« AnteriorContinuar »
Mr. Cruickshank says, "Dr. Cobbold was sent for, but from the first moment of the discovery of the body on the floor, there had not appeared any symptom of life." "Dr. Cobbold," he tells us, "who had been asked to make a post mortem examination, did not think it at all necessary to do so, as he felt persuaded that she had died by prussic acid. He was led to this conclusion from the appearance of the eyes of the deceased, and he believed he could detect the smell of the prussic acid about her person."
The phial, it is to be observed, contained none of the drug when found. Mrs. Bailey says she found it uncorked in the hand of her mistress, and put it aside.
Then Mr. Cobbold must have declined to make a post mortem examination mainly because "he believed he could detect the smell of the prussic acid about her person." How far the principles of medical jurisprudence are consonant with the practice at Cape Coast Castle in a case like this, of a lady alive and well between the hours of eight and nine in the morning, suddenly carried off by poison-a corpse before noon-the subject of a coroner's inquest, without a post mortem examination, coffined before sunset, and buried in the court-yard of a house she had been a living, healthful inmate of within less than twelve hours of that burial, is a question which must be determined wholly and solely on its own merits.
L. E. L.
I HAVE given elsewhere an account of the death of L. E. L., written by a friend of the deceased lady--the Countess of Blessington, which may be presumed to be, in all important particulars, derived from the best sources of information that were available to her, though I do not vouch for their correctness in all particulars. The friends of the husband of the deceased lady have said their say; it is only fair the friends of L. E. L. should at last be permitted to have theirs.
Shortly before my departure from England, Lady Blessington charged me with a commission, to be executed on my arrival at Cape Coast, namely, to obtain the permission of Mr. Maclean to erect a monument, at her ladyship's expense, over the remains of her deceased friend. I felt some hesitation, for some days after my arrival, in speaking to Mr. Maclean on the subject; but at length I communicated to him Lady Blessington's wishes. Mr. Maclean said it was unnecessary-he had already ordered out from England a mural slab, with an inscription, and it had been lying for some time in a store in the castle, and he would have it put up shortly. In a day or two after this conversation I heard some firing of guns early in the morning; on inquiry, I found the firing was the inauguration of the monumental tablet, which had been set up in the wall opposite the grave of Mrs. Maclean.
There is a spacious court-yard in front of the castle, surrounded by the dungeons (well filled with human pawns by Mr. Maclean) which had formerly been used for slave barracones, and this court-yard is now the place of exercise and parade for the native soldiers who form the garrison of Cape Coast Castle. In the centre of this court the remains of L. E. L. are deposited. A small white marble tablet, inserted in the castle wall, bears the following inscription:
Hic jacet sepultum
in ipso aetatis flore,
Die Octobris xv., A.D., MDCCCXXXVIII.,
Quod spectas viator marmor,
Conjux moerens erexit.
Words might be added to it, and truth suffer no wrong:
This monument is the only memorial
of a woman every where else beloved,
who died here, after a residence of two months,
sympathy, where Nature itself has nothing
The spot that was chosen for the grave of this accomplished but unhappy lady could not be more inappropriate; a few common tiles distinguish it from the graves of the various military men who have perished in this stronghold of pestilence. Her grave is daily trampled over by the soldiers of the fort. The morning blast of the bugle and roll of the drum are the sounds that have been thought most in unison with the spirit of the gentle being who sleeps below the few red tiles where the soldiers on parade do congregate.
There is not a plant, nor a blade of grass, nor of any thing green, in that court-yard, on which the burning sun blazes down all day long. And this is the place where they have buried L. E. L.
When I arrived at Cape Coast, though Mr. Maclean was absent from the settlement, I found a room had been prepared for me in the castle, which was then undergoing extensive repairs. The only habitable room then available for me was the one which was called Mrs. Maclean's room: it was the room in which she was found dead. The furniture, bed-hangings, muslin decorations round the frame of the looking-glass, arrangement of prints, every thing, in short, was in the same state as when the room was used by her. On Mr. Maclean's return to the castle, he expressed much gratification at my arrival, and in the course of our first interview on that occasion, he said he trusted I was directed by government to make inquiries into the circumstances of the death of Mrs. Maclean; that he had been foully slandered and injured by scandalous reports in relation to that event and his conduct to Mrs. Maclean, and he would be rejoiced to
hear it was a part of my duty to make those inquiries; and farther, he told me that he would furnish documents of the most conclusive kind, that would show the vile nature of the reports he referred to. It was evident to me that Mr. Maclean was laboring under some erroneous impression on the subject of his observations. I assured him I was charged with no such inquiry as he referred to; that I was directed to make inquiries solely into the alleged assistance given by English commerce at our Gold Coast settlements to slave-trading pursuits, and generally respecting the trade and condition of the several British factories.
The conversation then dropped; but it was resumed again, and Mr. Maclean insisted on reading some documents-two, I think-in the hand-writing of Mrs. Maclean, in proof of the perfect state of ease and tranquillity of mind in which she was immediately previous to her decease. For Mr. Maclean's satisfaction, I very reluctantly consented to enter on the inquiry he wished; but I told him, having undertaken to do so, that I must be permitted to make my own inquiries of Dr. Cobbold, the medical man who had been examined on the inquest, and such other persons as I might think proper to communicate with, in any way and at any time I chose to apply to them for information. This Mr. Maclean at once readily assented to. I called on Dr. Cobbold, without any previous notice, to give me the requisitions for all medical stores for the use of the establishment that existed in the office of the dispensary, and also all druggists' accounts of medicines furnished for several years-all, in fact, that existed. There was no evidence of prussic acid ever having been ordered or procured from England or elsewhere for the use of the establishment.
I made all the inquiries I deemed it necessary to make about the appearance of the body, and the suddenness of the death that had taken place; and the conviction left on my mind was that Mrs. Maclean had died from the effects of prussic acid.
I was satisfied, from documentary evidence shown to me by Mr. Maclean, that the deceased had been subject in England to violent spasmodic attacks, and had been prescribed certain drops
of a colorless fluid, which she was cautioned to use with the greatest care, inasmuch as they were of a poisonous nature, and would produce death if taken in large quantities.
It was proved to my satisfaction, by the evidence of native servants and native soldiers who were constantly about the castle, that a native woman (a half-sister, I think, of a man of color, of respectability, living in Accra, a Mr. Bannerman), who had been living with Mr. Maclean up to the time of his last departure for England in relations which custom sanctions in those settlements, but which no religious ceremony sanctifies, had continued living in the castle up to the time of the arrival of the vessel with Mr. and Mrs. Maclean at the settlement, but before their landing she had taken her departure from the castle, and never had been in it subsequently to their arrival there. I saw this woman at Accra, and my inquiries at that place confirmed the accounts which had been given to me at Cape Coast.
I made very particular inquiries of parties who were on the inquest, some who were acquainted with Mrs. Maclean at Cape Coast, and intimate with her up to the day of her death, one of whom, I believe, enjoyed the confidence of Mrs. Maclean more than any other English resident at Cape Coast, and the result of all my inquiries was the conviction that Mrs. Maclean met her death by no foul means; that the native woman, whose name has been mixed up with various rumors and suspicions of being at the castle at the time of Mrs. Maclean's death, and animated with deadly feelings of animosity toward her, had neither hand, nor act, nor part in the death of Mrs. Maclean; that every rumor of complicity on the part of Mr. Maclean, in any alleged crime of this kind, was utterly unfounded, as was likewise every rumor of ill treatment of his wife, amounting to actual violence or outrage, even of violent language or gesture, in any sudden ebullition of anger.
Mrs. Maclean, at the time of her death, was employed in writing sketches of Scott's heroines for Lady Blessington's "Book of Beauty."
On the morning of her decease, having risen about seven o'clock, she left her husband's room, and proceeded to her dress