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   Chapter 4 A HISTORIC CROWD.

Faces and Places By Sir Henry W. Lucy Characters: 18639

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"I very much regret that so much of your valuable time has been

absorbed," said the Lord Chief Justice, speaking to the Tichborne

Jury, as the massive form of the Claimant vanished through the side

door, never more to enter the Court of Queen's Bench; "but it will

be a consolation to you to think that your names will be associated

in history with the most remarkable trial that has ever occurred in

the annals of England."

There was another jury outside Sir Alexander Cockburn's immediate

observation that always struck me, and I saw a good deal of it, as

not the least notable feature in the great trial that at one time

engrossed the attention of the English-speaking race. That was the

crowd that gathered outside the Courts of Justice, then still an

adjunct of Westminster Hall.

As there never was before a trial like that of the Claimant, so

there never was a crowd like this. It had followed him through all

the vicissitudes of his appeal to the jury of his countrymen, and

of his countrymen's subsequently handing him over to another jury

upon a fresh appeal. It began to flood the broad spaces at the

bottom of Parliament Street in far-off days when the case of

Tichborne v. Lushington was opened in the Sessions House, and it

continued without weariness or falling-off all through the progress

of the civil suit, beginning again with freshened zeal with the

commencement of the criminal trial.

Like the Severn, Palace Yard filled twice a day whilst the blue

brougham had its daily mission to perform, the crowd assembling in

the morning to welcome the coming Claimant, and foregathering in

the evening to speed him on his departure westward. It ranged in

numbers from 5000 down to 1000. Put the average at 3000, multiply

it by 291, the aggregate number of days which the Claimant was

before the Courts in his varied character of plaintiff and

defendant, and we have 873,000 as the total of the assemblage.

As a rule, the congregation of Monday was the largest of the week.

Why this should be, students of the manners of this notable crowd

were not agreed. Some held that the circumstance was to be accounted

for by the fact that two days had elapsed during which the Claimant

was not on view, and that on Monday the crowd came back, like a

giant refreshed, to the feast, which, by regular repetition, had

partially palled on Friday's appetite. Others found the desired

explanation in the habit which partly obtains among the labouring

classes of taking Monday as a second day of rest in the week, and

of devoting a portion of it to the duty of going down to Westminster

Hall to cheer "Sir Roger."

Probably both causes united to bring together the greater crowd of

Monday afternoons. It must not be supposed that the mob was composed

wholly or principally of what are called the working classes. When

an hon. member rose in the House of Commons, and complained of the

inconvenience occasioned to legislators by the "Tichborne crowd,"

another member observed that, relative numbers considered, the House

of Commons contributed as much to swell the throng as any other

section of the people. During the last months of the trial, if any

class predominated it was that which came from the provinces. The

Claimant was undoubtedly one of the sights of London and before his

greater attraction the traditional Monument which elsewhere--

"Lifts its tall head and like a bully lies,"

sank into absolute insignificance. Not to have seen the Claimant,

argued the London of the period unknown. Fashionably dressed ladies

and exquisitely attired gentlemen battled for front places upon the

pavement with sturdy agriculturists who had brought their wives and

daughters to see "Sir Roger," and who had not the slightest

intention of going back till they had accomplished their desire.

It came to pass that there were some two hundred faces in the crowd

familiar to the police as daily attendants at the four o'clock

festival in Palace Yard. Day after day, they came to feast their

eyes on the portly figure of "Sir Roger," and, having gazed their

fill, went away, to return again on the morrow. There was one aged

gentleman whose grey gaiters, long-tailed coat, and massive umbrella

were as familiar in Palace Yard as are the features on the clock-face

in the tower. He came up from somewhere in the country in the days

when Kenealy commenced his first speech, and, being a hale old man,

he survived long enough to be in the neighbourhood when the learned

gentleman had finished his second. At the outset, he was wont to

fight gallantly for a place of vantage in the ranks near the arch-way

of the Hall. Then, before the advances of younger and stouter

newcomers, he faded away into the background. Towards the end, he

wandered about outside the railings in Bridge Street, and, as the

clock struck four, got the umbrella as near as its natural

obstructiveness would permit to the carriage-gate whence the

Claimant's brougham was presently to issue.

At first the police authorities dealt with the assembly in the

ordinary manner, a more or less sufficient force being told off for

the duty of keeping the thoroughfare clear. It soon became manifest

that the Tichborne crowd, like everything else in connection with

the trial, required especial treatment, and accordingly a carefully

elaborated scheme was prepared. Superintendent Denning had under his

command, for the preservation of peace and order in Palace Yard and

the adjacent thoroughfares, not less than sixty men. One or two were

stationed in the justice-chamber itself, and must by the time the

verdict had been delivered have got pretty well up in the details of

the case. Others guarded the entrance-door; others lined the passage

into the yard, others were disposed about the yard itself; whilst,

after three o'clock, two strong companies stood in reserve in the

sheds that flank the entrance to the Hall. At half past three the

crowd began to assemble, building itself up upon the little nucleus

that had been hanging about all day. The favourite standpoint,

especially in the cold, uncertain winter weather that marked the

conclusion of the trial, was inside Westminster Hall, where the

people were massed on the far side of a temporary barricade which

the Tichborne case called into being, the railing of which was worn

black by the touch of the hands of the faithful.

Outside, in the yard, the crowd momentarily thickened till it formed

a dense lane, opening out from the front of the Hall, and turning to

the left down to the south carriage-gate. The railings in Bridge

Street and St. Margaret's Street were banked with people, and ranks

were formed on the pavement in front of the grass-plot. At a quarter

to four the policemen under the shed received the word of command,

and marched out into St. Margaret's Street, some filing off to take

charge of the gates, whilst the rest were drawn up on the pavement

opposite and at the corner of Bridge Street, with the mission of

preventing rushes after the Claimant's carriage as it drove through.

A few minutes later the distinguished vehicle itself--a plain,

dark-blue brougham, drawn by a finely bred bay mare--drove into the

yard, and, taking up its position a little on one side of the entrance

to the Hall, became the object of curious and respectful consideration.

As the great clock boomed four strokes, the doors of the Court opened,

and the privileged few who had been present at the day's proceedings

issued forth.

The excitement increased as the Court emptied, culminating when,

after a brief lull, the Claimant himself appeared, and waddled down

the living lane that marked the route to his carriage. There was

much cheering and a great amount of pocket-handkerchief waving,

which "Sir Roger" acknowledged by raising his hat and smiling that

"smile of peculiar sweetness and grace" which Dr. Kenealy brought

under the notice of the three judges and a special jury. As the

Claimant walked through the doorway, closely followed by the

Inspector, the policemen on guard suddenly closed the doors, and

the public within Westminster Hall found themselves netted and

hopelessly frustrated in what was evidently their intention of

rushing out and sharing the outside crowd's privilege of staring

at the Claimant, as he actually stepped into his carriage.

The outside throng in Palace Yard, meanwhile, made the most of

their special privilege, crowding round "Sir Roger" and cheering

in a manner that made the bay mare plunge and rear. With the least

possible delay, the Claimant is got into the brougham, the door is

banged to, and the bay mare is driven swiftly through the Yard, the

crowd closing in behind. But when they reach the gates, and essay

to pass and flood the streets beyond, where the gigantic umbrella

of the aged gentleman looms uplifted over the shoulders of the line

of police like the section of a windmill sail, the iron gates are

swung to, and this, the second and larger

portion of the crowd, is

likewise safely trapped, and can gaze upon the retreating brougham

only through iron bars that, in this instance at least, "do make a

cage." There are not many people outside, for it is hard to catch

even a passing glimpse of the occupant of the carriage as it drives

swiftly westward to Pimlico, finally pulling up in a broad street of

a severely respectable appearance, not to be marred even by the near

contiguity of Millbank convict prison.

Here also is a crowd, though only a small one, and select to wit,

being composed chiefly of well-dressed ladies, forming part of a

band of pilgrims who daily walked up and down the street, waiting

and watching the outgoing and incoming of "Sir Roger." They are

rewarded by the polite upraising of "Sir Roger's" hat, and a further

diffusion of the sweet and gracious smile; and having seen the door

shut upon the portly form, and having watched the brougham drive

off, they, too, go their way, and the drama is over for the day.

But the crowd in and about Palace Yard have not accomplished their

mission when they have seen the blue brougham fade in the distance.

There is the "Doctor" to come yet, and all the cheering has to be

repeated, even with added volume of sound. When the Claimant has

got clear away, and the crowd have had a moment or two of

breathing-time, the "Doctor" walks forth from the counsels'

entrance, and is received with a burst of cheering and clapping

of hands, which, "just like Sir Roger", he acknowledges by raising

his hat, but, unlike him, permits no trace of a smile to illumine

his face. Without looking right or left, the "Doctor" walks

northward, raising his hat as he passes the caged and cheering

crowd in Palace Yard. With the same grave countenance, not moved in

the slightest degree by the comical effect of the big men in the

crowd at his heels waving their hats over his head, the "Doctor"

crosses Bridge Street, and walks into Parliament Street, as far as

the Treasury, where a cab is waiting. Into this he gets with much

deliberation, and, with a final waving of his hat, and always with

the same imperturbable countenance, is driven off, and Parliament

Street, subsiding from the turmoil in which the running, laughing,

shouting mob have temporarily thrown it, finds time to wonder

whether it would not have been more convenient for all concerned if

the "Doctor's" cab had picked him up at the door of Westminster Hall.

Slowly approached the end of this marvellous, and to a succeeding

generation almost incredible, and altogether inexplicable,

phenomenon. It came about noon, on Saturday, the final day of

February, 1874.

A few minutes before ten o'clock on that morning the familiar bay

mare and the well-known blue brougham--where are they now?--appeared

in sight, with a contingent of volunteer running footmen, who

cheered "Sir Roger" with unabated enthusiasm. As the carriage passed

through into the yard, a cordon of police promptly drew up behind it

across the gateway, and stopped the crowd that would have entered

with it. But inside there was, within reasonable limits, no

restraint upon the movements of the Claimant's admirers, who lustily

cheered, and wildly waved their hats, drowning in the greater sound

the hisses that came from a portion of the assemblage. The Claimant

looked many shades graver than in the days when Kenealy's speech

was in progress. Nevertheless, he smiled acknowledgment of the

reception, and repeatedly raised his hat. When he had passed in,

the throng in Palace Yard rapidly vanished, not more than a couple

of hundred remaining in a state of vague expectation. Westminster

Hall itself continued to be moderately full, a compact section of

the crowd that had secured places of vantage between the barricade

and the temporary telegraph station evidently being prepared to see

it out at whatever hour the end might come.

For the next hour there was scarcely any movement in the Hall, save

that occasioned by persons who lounged in, looked round, and either

ranged themselves in the ranks behind the policemen, or strolled

out again, holding to the generally prevalent belief that if they

returned at two o'clock they would still have sufficient hours to

wait. In the Yard a thin line extended from the side of the Hall

gateway backwards to the railings in St. Margaret's Street, with

another line drawn up across the far edge of the broad carriage-way

before the entrance. There was no ostentatious show of police, but

they had a way of silently filing out from under the sheds or out

of the Commons' gateway in proportion as the crowd thickened, which

conveyed the impression that there was a force somewhere about that

would prove sufficient to meet any emergency. As a matter of fact,

Mr. Superintendent Denning had under his command three hundred men,

who had marched down to Westminster Hall at six o'clock in the

morning, and were chiefly disposed in reserve, ready for action as

circumstances might dictate.

At half-past eleven, there being not more than three or four hundred

people in Palace Yard, a number of Press messengers, rushing

helter-skelter out of the court and into waiting cabs, indicated the

arrival of some critical juncture within the jealously guarded

portals. Presently it was whispered that the Lord Chief Justice had

finished his summing up, and that Mr. Justice Mellor was addressing

the jury. A buzz of conversation rose and fell in the Hall, and the

ranks drew closer up, waiting in silence the consummation that could

not now be far distant.

The news spread with surprising swiftness, not only in Palace Yard,

but throughout Bridge Street and St. Margaret's Street, and the

railings looking thence into the yard became gradually banked with

rows of earnest faces. Little groups formed on the pavement about

the corners of Parliament Street. Faces appeared at the windows of

the houses overlooking the Yard, and the whole locality assumed an

aspect of grave and anxious expectation. A few minutes after the

clock in the tower had slowly boomed forth twelve strokes it was

known in the Bail Court, where a dozen rapid hands were writing out

words the echo of which had scarcely died away in the inner court,

that the Judges had finished their task, and that the Jury had

retired to consider their verdict. It was known also in the lobbies,

where a throng of gowned and wigged barristers were assembled,

hanging on as the fringe of the densely packed audience that sat

behind the Claimant, and overflowed by the opened doorway. Thence

it reached the crowd outside, and after the first movement and hum

of conversation had subsided, a dead silence fell upon Westminster

Hall, and all eyes were fixed upon the door by which, at any moment,

messengers might issue with the word or words up to the utterance of

which by the Foreman of the Jury the great trial slowly dragged its

length.

Half an hour later the door burst open, and messengers came leaping

in breathless haste down the steps and across the Hall, shouting as

they ran,--

"Guilty! Guilty on all counts!" The words were taken up by the

crowd, and passed from mouth to mouth in voices scarcely above a

whisper. It was a flock of junior barristers, issuing from the

court, radiant and laughing, who brought the next news.

"Fourteen years! Fourteen years!" they called out.

This time the crowd in Westminster Hall took up the cry in louder

tones, and there was some attempt at cheering, but it did not

prevail. The less dense crowd in the Yard received the intelligence

without any demonstration and after a brief pause made off with one

consent for the judges' entrance in St. Margaret's Street, where,

peradventure, they might see the prisoner taken away, or at least

would catch a glimpse of the judges and counsel.

From this hour up to nearly four o'clock the crowd, in numbers far

exceeding those present at the first intimation of the verdict and

sentence, hung about St. Margaret's Street and Palace Yard waiting

for the coming forth of the prisoner, who had long ago been safely

lodged in Newgate. They did not know that as soon as the convict

was given in charge of the tipstaff of the court he was led away by

Inspector Denning, along a carefully planned and circuitous route

that entirely baffled the curiosity of the waiting crowd. Through the

Court of Exchequer the prisoner and his guards went, by the members'

private staircase, across the lobby, along the corridor, through the

smoking-room into the Commons Courtyard, where a plain police

omnibus was in waiting with an escort of eleven men. In this the

prisoner took his seat, and was driven through the Victoria Tower

gate en route for Newgate. He accompanied his custodians as quietly

as if they were conducting him to his brougham, and only once broke

the silence of the journey to Newgate.

"It's very hot," he said, as he panted along the passages of the

House of Commons, "and I am so fat."

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