Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 27

JIMMY'S DREAM.


I see before me (said Jimmy, savagely) a court, where I, James Moggridge, am arraigned on a charge of assaulting the editor of the St. John's Gazette so as to cause death. Little interest is manifested in the case. On being arrested I had pleaded guilty, and up to to-day it had been anticipated that the matter would be settled out of court. No apology, however, being forthcoming, the law has to take its course. The defence is that the assault was fair comment on a matter of public interest, and was warranted in substance and in fact. On making his appearance in the dock the prisoner is received with slight cheering.

Mr. John Jones is the first witness called for the prosecution. He says: I am assistant editor of the St. John's Gazette. It is an evening newspaper of pronounced Radical views. I never saw the prisoner until to-day, but I have frequently communicated with him. It was part of my work to send him back his articles. This often kept me late.

In cross-examination the witness denies that he has ever sent the prisoner other people's articles by mistake. Pressed, he says, he may have done so once. The defendant generally inclosed letters with his articles, in which he called attention to their special features. Sometimes these letters were of a threatening nature, but there was nothing unusual in that.

Cross-examined: The letters were not what he would call alarming. He had not thought of taking any special precautions himself. Of course, in his position, he had to take his chance. So far as he could remember, it was not for his own sake that the prisoner wanted his articles published, but in the interests of the public. He, the prisoner, was vexed, he said, to see the paper full of such inferior matter. Witness had frequently seen letters to the editor from other disinterested contributors couched in similar language. If he was not mistaken, he saw a number of these gentlemen in court. (Applause from the persons referred to.)

Mr. Snodgrass says: I am a poet. I do not compose during the day. The strain would be too great. Every evening I go out into the streets and buy the latest editions of the evening journals. If there is anything in them worthy commemoration in verse, I compose. There is generally something. I cannot say to which paper I send most of my poems, as I send to all. One of the weaknesses of the St. John's Gazette is its poetry. It is not worthy of the name. It is doggerel. I have sought to improve it, but the editor rejected my contributions. I continued to send them, hoping that they would educate his taste. One night I had sent him a very long poem which did not appear in the paper next day. I was very indignant, and went straight to the office. That was on Jubilee Day. I was told that the editor had left word that he had just gone into the country for two days. (Hisses.) I forced my way up the stairs, however, and when I reached the top I did not know which way to go. There were a number of doors with "No admittance" printed on them. (More hissing.) I heard voices in altercation in a room near me. I thought that was likely to be the editor's. I opened the door and went in. The prisoner was in the room. He had the editor on the floor and was jumping on him. I said, "Is that the editor?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Have you killed him?" He said, "Yes," again. I said, "Oh!" and went away. That is all I remember of the affair.


Cross-examined: It did not occur to me to interfere. I thought very little of the affair at the time. I think I mentioned it to my wife in the evening; but I will not swear to that. I am not the Herr Bablerr who compelled his daughter to marry a man she did not love, so that I might write an ode in celebration of the nuptials. I have no daughter. I am a poet.

The foreman printer deposed to having had his attention called to the murder of the editor about three o'clock. He was very busy at the time. About an hour afterward he saw the body and put a placard over it. He spoke of the matter to the assistant editor, who suggested that they had better call in the police. That was done.

A clerk in the counting-house says: I distinctly remember the afternoon of the murder. I can recall it without difficulty, as it was on the following evening that I went to the theatre--a rare occurrence with me. I was running up the stairs when I met a man coming down. I recognized the prisoner as that man. He said, "I have killed your editor." I replied, "Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself." We had no further conversation.

J. O'Leary is next called. He says: I am an Irishman by birth. I had to fly my country when an iniquitous Coercion Act was put in force. At present I am a journalist, and I write Fenian letters for the St. Johns Gazette. I remember the afternoon of the murder. It was the sub-editor who told me of it. He asked me if I would write a "par" on the subject for the fourth edition. I did so; but as I was in a hurry to catch a train it was only a few lines. We did him fuller justice next day.

Cross-examined: Witness denies that he felt any elation on hearing that a new topic had been supplied for writing on. He was sorry rather.

A policeman gives evidence that about half-past four on Jubilee Day he saw a small crowd gather round the entrance to the offices of the St. John's Gazette. He thought it his duty to inquire into the matter. He went inside and asked an office-boy what was up. The boy said he thought the editor had been murdered, but advised him to inquire upstairs. He did so, and the boy's assertion was confirmed. He came down again and told the crowd that it was the editor who had been killed. The crowd then dispersed.

A detective from Scotland Yard explains the method of the prisoner's capture. Moggridge wrote to the superintendent saying that he would be passing Scotland Yard on the following Wednesday on business. Three detectives, including witness, were told off to arrest him, and they succeeded in doing so. (Loud and prolonged applause.)

The judge interposes here. He fails, he says, to see that this evidence is relevant. So far as he can see, the question is not whether a murder has been committed, but whether, under the circumstances, it is a criminal offence. The prisoner should never have been tried here at all. It was a case for the petty sessions. If the counsel cannot give some weighty reason for proceeding with further evidence, he will now put it to the jury.


After a few remarks from the counsel for the prosecution and the counsel for the defence, who calls attention to the prisoner's high and unblemished character, the judge sums up. It is for the jury, he says, to decide whether the prisoner has committed a criminal offence. That was the point; and in deciding it the jury should bear in mind the desirability of suppressing merely vexatious cases. People should not go to law over trifles. Still, the jury must remember that, without exception, all human life was sacred. After some further remarks from the judge, the jury (who deliberate for rather more than three-quarters of an hour) return a verdict of guilty. The prisoner is sentenced to a fine of five florins, or three days' imprisonment.


James M. Barrie