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man of undeniable courage, handsome, and noted for his chivalrous devotion to women, had been honored, on his condemnation to the gallows, by the tears of many ladies who attended his trial, and by their sympathizing visits during his imprisonment. But the robber represented by the skeleton in Mr. White's museum (whom let us call X, since his true name has perished) added to the same heroic qualities a person far more superb. Still it was a dreadful drawback from his pretensions, if he had really practised as a murderer. Upon what ground did that suspicion arise? In candor (for candor is due even to a skeleton) it ought to be mentioned that the charge, if it amounted to so much, arose with a lady from some part of Cheshire - the district of Knutsford, I believe; but, wherever it was, in the same district, during the latter part of his career, had resided our X. At first he was not suspected even as a robber as yet not so much as suspected of being suspicious; in a simple rustic neighborhood, amongst good-natured peasants, for a long time he was regarded with simple curiosity, rather than suspicion ; and even the curiosity pointed to his horse more than to himself. The robber had made himself popular amongst the kind-hearted rustics by his general courtesy. Courtesy and the spirit of neighborliness go a great way amongst country people; and the worst construction of the case was, that he might be an embarrassed gentleman from Manchester or Liverpool, hiding himself from his creditors, who are notoriously a very immoral class of people. At length, however, a violent suspicion broke loose against him; for it was ascertained that on certain
nights, when, perhaps, he had extra motives for concealing the fact of having been abroad, he drew woollen stockings over his horse's feet, with the purpose of deadening the sound in riding up a brickpaved entry, common to his own stable and that of a respectable neighbor. Thus far there was a reasonable foundation laid for suspicion; but suspicion of what? Because a man attends to the darning of his horse's stockings, why must he be meditating murder? The fact is - and known from the first very to a select party of amateurs—that X, our superblooking skeleton, did, about three o'clock on a rainy Wednesday morning, in the dead of winter, ride silently out of Knutsford; and about forty-eight hours afterwards, on a rainy Friday, silently and softly did that same superb blood-horse, carrying that same blood-man, namely, our friend the superb skeleton, pace up the quiet brick entry, in a neat pair of socks, on his return.
During that interval of forty-eight hours, an atrocious murder was committed in the ancient city of Bristol. By whom? That question is to this day unanswered. The scene of it was a house on the west side of the College Green, which is in fact that same quadrangle planted with trees, and having on its southern side the Bristol Cathedral, up and down which, early in the reign of George III., Chatterton walked in jubilant spirits with fair young women of Bristol; up and down which, some thirty years later, Robert Southey and S. T. C. walked with young Bristol belles from a later generation. The subjects of the murder were an elderly lady bearing some such name as Rusborough, and her female servant.
Mystery there was none as to the motive of the murder-manifestly it was a hoard of money that had attracted the assassin; but there was great perplexity as to the agent or agents concerned in the atrocious act, and as to the mode by which an entrance, under the known precautions of the lady, could have been effected. Because a thorough-bred horse could easily have accomplished the distance to and fro (say three hundred miles) within the fortyeight hours, and because the two extreme dates of this forty-eight hours' absence tallied with the requisitions of the Bristol tragedy, it did not follow that X must have had a hand in it. And yet, had these coincidences then been observed, they would certainly now that strong suspicions had been directed to the man from the extraordinary character of his nocturnal precautions not have passed without investigation. But the remoteness of Bristol, and the rarity of newspapers in those days, caused these indications to pass unnoticed. Bristol knew of no such Knutsford highwayman - Knutsford knew of no such Bristol murder. It is singular enough that these earlier grounds of suspicion against X were not viewed as such by anybody, until they came to be combined with another and final ground. Then the presumptions seemed conclusive. But, by that time, X himself had been executed for a robbery; had been manufactured into a skeleton by the famous surgeon, Cruickshank, assisted by Mr. White and other pupils. All interest in the case had subsided in Knutsford, that could now have cleared up the case satisfactorily; and thus it happened that to this day the riddle, which was read pretty decisively in a
northern county, still remains a riddle in the south. When I saw the College Green house in 1809–10, it was apparently empty, and, as I was told, had always been empty since the murder: forty years had not cicatrized the bloody remembrance; and, to this day, perhaps, it remains amongst the gloomy traditions of Bristol.
But whether the Bristol house has or has not shaken off that odor of blood which offended the nostrils of tenants, it is, I believe, certain that the city annals have not shaken off the mystery: which yet to certain people in Knutsford, as I have said, and to us the spectators of the skeleton, immediately upon hearing one damning fact from the lips of Mr. White, seemed to melt away and evaporate as convincingly as if we had heard the explanation issuing in the terms of a confession from the mouth of the skeleton itself. What, then, was the fact? With pain, and reluctantly, we felt its force, as we looked at the royal skeleton, and reflected on the many evidences which he had given of courage, and perhaps of other noble qualities. The ugly fact was this: In a few weeks after the College Green tragedy, Knutsford, and the whole neighborhood as far as Warrington (the half-way town between Liverpool and Manchester), were deluged with gold and silver coins, moidores, and dollars, from the Spanish mint of Mexico, &c. These, during the frequent scarcities of English silver currency, were notoriously current in England. Now, it is an unhappy fact, and subsequently became known to the Bristol and London police, that a considerable part of poor Mrs. Rus
borough's treasure lay in such coins, gold and silver, from the Spanish colonial mints.
Lady Carbery at this period made an effort to teach me Hebrew, by way of repaying in kind my pains in teaching Greek to her. Where, and upon what motive, she had herself begun to learn Hebrew, I forget: but in Manchester she had resumed this study with energy on a casual impulse derived from a certain Dr. Bailey, a clergyman of this city, who had published a Hebrew Grammar. The doctor was the most unworldly and guileless of men. Amongst his orthodox brethren he was reputed a "Methodist;" and not without reason; for some of his LowChurch views he pushed into practical extravagances that looked like fanaticism, or even like insanity. Lady Carbery wished naturally to testify her gratitude for his services by various splendid presents: but nothing would the good doctor accept, unless it assumed a shape that might be available for the service of the paupers amongst his congregation. The Hebrew studies, however, notwithstanding the personal assistance which we drew from the kindness of Dr. Bailey, languished. For this there were several reasons; but it was enough that the systematic vagueness in the pronunciation of this, as of the other Oriental languages, disgusted both of us. A word which could not be pronounced with any certainty, was not in a true sense possessed. Let it be understood, however, that it was not the correct and original pronunciation that we cared for-that has perished probably beyond recall, even in the case of Greek, in spite of the Asiatic and the Insular Greeks – what we demanded in vain was any pronunciation