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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (M R James) online
[Here Mr Attorney made a pause, and shifted with his papers: and it was thought remarkable by me and others, because he was a man not easily dashed.]
_L.C.J._ Well, Mr Attorney, what is your instance?
_Att._ My lord, it is a strange one, and the truth is that, of all the cases I have been concerned in, I cannot call to mind the like of it. But to be short, gentlemen, we shall bring you testimony that Ann Clark was seen after this 15th of May, and that, at such time as she was so seen, it was impossible she could have been a living person.
[Here the people made a hum, and a good deal of laughter, and the Court called for silence, and when it was made]--
_L.C.J._ Why, Mr Attorney, you might save up this tale for a week; it will be Christmas by that time, and you can frighten your cook-maids with it [at which the people laughed again, and the prisoner also, as it seemed]. God, man, what are you prating of--ghosts and Christmas jigs and tavern company--and here is a man's life at stake! [To the prisoner]: And you, sir, I would have you know there is not so much occasion for you to make merry neither. You were not brought here for that, and if I know Mr Attorney, he has more in his brief than he has shown yet. Go on, Mr Attorney. I need not, mayhap, have spoken so sharply, but you must confess your course is something unusual.
_Att._ Nobody knows it better than I, my lord: but I shall bring it to an end with a round turn. I shall show you, gentlemen, that Ann Clark's body was found in the month of June, in a pond of water, with the throat cut: that a knife belonging to the prisoner was found in the same water: that he made efforts to recover the said knife from the water: that the coroner's quest brought in a verdict against the prisoner at the bar, and that therefore he should by course have been tried at Exeter: but that, suit being made on his behalf, on account that an impartial jury could not be found to try him in his own country, he hath had that singular favour shown him that he should be tried here in London. And so we will proceed to call our evidence.
Then the facts of the acquaintance between the prisoner and Ann Clark were proved, and also the coroner's inquest. I pass over this portion of the trial, for it offers nothing of special interest.
Sarah Arscott was next called and sworn.
_Att._ What is your occupation?
_S._ I keep the New Inn at--.
_Att._ Do you know the prisoner at the bar?
_S._ Yes: he was often at our house since he come first at Christmas of last year.
_Att._ Did you know Ann Clark?
_S._ Yes, very well.
_Att._ Pray, what manner of person was she in her appearance?
_S._ She was a very short thick-made woman: I do not know what else you would have me say.
_Att._ Was she comely?
_S._ No, not by no manner of means: she was very uncomely, poor child! She had a great face and hanging chops and a very bad colour like a puddock.
_L.C.J._ What is that, mistress? What say you she was like?
_S._ My lord, I ask pardon; I heard Esquire Martin say she looked like a puddock in the face; and so she did.
_L.C.J._ Did you that? Can you interpret her, Mr Attorney?
_Att._ My lord, I apprehend it is the country word for a toad.
_L.C.J._ Oh, a hop-toad! Ay, go on.
_Att._ Will you give an account to the jury of what passed between you and the prisoner at the bar in May last?