THIS singular trial took place at Cornwall, July the 26th, 1815, and occupied the Court for a considerable time, during which the spectators, the Bar, and the Bench, were convulsed with laughter.
Elizabeth Drew was indicted for robbing Thomas Martin of a watch, some wearing apparel, &c. &c.
The prosecutor, who was an Irish seaman, with his arms folded, in an erect though careless attitude, a smile of apparently invincible good humour on his countenance, and every minute casting a significant glance on the prisoner, answered the interrogatories of the Bench in a language which his lordship declared to be wholly incomprehensible but which was composed of technical phrases, delivered with a rather slight brogue. In vain was it that he was desired to cut short his prolix narrative: honest Tom Martin knew how to keep, but not to abridge, a log-book; every interruption caused him to lose his reckoning, and he found it easier to begin anew than to splice a broken story. He had marked down every course he had steered, and every variation of wind and weather he had experienced -- every port he had made, and every harbour which he had anchored -- from the time he had embarked with the prisoner to the hour of his appearance in court; and he would relate the whole. He said he was armourer of the Severn frigate, and was in Hamoaze in the beginning of the present month, when he got his long liberty. He knew the prisoner; and why should he not? She washed for him, and was a country girl of his own. He was surprised that the judge did not know that long liberty lasted a month. The prisoner was on board the Severn for four or five days before he got his long liberty, and he told her he was going to spend it in Ireland. On her expressing a wish also to visit her dear country, which she had not seen for three years, he said he would pay her passage. This offer she accepted on condition that one bed should serve them during their voyage; to which, of course, he made no objection. Some smugglers coming on board, he resolved to have a parting jollification with his messmates, and bought half a gallon of rum. He had a hearty booze before he left the ship, so that, when he came on shore, he was rather top-heavy. On coming to North Corner he gave his companion two pounds to take her clothes out of pawn; after which they shortened sail, and came-to at the second public house on the right hand as you go up. Here they drank some beer, and Tom got intoxicated, so that he determined to cast anchor, and take a nap. However, having the same confidence in his country-girl as if she had been his real wife, he gave her charge of his money, which amounted to twenty-seven pounds, before he turned in to sleep. A canvass bag, containing five white shirts, four pair of stockings, and sundry other articles of wearing apparel, with a prayer-book, called the 'Key of Paradise,' a pocketbook, and a green book that he used to keep his accounts in, he left in the bar. He had his watch in his pocket when he fell asleep.
The prisoner took the bag from the bar, his watch from his pocket, and the lady even took his handkerchief from his neck, and put an old rag in its place, not worth a penny. The watch was as good a watch as ever went; she was worth ten guineas of any man's money. The seal and key were gold; the chain was what is called composition, and he could not tell what it was worth. But, after all, he wished his country-girl should have fair play: he was sorry to come against a woman; he would rather come against a man by ten degrees. Finding himself plundered, he made inquiry for his companion, and he just got a sight of her in the public house; but she gave him the double, and he saw her no more till, after a long chase, he made her out at Callington. When he saw her he clapped his hand on her shoulder this way (giving a specimen of his mode of salutation by a smart slap on a gentleman's shoulder who sat near the witnesses' box); but, said he, 'madam knew nothing about me; she did not know me at all.' The manner in which he pronounced this, with an arch smile on his countenance, pointing to the prisoner, and casting a significant glance first on her, and then on the judge, would have done honour to the most celebrated of the Thespian votaries; it was one of the best pieces of comic acting we ever saw, and completely overturned the gravity of the Bench, drawing a peal of laughter and applause from a crowded Court. Order being restored, Tow Martin proceeded with the same degree of sang froid. Having once got sight of the chase, he was not to be baffled, but kept her close on board until the constable, whom he had hailed on reaching Callington, had procured a warrant. His ungrateful countrywoman, finding she could not give him the double a second time, resolved to adopt soother manoeuvre, and, desiring to be left alone with him, gave up the watch as a peace-offering.
Being desired to produce the watch, Tom first hesitated, and then owned that he had pawned it for two guineas, in order to prevent the necessity of his going on hoard before his long liberty was expired; a circumstance that he appeared most seriously to deprecate. His lordship then asked what he had done with the double he said the prisoner had given him. 'What did I do with it?' replied the witness, evidently much amused at the misconception of the Bench; (his lordship supposed that by double was meant a duplicate given by pawnbroker;) why I could do nothing; she gave it to me entirely: But, as it is going as it is, I'll out with the whole on her. This waistcoat on me, my lord'--
Judge.-- 'No matter about did waistcoat; it is not mentioned in the indictment.'
Witness.--'Ay; but I'll tell all about it.'
His lordship, however, would hear nothing about the waistcoat, and told the witness he knew not what to make of his story; on which Tom replied -- 'I believe, my lord, I've told it very fair; it is very fair doctrine, and there is no Englishman but will understand what it means.' His canvass bag, he said, was found at the prisoner's lodgings; but the 'Key of Paradise,' and the rest of its contents, except a pair of stockings, were gone,
His lordship summed up the evidence, as well as he could collect it from the prosecutor; and the jury, not thinking that the things produced were sufficiently identified, acquitted the prisoner.