Historical Mysteries by Andrew Lang - HTML preview
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The activities of the Campbells are narrated in their numerous unpublished letters. We learn from a nephew of Glenure's that he had been 'several days ago forewarned,' by whom we cannot guess; tradition tells, as I have said, that he feared danger only in Lochiel's country, Lochaber, and thought himself safe in Appin. The warning, then, probably came from a Cameron in Lochaber, not from a Stewart in Appin. In coincidence with this is a dark anonymous blackmailing letter to Fassifern, as if _he_ had urged the writer to do the deed:
'You will remember what you proposed on the night that Culchena was buried, betwixt the hill and Culchena. I cannot deny but that I had breathing' (a whisper), 'and not only that, but proposal of the same to myself to do. Therefore you must excuse me, when it comes to the push, for telling the thing that happened betwixt you and me that night.... If you do not take this to heart, you may let it go as you will.' (June 6, 1752.)
Fassifern, who had no hand in the murder, 'let it go,' and probably handed the blackmailer's letter over to the Campbells. Later, ----,
---- of ----, the blackest villain in the country, offered to the Government to accuse Fassifern of the murder. The writer of the anonymous letter to Fassifern is styled 'Blarmachfildich,' or 'Blarmackfildoch,' in the correspondence. I think he was a Mr. Millar, employed by Fassifern to agitate against Glenure.
In the beginning of July a man, suspected of being Allan, was arrested at Annan on the Border, by a sergeant of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He really seems to have changed clothes with Allan; at least he wore gay French clothes like Allan's, but he was not that hero. Young Ballachulish, at this time, knew that Allan was already across the sea. Various guesses occur as to who _the other man_ was; for example, a son of James of the Glens was suspected, so there _was_ another man.
The 'precognitions,' or private examinations of witnesses before the trial, extended to more than seven hundred persons. It was matter of complaint by the Stewart party that 'James Drummond's name appeared in the list of witnesses;' this is Mr. Stevenson's James More, really MacGregor, the son of Rob Roy, and father of Catriona, later Mrs. David Balfour of Shaws, in _Kidnapped_ and _Catriona_. 'James More's character is reflected upon, and I believe he cannot be called worse than he deserves,' says one of the Campbells. He alleges, however, that in April, before the murder, James of the Glens visited James More, then a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle, 'caressed him,' and had a private conversation with him. The abject James More averred that, in this conversation, James of the Glens proposed that James More's brother, Robin Oig, should kill Glenure for money. James More was not examined at the trial of James of the Glens, perhaps because he had already escaped, thanks to Catriona and collusion; but his evidence appears to have reached the jury, almost all of them Campbells, who sat at Inveraray, the Duke of Argyll on the bench, and made no difficulty about finding James of the Glens 'Guilty.' To be sure, James, if guilty, was guilty as an accessory to Allan, and that Allan was guilty was not proved; he was not even before the court. It was not proved that the bullets which slew Glenure fitted the bore of James's small gun with which Allan was alleged to have perpetrated the murder, but it was proved that the lock of that gun had only one fault--it missed fire four times out of five, and, when the gun did not miss fire, it did not carry straight--missed a blackcock, sitting! _That_ gun was not the gun used in the murder.
The jury had the case for James of the Glens most clearly and convincingly placed before them, in the speech of Mr. Brown for the accused. He made, indeed, the very points on which I have insisted; for example, that if James concerted a murder with Allan on May 11, he would not begin to hunt for money for Allan's escape so late as May 14, the day of the murder. Again, he proved that, without any information from James, Allan would _naturally_ send for money to William Stewart, James's usual source of supply; while at Coalisnacoan there was no man to go as messenger except the tenant, John Breck MacColl. A few women composed his family, and, as John MacColl had been the servant of James of the Glens, he was well known already to Allan. In brief, there was literally no proof of concert, and had the case been heard in Edinburgh, not in the heart of the Campbell country, by a jury of Campbells, a verdict of 'Not Guilty' would have been given: probably the jury would not even have fallen back upon 'Not Proven.' But, moved by clan hatred and political hatred, the jury, on September 24, found a verdict against James of the Glens, who, in a touching brief speech, solemnly asserted his innocence before God, and chiefly regretted 'that after ages should think me guilty of such a horrid and barbarous murder.'He was duly hanged, and left hanging, on the little knoll above the sea ferry, close to the Ballachulish Hotel. And _the other man_?
Tradition avers that, on the day of the execution, he wished to give himself up to justice, though his kinsmen told him that he could not save James, and would merely share his fate; but, nevertheless, he struggled so violently that his people mastered and bound him with ropes, and laid him in a room still existing. Finally, it is said that strange noises and knockings are still heard in that place, a mysterious survival of strong human passions attested in other cases, as on the supposed site of the murder of James I. of Scotland in Perth.
Do I believe in this identification of _the other man_? I have marked every trace of him in the documents, published or unpublished, and I remain in doubt. But if Allan had an accessory in the crime, who was seen at the place, an accomplice who, for example, supplied the gun, perhaps fired the shot, while Allan fled to distract suspicion, that accessory was probably the person named by legend. Though he was certainly under suspicion, so were scores of other people. The crime does not seem to me to have been the result of a conspiracy in Appin, but the act of one hot-headed man or of two hot-headed men. I hope I have kept the Celtic secret, and I defy anyone to discover _the other man_ by aid of this narrative.
That James would have been quite safe with an Edinburgh jury was proved by the almost contemporary case of the murder of the English sergeant Davies. He was shot on the hillside, and the evidence against the assassins was quite strong enough to convict them. But some of the Highland witnesses averred that the phantasm of the sergeant had appeared to them, and given information against the criminals, and though there was testimony independent of the ghost's, his interference threw ridicule over the affair. Moreover the Edinburgh jury was in sympathy with Mr. Lockhart, the Jacobite advocate who defended the accused. Though undeniably guilty, they were acquitted: much more would James of the Glens have obtained a favourable verdict. He was practically murdered under forms of law, and what was thought of the Duke of Argyll's conduct on the bench is familiar to readers of _Kidnapped_. I have never seen a copy of the pamphlet put forth after the hanging by the Stewart party, and only know it through a reply in the Campbell MSS.
The tragedy remains as fresh in the memories of the people of Appin and Lochaber as if it were an affair of yesterday. The reason is that the crime of cowardly assassination was very rare indeed among the Highlanders. Their traditions were favourable to driving 'creaghs' of cattle, and to clan raids and onfalls, but in the wildest regions the traveller was far more safe than on Hounslow or Bagshot Heaths, and shooting from behind a wall was regarded as dastardly.V _THE CARDINAL'S NECKLACE_
'Oh, Nature and Thackeray, which of you imitated the other?' One inevitably thinks of the old question thus travestied, when one reads, in the fifth edition, revised and augmented, of Monsieur
Funck-Brentano's _L'Affaire du Collier_, the familiar story of Jeanne de Valois, of Cardinal Rohan, and of the fatal diamond necklace. Jeanne de Valois might have sat, though she probably did not, for Becky Sharp. Her early poverty, her pride in the blood of Valois, recall Becky's youth, and her boasts about 'the blood of the Montmorencys.' Jeanne had her respectable friends, as Becky had the Sedleys; like Becky, she imprudently married a heavy, unscrupulous young officer; her expedients for living on nothing a year were exactly those of Mrs. Rawdon Crawley; her personal charms, her fluent tongue, her good nature, even, were those of that accomplished lady. Finally she has her Marquis of Steyne in the wealthy, luxurious Cardinal de Rohan; she robs him to a tune beyond the dreams of Becky, and, incidentally, she drags to the dust the royal head of the fairest and most unhappy of queens. Even now there seem to be people who believe that Marie Antoinette was guilty, that she cajoled the Cardinal, and robbed him of the diamonds, fateful as the jewels of Eriphyle.
That theory is annihilated by M. Funck-Brentano. But the story is so strangely complicated; the astuteness and the credulity of the Cardinal are so oddly contrasted; a momentary folly of the Queen is so astonishing and fatal; the general mismanagement of the Court is so crazy, that, had we lived in Paris at the moment, perhaps we could hardly have believed the Queen to be innocent. Even persons greatly prejudiced in her favour might well have been deceived, and the people 'loveth to think the worst, and is hardly to be moved from that opinion,' as was said of the Scottish public at the date of the Gowrie conspiracy.
An infidelity of Henri II. of France to his wedded wife, Catherine de Medicis, and the misplaced affection of Louis XV. for Madame du Barry, were the remote but real causes that helped to ruin the House of France. Without the amour of Henri II., there would have been no Jeanne de Valois; without the hope that Louis XV. would stick at nothing to please Madame du Barry, the diamond necklace would never have been woven.
Henri II. loved, about 1550, a lady named Nicole de Savigny, and by her had a son, Henri de Saint-Remy, whom he legitimated. Saint-Remy was the great, great, great, great-grandfather of Jeanne de Valois, the flower of minxes. Her father, a ruined man, dwelt in a corner of the family _chateau_, a predacious, poaching, athletic, broken scion of royalty, who drank and brawled with the peasants, and married his mistress, a servant-girl. Jeanne was born at the _chateau_ of Fontette, near Bar-sur-Aube, on April 22, 1756, and she and her brother and little sister starved in their mouldering tower, kept alive by the charity of the neighbours and of the _cure_, who begged clothes for these descendants of kings. But their scutcheon was--and Jeanne never forgot the fact--argent, three _fleurs de lys_ or, on a fesse azure. The _noblesse_ of the family was later scrutinised by the famous d'Hozier and pronounced authentic. Jeanne, with bare feet, and straws in her hair, is said to have herded the cows, a discontented indolent child, often beaten by her peasant mother. When her father had eaten up his last acre, he and the family tramped to Paris in 1760. As Jeanne was then but four years old, I doubt if she ever 'drove the cattle home,' as M. Funck-Brentano finds recorded in the MSS. of the advocate Target, who defended Jeanne's victim, Cardinal Rohan.
The Valois crew lived in a village near Paris. Jeanne's mother turned Jeanne's father out of doors, took a soldier in his place, and sent the child to beg daily in the streets. 'Pity a poor orphan of the blood of Valois,' she piped; 'alms, in God's name, for two orphans of the blood of Valois!' When she brought home little she was cruelly flogged, so she says, and occasionally she deviated into the truth. A kind lady, the Marquise de Boulainvilliers, investigated her story, found it true, and took up the Valois orphans. The wicked mother went back to Bar-sur-Aube, which Jeanne was to dazzle with her opulence, after she got possession of the diamonds.
By the age of twenty-one (1777), Jeanne was a pretty enchanting girl, with a heart full of greed and envy; two years later she and her sister fled from the convent where her protectress had placed them: a merry society convent it was. A Madame de Surmont now gave them shelter, at Bar-sur-Aube, and Jeanne married, very disreputably, her heavy admirer, La Motte, calling himself Count, and to all appearance a stupid young officer of the _gendarmerie_. The pair lived as such people do, and again made prey of Madame de Boulainvilliers, in 1781, at Strasbourg. The lady was here the guest of the sumptuous, vain, credulous, but honourable Cardinal Rohan, by this time a man of fifty, and the fanatical adorer of Cagliostro, with his philosopher's stone, his crystal gazers, his seeresses, his Egyptian mysteries, and his powers of healing diseases, and creating diamonds out of nothing.
Cagliostro doubtless lowered the Cardinal's moral and mental tone, but it does not appear that he had any connection with the great final swindle. In his supernormal gifts and graces the Cardinal did steadfastly believe. Ten years earlier, Rohan had blessed Marie Antoinette on her entry into France, and had been ambassador at the Court of Maria Theresa, the Empress. A sportsman who once fired off 1,300 cartridges in a day (can this be true?), a splendid festive churchman, who bewitched Vienna, and even the Emperor and Count Kaunitz, by his lavish entertainments, Rohan made himself positively loathed--for his corrupting luxury and his wicked wit--by the austere Empress. She procured Rohan's recall, and so worked on her daughter, Marie Antoinette, the young Queen of France, that the prelate, though Grand Almoner, was socially boycotted by the Court, his letters of piteous appeal to the Queen were not even opened, and his ambitions to sway politics, like a Tencin or a Fleury, were ruined.
So here are Rohan, Cagliostro, and Jeanne all brought acquainted. The Cardinal (and this is one of the oddest features in the affair) was to come to believe that Jeanne was the Queen's most intimate friend, and could and would make his fortune with her; while, at the same time, he was actually relieving her by little tips of from two to five louis! This he was doing, even after, confiding in Jeanne, he handed to her the diamond necklace for the Queen, and, as he believed, had himself a solitary midnight interview with her Majesty. If Jeanne was so great with the Queen as Rohan supposed, how could Jeanne also be in need of small charities? Rohan was a man of the world. His incredible credulity seems a fact so impossible to accept that it was not accepted by public opinion. The Queen, people could not but argue, must have taken his enormous gifts, and then robbed and denounced him. With the case before our eyes of Madame Humbert, who swindled scores of hard-headed financiers by the flimsiest fables, we can no longer deem the credulity of the Cardinal incredible, even though he displayed on occasion a sharpness almost as miraculous as his stupidity.
Rohan conferred a few small favours on Jeanne; her audacity was as great as that of Madame Humbert, and, late in 1781, she established herself both at Paris and in Versailles. The one card in her hand was the blood of the Valois, and for long she could not play it to any purpose. Her claims were too old and musty. If a lady of the name of Stewart were to appear to-day, able to prove that she was of royal blood, as being descended from Francis, Earl of Bothwell (who used to kidnap James VI., was forfeited, and died in exile about 1620), she could not reasonably expect to be peculiarly cherished and comforted by our royal family. Now Jeanne's claims were no better, and no nearer, in 1781, than those of our supposed Stewart adventuress in 1904. But Jeanne was sanguine. Something must be done, by hook or by crook, for the blood of the Valois. She must fasten on her great relations, the royal family. By 1783 Jeanne was pawning her furniture and dining at the expense of her young admirers, or of her servants, for, somehow, they were attached to a mistress who did not pay their wages. She bought goods on her credit as a countess, and sold them on the same day. She fainted in the crowd at Versailles, and Madame Elizabeth sent her a few louis, and had her tiny pension doubled. Jeanne fainted again under the eyes of the Queen, who never noticed her.
Her plan was to persuade small suitors that she could get them what they wanted by her backstairs influence with her royal cousin; she had a lover, Retaux de Villette, who was an expert forger, and by April 1784, relying on his skill, she began to hint to Rohan that she could win for him the Queen's forgiveness. Her Majesty had seen her faint and had been full of kindness. Nothing should be refused to the interesting daughter of the Valois. Letters from the Queen to Jeanne, forged by Villette on paper stamped with blue _fleurs de lys_, were laid before the eyes of the infatuated prelate. Villette later confessed to his forgeries; all confessed; but as all recanted their confessions, this did not impress the public. The letters proved that the Queen was relenting, as regarded Rohan. Cagliostro confirmed the fact. At a _seance_ in Rohan's house, he introduced a niece of Jeanne's husband, a girl of fifteen, who played the part of crystal gazer, and saw, in the crystal, whatever Cagliostro told her to see. All was favourable to the wishes of Rohan, who was as easy of belief as any spiritualist, being entirely dominated by the Neapolitan. Cagliostro, none the less, knew nothing of the great final _coup_, despite his clairvoyance.
So far, in the summer of 1784, the great diamond fraud had not risen into Jeanne's consciousness. Her aim was merely to convince the Cardinal that she could win for him the Queen's favour, and then to work upon his gratitude. It was in July 1784 that Jeanne's husband made the acquaintance of Marie Laguay, a pretty and good-humoured but quite 'unfortunate' young woman--'the height of honesty and dissoluteness'--who might be met in the public gardens, chaperoned solely by a nice little boy. Jeanne de Valois was not of a jealous temperament. Mademoiselle Laguay was the friend of her husband, the tawdry Count. For Jeanne that was enough. She invited the young lady to her house, and by her royal fantasy created her Baronne Gay d'Oliva (_Valoi_, an easy anagram).
She presently assured the Baronne that the Queen desired her collaboration in a practical joke, her Majesty would pay 600_l._ for the freak. This is the Baronne's own version; her innocence, she averred, readily believed that Marie Antoinette desired her assistance.
'You are only asked to give, some evening, a note and a rose to a great lord, in an alley of the gardens of Versailles. My husband will bring you hither to-morrow evening.'Jeanne later confessed that the Baronne really was stupid enough to be quite satisfied that the whole affair was a jest.
Judged by their portraits, d'Oliva, who was to personate the Queen, in an interview with the Cardinal, was not at all like Marie Antoinette. Her short, round, buxom face bears no resemblance to the long and noble outlines of the features of the Queen. But both women were fair, and of figures not dissimilar. On August 11, 1784, Jeanne dressed up d'Oliva in the _chemise_ or _gaulle_, the very simple white blouse which Marie Antoinette wears in the contemporary portrait by Madame Vigee-Lebrun, a portrait exhibited at the Salon of 1783. The ladies, with La Motte, then dined at the best restaurant in Versailles, and went out into the park. The sky was heavy, without moon or starlight, and they walked into the sombre mass of the Grove of Venus, so styled from a statue of the goddess which was never actually placed there. Nothing could be darker than the thicket below the sullen sky.
A shadow of a man appeared: _Vous voila!_ said the Count, and the shadow departed. It was Villette, the forger of the Queen's letters, the lover and accomplice of Jeanne de Valois.
Then the gravel of a path crackled under the feet of three men. One approached, heavily cloaked. D'Oliva was left alone, a rose fell from her hand, she had a letter in her pocket which she forgot to give to the cloaked man, who knelt, and kissed the skirt of her dress. She murmured something; the cloaked Cardinal heard, or thought he heard, her say: 'You may hope that the past is forgotten.'Another shadow flitted past, whispering: 'Quick! Quick! Come on! Here are Madame and Madame d'Artois!'
They dispersed. Later the Cardinal recognised the whispering shadow that fled by, in Villette, the forger. How could he recognise a fugitive shade vaguely beheld in a dark wood, on a sultry and starless night? If he mistook the girl d'Oliva for the Queen, what is his recognition of the shadow worth?
The conspirators had a jolly supper, and one Beugnot, a friend of Jeanne, not conscious of the plot, escorted the Baronne d'Oliva back to her rooms in Paris.
The trick, the transparent trick was played, and Jeanne could extract from the Cardinal what money she wanted, in the name of the Queen that gave him a rose in the Grove of Venus. Letters from the Queen were administered at intervals by Jeanne, and the prelate never dreamed of comparing them with the authentic handwriting of Marie Antoinette.
We naturally ask ourselves, was Rohan in love with the daughter of the Valois? Does his passion account for his blindness? Most authors have believed what Jeanne later proclaimed, that she was the Cardinal's mistress. This the divine steadily denied. There was no shadow of proof that they were even on familiar terms, except a number of erotic letters, which Jeanne showed to a friend, Beugnot, saying that they were from the Cardinal, and then burned. The Cardinal believed all things, in short, and verified nothing, in obedience to his dominating idea--the recovery of the Queen's good graces.
Meanwhile, Jeanne drew on him for large sums, which the Queen, she said, needed for acts of charity. It was proved that Jeanne instantly invested the money in her own name, bought a large house with another loan, and filled it with splendid furniture. She was as extravagant as she was greedy; _alieni appetens, sui profusa_.
The Cardinal was in Alsace, at his bishopric, when in
November-December 1784, Jeanne was brought acquainted with the jewellers, Boehmer and Bassenge, who could not find a customer for their enormous and very hideous necklace of diamonds, left on their hands by the death of Louis XV. The European Courts were poor; Marie Antoinette had again and again refused to purchase a bauble like a 'comforter' made of precious stones, or to accept it from the King. 'We have more need of a ship of war,' she said, and would not buy, though the jeweller fell on his knees, and threatened to drown himself. There were then no American millionaires, and the thickest and ugliest of necklaces was 'eating its head off,' for the stones had been bought with borrowed money.
In the jewellers Jeanne found new victims; they, too, believed in her credit with the Queen; they, too, asked no questions, and held that she could find them a purchaser. Jeanne imposed on them thus, while the Cardinal was still in Alsace. He arrived at Paris in January 1785. He learned, from Jeanne, that the Queen wished him to deal for her with the jewellers! She would pay the price, 60,000_l._, by quarterly instalments.
The Cardinal could believe that the Queen, who, as he supposed, had given him a darkling interview, would entrust him with such a commission, for an article which she had notoriously refused. But there is a sane spot in every man's mind, and on examining the necklace (January 24, 1785), he said that it was in very poor taste. However, as the Queen wanted to wear it at a ceremony on February 2, he arranged the terms, and became responsible for the money. His guarantee was a document produced by Jeanne, and signed 'Marie Antoinette de France.' As Cagliostro pointed out to Rohan later, too late, the Queen could not possibly use this signature. Neither the prelate nor the tradesmen saw the manifest absurdity. Rohan carried the necklace to Jeanne, who gave it to the alleged messenger of the Queen. Rohan only saw the _silhouette_ of this man, in a dusky room, through a glass door, but he later declared that in him he recognised the fleeting shade who whispered the warning to fly, in the dark Grove of Venus. It was Villette, the forger.
Naturally people asked, 'If you could not tell the Queen from Mlle. d'Oliva when you kissed her robe in the grove, how could you recognise, through a dim glass door, the man of whom you had only caught a glimpse as a fleeting shadow? If you are so clever, why, it _was_ the Queen whom you met in the wood. You cannot have been mistaken in her.'These obvious arguments told against the Queen as well as against the Cardinal.
The Queen did not wear the jewels at the feast for which she had wanted them. Strange to say, she never wore them at all, to the surprise of the vendors and of the Cardinal. The necklace was, in fact, hastily cut to pieces with a blunt heavy knife, in Jeanne's house; her husband crossed to England, and sold many stones, and bartered more for all sorts of trinkets, to Grey, of New Bond Street, and Jeffreys, of Piccadilly. Villette had already been arrested with his pockets full of diamonds, but the luck of the House of Valois, and the astuteness of Jeanne, procured his release. So the diamonds were, in part, 'dumped down' in England; many were kept by the La Mottes; and Jeanne paid some pressing debts in diamonds.
The happy La Mottes, with six carriages, a stud of horses, silver plate of great value, and diamonds glittering on many portions of their raiment, now went off to astonish their old friends at Bar-sur-Aube. The inventories of their possessions read like pages out of _The Arabian Nights_. All went merrily, till at a great
ecclesiastical feast, among her friends the aristocracy, on August 17, 1785, Jeanne learned that the Cardinal had been arrested at Versailles, in full pontificals, when about to celebrate the Mass. She rushed from table, fled to Versailles, and burned her papers. She would not fly to England; she hoped to brazen out the affair.
The arrest of the Cardinal was caused thus: On July 12, 1785, the jeweller, Boehmer, went to Versailles with a letter of thanks to the Queen, dictated by Rohan. The date for the payment of the first instalment had arrived, nothing had been paid, a reduction in price had been suggested and accepted. Boehmer gave the letter of thanks to the Queen, but the Controller-General entered, and Boehmer withdrew, without waiting for a reply. The Queen presently read the letter of thanks, could not understand it, and sent for the jeweller, who had gone home. Marie Antoinette thought he was probably mad, certainly a bore, and burned his note before the eyes of Madame Campan.'Tell the man, when you next see him, that I do not want diamonds, and shall never buy any more.'
Fatal folly! Had the Queen insisted on seeing Boehmer, all would have been cleared up, and her innocence established. Boehmer's note spoke of the recent arrangements, of the jeweller's joy that the greatest of queens possesses the handsomest of necklaces--and Marie Antoinette asked no questions!
Jeanne now (August 3) did a great stroke. She told Bassenge that the Queen's guarantee to the Cardinal was a forgery. She calculated that the Cardinal, to escape the scandal, would shield her, would sacrifice himself and pay the 60,000_l._
But the jewellers dared not carry the news to the Cardinal. They went to Madame Campan, who said that they had been gulled: the Queen had never received the jewels. Still, they did not tell the Cardinal. Jeanne now sent Villette out of the way, to Geneva, and on August 4 Bassenge asked the Cardinal whether he was sure that the man who was to carry the jewels to the Queen had been honest? A pleasant question! The Cardinal kept up his courage; all was well, he could not be mistaken. Jeanne, with cunning audacity, did not fly: she went to her splendid home at Bar-sur-Aube.
Villette was already out of reach; d'Oliva, with her latest lover, was packed off to Brussels; there was no proof against Jeanne; her own flight would have been proof. The Cardinal could not denounce her; he had insulted the Queen by supposing that she gave him a lonely midnight tryst, a matter of high treason; the Cardinal could not speak. He consulted Cagliostro. 'The guarantee is forged,' said the sage; 'the Queen could not sign "Marie Antoinette de France." Throw yourself at the King's feet, and confess all.' The wretched Rohan now compared the Queen's forged notes to him with authentic letters of hers in the possession of his family. The forgery was conspicuous, but he did not follow the advice of Cagliostro. On August 12, the Queen extracted the whole facts, as far as known to them, from the jewellers. On August 15, the day of the Assumption, when the Cardinal was to celebrate, the King asked him: 'My cousin, what is this tale of a diamond necklace bought by you in the name of the Queen?'The unhappy man, unable to speak coherently, was allowed to write the story, in fifteen lines.
'How could you believe,' asked the Queen with angry eyes, 'that I, who have not spoken to you for eight years, entrusted you with this commission?'
How indeed could he believe it?
He offered to pay for the jewels. The thing might still have been hushed up. The King is blamed, first for publicly arresting Rohan as he did, an enormous scandal; next for handing over the case, for public trial, to the Parlement, the hereditary foes of the Court. Freteau de Saint-Just, one of the Bar, cried: 'What a triumph for Liberal ideas! A Cardinal a thief! The Queen implicated! Mud on the crosier and the sceptre!'He had his fill of Liberal ideas, for he was guillotined on June 14, 1794!
Kings and queens are human beings. They like a fair and open trial. Mary Stuart prayed for it in vain, from the Estates of Scotland, and from Elizabeth. Charles I. asked for public trial in vain, from the Estates of Scotland, at the time of the unsolved puzzle of 'The Incident.' Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette had the publicity they wanted; to their undoing. The Parlement was to acquit Rohan of the theft of the necklace (a charge which Jeanne tried to support by a sub-plot of romantic complexity), and that acquittal was just. But nothing was said of the fatal insult which he had dealt to the Queen. Villette, who had forged the royal name, was merely exiled, left free to publish fatal calumnies abroad, though high treason, as times went, was about the measure of his crime. Gay d'Oliva, whose personation of the Queen also verged on treason, was merely acquitted with a recommendation 'not to do it again.' Pretty, a young mother, and profoundly dissolute, she was the darling of Liberal and _sensible_ hearts.
Jeanne de Valois, indeed, was whipped and branded, but Jeanne, in public opinion, was the scapegoat of a cruel princess, and all the mud was thrown on the face of the guiltless Queen. The friends of Rohan were all the clergy, all the many nobles of his illustrious house, all the courtly foes of the Queen (they began by the basest calumnies, the ruin that the people achieved), all the friends of Liberal ideas, who soon, like Freteau de Saint-Just, had more of Liberalism than they liked.
These were the results which the King obtained by offering to the Cardinal his choice between the royal verdict and that of the public Court of Justice. Rohan said that, if the King would pronounce him innocent, he would prefer to abide by the royal decision. He _was_ innocent of all but being a presumptuous fool; the King might, even now, have recognised the fact. Mud would have been thrown, but not all the poached filth of the streets of Paris. On the other hand, had Louis withheld the case from public trial, we might still be doubtful of the Queen's innocence. Napoleon acknowledged it: 'The Queen was innocent, and to make her innocence the more public, she wished the Parlement to be the judge. The result was that she was taken to be guilty.' Napoleon thought that the King should have taken the case into his own hand. This might have been wisdom for the day, but not for securing the verdict of posterity. The pyramidal documents of the process, still in existence, demonstrate the guilt of the La Mottes and their accomplices at every step, and prove the stainless character of the Queen.
La Motte could not be caught. He had fled to Edinburgh, where he lived with an aged Italian teacher of languages. This worthy man offered to sell him for 10,000_l._, and a pretty plot was arranged by the French ambassador to drug La Motte, put him on board a collier at South Shields and carry him to France. But the old Italian lost heart, and, after getting 1,000_l._ out of the French Government in advance, deemed it more prudent to share the money with the Count. Perhaps the Count invented the whole stratagem; it was worthy of the husband and pupil of Jeanne de Valois. That poor lady's cause was lost when Villette and Gay d'Oliva were brought back across the frontier, confessed, and corroborated each other's stories. Yet she made a wonderfully good fight, changing her whole defence into another as plausible and futile, before the very eyes of the Court, and doing her best to ruin Rohan as a thief, and Cagliostro as the forger of the Queen's guarantee. The bold Neapolitan was acquitted, but compelled to leave the country, and attempt England, where the phlegmatic islanders trusted him no more than they trusted Madame Humbert. We expended our main capital of credulity on Titus Oates and Bedloe, and the
warming-pan lie--our imaginative innocence being most accessible in the region of religion. The French are more open to the appeal of romance, and to dissolute honesty in the person of Miss Gay d'Oliva, to injured innocence as represented by Jeanne de Valois. That class of rogues suits a gay people, while we are well mated with such a seductive divine as Dr. Oates.
The story of Kaspar Hauser, a boy, apparently idiotic, who appeared, as if from the clouds, in Nuremberg (1828), divided Germany into hostile parties, and caused legal proceedings as late as 1883. Whence this lad came, and what his previous adventures had been, has never been ascertained. His death by a dagger-wound, in 1833--whether inflicted by his own hand or that of another--deepened the mystery. According to one view, the boy was only a waif and an impostor, who had strayed from some peasant home, where nobody desired his return. According to the other theory, he was the Crown Prince of Baden, stolen as an infant in the interests of a junior branch of the House, reduced to imbecility by systematic ill-treatment, turned loose on the world at the age of sixteen, and finally murdered, lest his secret origin might be discovered.
I state first the theory of the second party in the dispute, which believed that Kaspar was some great one: I employ language as romantic as my vocabulary affords.* * * * *
Darkness in Karlsruhe! 'Tis the high noon of night: October 15, 1812. Hark to the tread of the Twelve Hours as they pass on the palace clock, and join their comrades that have been! The vast corridors are still; in the shadows lurk two burly minions of ambitious crime, Burkard and Sauerbeck. Is that a white moving shadow which approaches through the gloom? There arises a shriek, a heavy body falls, 'tis a lacquey who has seen and recognised _The White Lady of the Grand Ducal House_, that walks before the deaths of Princes. Burkard and Sauerbeck spurn the inanimate body of the menial witness. The white figure, bearing in her arms a sleeping child, glides to the tapestried wall, and vanishes through it, into the Chamber of the Crown Prince, a babe of fourteen days. She returns carrying _another_ unconscious infant form, she places it in the hands of the ruffian Sauerbeck, she disappears. The miscreant speeds with the child through a postern into the park, you hear the trample of four horses, and the roll of the carriage on the road. Next day there is silence in the palace, broken but by the shrieks of a bereaved though Royal (or at least Grand Ducal) mother. Her babe lies a corpse! The Crown Prince has died in the night! The path to the throne lies open to the offspring of the Countess von Hochberg, morganatic wife of the reigning Prince, Karl Friedrich, and mother of the children of Ludwig Wilhelm August, his youngest son.
Sixteen years fleet by; years rich in Royal crimes. 'Tis four of a golden Whit Monday afternoon, in old Nuremberg, May 26, 1828. The town lies empty, dusty, silent; her merry people are rejoicing in the green wood, and among the suburban beer-gardens. One man alone, a shoemaker, stands by the door of his house in the Unschlitt Plas: around him lie the vacant streets of the sleeping city. His eyes rest on the form, risen as it were out of the earth or fallen from the skies, of a boy, strangely clad, speechless, incapable either of standing erect or of moving his limbs. That boy is the Royal infant placed of yore by the White Shadow in the hands of the cloaked ruffian. Thus does the Crown Prince of Baden return from the darkness to the daylight! He names himself KASPAR HAUSER. He is to die by the dagger of a cruel courtier, or of a hireling English Earl.
Thus briefly, and, I trust, impressively, have I sketched the history of Kaspar Hauser, 'the Child of Europe,' as it was presented by various foreign pamphleteers, and, in 1892, by Miss Elizabeth E. Evans. But, as for the 'authentic records' on which the partisans of Kaspar Hauser based their version, they are anonymous, unauthenticated, discredited by the results of a libel action in 1883; and, in short, are worthless and impudent rubbish.[Footnote 11: _The Story of Kaspar Hauser from Authentic Records._ Swan Sonnenschein & Co., London, 1892.]
On all sides, indeed, the evidence as to Kaspar Hauser is in bewildering confusion. In 1832, four years after his appearance, a book about him was published by Paul John Anselm Von Feuerbach. The man was mortal, had been a professor, and, though a legal reformer and a learned jurist, was 'a nervous invalid' when he wrote, and he soon after died of paralysis (or poison according to Kasparites). He was approaching a period of life in which British judges write books to prove that Bacon was Shakespeare, and his arguments were like theirs. His _Kaspar Hauser_ is composed in a violently injudicial style. 'To seek the giant perpetrator of such a crime' (as the injustice to Kaspar), 'it would be necessary ... to be in possession of Joshua's ram's horns, or at least of Oberon's horn, in order, for some time at least, to suspend the activity of the powerful enchanted Colossi that guard the golden gates of certain castles,' that is, of the palace at Karlsruhe. Such early Nuremberg records of Kaspar's first exploits as existed were ignored by Feuerbach, who told Lord Stanhope, that any reader of these 'would conceive Kaspar to be an impostor.' 'They ought to be burned.' The records, which were read and in part published, by the younger Meyer (son of one of Kaspar's tutors) and by President Karl Schmausz, have disappeared, and, in 1883, Schmausz could only attest the general accuracy of Meyer's excerpts from the town's manuscripts.
Taking Feuerbach's romantic narrative of 1832, we find him averring that, about 4.30 P.M. on Whit Monday, May 26, 1828, a citizen, unnamed, was loitering at his door, in the Unschlitt Plas, Nuremberg, intending to sally out by the New Gate, when he saw a young peasant, standing in an attitude suggestive of intoxication, and apparently suffering from locomotor ataxia, 'unable to govern fully the movements of his legs.' The citizen went to the boy, who showed him a letter directed to the captain of a cavalry regiment. The gallant captain lived near the New Gate (654 paces from the citizen's house), and thither the young peasant walked with the citizen. So he _could_ 'govern fully the movements of his legs.' At the house, the captain being out, the boy said, 'I would be a horseman as my father was,' also 'Don't know.' Later he was taken to the prison, up a steep hill, and the ascent to his room was one of over ninety steps. Thus he could certainly walk, and when he spoke of himself he said 'I' like other people. Later he took to speaking of himself as 'Kaspar,' in the manner of small children, and some hysterical patients under hypnotism. But this was an after-thought, for Kaspar's line came to be that he had only learned a few words, like a parrot, words which he used to express all senses indifferently. His eye-sight, when he first appeared, seems to have been normal, at the prison he wrote his own name as 'Kaspar Hauser,' and covered a sheet of paper with writing. Later he could see best in the dark.
So says Feuerbach, in 1832. What he does not say is whence he got his information as to Kaspar's earliest exploits. Now our earliest
evidence, on oath, before a magistrate, is dated November 4, 1829. George Weichmann, shoemaker (Feuerbach's anonymous 'citizen'), then swore that, on May 26, 1828, he saw Kaspar, not making paralysed efforts to walk, but trudging down a hilly street, shouting 'Hi!' ('or any loud cry'), and presently asking, 'with tolerable distinctness,' 'New Gate Street?' He took the boy that way, and the boy gave him the letter for the captain. Weichmann said that they had better ask for him at the New Gate Guard House, and the boy said 'Guard House? Guard House? New Gate no doubt just built?' He said he came from Ratisbon, and was in Nuremberg for the first time, but clearly did not
understand what Weichmann meant when he inquired as to the chances of war breaking out. In May 1834 Weichmann repeated his evidence as to Kaspar's power of talking and walking, and was corroborated by one Jacob Beck, not heard of in 1829. On December 20, 1829, Merk, the captain's servant, spoke to Kaspar's fatigue, 'he reeled as he
walked,' and would answer no questions. In 1834 Merk expanded, and said 'we had a long chat.' Kaspar averred that he could read and write, and had crossed the frontier daily on his way to school. 'He did not know where he came from.' Certainly Merk, in 1834, remembered much more than in 1829. Whether he suppressed facts in 1829, or, in 1834, invented fables, we do not know. The cavalry captain (November 2, 1829) remembered several intelligent remarks made by Kaspar. His dress was new and clean (denied by Feuerbach), he was tired and footsore. The evidence of the police, taken in 1834, was remote in time, but went to prove that Kaspar's eyesight and power of writing were normal. Feuerbach absolutely discredits all the sworn evidence of 1829, without giving his own sources. The early evidence shows that Kaspar could both walk and talk, and see normally, by artificial and natural light, all of which is absolutely inconsistent with Kaspar's later account of himself.
The personal property of Kaspar was a horn rosary, and several Catholic tracts with prayers to the Guardian Angel, and so forth. Feuerbach holds that these were furnished by 'devout villains'--a very sound Protestant was Feuerbach--and that Kaspar was ignorant of the being of a Deity, at least of a Protestant Deity. The letter carried by the boy said that the writer first took charge of him, as an infant, in 1812, and had never let him 'take a single step out of my house.... I have already taught him to read and write, _and he writes my handwriting exactly as I do_.' In the same hand was a letter in Latin characters, purporting to come from Kaspar's mother, 'a poor girl,' as the author of the German letter was 'a poor day-labourer.' Humbug as I take Kaspar to have been, I am not sure that he wrote these pieces. If not, somebody else was in the affair; somebody who wanted to get rid of Kaspar. As that youth was an useless, false, convulsionary, and hysterical patient, no one was likely to want to keep him, if he could do better. No specified reward was offered at the time for information about Kaspar; no portrait of him was then published and circulated. The Burgomaster, Binder, had a portrait, and a facsimile of Kaspar's signature engraved, but Feuerbach would not allow them to be circulated, heaven knows why.
How Kaspar fell, as it were from the clouds, and unseen, into the middle of Nuremberg, even on a holiday when almost every one was out of town, is certainly a puzzle. The earliest witnesses took him for a journeyman tailor lad (he was about sixteen), and perhaps nobody paid any attention to a dusty travelling tradesman, or groom out of place. Feuerbach (who did not see Kaspar till July) says that his feet were covered with blisters, the gaoler says that they were merely swollen by the tightness of his boots.
Once in prison, Kaspar, who asked to be taken home, adopted the _role_ of 'a semi-unconscious animal,' playing with toy horses, 'blind though he saw,' yet, not long after, he wrote a minute account of all that he had then observed. He could only eat bread and water: meat made him shudder, and Lord Stanhope says that this peculiarity did occur in the cases of some peasant soldiers. He had no sense of hearing, which means, perhaps, that he did not think of pretending to be amazed by the sound of church bells till he had been in prison for some days. Till then he had been deaf to their noise. This is Feuerbach's story, but we shall see that it is contradicted by Kaspar himself, in writing. Thus the alleged facts may be explained without recourse even to a theory of intermittent deafness. Kaspar was no more deaf than blind. He 'was all there,' and though, ten days after his arrival, he denied that he had ever seen Weichmann, in ten days more his memory for faces was deemed extraordinary, and he minutely described all that, on May 26 and later, he had observed. Kaspar was taught to write by the gaoler's little boy, though he could write when he came--in the same hand as the author of his mysterious letter. Though he had but half a dozen words on May 26, according to Feuerbach, by July 7 he had furnished Binder with his history--pretty quick work! Later in 1828 he was able to write that history himself. In 1829 he completed a work of autobiography.
Kaspar wrote that till the age of sixteen he was kept in 'a prison,' 'perhaps six or seven feet long, four broad, and five high.' There were two small windows, with closed black wooden shutters. He lay on straw, lived on bread and water, and played with toy horses, and blue and red ribbons. That he could see colours in total darkness is a proof of his inconsistent fables, or of his 'hyperaesthesia'--abnormal acuteness of the senses. 'The man' who kept him was not less hyperaesthetic, for he taught Kaspar to write in the dark. He never heard any noise, but avers that, in prison, he was alarmed by the town clock striking, on the first morning, though Feuerbach says that he did not hear the bells for several days.
Such is Kaspar's written account (1829); the published account of July 1828, derived from 'the expressions of a half-dumb animal' (as Feuerbach puts it), is much more prolix and minute in detail. The animal said that he had sat on the ground, and never seen daylight, till he came to Nuremberg. He used to be hocussed with water of an evil taste, and wake in a clean shirt. 'The man' once hit him and hurt him, for making too much noise. The man taught him his letters and the Arabic numerals. Later he gave him instructions in the art of standing. Next he took him out, and taught him about nine words. He was made by the man to walk he knew not how far, or how long, the man leading him. Nobody saw this extraordinary pair on the march. Feuerbach, who maintains that Kaspar's feet were covered with cruel blisters, from walking, also supposes that 'perhaps for the greater part of the way' he was carried in a carriage or waggon! Whence then the cruel blisters caused by walking? There is medical evidence that his legs were distorted by confinement, but the medical _post-mortem_ evidence says that this was not the case. He told Binder that his windows were shuttered: he told Hiltel, the gaoler, that from his windows he saw 'a pile of wood and above it the top of a tree.'
Obviously Kaspar's legends about himself, whether spoken in June 1828, or written in February 1829, are absurdly false. He was for three weeks in the tower, and was daily visited by the curious. Yet in these three weeks the half-conscious animal 'learned to read tolerably well, to count, to write figures' (_that_ he could do when he arrived, Feuerbach says), 'he made progress in writing a good hand, and learned a simple tune on the harpsichord,' pretty well for a half-unconscious animal.
In July 1828, after being adopted by the excited town of Nuremberg, he was sent to be educated by and live with a schoolmaster named Daumer, and was studied by Feuerbach. They found, in Kaspar, a splendid example of the 'sensitive,' and a noble proof of the powers of 'animal magnetism.' In Germany, at this time, much was talked and written about 'somnambulism' (the hypnotic state), and about a kind of 'animal magnetism' which, in accordance with Mesmer's theory, was supposed to pass between stars, metals, magnets, and human beings. The effects produced on the patient by the hypnotist (now ascribed to
'suggestion') were attributed to a 'magnetic efflux,' and
Reichenbach's subjects saw strange currents flowing from metals and magnets. His experiments have never, perhaps, been successfully repeated, though hysterical persons have pretended to feel the traditional effects, even when non-magnetic objects were pointed at them. Now Kaspar was really a 'sensitive,' or feigned to be one, with hysterical cunning. Anything unusual would throw him into convulsions, or reduce him to unconsciousness. He was addicted to the tears of sensibility. Years later Meyer read to him an account of the Noachian Deluge, and he wept bitterly. Meyer thought this rather too much, the Deluge being so remote an event, and, after that, though Meyer read pathetic things in his best manner, Kaspar remained unmoved. He wrote a long account of his remarkable magnetic sensations during and before the first thunderstorm after his arrival at Nuremberg. Yet, before his appearance there, he must have heard plenty of thunderstorms, though he pretended that this was his first. The sight of the moon produced in him 'emotions of horror.' He had visions, like the Rev. Ansel Bourne, later to be described, of a beautiful male figure in a white garment, who gave him a garland. He was taken to a 'somnambulist,' and felt 'magnetic' pulls and pushes, and a strong current of air. Indeed the tutor, Daumer, shared these sensations, obviously by virtue of 'suggestion.' They are out of fashion, the doctrine of animal magnetism being as good as exploded, and nobody feels pulled or pushed or blown upon, when he consults Mrs. Piper or any other 'medium.'
From a letter of Feuerbach of September 20, 1828, we learn that Kaspar, '_without being an albino_,' can see as well in utter darkness as in daylight. Perhaps the man who taught Kaspar to write, in the dark, _was_ an albino: Kaspar never saw his face. Kaspar's powers of vision abated, as he took to beef, but he remained hyperaesthetic, and could see better in a bad light than Daumer or Feuerbach. Some 'dowsers,' we know, can detect subterranean water, by the sensations of their hands, without using a twig, or divining rod, and others can 'spot' gold hidden under the carpet, with the twig. Kaspar, merely with the bare hand, detected (without touching it?) a needle under a table cloth. He gradually lost these gifts, and the theory seems to have been that they were the result of his imprisonment in the dark, and a proof of it. The one thing certain is that Kaspar had the sensitive or 'mediumistic' temperament, which usually--though not always--is accompanied by hysteria, while hysteria means cunning and fraud, whether conscious or not so conscious. Meanwhile the boy was in the hands of men credulous, curious, and, in the case of Daumer, capable of odd sensations induced by suggestion. From such a boy, in such company, the truth could not be expected, above all if, like some other persons of his class, he was subject to 'dissociation' and obliviousness as to his own past.
Rather curiously we find in Feuerbach's own published collection of Trials the case of a boy, Soergel, who had 'paroxysms of second consciousness ... of which he was ignorant upon returning to his ordinary state of consciousness.' We have also the famous case of the atheistic carpenter, Ansel Bourne, who was struck deaf, dumb, and blind, and miraculously healed, in a dissenting chapel, to the great comfort of 'a large and warm congregation.' Mr. Bourne then became a preacher, but later forgot who he was, strolled to a distant part of the States, called himself Browne, set up a 'notions store,' and, one day, awoke among his notions to the consciousness that he was Bourne, not Browne, a preacher, not a dealer in cheap futilities. Bourne was examined, under hypnotism, by Professor William James and others. [Footnote 12: _Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research_, vol. vii. pp. 221-257.]
Many such instances of 'ambulatory automatism' are given. In my view, Kaspar was, to put it mildly, an ambulatory automatist, who had strayed away, like the Rev. Mr. Bourne, from some place where nobody desired his return: rather his lifelong absence was an object of hope. The longer Kaspar lived, the more frequently was he detected in every sort of imposture that could make him notorious, or enable him to shirk work.
Kaspar had for months been the pet mystery of Nuremberg. People were sure that, like the mysterious prisoner of Pignerol, Les Exiles, and the Isle Sainte-Marguerite (1669-1703?), Kaspar was some great one, 'kept out of his own.' Now the prisoner of Pignerol was really a valet, and Kaspar was a peasant. Some thought him a son of Napoleon: others averred (as we saw) that he was the infant son of the Grand Duke Karl of Baden, born in 1812, who had not died within a fortnight of his birth, but been spirited away by a lady disguised as the spectral 'White Lady of Baden,' an aristocratic _ban-shie_. The subtle conspirators had bred the Grand Duke Kaspar in a dark den, the theory ran, hoping that he would prove, by virtue of such education, an acceptable recruit for the Bavarian cavalry, and that no questions would be asked. Unluckily questions were now being asked, for a boy who could only occasionally see and hear was not (though he could smell a cemetery at a distance of five hundred yards), an useful man on a patrol, at least the military authorities thought not. Had they known that Kaspar could see in the dark, they might have kept him as a guide in night attacks, but they did not know. The promising young hussar (he rode well but clumsily) was thus left in the hands of civilians: the Grand Ducal secret might be discovered, so an assassin was sent to take off the young prince.
The wonder was not unnaturally expressed that Kaspar had not smelled out the villain, especially as he was probably the educational albino, who taught him to write in the dark. On hearing of this, later, Kaspar told Lord Stanhope that he _had_ smelled the man: however, he did not mention this at the time. To make a long story short, on October 17, 1829, Kaspar did not come to midday eating, but was found weltering in his gore, in the cellar of Daumer's house. Being offered refreshment in a cup, he bit out a piece of the porcelain and swallowed it. He had 'an inconsiderable wound' on the forehead; to that extent the assassin had effected his purpose. Feuerbach thinks that the murderer had made a shot at Kaspar's throat with a razor, that Kaspar ducked cleverly, and got it on the brow, and that the assassin believed his crime to be consummated, and fled, after uttering words in which Kaspar recognised the voice of his tutor, the possible albino. No albino or other suspicious character was observed. Herr Daumer, before this cruel outrage, had remarked, in Kaspar, 'a highly regrettable tendency to dissimulation and
untruthfulness,' and, just before the attack, had told the pupil that he was a humbug. Lord Stanhope quoted a paper of Daumer's in the _Universal Gazette_ of February 6, 1834 (_Allgemeine Zeitung_), in which he says that 'lying and deceit were become to Kaspar a second nature.' When did they begin to become a second nature? In any case Daumer clove to the romantic theory of Kaspar's origin. Kaspar left Daumer's house and stayed with various good people, being accompanied by a policeman in his walks. He was sent to school, and Feuerbach bitterly complains that he was compelled to study the Latin grammar, 'and finally even Caesar's Commentaries!' Like other boys, Kaspar protested that he 'did not see the use of Latin,' and indeed many of our modern authors too obviously share Kaspar's indifference to the dead languages. He laughed, in 1831, says Feuerbach, at the popish superstition 'of his early attendants' (we only hear of one, and about _his_ theological predilections we learn nothing), and he also laughed at ghosts. In his new homes Kaspar lied terribly, was angry when detected, and wounded himself--he said accidentally--with a pistol, after being reproached for shirking the Commentaries of Julius Caesar, and for mendacity. He was very vain, very agreeable as long as no one found fault with him, very lazy, and very sentimental.
In May 1831 Lord Stanhope, who, since the attack on Kaspar in 1829, had been curious about him, came to Nuremberg, and 'took up' the hero, with fantastic fondness. Though he recognised Kaspar's mythopoeic tendencies, he believed him to be the victim of some nefarious criminals, and offered a reward of 500 florins, anonymously, for information. It never was claimed.
Already had arisen a new theory, that Kaspar was the son of an Hungarian magnate. Later, Lord Stanhope averred, on oath, that inquiries made in Hungary proved Kaspar to be an impostor. In 1830, a man named Mueller, who had been a Protestant preacher, and was now a Catholic priest, denounced a preacher named Wirth, and a Miss Dalbonn, a governess, as kidnappers of Kaspar from the family of a Countess, living near Pesth. Mueller was exposed, his motives were revealed, and the newspapers told the story. Kaspar was therefore tried with Hungarian words, and seemed to recognise some, especially Posonbya (Pressburg). He thought that some one had said that his father was at Pressburg: and thither Lord Stanhope sent him, with Lieutenant Hickel. This was in 1831, but Kaspar recognised nothing: his companions, however, found that he pretended to be asleep in the carriage, to hear what was said about him. They ceased to speak of him, and Kaspar ceased to slumber. A later expedition into Hungary, by Hickel, in February 1832, on the strength of more Hungarian excitement on Kaspar's part, discovered that there was nothing to discover, and shook the credulity of Lord Stanhope. He could not believe Kaspar's narrative, but still hoped that he had been terrorised into falsehood. He could not believe both that the albino had never spoken to Kaspar in his prison, and also that 'the man always taught me to do what I was told.' To Lord Stanhope Kaspar averred that 'the man with whom he had always lived said nothing to him till he was on his journey.' Yet, during his imprisonment, the man had taught him, he declared, the phrases which, by his account, were all the words that he knew when he arrived at Nuremberg.
For these and other obvious reasons, Lord Stanhope, though he had relieved Nuremberg of Kaspar (November 1831), and made ample provision for him, was deeply sceptical about his narrative. The town of Nuremberg had already tried to shift the load of Kaspar on to the shoulders of the Bavarian Government. Lord Stanhope did not adopt him, but undertook to pay for his maintenance, and left him, in January 1832, under the charge of a Dr. Meyer, at Anspach. He had a curator, and a guardian, and escaped from the Commentaries of Julius Caesar into the genial society of Feuerbach. That jurist died in May 1833 (poisoned, say the Kasparites), a new guardian was appointed, and Kaspar lived with Dr. Meyer. Finding him incurably untruthful, the doctor ceased to provoke him by comments on his inaccuracies, and Kaspar got a small clerkly place. With this he was much dissatisfied, for he, like Feuerbach, had expected Lord Stanhope to take him to England. Feuerbach, in the dedication to Lord Stanhope of his book (1832), writes, 'Beyond the sea, in fair old England, you have prepared for him a secure retreat, until the rising sun of Truth shall have dispersed the darkness which still hangs over his mysterious fate.' If Lord Stanhope ever made this promise, his growing scepticism about Kaspar prevented him from fulfilling it. On December 9, 1833, Meyer was much provoked by Kaspar's inveterate falseness, and said that he did not know how to face Lord Stanhope, who was expected to visit Anspach at Christmas. For some weeks Kaspar had been sulky, and there had been questions about a journal which he was supposed to keep, but would not show. He was now especially resentful. On two earlier occasions, after a scene with his tutor, Kaspar had been injured, once by the assassin who cut his forehead; once by a pistol accident. On December 14, he rushed into Dr. Meyer's room, pointed to his side, and led Meyer to a place distant about five hundred yards from his house. So agitated was he that Meyer would go no further, especially as Kaspar would answer no questions. On their return, Kaspar said, 'Went Court Garden--Man--had a knife--gave a bag--struck--I ran as I could--bag must lie there.' Kaspar was found to have a narrow wound, 'two inches and a half under the centre of the left breast,' clearly caused by a very sharp double-edged weapon. In three or four days he died, the heart had been injured. He was able to depose, but not on oath, that on the morning of the 14th a man in a blouse (who had addressed him some days earlier) brought him a verbal message from the Court gardener, asking him to come and view some clay from a newly bored well, where, in fact, no work was being done at this time. He found no one at the well, and went to the monument of the rather forgotten poet Uz. Here a man came forward, gave him a bag, stabbed him, and fled. Of the man he gave discrepant
descriptions. He became incoherent, and died.
There was snow lying, when Kaspar was stabbed, but there were no footmarks near the well, and elsewhere, only one man's track was in the Hofgarten. Was that track Kaspar's? We are not told. No knife was found. Kaspar was left-handed, and Dr. Horlacher declared that the blow must have been dealt by a left-handed man. Lord Stanhope suggested that Kaspar himself had inflicted the wound by pressure, and that, after he had squeezed the point of the knife through his wadded coat, it had penetrated much deeper than he had intended, a very probable hypothesis.
As for the bag which the assassin gave him, it was found, and Dr. Meyer said that it was very like a bag which he had seen in Kaspar's possession. It contained a note, folded, said Madame Meyer, as Kaspar folded his own notes. The writing was in pencil, in _Spiegelschrift_, that is, it had to be read in a mirror. Kaspar, on his deathbed, kept muttering incoherences about 'what is written with lead, no one can read.' The note contained vague phrases about coming from the Bavarian frontier.
After Kaspar's death, the question of 'murder or suicide?' agitated Germany, and gave birth to a long succession of pamphlets. A wild woman, Countess Albersdorf ('_nee_ Lady Graham,' says Miss Evans, who later calls her 'Lady Caroline Albersdorf'), saw visions, dreamed dreams, and published nonsense. Other pamphlets came out, directed against the House of Baden. In 1870 an anonymous French pamphleteer offered the Baden romance, as from the papers of a Major von Hennenhofer, the villain in chief of the White Lady plot. Lord Stanhope was named as the ringleader in the attacks on Kaspar, both at Nuremberg and Anspach. In 1883 all the fables were revived in a pamphlet produced at Ratisbon, a mere hash of the libels of 1834, 1839, 1840, and 1870. Dr. Meyer was especially attacked, his sons defended his reputation by an action for libel on the dead, an action which German law permits. There was no defence, and the publisher was fined, and ordered to destroy all the copies. In 1892 the libels were repeated, by 'Baron Alexander von Artin:' two documents of a palpably fraudulent character were added, the rest was the old stuff. The reader may find it in Miss Evans's _Kaspar Hauser_ (1892). For example, Daumer knew a great deal. He even, in 1833, received an anonymous letter from Anspach, containing the following statement: 'Lord Daniel Alban Durteal, advocate of the Royal Court in London, said to me, "I am firmly convinced that Kaspar Hauser was murdered. It was all done by bribery. Stanhope has no money, and lives by this affair."' Daumer and Miss Evans appear to have seen nothing odd in relying on an anonymous letter about Lord Daniel Alban Durteal!
Lord Stanhope, says Miss Evans, 'was known to have subsisted principally upon the sale of his German hymnbook, and other devotional works, for which he was a colporteur.' Weary of piety, Lord Stanhope became a hired assassin. Perhaps this nonsense still has its believers, seduced by 'Lady Caroline Albersdorf, _nee_ Lady Graham,' by Lord Daniel Alban Durteal, and by the spirit of Kaspar himself, who, summoned by Daniel Dunglas Home, at a _seance_ with the Empress Eugenie, apparently, announced himself as Prince of Baden. No authority for this interesting ghost of one who disbelieved in ghosts is given.
It is quite possible that Kaspar Hauser no more knew who he was than the valet of 1669-1703 knew why he was a prisoner, no more than Mr. Browne, when a dealer in 'notions,' knew that he was Mr. Bourne, a dissenting preacher. Nothing is certain, except that Kaspar was an hysterical humbug, whom people of sense suspected from the first, and whom believers in animal magnetism and homoeopathy accepted as some great one, educated by his Royal enemies in total darkness--to fit him for the military profession.
It is difficult, of course, to account for the impossibility of
finding whence Kaspar had come to Nuremberg. But, in 1887, it proved just as impossible to discover whither the Rev. Ansel Bourne had gone. Mr. Bourne's lot was cast, not in the sleepy Royalist Bavaria of 1828, but in the midst of the admired 'hustle' of the great Western Republic. He was one of the most remarkable men in the country, not a yokel of sixteen. He was last seen at his nephew's store, 121 Broad Street, Providence, R.I., on January 17. On January 20, the hue and cry arose in the able and energetic press of his State. Mr. Bourne, as a travelling evangelist, was widely known, but, after a fortnight unaccounted for, he arrived, as A.J. Browne, at Norristown, Pa., sold notions there, and held forth with acceptance at religious meetings. On March 14 he awoke, still undiscovered, and wondered where he was. He remembered nothing since January 17, so he wired to Providence, R.I., for information. He had a whole fortnight to account for, between his departure from Providence, R.I., and his arrival at Norristown, Pa. Nobody could help him, he had apparently walked invisible, like Kaspar on his way to Nuremberg. He was hypnotised by Professor William James, and brought into his Browne condition, but could give practically no verifiable account of Browne's behaviour in that missing fortnight. He said that he went from Providence to Pawtucket, and was for some days at Philadelphia, Pa., where he really seems to have been; as to the rest 'back of that it was mixed up.' We do not hear that Kaspar was ever hypnotised and questioned, but probably he also would have been 'mixed up,' like Mr. Bourne.
The fable about a Prince of Baden had not a single shred of evidence in its favour. It is true that the Grand Duchess was too ill to be permitted to see her dead baby, in 1812, but the baby's father, grandmother, and aunt, with the ten Court physicians, the nurses and others, must have seen it, in death, and it is too absurd to suppose, on no authority, that they were all parties to the White Lady's plot. We might as well believe, as Miss Evans seems to do, on the authority of an unnamed Paris newspaper, that a Latin letter, complaining of imprisonment, was picked up in the Rhine, signed 'S. Haues Spraucio,' that the words ought to be read 'Hares Sprauka,' and that they are an anagram of Kaspar Hauser. This occurred in 1816, when Kaspar, being about four years of age, could not write Latin. No one in the secret could have hoped that the Royal infant and captive would be recognised under the name of Spraucio or even of Sprauka. Abject credulity, love of mystery, love of scandal, and political passions, produced the ludicrous mass of fables to which, as late as 1893, the Duchess of Cleveland thought it advisable to reply. In England it is quite safe to accuse a dead man of murder, or of what you please, as far as the Duchess understood the law of libel, so she had no legal remedy.VII _THE GOWRIE CONSPIRACY_
The singular events called 'The Gowrie Conspiracy,' or 'The Slaying of the Ruthvens,' fell out, on evidence which nobody disputes, in the following manner. On August 5, 1600, the King, James VI., was leaving the stables at the House of Falkland to hunt a buck, when the Master of Ruthven rode up and had an interview with the monarch. This occurred about seven o'clock in the morning. The Master was a youth of nineteen; he was residing with his brother, the Earl of Gowrie, aged twenty-two, at the family town house in Perth, some twelve or fourteen miles from Falkland. The interview being ended, the King followed the hounds, and the chase, 'long and sore,' ended in a kill, at about eleven o'clock, near Falkland. Thence the King and the Master, with some fifteen of the Royal retinue, including the Duke of Lennox and the Earl of Mar, rode, without any delay, to Perth. Others of the King's company followed: the whole number may have been, at most, twenty-five.
On their arrival at Perth it appeared that they had not been expected. The Earl had dined at noon, the Royal dinner was delayed till two o'clock, and after the scanty meal the King and the Master went upstairs alone, while the Earl of Gowrie took Lennox and others into his garden, bordering on the Tay, at the back of the house. While they loitered there eating cherries, a retainer of Gowrie, Thomas Cranstoun (brother of Sir John of that ilk), brought a report that the King had already mounted, and ridden off through the Inch of Perth. Gowrie called for horses, but Cranstoun told him that his horses were at Scone, across the Tay, two miles off. The gentlemen then went to the street door of the house, where the porter said that the King had _not_ ridden away. Gowrie gave him the lie, re-entered the house, went upstairs, and returning, assured Lennox that James had certainly departed. All this is proved on oath by Lennox, Mar, Lindores, and many other witnesses.
While the company stood in doubt, outside the gate, a turret window above them opened, and the King looked forth, much agitated, shouting 'Treason!' and crying for help to Mar. With Lennox and most of the others, Mar ran to the rescue up the main staircase of the house, where they were stopped by a locked door, which they could not break open. Gowrie had not gone with his guests to aid the King; he was standing in the street, asking, 'What is the matter? I know nothing;' when two of the King's household, Thomas and James Erskine, tried to seize him, the 'treason' being perpetrated under Gowrie's own roof. _His_ friends drove the Erskines off, and some of the Murrays of Tullibardine, who were attending a wedding in Perth, surrounded him. Gowrie retreated, drew a pair of 'twin swords,' and, accompanied by Cranstoun and others, made his way into the quadrangle of his house. At the foot of a small dark staircase they saw the body of a man lying--wounded or dead. Cranstoun now rushed up the dark stairs, followed by Gowrie, two Ruthvens, Hew Moncrieff, Patrick Eviot, and perhaps others. At the head of the narrow spiral stair they found, in a room called the Gallery Chamber, Sir Thomas Erskine, a lame Dr. Herries, a young gentleman of the Royal Household named John Ramsay, and Wilson, a servant, with drawn swords. A fight began; Cranstoun was wounded; he and his friends fled, leaving Gowrie, who had been run through the body by Ramsay. All this while the other door of the long Gallery Chamber was ringing under the hammer-strokes of Lennox and his company, and the town bell was summoning the citizens. Erskine and Ramsay now locked the door opening on the narrow stair, at which the retainers of Gowrie struck with axes. The King's party, by means of a hammer handed by their friends through a hole in the other door of the gallery, forced the lock, and admitted Lennox, Mar, and the rest of the King's retinue. They let James out of a small turret opening from the Gallery Chamber, and, after some dealings with the angry mob and the magistrates of Perth, they conveyed the King to Falkland after nightfall.
The whole results were the death of Gowrie and of his brother, the Master (his body it was that lay at the foot of the narrow staircase), and a few wounds to Ramsay, Dr. Herries, and some of Gowrie's retainers.
The death of the Master of Ruthven was explained thus:--When James cried 'Treason!' young Ramsay, from the stable door, had heard his voice, but not his words. He had sped into the quadrangle, charged up the narrow stairs, found a door behind which was the sound of a struggle, 'dang in' the door, and saw the King wrestling with the Master. _Behind them stood a man, the centre of the mystery, of whom he took no notice._ He drew his whinger, slashed the Master in the face and throat, and pushed him downstairs. Ramsay then called from the window to Sir Thomas Erskine, who, with Herries and Wilson, ran to his assistance, slew the wounded Master, and shut up James (who had no weapon) in the turret. Then came the struggle in which Gowrie died. No more was seen of the mysterious man in the turret, except by a townsman, who later withdrew his evidence.
Such was the whole affair, as witnessed by the King's men, the retainers of Gowrie, and some citizens of Perth. Not a vestige of plot or plan by Gowrie and his party was discoverable. His friends maintained that he had meant, on that day, to leave Perth for 'Lothian,' that is, for his castle at Dirleton, near North Berwick, whither he had sent most of his men and provisions. James had summoned the Master to meet him at Falkland, they said, and Gowrie had never expected the return of the Master with the King.
James's own version was given in a public letter of the night of the events, which we only know through the report of Nicholson, the English resident at Holyrood (August 6), and Nicholson only repeated what Elphinstone, the secretary, told him of the contents of the letter, written to the King's dictation at Falkland by David Moysie, a notary. At the end of August James printed and circulated a full narrative, practically identical with Nicholson's report of Elphinstone's report of the contents of the Falkland letter of August 5.
The King's narrative is universally accepted on all hands, till we come to the point where he converses with Alexander Ruthven, at Falkland, before the buck-hunt began. There was such an interview, lasting for about a quarter of an hour, but James alone knew its nature. He says that, after an unusually low obeisance, Ruthven told the following tale:--Walking alone, on the previous evening, in the fields near Perth, he had met 'a base-like fellow, unknown to him, with a cloak cast about his mouth,' a common precaution to avoid recognition. Asked who he was, and what his errand 'in so solitary a part, being far from all ways,' the fellow was taken aback. Ruthven seized him, and, under his arm, found 'a great wide pot, all full of coined gold in great pieces.' Ruthven keeping the secret to himself, took the man to Perth, and locked him in 'a privy derned house'--that is, a room. At 4 A.M. he himself left Perth to tell the King, urging him to 'take order' in the matter at once, as not even Lord Gowrie knew of it. When James said that it was no business of his, the gold not being treasure trove, Ruthven called him 'over scrupulous,' adding that his brother, Gowrie, 'and other great men,' might interfere. James then, suspecting that the gold might be foreign, brought in by Jesuits for the use of Catholic intriguers, asked what the coins and their bearer were like. Ruthven replied that the bearer seemed to be a 'Scots fellow,' hitherto unknown to him, and that the gold was apparently of foreign mintage. Hereon James felt sure that the gold was foreign and the bearer a disguised Scots priest. He therefore proposed to send back with Ruthven a retainer of his own with a warrant to Gowrie, then Provost of Perth, and the Bailies, to take over the man and the money. Ruthven replied that, if they did, the money would be ill reckoned, and begged the King to ride over at once, be 'the first seer,' and reward him 'at his own honourable discretion.'
The oddity of the tale and the strangeness of Ruthven's manner amazed James, who replied that he would give an answer when the hunt was over. Ruthven said the man might make a noise, and discover the whole affair, causing the treasure to be meddled with. He himself would be missed by Gowrie, whereas, if James came at once, Gowrie and the townsfolk would be 'at the sermon.' James made no answer, but followed the hounds. Still he brooded over the story, sent for Ruthven, and said that the hunt once ended he would accompany him to Perth.
_Here James adds that, though he himself knew not that any man was with Ruthven, he had two companions, one of whom, Andrew Henderson, he now despatched to Gowrie, bidding him prepare dinner for the King._ This is not part of James's direct evidence. He was _unknowing and unsuspecting that any man living had come_ with Ruthven.
Throughout the chase Ruthven was ever near the King, always urging him 'to hasten the end of the hunting.' The buck was slain close to the stables, and Ruthven would not allow James to wait for a second horse: that was sent after him. So the King did not even tarry to 'brittle' the buck, and merely told the Duke of Lennox, Mar, and others that he was riding to Perth to speak with Gowrie, and would return before evening. Some of the Court went to Falkland for fresh horses, other followed slowly with weary steeds. They followed 'undesired by him,' because a report rose that the King had some purpose to apprehend the oppressive Master of Oliphant. Ruthven implored James not to bring Lennox and Mar, but only three or four servants, to which the King answered 'half angrily.'
This odd conduct roused suspicion in James. He had been well acquainted with Ruthven, who was suing for the place of a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, or Cubicular. 'The farthest that the King's suspicion could reach to was, that it might be that the Earl, his brother, had handled him so hardly, that the young gentleman, being of a high spirit, had taken such displeasure as he was beside himself;' hence his curious, agitated, and moody behaviour. James, as they rode, consulted Lennox, whose first wife had been a sister of Gowrie. Lennox had never seen anything of mental unsettlement in young Ruthven, but James bade the Duke 'accompany him into that house' (room), where the gold and the bearer of it lay. Lennox thought the story of the gold 'unlikely.' Ruthven seeing them in talk, urged that James should be secret, and bring nobody with him to the first inspection of the treasure. The King thus rode forward 'between trust and distrust.' About two miles from Perth, Ruthven sent on his other companion, Andrew Ruthven, to Gowrie. When within a mile of Perth, Ruthven himself rode forward in advance. Gowrie was at dinner, having taken no notice of the two earlier messengers.
Gowrie, with fifty or sixty men, met James 'at the end of the Inch;' the Royal retinue was then of fifteen persons, with swords alone, and no daggers or 'whingers.' Dinner did not appear till an hour had gone by (say 2 P.M.). James whispered to Ruthven that he had better see the treasure at once: Ruthven bade him wait, and not arouse Gowrie's suspicions by whispering ('rounding'). James therefore directed his conversation to Gowrie, getting from him 'but half words and imperfect sentences.' When dinner came Gowrie stood pensively by the King's table, often whispering to the servants, 'and oft-times went in and out,' as he also did before dinner. The suite stood about, as was custom, till James had nearly dined, when Gowrie took them to their dinner, separately in the hall; 'he sat not down with them as the common manner is,' but again stood silent beside the King, who bantered him 'in a homely manner.'
James having sat long enough, Ruthven whispered that he wished to be rid of his brother, so James sent Gowrie into the hall to offer a kind of grace-cup to the suite, as was usual--this by Ruthven's desire. James then rose to follow Ruthven, asking him to bring Sir Thomas Erskine with him. Ruthven requested James to 'command publicly' that none should follow at once, promising that 'he should make any one or two follow that he pleased to call for.'
The King then, expecting attendants who never came because Ruthven never summoned them, walked alone with Ruthven across the end of the hall, up a staircase, and through three or four chambers, Ruthven 'ever locking behind him every door as he passed.' We do not know whether James observed the locking of the doors, or inferred it from the later discovery that one door was locked. Then Ruthven showed 'a more smiling countenance than he had all the day before, ever saying that he had him sure and safe enough kept.' At last they reached 'a little study' (a turret chamber), where James found, 'not a bondman, but a freeman, with a dagger at his girdle,' and 'a very abased countenance.' Ruthven locked the turret door, put his hat on his head, drew the man's dagger, pointed it at the King's breast, 'avowing now that the King behoved to be in his will and used as he list,' threatening murder if James cried out, or opened the window. He also reminded the King of the death of the late Gowrie, his father (executed for treason in 1584). Meanwhile the other man stood 'trembling and quaking.' James made a long harangue on many points, promising pardon and silence if Ruthven at once let him go. Ruthven then uncovered, and promised that James's life should be safe if he kept quiet; the rest Gowrie would explain. Then, bidding the other man ward the King, he went out, locking the door behind him. He had first made James swear not to open the window. In his brief absence James learned from the armed man that he had but recently been locked up in the turret, he knew not why. James bade him open the window 'on his right hand.' The man did as he was commanded.
Here the King's narrative reverts to matter not within his own observation (the events which occurred downstairs during his own absence). His narrative is amply confirmed, on oath, by many nobles and gentlemen. He says (here we repeat what we began by stating) that, during his own absence, as his train was rising from dinner, one of the Earl's servants, Cranstoun, came hastily in, assuring the Earl that the King had got to horse, and 'was away through the Inch' (isle) of Perth. The Earl reported this to the nobles, and all rushed to the gate. The porter assured them that the King had not departed. Gowrie gave the porter the lie, but, turning to Lennox and Mar, said that he would get sure information. He then ran back across the court, and upstairs, and returned, running, with the news that 'the King was gone, long since, by the back gate, and, unless they hasted, would not be overtaken.'
The nobles, going towards the stables for their horses, necessarily passed under the window of the turret on the first floor where James was imprisoned. Ruthven by this time had returned thither, 'casting his hands abroad in a desperate manner as a man lost.' Then, saying that there was no help for it, the King must die, he tried to bind the royal hands with his garter. In the struggle James drew Ruthven towards the window, already open. At this nick of time, when the King's friends were standing in the street below, Gowrie with them, James, 'holding out the right side of his head and his right elbow,' shouted for help. Gowrie stood 'ever asking what it meant,' but Lennox, Mar, and others, as we saw, instantly ran in, and up the chief staircase to find the King. Meanwhile James, in his agony, pushed Ruthven out of the turret, 'the said Mr. Alexander's head under his arms, and himself on his knees,' towards the chamber door which opened on the dark staircase. James was trying to get hold of Ruthven's sword and draw it, 'the other fellow doing nothing but standing behind the King's back and trembling all the time.' At this moment a young gentleman of the Royal Household, John Ramsay, entered from the dark _back_ staircase, and struck Ruthven with his dagger. 'The other fellow' withdrew. James then pushed Ruthven down the back stairs, where he was slain by Sir Thomas Erskine and Dr. Herries, who were coming up by that way. The rest, with the death of Gowrie, followed. A tumult of the townsmen, lasting for two or three hours, delayed the return of James to Falkland.Such is the King's published narrative. It tallies closely with the letter written by Nicholson, the English agent, to Cecil, on August 6.
James had thus his version, from which he never varied, ready on the evening of the fatal day, August 5. From his narrative only one inference can be drawn. Gowrie and his brother had tried to lure James, almost unattended, to their house. In the turret they had an armed man, who would assist the Master to seize the King. Events frustrated the conspiracy; James was well attended; the armed man turned coward, and Gowrie proclaimed the King's departure falsely to make his suite follow back to Falkland, and so leave the King in the hands of his captors. The plot, once arranged, could not be abandoned, because the plotters had no prisoner with a pot of gold to produce, so their intended treason would have been manifest.
How far is James's tale corroborated? At the posthumous trial of the Ruthvens in November, witnesses like Lennox swore to his quarter of an hour of talk with Ruthven at Falkland before the hunt. The _early_ arrival of Andrew Henderson at Gowrie's house, about half-past ten, is proved by two gentlemen named Hay, and one named Moncrieff, who were then with Gowrie on business to which he at once refused to attend further, in the case of the Hays. Henderson's presence with Ruthven at Falkland is also confirmed by a manuscript vindication of the Ruthvens issued at the time. None of the King's party saw him, and their refusal to swear that they did see him shows their honesty, the point being essential. Thus the circumstance that Gowrie ordered no dinner for the King, despite Henderson's early arrival with news of his coming, shows that Gowrie meant to affect being taken by surprise. Again, the flight of Henderson on the very night of August 5 proves that he was implicated: why else should a man fly who had not been seen by anyone (except a Perth witness who withdrew his evidence) in connection with the fatal events? No other man fled, except some of Gowrie's retainers who took open part in the fighting.
James's opinion that Ruthven was deranged, in consequence of harsh treatment by his brother, Gowrie, is explained by a dispute between the brothers about the possession of the church lands of Scone, which Gowrie held, and Ruthven desired, the King siding with Ruthven. This is quite casually mentioned in a contemporary manuscript. Again, Lennox, on oath, averred that, as they rode to Perth, James told him the story of the lure, the pot of gold. Lennox was a man of honour, and he had married Gowrie's sister.[Footnote 13: 'The True Discourse of the Late Treason,' _State Papers_, Scotland, Elizabeth, vol. lvi. No. 50.]
Ruthven, on his return to Gowrie's house, told a retainer, Craigingelt, that he 'had been on an errand not far off,' and accounted for the King's arrival by saying that he was 'brought' by the royal saddler to exact payment of a debt to the man. Now James had just given Gowrie a year's immunity from pursuit of creditors, and there is no trace of the saddler's presence. Clearly Ruthven lied to Craigingelt; he had been at Falkland, _not_ 'on an errand not far off.'
That Cranstoun, Gowrie's man, brought the news, or rumour, of the King's departure was admitted by himself. That Gowrie went into the house to verify the fact; insisted that it was true; gave the lie to the porter, who denied it; and tried to make the King's party take horse and follow, was proved by Lennox, Lindores, Ray (a magistrate of Perth), the porter himself, and others, on oath.That the King was locked in by a door which could not be burst open is matter of undisputed certainty.
All these are facts that 'winna ding, and downa be disputed.' They _were_ disputed, however, when Henderson, Gowrie's factor, or steward, and a town councillor of Perth, came out of hiding between August 11 and August 20, told his story and confessed to having been the man in the turret. He said that on the night of August 4 Gowrie bade him ride very early next day with the Master of Ruthven to Falkland, and return with any message that Ruthven might send. He did return--when the Hays and Moncrieff saw him--with news that the King was coming. An hour later Gowrie bade him put on a shirt of mail and plate sleeves, as he meant to arrest a Highlander in the Shoe-gait. Later, the King arriving, Henderson was sent to Ruthven, in the gallery, and told to do whatever he was bidden. Ruthven then locked him up in the turret, giving no explanation. Presently the King was brought into the turret, and Henderson pretends that, to a faint extent, he hampered the violence of Ruthven. During the struggle between Ramsay and Ruthven he slunk downstairs, went home, and fled that night.
It was denied that Henderson had been at Falkland at all. Nobody swore to his presence there, yet it is admitted by the contemporary apologist, who accuses the King of having organised the whole conspiracy against the Ruthvens. It was said that nobody saw Henderson slink away out of the narrow stair, though the quadrangle was crowded. One Robertson, however, a notary of Perth, gave evidence (September 23) that he did see Henderson creep out of the narrow staircase and step over the Master's dead body; Robertson spoke to him, but he made no reply. If Robertson perjured himself on September 23, he withdrew his evidence, or rather, he omitted it, at the trial in November. His life would not have been worth living in Perth--where the people were partisans of the Ruthvens--if he had adhered to his first statement. In the absence of other testimony many fables were circulated as to Henderson's absence from Perth all through the day, and, on the other hand, as to his presence, in the kitchen, during the crisis. He was last seen, for certain, in the house just before the King's dinner, and then, by his account, was locked up in the turret by the Master. Probably Robertson's first story was true. Other witnesses, to shield their neighbours, denied having seen retainers of Gowrie's who most assuredly were present at the brawls in the quadrangle. It was never explained why Henderson fled at once if he was not the man in the turret. I therefore conceive that, as he certainly was at Falkland, and certainly returned early, his story is true in the main.
Given all this, only one of two theories is possible. The affair was not accidental; James did not fall into a panic and bellow 'Treason!' out of the window, merely because he found himself alone in a turret--and why in a secluded turret?--with the Master. To that theory the locked door of the gallery is a conclusive reply. Somebody locked it for some reason. Therefore either the Ruthvens plotted against the King, or the King plotted against the Ruthvens. Both parties had good grounds for hatred, as we shall show--that is, Gowrie and James had motives for quarrel; but with the young Master, whose cause, as regards the lands of Scone, the King espoused, he had no reason for anger. If James was guilty, how did he manage his intrigue?
With motives for hating Gowrie, let us say, the King lays his plot. He chooses for it a day when he knows that the Murrays of Tullibardine will be in Perth at the wedding of one of the clan. They will defend the King from the townsfolk, clients of their Provost, Gowrie. James next invites Ruthven to Falkland (this was asserted by Ruthven's defenders): he arrives at the strangely early hour of 6.30 A.M. James has already invented the story of the pot of gold, to be confided to Lennox, as proof that Ruthven is bringing him to Perth--that he has not invited Ruthven.
Next, by secretly spreading a rumour that he means to apprehend the Master of Oliphant, James secures a large train of retainers, let us say twenty-five men, without firearms, while he escapes the suspicion that would be aroused if he ordered them to accompany him. James has determined to sacrifice Ruthven (with whom he had no quarrel whatever), merely as bait to draw Gowrie into a trap.
Having put Lennox off with a false reason for his accompanying Ruthven alone in the house of Gowrie, James privately arranges that Ruthven shall quietly summon him, or Erskine, to follow upstairs, meaning to goad Ruthven into a treasonable attitude just as they appear on the scene. He calculates that Lennox, Erskine, or both, will then stab Ruthven without asking questions, and that Gowrie will rush up, to avenge his brother, and be slain.
But here his Majesty's deeply considered plot, on a superficial view, breaks down, since Ruthven (for reasons best known to himself) summons neither Lennox nor Erskine. James, observing this circumstance, rapidly and cleverly remodels his plot, and does not begin to provoke the brawl till, being, Heaven knows why, in the turret, he hears his train talking outside in the street. He had shrewdly provided for their presence there by ordering a servant of his own to spread the false rumour of his departure, which Cranstoun innocently brought. Why did the King do this, as his original idea involved no need of such a stratagem? He had also, somehow, persuaded Gowrie to credit the rumour, in the face of the porter's denial of its possibility, and to persist in it, after making no very serious attempt to ascertain its truth. To succeed in making Gowrie do this, in place of thoroughly searching the house, is certainly the King's most striking and inexplicable success.
The King has thus two strings to his nefarious bow. The first was that Ruthven, by his orders, would bring Erskine and Lennox, and, just as they appeared, James would goad Ruthven into a treasonable attitude, whereon Lennox and Erskine would dirk him. The second plan, if this failed (as it did, because Ruthven did not obey orders), was to deceive Gowrie into bringing the retinue under the turret window, so that the King could open the window and cry 'Treason!' as soon as he heard their voices and footsteps below. This plan succeeds. James yells out of the window. Not wanting many spectators, he has, somehow, locked the door leading into the gallery, while giving Ramsay a hint to wait outside of the house, within hearing, and to come up by the back staircase, which was built in a conspicuous tower.
The rest is easy. Gowrie may bring up as many men as he pleases, but Ramsay has had orders to horrify him by saying that the King is slain (this was alleged), and then to run him through as he gives ground, or drops his points; this after a decent form of resistance, in which three of the King's four men are wounded.
'Master of the human heart,' like Lord Bateman, James knows that Ruthven will not merely leave him, when goaded by insult, and that Gowrie, hearing of his brother's death, will not simply stand in the street and summon the citizens.
To secure a witness to the truth of his false version of the matter James must have begun by artfully bribing Henderson, Gowrie's steward, either simply to run away, and then come in later with corroboration, or actually to be present in the turret, and then escape. Or perhaps the King told his man-in-the-turret tale merely 'in the air;' and then Henderson, having run away in causeless panic, later 'sees money in it,' and appears, with a string of falsehoods. 'Chance loves Art,' says Aristotle, and chance might well befriend an artist so capable and conscientious as his Majesty. To be sure Mr. Hill Burton says 'the theory that the whole was a plot of the Court to ruin the powerful House of Gowrie must at once, after a calm weighing of the evidence, be dismissed as beyond the range of sane conclusions. Those who formed it had to put one of the very last men in the world to accept of such a destiny into the position of an unarmed man who, without any preparation, was to render himself into the hands of his armed adversaries, and cause a succession of surprises and acts of violence, which, by his own courage and dexterity, he would rule to a determined and preconcerted plan.'[Footnote 14: Burton, _History of Scotland_, v. 336.]
If there was a royal plot, _without a plan_, then James merely intended to raise a brawl and 'go it blind.' This, however, is almost beyond the King's habitual and romantic recklessness. We must prefer the theory of a subtly concerted and ably conducted plan, constructed with alternatives, so that, if one string breaks, another will hold fast. That plan, to the best of my poor powers, I have explained. To drop the figure of irony, all this hypothesis is starkly
incredible. James was not a recklessly adventurous character to go weaponless with Ruthven, who wore a sword, and provoke him into insolence. If he had been ever so brave, the plot is of a complexity quite impossible; no sane man, still less a timid man, could conceive and execute a plot at the mercy of countless circumstances, not to be foreseen. Suppose the Master slain, and Gowrie a free man in the street. He had only to sound the tocsin, summon his devoted townsmen, surround the house, and ask respectfully for explanations.
Take, on the other hand, the theory of Gowrie's guilt. Here the motives for evil will on either side may be briefly stated. Since the murder of Riccio (1566) the Ruthvens had been the foes of the Crown. Gowrie's grandfather and father were leaders in the attack on Mary and Riccio; Gowrie's father insulted Queen Mary, while caged in Loch Leven Castle, by amorous advances--so she declares. In 1582 Gowrie's father captured James and held him in degrading captivity. He escaped, and was reconciled to his gaoler, who, in 1584, again conspired, and was executed, while the Ruthven lands were forfeited. By a new revolution (1585-1586) the Ruthvens were reinstated. In July 1593 Gowrie's mother, by an artful ambuscade, enabled the Earl of Bothwell again to kidnap the King. In 1594 our Gowrie, then a lad, joined Bothwell in open rebellion. He was pardoned, and in August 1594 went abroad, travelled as far as Rome, studied at Padua, and, summoned by the party of the Kirk, came to England in March 1600. Here he was petted by Elizabeth, then on almost warlike terms with James. For thirty years every treason of the Ruthvens had been backed by Elizabeth; and Cecil, ceaselessly and continuously, had abetted many attempts to kidnap James. These plots were rife as late as April 1600. The object always was to secure the dominance of the Kirk over the King, and Gowrie, as the natural noble leader of the Kirk, was recalled to Scotland, in 1600, by the Rev. Mr. Bruce, the chief of the political preachers, whom James had mastered in 1596-97. Gowrie, arriving, instantly headed the Opposition, and, on June 21, 1600, successfully resisted the King's request for supplies, rendered necessary by his hostile relations with England. Gowrie then left the Court, and about July 20 went to hunt in Atholl; his mother (who had once already lured James into a snare) residing at his Perth house. On August 1 Gowrie warned his mother of his return, and she went to their strong castle of Dirleton, near North Berwick and the sea, while Gowrie came to his Perth house on August 3, it being understood that he was to ride to Dirleton on August 5. Thither he had sent on most of his men and provisions. On August 5, we know he went on a longer journey.
We have shown that a plot by James is incredible. There is no evidence to prove a plot by Gowrie, beyond the whole nature of the events, and the strange conduct of himself and his brother. But, if plot he did, he merely carried out, in the interests of his English friends, the traditional policy of his grandfather, his father, his mother, and his ally, Bothwell, at this time an exile in Spain, maturing a conspiracy in which he claimed Gowrie as one of his confederates. While the King was a free man, Gowrie could not hope to raise the discontented Barons, and emancipate the preachers--yet more bitterly
discontented--who had summoned him home. Let the King vanish, and the coast was clear; the Kirk's party, the English party, would triumph.
The inference is that the King was to be made to disappear, and that Gowrie undertook to do it. Two witnesses--Mr. Cowper, minister of Perth, and Mr. Rhynd, Gowrie's old tutor--averred that he was wont to speak of the need of extreme secrecy 'in the execution of a high and dangerous purpose.' Such a purpose as the trapping of the King by a secret and sudden onfall was the mere commonplace of Scottish politics. Cecil's papers, at this period and later, are full of such schemes, submitted by Scottish adventurers. That men so very young as the two Ruthvens should plan such a device, romantic and perilous, is no matter for marvel.
The plot itself must be judged by its original idea, namely, to lure James to Perth, with only two or three servants, at an early hour in the day. Matters fell out otherwise; but, had the King entered Gowrie House early, and scantly attended, he might have been conveyed across Fife, disguised, in the train of Gowrie as he went to Dirleton. Thence he might be conveyed by sea to Fastcastle, the impregnable eyrie of Gowrie's and Bothwell's old ally, the reckless intriguer, Logan of Restalrig. The famous letters which Scott, Tytler, and Hill Burton regarded as proof of that plot, I have shown, by comparison of handwritings, to be all forged; but one of them, claimed by the forger as his model for the rest, is, I think, a feigned copy of a genuine original. In that letter (of Logan to Gowrie) he is made to speak of their scheme as analogous to one contrived against 'a nobleman of Padua,' where Gowrie had studied. This remark, in a postscript, can hardly have been invented by the forger, Sprot, a low country attorney, a creature of Logan's. All the other letters are mere variations on the tune set by this piece.
A plot of this kind is, at least, not impossible, like the quite incredible conspiracy attributed to James. The scheme was only one of scores of the same sort, constantly devised at that time. The thing next to impossible is that Henderson was left, as he declared, in the turret, by Ruthven, without being tutored in his _role_. The King's party did not believe that Henderson here told truth; he had accepted the _role_, they said, but turned coward. This is the more likely as, in December 1600, a gentleman named Robert Oliphant, a retainer of Gowrie, fled from Edinburgh, where certain revelations blabbed by him had come into publicity. He had said that, in Paris, early in 1600, Gowrie moved him to take the part of the armed man in the turret; that he had 'with good reason dissuaded him; that the Earl thereon left him and dealt with Henderson in that matter; that Henderson undertook it and yet fainted'--that is, turned craven. Though nine years later, in England, the Privy Council acquitted Oliphant of concealing treason, had he not escaped from Edinburgh in December 1600 the whole case might have been made clear, for witnesses were then at hand.
We conclude that, as there certainly was a Ruthven plot, as the King could not possibly have invented and carried out the affair, and that as Gowrie, the leader of the Kirk party, was young, romantic, and 'Italianate,' he did plan a device of the regular and usual kind, but was frustrated, and fell into the pit which he had digged. But the Presbyterians would never believe that the young leader of the Kirk party attempted what the leaders of the godly had often done, and far more frequently had conspired to do, with the full approval of Cecil and Elizabeth. The plot was an orthodox plot, but, to this day, historians of Presbyterian and Liberal tendencies prefer to believe that the King was the conspirator. The dead Ruthvens were long lamented, and even in the nineteenth century the mothers, in Perthshire, sang to their babes, 'Sleep ye, sleep ye, my bonny Earl o' Gowrie.'
[Footnote 15: The story, with many new documents, is discussed at quite full length in the author's _King James and the Gowrie Mystery_, Longmans, 1902.]
A lady has even written to inform me that she is the descendant of the younger Ruthven, who escaped after being stabbed by Ramsay and Erskine, fled to England, married, and had a family. I in vain replied that young Ruthven's body was embalmed, exhibited in the Scottish Parliament, and hacked to pieces, which were set on spikes in public places, and that after these sufferings he was unlikely to marry. The lady was not to be shaken in her belief.
In _The Athenaeum_ for August 28, 1902, Mr. Edmund Gosse recognises Ramsay the Ruthven slayer as author of a Century of English Sonnets (1619), of which Lord Cobham possesses a copy apparently unique. The book was published at Paris, by Rene Giffart. The Scottish name, Gifford, was at that time spelled 'Giffart,' so the publisher was of Scottish descent.VIII _THE STRANGE CASE OF DANIEL DUNGLAS HOME_
The case of Daniel Dunglas Home is said, in the _Dictionary of National Biography_, to present a curious and unsolved problem. It really presents, I think, two problems equally unsolved, one scientific, and the other social. How did Mr. Home, the son of a Scottish mother in the lower middle class at highest, educated (as far as he was educated at all) in a village of Connecticut, attain his social position? I do not ask why he was 'taken up' by members of noble English families: 'the caresses of the great' may be lavished on athletes, and actors, and musicians, and Home's remarkable performances were quite enough to make him welcome in country houses. Moreover, he played the piano, the accordion, and other musical instruments. For his mysterious 'gift' he might be invited to puzzle and amuse royal people (not in England), and continental emperors, and kings. But he did much more than what Houdin or Alexis, a conjuror and a clairvoyant, could do. He successively married, with the permission and good will of the Czar, two Russian ladies of noble birth, a feat inexplicable when we think of the rules of the continental _noblesse_. A duc, or a prince, or a marquis may marry the daughter of an American citizen who has made a fortune in lard. But the daughters of the Russian _noblesse_ do not marry poor American citizens with the good will of the Czar. By his marriages Home far outwent such famous charlatans as Cagliostro, Mesmer, and the mysterious Saint Germain the deathless. Cagliostro and Saint Germain both came on the world with an appearance of great wealth and display. The source of the opulence of Saint Germain is as obscure as was the source of the sudden enrichment of Beau Wilson, whom Law, the financier, killed in a duel. Cagliostro, like Law, may have acquired his diamonds by gambling or swindling. But neither these two men nor Mesmer, though much in the society of princes, could have hoped, openly and with the approval of Louis XV. or Louis XVI., to wed a noble lady. Yet Home did so twice, though he had no wealth at all.
Cagliostro was a low-born Neapolitan ruffian. But he had a presence! In the Memoirs of Madame d'Oberkirch she tells us how much she disliked and distrusted Cagliostro, always avoiding him, and warning Cardinal Rohan against him--in vain. But she admits that the man dominated her, or would have dominated her, by something inexplicable in his eyes, his bearing, and his unaccountable knowledge, as when he publicly announced, on a certain day, the death of the great Empress, Maria Theresa, of which the news did not arrive till five days later. Now Home had none of this dominating personality. He has been described to me, by a lady who knew him in his later years, when he had ceased to work drawing-room miracles in society, as a gentle, kindly, quiet person, with no obvious fault, unless a harmless and childlike vanity be a fault. Thus he struck an observer not of his intimate circle. He liked to give readings and recitations, and he played the piano with a good deal of feeling. He was a fair linguist, he had been a Catholic, he was of the middle order of intelligence, he had no 'mission' except to prove that disembodied spirits exist, if that were a legitimate inference from the marvels which attended him.
Mr. Robert Bell in _The Cornhill Magazine_, Vol. II., 1860, described Home's miracles in an article called 'Stranger than Fiction.' His account of the man's personality is exactly like what I have already given. Home was 'a very mild specimen of familiar humanity.' His health was bad. 'The expression of his face in repose' (he was only twenty-seven) 'is that of physical suffering.... There is more kindliness and gentleness than vigour in the character of his features.... He is yet so young that the playfulness of boyhood has not passed away, and he never seems so thoroughly at ease with himself and others as when he is enjoying some light and temperate amusement.'
Thus there was nothing in Home to dominate, or even to excite personal curiosity. He and his more intimate friends, not marchionesses but middle-class people, corresponded in a style of rather distasteful effusiveness. He was a pleasant young man in a house, not a Don Juan. I have never heard a whisper about light loves--unless Mr. Hamilton Aide, to be quoted later, reports such a whisper--not a word against his private character, except that he allowed a terribly vulgar rich woman to adopt him, and give him a very large sum of money, later withdrawn. We shall see that she probably had mixed motives both for giving and for withdrawing the gift, but it was asserted, though on evidence far from sound, that 'the spirits' had rapped out a command to give Home some thirty thousand pounds. Spirits ought not to do these things, and, certainly, it would have been wiser in Home to refuse the widow's gold even if they did. Beyond this one affair, and an alleged case of imposture at a _seance_, Home's private character raised no scandals that have survived into our knowledge. It is a very strange thing, as we shall see, that the origin of Home's miracles in broad daylight or artificial light, could never be traced to fraud, or, indeed, to any known cause; while the one case in which imposture is alleged on first-hand evidence occurred under conditions of light so bad as to make detection as difficult as belief in such
circumstances, ought to have been impossible. It is not easy to feel sure that we have certainly detected a fraud in a dim light; but it is absurd to believe in a miracle, when the conditions of light are such as to make detection difficult.
Given this mild young musical man, the problems of how he achieved his social successes, and how he managed to escape exposure, if he did his miracles by conjuring, are almost equally perplexing. The second puzzle is perhaps the less hard of the two, for Home did not make money as a medium (though he took money's worth), and in private society few seized and held the mystic hands that moved about, or when they seized they could not hold them. The hands melted away, so people said.
A sketch of Home's life must now be given. He was born in 1833, at Currie, a village near Edinburgh. In his later years he sent to his second wife a photograph of the street of cottages beside the burn, in one of which he first saw the light. His father had a right to bear the arms of the Earls of Home, with a _brisure_, being the natural son of Alexander, tenth Earl of Home. The Medium's ancestor had fought, or, according to other accounts, had shirked fighting, at Flodden Field, as is popularly known from the ballad _The Sutors of Selkirk_. The maiden name of Home's mother was Macneil. He was adopted by an aunt, who, about 1842, carried the wondrous child to America. He had, since he was four years old, given examples of second sight; it was in the family. Home's mother, who died in 1850, was
second-sighted, as were her great-uncle, an Urquhart, and her uncle, a Mackenzie. So far there was nothing unusual or alarming in Home's case, at least to any intelligent Highlander. Not till 1850, after his mother's death, did Home begin to hear 'loud blows on the head of my bed, as if struck by a hammer.' The Wesley family, in 1716-17, had been quite familiar with this phenomenon, and with other rappings, and movements of objects untouched. In fact all these things are of world-wide diffusion, and I know no part of the world, savage or civilised, where such events do not happen, according to the evidence.
[Footnote 16: I follow _Incidents in My Life_, Series i. ii., 1864, 1872. _The Gift of Daniel Home_, by Madame Douglas Home and other authorities.]
[Footnote 17: Home mentions this fact in a note, correcting an error of Sir David Brewster's, _Incidents_, ii. 48, Note 1. The Earl of Home about 1856 asked questions on the subject, and Home 'stated what my connection with the family was.' Dunglas is the second title in the family.]
In no instance, as far as I am informed, did anything extraordinary occur in connection with Home which cannot be paralleled in the accounts of Egyptian mediums in Iamblichus.
[Footnote 18: The curious reader may consult my _Cock Lane and Common Sense_, and _The Making of Religion_, for examples of savage, mediaeval, ancient Egyptian, and European cases.]
In 1850 America was interested in 'The Rochester Knockings,' and the case of the Fox girls, a replica of the old Cock Lane case which amused Dr. Johnson and Horace Walpole. The Fox girls became professional mediums, and, long afterwards, confessed that they were impostors. They were so false that their confession is of no value as evidence, but certainly they were humbugs. The air was full of talk about them, and other people like them, when Home, aged seventeen, was so constantly attended by noises of rappings that his aunt threw a chair at him, summoned three preachers, an Independent, a Baptist, and a Wesleyan (Home was then a Wesleyan), and plunged into conflict with the devil. The furniture now began to move about, untouched by man, and Home's aunt turned him out of the house. Home went to a friend in another little town, people crowded to witness the phenomena, and the press blazoned the matter abroad. Henceforth, Home was a wonder worker; but once, for a whole year--February 1856 to February 1857--'the power' entirely deserted him, and afterwards, for shorter periods.
In 1852 he was examined by the celebrated American poet, Bryant, by a professor of Harvard, and others, who reported the usual physical phenomena, and emphatically declared that 'we know we were not imposed upon or deceived.' 'Spirits' spoke through the voice of the entranced Home, or rapped out messages, usually gushing, and Home floated in the air, at the house of Mr. Ward Cheney, at South Manchester, Connecticut. This phenomenon is constantly reported in the Bible, in the Lives of the Saints by the Bollandists, in the experiences of the early Irvingites, in witch trials, in Iamblichus, and in savage and European folklore. Lord Elcho, who was out with Prince Charles in the Forty-Five, writes in his unpublished Memoirs that, being at Rome about 1767, he went to hear the evidence in the process of canonising a saint, recently dead, and heard witnesses swear that they had seen the saint, while alive, floating about in the air, like Home. St. Theresa was notorious for this accomplishment. Home's first feat of this kind occurred 'in a darkened room,' a very dark room indeed, as the evidence shows. It had been darkened on purpose to try an experiment in seeing 'N rays,' which had been recently investigated by Reichenbach. Science has brought them recently back into notice. The evidence for the fact, in this case, was that people felt Home's feet in mid air. 'I have been lifted in the light of day only once, and that was in America;' also, in the light of four gas lamps 'in a room in Sloane Street.'
After attracting a good deal of notice in New York, Home, on April 9, 1855, turned up at Cox's Hotel, Jermyn Street, where Mr. Cox gave him hospitality as a _non_-'paying guest.' Now occurred the affair of Sir David Brewster and Lord Brougham. Both were capable of hallucinations. Lord Brougham published an account of a common death-bed wraith, which he saw once while in a bath (the vision coincided with the death of the owner of the wraith), and Sir David's daughter tells how that philosopher saw that of the Rev. Mr. Lyon, in St. Leonard's College, St. Andrews, a wraith whose owner was in perfect health. Sir David sent letters, forming a journal, to his family, and, in June (no day given) 1855, described his visit to Home. He says that he, Lord Brougham, Mr. Cox, and Home sat down 'at a moderately sized table, _the structure of which we were invited to examine_. In a short time the table shuddered and a tremulous motion ran up our arms.... The table actually rose from the ground, when no hand was upon it. A larger table was produced, and exhibited similar movements. An accordion was held in Lord Brougham's hand, and gave out a single note.... A small hand-bell was then laid with its mouth on the carpet, and after lying for some time, it actually rang when nothing could have touched it. The bell was then placed upon the other side, still upon the carpet, and it came over to me, and placed itself in my hand. It did the same to Lord Brougham. These were the principal
experiments: we could give no explanation of them, and could not conjecture how they could be produced by any kind of mechanism.... We do not believe that it was the work of spirits.'
So Sir David wrote in a private letter of June 1855, just after the events. But the affair came to be talked about, and, on September 29, 1855, Sir David wrote to _The Morning Advertiser_. He had seen, he said, 'several mechanical effects which I was unable to explain.... But I saw enough to convince myself that they could all be produced by human feet and hands,' though he also, in June, 'could not conjecture how they could be produced by any kind of mechanism.' Later, October 9, Sir David again wrote to the newspaper. This time he said that he might have discovered the fraud, had he 'been permitted to take a peep beneath the drapery of the table.' But in June he said that he 'was invited to examine the structure of the table.' He denied that 'a large table was moved about in a most extraordinary way.' In June he had asserted that this occurred. He declared that the bell did not ring. In June he averred that it rang 'when nothing could have touched it.' In October he suggested that machinery attached to 'the lower extremities of Mr. Home's body' could produce the effects: in June 'we could not conjecture how they could be produced by any kind of mechanism.' On Sir David's death, his daughter and biographer, Mrs. Gordon, published (1869) his letter of June 1855. Home then scored rather freely, as the man of science had denied publicly, in October 1855, what he had privately written to his family in June 1855, when the events were fresh in his memory. This was not the only case in which 'a scientist of European reputation did not increase his reputation' for common veracity in his attempts to put down Home.
The adventures of Home in the Courts of Europe, his desertion of the errors of Wesleyan Methodism for those of the Church of Rome, his handsome entertainment by diamond-giving emperors, his expulsion from Rome as a sorcerer, and so forth, cannot be dealt with here for lack of space. We come to the great Home-Browning problem.
In 1855, Home met Mr. and Mrs. Browning at the house of a Mr. Rymer, at Ealing, the first of only two meetings. On this occasion, says Home, a wreath of clematis rose from the table and floated towards Mrs. Browning, behind whom her husband went and stood. The wreath settled on the lady's head, not on that of Mr. Browning, who, Home thought, was jealous of the favour. This is manifestly absurd. Soon after, all but Mr. Rymer were invited to leave the room. Two days later, Mr. Browning asked to be allowed to bring a friend for another _seance_, but the arrangements of the Rymers, with whom Home was staying, made this impossible. Later, Home, with Mrs. Rymer, called on the Brownings in town, and Mr. Browning declined to notice Home; there was a scene, and Mrs. Browning (who was later a three-quarters believer in 'spirits') was distressed. In 1864, after Mrs. Browning's death, Mr. Browning published _Mr. Sludge, the Medium_, which had the air of a personal attack on Home as a detected and confessing American impostor. Such is Home's account. It was published in 1872, and was open to contradiction. I am not aware that Mr. Browning took any public notice of it.[Footnote 19: _Incidents_, ii. 105.]
In July 1889 the late Mr. F.W.H. Myers and Professor W.F. Barrett published, in the _Journal of the Society for Psychical Research_, p. 102, the following statement: 'We have found no allegations of _fraud_' (in Home) 'on which we should be justified in laying much stress. Mr. Robert Browning has told to one of us' (Mr. Myers) 'the circumstances which mainly led to that opinion of Home which was expressed in _Mr. Sludge, the Medium_.' It appears that a lady (since dead) repeated to Mr. Browning a statement made to her by a lady and gentleman (since dead) as to their finding Home in the act of experimenting with phosphorus on the production of 'spirit lights,' 'which (so far as Mr. Browning remembers) were to be rubbed round the walls of the room, near the ceiling, so as to appear when the room was darkened. This piece of evidence powerfully impressed Mr. Browning; but it comes to us at third hand, without written record, and at a distance of nearly forty years.'Clearly this story is not evidence against Home.
But, several years ago, an eminent writer, whom I need not name, published in a newspaper another version. Mr. Browning had told him, he said, that, sitting with Home and Mrs. Browning (apparently alone, these three) in a darkened room, he saw a white object rise above the table. This Home represented as the phantasm of a child of Mr. and Mrs. Browning, which died in infancy. Mr. Browning seized the phantasm, which was Home's naked foot.
But it must be remembered that (1) Mr. and Mrs. Browning had no child which died in infancy; and (2) Mrs. Browning's belief survived the shock. On December 5, 1902, in the _Times Literary Supplement_, a letter by Mr. R. Barrett Browning appeared. He says: 'Mr. Hume, who subsequently changed his name to Home' ('Home' is pronounced 'Hume' in Scotland), 'was detected in a "vulgar fraud," for I have heard my father repeatedly describe how he caught hold of his foot _under_ the table.' In the other story the foot was _above_ the table; in the new version no infant phantasm occurs. Moreover, to catch a man's foot under a table in itself proves nothing. What was the foot doing, and why did Mr. Browning not tell this, but quite a different story, to Mr. Myers? We 'get no forrarder.'
On November 28, 1902, Mr. Merrifield, in the _Times Literary
Supplement_, published a letter on August 30 (?), 1855, from Mrs. Browning to Miss De Gaudrion, as to the _seance_ with the Brownings at Ealing. Mrs. Browning enclosed a letter from Mr. Browning, giving his impressions. '_Mine, I must frankly say, were entirely different_,' wrote Mrs. Browning; and Home says: 'Mrs. Browning was much moved, and she not only then but ever since expressed her entire belief and pleasure in what occurred.' In her letter, Mrs. Browning adds: 'For my own part, and in my own conscience, I find no reason for considering the medium in question responsible for anything seen or heard on that occasion.' But 'I consider that the seeking for intercourse with any particular spirit would be apt to end either in disappointment or delusion,' and she uses the phrase 'the supposed spirits.'
This lady who wrote thus at the time cannot conceivably have been looking for the ghost of a child that never was born, and been deceived by Home's white foot, which Mr. Browning then caught hold of--an incident which Mrs. Browning could not have forgotten by August 30, 1855, if it occurred in July of that year. Yet Mr. ---- has published the statement that Mr. Browning told him that story of Home's foot, dead child, and all, and Mr. ---- is a man of undoubted honour, and of the acutest intelligence.
Mr. Browning (August 30, 1855) assured Miss De Gaudrion that he held 'the whole display of hands,' 'spirit utterances,' &c., to be 'a cheat and imposture.' He acquitted the Rymers (at whose house the _seance_ was held) of collusion, and spoke very highly of their moral character. But he gave no reason for his disbelief, and said nothing about catching hold of Home's foot either under or above the table. He simply states his opinion; the whole affair was 'melancholy stuff.' How can we account for the story of Mr. Browning and Home's foot? Can poets possess an imagination too exuberant, or a memory not wholly accurate?
But Mr. Merrifield had written, on August 18, 1855, a record of an Ealing _seance_ of July 1855. About fourteen people sat round a table, in a room of which two windows opened on the lawn. The nature of the light is not stated. There was 'heaving up of the table, tapping, playing an accordion under the table, and so on.' No details are given; but there were no visible hands. Later, by such light as exists when the moon has set on a July night, Home gave another _seance_. 'The outlines of the windows we could well see, and the form of any large object intervening before them, though not with accuracy of outline.' In these circumstances, in a light sufficient, he thinks, Mr. Merrifield detected 'an object resembling a child's hand with a long white sleeve attached to it' and also attached to Home's shoulder and arm, and moving as Home moved. A lady, who later became Mrs. Merrifield, corroborated.[Footnote 20: _Journal S.P.R._, May 1903, pp. 77, 78.]
This is the one known alleged case of detection of fraud, on Home's part, given on first-hand evidence, and written only a few weeks after the events. One other case I was told by the observer, very many years after the event, and in this case fraud was not necessarily implied. It is only fair to remark that Mr. F.W.H. Myers thought these 'phantasmal arms instructive in more than one respect,' as supplying 'a missing link between mere phantasms and ectoplastic phenomena.'
[Footnote 21: _Human Personality_, ii. 546, 547. By 'Ectoplastic' Mr. Myers appears to have meant small 'materialisations' exterior to the 'medium.']
Now this is the extraordinary feature in the puzzle. There are many attested accounts of hands seen, in Home's presence, in a good light, with no attachment; and no fraud is known ever to have been detected in such instances. The strange fact is that if we have one record of a detection of Home in a puerile fraud in a faint light, we have none of a detection in his most notable phenomena in a good light. To take one example. In _The Nineteenth Century_ for April 1896 Mr. Hamilton Aide published the following statement, of which he had made the record in his Diary, 'more than twenty years ago.' Mr. Aide also told me the story in conversation. He was 'prejudiced' against Home, whom he met at Nice, 'in the house of a Russian lady of distinction.' 'His _very_ physical manifestations, I was told, had caused his expulsion from more than one private house.' Of these aberrations one has not heard elsewhere. Mr. Aide was asked to meet M. Alphonse Karr, 'one of the hardest-headed, the wittiest, and most sceptical men in France' (a well-merited description), at a _seance_ with Home. Mr. Aide's prejudice, M. Karr's hard-headed scepticism, prove them witnesses not biassed in favour of hocus-pocus.
The two arrived first at the villa, and were shown into a very large, uncarpeted, and brilliantly lighted salon. The furniture was very heavy, the tables were 'mostly of marble, _and none of them had any cloths upon them_.' There were about twenty candles in sconces, all lit, and a moderator lamp in the centre of 'the ponderous round rosewood table at which we were to sit.' Mr. Aide 'examined the room carefully,' and observed that wires could not possibly be attached to the heavy furniture ranged along the walls, and on the polished floor wires could not escape notice. The number present, including Home, was nine when all had arrived. All hands were on the table, but M. Alphonse Karr insisted on being allowed to break the circle, go under the table, or make any other sort of search whenever he pleased. 'This Home made no objection to.' Raps 'went _round_ under the table, fluttering hither and thither in a way difficult to account for by the dislocation of the medium's toe' (or knee), 'the common explanation.' (I may remark that this kind of rapping is now so rare that I think Mr. Frederick Myers, with all his experience, never heard it.) Mr. Aide was observant enough to notice that a lady had casually dropped her bracelet, though she vowed that it 'was snatched from her by a spirit.' 'It was certainly removed from her lap, and danced about under the table....'
Then suddenly 'a heavy armchair, placed against the wall at the further end of the _salotto_, ran violently out into the middle of the room towards us.' Other chairs rushed about 'with still greater velocity.' The heavy table then tilted up, and the moderator lamp, with some pencils, slid to the lower edge of the table, but did not fall off. Mr. Aide looked under the table: Home's legs were inactive. Home said that he thought the table would 'ascend,' and Alphonse Karr dived under it, and walked about on all fours, examining everybody's feet--the others were standing up. The table rose 'three or four feet,' at highest, and remained in air 'from two to three minutes.' It rose so high that 'all could see Karr, and see also that no one's legs moved.' M. Karr was not a little annoyed; but, as 'Sandow could not have lifted the table evenly,' even if allowed to put his hands beneath it, and as Home, at one side, had his hands above it, clearly Home did not lift it.
All alike beheld this phenomenon, and Mr. Aide asks 'was I
hypnotised?' Were all hypnotised? People have tried to hypnotise Mr. Aide, never with success, and certainly no form of hypnotism known to science was here concerned. No process of that sort had been gone through, and, except when Home said that he thought the table would ascend, there had been no 'verbal suggestion;' nobody was told what to look out for. In hypnotic experiment it is found that A. (if told to see anything not present) will succeed, B. will fail, C. will see something, and so on, though these subjects have been duly hypnotised, which Mr. Aide and the rest had not. That an unhypnotised company (or a company wholly unaware that any hypnotic process had been performed on them) should all be subjected by any one to the same hallucination, by an unuttered command, is a thing unknown to science, and most men of science would deny that even one single person could be hallucinated by a special suggestion not indicated by outward word, gesture, or otherwise. We read of such feats in tales of 'glamour,' like that of the Goblin Page in _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_, but to psychological science, I repeat, they are absolutely unknown. The explanation is not what is technically styled a _vera causa_. Mr. Aide's story is absolutely unexplained, and it is one of scores, attested in letters to Home from people of undoubted sense and good position. Mr. Myers examined and authenticated the letters by post marks, handwriting, and other tests.
In one case the theory of hallucination induced by Home, so that people saw what did not occur, was asserted by Dr. Carpenter, F.R.S. Dr. Carpenter, who was a wondrously superior person, wrote: 'The most diverse accounts of a _seance_ will be given by a believer and a sceptic. One will declare that a table rose in the air, while another (who had been watching its feet) is confident that it never left the ground.' Mr. Aide's statement proves that this explanation does not fit _his_ case. Dr. Carpenter went on to say what was not true: 'A whole party of believers will affirm that they saw Mr. Home float in at one window and out at another, whilst a single honest sceptic declares that Mr. Home was sitting in his chair all the time.' This was false. Dr. Carpenter referred to the published statement of Lord Adare (Dunraven) and Lord Lindsay (the Earl of Crawford), that they saw Home float into a window of the room where they were sitting, out of the next room, where Home was, _and float back again_, at Ashley Place, S.W., December 16, 1868. No 'honest sceptic' was present and denied the facts. The other person present, Captain Wynne, wrote to Home, in a letter printed (with excisions of some contemptuous phrases) by Madame Home, and read in the original MS. by Mr. Myers. He said: 'I wrote to the _Medium_ to say I was present as a witness. I don't think that any one who knows me would for one moment say that I was a victim to hallucination or any humbug of that kind.' Dr. Carpenter, in 1871, writing in the _Quarterly Review_ (Vol. 131, pp. 336, 337), had criticised Lord Lindsay's account of what occurred on December 16, 1868. He took exception to a point in Lord Lindsay's grammar, he asked why Lord Lindsay did not cite the two other observers, and he said (what I doubt) that the observations were made by moonlight. So Lord Lindsay had said; but the curious may consult the almanack. Even in a fog, however, people in a room can see a man come in by the window, and go out again, 'head first, with the body rigid,' at a great height above the ground.[Footnote 23: _Contemporary Review_, January 1876.] [Footnote 24: _Contemporary Review_, vol. xxvii. p. 286.]
Mr. Podmore has suggested that Home thrust his head and shoulders out of the window, and that the three excited friends fancied the rest; but they first saw him in the air outside of the window of their room. Nothing is explained, in this case, by Dr. Carpenter's explanation. Dr. Carpenter (1871) discredited the experiments made on Home by Sir William Crookes and attested by Sir William Huggins, because the latter was only 'an amateur in a branch of research which tasks the keenest powers of observation,' not of experiment; while, in the chemical experiments of Sir William Crookes, 'the ability he displayed was purely _technical_.' Neither gentleman could dream 'that there are _moral_ sources of error.'[Footnote 25: Cf. _Making of Religion_, p. 362, 1898.] [Footnote 26: _Quarterly Review_, 1871, pp. 342, 343.]
Alas, Dr. Carpenter, when he boldly published (in 1876) the thing that was not, proved that a 'scientist' may be misled by 'moral sources of error'!
In 1890, in _Proceedings of the S.P.R._, Sir William Crookes published full contemporary accounts, noted by himself, of his experiments on Home in 1871, with elaborate mechanical tests as to alteration of weights; and recorded Home's feats in handling red-hot coals, and communicating the power of doing so to others, and to a fine cambric handkerchief on which a piece of red-hot charcoal lay some time. Beyond a hole of half an inch in diameter, to which Home drew attention, the cambric was unharmed. Sir William tested it: it had undergone no chemical preparation.
Into the details of the mechanical tests as to alterations of weights I cannot go. Mr. Angelo Lewis (Professor Hoffman), an expert in conjuring, says that, accepting Sir William's veracity, and that he was not hallucinated, the phenomena 'seem to me distinctly to be outside the range of trick, and therefore to be good evidence, so far as we can trust personal evidence at all, of Home's power of producing motion, without contact, in inanimate bodies.' Sir William himself writes (1890): 'I have discovered no flaw in the experiments, or in the reasoning I based upon them.' The notes of the performances were written while they were actually in course of proceeding. Thus 'the table rose completely off the ground several times, whilst the gentlemen present took a candle, and, kneeling down, deliberately examined the position of Mr. Home's knees and feet, and saw the three feet of the table quite off the ground.' Every observer in turn satisfied himself of the facts; they could not all be hallucinated.[Footnote 27: _Proceedings S.P.R._ vi. 98.]
I have not entered on the 'spiritual' part of the puzzle, the communications from 'spirits' of matters not _consciously_ known to persons present, but found to be correct. That is too large a subject. Nor have I entered into the case of Mrs. Lyon's gift to Home, for the evidence only proved, as the judge held, that the gift was prompted, at least to some extent, by what Home declared to be spiritual rappings. But the only actual witness to the fact, Mrs. Lyon herself, was the reverse of a trustworthy witness, being a foolish capricious underbred woman. Hume's [Transcriber's Note: so in original] mystery, as far as the best of the drawing-room miracles are concerned, is solved by no theory or combination of theories, neither by the hypothesis of conjuring, nor of collective hallucination, nor of a blend of both. The cases of Sir David Brewster and of Dr. Carpenter prove how far some 'scientists' will go, rather than appear in an attitude of agnosticism, of not having a sound explanation.