rest was insufficient; probably the repose and oblivion of days would have been requisite to restore Latimer to his customary indifference, whereas now, anew excited to do and say he scarce knew what or wherefore, he presented a witness little calculated to depend upon. The presiding judge desired the man aside to keep his eye upon him, and then significantly reminded the counsel for the defence, that it would be well, for the interest of his client, to shorten the cross-examination.
"Why did you pass Tibby's door that morning without going in, as you were sometimes accustomed to do?" asked the junior counsel for the accused, attempting to fix the restless eye of the witness, as a man might do that of a beast he wished to overawe.
"Willie would not come with me," responded Jock, in a thick hoarse voice. "I tell you," he added, striking his hand violently on the witness-box, "Willie would not come !"
"Why did you part that day from your friend, the prisoner?" was then demanded, with a more persuasive expression.
"I hate him!" growled Jock, his voice, in the ears of the hearers, resembling much that of some of the lower animals.
"You would have thrown him over the precipice at Cladich, would you not, had the doctor not appeared ?"
Here the countenance of the idiot was suddenly overspread with a change of expression and colour so marked, and his attitude and bearing became so different to what they had been only a moment before, that a spectator who had not witnessed the change would have hesitated to declare him the same man. His form shrank apparently to half its former bulk, while he cowered into the farthest corner of the box; the agony of fear was imprinted on his face, and, looking back to the door at which he had entered, he cried out, as his teeth chattered in his head so much that the words could scarcely be distinguished
"Save me from the doctor, sir, or they will take Jock to the madhouse!"
The judges and the counsel on both sides conferred together, and it was agreed that the imbecile should be removed, without further questioning; which order was carried into effect by the object of it
being taken by force from the court, appealing in low childish accents, while the tears ran down his cheeks, to the bystanders to save him from the mad-house.
There remained only one witness more for the prosecution, and as the name of William Rigg was called out, the curiosity evinced to see him was unbounded. He walked slowly forward, drest in the same humble clothing so kindly lent him at the village of Arran, the only addition to it being a scrap of black crape, bound round the sailor's hat, which he held in his hand as he bowed to the judges. A pale, sad lad, more careworn than suited his years, and yet much older, in appearance, as those remarked, who had seen him only one short year before, when he was as gay and thoughtless as he now seemed the reverse. He was asked if he could identify the prisoner as the person whom he had seen near the Craig Cottage lying on the braeside, the day he left it. He said, no. He was next asked, if the prisoner seemed to him to resemble that person. When he replied, that he had no recollection whatever of what the person was like, he only remembered that he was lying on his face, and apparently asleep, with the soles of his shoes exposed.
"Did you sit down beside him?" was the succeeding question. "I flung myself down on the braeside, a little way below him." "How were you occupied while you lay thus ?"
"I cannot remember rightly," he answered, casting down his eyes; "I was thinking of Tibby and myself, and then of my father and mother, and what I should do next, whether I would go back to Tibby, or go to sea, and then I tried to say a prayer, but I could not; and then I think I forgot everything for a while, and when I remembered next what I was doing, I was counting the tackets (nails) in the man's shoes, and wondering how large they were, and what a number there was of them."
"Did you count the nails more than once?"
"Yes, I counted them twice, and both times they were the same, and then I forgot all about them, and rose up and ran down the brae as fast as ever I could, and never stopped till I reached the high dyke at the bottom, over which I got in a moment, though it used to take me far longer before."
"Did you recognise the shoes on the stall at Glasgow ?"
"I thought they were like them, and then I began to count the tackets, and just as I had done counting them, the cobbler seized me." "You stated the number of nails to your law agent in the prison, then, without knowledge of the impression or sketch of the shoes now on the table?"
(To be continued.)