Francis Hall.

The Century, Volume 11 online

. (page 14 of 163)
Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 14 of 163)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of the horses. In the twinkling of an eye
the wagon is in front of us, the horses
are unhitched, and the relay is attached.
* Quick! gentlemen!' says the courier, a


Digitized by





tall, thin Indian, who is dressed in an old
red cloth tunic, which lets you see his gaunt
and naked limbs. I get up beside him.
* Hold on tight ! ' I grasp hold of the sides,
and we start. Our horses break into a furi-
ous galop, and seem to have taken the bits
in their teeth. The wagon jumps and bounds
about It seems to me every moment that
I shall fly into the air. I try to speak, but
it is impossible to open my mouth. The
Indian, impassible, almost standing in his
seat, belabors his horses constantly. Up hill
and do^Ti, over narrow bridges, the same
mad galop is kept up. One can hardly get
a glimpse at the country, or tell whether the
objects he is passing are trees or houses. At
last there is a relay. I take advantage of
this moment of rest to ask the driver if he
always goes at this rate. * Bara Sahib ka
houkoum,' he replies, — * That is the order.'
My question is absurd. The mail can never

go slowly ; but in India it must go fast — at
a mad rate of speed. Every day horses and
couriers break their legs or arms ; but that
is no matter, the letters must go forward.
Another courier takes the despatches, and
is off."

And, last of all, there is to be found on
some of the Indian railways the veritable
" palace car," modified somewhat in arrange-
ment, and more open and roomy, to meet
the requirements of the oppressive climate.

These brief glimpses into M. Rousselet's
account of " India and its Native Princes "
do but scant justice to the interest and nov-
elty which are to be found in the volume
itself. Indeed there could not be a country
named in the description of whose marvels,
beauties, and peculiarities, the pen and the
pencil together would have wider scope for
the fullest exhibition of what they can ac-

Digitized by









At the appointed hour on the following
morning the Court resumed its session. The
plaintiff and defendant were both in their
places, with their counsel, and the witnesses
of the previous day were all in attendance.
Among the litde group of witnesses there
were two or three new feces — a professional-
looking gentleman with spectacles, a thin-
faced, carefully-dressed, slender man, with
a lordly air, and the bearing of one who
carried the world upon his Moulders, and
did not regard it as much of a burden ; and,
last, our old friend Sam Yates.

There was an appearance of perplexity
and gloom on the countenances of Mr. Cav-
endidi and his client. They were in serious
conversation, and it was evident that they
were in difficulty. Those who knew the
occasion of the abrupt adjournment of the

court on the previous day looked in vain
among the witnesses for the face of Phipps.
He was not in the room, and, while few
suspected the real state of the case, all un-
derstood how essential he was to the defend-
ant in his attempt to establish the genuine-
ness of the assi^ment.

At the openmg of the court, Mr. Caven-
dish rose to speak. His bold, sharp manner
had disappeared. The instrument which he
had expected to use had slipped hopelessly
out of his hand. He was impotent

" May it please the Court," he said, " the
defendant in this case finds himself in a very
embarrassing position this morning. It was
known yesterday that Cornelius Phipps, the
only surviving witness of the assignment,
mysteriously disappeared at the moment
when his testimony was wanted. Whv and
how he disappeared I cannot tell. He has
not yet been found. All due diligence has
been exercised to discover him, but without
success. I make no charges of foul play,
but it is impossible for me, knowing what I

Digitized by




know about him — ^his irreproachable char-
acter, his feithfulness to my client, and his
perfect memory of every event connected
with the execution of the paper in que^on
— to avoid the suspicion that he is by some
means, and against his will, detained from
appearing here this morning. I confess, sir,
that I was not prepared for this. It is hard
to believe that the plaintiff could adopt a
measure so desperate as this for securing his
ends, and I will not criminate him ; but I
]tfotest that the condition in which the de-
fendant is left by this defection, or this for-
cible detention— -call it what you will— de-
mands the most generous consideration, and
compels me to ask the Court for suggestions
as to the best course of proceeding. There
are now but two men in court who saw the
ps^er executed, namely, the assignor and the
assignee. The former has declared, with an
effrontery which I have never seen equaled,
that he^ never signed the document which so
unmistakably bears his signature, and tiiat
the names of two of the witnesses are for-
geries. I do not expect that, in a struggle
nke this, the testimony of the latter will be
accepted, and I shall not stoop to ask it*'

Mr. Cavendish hesitated, looked appeal-
ingly at the Judge, and then slowly took his
seat, when Mr. Balfour, without waiting for
any suggestions from the Court, rose and said :

^ I appreciate the embarrassment of the
defense, and am quite willing to do all I can
to relieve it Hb insinuations of foul deal-
ing toward his witness are absurd, of course,
and, to save any further trouble, I am willing
to receive as a witness, in place of Mr.
Phipps, Mr. Belcher himself, and to pledge
myself to abide by what he establishes. I
can do no more than this, I am sure, and
DOW I challenge him to take the stand."

The Judge watched the defendant and his
counsel in dieir whispered consultation for a
few minutes, and then said :

" It seems to the Court that the defense
can reasonably ask for nothing more than

Mr. Belcher hesitated. He had not an-
ticipated this turn of the case. There ap-
peared to be no alternative, however, and,
at last, he rose with a very red fiBw:e, and
walked to the witness-stand, placing himself
just where Mr. Balfour wanted him — in a
position to be cross-examined.

It is useless to rehearse here the story
which had been prepared for Phipps, and
for which Phipps had been prepared. Mr.
Belcher swore to all the signatures to the
assignment, as having been executed in his
Vol. XI.— 6.

presence, on the day corresponding with the
date of the paper. He was permitted to
enlarge upon all the circumstances of the
occasion, and to surround the execution of
the assignment with the most ingenious plau-
sibilities. He told his story with a fine show
of candor, and with great directness and
clearness, and undoubt^ly made a profound
impression upon the Court and the jury.
Then Mr. Cavendish passed him into the
hands of Mr. Balfour.

" Well, Mr. Belcher, you have told us a
very straight story, but there are a few little
matters which I would like to have explain-
ed," said Mr. Balfour. " Why, for instance,
was your assignment placed on record only
a few months ago ?"

" Because I was not a lawyer, sir," ref^ied
Mr. Belcher, delighted that the first answer
was so eas^ and so plausible. *' I was not
aware that it was necessary until so informed
by Mr. Cavendish."

" Was Mr. Benedict's insanity considered
hc^ess from the first?"

"No," replied Mr. Belcher, cheerfully;
" we were quite hopeful that we should bring
him out of it"

" He had lucid intervals, then ?*'

"Yes, sir."

" Was that the reason why, the next day
after the alleged assignment, you wrote him
a letter, urging him to make the assignment,
and offering him a royalty for the use of his

"I never wrote any such letter, sir. I
never sent him any such letter, sir."

" You sent him to the asylum, did you ?"

" I co-operated with others, sir, and paid
the bills," said Mr. Belcher, with emphasis.

" Did you ever visit the asylum when he
was there ? "

" I did, sir."

" Did you apply to the superintendent for
liberty to secure his signature to a paper ?"

^'■J do not remember that I did. It would
have been an unnatural thing for me to do.
If I did, it was a paper on some subordinate
afiair. It was some years ago, and the de-
tails of the visit did not impress themselves
upon my memory."

"How did you obtain the letters of
Nicholas Johnson and James Ramsey ? I
ask this, because they are not addressed to

" I procured them of Sam Yates in antici-
pation of the trial now in progress here.
The witnesses were dead, and I thought
they would help me in establishing the gen-
uineness of theur signatures."

Digitized by




" What reason had you to anticipate this

*' Well, sir, I am accustomed to provide
for all contingencies. That is the way I was
made, sir. It seemed to me quite probable
that Benedict, if living, would forget what
he had done before his insanity, and that, if
he were dead> some friend of his boy would
engage in the suit on his behalf. I procured
the autographs after I saw his boy in your
hands, sir."

" So you had not seen these particular sig-
natures at the time when the alleged assign-
ment was made ? "

" No, sir, I had not seen them."

" And you simply procured them to use
as a defense in a suit which seemed proba-
ble, or possible, and which now, indeed, is
in progress of trial ? "

" That is about as clear a statement of the
fact as I can make, sir; " and Mr. Belcher
bowed and smiled.

" I suppose, Mr. Belcher," said Mr. Bal-
four, " that it seems very strange to you that
the plaintiff should have forgotten his signa-

" Not at all, sir. On the contrary, I re-
gard it as the most natural thing in the
world. I should suppose that a man who
had lost his mind once would naturally lose
his memory of many tilings."

"That certainly seems reasonable, but
how is it that he doeTnot recognize it, even
if he does not remember the writing of it ? "

" I don't know ; a man's signatiure changes
with changing habits, I suppose," responded
the witness.

" You don't suppose that any genuine sig-
nature of yoiu:s could pass under your eye
undetected, do you?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

" No, sir, I don't I'll be frank with you,

" Well, now, I'm going to test you. Per-
haps other men, who have always been sane,
do sometimes forget their own signatures*^

Mr. Balfour withdrew from Ins papers a
note. Mr. Belcher saw it in the distance,
and made up his mind that it was the note
he had written to the lawyer before the be-
ginning of the suit The latter folded over
the signatiure so that it might be shown to
the witness, independent of the body of the
letter, and then he stepped to him, holding
it in his hand, and asked him to declare it
either a genuine signature or a forgery.

" Thaf s my sign manual, sir."

" You are sure ? "

" I know it, sir."

" Very well," said Mr. Balfour, handing

the letter to the clerk to be marked. " You
are right, I have no doubt, and I believe
this is all I want of you for the present"

" And now, may it please the Court," said
Mr. Balfour, ''I have some testimony to
present in rebuttal of that of the defendant
I propose, practically, to finish up this case
with it, and to show that -the story to which
you have listened is felse in every particular.
First, I wish to present the testimony of Dr.
Charles Barhydt"

At the pronunciation of his name, the man
in spectacles arose, and advanced to the

"What is your name?" inquired Mr.

" Charles Barhydt"

" What is your profession ?**

" I am a physician."

"You have an official position, I be>
lieve ? "

" Yes, sir ; I have for fifteen years been
the Superintendent of the State Asylum for
the Insane,"

" Do you recognize the plaintiff in this,
case as a former patient in the asylum ?"

" I do, sir."

"Was he ever visited by the defendant
while in your care ?"

" He was, sir."

" Did the defendant endeavor to procure
his signature to any document while he was
in the asylum?"

" He did, sir."

" Did he apply to you for permission to
get this signature, and did he importunately
urge you to give him this permission ? "

« He did, sir."

" Did you read this document ?"

" I did, sir."

" Do you remember what it was ?"

" Perfectiy, in a general way. It was an
assignment of a number of patent rights
on simdry machines, implements, and pro-

Mr. Balfour handed to the witness the
assignment, and then said :

" Be kind enough to look that through,
and tell us whether you ever saw it before."

After reading the document through, the
Doctor said :

"This is the identical paper which Mr.
Belcher showed me, or a very close copy of
it Several of the patents named here I re-
member distinctly, for I read the paper care-
fully, with a professional purpose. I was
cunous to know what had been the mental
habits of my patient."

"But you did not give the defendant

Digitized by




liberty to procure the signature of the pat-

" I did not. I refused to do so on the
ground that he was not of sound mind —
that he was not a responsible person."

"When was this?"

" I have no record of the date, but it was
after the 12th of May, i860— the date of Mr.
Benedict's admission to the asylum."

" That is aU," said Mr. Balfour.

Mr. Cavendish tried to cross-examine, but
without any result, except to emphasize the
direct testimony, though he tried persistently
to make the witness remember that, while
Mr. Belcher might have shown him the as-
signment, and- that he read it for the pur-
pose which he had stated, it was another
paper to which he had wished to secure the
patient's signature.

Samuel Yates was next called.

"You are a member of our profession, I
believe," said Mr. Balfour.

" I am, sir."

" Have you ever been in the service of
tfaie defendant in this case ?"

"Yes, sir."

"What have you done for him ?"

" I worked many months in ihe endeavor
to ascertain whether Paul Benedict was liv-
ing or dead."

" It isn't essential that we should go into
that; and as the defendant has testified that
he procured the autograph letters which are
in Uie possession of the Court from you, I
presume }rou will corroborate his testimony."

" He did pjrocure them of me, sir."

" Did he inform you of the purpose to
which he wished to put them ?"

" He did, sir. He said that he wished to
verify some signatures."

"Were you ever employed in his library
at Sevenoaks, by his agent ? "

"Y-es, sir, I wrote there during several

" May it please the Court, I have a letter
in my hand, the genuineness of whose sig-
nature has been recognized by the defend-
ant, written by Robert Belcher to Paul Bene-
dict, which, as it has a direct bearing upon
the case, I beg llie privilege of placing in
evidence. It was written tibe next day after
the date of the alleged assignment, and came
indosed from ^Ben^ict's hands to mine."

Mr. BelchCT evidently recalled the letter,
ibr he sat limp in the chair, like a man
stunned. A fierce quarrel then arose be-
tween the counsel concerning the admission
of the letter. The Judge examined it, and
said that he could see no reason why it

should not be admitted. Then Mr. Balfour
read the following note :

** Sevenoaks, May 5, i860.
" Dear Benedict : I am glad to know that you
are better. Since you distrust my pledge that I
will give you a reasonable share of the profits on
the use of your patents, I will to to your nouse this
afternoon, with witnesses, and nave an independent
pai>er prepared, to be signed by myself, after the
assignment is executed, which will give you a defi-
nite claim upon me for royalty. We will be there
at four o'clock.

"Yours, Robert Belcher."

" Mr. Yates," said Mr. Balfour, " have you
ever seen this letter before ? "

Yates took the letter, looked it over, and
then said :

"I have, sir. I found the letter in a
drawer of the library-table, in Mr. Belcher's
house at Sevenoaks. I delivered it un-
opened to the man to whom it was address-
ed, leaving him to decide the question as to
whether it belonged to him or the writer. I
had no idea of its contents at the time, but
became acquainted with them afterward, for
I was present at the opening of the letter."

" That is all," said Mr. Balfour.

"So you stole this letter, did you?" in-
quired Mr. Cavendish.

" I found it while in Mr. Belcher's service,
and took it personally to the man to whom
it was addressed, as he apparendy had the
best right to it. I am quite wilhng to re-
turn it to the writer, if it is decidtd that it
belongs to him. I had no selfish end to
serve m the afiair."

Here the Judge interposed.

" The Court," said he, " finds this letter
in the hands of the plaintiff, delivered by a
man who at the time was in the employ of
the defendant, and had the contents of the
room in his keeping. The paper has a di-
rect bearing on the case, and the Court will
not go back of the facts stated."

Mr. Cavendish sat down and consulted
his client Mr. Belcher was afiraid of Yates.
The witness not only knew too much con-
cerning his original intentions, but he was a
lawyer who, if questioned too closely and
saucily, would certainly manage to bnng in
facts to his disadvantage. Yates had al-
ready damaged him sadly, and Mr. Belcher
felt that it would not do to provoke a re-
direct examination. So, after a whispered
colloquy with his counsel, the latter told the
witness that he was done with him. Then
Mr. Belcher and his counsel conversed again
for some time, when Mr. Balfour rose and
said, addressing the Court :

" The defendant and his client evidendy

Digitized by




need time for consultation, and, as there is
a little preliminary work to be done before
I present another witness, I suggest that the
Court take a recess of an hour. In the mean-
time, I wish to secure photographic copies of
the signatiures of the two autograph letters,
and of the four signatures of the assignment
I ask the Court to place these documents in
the keeping of an officer, to be used for this
purpose, in an adjoining room, where I have
caused a photographic apparatus to be placed,
and where a skillful operator is now in wait-
ing. I ask this privilege, as it is essential
to a perfect demonstration of the character
of the document on which the decision of
this case must turn."

The Judge acceded to Mr. Balfour's re-
quest, both in regard to the recess and the
use of the paper; and the assembly broke up
into little knots of earnest talkers, most of
whom manifested no desire to leave the

Mr. Cavendish approached Mr. Balfour,
and asked for a private interview. When
they had retired to a lobby, he said :

" You are not to take any advantage of
this conversation. I wish to talk in con-

" Very well," said Mr. Balfour.

" My client," said Cavendish, "is in a
devilish bad box. His principal witness has
run away, his old friends all tiun against
him, and circumstantial evidence doesn't
befiiend him. I have advised him to stop
this suit right here, and make a compromise.
No one wants to kill the General. He's a
sharp man, but he is good-natured, and a
useful citizen. He can handle these patents
better than Benedict can, and make money
enough for both of them. What could
Benedict do if he had the patents in his
hands ? He's a simpleton. He's a nobody.
Any man capable of carrying on his busi-
ness would cheat him out of his eye-teeth."

" I am carrying on his business, myself,
just at this time," remarked Mr. Balfour,

"That's all right, of course; but you
know that you and I can settle this busi-
ness better for these men than they can set-
tle it for themselves."

" I'll be frank with you," said Mr. Balfour.
" I am not one who regards Robert Belcher
as a good-natured man and a useful citizen,
and I, for one — ^to use your own phrase —
want to kill him. He has preyed upon the
public for ten years, and I owe a duty not
only to my client but to society. I under-
stand how good a bargain I could make

with him at this point, but I will make no
bargain with him. He is an immittgated
scoundrel, and he will only go out of this
court to be arrested for crime; and I do
not expect to drop him until I drop him
into a penitentiary, where he can reflect
upon his forgeries at leisure."

" Then you refuse any sort of a compro-

" My dear sir," said Mr. Balfour, warmly,
" do you suppose I can give a man a right
to talk of terms who is in my hands ? Do
you suppose I can compromise with crime ?
You know I can't."

" Very well — ^let it go. I suppose I must
go through with it. You understand that
this conversation is confidential."

"I do; and you?"

"Oh, certainly!"



At the re-assembling of the Court, a large
crowd had come in. Those who had heard
the request of Mr. Balfour had reported
what was going on, and, as the promised
testimony seemed to involve some ciunous
features, the court-room presented the most
crowded appearance that it had worn since
the beginning of the trial.

Mr. Belcher had grown old during the
hour. His consciousness of guilt, his fear
of exposure, the threatened loss of his for-
tune, and the apprehension of a retribution
of disgrace were sapping his vital forces,
minute by minute. All the instruments that
he had tried to use for his ' vn base pur-
poses were turned against himself. The
great world that had glittered around the
successful man was groMring darkj and,
what was worse, there were none to pity
him. He had lived for himself; and now,
in his hour of trouble, no one was true to
him, no one loved him — ^not even his wife
and children !

He gave a helpless, hopeless sigh, as Mr.
Balfour called to the witness stand Ptofessor
Albert Timms.

Professor Timms was the man already
described among the three new witnesses, as
the one who seemed to be conscious of
bearing the world upon his shoulders, and
to find it so inconsiderable a burden. He
advanced to the stand with the air of one

Digitized by




who had no stake in the contest His im-
partiality came from indifference. He had
an opportunity to show his knowledge and
his skill, and he delighted in it.

" What is your name, witness ? " inquired
Mr. Balfour.

" Albert Timms, at your service,"

" What is your calling, sir ? "

'^ I have at present the charge of a depart-
ment in the Sdiool of Mines. My specialties
are chemistry and microscopy."

" You are specially acquainted with these
branches of natural science, tlien ? "

" I am, sir."

'' Have you been regarded as an expert in
the detection of forgery ?"

^' I have been called as such in many cases
of the kind, sir."

" Then you have had a good deal pf ex-
perience in such things, and in the various
tests by which such matters are deter-
mined ? "

" I have, sir."

" Have you examined the assignment and
the autograph letters which have been in your
hands during the recess of the court ?"

" I have, sir."

" Do you know either the plaintiflFor the
defimdant in this case ?"

^^ I dp not, sir. I never saw either of them
until to-day."

^ Has any one told you about the nature
of these papers, so as to prejudice your mind
in regard to any of them ?"

^ No, sir. I have not exchanged a word
with any one in regard to them."

" What is your opinion of the two letters ? "

" That they are veritable autographs."

" How do you judge this ? "

"From the harmony of the signatures
with the text of the body of the letters, by
the free and natural shaping and interflowing
of the lines, and by a general impression of
truthfulness which it is very difficult to com-
municate in words."

" What do you think of the signatures to
the assignment?"

"I think they are all counterfeits but

" Professor Timms, this is a serious matter.
You should be very sure of the truth of a
statement like this. You say you think they
are counterfeits : why ? "

" If the papers can be handed to me,"

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 14 of 163)