Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Story of Bent's Green Lodge (2)

Continued from part one. This article was lifted from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent. Dated 3rd March 1866



The following story is perfectly true. Bent's Green Lodge, near Ecclesall, formerly the public-house which was the scene of the events hereafter to be described, is now (having of course undergone sundry alterations and improvements) the residence of one of the best known and most highly respected of the inhabitants of Sheffield. Mr. Albert Smith. It was Mr. Smith's father, the Rev. George Smith, who, along with "Justice Wilkinson," the well known Vicar of Sheffield, received the dying confession of the unhappy murderer.
Sundays were the special days of sorrow for both Mary and her distressed mother, who considered it her duty to send her daughter to church, about a mile distant; and the child grieved that neither parent could go to the good place, and ask god to comfort them. One Sabbath morning in the beginning of May, the father was become so weak that he fainted whilst dressing, on which account Mary remained at home to nurse and amuse him. During the time she sat with him the often repeated "I wish," again passed his lips, and the quick ear of infancy, now excited by unusual anxiety, thought that in the murmured sounds which followed he said, "I wish I were hanged!" and in great horror Mary cried out, 'Oh ! father, father; you are wicked you frighten me." 

The wretched man burst into tears and wept abundantly, as one bowed down:by sorrow. Often did he, clasp his hands and apparently try to beg a blessing on the head of the child who innocently reproved and deeply wounded him, but as often ,did he interest himself, as if scorning' his own effort, and finally, he put her from his chair, and covered his face, as if afflicted with shame not less than sorrow. Mary was grieved to the heart to see him suffer thus, but she conceived it her duty to relieve this burst of 'sorrow, as she had tried to do often before, by diverting his attention, and therefore went to the window to make observations, and said to her mother, who was entering the room, "I see all the people who are coming from church : there is a very pretty carriage, with two gentlemen in it, and they both look out of the window toward our house."

It is Mr. Wilkinson, the vicar of Sheffield, and his curate, Mr. Smith, who have been doing duty at our church; he was there last year at this time," answered the mother, mechanically. "I remember him, and I love him," replied Mary, "because he said father did right not to give old Anak Osborne any more liquor. " Don't speak of poor old Anak, child," said the. mother; "it is twelve months this very morning since I rose from my' bed to see his dead body brought in. James Green is below, and has just reminded me of it." "James Green is a fool, a wretch, my worst enemy," cried the sick man, with an energy and strength that made his hearers start with astonishment ; but in another moment he sank back in his great chair, shaking in every limb. 

Cold drops of sweat hung on his brow, his strained eyes seemed gazing on vacancy with terror indescribable, his hands were clenched, and his lips quivered with a convulsive motion, as if from pangs amounting to agony. The wife believing him seized with death itself, dropped on her knees before him, and with inarticulate words and sighs that spoke the intensity of her grief and pity, tried to pray for his departing spirit; but in a few moments she found that he had taken hold of her duped hands, and was drawing her towards him. "Mary, my beloved Mary, the time is come! Thou shalt know all. Send this moment for the Vicar; you know he is a justice of the peace, he only is the right sort of a minister for me, Oh! send for him instantly." 

The wife, bewildered with terror and distress, gazed on him earnestly, in the persuasion that the madness of which her neighbours had so often hinted, had now really arrived but she listened in vain for the ravings of delirium. With all the little strength that remained to him, but in few words, the unhappy man continued to urge her to send for the Vicar, as constantly repeating. "because he is a justice of the peace." This was the very reason why the wife would have preferred any other clergyman, for she had, in common with many persons in her station, a kind of awe of the office, which induced her to feel that she could not throw open the sorrows of her long-harassed spirit to one so much above her. But the demand was imperious nor could she look in the countenance of him so long dear to her without being conscious that his requests were nearly at a close. Mary was therefore despatched to the house of a neighbour, who was going to the afternoon service, and undertook to bring his worship when that was over. 

The landlord continued silent for some time. He then asked for his dinner, which he ate, if not with appetite, yet with resolution, and then took a cup of hot elder wine with the air of one who had a duty to perform which would require all the energy he could muster. In his better days, he had been remarkable for personal neatness; but it was many months since the last vestige of this quality left him, to the especial grief of his good wife, who now heard him with surprise entreat her to make him look decent by combing his hair, and putting him on a clean cravat." That hair was now white as milk, and the furrows of age marked the shrunken neck; yet, as no symptom of disease appeared beyond general weakness, and it was especially evident to all around him that he was free from pulmonary affection, something like hope sprung in the poor woman's bosom as she thus ministered to his wishes not less than his wants. "If he could open his heart to the Vicar, if he could get comfort for his soul, doubtless his strength would return; he could yet redeem his affairs, and all would be well again; she should not be left with her children in sorrow and poverty." 

But her kind offices, though performed by hands now, feeble by long suffering, did not fill up the time, and a fearful restlessness that threatened to dissipate the assumed strength of the hour, succeeded. Little Mary happily came back at this juncture; and for a few moments the fond eyes of the father looked upon her with I delight. The joy was of short duration; for when she averted to the time, and said, "a carriage was advancing," he told her to go away in a tone so full of deep distress, and even horror, that the poor child was over-powered, and hung round him as if incapable of obedience. "Go away now, Mary," said the mother, leading her to the door; "you shall come again when Mr. Wilkinson is gone." No, no, no !" cried the father, "she must come no more, she must never look on me again ; so come back and kiss me, child, once more, for the last, last time." At this moment the clergyman entered, and the poor child snatched a hasty embrace and fled from the room. 

The father shook like a leaf, but by a strong effort so far conquered himself as to require the presence of the Rev. Mr. Smith, who had accompanied the Vicar. "You are very weak, my friend," said the latter; "will it not injure you to have another stranger?" "No, Sir ; I have something to disclose; I must have two witnesses, and my wife had better leave me." "No, James, I had better stay; you will faint perhaps, and who can help you so well as I can" In another moment, the curate was seated in the room, round which his eye glanced mournfully, yet approvingly. It was, indeed, the chamber of sickness perhaps of death. Those long united by the sweetest and holiest bonds of mortality were to be divided; the house was about to be bereft of its head, and probably doomed to the desolation of poverty, together with the sorrows of widowhood; yet, in the fond anxiety and intense interest of the wife's countenance, in the modest manners of the little weeping girl who had passed him on the stairs, the open Bible laid open on the drawers, and the air of more than common neatness in all around, be was induced to conclude that as in days past the best affections of the heart had been here cultivated, as in the present time of suffering the consolations of religion might also be experienced. 

He was called from this hasty survey by the deep, sepulchral tone of one who looked as if he were even. now an inhabitant of the tomb, yet spoke with a clearness of voice and strength of lungs which, in so fragile a being, seemed almost supernatural, and with a brevity and precision seldom met with in a man of his station. "You see before you, gentlemen, a man worn down to the brink of the grave by affliction by remorse.

Continued in part three.

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