Reuben Gill—A Mormon Saint
by Inspector F.

THE last time a venerable judge, not long since deceased, but who had retired from the bench several years previously, went on circuit, a man named Reuben Gill was tried before him for assaulting one John Purcell on the Queen’s highway with intent to kill and murder him. Purcell, a rate collector, who had a considerable sum of money with him, was in fact left for dead by the ruffian who, having possessed himself of the money, decamped and got clear off. Gill was apprehended, and upon Purcell’s sworn testimony fully committed for trial. The learned judge had become exceedingly deaf, and on the day Gill was arraigned his infirmity was more than commonly apparent. In charging the jury, which he did very strongly for a conviction, he misquoted the evidence against Gill more than once, and this perhaps induced the jurors to side with the prisoner against the manifest bias of the judge, and after about a couple of minutes consultation, the jury found the prisoner not guilty, which verdict was immediately recorded by the clerk of arraigns. Then came the comical part of the business. Believing the jury could have no more doubt of the prisoner’s guilt than he himself had, the judge taking it for granted that Gill was convicted of the capital charge, at once assumed the black cap, and proceeded to address the prisoner in as nearly as I can recollect the following terms:—”Prisoner at the bar, the jury, after giving the most patient attention to the evidence and the observations of your counsel, have arrived at the only possible conclusion they could as sensible men come to. They have done their duty, and it now remains for me to do mine. The—”
Here the clerk of the arraigns, who like the rest of the audience had been dumbfounded for a minute or two, jumped up, and facing the judge, exclaimed, “Not guilty—the verdict is NOT guilty.” “The jury have recommended the prisoner to mercy,” resumed the judge, still far wide. “Yes, but with all respect for the jury, that is a recommendation which I cannot act upon. I have now only to pronounce the—.” At this point the clerk of the arraigns placed before his lordship a sheet of paper, upon which he had hastily written, “My lord, the jury have acquitted the prisoner.” The venerable judge coloured to the hue of fire, and was for a moment utterly confounded. He, however, turned the matter off pretty well, concluding thus, amidst the scarcely-suppressed titters of every body in court:—“I have only to pronounce the opinion of the court, which is that you have had a very narrow escape indeed, and to order you to be discharged forthwith.” His lordship then himself hurried out of court, in by no means so dignified a manner as usual. The remaining criminal cases were tried by a leading barrister, whose name was on the commission.

I was not concerned in Gill’s case, but it will be readily understood that so ludicrous an incident would have the effect of impressing firmly on one’s memory the features and general appearance of the man so intimately associated therewith. Reuben Gill was, moreover, a remarkable looking man. His age might be about forty; in figure he was unusually tall, gaunt, muscular; his forehead was high, well-developed, and with his aquiline, prominent nose, searching grey eyes, square jaw, and firmly-set, coarsely-cut mouth, the whole varnished, so to speak, by a cold sneering smile, formed a physiognomy, which proclaimed to least observant eyes, very considerable power of intellect and remorseless determination or will when any object upon which he had set his mind was to be obtained. He was neither a Kentish Man nor a Man of Kent. This his northern burr was quite decisive of, though from what particular county or town he originally hailed no one about Maidstone knew. He had set up a school in that town about five years previous to “his narrow escape,” but had lost all his pupils in consequence of having brutally punished one of them for some venial fault. Since then he had hung loosely upon society, supporting himself nobody knew how or cared to know. He was a widower—at least he so gave out—but had no child.
His neck slipped out of the hangman’s noose, thanks to a Maidstone jury’s peculiar notions of the value of evidence. Reuben Gill lost no time in making himself scarce in that part of England. I lost sight and almost memory of the man for approaching four years, when I met him in a South-western up-train, under, to me, interesting circumstances. He entered a first-class carriage—in which, for professional reasons, I was travelling—accompanied by three ladies, at the Basingstoke station. He appeared to be in a much more flourishing condition than when he made his last appearance, to my knowledge at least, in the dock of a criminal court. He was attired in superfine, spotless black; his linen was of the finest and whitest; his varnished boots were without a speck; and the very gold-headed cane he carried must have cost two sovereigns if a farthing; having taken stock of him I turned to observe his lady-companions, first putting on a pair of blue-spectacles, which would enable me, without offence, to mark them narrowly.

They appeared to be sisters or near relatives, from the family resemblance they bore to each other. The name of one, apparently the eldest, was Staples, Miss Staples, by which name I had heard Gill address her. She, Miss Staples, was a mild, patient-faced person, about thirty-five years of age; she was attired plainly but well, and was far from bad-looking. For Mr. Reuben Gill she evidently felt great reverence, not untinged with fear; and the same feeling, as regarded him, appeared to be felt by the three ladies; by the youngest, if I mistook not, far more of fear than reverence. The second lady, in age, was but a yet paler, more subdued reflex of the elder one, as neatly and richly attired. Susannah, the youngest—they were three sisters—I soon found was of a much less lymphatic temperament than either of the others. There was a latent fire in her, from time to time throwing out bright sparkles, which required I was sure but the removal of some stifling pressure, to blaze up in vivid enlightenment of her true opinion of Mr. Reuben Gill’s character and schemes.
What perplexed, and, in some sort, amused me, was that Miss Susannah seemed, after a few minutes, to doubtfully recognize me as a former acquaintance, though her spirited, prettyish round face was altogether strange to me. Soon she made up her mind as to where she had seen me, and who and what I was. This was seen in a sudden flash of her eyes, and quickly afterwards I noticed that her fingers were busily applied in tearing off a card fastened to a locked leather bag, which, though a rather heavy one, she took in her lap for the purpose of getting the card unobserved by her companions.
Whilst this was going on, I, listening as not listening, discovered, by broken sentences, admonitions uttered under the breath, that Reuben Gill was a Mormon saint, returned not long since from the Salt Lake City, in which society of scoundrels, hypocrites, and dupes, he had risen to distinction, and was now on a mission to England with a view to recruit the Mormon ranks with eligible and wealthy womankind, who might be persuaded that saintly polygamy was the only possible mode by which they could be “sealed” for Paradise. The Misses Staples, certainly the two eldest, had succumbed to his influence, and escorted, guarded by him, had visited Basingstoke for the last time, previous to leaving England for ever.
I believe I should have been ill-mannered enough to break in upon the confidential, whispered conversation of Gill and the two elder ladies, with a violent denunciation of the Golden Book, Joe Smith’s impostures, winding up by an exhortation to the saintly Mormon to keep out of a criminal’s dock in future, inasmuch as such narrow escapes as he had at Maidstone could be very rarely counted upon, but for the timely interposition of Miss Susannah Staples. As I was upon the very brink of boiling over, she contrived unobserved to slip the card into my hand, and I to slip it unseen into my breast-pocket and pocket-book, presently taking out which I could unsuspectedly look over that with other cards or papers.

Miss Susannah Staples had pencilled these words on the card—“You are a detective officer; you were pointed out to me at the hotel at Leamington, where you went to obtain the evidence of a chambermaid. I wish to see you this evening, at seven o’clock, at the Strand end of Waterloo Bridge.”
I managed to secretly intimate my compliance, and then drawing my travelling-cap well over my face, leaned back with folded arms in the seat, as if perfectly indifferent to what was going on, and desirous of a snooze.
I was a few minutes behind my time, and found Miss Susannah Staples waiting feverishly impatient for me. She had left her sisters under the pretence of paying a farewell visit to an old friend in the Waterloo-road, and would not have, without exciting suspicion, more than half-an-hour to consult with me; and I, in my character of detective officer, was her only hope, her sole resource of saving her sisters from pollution, herself from beggary. She told the story, a sad but too common one, as we walked to and fro on the bridge.

“Mr. Staples, her father, and a widower longer than she could distinctly remember, had for many years carried on a thriving drapery business in Bishopsgate Without. He had been dead a little over eighteen months, and by a will, executed before she, Susannah, was born or thought of, bequeathed all he might die possessed of, first to his wife, and, she dying, to his two daughters, Margaret and Selina. The last summons came to him very suddenly: there was no time to make an alteration in the will in his youngest child’s favour, as he had always proposed doing; but as clearly as he could express himself by speech, enjoined Margaret and Selina to share equally with Susannah. Mr. Staples, a thoroughly well meaning, but, as I gathered, weak man in some respects, had always been crotchety in religious matters; and about three months before his decease had been induced to go and hear, at a chapel in Stoke Newington, a famous Mormon preacher and saint who had not long returned to England from the Salt Lake City. Mr. Staples was fascinated by the eloquence of the Mormon preacher, invited him to his house, lavished money upon him, made him his bosom-intimate, and would, Miss Susannah did not doubt, had he lived but a short time longer, have sold all off and betaken himself with his daughters to the Mormon city. The influence the eloquent Mormon acquired over Margaret and Selina was equally great, overpowering, and they were now mere puppets, controlled, guided at his pleasure. Mr. Samson Baldwin had not been slow to take the utmost advantage of that pernicious influence—”

“Do you mean by Samson Baldwin, the man I saw with you in the railway-carriage?”
“Yes, certainly.”
“Then I can at once furnish you with information that will at once knock him off the pedestal he occupies in your sisters’ imagination. The fellow’s name is Reuben Gill, not Sampson Baldwin; and I was present when he was tried for his life, about four years ago, at Maidstone, Kent—highway robbery, and wounding with intent to murder the man he robbed. It is true, the jury returned a verdict of acquittal, but the moral presumption of his guilt was irresistible.”
“I am not in the least surprised at what you tell me,” said the young woman, bursting into tears. “It but confirms the opinion I long since formed of that bad, wicked, unscrupulous man. But the knowledge would make no impression on my poor, infatuated sisters. The name of Gill, he would say, was that which he went by when dwelling in the tents of sin—Baldwin, that conferred upon him by Brigham Young, the High Priest of the Mormons, in the City of Saints. As to the other matter, he would point triumphantly to the verdict of acquittal. So there is no help in that, and my unfortunate sisters, pure in heart as the purest of womankind, will be lost body and soul—be driven by that Satanic delusion into an abyss of infamy—be hopeless, helpless, cowering prostitutes to that devil in human shape—under the name of Mormon wives. It is too horrible to think of! Can you think of nothing, Mr. Detective,” she added, almost fiercely, “that might save us?”
“Nothing, Miss Staples, as far as I can at present judge. How much money will this Mormon saint get with your sisters?”
“I don’t know the capital sum, but the half-yearly dividends amount, deducting income-tax, to two hundred and forty odd pounds; not much less than five hundred per annum.”

“Somewhere about fifteen thousand pounds, at the present price of consols. Upon my word! a famous haul for Reuben Gill to lay his thieving irons upon! And your sisters are really determined to hand over that immense sum, together with themselves, to the Mormon impostor?”
“Alas! yes; and the stock would have been sold out before now, but for the obstinacy of the executor under my father’s will, Mr. Oswald, who has interposed technical, and the Mormon apostle and my sisters call vexatious obstacles out of number. It appears that he can prevent the stock being sold out till Selina, the youngest of my sisters, is married. That ceremony will take place next Monday fortnight at St. Sepulchre’s, Skinner-street. A few days afterwards, as soon as possible after the money is secured, Margaret will be Mrs. Baldwin the second. Oh, I could tear myself with rage, indignation, disgust!”
“If we can catch the fellow in the commission of bigamy something might perhaps be done.”
“Nothing of real avail could be done. Neither wife—God help us, wife!—would appear against the wretch. The money would be handed over to him, or some leagued agent of his—a saintly scoundrel of the same genus—and all will be done.”

“And you—what will be your position?”
“I have the option of casting in my lot with the Mormons, or of remaining here to starve. Pleasant alternative,” added Miss Susannah, with angry bitterness, “but I would die piecemeal of want, disease, the direst misery, sooner than submit myself to the ‘saints’—-the foul, accursed impostors.”
“You are a brave girl, and I honour your spirit. But really you have but wasted time in making me the depository of your fears and troubles. Nothing can, it seems, disabuse your sisters of the vile delusion by which they are enthralled. From what I have seen of their demeanour, it would be impossible to get a certificate of two of the maddest of mad doctors, authorizing you to lock them up in a lunatic asylum. How then can I, in my Detective capacity, hope to help you?”

“You can, I think, help me, and my poor sisters too, if Charlotte Rawlings did not err, when she told me after her return from London, that you were cunning as a fox, stanch as a sleuth-hound when once upon the scent.”
“That may be where there is a scent to strike, and I am lucky enough to hit it; no sign of that in this case appears to me.”
“I am not sure of that. Listen. You know the Mormon meeting-house at Stoke Newington?”
“Yes, if you mean a large room—it has been a factory—in Abbey-street, nearly opposite the honourable and reverend Mr. Lamb’s church.”
“That is it. Samson Baldwin sometimes preaches there. He intends doing so tomorrow evening. Now I have noticed that in nine cases out of ten, when he officiates there, an elderly woman, whose face has been a fine one, who is always respectably clad—of late one may say handsomely clad—awaits his coming out. She never enters ‘the place of worship,’ and is said to be a Roman Catholic, the professors of which creed must hold that of Mormonism, in relation to polygamy, in unbounded horror. Her look and manner when accosting him, are menacing, defiant—his, troubled, supplicating. He makes some hasty excuse, and walks quietly off with her. It is now about four months since I first noticed her. Samson Baldwin told my sisters –but that is nothing—that she is an importunate crazy creature, between whom and himself a certain tie exists—a purely compassionate feeling on his part—arising out of some transaction in which she was the means of rendering his mother an essential service. Whatever may be the exact truth I know not, cannot guess, except at random; but I do know that statement to be wholly false.”
“How may you have arrived at that conviction, Miss Susannah?”
“Very simply. It rained hard one evening when my sisters went to the Mormon meeting. They went in a cab, taking up the apostle on the way. I was paying a visit at Tottenham. A little before the time the saints usually broke up it nearly ceased raining, and I thought it as well to get a ride home with my sisters in the cab—the apostle would not, I was pretty sure, accompany them. The evening was tolerably bright though stormy, and just as I was passing the end of Summerford Grove, I saw Baldwin and the ‘importunate crazy creature’ crossing the road to my side, about twenty yards ahead. The woman was gesticulating violently, and her tones were loud and harsh. Thrusting open an iron gate, opening to the steps of one of the houses by which they would necessarily pass, I, with my back towards them, and further concealed by the umbrella, might be able to hear what she or he was saying as they passed. I did hear these words distinctly; they are graven upon my memory: ‘I tell you again, that if I find Laura is not at New York, but consigned to perdition by you, I will denounce you, if to prevent me you should offer all the money you are swindling people out of, if that should be thousands upon thousands of pounds.’

“They turned down the next street, walking very fast; I, my curiosity strung to the highest pitch, followed. They took their way over Hackney Downs, and at about half-way across parted, Baldwin returning, having, I concluded, patched up a temporary truce. I drew out of the way and the apostle passed by, muttering savagely, and unobservant of me. I again followed, and finding him take the road across to Islington, which was quite out of his way, he still continuing to lodge in Bishopsgate-street, continued the chase, in the hope of discovering where he occasionally burrowed of a night—he frequently absenting himself as I knew under excuse of sick calls, distant religious meetings, or other lying pretences. On he went, traversed Islington, Pentonville, and finally entered an obscure tavern in the vicinity of Battle Bridge. I was not to be thrown out of the chase, and waited till, it being Saturday night, the public-house was cleared of company at twelve o’clock. The apostle staggered fearfully, and could with difficulty prevent himself from falling by the help of his umbrella. I pursued cautiously, covertly, and finally saw him knock at a house in Gray’s-inn-lane, the inner, partly glass, door of which was blinded by a red curtain. He was greeted with a boisterous laugh—was evidently well known there. A few minutes after the saint had disappeared within, I asked a policeman what the character of the house was. ‘A house of ill fame, Missus; but perhaps you know that as well as I do,’ was the saucy fellow’s reply. I then hastened home, where I found my sister in a terrible taking at my remaining out so late.”

“When you, of course, told them why you were so late?”
“I did nothing of the kind; it would not have been of the least use to do so. The apostle would have benignly asserted that I had mistaken some one else for him, and my sisters would have implicitly believed him. Nay, with such abject fear has he inspired them,—I  myself feel a dread of the fellow in his presence which I cannot overcome,—that if a doubt of his perfect sanctity should fasten on their minds, they would not dare to show it by word or look. God bless me! Mr. Detective, you are strangely slow to realize the extent, the depth, of the superstitious slavery in which wily fanatics, of all creeds, hold hundreds of impressionable women!”

“That is, I believe, true enough. Now to the point: how do you propose I should set about unravelling this tangled skein?”
“The first point is,” said the spirited lass, who must have been ten or eleven years, if not more, her youngest sister’s junior, and had a head upon her young shoulders, which her seniors had not, “the first point is, that Mr. Oswald, who detests the apostle as ardently as I do, and does not in the least fear him, will be liberal as to expenses.”
“That is important, Baldwin alias Gill not being accused of felony. If he were so, I should be bound to act without fee or reward; though, even then, in uncommon and difficult cases, a refresher is seldom thrown away.”
“I judge so, and had I not met with you in the railway carriage, I should tomorrow have asked Mr. Oswald to write to the Commissioners of Police, requesting the services of an active officer—services to be liberally requited. Now, then, for the essential point.

“It is strongly borne in upon my mind, that the woman who waylays Baldwin when he comes out of the Mormon meeting-house, is in possession of some secret which, if disclosed, would bring the apostle under the fangs of the criminal law. Remembering the threat I overheard, ‘If I find Laura is not at New York, but consigned to perdition by you,’ which means, as I understand it, if the said Laura has been inveigled into embracing the horrible tenets and practices of Mormonism, ‘I will denounce you, if to prevent me you should offer all you are swindling people out of, if that should amount to thousands upon thousands of pounds.’ Now, except to save himself from the gallows, or the hulks at the very least, could it be for a moment supposed the apostle would part with one hundred pounds, much less thousands?”
“You think I may be able to worm the secret out of the woman?”
“Yes; worm, wheedle, cajole, bully, bribe her out of the secret. Get at it, in short, by some of the arts in which your profession makes, or should make, you an adept.”
“You had better minutely describe the woman, and her usual dress. I will see what can be done.”

“The woman, of late, always wears a rich black silk dress, and a drawn bonnet of the same material. Her hair is grey; she is tall for a woman, and has a slight palsy in her head. Sometimes she is accompanied by a servant-girl, who invariably wears a yellow shawl with a red border, and Balmoral boots.”
“That will do, Miss Susannah Staples: tomorrow evening it will not be my fault if I do not see the lady home.”
The apostle did not preach to the Mormons on the next evening. He was suffering from indisposition, a fellow said, who was deputed to officiate in his place. Hearing that, I went out, and luckily, for the lady, in black silk dress and bonnet, (with whom was her servant) in yellow red-bordered shawl and Balmoral boots, finding the particular saint she was in quest of would not make his appearance that evening, was already tottering homeward. She occupied, I found, a first floor in a baker’s house at Hackney, and passed by the name of Weston.

At the next Mormon meeting-night Samson Baldwin officiated,—the fellow was really fluent in sounding verbiage,—and the three Misses Staples were there. The youngest searched the place again and again to ascertain if I was present; but though I sat in a prominent position, she failed to recognize me. I should have been ashamed of myself if she had: the lynx-eyed rascal in the pulpit would in that case have discovered that amongst his hearers was his fellow-traveller on the South-Western Railway—a circumstance which might have excited suspicion in the old fox’s brain.
Neither the lady nor her servant-woman was in waiting outside. I detected a sigh of immense relief from Baldwin, who handed the Misses Staples into a cab, and then walked briskly off again in the direction of Islington; but turning off to the right, proceeded up the Green Lanes, and finally came to an anchor in the parlour of the Manor-house Tavern, in the Southgate-road.
The apostle was evidently ill at ease. He drank brandy-and-water copiously, but with no apparent enjoyment; and his pipe, though it was easy to see he was a practised smoker, went out every two or three minutes. I observed, also, that, pretending to read a newspaper, he held it upside down,— strong symptoms of painfully-introspective abstraction of mind. He left the Manor-house tavern a little after eleven o’clock, and went straight home to his lodgings in Bishopsgate-street,—as straight, that is to say, as he was able.

There was a sort of Exodus spiritual festival, going on at the time amongst the London Mormons, nearly a hundred of whom purposed to emigrate in the same ship in which the apostle with his two new wives and fifteen thousand pounds cash, or thereabout, intended to embark. It thus happened that every other evening an impious parody on divine service was performed, Baldwin generally officiating in chief. Three evenings I attended, but neither Mrs. Weston nor her maid-servant appeared. If she were not ill, the only conclusion to be drawn was, that the apostle had made up matters with her. I would make inquiries at Hackney. Each evening that Samson Baldwin officiated I followed him home, his half-way house being always an out-of-the-way or obscure tavern, and never twice the same one. Meantime Mr. Oswald and Miss Susannah Staples were getting nervously impatient at not hearing from me. The former wrote to the commissioner, and received a reply to the effect that I was engaged in the business, and recommending that I be left undisturbed to my own devices.
I had not long walked about in view of Mr. Thorogood the baker’s house at Hackney, when I saw Dr. Lovejoy knock at the side entrance. After about ten minutes he came out. This would afford a good introduction to the inquiries I was anxious to make. Sauntering into the shop, I asked for a bun, ate it, and began another; then finding Mr. Thorogood for a moment free of customers, I remarked upon the extreme prevalence of disease at Hackney just then, adding that I had seen Dr. Lovejoy leave his house. Were any of his household suffering from the prevailing epidemic—influenza? “No; thank God, no. All well. Dr. Lovejoy had been called in to prescribe for Mrs. Weston, his first-floor lodger.

“It is not influenza the poor lady is suffering from, but mental anxiety, moral and bodily prostration, brought on by not receiving a letter from New York, America, which she has been daily expecting for the last three or four months.”

“A letter from her husband—son?”
“No; from her daughter, Laura Wingfield, by a former marriage. Her second husband is still alive. He is a Mormon preacher, and goes by the name of Samson Baldwin. Weston is the poor woman’s maiden name, which she has taken again, refusing to be called by a specious scoundrel’s name, whatever that real name may be, about which I have my doubts.”
“She fears her daughter may be dead?”
“Worse than that, in her opinion. She fears the apostle, or saint, or prophet, as his dupes call the vagabond, has inveigled her daughter to the city of the Mormons, in which case, she, being a rigid Romanist, believes her child will be damned eternally. The fellow admits that he induced his step-daughter to accompany him about three years ago to America, but solemnly asserts that she refused to go farther than New York, where she obtained a situation as lady’s maid in a highly respectable family. He says he has forgotten the address, but has written to friends of his at New York who are acquainted with the said highly respectable family, requesting them to see Laura Wingfield, and entreat her to communicate direct with her mother. The rascal professes, moreover, to be both astonished and indignant at the daughter’s persistent silence. Now, is that anything in the detective line?” added Mr. Thorogood, who knew me very well, with a smile.
“Not exactly, unless indeed Mrs. Weston were able to inform me of some event committed in England which would give me a right to sift his saintship.”
As to that Mr. Thorogood could say nothing, and a customer coming in, I left.
So Samson Baldwin, alias Reuben Gill, had a wife still living, and might be arrested for bigamy directly he and Selina Staples came out of St. Sepulchre’s Church. That was something; yet not much. He would have committed no offence in Selina Staples’ or her eldest sister’s eyes. The punishment would, under such circumstances, be very slight; and in order to get the £15,000 out of Mr. Oswald’s clutch, a ceremonial marriage would no doubt be cooked up with a confederate unmarried Mormon. Nothing easier than that!

I did not at all see my way to a fortunate issue.

Still, something might turn up if I persevered, and I did persevere. The very next “spiritual evening” that the apostle officiated, he was encountered at coming out by Mrs. Weston’s servant maid. He would have shuffled by, pretending not to see her, but the girl, who held a letter in her hand, followed quickly, thrust the letter upon him, and insisted upon having an answer there and then. He tore the letter open, read it by the light of a gas-lamp; a grim, exultant smile overspread his face as he did so.
“Here is the money your mistress so urgently requires,” said he, placing some pieces of gold in the girl’s hand, “and tell her that before the fortnight she gives me has expired, all her doubts and fears respecting Laura Wingfield will be at an end. She will be perfectly satisfied, I pledge my word she will be.”
So saying, he thrust the letter with a sort of flourish into his pocket, and went off, judging by his pace, in rollicking spirits. At the first cab-stand he hailed one. I dittoed that move, promising the driver an extra half-crown if he kept the apostle’s cab in sight, without appearing to follow it. “I’m fly,” said the man, recognising me. “All right.”

At the end of a fortnight all Mrs. Weston’s doubts and fears respecting her child would be at an end. I quite believed that. It was Thursday evening, and on the morning of that day week the apostle, his two new wives, and the hundred and so Mormons, would leave the shores of England, in the City of Baltimore, a fine ship, which Baldwin had especially chartered. If I could only get possession of that letter the tables might be nicely turned upon the exulting scoundrel. But how obtain possession of it. There was the rub—that was the question. I should try on an old and rather a risky dodge to do so, and if it failed, why I must boldly broach the subject to Mrs. Weston, tell her that seven days before the stipulated fortnight expired her husband would have left England, no doubt for ever. Would she believe me? Well, I could easily convince her of the fact, but would she, still womanishly clinging to hope, though there were no hope, at once “denounce” the Mormon Apostle? I doubted it. Women, where husbands are concerned,—utterly reprobate as the husbands may be—are such vexing, uncertain witnesses or informants to rely upon, for instituting a criminal proceeding against their rascally halves!
The cab stopped at a tavern in East Smithfield. There were about a dozen persons, countrymen all of them, in the parlour, and four, close by whom the Apostle seated himself, were playing a north-country game, as I was told, which I never saw played before or since. Two partners sat together on one side of a table, their opponents opposite to them. Twelve coins, I think, at all events a definite number, were placed in the players’ hands, which, their hands under the table, those who were about to put down, distributed amongst their four hands in whatever proportion they chose. They then brought their four right closed hands to the top of the table, bringing the knuckles down thereon with force. The opponents then touched one or more of the closed hands, and according as they guessed the numbers rightly or wrongly, a point was won or lost.

Samson Baldwin, himself a north countryman, warmed to the strange game; he had no doubt played it in his youth, and at a pause in the play said he should like to make one, directly a vacancy occurred. This was assented to, and feeling quite sure that my man was safe for at least an hour, I gulped down my glass of spirits and water, and left the room.

I had not far to go, no difficulty in “setting” the game I wished to play, and was, therefore, gone a very short time. I returned alone, as I left, but not long afterwards three of our fellows, in plain clothes of course, entered the room, called loudly for liquor, and gathered, with eager interest, round the players, with whom Samson Baldwin already made one. I sat apart.
The play soon became fast and furious, bets for both money and drink were freely made, the drink had in, and matters soon took a quarrelsome, savage turn. There was a fierce dispute—a bullying wrangle. Samson Baldwin, losing all mastery of himself, snatched up a disputed stake lying on the table with one hand, and with the other gave one of the recent comers a tremendous facer. The instant uproar, the up-and-down fight which ensued may be imagined. Finally Samson Baldwin and one of the other players found themselves being walked off to the nearest police station—the Mormon accused of having perpetrated a savage assault upon an unoffending man, of which the bloody and swollen marks were plainly visible. I and a trusty comrade took special charge of the saint, holding him firmly by each arm for the safety of the papers he had in his pocket.

The charge was duly entered, and Samson, spite of his violent struggles, his almost frantic offers to lodge almost any amount of money as bail or in compensation for any injury he might have inflicted on any one, was locked up, searched, his money, loose papers, and pocket-book taken from him, to be returned intact, as the inspector informed him, should the magistrate dismiss the charge next morning. The papers—an exact list having been taken-were temporarily confided to me.

The letter from Mrs. Weston was amongst them. It was directed on the envelope to Samson Baldwin. Its contents were brief, decisive.
“Sacrilegious, abominable Mormon. I give you just one fortnight from today to furnish me with authentic intelligence of my child, Laura Wingfield,—not one day, not one hour longer. If you do not completely satisfy me by then of her fate,—of where she may be found,—I will denounce you to the police, tell them you are James Ray. You know what that means.
“Send five sovereigns by bearer.—C.W.”
There was another and soiled letter in the pocketbook, which in the most revolting, obscene language, informed the ruffian writer’s brother, Saint Samson Baldwin, that that minx, Laura Wingfield, though she had been sealed to Brigham Young himself, had prevailed upon the commander of the American force, then in military possession of the City of Saints, to rescue her from what the fool was pleased to call the polluted life into which she had been inveigled by her stepfather, under the falsest, basest pretences. She had left with an American detachment for California, and would no doubt soon be in England with a tale to tell.

“Who is or who was James Ray, do you know?” I asked every officer I spoke with that night. No one had, to his knowledge, ever heard of James Ray. No matter, Mrs. Weston would inform me in good time. The letter from the City of Saints would unseal her
lips. I had no fear of that.
The individual who had given William Page—the name the saint had given himself at the police-station—in charge did not appear at the police-court to support the accusation, and William Page was ordered to be discharged, and his money and papers to be restored to him, which was done. A glow of hope, of triumph, kindled his pallid cheeks as he turned
to leave the court, quickly to vanish and be succeeded by a yet more ghastly pallor.
“This man, your worship,” said I, at the same time forcibly preventing his departure, “is an escaped felon. His real name is James Ray. He was tried and convicted at York eleven years ago for burglary, accompanied by violence, and sentenced to penal servitude for twenty years. Five days after the sentence was passed he escaped from York Castle.”

A hurricane of rage, despair, and curses, broke from the felon as soon as he could recover speech. He was not James Ray,—had never heard the name before—never was tried at York—never was in York, or York Castle!—and so on.
“You have evidence as to his identity, I presume?” said the magistrate to me.
“I have, your worship: the prisoner’s wife.”

Mrs. Ray, otherwise Mrs. Weston, stood forward impressive as a statue, inexorable as Fate. Being sworn, she calmly said:

“That man, whose wife I have the misfortune and shame to be, is James Ray. He was tried eleven years ago at York for burglary, accompanied by violence, convicted and sentenced to penal servitude for twenty years. Five days after receiving sentence, he, with
my aid, escaped from York Castle. There are plenty of witnesses in York and the neighbourhood, who will confirm what I say.”

The imprecations poured forth by the maddened Mormon, upon his wife, the court, myself,—mankind generally, were really awful. It took five or six officers to master and secure him. He was sent to York, where his identity was fully established, and sent to serve out the tremendous sentence passed upon him. He did not again escape.


From Experiences of a Real Detective by Inspector F.
Edited by “Waters,” author of Recollections of a Police Officer, Leonard Harlowe, etc.
London: Ward, Lock, & Tyler, 1862. 229-52.