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A WONDERFUL PROVIDENCE.
The narrative and wonderful suffering of Ambrose (WINETT,
who was condemned for a supposed murder and hanged and gibbetted, but was restored to life, and lived to endure much suffering for many years.
I was born of reputable parents in the city of Canterbury, where my father, living at the sign of the Blue Anchor, dealt in slops. He had but two children, a daughter and myself, and having given me a good education, at the age of sixteen he bound me apprentice to Mr. George Roberts, an Attorney in our town, with whom I stayed four years and three quarters.
My sister being grown up, had now been married something more than a twelvemonth to one Sawyer, a seafaring man, who having got considerable prizes, my father also giving him two hundred pounds with my sister, quitted his profession and set up a public house within three iniles of the place of his nativity, which was Deal.
I had frequent invitations to go and pass a short time with them; and in the autumn of the year 1709, having obtained my master's consent, I left the city of Canterbury on foot, the 17th day of September.
Through some unavoidable delays on the road, the evening was considerably advanced before I reached Deal; and so tired was I, that, had my life depended on it, I could not have got as far as my sister's that night. At this time there were many of her majesty's ships lying in the harbour ; for the English were then at war with the French and Spaniards : besides which, I found this was the day for holding the yearly fair, so that the town was filled to that degree, that a bed was not to be got for love or money. I went seeking a lodging from house to house, to no purpose, till bring quite spent, I returned to the public house where I had first made enquiry, desiring leave to sit by their kitchen fire, and rest morning.
The publican and his wife happened to be acquainted with my brother and sister, and finding by my discourse, that I was a relation of theirs, and going to visit them, the landlady presently said she would endeavour to get a bed; and going out of the kitchen she quickly after called me into a back parlour. Here I saw sitting by the fire a middle aged map in a nightgown and cap, who was reckoning money at a table. Uncle, said the woman, as soon as I entered, this is a brother of onr friend Mrs. Sawyer ; be cannot get a bed any where, and is
tired after a long journey. You are the only one that lies in this house alone : will you give him part of yours ? To this the man answered, that she knew he had been out of order ; that he was blooded that day, and consequently a bedfellow could not be very agreeable ; however, said he, rather than the young man shall sit up, he is welcome to sleep with me. After this we sat awhile together, when having put his money in a canvas bag, into the pocket of his night gown, he took the candle and I followed him up to bed.
How long I slept, I cannot exactly determine : but I conjectare it was about three o'clock in the morning when I awoke with a violent cholic. My bedfellow who was awake, observing that I was very uneasy, asked me what was the matter? I informed him, and begged he would direct me to the necessary. He told me, when I was down stairs, I must turn on my right hand, and go straight into the garden, at the end of which it was, just over the sea ; but added, as you may possibly find some difficulty in opening the door, the string being broke which pulls up the latch, I will give you a penknife which may open it with through a chink in the boards. So saying, he put his hand into his waistcoat pocket, which lay on the bed, and gave me a middling sized penknife.
I hurried on a few of my clothes, and went down stairs. On unclasping the penknife to open the door of the necessary a piece of money which stuck between the blade and the groove in the handle fell into my hand. I did not examine what it was, nor indeed could I well see, there being but a very faint moon light, so I put them together carelessly in my pocket.
I apprehend I staid in the garden pretty near a quarter of an hour. When I returned to the chamber, I was surprised to find my bedfellow gone. I called several times, but receiving no answer, I went to bed, and again fell asleep.
About six o'clock I arose, nobody yet being up in the house. The gentleman was not yet returned to bed, or, if he was, had again left it. I dressed myself with what haste I could, being impatient'to see my sister, and the reckoning being paid over night, I let myself out at the street door.
Having got to my sister's, she and her husband received me. About eleven o'clock in the forenoon, when standing at the door, my brother-in-law being by my side, we saw three horsemen galloping towards us.
as they came up to the house, they stopped and one of them lighting, suddenly seized me by the collar, crying, You are the queen's prisoner. I desired to know my crime. He said, I should know that as soon as I came to Deal, where I must immediately go with them.
One of them, then told my brother that the night before, I had committed a murder and robbery.
Presently a warrant was produced, and I was carried back to Deal, attended by the three men; my brother with another friend accompanying us, who knew not what to say, nor how to comfort me.
Being arrived in town I was immediately hurried to the house where I had slept. We were met at the door by a crowd of people, every one crying, which is he! Which is he! As soon as I entered, I was accosted by the publican's wife in tears, O cursed wretch! What hast thou done! Thou hast murdered and robbed my poor, dear uncle, and all through me who put thee to lie with him. But where hast thou hid his money? and what hast thou done with his body? Thou shalt be hanged on a gallows as high as a may-pole. My brother begging her to be pacified, I was taken into a private room. They then asked me, where I had put the money and how | had disposed of the body? I asked them what money ? and whose body they meant? They then said I had killed the person I had lain with the preceding night, for the sake of a large sum of money I had seen with him. I fell down upon my knees, calling God to witness, I knew nothing of what they accused me. Then somebody cried, carry him up stairs, and I was brought into the chamber where I had slept. Here the man of the house went to the bed, and turning down the clothes, showed the sheets, pillow and bolster dyed in blood. He asked me did I know any thing of that? I declared to God I did not. A person in the room said, young man, something very odd must have past here last night; for lying in the next chamber, I heard groanings, and going up and down stairs more than once or twice. I then told them the circumstances of my illness, and that I had been up and down myself, with all that passed between my bedfellow and me. Somebody proposed to search me; several began to turn my pockets inside out, and from my waistcoat tumbled the penknife and the piece of money already mentioned, which I had entirely forgot. Upon seeing these the woman immediately screamed out, O God! there's my uncle's penknife! Then taking up the money, and calling to the people about her, Here said she, is what puts the villain's guilt beyond a doubt. I can swear to this William and Mary's guinea ; my uncle has long had it by way of pocket-piece, and engraved the first letters of his name upon it. She then began to cry afresh, while I could do nothing but continue to call Heaven to witness that I was as innocent as the child unborn. The constable who had heard me mention the having gone down into the garden, told the
people I must have thrown the body down the necessary, and going thither, Here, said he, after having cut the throat, he has let the body down into the sea. This every body immediately assented to. Then, said the master of the house, it is in vain to look for the body any further ; for there was a spring tide last night which has carried it off.
The consequence of these proceedings was, an immediate eramination before a Justice of the peace; after which I suffered a long and rigorous imprisonment in the county town of Maidstone. For sometime, my father, my master and my relations were inclined to think me innocent, because I declared I was so, as well I might, and in compliance with my earnest request, an advertisement was published in the London Gazette, representing my deplorable circumstances, and offering a reward to any person who could give tidings of Mr. Richard Collins, (the man I was supposed to have murdered) either alive or dead. No information, however, of any kind coming to hand, at the assizes I was brought to trial, and circumstances appearing strong against me, I received sentence to be carried in a cart on the Wednesday fortnight following to the town of Deal, and there to be hanged before the innkeeper's door where I had committed the murder ; and then to be hung in chains within a stone's throw of my brother's house.
The Monday was now arrived before the fatal day, when an end was to be put to my miseries. I was called down into the court of the prison; but I own I was not a little shocked, when I found it was to be taken measure of for my irons, in which I was to be hung after execution. A fellow-prisoner appeared before me in the same woeful plight, (he had robbed the mail) and the smith was measuring him when I came down; while the gaoler, with as much calmness as if he had been ordering a pair of stays for his daughter, was giving directions in what manner the irons should be made, so as to support the man who was remarkably heavy and corpulent.
Between this and the day of execution, I spent my time alone in prayer and meditation.
At length Wednesday morning came, and about three o'clock I was put in a cart; but sure such a day of wind, rain and thunder, never blew out of the heavens. When we arrived at Deal, it became so violent that the sheriff and his officers could scarce sit on their horses : for my own part, I was insensible of every object about me. But I heard the sheriff whisper to the executioner, to make what despatch he could, who without the least emotion, tueked me up like a log of wood, as if unconscious of what he was doing.
I can give no account of what I felt when hanging, only remember, after being turned off, something appeared about me like a blaze of fire ; nor do I know how long I hung: no doubt the violence of the weather favoured me greatly in that circumstance.
What I am now going to relate, I learned from my brother, which was, That having hung half an hour, the sherifi''s officers all went off, and I was cut down by the executioner ; but when he came to put the irons upon me, it was found that those prepared for the other man, which were too large for me, had been sent instead of mine : this they remedied by stuffing rags between my body and the hoops, after which I was taken to the place appointed, and hung on a gibbet ready prepared.
The cloth over my face being slightly tied, was soon detached by the wind, and probably its blowing on my face erpedited my recovery ; certain it is, that in this situation I came to myself.
The gibbet being placed at one corner of a field, where my sister's cows were, a lad came to drive them home for eveningmilking. The creatures which were feeding almost under me, brought him near the gibbet. In the very moment he looked up, he saw me open my eyes, and move my under jaw. He immediately ran home to inform the people at his master's. At first they hardly believed his story ; but at length, my brother and others came out, and by the time they got to the field, I was so much alive, that my groans were very audible.
In their confusion, the first thing they thought of was a ladder. One of my brother's men getting up, put his hand to my stomach, and felt my heart beating strongly. But it was found impossible to detach me from the gibbet, without cutting it down. Accordingly a saw was got for that purpose; and in less than half an hour, having freed me from my irons, they got me bled and put into a warm bed.
It is amazing that though above eight persons were entrusted with this transaction, and I remained three days in the place after it happened, not one betrayed the secret. Early next morning it was known that the gibbet was cut down, and it occurred to every body that it was done by my relations, to draw a veil over their shame, by burying the body; but when my brother was summoned before the mayor, and denied knowing any thing of the matter, little more stir was made about it; because he was respected by all the neighbouring gentlemen, and especially, because I persisted in being innocent of the fact for which I suffered.
Being thus delivered from an ignominious death, the next difficulty was, how to dispose of my life now I had regained it?