Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Story of Bent's Green Lodge. (3)

Continued from part two. 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.
I am now going to do that which I ought to have done twelve months ago. Oh! that God may have mercy and accept the only atonement I can offer I But I must hasten." "You, Sir, (to the Vicar) remember poor Anak Osborne's death a year ago? "I remember it perfectly he called at your house about midnight, and seeing that he was already in liquor, you refused to give him more. He was found dead, I believe, near this place, in a manner often predicted from his bad habits, poor creature. His wagon had gone over him and crushed him to death." 

"Yes, Sir, found dead. Alas, but I must speak the truth all the truth. Amok, although a sad drunkard was a kind, good-natured man, at all other times; but when in liquor was extremely abusive, and on the night in question he used such provoking language as to raise my anger to the utmost pitch, no that my wife almost pushed him out of the door in kindness, for fear I should be tempted to strike him. The house was full of people who were returning from the market of Sheffield, and she was in another moment called to attend them, and probably never heard the shameful language he uttered against her, but unhappily I did, and, unseen by any person, I followed him out of the house, and in my rage seized his own cartman's whip (easily wrested out of hands like his), and giving him a violent blow with the butt end on his temple, he fell in a moment (as I believed) dead at my feet. The rage which had prompted me to this mad blow instantly subsided, and horror and terror possessed me, but my mind was more alive In the dangers which surrounded me than I can describe. 

Another moment and all would be discovered. I was so near the house that I could hear voices and laughter, and from the light which streamed from the windows I beheld poor old Amok, my victim, at my feet. His well-trained horses were then obeying the direction he, had given at the moment I reached him, and were slowly winding round the angle which brought them into the turnpike road, and I saw in a moment the possibility of escaping detection. Grasping the body, which at any other time I should have thought beyond my strength. I carried it quite across that corner of ground leading to Whiteley Wood, and laid it on the spot where it was found. During that no sound escaped the lips, no breath issued from him yet I thought that at the moment I laid the body down in the road, which the wagon had now nearly reached, there was a motion of the heart, yet I laid it down. Ah! then, then I was indeed a murderer.

The narrative was arrested, for the wife, who had long boon gazing on the speaker with looks of in-credulity and horror, at this instant dropped on the floor in a death-like swoon, overpowered by the full and dreadful conviction which seized on her senses. Fond as he had certainly been of her, yet this painful circumstance did not greatly affect the conscious murderer, whose mind was evidently strung up to one awful purpose, and when she had been conveyed to another chamber, he eagerly returned to his terrible narrative. How I got back to my own house I know not, for my limbs shook, my tongue cleaved to my mouth, and. my hair stood stiff like wire. I slunk in the back way, and came up to this chamber, where, as soon as I was able, I crept into bed. It was not an uncommon thing for me to do this, after I had been busy in my farm, and was much fatigued; therefore when my wife missed me, she was neither surprised nor sorry, and on coming to bed put out her light speedily lest she should disturb me. She little thought I was not asleep, she little foresaw that I should never sleep again.

The horses of Amok at a late hour reached his master's house without their driver. That master, his son, and servants, instantly set out to seek the poor wretch, whose fault they too well knew; and just as the morning sun broke into that window, there was a loud knocking at my door, and voices were heard demanding instant admittance. I jumped out of bed, opened the window, crying vehemently, he shall not be brought in here! At this moment it was impossible for me to see the body, for the window of the house, as you perceive, was betwixt me and the door. Ah! why did not James Green, to whom I spoke, notice these words? Why was I not apprehended, tried, condemned, and executed? Oh! it was cruel carelessness to me.

My poor wife slept soundly, for she had been much fatigued. I awoke her and sent her down to the men. My heart bitterly reproached me for I knew she would be dreadfully shocked, for me, was fond of the old carman; but I felt that her presence there would be a protection to me, and that she would enforce my command, not to admit the dead body into the house. Half asleep, she heard but partly what I said, yet, when roused by the dreadful fact, she acted upon it, called the servants, and led the party into the barn, where the inquest was held. I pleaded illness and did not leave my room some days, nor was the plea a false one. Such were the sufferings of my mind, that a fever seized on my frame, and I fancied a fire was kindled in my heart which burnt incessantly until I knew the corpse was buried; when I became sensible of great relief, tried to recall my scattered thoughts, to see the importance of eluding suspicion, and the necessity of appearing as usual.

Conversation still ran on Anak's death, and I heard mention made of the blow on his head with a cold shudder, so severe as to arrest my speech, and make my knees smite each other; but my situation was not observed, and another speaker doubted not but the blow was produced by his fall, and all agreed it was not wonderful that such man came to such an end. My wife at these moments never failed to vindicate him, and often to lament him even with tears, recalling the time when he had given flowers and gingerbread to her children, and she would then rend my very heart by devoutly thanking God that her dear James did not lift his hand against the poor soul on that fatal night.

Az their conversation died away, my alarm so far subsided that I got time to think then it was I became miserable, with a misery of which I never could have formed any idea before. My safety pressed on my heart as a perpetual sin no after reckoning could expiate, and I felt as if the mercy of God could never reach me unless I suffered the penalty of death due to my crime. Often, when I wandered out on the wild moors, have I thrown myself on the ground to beseech the Almighty to take my life; and when I have seen the forked lightning dance on the rocks, and heard mutterings of distant thunder, I have sprung forward to meet the storm, in the terrible hope that he would thus accept his victim. Often did I resolve to throw myself into the hands of justice, but the sight of my wife always unmanned me, and at length I soothed myself a little by resolving to do it at the end of one year, if it were possible I could live so long. I then became weak and troubled with a thousand vain fears I could not turn my face toward the barn where Anak had been laid; the sound of wheels reminded me of his wagon; the creaking of the sign told me that there I should be gibbeted. Yet do I firmly believe that I have never left my senses for an hour, nor have I allowed myself to cease from feeling the perpetual sorrow I have so dreadfully earned, save when my precious child has for a single moment beguiled me into the pleasure of a parent.

The unhappy and exhausted man ceased to speak, end his auditors, struck with severe horror at the dreadful narrative of the murderer, yet deeply affected with the sad condition of the penitent, were silent also. At length the Vicar, who was a man stricken in years, deeply affected, arose for the purpose of approaching close to the sufferer, and addressing the words now labouring in his bosom with the more effect. The poor man mistook his purpose, and by a violent effort sprang from his chair and threw himself prostrate on the floor, exclaiming, "Take me, reverend Sir I beseech you, take me try me sentence me to death! I am a murderer; I charge you, as a minister of Christ, as a magistrate of the land, do your duty upon me.

In great distress and perturbation, the aged clergy-man threw his arms around him and lifted him, as well as he was able, into his chair, as in a tremulous voice be said, " I am not your Judge: and would have proceeded, but the countenance of the invalid was now more wild and livid than before, and in a tenfold agony he exclaimed, Ah! just so did his heart beat against my breast; once only once. A groan that seemed to shake the foundation of the house now burst from his lips, and his long-suffering spirit fled to its eternal audit. In awe and horror, yet with all the tenderness of Christian pity, did the spectators behold a transition so fearful and affecting, and deeply did their hearts labour in prayer for that wretched soul, which they could warmly yet believe to be dismissed from the woe-worn tenement before them. The widow of this unhappy man survived him but a few months, and the children were taken by relations to a distant home, so that I basses knowledge of what became of little Mary, that child of early sorrow. For several years the house was either untenanted or found no abiding inhabitant; for fearful whispers and heart-appalling memorials rendered it a melancholy abode.

Concluded in Part Four.

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