Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And he took my hat, too!

Today's case concerns a man, one Matthias Fream or Frame, who's charged with perverting justice for helping his wife escape custody and also with grand larceny for stealing the constable's hat.

Mrs. Fream was charged with shoplifting, along with another woman. They were being taken from location to another in the custody of the constable when "the Prisoner and eight or nine more attacked us, broke the Coach-Doors to pieces, and rescued the Woman."

(I find the use of the word "rescued" interesting, since these are court documents.)

Not only did they free the women from custody, Fream took the constable's hat that had been knocked off his head.

Because the accused didn't have legal counsel until the Prisoner's Counsel Act of 1836, Fream himself cross-examines the constable and asks only one question:

"How can you be sure that I took it when several others were there?"

According to the constable, Fream was "the last Man of the Mob: The rest were gone a little before when he took my Hat up" and he knew Fream because he'd visited his wife while she was in custody.

Fream was found guilty and sentenced to transportation.

His wife, however, was acquitted.

What this case offers, I think, is a good set-up for a reunion romance - the husband attempts to save his unjustly accused wife and he winds up transported for a number of years. Then he comes home and finds...what?

Does she still love him? What's happened to her in the meantime? Does she understand why he did what he did? Does she think he was a fool to interfere? Has he changed so much she won't recognize him, or have anything more to do with him?

What if she's got an interfering, overbearing family who didn't want her to marry him in the first place? What if the other woman charged was a friend who's always had a thing for her husband? They were transported together - what's the wife to think?

Has the husband changed? What does she think of his ill-fated attempt at rescue?

Will they be able to get back together? Will it work? How do the events of the intervening years influence their relationship?

Yep, this could make for a very interesting story.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Duel Nobody Won

In today's Old Bailey Online case, a duelist is charged with murder.

Robert Trimble, a gentleman, was accused of killing Moses Pierce, a carpenter who fancied himself skilled with a sword. Seems ol' Mose always wore a sword and liked to brag of his skill, so much so that his "Behaviour founded upon that Conceit" became "unsupportable."

Trimble and Pierce got into an argument about how to hold a sword, and subsequently dueled, with the result that Pierce lost, dying in what sounds like the "only a flesh wound!" scene in Monty Python and The Holy Grail: "the fatal Wound was given; but they found the Deceas'd holding the Prisoner's Sword very thirsty and desirous of a Dram of Brandy; crying out, he would fight the Prisoner again, he would have his Blood, and presently after fell down dead."

The jury found Trimble guilty of manslaughter. His punishment? To be "burnt in the hand" -- branded.

I can see using this in a romance, by having the hero convicted of manslaughter and being branded in the hand. Scars are interesting, a very visible sign of something significant in the character's past.

Would I use the same excuse for a duel? Perhaps, especially if this happened when the hero was young and/or drunk.

And the heroine? Related to or friends of the dead man would make for plenty of conflict. Perhaps the hero discovers the heroine by accident and wants to make amends, and keep the secret of his scar.

Maybe he seeks her out to make amends -- or maybe he's bitter and feels he didn't deserve to be convicted, that he acted in self-defense.

Maybe he's ashamed and remorseful, and has hidden himself away. The heroine comes to make amends or perhaps find out exactly what happened, only to be rebuffed. I do like a Beauty and the Beast story!

What I'll mainly keep in the ol' memory bank from this case is the brand on the hand. It's interesting and unique, and provides all sorts of seedlings for future use.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Where's the beef?

I don't have time to do a true Story Seedlings blog post, but I just couldn't resist noting today's case. A guy was accused of stealing 34 pounds of beef that was hanging in a stall. He was apprehended in an alehouse called the Hole in the Wall. The prisoner's explanation? He bought it off some guys in Wapping.

The result -- "this not being prov'd, nor believ'd by the Jury, and the Butcher being positive it was his Beef" -- guilty. Sentence? Transportation.

Here's what I want to know. Granted, the prisoner's explanation is pretty vague, but how did the butcher really know it was his beef?

And how does a guy walk off with 34 pounds of raw meat?
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