Cashel Byron's Profession HTML version

Chapter 15
In the following month Cashel Byron, William Paradise, and Robert Mellish appeared in
the dock together, the first two for having been principals in a prize-fight, and Mellish for
having acted as bottle- holder to Paradise. These offences were verbosely described in
a long indictment which had originally included the fourth man who had been captured,
but against whom the grand jury had refused to find a true bill. The prisoners pleaded
not guilty.
The defence was that the fight, the occurrence of which was admitted, was not a prize-
fight, but the outcome of an enmity which had subsisted between the two men since one
of them, at a public exhibition at Islington, had attacked and bitten the other. In support
of this, it was shown that Byron had occupied a house at Wiltstoken, and had lived there
with Mellish, who had invited Paradise to spend a holiday with him in the country. This
accounted for the presence of the three men at Wiltstoken on the day in question.
Words had arisen between Byron and Paradise on the subject of the Islington affair; and
they had at last agreed to settle the dispute in the old English fashion. They had
adjourned to a field, and fought fairly and determinedly until interrupted by the police,
who were misled by appearances into the belief that the affair was a prize-fight.
Prize-fighting was a brutal pastime, Cashel Byron's counsel said; but a fair, stand-up
fight between two unarmed men, though doubtless technically a breach of the peace,
had never been severely dealt with by a British jury or a British judge; and the case
would be amply met by binding over the prisoners, who were now on the best of terms
with one another, to keep the peace for a reasonable period. The sole evidence against
this view of the case, he argued, was police evidence; and the police were naturally
reluctant to admit that they had found a mare's nest. In proof that the fight had been
premeditated, and was a prize-fight, they alleged that it had taken place within an
enclosure formed with ropes and stakes. But where were those ropes and stakes? They
were not forthcoming; and he (counsel) submitted that the reason was not, as had been
suggested, because they had been spirited away, for that was plainly impossible; but
because they had existed only in the excited imagination of the posse of constables
who had arrested the prisoners.
Again, it had been urged that the prisoners were in fighting costume. But cross-
examination had elicited that fighting costume meant practically no costume at all: the
men had simply stripped in order that their movements might be unembarrassed. It had
been proved that Paradise had been--well, in the traditional costume of Paradise (roars
of laughter) until the police borrowed a blanket to put upon him.
That the constables had been guilty of gross exaggeration was shown by their evidence
as to the desperate injuries the combatants had inflicted upon one another. Of Paradise
in particular it had been alleged that his features were obliterated. The jury had before
them in the dock the man whose features had been obliterated only a few weeks