FOR six long weeks George Giles lay in the cells of Newgate. At the expiration of that time the day of trial came, and he was arraigned in due form. He had no counsel, but defended himself most ably. No lawyer could have argued more adroitly, or more successfully, several technical objections that he took — especially that one which related to a proposal to screen his face with a mask (similar to that which it was alleged he had worn), while the prosecutor looked at the back of his head and his neck. “If,” said he, “the prosecutor will swear that the mask now produced in court is the identical mask which was worn by the man who robbed him, I have no objection; on the contrary, I will gladly put it on my face; but if he cannot so swear I ask, in the name of justice and of decency, that it may be removed from my sight, and that of the Bench and the jury.”

“But, my lord,” urged the counsel for the prosecution, “it is just such a mask as was worn by the highwayman.”

“And I,” exclaimed the prisoner, “may be just such a man as the man who robbed the prosecutor; but still not that man.”

Nor was his speech to the jury less ingenious than his objections taken during the trial. “As for not giving any address,” said he, “I would ask you, gentlemen of the jury, whether there is no shame attached to even an accusation of this kind, false though it may be? Innocent as I am, and certain as I am of being acquitted, I would not for the whole world have my relations and friends know that I have been tried for such an offence. Nor would I have my enemies — and every man has enemies in this world — to know it. For, would they ever fail to remind one of it?

  ― 49 ―
Is there one amongst you, gentlemen, who can lay his hand on his heart and say: ‘I have no enemy who would rejoice on hearing that I have been placed in so awful a predicament?’ The question is not, who I am, or where I live; but, am I the man who robbed the prosecutor? The shape of the back part of my head has been dwelt upon. There are thousands of men in this kingdom, and I doubt not, many in this court, at this moment, whose heads are shaped like mine. But the prosecutor has only noticed two: the head of the man who robbed him, and the head of myself. A comparison of handwriting is not allowed in law, I believe. Is the life of a British subject, then, to depend on comparing the shape of his head, or a portion thereof, with that of some criminal? Let reason, justice, and humanity, rise triumphantly, and with one voice forbid it! Great stress has also been laid upon the scar or mark upon my right hand. Is there a man in this court, or in this kingdom, who is devoid of some scar or mark on his right hand — a scar resulting from some slight wound inflicted in his childhood, or boyhood, or in later life? I will be bound that there is not one! We have all cut ourselves or burnt ourselves, at some period of our lives. Remember that the penalty of the crime of which I stand accused is death. Can you conscientiously consign a fellow-creature to so fearful a doom as that of being hanged by the neck in public, on evidence so flimsy and so unsatisfactory as that which you have heard this day? The learned counsel has said to you in his address: ‘Let the prisoner account to you for the possession of the bank-notes which he endorsed, and passed to the landlord of the hotel.’ For the past six weeks I have been shut up in a dark cell in Newgate. What opportunity have I had to discover the gentleman from whom I received them more than twenty months ago, at Doncaster — a gentleman whom I never saw before, and have never seen since — a gentleman whom I met in the ring, and with whom I betted on a horse-race? I won his

  ― 50 ―
money, and he paid me. Possibly this unsupported testimony of one who avows that he is a gambler may not meet with much consideration, but I desire to impress upon you that gambling is not a crime in the eye of the law: and that even royalty has pecuniary speculations touching turf events. The last, and withal the weakest, point to which I have to direct your attention is this: It has been urged against me that no Mr. Giles, of Eagle Lodge, could be found. There was no such a person, and no such a place! What are the facts? A banker's clerk — and you will bear in mind what he admitted on cross-examination — goes down to Exeter, puts up at an hotel, asks the landlord of that hotel or tavern — if he knows Mr. Giles, of Eagle Lodge? The landlord says ‘No.’ He (the banker's clerk) then talks to the ‘boots,’ and to the stable-boys, and they have no knowledge of such a person, or such a place. He then wanders about the town and inquires of several tradesmen, who can afford him no sort of information. Where upon he comes back perfectly satisfied that there is no Mr. Giles, and no Eagle Lodge; just as if it were absolutely essential that any gentleman going to reside in the neighbourhood of Exeter must register his existence with the landlord and servants of the Old Dun Cow, or those few tradespeople to whom the banker's clerk thought fit to confine his inquiries.”

The judge summed up, rather in the prisoner's favour than otherwise, and the jury retired to consider their verdict. They were absent from four o'clock until a quarter to eleven, when they returned into court, and, amidst breathless silence, delivered their verdict of — “Guilty!” The judge, who seemed somewhat surprised, did not condemn the prisoner to be hanged, but ordered the sentence of “death” to be “recorded” against him. This was tantamount to transportation beyond seas for the term of his natural life.

After a brief probationary (?) period on board of a hulk

  ― 51 ―
George Giles was “drafted,” and placed on board a convict ship, bound for Sydney, New South Wales.

Although the landlord of the Bath hotel has testified to the convict's manners, bearing, and address, his personal appearance has not yet been described. Be it known that he had violet-coloured eyes, which had an extremely soft and sweet expression; an aquiline nose, and a well-formed mouth, in which were set a row of pearly-white teeth; a rather prominent chin, and a neck most exquisitely moulded. His hair was of a chestnut colour. Giles was, in short, not only a very handsome, but a very peculiar-looking person; and his age, at the time of his conviction, was not in excess of twenty-five years. The doctor of the ship in which Giles was borne away from the land of his fathers to the far-distant penal colony, took what is called a great fancy for the young man, and contrived, during the five months that they were at sea, to make his position as little disagreeable to him as possible. This he effected by appointing him to take charge of the cabin in which were deposited the medicine-chests and hospital stores, and suffering him to take his meals and sleep therein, instead of among the four hundred and ninety convicts on board.

“I am very curious to know your history,” said the doctor to Giles, one day in private.

“I have none to narrate, sir,” was the reply.

“Oh, yes, you have. Come tell it to me. I know what you were transported for, by the muster-roll and a copy of the calendar — the Newgate Calendar. But how came it about? You were guilty, I fancy?”

“Well, sir, I was convicted; and that amounts to the same thing, so far as I am now concerned.”

“But, come; tell me. I have read the report of the trial very attentively, and the case appears to me such a strange and such a doubtful one.”

“I can tell you nothing in addition to what you have read in that report, sir.”

  ― 52 ―

“Oh, yes, you can. Say, now, were you guilty or not?”

“I would rather say nothing about it, sir; but if you press me, I have no hesitation in saying that this is not the hand into which the banker dropped his purse, confidently as he swore to this mark on the ball of my thumb.”

“Then you are the other man who was in company of the highwayman?”

“No, I am not, sir.”

“Then you are innocent?”

“Again, sir, I implore you not to question me any further on this matter. I am very sensible of your great kindness to me; but I would rather incur your most severe displeasure than prolong this conversation, which is so peculiarly painful to my feelings.”

“Very well. But there is one question that I must put to you; and you, I am sure, will not object to answer it.”

“What is the question, sir?”

“Was Giles your real name or not?”

“It was not, sir.”

“Then what was it?”

“I would rather have my tongue torn out by the roots, sir, than divulge the name of my family, the name under which I was born. Had I been sentenced to be hanged, and if my reprieve and pardon had been faithfully promised me on condition that I would state who I was and by whom begotten, I would have remained silent.”

“Let me look at that mark on the ball of your thumb.”

“There, sir.”

“How was it done? By accident?”

“No, sir.”

“How, then?”

“It was burnt in by a gipsy.”


“That I hardly know. It was done when I was a child. Others have been branded in this way.”

“What others?”

  ― 53 ―
“Ah, sir, you are coming back to the old point. I must decline answering any further questions on the subject.”

It was during the administration of General Macquarie, as governor of New South Wales and its dependencies, that George Giles was transported for the term of his natural life; and it was in the autumn of the year 1815 that he arrived in that colony, and was “assigned,” in company with two other convicts, to a Captain Bellamy, of the Royal Navy, who had retired from the service, and settled in Australia. Captain Bellamy, who was then about forty-five years of age, was a very extensive grantee, and had, in all, some seventy or eighty assigned servants, the greater portion of whom were employed on an estate which he possessed in the Hawkesbury district, and which estate — with the assistance of an overseer, who had formerly sailed with him as boatswain — he managed himself. On the occasion of having new men assigned to him, it was Captain Bellamy's wont to have “all hands piped” to listen to a short address, which, without variation, he always delivered in the following words:

“Men! I have called you together to bear witness to the truth of the few observations that I am about to make to these new-comers. I am a strict, but a just master. I feed you well, I clothe you well, and if you are sick you are well attended to; but, at the same time, if you are ever guilty of neglect of your work, fail to be obedient to command, or wanting in respect to myself, or your overseer — by — I flog you well. That's all. Pipe down, Jackson!”

These last words were addressed to the boatswain overseer, who instantly blew a shrill whistle; whereupon the convict servants dispersed and resumed their various labours, leaving the captain, the overseer, Giles and his two companions, in front of the house, which was “the quarter-deck.”

“You are labourers, my men?” said the captain, addressing himself to the trio, who had just arrived, and were now standing before him.

  ― 54 ―
“Yes, sir,” said two of the men, touching their hats; but Giles spoke not, nor did he make any sign.

“Are you not a labourer, my man?”said the captain to Giles.

“No, sir.”

“Indeed! What are you, then?”

“An apothecary, sir.”

“An apothecary! I applied for three labourers. However, I ought not to complain, perhaps. Is there nothing you can turn your hand to, except compounding pills, spreading plaisters, and mixing syrups?”

“I shall be glad, sir, to make myself generally useful.”

“Generally useful is such an infernally vague term — I hate it,” said the captain, shaking his head. “Let us have one thing definite. Do you know anything about horses?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, Jackson, suppose we put him in the stables? We want help there.”

“Yes, sir,” said the overseer.

“Then be it so. By the bye, it strikes me that coach-house door would be none the worse for a little dumbscraping or a touch of the tar brush; so, to-morrow morning, at sunrise, let him be employed in that manly and wholesome occupation; it will give him an appetite for his breakfast. The others will go into the field, and hoe up their thirteen rood of ground each.”

“Yes, sir,” said the overseer.

“But before you billet them off just take their lines, and let me have them before sunset.”

“Yes, sir.” And then turning to Giles and the others, Mr. Jackson added: “Come along, my lads!”

The overseer led them into a room, where he measured them to a hair. He then took them into the store-room, where he weighed them, marking down the weight of each man in a book. He next commanded them to strip, whereupon he ascertained every mark or scar that each man

  ― 55 ―
had upon his Person, noting at the same time, the colour of each man's hair and eyes, shape of the nose, complexion, &c., &c. This done, he served out to each person ten pounds of seconds flour, ten pounds of salt beef, a quarter of a pound of brown sugar, two ounces of tea, two ounces of soap, and a “fig” (one ounce) of colonial tobacco. “That's your week's rations,” said he. “And now for your toggery. Here you are! one duck frock, one cotton shirt, one pair of duck trousers, one pair of boots, one straw hat, and one black handkerchief. And let me recommend you all to come as clean and neat as possible on Sundays to Divine Service into the captain's verandah; for there's nothing that his excellency is more particular about than the uniform appearance of all his crew on the Sabbath-day; and any of you as doesn't know how to tie a running knot, or what they calls a sailor's knot, in your neck-handkerchief, if you'll come to me in my leisure moments, I'll show you how to do it. And, lastly, about your sleeping. Here's a bed and a blanket a-piece for you. You (he addressed himself to Giles) as is going into the stables, will sleep in the stables; you as is going to work in the fields, will shake yourselves down along with those as works in the fields. You will find yourselves pretty comfortable here, I dare say. What the captain told you is very true. He is a strict, but a just man. I have known him ever since I was a little boy. He was only a middy when I fust sailed with him; and he was just the same then that he is now; not a bit of difference, only older, and a little more cantankerous, of course.”

Let us now leave “Giles” on Captain Bellamy's estate, within Hawkesbury district, and change the scene to Europe.

One forenoon, about a year and six months after the trial and conviction of Giles, a gentleman called at Mr. Binkie's bank, and presented, across the counter, a cheque for £500. Mr. Martin, whose name has been already mentioned in connection with this narrative, and who was the cashier of

  ― 56 ―
the bank, inquired of the gentleman how he would receive the money?

“All in bank-notes, except £10 in gold,” was the reply. Mr. Martin counted out the notes, and was about to shovel the gold into the hand of the gentleman, when, to his surprise, he beheld on the ball of his thumb exactly the same mark as that upon which had chiefly rested the conviction of another person. Mr. Martin was rather startled, and, putting down the shovel, said — “Would you have any objection, sir, to write your name on the back of this cheque?”

“Have you any doubt as to the signature? Do you believe it to be Lord Beckthorpe's signature or not?” was the abrupt reply.

“I know it to be Lord Beckthorpe's signature, sir.”

“And is it not payable to bearer?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then why should I endorse it? What right have you to ask me to endorse it, sir? It is an impertinence to me as well as to Lord Beckthorpe. What right have you, pray, to know or to inquire the name of every or any person to whom a nobleman or gentleman thinks proper to give a cheque? If my banker took such a gross liberty with me, I'd never rest till I ruined him. Now, sir, I demand that money; and, listen to me, if it is not paid instanter, I will, within one hour from this time, post my Lord Beckthorpe at every club in London, as a defaulter in the payment of his debts of honour, leaving you and he to settle and reconcile that unpleasantness between you.” Hearing these violent words uttered in a loud and imperious tone of voice, Mr. Binkie left his seat in the bank parlour, and was advancing to the counter, when Mr. Martin met him and said, in a whisper: “Look at his right hand, sir.” Mr. Binkie had a very good opportunity of doing this, for the gentleman, when he repeated energetically: “Do you honour Lord Beckthorpe's cheque on demand, payable to bearer, or do you not?” stretched forth

  ― 57 ―
his palm across the counter, and within two feet of Mr. Binkie's eyes.

“Oh, yes, we honour it, sir,” said Mr. Binkie, now taking the case out of Mr. Martin's hands. “By all means, and it shall be paid; but, sir, it is sometimes usual with bankers to inquire who is the bearer, and it has long been a custom of ours to do so.”

“Curse your customs!” cried the gentleman, who was evidently a man of violent and excitable temperament, and of an ungovernable will; “what do I care for your customs?” “Pray be calm, sir,” said Mr. Binkie, observing the back part of the gentleman's head, and feeling rather uncomfortable whilst he did so. “The money shall be paid; but — ” he stammered.

“Curse the money!” said the gentleman, and turning swiftly on his heel, and leaving the notes, gold, and cheque upon the counter, he hurried into the street, mounted a spirited horse, which was held by a groom at the door, and rode away, at a swift pace, from the city towards the west end of the town.

Mr. Binkie and Mr. Martin looked at each other in profound astonishment. The former pressed his head between his palms, and said: “I am bewildered!” The latter looked up at the ceiling, then down at the floor, and uttered, moodily: “It is incomprehensible!” Both the banker and his head clerk (for to that post Mr. Martin had been appointed) were half stupefied, and remained so until half-past two o'clock, when Lord Beckthorpe, in a towering passion, and accompanied by two other gentlemen, constituents of the bank, rushed into the counting-house, and very abruptly aroused them.

“What's the amount of my balance here?” gasped Lord Beckthorpe, addressing Mr. Martin.

“Will you walk into the parlour, my lord, and take a chair?”

  ― 58 ―

“No! What's my balance? ”

Here Mr. Binkie came out, and timidly approaching the counter, where stood Lord Beckthorpe, with a countenance distorted with vehement passion, and with compressed lips.

“Lord Beckthorpe,” Mr. Binkie began, “I am very sorry — ”

“I do not want any expressions of your regret, sir,” replied his lordship, cutting short the banker's speech; “I want my money!” Then addressing himself to Mr. Martin, he demanded: “Can't you tell me the amount of my balance? Quick, sir! Time is precious with me — my credit, my honour is at stake, sir!”

“The balance in your favour, my lord,” said Mr. Martin, trembling, “is £9,214 16s. 3 1/2 d.”

“Then just give it to me as short and as sharp as possible, in Bank of England notes and gold. I'll not have any of your notes. I'll draw a cheque for it;” and he did so.

“Yes, my lord,” and Mr. Martin counted out the money nervously, but with accuracy, even to the 3 1/2d.

“I believe I have some trifle here?” said one of the gentlemen who had come to the bank with Lord Beckthorpe. “Let me know what it is, and give it to me.”

“Yes, Sir John,” said Mr. Martin, referring to his books; “your balance is £11,219 4s. 1d.”

“Oh! Thank you. I did not think there was so much left. Well, let me have it, or rather pay it into Skinner and Flynte's, to my credit.”

“Yes, Sir John. It shall be done.” Sir John, was Sir John Nemberpage, then in his thirty-fifth year.

“I am afraid I have but deuced little to take from you,” said the other gentleman (a rather elderly person), who had come with Lord Beckthorpe.

“I will see, general!” replied Mr. Martin; and then turning to letter “L” he read aloud — “General Leicesterfield— balance £624 18s. 9d. How will you have it?” “The six hundred in notes, and the rest in coin.”

  ― 59 ―
“Our notes, general?”

“No. Bank of England.”

When the money was paid to each constituent, Mr. Binkie addressed them as follows: “I dare say you were under the impression that this bank was not solvent, and hence the demur to pay the cheque presented this morning without any endorsement. Such is not the case, as you have discovered. I had my reasons for requiring the name of the person who presented the cheque.”

“The person, sir!” exclaimed Sir John Nemberpage. “You mean the gentleman — my brother.”

“Indeed, Sir John?”

“Yes, sir,” interposed Lord Beckthorpe, “and my first cousin.”

“Indeed, my lord? Then, why on earth should he refuse to endorse the cheque, or give me his name and address?”

“Because you had no right to ask it, and he did not choose, I suppose,” suggested General Leicesterfield.

“Well, it is done, and it cannot be helped,” said Mr. Binkie, wiping the glasses of his spectacles with a yellow silk pocket-handkerchief. “But there was something so very odd — ” here Mr. Binkie paused.

“About what?” inquired Lord Beckthorpe.

“About this business, my lord.”

“What the deuce do you mean, sir?”

“Nothing, my lord.”

“Well, then, let me give you the same advice that Charles James Fox once gave to a drivelling ass in the House of Commons, who told him that he meant nothing. ‘The next time that you mean nothing, say nothing.’” And, with this insulting observation, his lordship walked out of the banking-house, followed by his companions, Sir John Nemberpage and General Leicesterfield.

Mr. Binkie had a brother-in-law, a Mr. Lyttlecoke, who was one of the most eminent king's counsel of the day.

  ― 60 ―
Mr. Binkie visited his brother-in-law, at his chambers, and communicated to him all the particulars connected with the presentation of the cheque, and the subsequent visit of his constituents. “And, to tell you the real truth,” concluded Mr. Binkie, “I am now by no means satisfied that the man Giles was the person who robbed me on the highway.”

“But it is too late to think about that now. One man has been already tried, convicted, and transported for the offence. Take my advice, and banish the whole affair from your mind.”

“But I cannot do so. You see, I swore so positively to Giles, and now the horrible reflection is continually haunting me that I may have been mistaken.”

“Apart from the mark on the hand (the half-moon on the ball of the thumb), and the shape of the back of the head — does this half-brother of Sir John Nemberpage in any way resemble the man Giles?” asked Mr. Lyttlecoke.

“Not in the least!” returned Mr. Binkie. “I never beheld two faces so unlike each other. The one (Giles) was a handsome fellow. The other is positively ugly. He has a low forehead, jet-black eyes, a snub nose, and long upper lip, irregular, rabbity teeth, and what is called ‘underhung.’ And they are, besides, so different in manners. There was a gravity about those of Giles. This man's are uncouth and strangely offensive. Oh! how I wish that I had not been so positive!”

“Pooh! pooh! Make your mind easy,” said Mr. Lyttlecoke.

“Ah, brother! but what an awful thing if I have been the cause of wrongfully banishing for life an innocent man! Only think of that!”