Tried always and Condemned by thee
Permit me this reprieve
That dying I may earn the look
For which I cease to live -
~ Tried always and Condemned by thee by Emily Dickinson
The old baby farmer, the wretched Miss Dyer
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid.
In times long ago, we'd 'a' made a big fire,
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade.
~ by Anonymous
|Dead Mans Hand (by ANARKYMAN deviantart.com)|
An Eye For An Eye
1896, City of London
The prison was situated at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey just inside the City of London.
Dark foreboding clouds had filled the sky blocking out the light.
It had been raining continuously in London for three weeks.
Many regarded the inclement weather as a judgement from God upon their sinful ways.
But one man was waiting in a Newgate cell to be escorted to his final agony.
It was the day of his execution and he was facing his end with stoicism.
The dank cell he inhabited was dimly lit by an inner courtyard.
Lawrence Way was looking into the mouth of the grave.
He had been unable to touch his breakfast of bread and butter, eggs and tea.
Lawrence Way's fate had been decreed as if it had been written in stone.
He was to be taken to a place of execution.
And hung by the neck until he was dead.
Lawrence Way had been visited by his wife three days before.
A wire grille separated the couple and they were witnessed by a number of attendants.
Amy Way had written to her husband on several occasions bemoaning their fate and the cruel twist in their fortunes.
She could barely write but she had poured out her heart in a spidery hand.
Amy Way had been sharing her husband's sentence with him.
She was three months pregnant and standing on a precipice.
Amy Way had moved in with her sister and her large family in a small house in London.
But the living conditions were cramped and the young woman knew she couldn't stay there forever.
Without her husband, her future looked bleak.
Amy Way could expect to end up in a poorhouse and her baby taken from her.
If starvation, poverty and shame did not carry her off first.
Infant mortality was high in Victorian England while single parenthood and illegitimacy was stigmatised.
There was also a proliferation of backstreet abortions which were crudely executed and often very dangerous.
In Victorian England unmarried mothers often struggled to gain an income, since the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act had removed any financial obligation from the fathers of illegitimate children.
As a result, unmarried women were often forced into prostitution to earn a living.
Many mothers either abandoned their unwanted children or fostered them into the care of "baby farmers" for a weekly fee or had them adopted permanently for a one off payment.
Baby farming was an "occupation which shuns the light" and infanticide was rife throughout Victorian England.
Countless children were sent to an early grave by ruthless nurses.
They were often starved or drugged to death or murdered outright.
Lawrence Way's neighbour at Reading had been the infamous Amelia Dyer.
She had been executed three months before for the murder of baby Harry Simmons and baby Doris Marmon.
Amelia Dyer was a particularly prolific "baby farmer" and had made a living out of strangling unwanted babies to death.
By the time she was finally caught out, Dyer was said to have murdered three hundred babies.
Amelia Dyer was hanged at Newgate on 10 June 1896.
But Amy Way was in no position to "farm" out her newborn.
She didn't have two pennies to rub together.
The wife of a condemned man wasn't expected to outlive him.
"Good sweet Amy!" Lawrence Way muttered as he gazed into the haunted eyes and hollow face of his sweetheart.
The pretty grocers daughter.
With the sun in her hair and a smile to soften the hardest heart.
The couple had been married but five years and it had passed in the blink of an eye.
Once upon a time there was laughter in their house.
And joy in their bed.
But it had all soured quickly enough.
Now Amy Way was virtually a widow with death as her new paramour.
"Soon we will be together!" She whispered to her husband.
Amy Way was a comely auburn haired woman with hazel eyes and a winsome smile.
But despair and desolation had ravaged her looks and she had aged before her time.
Amy Way was the flower that had withered all too soon.
She had lost her looks.
And now she had lost her mind.
Lawrence Way smiled darkly.
He knew exactly what his wife meant.
"We have so little time" Amy Way muttered sadly.
Her husband longed to take his wife in his arms one last time.
But this desire was denied to him.
"Soon we will be together!" Lawrence Way replied knowingly as he echoed his wife's words.
His handsome face was careworn.
His tawny hair was dull and matted and the light had gone out of his green eyes.
The man Amy Winter had married on a fine Spring day had been replaced by a ghost.
His face and form had been haggard by the trauma of his ordeal.
The skeleton standing before her wasn't her husband.
Amy Way shed bitter tears as she beheld her beloved husband one last time.
It would all be over soon.
Their meeting had been brief but meaningful.
Now Lawrence Way could go to his death in peace.
The shattered woman departed with only one wish.
To see the man who had bought her husband to this end suffer a worse fate.
The Newgate cell was not to be a place of desolation for long.
And every night the condemned man's confidence was bolstered by the appearance of a kindly chaplain.
He was tall and had a ghostly face but offered tender words.
Farther Bartholomew grinned at the condemned man.
Lawrence Way was now ready to meet his Maker.
He could still hear the judges voice as he passed sentence.
It was Sunday and Lawrence Way was standing in the dock with his head bowed.
It had been raining continuously all day.
The Old Bailey was situated a few hundred yards from St Paul's Cathedral and was named after the street that ran alongside.
Newgate Gaol stood next door.
A plea of insanity had been rejected by the judge and in spite of Lawrence Way's exemplary record - the verdict was still to be the same.
Way had been indicted for the wilful murder of Samuel Hawke.
The court was in a filthy mood that day.
They were baying for the blood of a fallen angel.
Justice Bostwick was known to be a harsh judge.
Lawrence Way was unquestionably guilty of murdering his landlord in cold blood.
|The Old Bailey (by tcsavage deviantart.com)|
Lawrence Way was to pay with his life.
The condemned man did not flinch as the verdict was given.
He was already a dead man walking.
"An eye for an eye!" Justice Bostwick declared dramatically after passing judgement.
A death for a death.
"And may God have mercy on your soul!" The judge added ominously as his voice rang throughout the courtroom.
The widow of the deceased gave a visible sigh of relief at the sentence.
Clarabell Hawke hugged her two fair haired teenage sons.
She was an attractive red head in a buttoned up blue gown and stylish bonnet.
But her jubilation was destined to be short lived.
Tuberculosis would carry Clarabell Hawke off within three years.
As soon as the verdict was given Amy Way began screaming uncontrollably.
"Shame on you!" She exploded at the jury.
Amy Way jumped out of her seat and charged towards the judge.
"No! No! No!"
"Have a heart!" Amy Way railed "I will die without him!"
But there was to be no mercy for Lawrence Way.
All eyes in the courtroom were now fixed on the devastated wife.
Amy Way had endured months of privation at her husband's side.
And now she was as good as dead too.
Amy was virtually on her knees before the stony faced judge.
"Have mercy on us!" She implored him as she cupped her belly "I am with child! Show us some pity!"
But it was to no avail.
Justice Bostwick stared straight passed her.
Prison guards intercepted the distraught woman and grabbed her roughly.
"God damn you!" Amy Way snarled "And may the Devil take you!"
Then she spat at the judge before being dragged screaming out of the courtroom by the prison guards.
A loud murmur quickly arose amid the throng.
The spittle had landed on Justice Bostick's cheek and he wiped it casually away.
Amy Way was a worthless woman.
Without her husband she would be dead within a matter of weeks.
No emotion registered upon the judge's grey face.
As far as he was concerned Lawrence Way was just a miserable cobbler with a harpy of a wife.
Justice Bostwick had seen it all countless times before.
Lawrence Way was just another crook.
The City of London was full of these rogues.
Nobody would miss him once he was in the ground.
The judge had no sympathy for Lawrence Way and his kind whatsoever.
Amy Way was flung out onto the steps of the Old Bailey.
It was bitterly cold and the sky was ominously overcast.
The woman burst into a flood of harsh sobs.
This was the beginning of the end for her.
Time was running out for her too.
Amy Way would soon be making the coffin her bed.
There was a plot already waiting for her in the graveyard.
Justice had been served.
Lawrence Way was greeted by a cacophony of lurid jeers and taunts as he was led out of the courtroom.
Justice Bostwick rose triumphantly from his chair.
Today had been a good day.
A momentous day for British justice.
Justice Bostwick had rid the body politic of yet more vermin.
And he was already eagerly anticipating the fine steak and nice bottle of claret that he was going to have in celebration that evening.
Once upon a time Lawrence Way had been a fine cobbler and the most influential \/in his home town.
Reading was an expanding and prosperous town in the county of Berkshire.
It was in London Road that Lawrence Way set up Readings Finest Shoes shoe shop.
Business was brisk and he was soon riding on the crest of a wave.
Way's skills and ingenuity soon became legendary.
But times were harsh.
Reading was a town of burgeoning industries which included the world famous Huntley and Palmer biscuit factory which employed almost five-thousand local workers.
A rival cobbler soon set up shop not far from Lawrence Way's Readings Finest Shoes and the new arrival had quickly stolen much of his thunder.
Times were hard for the working class in Victorian England.
Many families struggled to survive.
If disease didn't carry them off then destitution was sure to.
Arthur Mayhew's Premium Shoes had already surpassed the well established shoe shop in popularity.
But God would be a great leveller.
Influenza would soon carry Arthur Mayfew and his family off.
Within five years they would all be sharing a plot in the graveyard.
Now Lawrence Way was facing ruin.
And with a child on the way - he and his wife faced the prospect of a grim future.
Lawrence Way's fall from grace had been swift.
His irate landlord had wavered over a months worth of rent on account of Way's superlative skills as a shoemaker.
But now many of the cobblers customers had deserted him and he was struggling to pay his arrears and settle his debts.
Lawrence Way lived in a meagre flat above Readings Finest Shoes with his wife.
Now the desperate couple were too poor to even fix the broken window in the cramped living room so they huddled together in blankets as they ate what scraps of food they could get.
And Amy Way cursed the day she was born.
Samuel Hawke was an efficient if harsh landlord.
He was a tall and imposing man with small grey eyes, ginger hair and a fulsome beard.
Hawke owned several shops and managed them with an iron fist.
Now that the glitter dust of Lawrence Way's celebrity had faded, the landlord saw no reason to deal gently with him.
Samuel Hawke had roughly informed the cobbler that he could either pay up or be thrown with his wife out onto the streets of Reading.
To die in the gutter like dogs.
"Please!" Lawrence Way pleaded "I need a little more time!"
"You've had plenty of time!" Samuel Hawke answered him sharply "You can either pay up or go! And I assure you that its pretty cold out there!"
Amy Way went down on her knees before the landlord.
"Please Sir!" She cried "We're begging you to take some pity on us!"
Amy reached out a quivering hand but Samuel Hawke brushed it aside.
"Get away from me!" Hawke exclaimed "You carping hag!"
The distraught woman burst into loud sobs.
Something suddenly snapped in Lawrence Way.
Poverty and ruin can do strange things to a man's head.
The shoemaker grabbed a heavy object from his work table and lunged at the surly landlord.
Before Samuel Hawke knew what was happening, Lawrence Way began bludgeoning him over the head with a heavy hammer.
The horrified landlord tumbled to the floor as the crazed and wild-eyed cobbler proceeded to bash his brains out.
Lawrence Way had been possessed by the demon Ahriman - the spirit of darkness, destruction and death.
The hammer kept crashing onto the landlords head.
Over and over again.
Until Samuel Hawke's skull had been crushed like an over ripe melon.
A pool of dark red blood had appeared around the dead landlord.
His brains were splayed all over the floor and the wall.
The demon departed and the maddened shoemaker was left wild eyed and breathing heavily over the corpse of Samuel Hawke.
That was when Amy Way began screaming.
By the time Lawrence Way eventually handed himself over to the police - Amy Way was as insane as him.
The horror of the former cobbler's predicament had tipped him over the edge.
He no longer slept much and was unable to keep his food down.
"Soon you will be beyond such cares!" Father Bartholomew assured him.
|the noose (by monica dorkface deviantart.com)|
At 7.30 a.m., the former cobbler was led out from his cell into the Press Yard where the Sheriff and the Ordinary met him.
It was a grey and deathly silent morning.
No birds were singing in the sky.
"Close your eyes and see heaven" Farther Bartholomew urged the condemned man before disappearing.
James Billington was a former pub entertainer and barber who was said to have had a "lifelong fascination" with hanging.
He had became an efficient hangman of the British government in 1884.
Billington and his assistant bound Lawrence Way's wrist behind his back with cord and also placed a cord round his body and arms at the elbow.
The bells of St Sepulchre's church began tolling at 7.45 a.m.
Lawrence Way was led across the Yard to the lodge and then out through the Debtor's Door where he climbed the steps up to the platform.
Once he was assembled on the drop, Billington put the noose round Way's neck while he prayed with the Ordinary.
Father Elmer was a gentle older man with a kindly disposition and he earnestly prayed for the condemned man's soul.
The last thing that Lawrence Way saw with his earthly eyes before James Billington put the white hood over his head was his wife.
She was standing before him with her arms outstretched.
"Soon we will be together!" Amy Way cried.
Then everything went black.
The Under Sheriff gave the signal and James Billington moved the lever which was connected to a drawbar under the trap and caused it to fall with a loud crash, sending a writhing Lawrence Way dropping 12-18 inches.
Several seconds later and the hapless former shoemaker's neck broke and he was finally still.
"May God have mercy on your soul!" Father Elmer muttered.
Three crows suddenly squawked loudly from a spindly tree and then flew off.
The sky was overcast and distant rumbles of thunder sounded across the horizon.
It was lunchtime when the simple burial service of Lawrence Way was carried out by prison officers and overseen by Father Elmer
Way's body was shoved into a cheap pine coffin and buried in the prison grounds in an unmarked grave.
By the time the former cobbler was in the ground - Amy Way was already dead.
Before her husband had been sent to his death, she had marched to the steps of the Old Bailey.
She had cursed Justice Bostwick every day since her husband's condemnation.
Amy Way had fervently vowed retribution upon the lawmen who had thrown her husband to the wolves.
Day and night she prayed for revenge.
"If ever it lies in my power ... I will work such displeasure to the lawman ... so help me God ..."
Now the lamentable hour had arrived.
The distraught woman climbed the steps of the Old Bailey.
"I am as good as dead!" Amy Way exclaimed loudly as a small crowd gathered around her.
Then the deranged woman acted quickly.
She took out a small knife from her pocket and slit her throat from ear to ear with it.
There was a gasp of horror among the throng and a woman screamed in horror.
Amy Way tumbled to the steps like an old rag doll.
There was a sliver of a smile on her face as her body stopped jerking and she finally lay still.
The steps of the Old Bailey were covered in a river of blood.
A priest rushed forward to check the woman's pulse and then crossed himself.
But Amy Way was already cold.
"God have mercy on her soul!" The priest muttered.
The sky had darkened considerably and presently it began to rain heavily again.
It was 11p.m and Justice Bostwick was relaxing in his study with a glass of sherry.
A log fire was burning and the lawmen was mentally recounting the days occurrences surrounded by his creature comforts.
Today had been a good day.
The wretched cobbler had met his death and his captious fishwife had joined him.
A fine dinner and copious amounts of alcohol were taking their effect on Sir Edmund Bostwick.
Everything was perfect in his Garden of Eden.
Except for one thing.
There was a serpent in the garden.
In the form of his wife.
She was the shadow that blighted his life.
The thought of his wife instantly soured the lawman's mood.
Suddenly everything began flooding back.
The judge had retired to the study to escape his wife's incessant nagging.
They had had a particularly explosive argument earlier on in the evening.
But that was one bottle of claret and two bottles of whiskey ago.
Camelia Bostwick was obstreperous and demanding.
Nothing was ever good enough for her.
Sir Edmund Bostwick was a rather short and unprepossessing man.
He had greying brown hair, clear blue eyes and a fine curling moustache.
Bostwick was a charmer with an agile mind.
He had shown early promise and his barrister father confidently predicted that he would have a glittering career in law.
And he was right.
Bostwick rose quickly in the ranks.
And soon his family had arranged a marriage for him with the daughter of a Liberal MP.
Highly regarded and a pillar of the community.
Camelia Townsend was counted a great catch.
And their marriage was regarded as the event of the social calender.
On marriage, the couple retired to a plush stately home in Chelsea as befit their status.
That was when the rot began to set in.
Camelia Bostwick was never a beauty.
She was short and rather portly and had a big bust.
Her hair was chestnut and her small eyes were grey.
But Cameilia Bostwick knew how to make the best of herself and was rarely seen out without a new bonnet or fine pair of leather gloves.
Her ornate dressing table was awash with exquisite jewelry and jars of cold cream and rose water.
Sir Edmund had awarded her with a fine trousseau of furs and elegant gowns.
He knew how to appease his shrewish wife.
Because the gifts were frequently peace offerings.
And she was greedy enough to be satisfied by a new trinket or gown.
Sir Edmund Bostwick had never loved his wife.
She had been chosen for him by his barrister father.
And by the time Bostwick realised he hated his wife it was already too late.
Nor had she set much store by him.
Camelia Bostwick had been bought up in Highgate surrounded by the exciting young sons of Liberal MP's.
Her husband was hardly in the same league.
Camelia was used to the privileged lifestyle and expected Justice Edmund Bostwick to keep her in the manner to which she was accustomed.
On the surface, Camelia Bostwick had it all.
But beneath the surface she was miserably married to a man she detested.
A weak man hiding behind his wig and gown.
And as time wore on, Justice Edmund Bostwick became more and more wedded to the bottle.
Camilia was married to one of the leading lawmen in London.
But she was also married to all his weaknesses too.
He also had a penchant for young men which appalled the snobbish woman.
Camelia Bostwick had ceased demanding conjugal rights from her husband when it became clear that he was interested in more exotic practices.
Now Justice Bostwick cast his mind back to the events several hours before.
"If they could see you now!" Camelia Bostwick sneered venomously "The big lawman! Drunk as a skunk!"
She was standing in the doorway of the study with her hands on her hips.
Her face was contorted with rage.
"I should have listened to my mother!" The woman added angrily "She warned me that you were an empty vessel! And now I've had enough I tell you!"
"Be quiet woman!" Justice Bostwick retorted slurring his words "Shut your stupid mouth!"
Why did she have to ruin everything?
"Charming!" Camilia cried "Well I won't be carrying your cross any longer! You have blood on your hands and I won't watch you drink yourself to an early grave!"
The lawman rose unsteadily to his feet.
No amount of cold cream or rosewater could beautify his wife's plain face.
Or cover up her reptilian nature.
"Why do you have to spoil everything?" The judge shouted "You ungrateful harridan!"
"I'm leaving you tonight Edmund!" Camelia Bostwick informed him firmly "And I am going to tell the whole world what a drunk and a pervert you really are! You'll be finished!"
She headed purposefully for the stairwell.
"You aren't going anywhere!" The lawman raged as he followed up the stairs "You're staying here! You're not leaving this house!"
Camilia Bostwick threw back her head and laughed out loud.
"Over my dead body!" She hissed.
The judge squeezed his eyes tight shut as he tried to block out the images.
A good day had been spoiled by his caterwauling wife.
"She ruins everything!" He muttered bitterly.
He had taught her a lesson she would never forget.
The lawman grinned darkly.
He finished his sherry and presently he nodded off in his chair.
Justice Bostwick was awoken by a loud banging on the door.
It must have gone midnight.
And the lawmen felt a cold shiver run down his spine.
As if someone had just walked across his grave.
"Who can be calling at this ungodly hour?" Justice Edmund Bostwick muttered as he slowly rose from his chair.
He staggered out to the hall and opened the large front door.
A thick fog descended upon the City of London during the night.
The lawman's squinted into the gloom.
"Hello?" He cried "Is there anybody there?"
|Once in London (by NocturnalStigma deviantart.com)|
And Justice Bostwick froze to the spot.
He was suddenly gripped by such an overwhelming terror that the blood froze in his veins.
His eyes had widened with fright.
And his mouth had dropped open but no sound would come out.
Lawrence and Amy Way were standing on the steps of his stately home.
Frozen at the time of their deaths
He with his neck broken.
And she with an angry open gash across her throat.
They had been released to escort Justice Edmund Bostwick to hell.
"An eye for an eye!" Lawrence Way informed him drolly.
The lawman was shaking his head as he finally went insane.
"And may God have mercy on your soul!" Amy Way finished with a dark grin.
Suddenly Justice Bostwick lurched out of his sleep.
He was panting heavily and tiny beads of sweat had formed across his brow.
It was another nightmare.
A cold shiver ran down his spine.
This was not his study with its roaring fire and vast library.
This was not his large wooden bed but a hard pallet.
He was disorientated by his surroundings.
Sir Edmund Bostwick looked grimly around the dimly lit cell.
"You fell into a slumber, Sir!" A low voice informed him from the darkness.
The lawman squinted into the gloom.
Father Bartholomew stepped out of the shadows.
The chaplain smiled benevolently at the bewildered man.
"I must still be dreaming!" Justice Bostwick declared "Why am I here?"
"You murdered your wife, Sir!" Father Bartholomew replied "Don't you remember? On the day you had Lawrence Way hanged!"
The lawman began shaking his head as the chaplain grinned at him.
He must have blocked out his actions in shock.
Suddenly everything was falling into place.
Justice Edmund Bostwick was standing on the landing with his wife.
He was blocking his wife from entering their stylish bedroom.
"Let me through!" Camlia Bostwick demanded "Or I will scream this house down!"
"You are not getting past me!" The judge snarled "Come any closer and I swear I'll ..."
"You'll do what?" Camilia retorted as her eyes narrowed "You are too damn drunk to do anything! So get out of my way!"
She threw back her head and laughed out loud.
Her useless husband would soon be passed out on the bed snoring loudly.
"I married a spineless little man!" Camilia Bostwick exclaimed nastily.
Something suddenly snapped in the lawman.
Before he could think his hands were around her throat.
Justice Edmund Bostwick had been possessed by the demon Ahriman - the spirit of darkness, destruction and death.
The portly woman was choking and grasping at her husband's face as he tightened his grip.
"No Edmund! No!"
The lawman's face was red and distorted with rage.
His eyes were burning with dark fires.
Justice Bostwick was no longer human.
He was snarling at her like a rabid dog.
"You ruin everything!" Bostwick sneered "But not for much longer!"
They were moving closer and closer to the edge of the landing.
Camilia Bostwick was struggling in her husband's grasp as they edged ever closer to the banister.
She finally broke free from his grip but before she could flee, Justice Bostwick sent her tumbling over the banister with one rough shove.
Camilia Bostwick screamed with terror as she fell to her death.
There was a loud crash as her body hit the marble floor and her neck snapped.
Justice Edmund Bostwick looked down unemotionally from the landing.
He smiled darkly.
Camillia Bostwick was as dead as a door nail.
And he was free of her at last.
"Justice has been served!" The judge declared.
The demon Ahriman had departed.
"Let us pray!" Father Bartholomew advised the devastated lawman.
He had completely lost his reason.
But suddenly everything was coming back to him.
This was Newgate Gaol.
And this was the morning of his execution.
The bread and butter, eggs and tea were as he had left them.
And James Billington had already entered the room.
"You must make ready!" Billington informed Justice Bostwick.
The hangman was a handsome, thick set man with a moustache.
"Please!" Justice Bostwick pleaded with him "I need a little more time! The chaplain is with me and I need to pray for my soul!"
James Billington looked with bewilderment at the condemned man.
"The Ordinary is waiting outside your cell, Sir!" The hangman informed him.
"But Father Bartholomew is with me here!" Justice Bostwick protested.
"I do not mean to affright you Sir!" James Billington answered him "But Father Bartholomew is dead. Scarlet fever carried him off two years ago!"
The lawman turned slowly to look where the chaplain had been standing.
Father Bartholomew had now been joined by Lawrence and Amy Way.
Also standing beside them was Camilia Bostwick.
They were all frozen at the moment of their deaths.
Justice Edmund Bostwick began screaming as four spirits grinned back at him.
They had been released to escort him to hell.
The scales of justice had at last been balanced.
I do like Mr Todd.
He's such a nice man.
Sweeney Todd they call him.
They say that he is the hardest working man you will ever come across.
From morning to dusk his barber shop on Fleet Street is open.
The candle light is always flickering.
They say Mr Todd gives the finest cut.
I heard he was helping Mrs Lovett with her pies.
You know what gossip is like.
But it's just like Mr Todd to help someone out.
And I do love Mrs Lovett's pies mind.
I'd just as soon as eat my old man in a pie then believe the gossip that goes round London town.
That's another thing.
My old dad has just gone over to Mr Todd's barber shop for a nice close shave.
First time and all.
He'd better not come home steaming drunk again or my old mum will have his guts for garters.
I do hope he brings home some of Mrs Lovett's pies.
|Brompton Cemetery, London (by okemani deviantart.com)|