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Title: Poison Romance and Poison Mysteries
Author: Thompson, C. J. S.
Language: English
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Transcriber's Note.

Variable spelling has been retained. Minor punctuation inconsistencies
have been silently repaired. A list of other changes made can be found
at the end of the book. Original text is printed in a two-column
layout. Formatting and special characters are indicated as follows:

   _italic_
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                         IN THE NECESSARY TOIL

                                  AND

                         SUFFERING OF THIS LIFE

             _MAN CAN INVENT NOTHING NOBLER THAN HUMANITY!_

THEN WHAT HIGHER AIM CAN MAN ATTAIN THAN CONQUEST OVER HUMAN PAIN?


[Illustration: THE LINE OF LIFE. ENO'S FRUIT SALT.]

ENO'S 'FRUIT SALT' prevents unnecessary suffering and removes disease
only by natural laws.

READ the 20-page pamphlet given with each bottle!

ENO'S 'FRUIT SALT' rectifies the Stomach, and makes the Liver laugh
with joy by natural means (Or, in other words, Gentleness does more
than Violence.)

Its universal success proves the truth of the above assertion.


_MORAL FOR ALL_--

    "I need not be missed if another succeed me;
    To reap down those fields which in spring I have sown.
    He who ploughed and who sowed is not missed by the reaper,
    He is only remembered by what he has done."

The effect of Eno's 'Fruit Salt' upon any Disordered and Feverish
Condition is Simply Marvellous. It is, in fact, Nature's Own Remedy,
and is an Unsurpassed One.

    CAUTION.--_Examine the Capsule, and see that it is marked
      ENO'S 'FRUIT SALT,' otherwise you have the sincerest form of
      flattery--IMITATION._

Prepared only by J. C. ENO, Ltd., 'FRUIT SALT' WORKS, LONDON, S.E., by
J. C. ENO'S Patent.



POISON ROMANCE AND POISON MYSTERIES



POISON ROMANCE AND POISON MYSTERIES

BY

C. J. S. THOMPSON.


    =St. James' Gazette=:--"There is indeed no more fascinating reading
      ... very pleasant and readable.... It is full of good reading,
      with some rather creepy and _saugrenu_ dippings into the past."

    =Daily Chronicle=:--"Poison is always a fascinating subject. There
      is something subtle and mystic about the very word. On this
      attractive theme Mr. THOMPSON has collected a great deal of
      information from ancient and modern alike."

    =Daily Mail=:--"People who are fond of prying into the gruesome
      subject of toxicology will find some interesting chapters in Mr.
      C. J. S. THOMPSON'S book."

    =The Athenæum=:--"Decidedly sensible and well informed."

    =Literature=:--"Mr. THOMPSON writes a sprightly chapter on
      toxicology in fiction."

    =The Saturday Review=:--"A great deal of curious information
      concerning the history of poisons and poisonings."

    =Illustrated London News=:--"The story portions will attract most
      attention, and the poisoned gloves and rings of old romance
      supply satisfaction to that sensational instinct which is absent
      in hardly one of us."

    =The Queen=:--"Will fascinate most people. Is very readably
      written. Its only fault is that it is too short."

    =Liverpool Courier=:--"It is a readable book as well as an able
      one. The author is an eminent toxicologist and writes pleasantly
      on the lore connected with the science."

    =The Scotsman=:--"It is successful and interesting. Full of odd and
      startling information."

    =Manchester Courier=:--"The book is extremely interesting and
      particularly valuable."

    =Aberdeen Free Press=:--"Fascinates the majority of his readers.
      One could wish that Mr. THOMPSON had written much more."

    =Glasgow Citizen=:--"A book of the week."

    =Glasgow Herald=:--"Light and eminently readable."

+An edition of this book in cloth boards, price 2_s._ 6_d._, is
published by The Scientific Press Ltd., 28 & 29, Southampton Street,
Strand, London, W.C.+



POISON ROMANCE AND POISON MYSTERIES

BY

C. J. S. THOMPSON, F.R.HIST.S.

AUTHOR OF "THE MYSTERY AND ROMANCE OF ALCHEMY AND PHARMACY" "THE
CHEMIST'S COMPENDIUM" "A MANUAL OF PERSONAL HYGIENE" "PHARMACY AND
DISPENSING" ETC. ETC.

[Illustration]

                                 LONDON

                     GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, LTD
                  BROADWAY HOUSE, LUDGATE HILL, E.C.
                                  1904



ROUTLEDGE'S CAXTON LIBRARY

OF

Fiction and Standard Works

_Medium 8vo. Price_ =6d.= _each_.

OVER 300 VOLUMES.

_Write to Messrs. Routledge for a complete list of the Series._



PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION

IN response to the wishes of many who read this work when it appeared
in serial form, it is now reproduced with much additional matter,
which I hope may prove of value to those interested in the fascinating
subject of poisons and the study of toxicology. It has been my
endeavour to collect, in the following pages, the scattered fragments
of historic and romantic lore connected with poisons from the earliest
period, and to recount the stories of some notable "poison mysteries"
of ancient and modern times. I am indebted to the works of Dr. Wynter
Blyth for many facts concerning the poisons of antiquity.

    C. J. S. T.

  1899


PREFACE TO NEW EDITION

IN presenting a new edition of this work to my readers, the opportunity
has been taken to introduce several new chapters, one of which deals
with the "poison mystery" which recently aroused such widespread
interest in the United States. In response to suggestions, detailed
accounts of the "Horsford case" and the "Lambeth poison mysteries" have
also been added.

    C. J. S. T.



CONTENTS


   CHAP.                                                   PAGE

      I  POISONS OF ANTIQUITY                               11

     II  POISONS AND SUPERSTITION                           21

    III  ROYAL AND HISTORIC POISONERS                       26

     IV  PROFESSIONAL POISONERS                             34

      V  POISONING PLOTS                                    43

     VI  CONCERNING ARSENIC                                 45

    VII  THE STRANGE CASE OF MADAME LAFARGE                 49

   VIII  THE CASE OF MADELINE SMITH                         53

     IX  THE MAYBRICK CASE                                  55

      X  ABOUT ACONITE AND HEMLOCK                          60

     XI  THE CASE OF DR. LAMSON                             63

    XII  THE BRAVO MYSTERY                                  65

   XIII  THE CASE OF DR. PRITCHARD                          70

    XIV  THE PIMLICO MYSTERY                                75

     XV  THE RUGELEY MYSTERY                                80

    XVI  OPIUM EATING AND SMOKING--MESCAL BUTTONS           85

   XVII  HASHISH AND HASHISH EATERS                         90

  XVIII  TOBACCO LORE                                       95

    XIX  POISON HABITS                                      99

     XX  POISONS IN FICTION                                 103

    XXI  THE LAMBETH POISON MYSTERIES                       110

   XXII  THE HORSFORD CASE                                  114

  XXIII  THE GREAT AMERICAN POISON MYSTERY                  117

   XXIV  SOME CURIOUS METHODS EMPLOYED BY SECRET POISONERS  121



POISON ROMANCE AND POISON MYSTERIES

CHAPTER I

POISONS OF ANTIQUITY


LONG before the action of vegetable and mineral substances on human
beings and animals was known, it is probable that poisonous bodies in
some form were used by primitive man.

When injured in battle by perhaps a flint arrow-head, or stone axe, he
sought for something to revenge himself on his enemy. In his search
after curative remedies he also found noxious ones, which produced
unpleasant effects when applied to the point of a weapon destined to
enter the internal economy of an opponent.

He doubtless also became aware that the spear-points and arrow-heads on
which the blood of former victims had dried, caused wounds that rapidly
proved fatal, owing to the action of what we now call septic poisons.
This probably led to experiments with the juices of plants, until
something of a more deadly character was discovered.

This was the very earliest age of poisoning, when pharmacy was employed
for vicious or revengeful purposes.

Thus we find that almost every savage nation and people has its own
peculiar poison. In Africa the seeds of _Strophanthus hispidus_,
or kombé, a most virulent poison, are used for this purpose; while
explorers tell us that the ancient pigmy race of Central Africa employ
a species of red ant crushed to a paste, to tip their arrows and
spears. The South American Indians poison their arrow-heads with curare
or ourari, produced from a species of _strychnos_ and other plants,
while the Malays and hill tribes of India use aconite, and other
poisonous juices and extracts. The _Antiaris toxicaria_ is also used as
an arrow poison by the Malays.

The bushmen of the South African district "Kalahari," use the juice
of the leaf beetle "diamphidia" and its larva for poisoning their
arrow-heads. Lewin, who calls the beetle _Diamphidia simplex_, found
in its body, besides inert fatty acids, a toxalbumin which causes
paralysis, and finally death. According to Boehm, the poison from
the larva also belongs to the toxalbumins, and Starke states, that
it causes the dissolution of the colouring matter of the blood and
produces inflammation.

A halo of mystery, sometimes intermixed with romance, has hung about
the dread word _poison_ from very early times. In the dark days of
mythology, allusions to mysterious poisons were made in legend and
saga. Thus a country in the Far North was supposed to be ruled and
dominated by sorcerers and kindred beings, all of whom were said to
be children of the Sun. Here dwelt Æëtes, Perses, Hecate, Medea,
and Circe. Hecate was the daughter of Perses and married to Æëtes,
and their daughters were Medea and Circe. Æëtes and Perses were
said to be brothers, and their country was afterwards supposed to
be Colchis. To Hecate is ascribed the foundation of sorcery and the
discovery of poisonous herbs. Her knowledge of magic and spells was
supposed to be unequalled. She transmitted her power to Medea, whose
wonderful exploits have been frequently described and depicted, and
who by her magic arts subdued the dragon that guarded the golden
fleece, and assisted Jason to perform his famous deeds. Hecate's
garden is described by the poets as being enclosed in lofty walls with
thrice-folding doors of ebony, which were guarded by terrible forms,
and only those who bore the leavened rod of expiation and the concealed
conciliatory offering could enter. Towering above was the temple of
the dread sorceress, where the ghastly sacrifices were offered and all
kinds of horrible spells worked.

Medea was also learned in sorcery and an accomplished magician. It is
related that, after her adventures with Jason, she returned with him to
Thessaly. On their arrival they found Æson, the father of Jason, and
Pelias, his uncle, who had usurped the throne, both old and decrepit.
Medea was requested to exert her magical powers to make the old man
young again, an operation she is said to have speedily performed by
infusing the juice of certain potent plants into his veins.

Some years after, Medea deserted Jason and fled to Athens, and shortly
afterwards married Ægeus, king of that city. Ægeus had a son by a
former wife, named Theseus, who had been brought up in exile. At length
he resolved to return and claim his parentage, but Medea hearing of
this, and for some reason greatly resenting it, put a poisoned goblet
into the hands of Ægeus at an entertainment he gave to Theseus, with
the intent that he should hand it to his son. At the critical moment,
however, the king cast his eyes on the sword of Theseus, and at once
recognized it as that which he had delivered to his son when a child,
and had directed that it should be brought by him when a man, as a
token of the mystery of his birth. The goblet was at once thrown away,
the father embraced his son, and Medea fled from Athens in a chariot
drawn by dragons through the air.

Circe's charms were of a more seductive and romantic character. She is
said to have been endowed with exquisite beauty, which she employed
to allure travellers to her territory. On their landing, she entreated
and enticed them to drink from her enchanted cup. But no sooner was
the draught swallowed, than the unfortunate stranger was turned into a
hog, and driven by the magician to her sty, where he still retained the
consciousness of what he had been, and lived to repent his folly.

Gula, the patroness of medicine and a divinity of the Accadians, was
regarded by that ancient people as "the mistress and controller of
noxious poisons" as far back as 5000 years B.C.

According to some authorities, the Hebrew word _Chasaph_, translated in
the Old Testament Scriptures as witch, meant poisoner. Scott states the
witches of Scripture had probably some resemblance to those of ancient
Europe, who, although their skill and power might be safely despised as
long as they confined themselves to their charms and spells, were very
apt to eke out their capacity for mischief by the use of actual poison;
so that the epithet of sorceress and poisoner were almost synonymous.

The oldest Egyptian king, Menes, and Attalus Phylometer, the last king
of Pergamus, were both learned in the knowledge of the properties
of plants. The latter monarch also knew something of their medicinal
uses, and was acquainted with henbane, aconite, hemlock, hellebore,
etc. Other Egyptian rulers cultivated the art of medicine, and there
is little doubt that, probably through the priests, who were the chief
practitioners of the art of healing, they gathered a considerable
knowledge of the properties of many poisonous and other herbs. Prussic
acid was known to the Egyptians, and prepared by them in a diluted
form, from the peach and other plants. It is highly probable, indeed,
that the priests had some rudimentary knowledge of the process of
distillation, and prepared this deadly liquid from peach leaves or
stones, by that method. The "penalty of the peach" is alluded to in a
papyrus now preserved in the Louvre, which points to the liquid being
used as a death draught.

The ancient Greeks, like the Chinese of to-day, looked upon suicide,
under certain conditions, as a noble act, for which poison was the
usual medium. Their "death cup" was mainly composed of the juice or
extract of a species of hemlock, called by them cicuta. The Chinese,
from remote times, are supposed to have used gold as a poison,
especially for suicidal purposes, and at the present day, when a high
official or other individual puts an end to his life, it is always
officially announced, "He has taken gold leaf"; a curious phrase, which
probably has its origin in antiquity.

Nicander, of Colophon, a Greek physician, who lived 204-138 B.C., in
his work on "Poisons and their Antidotes," the earliest on the subject
known, describes the effects of snake venom and the properties of
opium, henbane, colchicum, cantharides, hemlock, aconite, toxicum
(probably the venom of the toad), buprestis, the salamander, the
sea-hare, the leech, yew (decomposed), bull's blood, milk, and certain
fungi, which he terms "evil fermentations of the earth"; and as
antidotes for the same he mentions lukewarm oil, warm water, and mallow
or linseed tea to excite vomiting. The same writer also made a rough
classification of the poisons known in his time, twenty-two in all, and
divided them into two classes--viz., "those which killed quickly," and
"those which killed slowly."

Of the minerals, arsenic, antimony, mercury, gold, silver, copper,
and lead were used by the Greeks; the antidote recommended in case
of poisoning being hot oil, and other methods to induce vomiting and
prevent the poison being absorbed into the system.

Bull's blood is classed as a poison by various ancient writers,
and it is recorded that Æson, Midas King of Phrygia, Plutarch, and
Themistocles, killed themselves by drinking bull's blood. It is
probable that some strong poisonous vegetable substance, such as
cicuta, was mixed with the blood.

Dioscorides throws a further light on the poisons of antiquity in
his great work on Materia Medica, which for fifteen centuries or
more remained the chief authority on that subject. He mentions
cantharides, copper, mercury, lead, and arsenic. Among the animal
poisons are included toads, salamanders, poisonous snakes, a peculiar
kind of honey, and the blood of the ox, probably after it had turned
putrid. The sea-hare is frequently alluded to by the ancient Greeks,
and was evidently regarded by them as capable of producing a very
powerful poison. Domitian is said to have administered it to Titus.
It is supposed to have been one of the genus _Aplysia_, among the
gasteropods, and is described by the old writers as a dreadful object,
which was neither to be touched nor looked upon with safety.

Among the poisonous plants enumerated by Dioscorides are the poppy,
black and white hellebore, henbane, mandragora, hemlock, elaterin, and
the juices of species of euphorbia, and apocyneæ. Medea is said to have
been the first to introduce colchicum. The black and white hellebore
were known to the Romans, and used by them as an insecticide, and
Pliny states that the Gauls used a preparation of veratrum to poison
their arrows. Arsenic was employed by the Greeks as a caustic, and for
removing hair from the face; while copper, mercury, and lead were used
in their medical treatment. The study of poisons was forbidden for a
long period, and Galen mentions the fact that only a few philosophers
dared treat the subjects in their works.

In the East, poisons have been used from remote times, not only for the
destruction of human life, but also for destroying animals--arsenic,
aconite, and opium being employed by the Asiatics for these purposes.
The Hindoos have many strange traditions concerning poisons, some being
attributed with the property of causing a lingering death, which can
be controlled by the will of the poisoner. But this is doubtless more
legendary than correct. One curious and mysterious substance mentioned
by Blyth, and known in India as _Mucor phycomyces_, is stated to be
a species of fungi. When the spores are administered in warm water
they are said to attach themselves to the throat and rapidly develop
and grow, with the result that in a few weeks, all the symptoms of
consumption develop, and the victim is rapidly carried off by that
fatal disease.

The early Hebrews were also acquainted with certain poisons, the words,
"rosch" and "chema" being used by them as generic terms. Arsenic was
known to them as "sam," aconite as "boschka," and ergot probably as
"son."

The ancients attributed poisonous properties to certain bodies simply
on account of their origin being mysterious and obscure, and many of
these errors and traditions have been handed down for centuries. As
an instance of this, the belief that diamond dust possessed deadly
poisonous properties seems to have existed until recent times. Many
mysterious deaths in the Middle Ages were attributed to it. There is
little doubt that death might be caused by the mere mechanical effect
of an insoluble powder of this kind, if it were possible to introduce
it into the stomach in sufficient quantity, but powdered glass or sand
would have the same effect as diamond dust, viz. in causing violent
irritation of the stomach. Yet some of these old traditions have a
substratum of fact.

The poisonous properties of the toad have long been regarded as
fabulous, but recent investigation has proved that the skin of a
species of toad secretes a poison, similar in action to digitalis.

The venom of the toad has had the reputation of possessing poisonous
properties from a very early period, and was probably one of the
earliest forms of animal poison known.

The old tradition, that King John was poisoned by a Friar who dropped a
toad into his wine, was regarded as a ridiculous fable until some years
ago, when it was discovered that the skin of the toad secretes a body,
the active principle of which, "phrynin," is a poison of considerable
power.

One of the most curious uses to which the toad has been put is recorded
on a medical diploma now in the Library of Ferrara, which was granted
to one Generoso Marini in 1642. Marini having made application for a
Ferrarese diploma in medicine, the judges in whom the power of granting
such degrees was invested, ordered him to exhibit some efficient proofs
of his capability to practise the medical art.

Marini at once agreed to comply with their demand, and the result is
recorded in his diploma, which was discovered by Cittadella in the
archives of Ferrara, and is translated as follows:--

"Having publicly examined and approved the science and knowledge
of medicine of Signor Generoso Marini, and his possession of the
wonderful secret called 'Orvietano,' which he exhibited on the stage
built in the centre of this our city of Ferrara, in presence of its
entire population so remarkable for their civilization and learning,
and in presence of many foreigners and other classes of people, we
hereby certify that, also in our presence, as well as that of the
city authorities, he took several living toads, not those of his own
providing, but from a great number of toads which had been caught in
fields in the locality by persons who were strangers to him, and which
were only handed to him at the moment of making the experiment. An
officer of the court then selected from the number of toads collected,
five of the largest, which the said Generoso Marini placed on a bench
before him, and in presence of all assembled spectators, he, with a
large knife, cut all the said toads in half. Then, taking a drinking
cup, he took in each hand one half of a dead toad, and squeezed from
it all the juices and fluids it contained into the cup, and the
same he did with the remainder. After mixing the contents together,
he swallowed the whole, and then placing the cup on the bench he
advanced to the edge of the stage, where for some minutes he remained
stationary. Then he became pale as death and his limbs trembled, and
his body began to swell in a frightful and terrible manner; and all the
spectators began to believe that he would never recover from the poison
he had swallowed, and that his death was certain. Suddenly, taking
from a jar by his side some of his celebrated 'Orvietano,' he placed a
portion of it in his mouth and swallowed it. Instantly, the effect of
this wonderful medicine was to make him vomit the poison he had taken,
and he stood before the spectators in the full enjoyment of health.[1]

"The populace applauded him highly for the indisputable proof he had
given of his talent, and he then invited many of the most learned of
those present to accompany him to his house, and he there showed them
his dispensary as well as his collection of antidotes, and among them
a powder made from little vipers, a powerful remedy for curing every
sort of fever, as he had proved by different experiments he had made
on people of quality and virtue, all of whom he had cured of the fever
from which they were suffering, etc.

"In consequence of the rare talent exhibited by Signor Generoso Marini,
and as a proof of our love and respect for his wisdom, we have resolved
by the authority placed in our hands publicly to reward him with a
diploma, so that he may be universally recognized, applauded, and
respected. In witness thereof we have set our hands and the public seal
of the municipality of Ferrara.

"Data in Ferrara con grandissimo applauso il di 26 Luglio, 1642.

    "JOANNES CAJETANUS MODONI,
    "_Index sapientum Civitatis Ferrari_.

    "FRANCISCUS ALTRAMARI,
    "_Cancellarius_."

But although the toad under certain conditions was credited with
poisonous properties, during the Middle Ages it was esteemed a valuable
remedy for the plague, and was employed for that purpose in Austria as
late as the year 1712.

Cantharides, or Spanish fly, was very commonly used as a poison in
mediæval times, the usual method of administering being to chop it
up and mix it with pepper. It is said to have been the first poison
tried on the unfortunate Sir Thomas Overbury, although his murderers
finally finished him off with corrosive sublimate. Poisoned rings are
said to have been the invention of the Italians, who fashioned rings
in which the poison was inserted in a receptacle where the jewel is
usually set. Attached to the inner part of the ring was a sharp point
which, when the hand of the wearer was grasped, scratched the flesh and
injected the poison. Rings were also used for carrying strong poisons
secretly--such as arsenic, or corrosive sublimate--and in this manner
many were enabled to commit suicide after being imprisoned.

Hyoscyamus, commonly called henbane, is a herb which has been employed
from remote times. Benedictus Crispus, Archbishop of Milan, in a work
written shortly before A.D. 681, alludes to it under the name of
hyoscyamus and symphoniaca, and in the tenth century its virtues are
particularly recorded by Macer Floridus. In the early Anglo-Saxon works
it is called henbell and sometimes belene. In a French herbal of the
fifteenth century it is called hanibane or hanebane. From a very early
period it has been employed as a sedative and anodyne, for producing
sleep, although simple hallucinations sometimes accompany its use.

An old tradition states, that once in the refectory of an ancient
monastery the monks were served with henbane, instead of some harmless
root, in error by the cook. After partaking of the dish, they were
seized with the most extraordinary hallucinations. At midnight one
monk sounded the bell for matins, while others walked in the chapel
and opened their books, but could not read. Others sang roystering
drinking songs and performed mountebank antics, which convulsed the
others with uncontrollable laughter, and the pious monastery for the
nonce was turned into an asylum. Certain stones which were sold for
large sums of money were supposed to change colour when brought near a
poisonous substance, and they were consequently much sought after by
high personages. The horn of the unicorn was said to become moist when
placed near poisoned food. Bickman records his belief that several slow
poisons were known to the ancients which cannot now be identified. The
Carthaginians also seem to have been acquainted with similar poisons,
and, according to tradition, administered some to Regulus, the Roman
general. But we cannot endorse Bickman's belief.

An incident which happened to the army led by Mark Antony against
the Parthians, and described by Plutarch, is said to have been caused
by aconite. At one time during the expedition, "the soldiers being
very short of provisions, sought for roots and pot-herbs ... and met
one that brought on madness and death. The eater immediately lost
all memory and knowledge, busying himself at the same time in turning
and moving every stone he met with, as if he were on some important
pursuit. The camp was full of unhappy men stooping to the ground, and
digging up and removing stones, till at last they were carried off by
bilious vomiting.... Whole numbers perished, and the Parthians still
continued to harass them. Antony is said to have frequently exclaimed:
'Oh! the ten thousand!' alluding to the army which Xenophon led in
retreat; both a longer way and through more numerous conflicts, and yet
led in safety."

Nine active or virulent poisons are mentioned by most ancient writers
on Indian medicine, many of which are at present not identified. Most
of them are apparently varieties of aconite. Besides these, they
employed opium, gunja, datura, roots of _Nerium odorum_ and _Gloriosa
superba_, the milky juices of _Calotropis gigantea_ and _Euphorbia
neriifolia_, white arsenic, orpiment, and the poison extracted from the
fangs of serpents.

Most of the older Sanscrit MSS. are written on paper prepared with
orpiment to preserve them from the ravages of insects. Three varieties
of _Datura_ yield atropine, a powerful poison. These plants were
frequently employed in India for putting a sudden end to domestic
quarrels, and to this practice may be traced the origin of the custom
of "Suttee," or widow burning, as the Brahmins found from experience
that, by making a wife's life conterminous with the husband's the
average husband lived considerably longer.

It is worthy of note that the diamond was celebrated as a medicinal
agent by the Hindoos, who prepared it by roasting seven times and then
reducing it to powder. It was given in doses of one grain as a powerful
tonic.


[1] The celebrated "Orvietano" was doubtless some preparation of
antimony.



CHAPTER II

POISONS AND SUPERSTITION


AMONG the ignorant, poisons have ever been closely associated with
superstition, and thus we find in the dark ages, even among the more
civilized nations of the West, a belief in the occult concerning those
things the action of which they did not understand. To most of the
poisonous herbs used by the ancients certain curious superstitions were
attached. The mandrake, in particular, excited the greatest veneration
on this account. It is supposed this plant is the same which the
ancient Hebrews called Dudaïm. That these people held it in the highest
esteem in the days of Jacob is evident from the notice of its having
been found by Reuben, who carried it to his mother; and the inducement
which tempted Leah to part with it proves the value then set upon this
remarkable plant. It was believed to possess the property of making
childless wives become mothers. Mandrake was among the more important
drugs employed by the ancients for producing anæsthesia. Doses of the
wine made from the root were administered before amputating a limb
or the application of the hot iron cautery. Pliny says: "Mandrake is
taken against serpents, and before cutting and puncture, lest they be
felt. Sometimes the smell is sufficient." According to Apuleius, half
an ounce of the wine would make a person insensible even to the pain of
amputation. Lyman states it was this wine, "mingled with myrrh," that
was offered to the Saviour on the Cross, it being commonly given to
those who suffered death by crucifixion to allay in some degree their
terrible agonies. In Shakespeare's time mandrake still kept its place
in public estimation as a narcotic. Thus we have Cleopatra asking for
the drug, that she may "sleep out this great gap of time" while her
Antony is away; and Iago, when his poison begins to work in the mind of
the Moor, exclaims--

    "Not poppy, nor mandragora
    Nor all the drowsy syrups of this world,
    Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep."

Some of the old names applied to the plant, such as semihomo and
anthropomorphon, refer to the appearance of the root, while the
term "love-apples" applied to the fruit relates to their imaginary
aphrodisiacal properties. It is mentioned in the Scriptures in
connexion with such episodes. Josephus states "baaras" (supposed to
be mandrake) was capable of expelling demons from those possessed.
Demosthenes, the Athenian orator, is said to have compared his
lethargic hearers to those who had eaten mandrake. Dioscorides states
that "a drachm of mandragora taken in a draught, or eaten in a cake,
causes infatuation, and takes away the use of reason." The Greeks
bestowed on it the name of "Circeium" derived from the witch Circe.
They believed that when the mandrake was dragged up from the earth, it
gave a dreadful shriek, and struck the daring person dead who had had
the presumption to pull it up. The method of obtaining it, therefore,
was by fastening the plant to the tail of a dog, who thus drew the root
from the ground. The shriek was supposed to be due to an evil spirit
who dwelt in the plant. The Romans also were very particular in the
manner in which they obtained the root. Pliny tells us that he who
would undertake this office should stand with his back to the wind,
and before he begins to dig, make three circles round the plant with
the point of a sword, and then turning to the west proceed to take it
up. The small roots, which are much twisted and gnarled, sometimes
bear a resemblance to the form of man, and this was turned to account
by some of the old German doctors, who fashioned them into rude images
and sold them as preventives of evil and danger. They called them
Abrunes. These images were regularly dressed every day and consulted as
oracles and were manufactured in great numbers. They were introduced
into England in the time of Henry VIII, and met with ready purchasers.
To increase their value and importance, the roots were said by the
vendors to be produced from the flesh of criminals which fell from the
gibbet and that they only grew in such situations. Lord Bacon notices
their use in the following paragraph--"Some plants there are, but rare,
that have a morsie or downie root, and likewise that have a number of
threads like beards, as mandrakes, whereof witches and impostours make
an ugly image, giving it the form of a face at the top of the root,
and these strings to make a broad beard down to the foot." Madame de
Genlis states that "the mandrake roots should be wrapped in a sheet,
for that then they will bring increasing good luck." The plant is still
used medicinally in China, where it is said to be largely taken by the
mandarins, who believe it will give them increased intellectual powers
and prolong their lives. From recent investigation the activity of the
mandrake root is proved to be due to an alkaloid called mandragorine.

The black hellebore, Melampus root or Christmas rose, another poisonous
plant known to the ancients, was believed to have magical properties.
It was called after Melampus, a great physician, who flourished at
Pylos, about one hundred years after the time of Moses, or about one
thousand five hundred and thirty years before the birth of Christ. He
is reputed to have cured the daughters of Proetus, King of Argos, of
mental derangement with hellebore. Pliny mentions that the daughters
of Proetus were restored to their senses by drinking the milk of goats
which had fed on hellebore. Black hellebore root was used by the
ancients to purify their homes and to hallow their dwellings, and they
believed that by strewing it about it would drive away evil spirits.
This ceremony was performed with great devotion, and accompanied with
the singing of solemn hymns. They also blessed their cattle in the same
manner with hellebore to keep them free from spells of the wicked.
For these purposes it was dug up with many religious ceremonies--such
as drawing a circle round the plant with a sword; then, turning to
the east, a humble prayer was finally offered up by the devotee, to
Apollo and Aesculapius for leave to dig up the root. The flight of
the eagle was particularly attended to during the ceremony, for when
this bird approached near the spot during the celebration of the
rite, it was considered so ominous as to predict the certain death of
the person who uprooted the plant in the course of the year. Others
ate garlic previous to the rite, which was supposed to counteract
the poisonous effluvia of the plant. Dioscorides relates that when
Carneades, the Cyrenaic philosopher, undertook to answer the books of
Zeno, he sharpened his wit and quickened his spirit by purging his head
with powdered hellebore. It is recorded that the Gauls never went to
the chase without rubbing the point of their arrows with this herb,
believing that it rendered all the game killed with them the more
tender. It is of this plant Juvenal sarcastically observes: "Misers
need a double dose of hellebore."

With several uncivilised nations in Africa, the practice of compelling
persons accused of crime or witchcraft to undergo the ordeal of
swallowing some vegetable poison is still carried on. For this purpose
certain tribes in Western Africa use the Calabar bean, sometimes
called the ordeal bean, which contains a powerful poisonous principle,
called Physostigmine. It was customary, at one time, in Old Calabar,
and the mouth of the Niger, where the plant grows, to destroy it
whenever found, a few only being preserved to supply seeds for judicial
purposes, and of these seeds the store was kept in the custody of the
native chief. Witchcraft, indeed, may be said to play the chief part in
the daily life of all African natives, and to witchcraft they attribute
every ill that befalls them. Two classes of witchcraft are supposed
to exist--the one practised secretly by evil-doers, and the other
practised by the witch doctors with the view of destroying the effects
of the former. Witch doctors are, in fact, the greatest power in the
land; they hold the lives of all in their hands, and are daily employed
to satisfy the passions of their neighbours. "According to native
ideas," says one who has had a long experience among the native tribes,
"death or sickness never occurs through natural causes, but is always
the result of somebody's act. Whenever any one is accused of having
practised witchcraft, or of having committed any other crime, Calabar
bean or Muavi is used to decided the case. The taking of these is the
great trial by ordeal, and, usually, except when the accuser is a witch
doctor, accused and accuser have both to submit to the test. Chiefs,
however, may appoint a deputy to undergo the ordeal in their stead.
Muavi consists of a specially prepared drug, usually made by scraping
the wood of a certain tree known to the witch doctors; this is mixed
with water, and both parties swallow the decoction. In a very short
time the drug begins to act. Vomiting sets in, followed by convulsions
and death. Of course, in most cases the result depends on the dose
given. Sometimes both accuser and accused are seized with vomiting; in
that case the natives say that the medicine has been badly prepared,
and the operation is repeated. At other times both die; in that case
also the medicine was no good, but the trial cannot be renewed, as may
be readily understood. When the guilt of one of the parties has been
established by his death, his property is at once looted, his wife and
children being killed. So great, however, is the faith of the natives
in the infallibility of the Muavi test, and they so fully believe that
in case of innocence they will be proof against the deadly effects of
the drug, that they will never hesitate to submit themselves to the
trial; in fact, they will frequently volunteer to go through it, and
insist upon taking muavi even when falsely accused. From this account
it will be easily seen that the witch doctor who prepares the muavi can
easily get rid of any person he may wish. In some districts the drug
used for the trial, instead of causing death, when it has not acted as
an emetic, merely causes purging; but the result is the same, as the
man is at once put to death." This is probably due to a weaker decoction
of the drug having been prepared. The same traveller states, in many
instances his own men have offered to take muavi in order to refute the
slightest charge. Trial by ordeal, which still survives in the Dark
Continent, was practised by other and more civilized nations in the
early Christian era.



CHAPTER III

ROYAL AND HISTORIC POISONERS


POISON appears to have been employed as a political agent from a very
early period of history, and numerous stories have been handed down
of royal personages who used this secret and deadly method of ridding
themselves of troublesome individuals, and removing enemies from their
path. They also, at times, became the victims of jealous rivals by the
same nefarious means.

One of the earliest traditions we have of this kind is that of Phrysa,
who poisoned the queen Statira during the reign of Artaxerxes II
(Mnemon), B.C. 405-359, by cutting her food with a poisoned knife.
The notorious Nero doubtless resorted to the use of poison more than
once, as may be inferred from the story of the death of his brother
Britannicus, who, it is said, was poisoned by his orders. Britannicus
was dining with his brother and the Imperial family, and, as was the
custom of the Romans, hot water was brought round by slaves to the
table, the water being heated to varied degrees to suit the taste
of the drinker. According to the story, the cup of water handed to
Britannicus proved to be too hot, and he gave it back to the attendant
slave, who added cold water to it, which addition is supposed to have
contained the poison; for no sooner had he swallowed the draught than
he fell back gasping for breath. His mother, Agrippina, and Octavia,
his sister, who were also at the table, became terror-stricken, but
Nero, unmoved, calmly remarked that he often had such fits in his youth
without danger, and the banquet proceeded. It is thought probable that
the poison given was prussic acid in some form.

A curious superstition existed in early times, and is still entertained
by the ignorant, that if the body rapidly decomposes after a sudden
death it is to be attributed to the effects of poison. So when
Britannicus died, it is recorded that the Romans attempted to conceal
his discoloured face by means of paint. During the Roman period,
poisoning was reduced to a fine art, and the skilled or professional
poisoner obtained large amounts of money for his services.

The Borgias' favourite method of administering a lethal dose was by
means of a species of hypodermic injection.

The greatest craft and cunning used to be exerted in order to introduce
poison into the system, and there are many old traditions concerning
the subtle methods employed, although a number of these are doubtless
more legendary than correct. Thus Tissot states that John, King of
Castile, owed his death to wearing a pair of boots which were supposed
to have been impregnated with poison by a Turk. Henry VI is said to
have succumbed through wearing poisoned gloves and Louis XIV and
Pope Clement VII through the fumes from a poisoned taper. King John
is supposed to have been poisoned by matter extracted from a living
toad placed in his wassail bowl, while Pope Alexander VI is said also
to have fallen a victim to poison, "after which," according to the
chronicler, "his body presented a fearful spectacle."

A document drawn up by Charles, King of Navarre, throws some light on
the systematic manner in which the poisoning of obnoxious persons was
carried out in mediæval times. It is in the form of a commission to
one Wondreton to poison Charles VI, the Duke of Valois, brother of the
King, and his uncles, the Dukes of Berri, Burgundy, and Bourbon. It
runs: "Go thou to Paris; thou canst do great service if thou wilt. Do
what I tell thee; I will reward thee well. There is a thing which is
called sublimed arsenic; if a man eat a bit the size of a pea, he will
never survive. Thou wilt find it in Pampeluna, Bordeaux, Bayonne, and
in all the good towns thou wilt pass at the apothecaries' shops. Take
it, and powder it; and when thou shalt be in the house of the King, of
the Count de Valois his brother, and the Dukes of Berri, Burgundy, and
Bourbon, draw near and betake thyself to the kitchen, to the larder, to
the cellar, or any other place where thy point can best be gained, and
put the powder in the soups, meats, or wines; provided that thou canst
do it secretly. Otherwise do it not." It is satisfactory to learn that
the miscreant who was intrusted with this diabolical commission, was
detected in time, and executed in 1384.

It is related of Charles IX that, having suspected one of his cooks of
stealing two silver spoons, he resolved to try the effect of bezoar,
which at that time was highly recommended as an antidote to poisons.
So, thinking a good opportunity had arrived for testing its properties,
his Majesty administered to the unfortunate cook, first, a large dose
of corrosive sublimate, and then a dose of the reputed antidote; but
the unlucky man fell a victim to the experiment, and died in great
agony in seven hours, in spite of other efforts to save him.

There is an old tradition that King John also figured as a poisoner,
and got rid of the unfortunate Maud Fitz-Walter by means of a poisoned
egg. The story is a romantic one, and is related by Hepworth Dixon in
"Her Majesty's Tower." "In the reign of King John, the White Tower
received one of the first and fairest of a long line of female victims,
in that of Maud Fitz-Walter, who was known to the singers of her time
as Maud the Fair. The father of this beautiful girl was Robert, Lord
Fitz-Walter, of Castle Baynard, on the Thames, one of John's most
powerful and greatest barons. Yet the King, during, it is said, a fit
of violence or temper with the Queen, fell madly in love with the fair
Maud. As neither the lady herself nor her powerful sire would listen to
his disgraceful suit, the King is said to have seized her by force at
Dunmow and brought her to the Tower. Fitz-Walter raised an outcry, on
which the King sent troops into Castle Baynard and his other houses,
and when the baron protested against these wrongs, his master banished
him from the realm. Fitz-Walter fled to France with his wife and other
children, leaving poor Maud in the Tower, where she suffered a daily
insult in the King's unlawful suit. But she remained obdurate, and
refused his offers. On her proud and scornful answer to his overtures
being heard, John carried her up to the roof and locked her in the
round turret, standing on the north-east angle of the keep. Maud's
cage was the highest and chilliest den in the Tower; but neither cold,
solitude, nor hunger could break her strength, and at last, in the rage
of his disappointed love, the King sent one of his minions to her room
with a poisoned egg, of which the brave girl ate and died."

Bluff King Hal at one period of his life was apprehensive of being
poisoned, and it was commonly believed that Anne Boleyn attempted to
dose him. It is recorded that the King, in an interview with young
Prince Henry, burst into tears, saying that he and his sister, the
Princess Mary, might thank God for having escaped from the hands of
that accursed and venomous harlot, who had intended to poison them.

According to the French Chronicles, "After the death of Gaultier
Giffard, Count Buckingham, in the early part of the twelfth century,
Agnes his widow became enamoured with Robert Duke of Normandy and
attached herself in an illicit manner to him, shortly after which time
his wife Sibylle died of poison."

Pope Alexander VI and his son the Duke Valentinois employed arsenic to
carry out their fiendish plans, not only on their enemies, but their
friends also. Thus perished by their hands the Cardinals of Capua and
Modena; and Alexander himself by a cup intended for Adrian, Cardinal
of Corneto, who had invited the pope to a banquet in the Vineyard of
Belvedere, was destroyed instead of his host.

Lucretia Borgia, famous in romance and song for her poisoning
propensities, was a daughter of Pope Alexander VI, and sister of
Cesare Borgia. She married Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, in 1493,
but being a woman of haughty disposition and evil temper, their life
was anything but a happy one; and after living together for four
years, Alexander dissolved the marriage, and gave her to Alphonso II
of Naples. Two years had barely passed before her second husband was
assassinated by hired ruffians of Cesare Borgia. So Lucretia took unto
herself a third husband in the person of Alphonso d'Este, a son of the
Duke of Ferrara. She led a wild and unhappy life, and was accused of
poisoning, and almost every form of crime, although it is stated by
several modern historians that many of these charges were unfounded.
Although tradition has inflicted her with a bad character, she is said
to have been a liberal patroness of art and literature in her time. She
died in 1523.

In 1536 the Dauphin, eldest son of Francis I, died suddenly, and
suspicion attached to Sebastian Montecucculi, a Ferrarese, who held the
part of cup-bearer--bribed, as was supposed by Catherine of Medicis in
order to secure the crown to her husband, Henry, Duke of Orleans, who
became Dauphin in consequence of his elder brother's death.

The story of the Countess of Somerset, who was tried with others for
the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the reign of James I, forms an
interesting episode in the history of romantic poisoning. Robert,
Earl of Essex, son of Queen Elizabeth's favourite, and who afterwards
became Commander-in-chief of the Parliamentary forces, married, at
the age of fourteen, Frances Howard, a younger daughter of the Earl
of Suffolk, the bride being just a year younger than her husband. The
match had been arranged and brought about through the influence of
relatives, who thought it expedient that the youthful bridegroom should
be sent off to travel on the Continent immediately after the marriage
had taken place, and he remained away for three or four years. During
this period the countess, who was brought up at court, developed into
a very beautiful woman, but seems to have been equally unprincipled
and capricious. On the return of the earl from his travels, she shrank
from all advances on his part, and showed the utmost repugnance to her
husband on all occasions. Their dispositions were entirely different.
He loved retirement, and wished to live a quiet country life, while
she, who had been bred at court, and accustomed to adulation and
intrigue, refused to leave town. The King about this time had a number
of young men of distinguished appearance and good looks attached to the
court, and of these, one Robert Carr, at length became an exclusive
favourite. Between him and the self-willed young countess there sprang
up an attachment, which, at least on her side, amounted to infatuation.
Her opportunities for meeting her lover were short and rare, and in
this emergency she applied to a Mrs. Turner, who introduced her to Dr.
Forman, a noted astrologer and magician at that time, and he, by images
made of wax, and other devices of the black art, undertook to procure
the love of Carr to the lady. At the same time he was also to practise
against the earl in the opposite direction. These measures, however,
were too slow for the wayward countess, and having gone to the utmost
lengths with her inamorata, she insisted on a divorce, and a legal
marriage with him.

One of Carr's greatest friends was Sir Thomas Overbury, a young
courtier and a man of honour and kindly disposition. He was much
against this intimacy, and besought his friend to break it off,
assuring him it would ruin his prospects and reputation if he married
the lady. Carr unwisely made this known to the countess, who at once
regarded Overbury as a bitter enemy, and resolved to do what she could
to overthrow him. The pair plotted together with evident success,
for the unfortunate Sir Thomas was shortly afterwards committed to
the Tower by an arbitrary mandate of the King; next, he was not
allowed to see any visitors; and, finally, his food was poisoned,
and, after several unsuccessful attempts on his life, he at last died
from the effects of poison. Cantharides, nitrate of silver, spiders,
arsenic, and last of all, corrosive sublimate, are said to have been
administered in turn to this unfortunate individual. Meanwhile,
the countess obtained a divorce from her husband on the ground of
impotency, and married Carr, who was soon after made Earl of Somerset
by King James.

Two years elapsed before the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury was brought
to light, when the inferior criminals, Mrs. Turner and the others, were
convicted and executed; but the Earl of Somerset and his countess,
although found guilty with their accomplices, received the royal
pardon. The happiness of the earl and countess, however, was not of
long duration, as it is stated they afterwards became so alienated
from each other, that they resided for years under the same roof with
the most careful precautions that they might not by any chance come
into each other's presence. The Mrs. Turner implicated in the crime is
said to have been the first to introduce into England the yellow starch
that was then applied to ladies' ruffs. Her last request was, that she
should be hanged in a ruff dyed with her own yellow starch, which is
said to have been carried out.

According to some historians, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Prime
Minister and favourite of Queen Elizabeth, was a poisoner of the most
diabolical description.

His ambition to marry his royal mistress, who, shrewd woman as she was,
seems to have had no insight into his unscrupulous character, was the
cause of his moving every human obstacle from his path by insidious
methods. The murder of his wife Amy Robsart was the first of a long
series of murders, carried out, doubtless, at his instigation. He was
next suspected of causing the death of Lord Sheffield, of whose lady he
was an admirer. The Earl of Essex is said to have been another victim.
His death is described in the language of the time as having been due
to "an extreme flux caused by an Italian Receit, the maker whereof was
a surgeon that then was newly come to my Lord from Italy, a cunning man
and sure in operation. The inventor of this recipe was known as one
Dr. Julio, who was said to be able to make a man dye in what manner
of sickness you will." The death of the Earl of Essex took place when
on his way home from Ireland, with the object of revenging himself
on the Earl of Leicester for his domestic wrongs. The next victim is
said to have been Cardinal Chatillian, who, having accused the earl
of preventing the marriage of the queen to the King of France, was
journeying back to Dover, when he was taken suddenly ill and died in
Canterbury.

Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, a wealthy city magnate and a tool of the
earl's, whom, 'tis said, he used to thwart the doings of the Lord
Treasurer, Sir William Cecil, was another victim. Having heard that Sir
Nicholas was revealing some of his secrets, he invited him one night
to supper at his house in London, and at supper time hurriedly went to
the court, to which he said he had been called suddenly by her Majesty.
Sir Nicholas proceeded with the meal in his absence, and soon after
was seized with a violent vomiting, from which he never recovered.
According to an old chronicler, "The day before his death he declared
to a dear friend, all the circumstances and cause of his complaint,
which he affirmed plainly to be poison given him in a sallet at supper,
inveighing most earnestly against the earl's cruelty and bloody
disposition, and affirming him to be the wickedest, most perilous and
perfidious man under heaven."

The chronicler continues: "And for his art of poisoning, it is such
now, and reaching so far, as he holdeth all his foes in England and
elsewhere, as also a good many of his friends, in fear thereof, and
if it were known how many he hath despatched in that way would be
marvellous to posterity.

"His body physician, one Dr. Bayly, openly proclaimed the fact that he
knew of poisons which might be so tempered that they should kill the
party afterwards at what time it should be appointed; which argument
belike," says the writer of _Leycester's Commonwealth_, "pleased well
his Lordship of Leicester. The tool who carried out the murder of
the Earl of Essex is said to have been one Crompton, Yeoman of the
Bottles, together with Godwick Lloyd." Leicester was suspected of
being the instigator of many murders which probably he may have had
nothing to do with, such was the feeling of dislike against him. Among
others was Lady Lennox, who died in a mysterious manner shortly after
being visited by the earl.

He is said to have kept in his employ several needy but unscrupulous
physicians, ready to administer the "Italian Comfortive," as the poison
was called, at his bidding. "With the Earl of Essex, one Mrs. Alice
Drakott, a godly gentlewoman, is also said to have been poisoned."
This lady happened to be accompanying the earl on her way towards her
own house, when after partaking of the same cup she was also seized
with violent pain and vomiting, which continued until she died, a
day or two before the earl succumbed. "When she was dead," says
the chronicler, "her body was swollen into a monstrous bigness and
deformity; whereof the good earl, hearing the day following, lamented
the case greatly, and said in the presence of his servants, 'Ah! poor
Alice, the cup was not prepared for thee, albeit it was thy hard
fortune to taste thereof.'"



CHAPTER IV

PROFESSIONAL POISONERS


THE criminal destruction of life by poison has been practised from
ancient times. Very little was known of toxicology in those days,
and even the symptoms often passed unrecognised or were attributed
to natural causes, and the poisoners' fiendish work was frequently
undiscovered and rendered easy. In the early Christian era, poisoning,
indeed, became quite a profession, and convenient individuals could be
hired with little difficulty to administer a deadly dose to an enemy
or rival. Agrippina, in refusing to eat some apples offered to her
at table by her father-in-law Tiberius, must have had suspicions of
this kind. Locusta, who is said to have supplied the poison by which
Agrippina got rid of Claudius, and who also prepared the dose for
Britannicus, according to the order of his brother Nero, is the first
professional poisoner of whom we have record.

In the year B.C. 331 an epidemic broke out in Rome which was supposed
to proceed from corrupt air, but it was observed that the principal
patricians only were the victims. Their deaths, however, were
attributed to infection, for poisoning was then scarcely known in
Rome nor was there a law for its punishment. In the general grief,
a female slave presented herself to the edile curule Q. Fabius and
accused more than twenty Roman ladies of poisoning: designing specially
Cornelia, a lady of an illustrious family of that name, and Sergia,
another patrician lady. It is recorded that as many as three hundred
and sixty-six ladies were similarly accused; but Cornelia and Sergia
were detected in compounding their fatal potions. "When led before
the popular assembly they maintained their preparations were harmless
remedies. The slave, seeing herself accused as a false witness, asked
that the ladies should be required to swallow their own potions; which
they did, and by so doing avoided a more shameful death."

Later, there were, doubtless, many, both men and women of the baser
sort, who professed to practise alchemy, and had dealings in the black
arts, who for suitable consideration would procure poison for criminal
purposes. In mediæval times a law was passed in Italy rendering the
apothecary, who knowingly sold poison for criminal purposes, liable to
a heavy penalty, and yet secret poisoning was practised to a very large
extent; and there were probably many like the poor apothecary of Mantua
in _Romeo and Juliet_, who, in response to Romeo's demand for poison,
replied, "My poverty and not my will consents."

From the fifteenth to the seventeenth century two great criminal
schools arose in Venice and Italy.

The Venetian poisoners who first came into notoriety, flourished in the
fifteenth century. At that period the mania for poisoning had risen
to such a height, that the governments of the states were formally
recognizing secret assassination by poison, and considering the removal
of emperors, princes, and powerful nobles by this method. The notorious
Council of Ten met to consider such plans, and an account and record of
their proceedings still exists, giving the number of those who voted
for and who voted against the proposed removal, the reasons for the
assassination, and the sum to be paid for its execution. Thus these
conspirators quietly arranged to take the lives of many prominent
individuals; and when the deed was executed, it was registered on the
margin of their official record by the significant word "Factum." On
December 15, 1543, John of Raguba, a Franciscan brother, offered the
Council a selection of poisons, and declared himself ready to remove
any person whom they deemed objectionable out of the way. He calmly
stated his terms, which for the first successful case were to be a
pension of 1,500 ducats a year, to be increased on the execution of
future services. The Presidents, Guolando Duoda and Pietro Guiarini,
placed this matter before the Council on January 4, 1544, and on a
division, it was resolved to accept this patriotic offer, and to
experiment first on the Emperor Maximilian. John, who had evidently
reduced poisoning to a fine art, submitted afterwards a regular
graduated tariff to the Council, which ran as follows--

For the great Sultan, 500 ducats.

For the King of Spain, 150 ducats, including the expenses of the
journey, etc.

For the Duke of Milan, 60 ducats.

For the Marquis of Mantua, 50 ducats.

For the Pope, 100 ducats.

He further adds at the foot of the document, "The farther the journey,
the more eminent the man, the more it is necessary to reward the toil
and hardships undertaken, and the heavier must be the payment."

The school of Italian poisoners became prominent in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, and the magnitude of their operations during
that period struck terror into the hearts of the chief nobles and
rulers of that country.

The mania for secret poisoning seems to have seized on all classes
from the highest to the lowest, and no one who made an enemy was
safe. Porta, in his work published in 1589, gives some account of
the poisons used at the time, and seems to have made a study of the
subject. He describes methods for drugging wine (a favourite medium of
administration) with belladonna root, and also mentions nux vomica,
aconite, and hellebore, in his account of poisonous bodies. He gives
the following recipe for compounding a very strong poison, which he
calls "Venenum Lupinum": "Take of the powdered leaves of _Aconitum
lycoctonum_, _Taxus baccata_, with powdered glass, caustic lime,
sulphide of arsenic, and bitter almonds. Mix them with honey, and
make into pills the size of a hazel nut." He also recommends a curious
mixture to poison a sleeping person. It is composed of a mixture of
hemlock juice, bruised stramonium, belladonna, and opium. This is to be
placed in a leaden box with a perfectly fitting cover, and allowed to
ferment for several days; it is then to be opened under the nose of the
intended victim while asleep. So long as the individual only got the
smell and did not swallow the compound, it certainly would not do him
much harm.

The most notorious of the Italian poisoners was the woman Toffana or
Toffania, who carried on her practices from the latter end of the
seventeenth century until she was brought to justice in 1709. Toffana
resided first at Palermo, but removed to Naples in 1659 during the
pontificate of Alexander VII. This later Circe gained large sums of
money by the sale of certain mysterious preparations she compounded,
which were afterwards proved to be simply solutions of arsenious acid.
These were circulated throughout Italy in small glass phials, bearing
the image of a saint, and labelled various names such as "Acquetta di
Napoli," or the "Manna of St. Nicholas of Bari," and "Aqua Toffana."
Any one in the secret could buy the poison for its supposed use as
a cosmetic, or other innocent property, and then employ it for any
purpose they wished. This infamous woman carried on her nefarious trade
from girlhood until she was nearly seventy years of age, without ever
having fallen into the meshes of the law, and it is stated over six
hundred persons were poisoned through her instrumentality. She dealt
only with individuals, after due safeguards had been built up, and she
changed her abode so frequently, and adopted so many disguises, that
her detection was rendered very difficult. She also called in the aids
of religion and superstition, and those who were uninitiated in the
history of her deadly elixir, imagined it to be a certain miraculous
oil which was supposed to ooze from the tomb of St. Nicholas. The
Popes Pius III and Clement XIV are said to have fallen victims to its
use. The composition of the Acquetta di Napoli was long a profound
secret, but it is said to have been known by the Emperor Charles VI of
Austria. According to a letter addressed to Hoffmann[2] by Garceli,
physician to the emperor, he informed the latter that, being Governor
of Naples at the time that the Acquetta was the dread of every noble
family in the city, and when the subject was investigated legally he
had an opportunity of examining all the documents, and that he found
the poison consisted of a solution of arsenic in _Aqua cymbalariæ_.
The dose was said to be from four to six drops in water, and that it
was colourless, transparent and tasteless. When the manufacture and
sale of the poison was at last traced to Toffana, she took refuge in
a convent, from which the abbess and archbishop refused to give her
up, and so continued to sell the water for twenty years longer, and
evaded punishment for the time. Public indignation was roused to such a
pitch, that at last the convent was broken into by a body of soldiers,
who secured Toffana and handed her over to the authorities. She was
tortured until she confessed in 1709, and then strangled, her body
being thrown into the garden of the convent which had sheltered her.

Aqua Toffana was reputed to possess some very peculiar properties, and,
among others, that of causing death at any determinate period, after
months, for example, or even years of ill-health (a common supposition
attributed to poisons in the Middle Ages). Its alleged effects are
graphically described by Behrens as follows: "A certain indescribable
change is felt in the whole body, which leads the person to complain
to his physician. The physician examines and reflects, but finds no
symptoms either external or internal, no vomiting, no inflammation,
no fever. In short, he can only advise patience, strict regimen, and
laxatives. The malady, however, creeps on, and the physician is again
sent for. Still he cannot detect any symptoms of note. Meanwhile the
poison takes firmer hold of the system; languor, wearisomeness, and
loathing of food continue; the nobler organs gradually become torpid,
and the lungs in particular at length begin to suffer. In a word, the
malady from the first is incurable; the unhappy victim pines away
insensibly even in the hands of the physician, and thus is he brought
to a miserable end through months or years, according to his enemy's
desire."

Toffana had many imitators, and some time after her death a similar
scheme was attempted with a poisonous solution reputedly sold as a
cosmetic, called the "Acquetta di Perugia." It is said to have been
prepared by killing a hog, disjointing it, strewing the pieces with
white arsenic, which was well rubbed in, and finally collecting the
juice which dropped from the meat itself. This preparation was supposed
to be much stronger and a more powerful poison than arsenic itself, but
doubtless had the same fatal effect.

It is a curious fact that most of the notorious poisoners in mediæval
times were women, and, indeed, in later years the frail sex seem to
have retained a special predilection for this form of crime. In the
year 1659, a secret society of women, most of whom were young wives
belonging to some of the best and wealthiest families of Rome, was
discovered in that city, the sole or chief object of which was to
destroy the lives of the husbands of the members. They met at regular
intervals at the house of one Hieronyma Spara, a woman reputed to be a
witch, who provided her fellow associates and pupils with the required
poison, and planned and instructed them how to use it. Operations had
been carried on for some time, when the existence of the society was
discovered and, says a chronicler, "the hardened old hag passed the
ordeal of the rack without confession; but another woman divulged the
secrets of the sisterhood, and La Spara, together with twelve other
women implicated, were hanged." Many others who were guilty in a lesser
degree were publicly whipped through the streets of the city.

In the seventeenth century the mania for poisoning seems to have spread
to France, and great interest was excited by the disclosures which
followed the discovery of Exili's conspiracy to poison a number of
persons. Madame de Montespan, one of the favourites of Louis XIV, a
woman of great beauty, died very suddenly at the age of twenty-six, on
June 30, 1672, and it was generally believed she had been poisoned.
The rumour seems to have been set on foot by one of her husband's old
servants, who professed to know the individual who had administered
the fatal dose. "This man," said he, "who was not rich, withdrew
immediately afterwards into Normandy, where he bought an estate, on
which he lived with grandeur a long time; the poison was powder of
diamonds, mixed, instead of sugar, with strawberries."

Voltaire, who believed the whole story to be a myth, states: "The
court and city believed the princess had been poisoned with a glass
of water of succory, after which she felt terrible pains, and soon
after was seized with the agonies of death; but the natural malignity
of mankind, and a fondness for extraordinary incidents, were the only
inducements to this general persuasion. The glass of water could not
be poisoned, since Madame de la Fayette and another person drunk what
remained without receiving the least injury from it. The princess had
been a long time ill of an abscess, which had formed itself in the
liver." For some time the young Chevalier De Lorraine, the favourite
of the Duke of Orleans, rested under suspicion, it being openly stated
that the motive was to revenge the banishment and imprisonment which
his misbehaviour to the princess a short time before had drawn upon
him. Public opinion was strengthened in the belief that the princess
had met her death through poison, by the fact that just at this time
the mania for secret poisoning seemed to spread over France. About
this date a German apothecary and alchemist, named Glaser, settled
in Paris, together with two Italians, one of whom was called Exili.
Their professed object was a research to discover the Philosopher's
Stone. Having lost the little they possessed in a very short time in
the pursuit of this chimera, they commenced the secret sale of poisons.
Through the confessional their nefarious trade became known to the
Grand Penitentiary of Paris. This dignitary gave information to the
Government, and the two suspected Italians were promptly sent to the
Bastille, where one of them died; but Exili, while still in prison,
managed to carry on his business, and found ready purchasers for his
secrets, and the number of deaths attributed to poison increased to
such an extent, that a special court for the investigation of poisoning
cases, called "La Chambre Ardente," was formed. A few years later
the whole of France was aroused by the confession of the Marquise de
Brinvilliers of having poisoned her father, two brothers, and a sister.
Her husband, the Marquis de Brinvilliers, invited a friend, one Captain
St. Croix, who was an officer in his regiment, to lodge in his house.
The too agreeable person of the lady of the house speedily charmed the
visitor, and to her credit she endeavoured to inspire her husband with
a fear of the consequences; but he obstinately persisted in keeping
his young friend in the house with his wife, who was both young and
handsome, with the result they soon conceived a passion for each other
The father of the marquise, one Lieutenant Daubrai was greatly incensed
on hearing of his daughter's indiscretions, and obtaining a _lettre de
cachet_ had the captain sent to the Bastille. Here St. Croix was placed
in the same cell as Exili, and the latter soon instructed him how he
might easily revenge himself. The marquise, who found means of visiting
her lover, was informed how to obtain the poison, and at once commenced
operations on those members of her family who were most incensed
against her, with the result, that first her father, then her brothers
and sister fell victims to her revenge. Suspicion resting on her, she
fled into Belgium, and was arrested at Liège. A full confession of her
crimes, written by her own hand, was found upon her.

She was eventually beheaded, and burnt near Notre Dame in July, 1676.
St. Croix is said to have accidentally succumbed to the effects of
poisonous fumes in his own laboratory. The authorities on examining
his effects, as he left no family, came across a small box to which
a paper was attached, which contained a request that after his death
"it might be delivered to the Marquise de Brinvilliers, who resides in
Rue Neuve St. Paul." This paper was signed and dated by St. Croix on
May 25, 1672. On the box being opened, it was found to contain a large
collection of various poisons, including corrosive sublimate, antimony,
and opium. When the marquise heard of the death of her lover, she at
once made every effort to obtain the box by bribing the officers of
justice, but failed. La Chaussée, the servant of St. Croix, laid claim
to the property, but was arrested as an accomplice and imprisoned. On
confessing many serious crimes he was broken alive on the wheel in
1673. Evidence was brought to prove at the trial of De Brinvilliers,
that both she and St. Croix were secretly combined with other persons
accused of similar crimes. Some distinguished people were implicated,
including Pennautier, the receiver-general of the clergy, who was
afterwards accused of practising her secrets. One crime seemed to bring
another to light, and two persons, named La Voisin and La Vigoreux,
a priest named Le Sage, and several others, were next haled before
the tribunal, and charged with trading with the secrets of Exili and
inciting people with weak minds to the crime of poisoning. It was
alleged that through their instrumentality a large number of married
women had hastened the decease of their husbands.

The Chambre Ardente, or Burning Court, as it was commonly called, was
established at the Arsenal, near the Bastille, and was rarely idle.
Persons of the highest rank were cited to appear before it; among
others, two nieces of Cardinal Mazarin, the Duchess of Bouillon, and
the Countess de Soissons, mother of Prince Eugène. The Countess de
Soissons had to retire to Brussels.

The Marshal de Luxemburg was the next sensational arrest. He was
carried to the Bastille and submitted to a long examination, after
which he was allowed to remain fourteen months in prison. La Voisin and
his accomplices were eventually condemned and burnt at the stake, which
seemed to put a check on this series of abominable crimes which spread
throughout France from 1670 to 1680.

Maria Louisa, daughter of Louis XIV, who married Charles II, King
of Spain, is said to have died from the effects of poison in 1689.
Voltaire states: "It was undoubtedly believed that the Austrian
Ministers of Charles II would get rid of her, because she loved her
country and might prevent the king, her husband, from declaring for the
allies against France; they even sent her from Versailles what they
believed to be a counter-poison." This did not arrive until after her
death. In the memoirs of the Marquis de Dangeau, he says: "The king
announced the death of his daughter at supper in these words--'The
Queen of Spain is dead, poisoned by eating of an eel pye; and the
Countess de Pernits and the Cameras, Zapeita, and Nina, who eat of it
after her, are also dead of the same poison.'" It is more than probable
the unfortunate queen and her ladies succumbed to some putrefactive
poison in the fish itself, and were not killed by intent. Nothing was
known of animal poisons in those days, and such was the state of the
public mind that nearly every sudden death was at once attributed to
poison.

The close of the reign of Louis XIV was marked by the sudden deaths of
no less than six members of the royal family in close succession. The
public sorrow and excitement were great, and rumours and suspicions
of poisoning were revived with fury unexampled. The prince had a
laboratory, and among other arts studied chemistry. This was considered
by the ignorant to be sufficient proof, and the public outcry became
terrible. On a visit of the Marquis de Canellae, the prince was found
extended on the floor shedding tears, and distracted with despair. His
chemist and fellow worker, Homberg, ran to surrender himself at the
Bastille, but they refused to receive him without orders. The prince
was so beside himself on hearing the public outcry and suspicions
that he demanded to be put in prison so that his innocence might be
cleared by judicial forms. The _lettre de cachet_ was actually made
out, but not signed. The marquis alone kept his head, and prevailed
upon the prince's mother to oppose the _lettre de cachet_. "The monarch
who granted it, and his nephew who demanded it, were both equally
wretched," says the historian.

The "poudre de succession," famous in Paris as a secret poison, was
at one time supposed to consist of diamond dust, but, according to
Haller, was really composed of sugar of lead. This was used by several
notorious criminals during the seventeenth century.


[2] Hoffmann, _Medecina Rationalis Systematica_, i. 198.



CHAPTER V

POISONING PLOTS


THE use of poison as an instrument for political purposes during
the Middle Ages soon spread over Europe, and the dread of wholesale
poisoning caused numerous panics. Some of these alarms may probably
have been circulated by unscrupulous traders who had articles to sell,
or some business interest to forward, but of others authentic records
exist.

June 6 is still kept as a public holiday in Malta. Upon that day, a
century and a half ago, while the island was still possessed by the
Knights of St. John, a Jew waited on the Grand Master, and revealed to
him a plot that had been planned for exterminating the whole population
at a stroke. This man kept a coffee house frequented by the Turkish
slaves, and understanding their language, he had overheard suspicious
remarks among his customers. The Grand Master, believing the truth
of the man's statement, took immediate action. The slaves indicated
were at once seized and put to torture, and they confessed a design of
poisoning all the wells and fountains on the island, and to make the
result surer, each of the conspirators was to assassinate a Christian.
One hundred and twenty-five were found guilty. Some were burnt, some
broken on the wheel, while others were ordered to have their arms and
legs attached to two galleys which, on being rowed apart, would thus
dismember them. Whether these frightful punishments were carried out
it is impossible to say, but the fact remains that the people of Malta
still commemorate their escape from poisoning to the present time.

Wholesale poisoning appears to have been a common practice in Eastern
countries, especially in India and Persia. The wells or other water
sources were usually chosen as the medium for disseminating the poison,
and in this way whole villages have often been destroyed by some
miscreant. Another extraordinary poisoning plot was discovered in Lima
towards the close of the eighteenth century. During the insurrection of
1781, a rich Cacique, who professed loyalty, went to a chemist's shop
and asked for 200 lb. of corrosive sublimate. He was willing to pay
any price. The chemist had not anything like that amount in stock, and
not wishing to send such a good customer away, substituted 200 lb. of
alum. On the following day all the water in the town was found to be
impregnated with alum. An examination being made of the reservoir, it
was found that the fence round it had been broken down and the banks
strewn with alum, and the water rendered undrinkable.

England has remained practically free from crimes of this kind. In
1530, a case occurred which caused great public indignation. Fisher,
Bishop of Rochester, was accustomed to entertain a number of poor
people daily. One afternoon a large number of his humble guests,
together with some of the officers of the household, were taken
ill. Two died, and after an examination of the food had been made,
it was declared the yeast had been poisoned. Parliament took up the
investigation, and the bishop's cook, one Richard Rowe, was found
guilty. He was tried, and sentenced to be boiled alive as a terrible
example to others. Boiling seems to have been a favourite punishment
for poisoners during the Middle Ages, a fact which, doubtless, shows
the abhorrence in which crimes of this kind were held.

It is further recorded that "On March 17th, 1524, Margaret Davy, maid,
was boiled in Smithfield for poisoning three households she had dwelled
in."

Among Queen Elizabeth's statesmen, poison would appear to have been
regarded as almost a legitimate weapon of defence. Her favourite
Leicester, to whom we have already alluded, was often called "The
Poisoner." This propensity was probably largely due to the fact
that most young Englishmen of rank were sent to Italy to finish
their education, and there were introduced to the Italian methods of
poisoning so much in vogue.

The Duc de Guise, in his memoirs, relates in a most matter-of-fact way,
how he requested the captain of his guard to poniard a troublesome
demagogue at Naples. The captain was shocked. He would poison any one
at his Grace's command with pleasure, but the dagger was a vulgar
instrument. So the duke bought some strong poison, the composition
of which he describes at length, and it was duly administered. But
Gennaro, the intended victim, had just eaten cabbage dressed in oil,
which is said to have acted as an antidote, and so he lived after all.



CHAPTER VI

CONCERNING ARSENIC


ARSENIC has, perhaps, been more frequently used than any other poison
for criminal purposes. It was known to the ancient Greeks in the form
of the yellow sulphide, commonly called orpiment. It is found in
Greece and Hungary. Its bright yellow colour caused many of the early
alchemists to consider it the key to the Philosopher's Stone, and this
is said to be grounded on some enigmatical verse in the Sibylline
oracles. The Emperor Caligula, according to Pliny, ordered a great
quantity of orpiment to be melted and manipulated, so that the gold it
was supposed to contain might be extracted from it.

Arsenic is the agent most commonly employed for criminal purposes in
India, doubtless because it can be both easily and cheaply obtained.
The reports of the analyst to the Bombay Government throw considerable
light on the methods pursued by Indian poisoners. The poison is usually
given in sweetmeats, and generally by a "strange woman," who has been
met in the street and who mysteriously disappears. This "strange
woman" is found in every analyst's report for the past twenty years,
and under much the same circumstances. Most of the cases are typical of
the people among whom they occur, as, for instance, the following:

"In a Scinde district a man went into a shop one day and entered into
friendly conversation with a stranger he met there. On parting, by
way of thanking him, the stranger presented him with some sweets for
distribution among his friends. The result was that five men and a boy
were poisoned, and the obliging stranger has never been heard of since."

The professional poisoner in India--for there are many such--is rarely
caught or even suspected. In a large number of cases, crimes of this
kind are taken little notice of by the community; and sometimes the
poisoner apparently thinks nothing of poisoning a whole family in order
to make sure of his victim. The utter absence of motive in the majority
of cases would point to the conclusion that they were largely the
result of homicidal mania.

For more than a century after the properties of arsenic were well
known, there was no certain method known for its detection, and very
little advance was made until the early part of last century, when
Marsh discovered his test in 1836, by means of which the minutest
quantities of the poison may be detected.

It is characteristic of both arsenic and mercury, that their presence
may be proved and demonstrated, even in the bones, years after they
have been taken. In proof of this, the following remarkable case is
given. A wealthy farmer died, and was buried in the tomb where his
father had been interred thirty-five years before. An examination
of certain of the bones of the father revealed particles of a
metallic-looking substance, which was collected and tested, and proved
to be mercury. It had thus been preserved in his body for more than
the third of a century, the probability being, that he had been in the
habit of taking it medicinally during the latter part of his life.
Another strange case came under the notice of a Bristol chemist, in
which he found abundant traces of arsenic in the bodies of several
young children after they had been buried eight years.

A curious story is related by the late Sir Richard Quain that came
under his experience, and one which would have proved a profound
mystery to this day but for his practical knowledge and acumen. He was
asked to make a post-mortem examination on the body of a man who was
by trade a stone-mason. To continue the story in his own words, "One
day, on coming in to his dinner, he went into the scullery, washed
his hands, and, going into the kitchen, he said to his wife, 'It is
all over; I have taken poison.' 'What have you taken?' 'Arsenic,'
he replied, and she at once took him off to the Western General
Dispensary. The senior surgeon was out when they got there, but two
young pupils of his happened to be in, who thought it was a very
important case, and they would treat it pretty actively. So they gave
him tartar emetic, pumped out the stomach, and pumped oxide of iron
into it, and a good many other operations they performed. The poor
man was extremely ill, and died in twenty-four hours. The coroner's
beadle went to the chemist and said: 'How did you come to sell this man
poison?' He replied, 'I sold him no poison; I thought he was off his
head when he came.' 'What did you give him?' 'Oh, I gave him some alum
and cream of tartar and labelled it poison.' He swallowed this, in the
belief it was arsenic," says Sir Richard. "When I made the post-mortem
examination, to my amazement I found a great deal of _arsenic_ in the
stomach. This was rather puzzling. I said, if it is in the stomach it
ought to go farther down. So I searched the intestines, but there was
no trace of arsenic anywhere. The simple explanation of it was this,
these two young fellows, horrified to find the man had died without
taking arsenic after all, pumped some into the stomach."

Another instance that terminated in a less tragic manner, in which a
would-be suicide was frustrated by a watchful chemist, happened some
years ago.

One morning a tall, decently dressed man, of seafaring aspect, entered
a chemist's shop in the neighbourhood of the docks of a northern
seaport, and in a solemn and confidential manner asked for a shilling's
worth of _strong_ laudanum.

"For what purpose do you require it?" asked the chemist.

"Well, you see, sir," the man explained, "I've just come off a voyage
from 'Frisco, and I find my sweetheart has gone off with Jim, you see,
sir, and now it's all up with me. Give me a strong dose, please, and if
you don't think a shilling's worth will be enough----"

"But, my good man----" interrupted the chemist.

"I'll shoot myself if not, sir, I will."

"All right, then," said the chemist; and, seeing argument was useless,
he proceeded to mix an innocent but nauseous draught of aloes.

"Now put in a shilling's worth of arsenic."

"Very well," replied the chemist, adding some harmless magnesia.

"And you might as well throw in a shilling's worth of prussic acid,"
said the broken-hearted lover.

The chemist carefully measured a little essence of almonds into the
glass, and handed it to the would-be suicide. He paid, swallowed it at
one draught, and solemnly walked out of the shop.

Crossing the street, which was quiet at the time, he deliberately laid
himself flat on his back on the footpath, and closed his eyes.

A group of children gathered round, and stood gazing with their eyes
and mouths open in wonderment, and an occasional passer-by stopped a
moment, cast a glance at the unwonted sight, and then passed on.

After lying thus quite motionless for about five minutes, he suddenly
raised his head, took a look round, then with one bound jumped to his
feet and made off as hard as he could run.

It is a curious fact that arsenic has been the favourite medium of
female poisoners from very early times; and in two celebrated poisoning
cases of later years, in both of which women were accused of murder
by the administration of arsenic, the plea that the poison had been
used by them for cosmetic purposes has been put forward to account
for having it in their possession. The effect of arsenic on the skin
is well known, and that it is frequently used, both internally and
externally, to improve the skin, by women, is an undoubted fact.[3]
That such a practice may lead to the taking of arsenic as a confirmed
habit there is also evidence to prove, and the writer has met with more
than one instance, in which the habit of taking solution of arsenic in
large quantities has been contracted by women.


[3] The recent rage for the so-called arsenical soaps, which are
supposed to improve the complexion and are being extensively used by
women, goes to corroborate this statement.



CHAPTER VII

THE STRANGE CASE OF MADAME LAFARGE


THE story of Madame Lafarge, who was tried in France for the murder of
her husband in 1840, is a strangely romantic one.

Marie Fortunée Cappelle was the daughter of a captain in the Imperial
Artillery. Her parents died in her childhood, and she was placed in
the care of an aunt, who, at the earliest opportunity, determined
to relieve herself of the burden of her support by negotiating a
marriage for her. While still a girl, through the instrumentality of
a matrimonial agent in Paris, an alliance was arranged between Marie
Cappelle and one Monsieur Charles Lafarge, who was a widower and an
ironmaster of Glandier.

The marriage, which was purely a commercial transaction, took place in
Paris on August 15, 1839, after which, Lafarge and his young wife set
out for his old and gloomy seigneurial mansion in Glandier.

From statements made afterwards, Madame Lafarge became disgusted with
her husband's brutality before the honeymoon was over. After they
reached their own house, however, they were reconciled, and there
seemed to be every possibility of their spending a happy wedded life
together.

Besides the newly married pair, there lived in the family mansion the
mother and sister of Lafarge, and his chief clerk, one Denis Barbier,
was a frequent visitor at the house, and had liberty to walk through
the place without restriction.

In a very short time Madame Lafarge discovered that both she and her
relatives had been deceived as to the position of her husband, and that
instead of being a man of considerable fortune, he was straitened for
means. On his representations she bestowed upon him all her fortune,
and even wrote letters at his dictation to some of her wealthy friends,
asking them to aid him to find money to develop a new method he
claimed to have discovered for smelting iron. With these letters of
introduction, Lafarge set out for Paris in December, 1839, to raise
money to start his new project.

While he was thus away, his wife had her portrait drawn by an artist
in Glandier, and determined to send it to her absent husband. She
therefore packed it in a box, with some cakes made by his mother,
together with an affectionate letter, and despatched them to Paris.
This box, which contained nothing but the five small cakes, the
portrait, and the letter, was packed and sealed by Madame Lafarge in
the presence of several witnesses.

When it reached Paris and was opened by Lafarge, it contained only _one
large cake_, after partaking of which he was suddenly taken ill, and
was eventually compelled to return home, where he arrived on January 5,
1840. His sickness continued and increased in severity, and nine days
afterwards he died.

Shortly after his death his mother and friends, who were well aware how
the widow disliked them and her husband also, who had made her life so
unhappy, at once imputed the cause of death to poison administered by
his wife in the cake she had sent to Paris, and Marie Cappelle Lafarge
was arrested on suspicion.

When the house of the deceased man was searched, certain diamonds were
found, which were supposed to have been stolen from the Vicomtesse de
Léotaud by Madame Lafarge before her marriage.

The unfortunate woman was therefore charged with the double crime of
theft and murder.

Though arrested in January, 1840, the trial of Madame Lafarge did not
commence till July 9 of the same year, and the charge of theft was
first proceeded with in her absence, and she was found guilty.

While this judgment was still under appeal, she was brought to trial on
the graver charge.

The evidence for the prosecution went to prove that the illness of
Lafarge commenced with the eating of the cake received from his home.
As already stated, when the box arrived in Paris the seals had been
broken, the five cakes had disappeared, and _a single cake "as large
as a plate"_ had been substituted for them. It was alleged by the
prosecution that this single cake had been prepared by Madame Lafarge,
and secretly placed in the box; but no evidence could be brought to
prove that she ever tampered with the box after it had been sealed.
Lafarge's clerk, Denis Barbier, made a clandestine visit to Paris after
the box had been despatched, and he was with Lafarge when it arrived
in Paris, yet no notice seems to have been taken of this suspicious
fact. It transpired, it was he who also first threw out hints on his
master's return that he was being poisoned by arsenic, and told a
brother employé that his master would be dead within ten days. There
was ample proof, however, that there was a considerable quantity of
arsenic in the house at Glandier. It was found that Madame Lafarge had
purchased some in December, stating she required it for destroying
rats; Denis also stated in evidence, that Madame had requested him to
procure her some arsenic. He bought some, but did not give it to her.
It was further stated that Madame Lafarge was seen to stir a white
powder into some chicken broth which had been prepared for her husband,
the remains of which, found in a bowl, were said by the analyst to
contain arsenic.

The medical men who conducted the post-mortem examination gave it as
their deliberate opinion that the deceased man had been poisoned by
arsenic, of which metal they professed to have found considerable
quantities. The friends of the accused then submitted the matter to
Orfila, the famous toxicologist, who, on giving his opinion of the
methods and manner in which the analysis had been carried out, said
that owing to the antiquated and doubtful methods of detection employed
by the medical men, it was probable they fancied they had found arsenic
where there was none. Thereupon the prosecution asked Orfila to
undertake a fresh analysis himself, which he consented to do, and, on
making a careful examination of the remains, stated he discovered just
a minute trace of arsenic.

This apparently sealed the doom of the accused woman, and served to
strengthen the bias of the jury. But now another actor appeared in the
drama in the person of Raspail, another famous French chemist, who
had watched the case from the beginning with interest. On hearing the
result of Orfila's examination, he had taken the trouble to trace the
zinc wire with which Orfila had experimented, to the shop where the
great toxicologist had procured the article, and he found on analysis
that the _zinc itself_ contained more arsenic than Orfila had detected
by his examination. Orfila had used Marsh's test, which is infallible
so long as the reagents used are free from arsenic themselves.

Raspail, having placed the result of his discovery of arsenic in
Orfila's reagent, at the service of the defence, was on his way to
Tulle, where the Assizes were being held, when an unfortunate accident
delayed his progress, and the unhappy Marie Cappelle Lafarge, after
a trial which lasted sixteen days, was found guilty meanwhile, and
condemned to imprisonment for life with hard labour, and exposure in
the pillory. Raspail, however, would not let the matter rest, and at
once set to work to save the condemned woman. He at length got Orfila
to fairly admit his error and join him in a professional report to the
authorities to that effect.

After being imprisoned for twelve years, in the end the sentence on
this unhappy woman was reduced to five years in the Montpellier house
of detention, after which the Government sent her to the Convent of
St. Rémy, from whence she was liberated in 1852, but only to end her
wretched life a few months afterwards.

There appeared in the _Edinburgh Review_ for 1842 a careful
examination of this interesting case from a legal point of view, in
which the writer states the strongest evidence indicated Denis and not
Madame Lafarge as the perpetrator of the crime. It was proved this man
lived by forgery, and assisted Lafarge in some very shady transactions
to cover the latter's insolvency. He was further known to harbour a
deadly hatred for Madame Lafarge. He was with his master in Paris when
he was seized with the sudden illness, and it transpired that out
of the 25,000 francs the ironmaster had succeeded in borrowing from
his wife's relatives, only 3,900 could be found when he returned to
Glandier. On his own statement he was in the possession of a quantity
of arsenic, and he was the first to direct suspicion against his
master's wife. Yet all these facts appear to have been overlooked in
the efforts of the prosecution to fasten the guilt on the unfortunate
woman. That Lafarge died from the effects of arsenical poisoning there
seems little doubt, but by whom it was administered has never been
conclusively proved, and the tragedy still remains among the unsolved
poisoning mysteries.



CHAPTER VIII

THE CASE OF MADELINE SMITH


THE case of Madeline Smith, who was charged with causing the death
of L'Angelier by the administration of arsenic at Glasgow, in 1857,
excited universal interest. Owing to the social position of the lady,
the trial was a _cause célèbre_ of the time, and the circumstances
of the case were of an extraordinary character. Miss Smith, who was
a young and accomplished woman at that time, and who resided in a
fashionable quarter of Glasgow, got entangled with a French clerk
named Pierre Emile L'Angelier. L'Angelier died very suddenly in an
unaccountable manner, and suspicion falling on Madeline Smith, who
was frequently in his company, she was arrested and charged with the
crime. The Crown case was, that she poisoned her lover that she might
be betrothed to a personage of high social standing. That L'Angelier
died on March 23 from the effects of arsenic was amply proved, but
while suspicious acts were alleged against the accused woman, no direct
evidence was adduced to show that she administered the drug. The worst
point against her was the fact of her having possession of the poison;
and, irrespective of two previous purchases of coloured arsenic for
which she had given false reasons, it was proved that the accused had
purchased one ounce, as she said, "to kill rats," on March 18, only
five days before the death of L'Angelier. The arsenic sold was coloured
with indigo, according to the Act of Parliament. When charged with the
crime, and required to account for the poison, she replied she had used
the whole of it to apply to her face, arms, and neck, diluted with
water, and that a school companion had told her that arsenic was good
for the complexion. From the post-mortem examination and subsequent
analysis _eighty-eight_ grains of arsenic were found in the stomach
and its contents. Dr. Christison, the greatest toxicological expert of
the time, was called, and stated he knew of no case in which so much
as eighty-eight grains of arsenic had been found in the stomach after
death.

This was made a turning-point of the defence, and it was contended
that so large a dose of arsenic could not have been swallowed
unknowingly, and, therefore, suicide was indicated. The jury accepting
this view of the case, returned a verdict of "not proven," and Madeline
Smith was liberated, the trial having lasted ten days.

Some interesting particulars concerning the subsequent life of this
lady were published some time ago. After the trial she decided to go
abroad; but before starting she is said to have married a certain
mysterious individual named Dr. Tudor Hora. With him she lived for
many years in Perth, but few people ever saw her, and the doctor
always declined to divulge his wife's maiden name. He kept a small
surgery, and is said to have been in receipt of about £400 a year from
an unnamed source. Some years after, believing that his wife had been
recognized, he bought a practice at Hotham, near Melbourne, and they
sailed for Australia. Shortly after their arrival, Mrs. Hora left her
husband, and remained absent from Melbourne until his death. Soon
afterwards she married again, but it is said her second union was not
by any means a happy one. She remained unknown, and sought no society.
She was an excellent musician, and spent most of her time in reading
and playing. She had no children, and died at the age of fifty-five.

Six years after the trial of Madeline Smith a case was tried at the
Chester Assizes, in which a woman named Hewitt or Holt was charged
with poisoning her mother. Although the symptoms of irritant poisoning
were very clearly marked, the country practitioner, who attended
the woman at the time, certified that the cause of her death was
gastro-enteritis. Eleven weeks after she had been buried, the body was
exhumed and examined. An analysis revealed the presence of one hundred
and fifty-four grains of arsenic in the stomach alone. The possession
of a considerable quantity of arsenic was brought home to the accused,
and also direct evidence of its administration, and she was found
guilty. This case is interesting from the fact of proof being obtained
of the administration of so large a quantity of arsenic, and if it had
occurred before the trial of Madeline Smith it might have demolished
her counsel's main line of defence.



CHAPTER IX

THE MAYBRICK CASE


ON July 31, 1889, one of the most remarkable poisoning cases of modern
times was brought before Mr. Justice Stephen, at the Liverpool Assizes.
The trial, which lasted eight days, excited the keenest interest
throughout the country, especially as the principal actors in the
tragedy were people of good social position. The accused, Florence
Maybrick, wife of a Liverpool merchant, was charged with causing the
death of her husband by administering arsenic to him.

About the end of April, 1889, Mr. James Maybrick was seized with a
peculiar illness, of which the main symptoms consisted of a rigidity
of the limbs and a general feeling of sickness, which quite prostrated
him, and eventually confined him to bed. The medical man who was
called in to attend him, attributed the cause to extreme irritability
of the stomach and treated him accordingly; but, becoming puzzled by
the persistent sickness and the rapidly increasing weakness of his
patent, a second practitioner was called in consultation. From this
time he grew considerably worse, severer symptoms and diarrhoea set in,
which caused the doctors to suspect the cause was due to some irritant
poison. This was confirmed by the discovery that arsenic had been
placed in a bottle of meat juice that was being administered to the
sick man. Trained nurses were placed in charge, and a close watch kept
on the patient, but without avail, and he died on May 11.

Suspicions having been aroused, and from statements made to the police,
Mrs. Maybrick was arrested, and eventually charged with the wilful
murder of her husband. From evidence given at the trial, it transpired
that the relations between husband and wife had not been of the most
cordial character for some time. There were frequent disagreements,
and just before Mr. Maybrick was taken ill there had been a serious
quarrel, resulting from his wife's relations with another man. The
lady resented the accusation, and a separation was talked of. The
fatal illness then intervened, during the first portion of which Mrs.
Maybrick nursed her husband; but through a letter addressed to her
lover, which she had given to her nursemaid to post, having been opened
by the latter and handed to Mr. Maybrick's brother, trained nurses
were called in, and the sick man was placed in their charge entirely.
This letter, which formed one of the strongest pieces of evidence
against the accused, revealed the connection between Mrs. Maybrick
and her lover, and contained the intelligence to him that her husband
was "sick unto death." Evidence was also given by the servants, of
flypapers having been seen in process of maceration in water in Mrs.
Maybrick's bedroom. The trained nurses also gave evidence concerning
the suspicious conduct of Mrs. Maybrick, with reference to tampering
with the medicines and meat juice which were to be administered to the
patient. These suspicions culminated in the discovery of arsenic in a
bottle of the meat juice by one of the medical attendants. Considerable
quantities of arsenic were found by the police in the house, including
a packet containing seventy-one grains, mixed with charcoal, and
labelled "Poison for cats."

The analytical examination was made by Dr. Stevenson and a local
analytical chemist, who discovered traces of arsenic in the intestines,
and .049 of a grain of arsenic in the liver, traces of the poison being
also found in the spleen. Arsenic was also found in various medicine
bottles, handkerchiefs, bottles of glycerine, and in the pocket of a
dressing-gown belonging to the accused. Dr. Stevenson further stated,
he believed the body of the deceased at the time of death probably
contained a fatal dose of arsenic. The scientific evidence adduced
was of a very conflicting character. On one hand, the medical men who
attended the deceased, and the Government analyst, swore they believed
that death was caused from the effects of arsenic; while on the other,
Dr. Tidy, who was called for the defence, as an expert stated that the
quantity of arsenic discovered in the body did not point to the fact
that an overdose had been administered. He believed that death had been
due to gastro-enteritis of some kind or other, but that the symptoms
and post-mortem appearances distinctly pointed away from arsenic as
the cause of death. Dr. MacNamara, ex-president of the Royal College
of Surgeons, Ireland, also stated, that in his opinion Mr. Maybrick's
death had not been caused by arsenical poisoning and that he agreed
with Dr. Tidy that the cause was gastro-enteritis, unconnected with
arsenical poisoning. For the defence it was also urged that the
deceased man had been in the habit of taking arsenic in considerable
quantities for some years. In support of this, witnesses were called
to prove that he had been in the habit of taking a mysterious white
powder, and that while living in America, he frequently purchased
arsenic from chemists who knew he was in the habit of taking it. A
black man, who had been in the service of deceased in America, also
deposed to seeing him take this white powder in beef tea.

At the close of the evidence for the defence the accused woman
by permission of the judge made the following statement amid the
breathless silence of those in the court:--

"My Lord, I wish to make a statement, as well as I can, about a few
facts in connection with the dreadful and crushing charge that has been
made against me--the charge of poisoning my husband and father of my
dear children. I wish principally to refer to the flypaper solution.
The flypapers I bought with the intention of using the solution as
a cosmetic. Before my marriage, and since for many years, I have
been in the habit of using this wash for the face prescribed for me
by Dr. Graves, of Brooklyn. It consisted, I believe, principally of
arsenic, of tincture of benzoin, and elder-flower water, and some other
ingredients. This prescription I lost or mislaid last April, and as
at the time I was suffering from an eruption on the face I thought I
should like to try and make a substitute myself. I was anxious to get
rid of this eruption before I went to a ball on the 30th of that month.
When I had been in Germany, among my young friends there, I had seen
used a solution derived from flypapers soaked in elder-flower water,
and then applied to the face with a handkerchief well soaked in the
solution. I procured the flypapers and used them in the same manner,
and to avoid evaporation I put the solution into a bottle so as to
avoid as much as possible the admission of the air. For this purpose
I put a plate over the flypapers, then a folded towel over that, and
then another towel over that. My mother has been aware for a great
many years that I have used arsenic in solution. I now wish to speak
of his illness. On Thursday night, May 9, after the nurse had given my
husband medicine, I went and sat on the bed beside him. He complained
to me of feeling very sick, very weak, and very restless. He implored
me then again to give him the powder which he had referred to earlier
in the evening, and which I declined to give him. I was over-wrought,
terribly anxious, miserably unhappy, and his evident distress utterly
unnerved me. As he told me the powder would not harm him, and that
I could put it in his food, I then consented. My Lord, I had not
one true or honest friend in the house. I had no one to consult, no
one to advise me. I was deposed from my own position as mistress of
my own house, and from the position of attending on my husband, and
notwithstanding that he was so ill, and notwithstanding the evidence
of the nurses and the servants, I may say that he missed me whenever
I was not with him; whenever I was out of the room he asked for me,
and four days before he died I was not allowed to give him a piece of
ice without its being taken out of my hand. I took the meat juice into
the inner room. On going through the door I spilled some of the liquid
from the bottle, and in order to make up the quantity spilled I put in
a considerable quantity of water. On returning into the room I found
my husband asleep. I placed the bottle on the table near the window.
As he did not ask for anything then, and as I was not anxious to give
him anything, I removed it from the small table where it attracted his
attention and put it on the washstand where he could not see it. There
I left it. Until Tuesday, May 14, the Tuesday after my husband's death,
till a few moments before the terrible charge was made against me, no
one in that house had informed me of the fact that a death certificate
had been refused--but of course the post-mortem examination had taken
place--or that there was any reason to suppose that my husband had died
from other than natural causes. It was only when a witness alluded to
the presence of arsenic in the meat juice that I was made aware of the
nature of the powder my husband had been taking. In conclusion, I only
wish to say that for the love of our children, and for the sake of
their future, a perfect reconciliation had taken place between us, and
on the day before his death I made a full and free confession to him."

Mrs. Maybrick's counsel, Sir Charles Russell, made a most brilliant and
eloquent appeal in her defence. He pointed out that at the time the
black shadow which could never be dispelled passed over the life of the
accused woman, her husband was in the habit of drugging himself. She
was deposed from her position as mistress of her own home, and pointed
out as an object of suspicion.

If it had not been for the act of infidelity on her part, there would
be no motive assigned in the case, and surely there was a wide chasm
between the grave moral guilt of unfaithfulness and the criminal
guilt involved in the deliberate plotting by such wicked means of
the felonious death of her husband. There were two questions to be
answered: Was there clear, safe, and satisfactory equivocal proof,
either that death was in fact caused by arsenical poisoning, or that
the accused woman administered that poison if to the poison the death
of her husband was due? The jury, however, returned a verdict of
"Guilty," and Florence Maybrick was sentenced to death. The agitation
and excitement throughout the country which followed, ending in a
respite being granted and the sentence being commuted to one of penal
servitude for life, will be well remembered.

Whether Florence Maybrick did actually administer arsenic to her
husband _with intent to kill him_, she alone can tell. On her own
confession she admitted having given him a certain _white powder_ for
which he craved, of the nature of which she said she was ignorant.
There can be no doubt _this powder was arsenic_. If she did not
know the powder was arsenic, and did not give it with intent to
take his life, which many still believe, then surely such a web of
circumstantial evidence has never before been woven round one accused
of having committed a terrible crime.



CHAPTER X

ABOUT ACONITE AND HEMLOCK


ACONITE, or monk's-hood, whose purple flower, shaped like a helmet or
monk's hood, is a familiar feature in our country gardens, ranks as one
of the most ancient of vegetable poisons. The name aconite was derived
from Akon, a city of Heraclea, and the plant, owing to its deadly
nature, was supposed by the early Greeks to have originated from the
foam of the dog Cerberus. Aconite was largely used as an arrow poison
by the ancients, and also employed for that purpose by the Chinese
and the wild hill tribes of India. It was used by the ancient Greeks
and Romans to destroy life, and they believed they could cause death
to take place at a certain time by regulating the dose of poison.
Thus Theophrastus writes: "The ordering of this poison was different
according as it was designed to kill in two or three months, or a
year." The poison cup of the ancients was probably a compound, of
which hemlock and aconite were the chief ingredients. This was used
for carrying out the criminal death penalty, and also for purposes
of suicide when so desired. A curious relic of this ancient custom
was practised at Marseilles, where a poison was kept by the public
authorities of which hemlock was an ingredient. A dose of this was
allowed by the magistrates "to any one who could show a sufficient
reason why he should deserve death." Valerius Maximus observes, "This
custom came from Greece, particularly from the Island of Ceos, where I
saw an example of it in a woman of great quality who, having lived very
happy ninety years, obtained leave to die this way, lest, by living
longer, she should happen to see a change of her good fortune."

Theophrastus states, "Thrasyas, a great physician, invented a
composition which would cause death without any pain, and it was
prepared with the juice of hemlock and poppy together, and did the
business in a small dose."

When vice and dissipation were at their height in Rome, suicide was
most common, and it was often met with among the Greeks, after they
had been contaminated by Roman manners and customs. When the Greeks
and Romans recognised the impossibility of suppressing suicide, they
decided to establish tribunals, whose duty it should be to hear the
applications of those persons who wished to die. If the applicant
succeeded in showing what the tribunal considered good cause for
quitting life his prayer was granted, and he destroyed himself under
the authority of the court. In some instances the court not only
sanctioned the suicide, but supplied the means of self-destruction in
the shape of a decoction of aconite and hemlock. If any one applied
for permission to end his life and was refused, and in defiance of the
decision committed suicide, his act was illegal. The Romans in such
cases confiscated the property of the deceased; the Greeks held his
memory as dishonoured, and treated his body with indignity.

The aconite now used in medicine is derived from the _Aconitum
napellus_, chiefly grown in Britain; it is also found in the
mountainous districts of the temperate parts of the northern
hemisphere. It grows on the Alps, the Pyrenees, the mountains of
Germany and Austria, and also in Denmark and Sweden. On the Himalayas
it is found at 10,000 to 16,000 feet above the sea level. Both the
root and the leaves are used medicinally. The tap root of the aconite
has been frequently eaten in mistake for horse-radish with fatal
results. Aconite contains several active principles, all of which are
powerful poisons. The chief of these is aconitine--probably the most
deadly poison known--the fiftieth part of a grain of which has nearly
caused death. Indian aconite, known as _Bish_, is chiefly derived
from _Aconitum ferox_--a native of high altitude in the Himalaya
regions--and is mentioned by the Persian physician, Alheroi, in the
tenth century, also by many early Arabian writers on medicine. Isa
Ben Ali pronounced it to be the most rapid of deadly poisons, and
describes the symptoms with tolerable correctness. The chief symptoms
of poisoning by aconite are heat, numbness and tingling in the mouth
and throat, giddiness, and loss of muscular power. The pupils become
dilated, the skin cold, and pulse feeble, with oppressed breathing,
and dread of approaching death. Finally, numbness and paralysis come
on, rapidly followed by death in a few sudden gasps. The poison being
extremely rapid in effect, immediate action is absolutely necessary in
order to save life.

Several species of aconite grow plentifully in India, where it has been
used for centuries. It is found growing at an elevation of 10,000 feet
above the level of the sea, and among other places in the Singalilas,
a mountain range which forms the watershed boundary between Nepal
and British territory, northwest of Darjiling. _Aconitum palmatum_
is collected in abundance at Tongloo, the southern termination of
the Singalilas; but _A. napellus_, which is more poisonous, requires
a higher elevation in which to thrive. The natives, especially the
hill tribes, take aconite in the crude state as a remedy for various
ailments, and every Bhotiah has a few dried roots put away in some
secure corner of his hut. The method of collecting is thus described.
"Early in October, when the aconite root has matured, one of the
leading men of the village organises a party composed of both sexes.
He, for the time, becomes their leader, settles all disputes and
quarrels while out in camp, and, while keeping an account of the
general expenses, supplies to each, all necessaries in the way of
food. Before starting, he has to obtain a 'permit' from the Forest
Department, the charge for which is 15 rupees. Carefully wrapping the
pass up in a rag, and placing it in his network bag of valuables, he
collects his band together, and they set out for the higher ranges.
As soon as they arrive at the slopes, where aconite is growing
plentifully, they at once set to work to build bamboo huts about five
feet high, roofing them with leaves. After the morning meal they all
set off for the lower slopes, each with basket and spade over his
shoulder. But before the actual work is commenced, a ceremony has to
be performed. The Bhotiahs, like the Nepalese, have a belief that the
presiding demon of the hills imprisons evil spirits in the aconite
plant, which fly out as soon as it is dug up and inflict dire calamity
on the digger. In order, therefore, to counteract this, every morning,
before the digging commences, the lama or headman, standing on a
convenient hill with his followers around him, makes a fire and burns
some _dhuna_, a native resin, then, inserting two fingers in his mouth,
blows several shrill whistles. All wait in breathless silence till an
answering whistle is heard, which may be an echo or the cry of some
bird. Whatever it may be, it is taken as the dying dirge of the evil
spirits, and digging begins at once.

"The roots, after being shaken from the soil, are placed in the
baskets, which on return to the encampment are emptied and formed into
heaps, and covered with bamboo leaves to protect them from the frost.
During the day they are spread out in the sun to dry. When a sufficient
quantity has been collected and dried thus, bamboo frames are fixed
up with a fire below, on which the aconite is placed when the flame
has died out. The one who looks after this drying process has a cloth
tied round his head covering the nose, as the constant inhalation of
the fumes causes a feeling of heaviness and dizziness in the head.
This process is carried on three or four days until the roots are
dried. When sufficient have been collected and dried, they are packed
in baskets. These are shouldered, and with their cooking utensils
and blankets on the top, the whole band set their faces homeward. On
arrival at the commercial centre at the termination of their march
the results of the expedition are soon sold, and each man is handed
his share of the profits, according to the amount of aconite he has
collected."



CHAPTER XI

THE CASE OF DR. LAMSON


THE only case on record in which the active principle of aconite has
been used for the purpose of criminal poisoning is that of Dr. Lamson,
who suffered the extreme penalty of the law for administering the drug
to Percy Malcolm John, and thereby causing his death. The story is
remarkable for the cold-blooded way in which the murder was carried
out. George Henry Lamson, a surgeon, in impecunious circumstances,
had a reversionary interest through his wife in a sum of £1,500,
which would come to him on the death of his brother-in-law, Percy
Malcolm John. The latter, a sickly youth of eighteen years of age,
was paralysed in his lower limbs from old-standing spinal disease.
On November 27, 1881, Lamson purchased two grains of aconitine, and
shortly afterwards went down to the school where the lad had been
placed as a boarder, and had an interview with him in the presence of
the headmaster, professing at the same time a kindly interest in the
lad and his health. During the interview he produced some gelatine
capsules, one of which he filled with a white powder, presumed to be
sugar, and directly after seeing his brother-in-law swallow it, he
took his departure. Within a quarter of an hour John became unwell,
saying he felt the same as when Lamson had given him a quinine pill on
a former occasion. Violent vomiting soon set in, and he became unable
to swallow. This was rapidly followed by delirium, and in three hours
and three-quarters death ensued. Suspicion fell on Lamson, and he was
arrested shortly afterwards, and charged with the murder of John.

According to evidence at the trial, it is probable that Lamson had made
several previous attempts on the lad's life, with aconitine, in the
form of pills and powders, which he had given him under the pretence
of prescribing for his ailments. The money to which he was entitled
on the death of John doubtless supplied the motive for the crime. The
proof of the purchase of aconitine by the prisoner, and the evidence
of the post-mortem examination, pointed to the cause of death, and
the presence of aconitine was amply proved by the clinical and other
tests patiently and carefully applied by the analyst. The difficulty
of proving the presence of a rare vegetable alkaloid in the body
after death was, no doubt, duly considered by Lamson when he fixed on
aconitine as the medium for his evil design; but science proved the
master of the criminal, and the evidence of the instrument by which the
crime was committed was indisputably proved.



CHAPTER XII

THE BRAVO MYSTERY


ANTIMONY, like arsenic, to which in many ways it is closely allied,
claims also to be ranked among the historic poisons. It was known and
used by the ancient Greek and Roman physicians as a medicinal agent,
and for certain purposes it is, perhaps, unequalled at the present
time. The metal is a brittle, silvery and very brilliant substance, in
the form of plates and crystals, and is largely used in the arts as an
alloy, the most common form being Britannia metal, which is a compound
of antimony, lead, and tin. The old _Poculo emetica_ or everlasting
emetic cups, were made of antimony. It is found abundantly in nature
as a sulphide, also combined with various metals, and with quartz and
limestone. From these it is separated by fusion, the heavy metallic
portion sinking by the law of gravity, and abandoning the impurities
which remain on the surface of the molten mass. Arsenic is a frequent
contamination of commercial antimony, and it is very important that it
should be eliminated before antimony is prepared for use in medicine.

Poisoning by tartarated antimony causes a peculiar metallic taste in
the mouth, which is speedily followed by vomiting, burning heat, pains
in the stomach and purging, difficulty in swallowing, thirst, cramp,
cold perspirations, and great debility. In smaller doses it produces
these effects in a mitigated form, which causes symptoms somewhat
similar to natural disease, such as distaste for food, nausea, and loss
of muscular power. For this reason, doubtless, it has been a favourite
medium with many criminal poisoners, including Dove, Smethurst,
Pritchard, and others; but there is no trial in which antimony has
figured that caused more interest than the "Bravo Mystery" of 1876.

The story of this case begins with the marriage of Mr. Bravo, a young
barrister of about thirty years of age, to Mrs. Ricardo, who was then
a wealthy widow and a lady of considerable personal attractions.
After the marriage, which followed a very short acquaintance, the
couple went to reside at Balham. According to a statement made by
Mrs. Bravo, she informed her husband before the marriage of a former
lover, and there is little doubt that it rankled in Mr. Bravo's mind,
and he frequently taunted his wife with the fact. He was a strong,
healthy, and temperate man, but appears to have been both weak and
vain in character. On Tuesday, April 18, 1876, after breakfast at his
own house at Balham, he drove with his wife into town. On their way,
a very unpleasant discussion took place. Arriving in town, he had
a Turkish bath, lunched with a relative of his wife at St. James's
Restaurant, and walked on his way home to Victoria Station with a
friend and fellow-barrister, whom he asked out for the following day.
He arrived back home about half-past four. Shortly after his return,
Mr. Bravo went out for a ride, in the course of which his horse bolted
and carried him a long distance, and he got back to his home very tired
and exhausted. At half-past six he was noticed leaning forward on his
chair, looking ill, and with his head hanging down. He ordered a hot
bath, and when getting into it he cried out aloud with pain, putting
his hand to his side. The bath did not appear to relieve him much, and
he seemed to be suffering pain all through dinner, but appeared to
avoid attracting the attention of his wife and Mrs. Cox, her companion,
who dined with him.

The food provided during the dinner was partaken of more or less in
common by all three, but this was not the case as regards the wine.
Mr. Bravo drank Burgundy, only, while Mrs. Bravo and Mrs. Cox drank
sherry and Marsala. The wine drunk by Mr. Bravo had been decanted by
the butler some time before dinner; how long he could not say, but he
noticed nothing unusual with it.

The wine was of good quality, and Mr. Bravo, who was something of a
connoisseur of wine, remarked nothing peculiar in its taste, but drank
it as usual. If he had Burgundy for luncheon he finished the bottle
at dinner; but if not, as on the day in question, the remains of the
bottle were put away in an unlocked cellaret in the dining-room. The
butler could not remember whether any Burgundy was left on this day or
not; but, however, none was discovered.

This cellaret was opened at least twice subsequently to this, and
prior to Mr. Bravo's illness, once by Mrs. Cox, and once by the maid.

Mr. Bravo seems to have eaten a good dinner, although he was evidently
not himself from some cause or other. It was said he was suffering from
toothache or neuralgia, and had just received a letter that had given
him some annoyance.

The dinner lasted till past eight o'clock, after which the party
adjourned to the morning-room, where conversation continued up to about
nine o'clock.

Mrs. Bravo and Mrs. Cox then retired upstairs, leaving Mr. Bravo alone,
and Mrs. Cox went to fetch Mrs. Bravo some wine and water from the
dining-room.

Mrs. Bravo remained in her room and prepared for bed, and drank the
wine and water brought to her by Mrs. Cox, who remained with her.

The housemaid, on taking some hot water to the ladies' room, as was her
usual custom at half-past nine, was asked by Mrs. Bravo to bring her
some more Marsala in the glass that had contained the wine and water.
On her way downstairs to the dining-room, the girl met her master at
the foot of the stairs. He looked "queer" and very strange in the face,
but did not appear to be in pain, according to her statement. He
looked twice at her, yet did not speak, though it was his custom, but
passed on.

Mr. Bravo was alone after the departure of his wife and Mrs. Cox, until
the time when he passed the housemaid at the foot of the stairs. He
entered his wife's dressing-room, and the maid Mrs. Bravo's bedroom. In
the dressing-room, according to Mrs. Cox's statement, Mr. Bravo spoke
to his wife in French, with reference to the wine. This had frequently
been the subject of unpleasant remarks before; but Mrs. Bravo had no
recollection of the conversation on this occasion.

After leaving his wife in her room, Mr. Bravo went to his own bedroom
and closed the door. The maid left Mrs. Bravo's bedroom and met her
mistress in the passage partially undressed and on her way to bed. Mrs.
Bravo and Mrs. Cox entered their bedrooms, and the former drank her
Marsala and went to bed.

In about a quarter of an hour Mr. Bravo's bedroom door was heard to
open, and he shouted out, "Florence! Florence! Hot water." The maid
ran into Mrs. Bravo's room, calling out that Mr. Bravo was ill. Mrs.
Cox, who had not yet undressed, rose hastily and ran to his room. She
found him standing in his night-gown at the open window, apparently
vomiting, and this the maid also saw. Mrs. Cox further stated that
Mr. Bravo said to her, "I have taken poison. Don't tell Florence"
(alluding to his wife); and to this confession of having taken poison
on the part of Mr. Bravo, Mrs. Cox adhered. After this, Mr. Bravo was
again very sick, and some hot water was brought by the maid. After the
vomiting he sank on the floor and became insensible, and remained so
for some hours. Mrs. Cox tried to raise him, and got some mustard and
water, but he could not swallow it. She then applied mustard to his
feet, and coffee was procured, but he was also unable to swallow that.
Meanwhile a doctor, who had attended Mrs. Bravo, and who lived at some
distance, was sent for. Mrs. Bravo, who was aroused from sleep by the
maid, and who seems to have been greatly excited, insisted on a nearer
practitioner being sent for, and in a short time a medical man, living
close by, arrived on the scene. The doctor found Mr. Bravo sitting
or lying on a chair, completely unconscious, and the heart's action
almost suspended. He had him laid on the bed, and then administered
some hot brandy and water, but was unable to get him to swallow it. In
about half an hour another medical man arrived, and was met by Mrs.
Cox, who said she was sure Mr. Bravo had taken chloroform. Both doctors
came to the conclusion that the patient was in a dangerous state, and
endeavoured to administer restoratives. Realizing the critical nature
of the case, Dr. George Johnson, of King's College Hospital, was sent
for. Meanwhile, Mr. Bravo was again seized with vomiting, mostly blood,
and the doctors came to the conclusion he was suffering from some
irritant poison. About three o'clock he became conscious and able to be
questioned. He was at once asked, "What have you taken?" But from first
to last he persisted in declaring, in the most solemn manner, that
he had taken nothing except some laudanum for toothache. In reply to
other questions, asking him if there were any poisons about the house,
he replied there was only the laudanum and chloroform for toothache,
some Condy's Fluid, and "rat poison in the stable." Mr. Bravo did not
lose consciousness again until the time of his death, which occurred
fifty-five and a half hours after he was first taken ill.

At an early period his bedroom was searched, but nothing was found but
the laudanum bottle, and a little chloroform and camphor liniment which
had been brought from another room. There were no remains of any solid
poison in paper, glass, or tumbler, and nothing to indicate any poison
had been taken. The post-mortem examination showed evidence of great
gastric irritation, extending downwards, but there was no appearance of
any disease in the body, or inflammation, congestion, or ulceration.
It was left therefore to the chemical examination to show what was
the irritating substance which had been introduced into the body, and
supply a key to part of the mystery. The matters which had been vomited
in the early stage of Mr. Bravo's illness had been thrown away; but,
singular to relate, on examination of the leads of the house beneath
the bedroom window, some portion of the matter was found undisturbed,
although much rain had fallen and the greater part must have been
washed away. This was carefully collected and handed to Professor
Redwood for analysis. From this matter he extracted a large amount of
antimony. Antimony was also discovered in the liver and other parts of
the body, and it was concluded that altogether nearly forty grains of
this poison must have been swallowed by the unfortunate man. How he
came to swallow this enormous dose, whether the design was homicidal or
suicidal, there was not the slightest evidence to show, or where the
antimony was obtained. The whole affair was shrouded in mystery, and a
mystery it remains.



CHAPTER XIII

THE CASE OF DR. PRITCHARD


THE remarkable case of Dr. E. W. Pritchard of Glasgow, who was arrested
and charged with murdering his wife and mother-in-law in that city in
the year 1865, excited great interest at the time. The respectable
position occupied by the accused man in society in Glasgow, and the
practice as a physician which he had been enabled to attain in the
course of his six years' residence there, awakened an unusual degree
of attention in the public mind when the fact of his apprehension
became known. The excitement was strengthened by the mystery invariably
attached to the prosecution of all criminal inquiries in Scotland.

It appears that for some time previous to her decease, Mrs. Pritchard
had been in a delicate state of heath, and her mother, Mrs. Taylor,
wife of Mr. Taylor, a silk weaver of Edinburgh, had gone to Glasgow
to nurse her during her illness. Mrs. Taylor took up her abode in the
house of Dr. Pritchard, and ministered to her daughter's comfort; but
while so engaged she became ill, and died suddenly, about three weeks
previous to the day on which the accused man was apprehended. The
cause of death was assigned to apoplexy, and as Mrs. Taylor was about
seventy years of age no public attention was awakened, and the body was
conveyed to Edinburgh and buried in the Grange Cemetery.

Circumstances closely following on this, however, awakened grave
suspicions. Mrs. Pritchard died shortly after her mother, and a
report was circulated that she had succumbed to gastric fever. The
family grave at the Grange was fixed on as the place of interment,
and arrangements were made for the funeral without delay. The body
was taken to Edinburgh by rail, and Dr. Pritchard accompanied it to
the house of his father-in-law, where it was to await interment. The
deaths of the two ladies occurring within so short an interval of each
other, coupled with certain hints which they had received, set the
police on the alert, and while Dr. Pritchard was absent in Edinburgh
they instituted inquiries, which led to a warrant being issued for his
apprehension. On his return to Glasgow, previous to the day fixed for
the funeral, he was arrested at the railway station in Queen Street and
conveyed to the police offices.

Meanwhile the authorities had transmitted to Edinburgh information
of what had been done, and at the same time had issued a warrant for
a port-mortem examination of the body of Mrs. Pritchard. This was
entrusted to Professor Douglas Maclagan, assisted by Drs. Arthur Gamgee
and Littlejohn. The result of the post-mortem proved that death had not
resulted from natural causes, and a subsequent examination disclosed
the presence of minute particles of antimony in the liver.

The case now assumed a grave and mysterious aspect, and the authorities
resolved to carry the investigations further. The next step was to
order the exhumation of the body of Mrs. Taylor. This having been
effected, the internal organs were submitted to analysis by Professor
Maclagan, Dr. Littlejohn, and Professor Penny of Glasgow, who, after a
protracted examination, reported that the death of Mrs. Taylor, like
that of her daughter, was due to poisoning by antimony. On these facts
being elicited, Dr. Pritchard was fully committed on the charge of
murdering Jane Taylor his mother-in-law and Mary Jane Pritchard his
wife.

The trial opened on July 3, 1865, at the High Court of Justiciary,
Edinburgh, before the Lord Justice-Clerk, Lord Ardmillan, and Lord
Jervis-woode, the Solicitor-General prosecuting for the Crown, while
the prisoner was defended by Messrs. A. R. Clark, Watson, and Brand.

Evidence was given that Mrs. Pritchard was first taken ill in the
October of 1864, with constant vomiting, often accompanied by severe
cramp.

After being treated by her husband for some time, and getting no
better, at her own request a Dr. Gairdner was called in, and her
mother, Mrs. Taylor, came from Edinburgh to nurse her.

While on this visit to her daughter, Mrs. Taylor, on February 24,
complained of feeling unwell. The next day she was found insensible,
sitting on her chair in her daughter's room, and died the same night.
From this time Mrs. Pritchard got gradually worse, and died within
three weeks afterwards.

Mary McLeod, a girl who had been in the service of the prisoner,
admitted that he had familiar relations with her, and that this fact
was known to Mrs. Pritchard.

The doctor had also made her presents, and told her he would marry her
if his wife died.

Dr. Paterson, a medical practitioner of Glasgow, who was called in to
see Mrs. Taylor, stated Pritchard told him the old lady was in the
habit of taking Batley's solution of opium, and a few days before her
death, she had purchased a half-pound bottle. When he saw her, he was
convinced her symptoms betokened that she was under the depressing
influence of antimony, and not opium. He therefore refused to give a
certificate of her death.

Pritchard eventually signed the certificate himself, stating the
primary cause of death had been paralysis and the secondary cause
apoplexy. He further certified Mrs. Pritchard's death as due to gastric
fever.

It was proved on the evidence of two chemists, that Pritchard was in
the habit of purchasing tartarated antimony in large quantities, and
also Fleming's tincture of aconite.

Dr. Maclagan, professor of medical jurisprudence in the University
of Edinburgh, was then called to give the result of the chemical
examination of the various organs of the body of Mrs. Pritchard, which
had been retained for analysis. Antimony, corresponding to one-fourth
of a grain of tartar emetic, was found in the urine, in small
quantities in the bile and blood, and as much as four grains in the
whole liver. Evidence of the presence of antimony was also found in the
spleen, kidney, muscular substance of the heart, coats of the stomach
and rectum, the brain and uterus.

Antimony was also detected in various stains on linen and articles of
clothing, which had been worn by Mrs. Pritchard during her illness.

From these results Dr. Maclagan concluded that Mrs. Pritchard had taken
a large quantity of antimony in the form of tartar emetic, which caused
her death, and that from the extent to which the whole organs and
fluids of the body were impregnated with the drug, it must have been
given in repeated doses up to within a few hours of her decease.

The result of the chemical examination of the various organs of the
body of Mrs. Taylor, which was exhumed for this purpose, revealed
the presence of ·279, or a little more than a quarter of a grain of
antimony in the contents of the stomach. Antimony was also found in the
blood, and 1·151 grain was recovered from 1,000 grains of the liver.

Dr. Penny, who made an independent analysis, found distinct evidence of
antimony in the liver, spleen, kidney, brain, heart, blood, and rectum,
but no trace of morphine or aconite. He also came to the conclusion
that Mrs Pritchard's death had resulted from the effects of antimony.

Antimony was found mixed with tapioca contained in a packet discovered
in the house, also in a bottle containing Batley's solution of opium
found in the prisoner's surgery.

Dr. Littlejohn, surgeon to the Edinburgh police, who was present at
the post-mortem examination of both women, gave his opinion that Mrs.
Pritchard's death had been due to the administration of antimony in
small quantities, and that continuously. In Mrs. Taylor's case he
believed some strong narcotic poison had been administered with the
antimony.

This opinion was further endorsed by Dr. Paterson. Evidence was
offered, that Pritchard had been in the habit of purchasing large
quantities of Batley's solution of opium, which the manufacturers
swore contained no antimony. For the defence it was urged, that there
was no proof whatever that poison had had been administered by the
prisoner, who had always lived on affectionate terms with his wife, and
that the motive suggested was of the most trifling nature; that the
stronger suspicion pointed to the maidservant Mary McLeod, on whose
uncorroborated statements the chief evidence against the prisoner lay.
The senior counsel for the prisoner (Mr. Clark) concluded his address
by stating that the Crown had admitted there were but two persons who
could have committed the crime--the prisoner, and Mary M'Leod. Mary
M'Leod's hand had been found in connexion with every one of the acts
in which poison was said to have been administered in the food. The
case against the prisoner seemed to depend on a series of suspicions
and probabilities, and not upon legal proof; and upon these grounds he
asked a verdict of acquittal.

The "summing up" of the Lord Justice-Clerk occupied three hours and
twenty minutes, on the conclusion of which the jury retired to consider
their verdict. After an absence of fifty-five minutes they returned
with the following verdict--"The jury unanimously find the prisoner
guilty of both charges as libelled."

Dr. Pritchard was thereupon sentenced to death, and was executed at
Glasgow on July 28, 1865.

There can be no doubt that he fully deserved his terrible doom.



CHAPTER XIV

THE PIMLICO MYSTERY


CHLOROFORM belongs to the class of neurotic poisons which act on the
brain, and produce loss of sensation. It is a colourless, heavy, and
volatile liquid, having a peculiar ethereal odour which cannot be
easily mistaken, and a sweet pungent taste when diluted. For producing
insensibility it requires very careful and experienced administration,
and more lives have been lost by carelessness in using, than from the
noxious character of the drug.

Many stories are related of the peculiar hallucinations and remarks
made by patients while under, or partially under the influence of
chloroform. The following has the merit of being true:--

"Doctor (_who has just administered chloroform to a lady_): 'Nurse,
some 1 in 1,000, if you please.'

"Patient (_under the anæsthetic_): 'Ah! that's my Jack. He's one in a
thousand. Dear Jack!'"

The stories that crop up from time to time, of persons who have been
rendered unconscious by simply waving a chloroformed handkerchief
before the face, usually emanate from the fertile brain of some
imaginative journalist. As an internal poison chloroform has rarely
been used, although there are many cases on record where persons have
accustomed themselves to drinking chloroform, until they have been able
to swallow it in very large quantities. The one recorded instance in
which it was alleged to have been used for the criminal destruction of
life was in the remarkable case known as the "Pimlico Mystery."

The trial of Adelaide Bartlett for the wilful murder of her husband by
administering chloroform to him, was held before Mr. Justice Wills at
the Central Criminal Court on April 12, 1886, and lasted for six days.
The case attracted considerable attention and interest throughout,
which culminated in a dramatic scene at the close, and the acquittal
of the accused woman. The strange relations which existed between Mrs.
Bartlett and her husband, with whose murder she was charged, the
yet more strange relations between her and the man who in the first
instance was included in the accusation, together with the exceptional
circumstances of his acquittal, and his immediate appearance in the
witness box formed a case of peculiar dramatic interest. Thomas Edwin
Bartlett was a grocer, having several shops in the suburbs of London,
and at the time of his death was forty years of age. In 1875 he married
a Frenchwoman, Adelaide Blanche de la Tremoille, who was a native
of Orleans, and whom he met at the house of his brother, she being
at that time about twenty years of age. After the marriage she went
to a boarding-school at Stoke Newington, and lived with her husband
only during the vacation. At a later period she went to a convent
school in Belgium, where she remained for some eighteen months, after
which she rejoined her husband, and settled down to live in London.
During Christmas of 1881 she gave birth to a stillborn child, which so
affected her that she came to the resolution that she would have no
more children. Some four years later Bartlett and his wife made the
acquaintance of George Dyson, a young Wesleyan minister, who soon
became on terms of great social intimacy with them, visiting and dining
with them frequently. The admiration for their friend seems to have
been common to both husband and wife. In 1885 Edwin Bartlett made a
will, leaving all he possessed to his wife, and making Mr. Dyson and
his solicitors his executors. Shortly afterwards the couple removed
to furnished apartments in Claverton Street, Pimlico, where they
apparently lived on good terms, and were still frequently visited by
their friend Mr. Dyson.

On December 10, in the same year, Mr. Bartlett became seriously ill.
Peculiar symptoms developed, which excited the curiosity and surprise
of the medical man called in to attend him. The state of his gums
suggested to the doctor that the illness was due to mercury, which in
some way was being taken or administered to him, and he complained
of nervous depression and sleeplessness. He appeared to be gradually
recovering from this, but on December 19, Mr. Bartlett himself
suggested that a second doctor should be called in, lest, as he put
it, "his friends should suspect, if anything happened to him, that
his wife was poisoning him." The cause for this was put down to some
ill-feeling which had formerly existed between Mrs. Bartlett and her
husband's father. A second practitioner, therefore, was called in, and
the patient, on December 26, was practically well and went out for a
drive though still weak.

The next day Mrs. Bartlett asked Mr. Dyson, who was constantly calling
at the house, to procure for her a considerable quantity of chloroform,
which she told him she had used before with good effect on her husband
for some internal ailment of long standing, and that this internal
affliction had upon previous occasions given him paroxysms. She further
expressed apparently some belief that he might die suddenly in one of
these attacks. Dyson seems meekly to have yielded to her request, and
obtained three different lots of chloroform, in all six ounces, from
various chemists, giving the reason, that he required it for taking out
grease spots, and placed it all together in one bottle. Two days after
he met Mrs. Bartlett on the Embankment and handed her the chloroform.
During his illness, Mr. Bartlett had slept on a camp bedstead in the
front drawing-room, his wife occupying a sofa in the same room. On
December 31 he was apparently quite well again, and about half-past ten
o'clock in the evening, Mrs. Bartlett told the servant she required
nothing else and retired with her husband for the night. At four
o'clock in the morning the house was aroused by Mrs. Bartlett, and it
was discovered her husband was dead in bed.

The statement made by the lady was, that when her husband had settled
for the night she sat down at the foot of the bed; that her hand was
resting upon his feet; that she dozed off in her chair; she awoke with
a sensation of cramp, and was horrified to find her husband's feet were
deathly cold. She tried to pour some brandy down his throat, and she
found he was dead. She then aroused the household. The first person who
entered the room was the landlord, who noticed a peculiar smell that
reminded him of chloric ether. The doctor was promptly sent for, but
from external examination could find nothing to account for death. The
only bottle found was one that contained a drop or two of chlorodyne.
A post-mortem examination was held, and the stomach showed evidence
of having contained a considerable quantity of chloroform. There was
no internal disease or growth, the organs being quite healthy, and
nothing to account for death beyond the chloroform, which the medical
men concluded must have been the cause of death.

The coroner's inquiry resulted in a verdict of wilful murder against
Adelaide Bartlett and George Dyson, and they were both arrested. At the
trial, the Crown decided to offer no evidence against Dyson, and, after
being indicted and pleading "Not guilty," he was discharged by the
judge to be called as a witness.

A brilliant array of counsel were engaged on the case, the late
Lord Chief Justice, then Sir Charles Russell, having charge of the
prosecution, while the defence of Mrs. Bartlett was entrusted to Sir
Edward Clark, and that of Mr. Dyson to Mr. Lockwood.

Dyson's examination occupied nearly the whole of the second day, during
which he detailed the form of the intimacy between Mrs. Bartlett and
himself; how he procured the chloroform and disposed of the bottles
after hearing the result of the post-mortem, by throwing them away on
Wandsworth Common while on his way to preach at Tooting. He was in the
habit of kissing Mrs. Bartlett, and usually called her Adelaide. He
had had conversations with Mr. Bartlett on the subject of marriage,
and had heard him express the opinion that a man should have two wives,
one to look after the household duties, and another to be a companion
and confidante. He had told Mr. Bartlett he was becoming attached to
his wife, but the latter seemed to encourage it, and asked him to
continue the intimacy. He did not mention the matter of having procured
the chloroform for Mrs. Bartlett until he had heard the result of the
post-mortem.

The medical man called in to attend Mr. Bartlett during his illness,
described the condition in which he found him, and his recovery
from the illness. He also gave an account of a very extraordinary
statement, which was made to him by Mrs. Bartlett after the death of
her husband. It was as follows. At the age of sixteen years she was
selected by Mr. Bartlett as a wife for companionship only, and for whom
no carnal feeling should be entertained. The marriage compact was,
that they should live together simply as loving friends. This rule was
faithfully observed for about six years of their married life, and then
only broken at her earnest and repeated entreaty that she should be
permitted to be really a wife and a mother. The child was still-born,
and from that time the two lived together, but their relations were
not those of matrimony. Her husband showed great affection for her
of an ultra-platonic kind, and encouraged her to pursue studies of
various kinds, which she did to please him. He affected to admire
her, and liked to surround her with male acquaintances, and enjoy
their attentions to her. Then they became acquainted with Dyson. Her
husband conceived a great liking for him, and threw them together. He
requested them to kiss in his presence and seemed to enjoy it, and gave
her to understand that he had "given her" to Mr. Dyson. As her husband
gradually recovered from his illness he expressed a wish that they
should resume the ordinary relations of man and wife, but she resented
it. She therefore sought for some means to prevent his desire, and for
this purpose she asked Dyson to procure the chloroform.

On the night of the death, some conversation of this kind had taken
place between them, and when he was in bed she brought the bottle
of chloroform and gave it to him, informing him of her intention to
sprinkle some upon a handkerchief and wave it in his face, thinking
that thereby he would go peacefully to sleep. He looked at the bottle
and placed it by the side of the low bed, then turning over on his side
apparently went to sleep. She fell asleep also, sitting at the foot of
the bed, with her arm round his foot; she heard him snoring, then woke
again, and found he was dead.

Dr. Stevenson, who made the analysis, gave evidence as to finding
eleven and a quarter grains of pure chloroform in the stomach of
the deceased, but, judging from the time that had elapsed and the
very volatile nature of the liquid, a large quantity must have been
swallowed. No other poisons were found. The jury, after deliberating
nearly two hours, returned a verdict of "Not guilty," thus making
another addition to the list of unsolved poisoning mysteries.



CHAPTER XV

THE RUGELEY MYSTERY


STRYCHNINE may very justly be termed a deadly poison. It is one of the
active principles extracted from nux vomica, the singular disk-like
seed of the _Strychnos nux vomica_, a tree indigenous to most parts
of India, Burmah, Northern Australia, and other countries. Nux vomica
was unknown to the ancients, and is said to have been introduced into
medicine by the Arabians, but there is very little reliable record
of it until the seventeenth century, when the seeds were used for
poisoning animals and birds. Strychnine was discovered in 1818 by
Pelletier and Carenton, and was first extracted from St. Ignatius'
bean, in which it is present to the extent of about 1·5 per cent. Very
soon afterwards it was extracted from nux vomica, which, being very
plentiful, is now the chief source of the drug. It is extremely bitter
in taste, and may be distinctly detected in a solution containing no
more than one-six-hundred-thousandth part. For a considerable time
after its discovery, the detection of strychnine in the body after
death was a matter of great uncertainty, especially when only a small
quantity had been administered; but now it is possible to detect the
presence of one-five-thousandth part of a grain, and that even after
some period has elapsed. It has been used for criminal purposes by
several notorious poisoners, notably by Dove, Palmer, and Cream, but
the symptoms produced are so marked and its presence clearly indicated,
that detection now is almost certain.

Among the most celebrated trials of this century was that of Dr.
Palmer, who was charged with the wilful murder of John Parsons Cook, at
Rugeley, in 1855. A special Act of Parliament was passed in order to
have this case tried in London, where it was brought before Lord Chief
Justice Campbell, Mr. Baron Alderson, and Mr. Justice Cresswell, at the
Central Criminal Court, on May 14, 1856. The Attorney General, Mr. E.
James, Q.C., with several other counsel, conducted the prosecution, and
Palmer was defended by Mr. Serjeant Shee, Messrs. Grove, Q.C., Gray,
and Kenealy.

The accused man was a country doctor, and had carried on a medical
practice in Rugeley, a small town in Staffordshire, for some years.
Then he went on the turf, and made his business over to a man
named Thirlby, a former assistant. Shortly afterwards, he made the
acquaintance of John P. Cook over some betting transactions. Cook was
a young man of good family, about twenty-eight years of age, and was
intended for the legal profession. He was articled to a solicitor; but
after a time, inheriting some property worth between twelve and fifteen
thousand pounds, he abandoned law and commenced to keep racehorses.
Meeting Palmer at various race meetings, they soon became very
intimate. In a very short time Palmer got into difficulties, and was
compelled to raise money on bills. Things went from bad to worse--until
he at last forged an acceptance to a bill in his mother's name, who
was possessed of considerable property. In 1854 he owed a large sum of
money, and in the same year his wife died, whose life, it transpired,
he had insured for £13,000. With this money he bought two racehorses;
but in his betting transactions he lost heavily, and then commenced to
borrow money from Cook, whose name he also forged on one occasion on
the back of a cheque. He insured his brother's life for £13,000, and
very shortly after _he_ died, the amount being also paid to Palmer.
This money soon went, and at length he had two writs out against him
for £4,000.

In the meanwhile, Cook had been more successful than his friend in his
racing ventures, and had won a considerable amount with a race-horse he
owned called Polestar. Polestar was entered for the Shrewsbury races
on November 14, 1855, and Cook and Palmer went there and stayed with
some friends at the same hotel in that town. On the evening of the
races they were drinking brandy and water together. Cook asked Palmer
to have some more, and the latter replied, "Not unless you finish your
glass." Cook, noticing he had some still left in his tumbler, said,
"I'll soon do that," and finished it at a draught. On swallowing it
he immediately exclaimed, "There's something in it burns my throat."
Palmer took up the glass and said, "Nonsense, there is nothing in it,"
and called the attention of the others standing by. Cook then suddenly
left the room, and was seized with violent vomiting. This became so bad
that he soon had to be taken to bed, and appeared to be very seriously
ill. Two hours later a medical man was sent for, who at once prescribed
an emetic, and then a pill. He obtained relief from these, and by the
morning the vomiting had ceased, and he was much better, though he
still felt very unwell. They returned to Rugeley together, Cook taking
rooms at an hotel directly opposite Palmer's house. Cook was still
confined to his room, and during the next few days, was constantly
visited by Palmer, and after each visit it was noticed the sickness
commenced again. On one occasion Palmer had some broth prepared, which
he specially wished Cook to take. The latter tried to swallow it, but
was immediately sick. It was then taken downstairs, and a woman at the
hotel, thinking it looked nice, took a couple of tablespoonfuls of
it; but within half an hour she was taken seriously ill, and obliged
to go to bed, her symptoms being exactly like those of Cook's when
first taken ill at Shrewsbury. Three days after this a neighbouring
doctor was called in, Palmer telling him that Cook was suffering from a
bilious attack. Palmer then suddenly went off to London, his business
being to try and arrange about the settlement of some debts that were
pressing. From the time he left, it was noticed by the doctor that
Cook's condition rapidly improved, and in a day or two he was able to
leave his bed and be up and dressed. On Palmer's return to Rugeley
he at once went to see Cook and during the rest of his illness was
constantly with him. On the evening of his return he also called on a
surgeon's assistant, with whom he was acquainted, and purchased from
him three grains of strychnine. Cook was taking some pills which had
been prescribed by the doctor, and which had done him good. They were
ordered to be taken at bedtime, and the box containing them was in his
room. He was visited by Palmer about 11 o'clock the same night, and up
to that time he was apparently well. Palmer left shortly after. At 12
o'clock the whole house was aroused by violent screams proceeding from
Cook's room. The servants rushed in and found him writhing in great
agony, shouting "Murder!" He was evidently suffering intense pain, and
soon was seized with convulsions. Palmer was at once sent for, and on
his arrival Cook was gasping for breath, and hardly able to speak. He
ran back to procure some medicine, which on his return he gave him,
but the sick man at once threw it back. The attack gradually passed
off, and by the morning he was somewhat better, but very weak. The same
day Palmer visited a chemist he knew in the town, and purchased six
grains of strychnine. During the afternoon a relative of Palmer's, who
was also a medical man, arrived on a visit to Rugeley, and he was taken
to see Cook, and in the evening a consultation was held by the three
medical men. They agreed to prescribe some medicine for the patient
in the form of pills, which were prepared, and in the course of the
evening were handed to Palmer, who was to administer a dose the last
thing at night.

About half-past ten Palmer gave Cook two of the pills, settled him
comfortably for the night, and went home. At ten minutes to eleven Cook
roused the house with a frightful scream, calling out, "I'm going to
be ill as I was last night." Palmer was sent for, and brought with him
two more pills, which he said contained ammonia, and gave them to Cook.
Very shortly afterwards convulsions set in, which were followed by
tetanus, and the unfortunate man died in a few minutes in great agony.

The deceased man's relatives were communicated with, and his
father-in-law soon arrived in Rugeley. On Palmer being questioned about
Cook's affairs, he said that he held a paper drawn up by a lawyer, and
signed by Cook, stating that, in respect of £4,000 worth of bills, he
(Cook) was alone liable, and Palmer had a claim for that amount against
the estate. This, with other matters, aroused suspicion, and it was
decided to hold a post-mortem examination on the body to ascertain
the cause of death. Palmer was present at the examination, and by
his deliberate act the fluid contents of the stomach were lost. What
portions of the body were reserved for analysis, he did all he could to
prevent from reaching the analysts. When the jars, etc. were being sent
to London for examination by the Government analyst, he intercepted
them, and offered the post-boy £10 to upset the conveyance and break
them.

The evidence offered at the trial was almost entirely circumstantial,
and the medical testimony was very conflicting. It was supposed, in the
first instance, Palmer had administered tartar emetic to his victim,
but that for the fatal dose strychnine was used. It was proved Palmer
had purchased strychnine under suspicious circumstances on the morning
of the day on which Cook died, and could not account for the purchase
of it, or state what he had done with it. The symptoms appeared at a
time which would correspond to the interval that precedes the action
of strychnine, being developed over the entire body and limbs in a
few minutes, suddenly and with violence. None of the pills could
be obtained for analysis, and Dr. Taylor, who made the analytical
examination, was unable to find any trace of strychnine in the portions
submitted to him, but he found half a grain of antimony in the blood.
He believed Cook died from the effects of strychnine. The great point
in the case was, did the tetanic symptoms, under which the deceased man
died, depend on disease or poison? Doctors Brodie, Christison and Todd,
and other eminent authorities of the time agreed, that when taken as a
whole they were not in accordance with any form of disease, but were in
perfect accordance with the effects of strychnine. On the other hand,
medical men called for the defence testified that tetanus might be
caused by natural disease, and the deceased might have died from angina
pectoris or epilepsy. In spite of the absence of confirmatory chemical
evidence, after one hour and seventeen minutes' deliberation, the jury
returned a verdict of "Guilty," and Palmer was sentenced to death, the
trial having lasted twelve days.

The rigid and fixed condition of the limbs is a marked feature after
poisoning by strychnine. In the recent Horsford case, in which a
farmer named Walter Horsford was convicted of the murder of his cousin
Annie Holmes, at St. Neot's, in 1897, 3·69 grains of strychnine were
recovered from the internal organs, after the body was exhumed,
_nineteen days_ after death. Even then, rigidity was very marked,
especially in the lower limbs and fingers. The same rigidity was
remarked by Dr. Stevenson in the case of Matilda Clover, who was
poisoned by Neill Cream with strychnine a few years ago. In this case,
the body had been buried _from October until May_, and the rigidity
in the limbs and fingers was still maintained. Dr. Stevenson states
that usually when persons are suffering from strychnine poisoning,
they are very apprehensive of death. He has known a woman say, "I am
going to die" before any intimation of symptoms had occurred. The first
apprehension is, that some terrible calamity is about to take place.



CHAPTER XVI

OPIUM EATING AND SMOKING--MESCAL BUTTONS


THE narcotic properties of the poppy have been known from times
of great antiquity. The first mention we have of its use is by
Theophrastus, who lived about 300 years B.C. It is supposed that the
potion known under the name of Nepenthe, prepared by Helen of Troy,
and given to the guests of Menelaus, to drive away their care, was
none other than a wine of opium. This conjecture receives support from
Homer, who states that Nepenthe was obtained from Thebes, the ancient
capital of Egypt. According to Prosper Alpinus, the Egyptians were
practised opium eaters, and were often faint and languid through the
want of it. They prepared and drank it in the form of "Cretic Wine,"
which they flavoured and made hotter by the addition of pepper and
other aromatics. The Turks and Persians employed opium as a medicine,
and also for eating, from a very early period. Dioscorides, the ancient
Greek pharmacist, describes how the capsules from which the drug is
collected should be cut, and Celsus, a Roman physician of the first
century, frequently alludes to opium in his works under the quaint name
of "poppy tears."

The introduction of opium into India seems to have been connected with
the spread of Mahomedanism, the earliest record we have of its use in
that country being made by Barbosa in 1511, although it is more than
probable it was used in India long before that time. Pyres, the first
ambassador from Europe to China in 1516, speaks of the opium of Egypt,
Cambay, and the kingdom of Coûs, in Bengal, and states it was eaten by
"the kings and lords, and even the common people, though not so much
because it costs dear." The Mogul Government uniformly sold the opium
monopoly, and the East India Company did likewise.

The properties of opium have also been known from early times to
the Persians, who flavoured the drug with aromatics, and held it in
great esteem. By them it was commonly called Theriaka. It is supposed
to have been first introduced to China by the Arabs, who traded
with the Chinese as early as the ninth century. Towards the end of
the eighteenth century a trade sprang up with India, which rapidly
increased, till it led to political difficulties, culminating in the
war of 1842, and the signing of the treaty of Nanking, after which five
ports of China were opened to foreign trade, opium being admitted as a
legalised import in 1858. Opium smoking in China was practised in the
seventeenth century, and gradually extended over the entire empire, and
at the present time is almost a recognised habit among the people.

With regard to the introduction of opium into India, the Mahomedans
once having established its use began to make it a source of income.
The Great Mogul monopolized the opium production and trade, and derived
an immense income from the sale of the monopoly. With respect to its
use in India, it is not easy to state with certainty whether or not
and in what periods, it has increased over the various parts of the
country. From the most recent reports it appears that "the largest
amount of opium is produced in the central tract of the Ganges,
extending from Dinapore in the east, to Agra in the west, and from
Gorakhpur in the north to Hazaribagh in the south, and comprising an
area of about 600 miles long and 200 miles broad." In the district of
Bengal, the Government has the monopoly of the opium industry, and
the districts are divided into two agencies, Behar and Benares, which
are under the control of officers residing in Patna and Ghazipur.
In 1883 the amount of acres under poppy cultivation was in Behar
463,829, and in Benares agency 412,625; but the export of opium has
somewhat diminished since then. Any one may undertake the industry, but
cultivators are obliged to sell the opium exclusively to the Government
agencies, at a price which is fixed beforehand by the officials.
The Government sells the ready goods to merchants at a much higher
price, which difference is paid by the country to which the opium is
exported. In India itself, the sale of opium is restricted to licensed
shopkeepers, a practice which has proved to be useful, because in some
places, when the licensed shops have been closed, a greater number of
unlicensed and secret shops have sprung up, and have made the contract
insufficient.

The opium question is so complex in its nature, and is so largely
influenced by the habits and constitution of those nations who are
addicted to its use, that it is obvious that only those with skilled
medical knowledge, who are on the spot and have lived and had a daily
experience of the people, are in a proper position to deal with the
question at all. So much has been written by religious enthusiasts,
and other persons totally ignorant of the nature and properties of the
drug, that one almost hesitates to touch upon the question at all.
Our only excuse for so doing is, that the following facts have been
furnished by reliable medical authorities, who are really in a position
to judge on the subject.

The cause which led to the use of this narcotic drug by the races of
the East may have been primarily due to the prohibition of wine by
the Moslems, but more likely on account of its valuable remedial or
protective properties, needed by a race subject to malaria and kindred
diseases, and to counteract the effect of the hot climate to which they
are exposed. It is a remedy at hand, and would seem to be one to which
they at once fly. The evil lies more in the smoking than the eating
of the drug; the former habit is more prevalent in China, and has the
most demoralizing effect. The extent of its use in the East varies
according to the geographical and social differences of the people, and
it is used in various degrees of moderation and excess.

The drug is employed in various forms, according to the class of people
who consume it. In India it is largely used in the crude state, and is
sold at about two annas a drachm, in small square pieces. The opium
eater will take two or three grains and roll them into the form of a
pill between his fingers, and then chew or swallow it, often twenty
times in the day. It is also used in a liquid form called Kusambah
made by macerating opium in rose-water; others boil it with milk, then
collect the cream and eat it. The varieties for smoking are known as
Chundoo and Mudat, the former being a very impure extract of a fairly
stiff consistence, and the latter made from the refuse of Chundoo, of
which it largely consists; but being much cheaper, is chiefly used by
the low-class Hindoos and Mahomedans. From two to four grains a day may
be called a moderate use of the crude drug. The poorer people regularly
give it to children up to two years of age, to keep them quiet, also as
a preventive against such complaints as enteritis, so common in the
East; and so before youth is reached they become inured to its action.
Licences to sell the drug are sold to the highest bidder at the opium
auctions, the licensee having the privilege of supplying a certain
number of small dealers.

The Chinese smoker usually lays himself down on his side, with his
head supported by a pillow. On the straw mat beside him, between his
doubled-up knees and his nose, a small glass oil lamp, covered with
a glass shade, is burning. Close to this is a tray, containing a
small round box holding the drug, a straight piece of wire used for
manipulating it, a knife to scrape up fragments, and the pipe used for
smoking. The latter is about two feet long, with a bore of about half
an inch in diameter, and is not unlike the stem of a flute before it
is fitted. About two inches from the bottom of the tube, is a closed
cup or bowl of earthenware or stone, having a central perforation. To
charge the pipe, a small portion of the drug (weighing a few grains) is
picked up with the wire, kneaded and rolled in the closed surface of
the cup, then heated in the flame of the lamp till it swells. This is
rolled up and again manipulated, then finally placed in the aperture
in the surface of the bowl. It is then lighted from the lamp, and the
smoke drawn into the lungs through the tube till the first charge is
exhausted.

In a report made by the _British Medical Journal_ concerning the use of
opium in India, from the evidence of medical men long resident in that
country, there seems a general concensus of opinion that opium eating,
in the majority of cases, exercises no unfavourable influence on the
people who indulge in the habit, and that it is a prophylactic against
fever, and prevents the natives from malaria and excessive fatigue.
There is no comparison between the effects of the opium habit and the
habitual use of alcohol. English people cannot judge from their own
standard, the manners and customs of people living under conditions
with which they are unacquainted. While we look on opium as a narcotic,
the Hindoo uses it as a stimulant to enable him to go through hard work
on the smallest quantity possible of food. In Persia, at the present
time, according to Wills, nine out of ten of the aged, take from one
to five grains of the drug daily. It is largely used by the native
physicians. It does not appear that the moderate use of Persian opium
in the country itself, is deleterious. Opium smoking is almost unknown,
and when it is smoked, it is, as a rule, by a doctor's orders. The
opium pill-box--a tiny box of silver--is as common in Persia as the
snuff-box was once with us. Most men of forty in the middle and upper
classes use it. They take from a grain to a grain and a half, divided
into two pills, one in the afternoon and one at night. The majority of
authorities agree that opium smoking as a habit is much more harmful
and attended with more demoralizing influences than opium eating; but
either habit is undoubtedly harmful to Europeans, and when once formed,
is extremely difficult to break.

Paracelsus is generally credited with being the originator of the word
"laudanum," which is now employed as the popular name for tincture
of opium. Yet there seems little doubt the word was first applied to
the gum of the cistus. Clusius in his "Rariorum Plantarum Historia"
states, "The gum of the cistus is called in Greek and Latin, ladanum,
and in shops laudanum." It is therefore very likely that the secret
preparation originated by Paracelsus which he called laudanum, was
composed of the gum of the cistus as well as opium, and that he
adopted the title from the former ingredient.

The Kiowa and other Mexican Indians use the fruit of the _Anhelonium
Lewinii_, which they call "mescal buttons," to produce a species
of intoxication and stimulation during certain of their religious
ceremonies. The effects of this fruit, which like Indian hemp varies
considerably in different individuals, are very peculiar, and have been
described by Lewin, Prentiss and Morgan.

The eating of the fruit first results in a state of strange excitement
and great exuberance of spirits, accompanied by great volubility in
speech. This is shortly followed by a stage of intoxication in which
the sight is affected in a very extraordinary manner, consisting of a
kaleidoscopic play of colours ever in motion, of every possible shade
and tint, and these constantly changing. The pupils of the eyes are
widely dilated, cutaneous sensation is blunted, and thoughts seem
to flash through the brain with extraordinary rapidity. The colour
visions are generally only seen with closed eyes, but the colouring
of all external objects is exaggerated. Sometimes there is also an
indescribable sensation of dual existence.

Recent investigation into the pharmacology of the mescal plant prove
it to be a poison of a very powerful nature. Lethal doses produce
complete paralysis, and death is caused by respiratory failure.



CHAPTER XVII

HASHISH AND HASHISH EATERS


HASHISH, or Bhang, is the native term applied to the dried flowering
tops of the Indian hemp, from which the resin has not been removed.

This plant, cultivated largely in India, is now considered to be the
same, botanically, as the _Cannabis sativa_ of European cultivation;
but there is great difference in their medicinal activity, that growing
in India being much more powerful. Ganja is the native name for part of
the plant, and Sidhi for another part, which is much poorer in resin.
The resinous principle is called _churrus_ or _charas_, and the entire
plant, cut during inflorescence, dried in the sun and pressed into
bundles, is called _bhang_.

The method of using it in India is chiefly for smoking in combination
with tobacco. For this purpose, a plug of tobacco is first placed
at the bottom of the bowl of the pipe, on the top a small piece of
hashish, and over this a piece of glowing charcoal. Another way is to
knead the drug with the tobacco by the thumb of one hand working in
the palm of the other, till they are thoroughly incorporated. Simple
infusions of the leaves and flowering tops are also much used for
drinking purposes by old and young in India, the alcoholic form being a
most active and dangerous intoxicant.

The antiquity of the drug is great, and it is said to have been used
in China as early as the year 220, to produce insensibility when
performing operations. The Persians employed it in the Middle Ages for
the purpose of exciting the pugnacity and fanaticism of the soldiers
during the wars of the Crusades.

In 1803 Visey, a French scientist, published a memoir on hashish, and
attempted to prove that it was the Nepenthe of Homer; there is little
doubt, however, that the use of the drug was known to Galen.

Silvestin de Lacy contends that the word assassin is derived from
"hashishin," a name given to a wild sect of Mahomedans who committed
murder under its influence.

The Chinese herbal, Rh-ya, which dates from about the fifth century,
B.C., notices the fact that the hemp plant is of two kinds, the one
producing seeds and the other flowers only. Herodotus states that hemp
grows in Scythia both wild and cultivated, and that the Thracians made
garments from it which can hardly be distinguished from linen. He also
describes "how the Scythians exposed themselves as in a bath" to the
vapour of the seeds thrown on hot coals.

The hemp occurs in two principal forms, viz.: 1. _bhang_, consisting of
the dried leaves and small stalks of a dark green colour, mixed with a
few fruits. It has a peculiar odour but little taste. Mixed with flour
or incorporated with sweetmeat it is called hashish. It is also smoked,
or taken infused in cold water. 2. _Ganja_ consists of the flowering
shoots of the female plant, having a compound or glutinous appearance,
and is brownish-green in colour.

Of the many curious experiences that have been written describing
the effects of hashish, perhaps the most accurate is that given by
Gautier, in which he relates his own experience of the drug.

"The Orientalists," he states, "have in consequence of the interdiction
of wine sought that species of excitement which the Western nations
derive from alcoholic drinks." He then proceeds to state how a few
minutes after swallowing some of the preparation, a sudden overwhelming
sensation took possession of him. It appeared to him that his body
was dissolved, and that he had become transparent. He clearly saw
in his stomach the hashish he had swallowed, under the form of an
emerald, from which a thousand little sparks issued. His eyelashes were
lengthened out indefinitely, and rolled like threads of gold around
ivory balls, which turned with inconceivable rapidity. Around him
were sparklings of precious stones of all colours, changes eternally
produced, like the play of a kaleidoscope. He every now and then saw
his friends who were round him, disfigured as half men, half plants,
some having the wings of the ostrich, which they were constantly
shaking. So strange were these that he burst into fits of laughter,
and, to join in the apparent ridiculousness of the affair, he began by
throwing the cushions in the air, catching and turning them with the
rapidity of an Indian juggler. One gentleman spoke to him in Italian,
which the hashish transposed into Spanish. After a few minutes he
recovered his habitual calmness, without any bad effect, and only with
feelings of astonishment at what had passed. Half an hour had scarcely
elapsed before he again fell under the influence of the drug. On this
occasion the vision was more complicated and extraordinary. In the air
there were millions of butterflies, confusedly luminous, shaking their
wings like fans. Gigantic flowers, with chalices of crystal; large
peonies upon beds of gold and silver, rose and surrounded him with the
crackling sound that accompanies the explosion in the air of fireworks.
His hearing acquired new power; it was enormously developed. He heard
the noise of colours. Green, red, blue, yellow sounds reached him in
waves--a glass thrown down, the creaking of a sofa, a word pronounced
low, vibrated and rolled within him like peals of thunder. His own
voice sounded so loud that he feared to speak, lest he should knock
down the walls or explode like a rocket. More than five hundred clocks
struck the hour with fleeting silvery voice, and every object touched
gave a note like the harmonica or the Æolian harp. He swam in an ocean
of sound, where floated like aisles of light some of the airs of "Lucia
di Lammermoor" and the "Barber of Seville." Never did similar bliss
overwhelm him with its waves; he was lost in a wilderness of sweets; he
was not himself; he was relieved from consciousness, that feeling which
always pervades the mind; and for the first time he comprehended what
might be the state of elementary beings, of angels, of souls separated
from the body. All his system seemed infected with the fantastic
colouring in which he was plunged. Sounds, perfume, light, reached him
only by minute rays, in the midst of which he heard mystic currents
whistling along. According to his calculation, this state lasted about
three hundred years, for the sensations were so numerous and so hurried
one upon the other, that a real appreciation of time was impossible.
The paroxysm over, he was aware that it had only lasted _a quarter of
an hour_.

Another interesting account of the strange hallucinations produced by
the drug is related by Dr. Moreau, who with two friends experimented
with hashish. "At first," he states, "I thought my companions were
less influenced by the drug than myself. Then, as the effect increased,
I fancied that the person who had brought me the dose had given me some
of more active quality. This, I thought to myself, was an imprudence,
and the involuntary idea presented itself that I might be poisoned.
The idea became fixed; I called out loudly to Dr. Roche, 'You are an
assassin; you have poisoned me!' This was received with shouts of
laughter, and my lamentations excited mirth. I struggled for some time
against the thought, but the greater the effort the more completely did
it overcome me, till at last it took full possession of my mind. The
extravagant conviction now came uppermost that I was dead, and upon the
point of being buried; my soul had left my body. In a few minutes I had
gone through all the stages of delirium."

These fixed ideas and erroneous convictions are apt to be produced,
but they only last a few seconds, unless there is any actual physical
disorder. "The Orientalist, when he indulges in hashish retires
into the depth of his harem; no one is then admitted who cannot
contribute to his enjoyment. He surrounds himself with his dancing
girls, who perform their graceful evolutions before him to the sound
of music; gradually a new condition of the brain allows a series of
illusions, arising from the external senses, to present themselves.
The mind becomes overpowered by the brilliancy of gorgeous visions;
discrimination, comparison, reason, yield up their throne to dreams and
phantoms which exhilarate and delight.

"The mind tries to understand what is the cause of the new delight, but
it is in vain. It seems to know there is no reality."

Hardly two people experience the same effects from hashish. Upon some
it has little action, while upon others, especially women, it exerts
extraordinary power. While one person says he imagined his body endowed
with such elasticity, that he fancied he could enter into a bottle and
remain there at his ease, another fancied he had become the piston of
a steam engine; under the influence of the drug the ear lends itself
more to the illusion than any other sense. Its first effect is one of
intense exhilaration, almost amounting to delirium; power of thought
is soon lost, and the victim laughs, cries and sings or dances, all
the time imagining he is acting rationally. The second stage is one of
dreamy enjoyment followed by a dead stupor.

Of the ordinary physical effects of hashish, the first is a feeling of
slight compression of the temporal bones and upper parts of the head.
The respiration is gentle, the pulse is increased, and a gentle heat
is felt all over the surface of the body. There is a sense of weight
about the fore part of the arms, and an occasional slight involuntary
motion, as if to seek relief from it. There is a feeling of discomfort
about the extremities, creating a feeling of uneasiness, and if the
dose has been too large the usual symptoms of poisoning by Indian hemp
show themselves. Flushes of heat seem to ascend, to the head, even to
the brain, which create considerable alarm. Singing in the ears is
complained of; then comes on a state of anxiety, almost of anguish,
with a sense of constriction about the chest. The individual fancies
he hears the beating of his heart with unaccustomed loudness; but
throughout the whole period it is the nervous system that is affected,
and in this way the drug differs materially from opium whose action on
the muscular and digestive systems is most marked.

It is somewhat remarkable that Indian hemp fails to produce the same
intoxicating effects in this country that it does in warmer climates,
and whether this is due to the loss of some volatile principle or
difference in temperature it is not yet determined. But would-be
experimentalists in the effects of hashish would do well to remember
that it may not be indulged in with impunity, and most authorities
agree that the brain becomes eventually disordered with frequent
indulgence in the drug even in India. It further becomes weakened and
incapable of separating the true from the false; frequent intoxication
leads to a condition of delirium, and usually of a dangerous nature;
the moral nature becomes numbed, and the victim at last becomes unfit
to pursue his ordinary avocation. It is stated by those who have had
considerable experience in its use, that even during the dream of joy
there is a consciousness that all is illusion; there is at no period a
belief that anything that dances before the senses or plays upon the
imagination is real, and that when the mind recovers its equilibrium it
knows that all is but a phantasm.



CHAPTER XVIII

TOBACCO LORE


FEW, perchance, of the millions who gather comfort from the "herb of
fragrance" are aware that it is to Don Hernandez de Toledo we are
indebted for the introduction of tobacco into Western Europe, which he
first brought to Spain and Portugal in 1559. Jean Nicot was at this
time Ambassador at the Court of Lisbon from Frances II, and it was he
who transmitted or carried, either the seed or the plant to Catherine
de Medicis, and who gave it the name _Nicotiana_. Like other great
personages of the time, Catherine encouraged the homage of travellers
and artists. It was considered to be one of the wonders of the New
World, and reported to possess most extraordinary medicinal properties
and virtues. Thirty years later the Cardinal Santa Croce, returning
from his nunciature in Spain and Portugal to Italy, took with him some
tobacco leaves, and we may form some idea of the enthusiasm with which
its production was hailed, from a perusal of the poetry which the
subject inspired, such as the following:

          Herb of immortal fame!
    Which hither first with Santa Croce came,
    When he, his time of nunciature expired,
    Back from the Court of Portugal retired;
    Even as his predecessor, great and good,
    Brought home the cross.


The poet compares the exploit of the cardinal with that of his
progenitor, who brought home the wood of the true cross.

The first exact description of the plant is that given by Gonzalo
Fernandez de Oviedo-y-Valdés, Governor of St. Domingo, in his _Historia
General de las Indias_, printed at Seville in 1535. In this work, the
leaf is said to be smoked through a branched tube of the shape of the
letter [Y], which the natives called _tobaco_.

After the introduction of tobacco into England by Sir Walter Raleigh
on his return from America, the custom of smoking the leaf became very
general, and it truly seems to have supplied a common want. It was
mostly sold by the apothecaries in their dark little shops, and here
the gallants would congregate to smoke their pipes and gossip, while
the real Timidado, nicotine cane and pudding, was cut off with a silver
knife on a maple block and retailed to the customers. The pipes used in
the time of Queen Elizabeth were chiefly made of silver. The commoner
kinds consisted of a walnut shell, in which a straw was inserted, and
the tobacco was sold in the shops for its weight in silver.

The celebrated _Counterblaste to Tobacco_, by King James I, describes
smoking as "a custom loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the nose,
harmfull to the brain, dangerous to the lungs; and in the black,
stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoake
of the pit that is bottomlesse." In 1604 this monarch endeavoured, by
means of heavy imposts, to abolish its use in this country, and in 1619
he commanded that no planter in Virginia should cultivate more than one
hundred pounds.

It is said, some spent as much as £500 a year in the purchase of
tobacco in those days. In 1624 Pope Urban VIII published a decree of
excommunication against all who took snuff in the church. Ten years
after this, smoking was forbidden in Russia under pain of having the
nose cut off; and in 1653 the Council of the Canton of Appenzell cited
smokers before them, whom they punished, ordering all innkeepers to
inform against such as were found smoking in their houses. The police
regulations made in Berne in 1661 were divided according to the Ten
Commandments, in which the prohibition of smoking stands after the
command against adultery. This prohibition was renewed in 1675, and
the tribunal instituted to put it into execution--viz., Chambreau
Tabac--continued to the middle of the eighteenth century. Pope Innocent
XII, in 1690, excommunicated all those who were found taking snuff or
tobacco in the Church of St. Peter at Rome; and even so late as 1719
the Senate of Strasburg prohibited the cultivation of tobacco, from
an apprehension that it would diminish the growth of corn. Amurath IV
published an edict which made smoking tobacco a capital offence; but,
notwithstanding all opposition, its fascinating power has held its own.

It is believed that the tobacco plant _Nicotiana Tabacum_ is a native
of tropical America, and it was found by the Spaniards when they landed
in Cuba in 1492. There seems little doubt that the practice of smoking
the leaf has been common among the natives of South America from time
immemorial. It is now cultivated all over the world, but nowhere more
abundantly or with better results than in the United States. Virginia
is perhaps most celebrated for its culture. The young shoots produced
from seeds thickly sown in beds, are transplanted into the fields
during the month of May, and set in rows, with an interval of three
or four feet between the plants. Through the whole period of its
growth, the crop requires constant attention till the harvest time, in
the month of August. The ripe plants having been cut off above their
roots, are dried under cover, and then stripped of their leaves, which
are tied in bundles and packed in hogsheads. While hung up in the
drying-houses, they undergo a curing process, consisting of exposure
to a considerable degree of heat, through which they become moist,
after which they are dried for packing. In Persia and Turkey a form of
tobacco is sold under the name of Tumbeki for use in the water-pipes or
narghileh, which is said to be the product of the _Nicotiana Persica_.

The active principle _Nicotine_ was first isolated in 1828, by Posselt
and Reimann, and is an almost colourless, oily liquid of a highly
poisonous nature. It soon becomes brown on exposure to air or light.
The amount present in tobacco leaves varies considerably, but it is
usually about six per cent. It has not been met with in tobacco smoke,
according to Vohl, but the tobacco oils contain minute proportion of
nicotine. One drop of pure nicotine is sufficient to kill a dog, while
a very little more will destroy life in a human being. It is said to
possess the property of resisting decomposition amid the decaying
tissues of the body, and was detected by Orfila two or three months
after death. Vohl and Eulenberg have made an interesting investigation
of tobacco smoke. The smoke analysed was from a tobacco containing four
per cent. of nicotine, but none of the alkaloid was found in the smoke.
In the smoke of cigars certain gases were given off, and an oily body
collected, which, on distillation, yielded aromatic acids. Distilled at
a temperature above boiling water, tobacco gives an empyreumatic oil
of a poisonous nature. It exactly resembles that which collects in the
stems of tobacco pipes, and contains a small percentage of nicotine.
The actual amount of nicotine absorbed into the blood while smoking a
pipe is very minute, at least fifty per cent. of the entire alkaloid
being destroyed by decomposition, and escaping from the bowl of the
pipe. The habitual inhalation of tobacco smoke is undoubtedly harmful,
but unless the smoke be intentionally inhaled, very little makes its
way into the lungs. A great deal of misconception exists in the mind
of the average individual as to the power of the alkaloid of tobacco.
The amount of nicotine actually absorbed from a fair-sized pipe is
about one-fortieth of a grain, in a cigar rather less. Death has
resulted after smoking eighteen pipes, and from twenty cigars smoked
continuously.

Tobacco is a powerful sedative poison; used in large quantities it
causes vertigo, stupor, faintness, and general depression of the
nervous system. It will sometimes cause excessive nausea and retching,
with feebleness of pulse, coolness of the skin, and occasionally
convulsions. But there seems very little known as to how these symptoms
are produced. Employed to excess, it enfeebles digestion, produces
emaciation and general debility, and is often the beginning of serious
nervous disorders. Be this as it may, the moderate smoking of tobacco
has, in most cases, even beneficial results, and there appears little
doubt that it acts as a solace and comfort to the poor as well as the
rich. It soothes the restless, calms mental and corporeal inquietude,
and produces a condition of repose without a corresponding reaction or
after-effect. In adults, especially those liable to mental worry, and
all brain workers, its action is often a boon, the only danger being in
overstepping the boundary of moderation to excess. It is not suitable
to every constitution, and those who can trace to it evil effects
should not continue its use.



CHAPTER XIX

POISON HABITS


THERE is a very peculiar property attached to poisons, especially those
possessing anodyne properties--that is, they are capable of forming the
most enslaving habits known to mankind. Thousands of people to-day are
enchained in the slavery of the poison habit in one form or another,
and very few are ever successful in wresting them selves free when
once it has been contracted. The habit is formed in the most insidious
manner. Often, in the first instance, some narcotic drug is recommended
to relieve pain or induce sleep. In a short time the original dose
fails to produce the desired effect, it has to be increased, and
afterwards still further increased, until the victim finds he cannot do
without it, and a terrible craving for the drug is created. By-and-by
the stupefying action affects the brain, the moral character suffers,
and the unfortunate being is at last ready to do anything to obtain a
supply of the drug that is now his master.

This is not an overdrawn picture, but one of which instances are
constantly to be met with. The enslaving habit of alcohol, when once
contracted, is too well known to need description. Opium comes next
in the point of influence it exerts over its victims, and a very
small percentage ever free themselves from the habit when it is once
contracted. In most instances it is taken in the first place to relieve
some severe pain, as in De Quincey's case. He says, in his _Confessions
of an Opium Eater_, "It was not for the purpose of creating pleasure,
but of mitigating pain in the severest degree, that I first began to
use opium as an article of daily diet." Like others, he was compelled
to increase the dose gradually, until at last he consumed the enormous
quantity of 320 grains of the drug a day. He graphically describes
the struggle he first had to reduce the daily dose, and found that to
a certain point it could be reduced with ease, but after that point,
further reduction caused intense suffering. However, a crisis arrived,
and he writes, "I saw that I must die if I continued the opium. I
determined, therefore, if that should be required, to die in throwing
it off. I apprehend at this time I was taking from 50 or 60 grains
to 150 grains a day. My first task was to reduce it to 40, to 30,
and as fast as I could to 12 grains. I triumphed; but think not my
sufferings were ended. Think of me, as one, even when four months had
passed, still agitated, writhing, throbbing, palpitating, shattered;
and much perhaps in the situation of him who has been racked." Other
cases are commonly met with in this country, where opium eaters take
on an average from 60 to 80 grains of the drug a day. The smallest
quantity which has proved fatal in the adult is 4½ grains; in other
cases enormous quantities have been taken with impunity; and Guy states
recovery once took place after no less than eight ounces of solid opium
had been swallowed.

Morphine, the chief alkaloid of opium, is also abused by many, and
is swallowed as well as used by injection under the skin. Its action
is very similar to that of opium. It has been recently given on good
authority, that in Chicago--that city of hurrying men and restless
women--over thirty-five thousand persons habitually take subcutaneous
injections of morphine to save themselves from the pains and terrors
of neuralgia, insomnia, and nervousness, etc. To a delicate woman one
grain of this drug has proved fatal, yet, under the influence of habit,
a young lady has been known to take from 15 to 20 grains daily. A man
in a good position, and head of a large commercial house, contracted
the habit of taking morphine from a prescription he had had given to
him containing 4 grains of the drug. As the habit grew, he would have
the medicine prepared by four different chemists daily, and swallow the
contents of each bottle for a dose, until he took on an average over 24
grains a day. This being put a stop to by his friends, he commenced to
take chloroform, which he would purchase in small quantities until he
had collected a bottleful, and then he would drink it, usually mixed
with whisky. He eventually had to be placed under restraint.

Chloroform is not often taken habitually, but several instances have
been met with where as much as two ounces have been swallowed by a man.
The effects, when taken by the mouth, are similar to those which follow
its inhalation. Chlorodyne, which generally contains both morphine and
prussic acid in its composition, is also much abused, especially by
women. Some women have been known to consume two ounces a week of this
preparation. Cocaine, an active principle of the _Erythroxylum coca_,
is capable of exciting a powerful craving, which apparently holds its
victims in a grip of iron until they are willing to spend any amount
of money in obtaining the drug. Arsenic eating is a habit fortunately
rare in this country, although cases have been met with in which
women have gradually become addicted to taking large quantities for
improving their complexions. The peasants in some parts of Styria and
Hungary have long been known to eat arsenic, taking, it is said, from
two to five grains daily; the men doing so in order that they may gain
strength and be able to endure fatigue, and the women that they may
improve their complexions. Dr. Maclagan, of Edinburgh, states he saw a
Styrian eat a piece of arsenious acid weighing over four grains.

Sleeplessness is a frequent cause of the formation of a poison habit,
and for this purpose chloral hydrate, perhaps, is capable of producing
more serious results than any other drug of its class. The fact that
it accumulates in the system, and that the dose needs constantly to
be increased, always renders its use dangerous in unskilled hands.
Many gifted men have fallen victims to the habit, among others Dante
Rossetti, who seldom was without a bottle of the narcotic near him.
Latterly, sulphonal, a drug derived from coal tar, possessing hypnotic
properties, has been largely taken; and antipyrine, now a popular
remedy for headache, is capable of forming a pernicious and dangerous
habit. The practice of self-dosing with drugs of this description
cannot be too strongly deprecated.

Some people form a curious habit of taking one drug till at last they
become imbued with the idea that that only and nothing else, will have
any effect on them. The only remedy Carlyle would ever take, according
to the late Sir Richard Quain who was his medical adviser, was Grey
powder. "Grey powder was his favourite remedy when he had that wretched
dyspepsia from which he suffered, and which was fully accounted for by
the fact that he was particularly fond of very nasty gingerbread. Many
times I have seen him, sitting in the chimney corner, smoking a clay
pipe and eating this gingerbread." Oliver Goldsmith also laboured under
the confirmed belief that the only medicine that would have any effect
on him was "James' Powder." He doctored himself with this favourite
nostrum whenever he felt unwell, and believed it to be a cure for all
ills.

According to a West End physician quite a new and most reprehensible
vice has recently become fashionable--viz., a craze that has arisen
among women for smoking green tea, in the form of cigarettes. Though
adopted by some fair ladies merely as a pastime, not a few of its
votaries are women of high education and mental attainments. "Among
my patients," he states, "suffering from extreme nervousness and
insomnia, is a young lady, highly distinguished, at Girton. Another
is a lady novelist, whose books are widely read, and who habitually
smoked twenty or thirty of these cigarettes nightly when writing, for
their stimulating effect." Though tea does not contain a trace of any
poisonous principle, it can, when thus misused, exert a most harmful
influence. Doubtless, the high pressure at which most of the dwellers
in our great cities now live, and the worry of too much brain work on
one hand, or the lack of occupation on the other, is one of the chief
causes of taking up habits of this kind.

One of the best remedies, and one which it is to be hoped will
eventually come to pass is, that the Legislature should render poisons
less easy of purchase, by restricting the sale of every drug or
compound in the nature of a poison to the properly qualified chemist,
who, by his training and special knowledge, is alone competent to sell
these substances. Incalculable harm is done by habits such as we have
alluded to, and it is better often to endure pain and torment, than to
fly constantly to what in the end will only inflict worse punishment.



CHAPTER XX

POISONS IN FICTION


FROM a very early period poisoning mysteries have been woven into
romance and story, and in later times have been a favourite theme
for both novelist and dramatist. But unfortunately, the scientific
knowledge of writers of fiction, as a rule, is of a very limited
description, and the effects attributed by them to certain drugs are
usually as fabulous as the romances of the olden times. They tell us
of mysterious poisons of untold power, an infinitesimal quantity of
which will cause instantaneous death without leaving a trace behind.
They describe anæsthetics so powerful, that a whiff from a bottle is
sufficient to produce immediate insensibility for any period desired.
In fact, the novelist has a pharmacopoeia of his own. After all, why
should we question or cavil, and wish to analyse it in the prosaic test
tube of modern science; for take away the marvels and mysteries and
you kill the romance. The novel performs its mission if it succeeds in
interesting and amusing us, and the story-teller has accomplished the
object of his art when he is successful in weaving the possible with
the impossible, so that we can scarce perceive it.

That master of fiction, Dumas, gives us an instance of this, in his
wonderfully fascinating adventures of the Count Monte Christo. Nothing
seems impossible to this extraordinary individual, and incident
after incident of the most romantic and exciting nature crowd one
upon another throughout the story; yet so beautifully blended by the
wonderful imagination of the author, that it enthrals us to the end.
The Count, who is supposed to have studied the art of medicine in the
East, has always a remedy at hand for every emergency, from hashish, in
which he is a profound believer, to his mysterious stimulating elixir,
described as "of the colour of blood, preserved in a phial of Bohemian
glass." A single drop of this marvellous fluid, if allowed to fall on
the lips, will, almost before it reaches them, restore the marble and
inanimate form to life. His pill boxes were composed of emeralds and
precious stones of huge size, and their contents consisted of drugs,
whose effects were beyond conception. His knowledge of chemistry and
toxicology is equally astonishing, as instanced in the conversation he
holds with Madame de Villefort, who, for nefarious purposes, desires
to improve her knowledge of poisons. Monte Christo discourses on the
poisonous properties of brucine, a drug rarely used in England, but
largely used in France. "Suppose," says the Count, "you were to take
a millegramme of this poison the first day, two millegrammes the
second day, and so on. Well, at the end of ten days you would have
taken a centigramme: at the end of twenty days, increasing another
millegramme, you would have taken three hundred centigrammes; that
is to say, a dose you would support without inconvenience, and which
would be very dangerous for any other person who had not taken the
same precautions as yourself. Well, then, at the end of a month, when
drinking water from the same carafe, you would kill the person who had
drunk this water, without your perceiving otherwise than from slight
inconvenience that there was any poisonous substance mingled with the
water." The Count thus explains the doctrine of immunity from a poison,
by accustoming the system to its effect in small doses for a length
of time, a process which is actually possible with some drugs, but
not with all. His satirical description of the bungling of the common
poisoner, as compared to the fine subtlety and cunning he advocates,
is also worth quoting: "Amongst us a simpleton, possessed by the
demon of hate or cupidity, who has an enemy to destroy, or some near
relation to dispose of, goes straight to the grocer's or druggist's,
gives a false name, which leads more easily to his detection than his
real one, and purchases, under a pretext that the rats prevent him
from sleeping, five or six pennyworth of arsenic. If he is really a
cunning fellow he goes to five or six different druggists or grocers,
and thereby becomes only five or six times more easily traced; then,
when he has acquired his specific, he administers duly to his enemy or
near kinsman a dose of arsenic which would make a mammoth or mastodon
burst, and which, without rhyme or reason, makes his victim utter
groans which alarm the whole neighbourhood. Then arrive a crowd of
policemen and constables. They fetch a doctor, who opens the dead body,
and collects from the entrails and stomach a quantity of arsenic in a
spoon. Next day a hundred newspapers relate the fact, with the names of
the victim and the murderer. The same evening the grocer or grocers,
druggist or druggists, come and say, 'It was I who sold the arsenic
to the gentleman accused'; and rather than not recognize the guilty
purchaser, they will recognize twenty. Then the foolish criminal is
taken, imprisoned, interrogated, confronted, confounded, condemned, and
cut off by hemp or steel; or, if she be a woman of any consideration,
they lock her up for life. This is the way in which you northerners
understand chemistry." And so he endeavours to incite a woman, who is
already anxiously contemplating a series of terrible crimes.

The recital of the ingenious experiments of the Abbé Adelmonte is a
piece of clever construction, as the quotation will show. "The Abbé,"
said Monte Christo, "had a remarkably fine garden full of vegetables,
flowers, and fruit. From amongst these vegetables he selected the
most simple--a cabbage, for instance. For three days he watered this
cabbage with a distillation of arsenic; on the third, the cabbage
began to droop and turn yellow. At that moment he cut it. In the eyes
of everybody it seemed fit for table, and preserved its wholesome
appearance. It was only poisoned to the Abbé Adelmonte. He then took
the cabbage to the room where he had rabbits, for the Abbé Adelmonte
had a collection of rabbits, cats, and guinea-pigs, equally fine as his
collection of vegetables, flowers, and fruit. Well, the Abbé Adelmonte
took a rabbit and made it eat a leaf of the cabbage. The rabbit died.
What magistrate would find or even venture to insinuate anything
against this? What _procureur du roi_ has ever ventured to draw up an
accusation against M. Magendie or M. Flourens, in consequence of the
rabbits, cats, and guinea-pigs they have killed? Not one. So, then,
the rabbit dies, and justice takes no notice. This rabbit dead, the
Abbé Adelmonte has its entrails taken out by his cook and thrown on the
dunghill; on this dunghill was a hen, who, pecking these intestines,
was, in her turn, taken ill, and dies next day. At the moment when
she was struggling in the convulsions of death, a vulture was flying
by (there are a good many vultures in Adelmonte's country); this bird
darts on the dead bird and carries it away to a rock, where it dines
off its prey. Three days afterwards this poor vulture, who has been
very much indisposed since that dinner, feels very giddy, suddenly,
whilst flying aloft in the clouds, and falls heavily into a fish-pond.
The pike, eels, and carp eat greedily always, as everybody knows--well,
they feast on the vulture. Well, suppose the next day, one of these
eels, or pike, or carp is served at your table, poisoned, as they are
to the third generation. Well, then, your guest will be poisoned in the
fifth generation, and die at the end of eight or ten days, of pains in
the intestines, sickness, or abscess of the pylorus. The doctors open
the body, and say, with an air of profound learning, 'The subject has
died of a tumour on the liver, or typhoid fever.'"

After attempting to kill half the household with brucine, Madame
de Villefort changes her particular poison for a simple narcotic,
recognized by Monte Christo (who in this instance frustrates the
murderer) as being dissolved in alcohol. The name of the latter poison
is not told us by the novelist, but on the doctor's examination of
the suspected liquid we read, "He took from its silver case a small
bottle of nitric acid, dropped a little of it into the liquor, which
immediately changed to a blood-red colour."

Perhaps the most curious method of poisoning ever used in fiction is
that introduced by the late Mr. James Payn in his novel, "Halves."
The poisoner uses finely chopped horse-hair as a medium for getting
rid of her niece. In this way she brings on a disease which puzzles
the doctor, until one day he comes across the would-be murderess
pulling the horse-hair out of the drawing-room sofa, which causes him
to suspect her at once. This ingenious lady introduced the chopped
horse-hair into the pepper-pot used by her victim. The inimitable Count
Fosco, whom Wilkie Collins introduces into "The Woman in White," was
supposed to possess a remarkable knowledge of chemistry, although he
says, "Only twice did I call science to my aid," in working out his
plot to abduct Lady Glyde. His media were simple: "A medicated glass
of water and a medicated bottle of smelling-salts relieved her of all
further embarrassment and alarm." This genial villain waxes eloquent on
the science of chemistry in his confession. "Chemistry!" he exclaims,
"has always had irresistible attractions for me from the enormous,
the illimitable power which the knowledge of it confers. Chemists--I
assert it emphatically--might sway, if they pleased, the destinies
of humanity. Mind, they say, rules the world. But what rules the
mind? The body (follow me closely here) lies at the mercy of the most
omnipotent of all potentates--the chemist. Give me--Fosco--chemistry;
and when Shakespeare has conceived Hamlet, and sits down to execute
the conception--with a few grains of powder dropped into his daily
food, I will reduce his mind, by the action of his body, till his pen
pours out the most abject drivel that has ever degraded paper. Under
similar circumstances revive me the illustrious Newton. I guarantee
that when he sees the apple fall he shall _eat it_, instead of
discovering the principle of gravitation. Nero's dinner shall transform
Nero into the mildest of men before he has done digesting it, and the
morning draught of Alexander the Great shall make Alexander run for
his life at the first sight of the enemy the same afternoon. On my
sacred word of honour it is lucky for Society that modern chemists
are, by incomprehensible good fortune, the most harmless of mankind.
The mass are worthy fathers of families, who keep shops. The few are
philosophers besotted with admiration for the sound of their own
lecturing voices, visionaries who waste their lives on fantastic
impossibilities, or quacks whose ambition soars no higher than our
corns."

In "Armadale," the same novelist introduces us to a poisoner of the
deepest dye in the person of Miss Gwilt. This fair damsel, whose auburn
locks seemed to have possessed an irresistible attraction for the
opposite sex, was addicted to taking laudanum to soothe her troubled
nerves, and first tried to mix a dose with some lemonade she had
prepared for her husband's namesake and friend, whom she wished out of
the way. This attempt failing, and a second one, to scuttle a yacht
in which he was sailing, proving futile also, he was finally lured to
a sanatorium in London, where she had arranged for him to be placed
to sleep in a room into which a poisonous gas (presumably carbonic
acid) was to be passed. At the last moment she discovers her husband
has taken the place of her victim, and in a revulsion of feeling she
rescues him, and ends her own life instead in the poisoned chamber.
According to the story, the medical investigation which followed this
tragedy ended in discovering that she had died of apoplexy; a fact
which had it occurred in real life would not have redounded to the
credit of the medical men who conducted it.

The heroine of Mr. Benson's novel, "The Rubicon," poisons herself with
prussic acid of unheard of strength, which she discovers _among some
photographic chemicals_.

On the stage, "poisoning" has gone somewhat out of fashion with modern
dramatists, although it was a common thing in years gone by for the
villain of the play to swallow a cup of cold poison in the last act,
and after several dying speeches to fall suddenly flat on his back and
die to slow music. The death of Cleopatra, described by Shakespeare
as resulting from the bite of a venomous snake, is like no clinical
description of the final effects of death from the bite of any known
snake. Beverley, in "The Gamester," takes a dose of strong poison in
the fifth act, and afterwards makes several fairly long speeches before
he apparently feels the effects, and finally succumbs. The description
of the death of Juliet, which Shakespeare, in all probability,
conceived from reading the effects that followed the drinking of morion
or mandragora wine, is an accurate description of death from that
drug. The use of this anodyne preparation to deaden pain dates from
ancient times, and it is stated it was a common practice for women to
administer it to those about to suffer the penalty of the law by being
crucified. We have another instance of the fabulous effects ascribed
to poisons by the early playwrights, in Massinger's play, "The Duke of
Milan." Francisco dusts over a plant some poisonous powder and hands it
to Eugenia. Ludovico approaches, and kisses the lady's hand but twice,
and then dies from the effects of the poison.

Miss Helen Mathers, in one of her recent works, viz., "The Sin of
Hagar," a story warranted to thrill the soul of "Sweet Seventeen,"
makes some extraordinary discoveries which will be new to chemists.
For instance, she tells us of strychnine that actually _discolours_ a
glass of whisky and water. One of the characters, a frisky old dowager,
professes to be an _amateur_ chemist, and this lady, we are gravely
informed by the novelist, "detects the presence of the strychnine in
the glass of whisky and water _at a glance_."

But Miss Mathers has still another poison, whose properties will
doubtless be a revelation to scientists, and it is with this
marvellous body the "double-dyed villainess" of the story puts an end
to her woes. For convenience she carries it about with her concealed in
a ring, and when at last she decides on committing suicide, we are told
"she simply placed the ring to her lips, a strange odour spread through
the room, and she instantly lay dead."

Sufficient eccentricities of this kind in fiction might be enumerated
to fill a volume, but we must forbear. It is perhaps hardly necessary
to state that the lady novelist is the greatest sinner in this respect,
and stranger poisons are evolved from her fertile brain than were ever
known to man.



CHAPTER XXI

THE LAMBETH POISON MYSTERIES


TOWARDS the close of the year 1891 and the early part of 1892, public
interest was excited by the mysterious deaths of several young women
of the "unfortunate" class residing in the neighbourhood of Lambeth.
The first case was that of a girl named Matilda Clover, who lived in
Lambeth Road. On the night of October 20, 1891, she spent the evening
at a music-hall in company with a man, who returned with her to her
lodgings about nine o'clock. Shortly afterwards she was seen to go out
alone, and she purchased some bottled beer, which she carried to her
rooms. After a little time the man left the house.

At three o'clock in the morning the inmates of the house were aroused
by the screams of a woman, and on the landlady entering Matilda
Clover's room, she found the unfortunate girl lying across the bed in
the greatest agony. Medical aid was sent for, and the assistant of a
neighbouring doctor saw the girl, and judged she was suffering from the
effects of drink. He prescribed a sedative mixture, but the girl got
worse, and, after a further convulsion, died on the following morning.
The medical man whose assistant had seen her the previous night, gave
a certificate that death was due to delirium tremens and syncope, and
Matilda Clover was buried at Tooting.

A few weeks afterwards a woman called Ellen Donworth, who resided in
Duke Street, Westminster Bridge Road, is stated to have received a
letter, in consequence of which she went out between six and seven in
the evening. About eight o'clock she was found in Waterloo Road in
great agony, and died while she was being conveyed to St. Thomas's
Hospital. Before her death she made a statement, that a man with a
dark beard and wearing a high hat had given her "two drops of white
stuff" to drink. In this case a post-mortem examination was made and
on analysis both strychnine and morphine were found in the stomach,
proving that the woman had been poisoned.

These cases had almost been forgotten, when, some six months
afterwards, attention was again aroused by the mysterious deaths of
two girls named Alice Marsh and Emma Shrivell, who lodged in Stamford
Street. On the evening of April 11, 1892, a man, who one of the girls
in her dying testimony called "Fred," and who she described as a
doctor, called to see them, and together they partook of tea. The man
stayed till 2 a.m., and during the evening gave them both "three long
pills."

Half an hour after the man left the house, both girls were found in
a dying condition. While they were being removed to the hospital
Alice Marsh died in the cab, and Emma Shrivell lived for only six
hours afterwards. The result of an analysis of the stomach and organs
revealed the fact that death in each case had been caused by strychnine.

There was absolutely no evidence beyond the vague description of the
man for the police to work upon, and this case, like the others,
with which at first it was not connected, seemed likely to remain
among the unsolved mysteries; when by the following curious chain of
circumstances, the perpetrator of these cold-blooded crimes was at last
brought to justice.

Some time after the deaths of the two girls Marsh and Shrivell, a Dr.
Harper, of Barnstaple, received a letter, in which the writer stated,
that he had indisputable evidence that the doctor's son, who had
recently qualified as a medical practitioner in London, had poisoned
two girls--Marsh and Shrivell--and that he, the writer, required
£1,500 to suppress it. Dr. Harper placed this letter in the hands
of the police, with the result, that on June 3, 1892, a man named
Thomas Neill, or Neill Cream, was arrested on the charge of sending
a threatening letter. He was brought up at Bow Street on this charge
for several days, when it transpired that in the preceding November
a well-known London physician had also received a letter, in which
the writer declared that he had evidence to show that the physician
had poisoned a Miss Clover with strychnine, which evidence he could
purchase for £2,500, and so save himself from ruin.

Neill Cream was remanded, and in the meanwhile the body of Matilda
Clover was exhumed, and the contents of the stomach sent to Dr.
Stevenson, one of the Government analysts, for examination. He
discovered the presence of strychnine, and came to the conclusion that
some one had administered a fatal dose to her.

An inquest was then held on the body of Matilda Clover, with the result
that James Neill, or Neill Cream, was committed on the charge of wilful
murder.

This man's lodgings were searched after his arrest, and a curious
piece of paper was discovered, on which, written in pencil in his
handwriting, were the initials "M. C.," and opposite to them two dates,
and then a third date, viz. October 20, which was the date of Matilda
Clover's death. On the same paper, in connection with the initials "E.
S.," was also found two dates, one being April 11, which was the date
of Emma Shrivell's death. There was also found in his possession a
paper bearing the address of Marsh and Shrivell, and it was afterwards
proved that he had said on more than one occasion that he knew them
well.

In his room a quantity of small pills were discovered, each containing
from one-sixteenth to one-twenty-second of a grain of strychnine, also
fifty-four other bottles of pills, seven of which contained strychnine,
and a bottle containing one hundred and sixty-eight pills, each
containing one-twenty-second of a grain of strychnine. These, it is
supposed, he obtained as an agent for the Harvey Drug Co. of America.
It was found he had purchased a quantity of empty gelatine capsules
from a chemist in Parliament Street, which there is little doubt he had
used to administer a number of the small pills in a poisonous dose.

Thomas Neill, or Neill Cream, was tried for the wilful murder of
Matilda Clover at the Central Criminal Court, before Mr. Justice
Hawkins, on October 18, 1892, the trial lasting five days.

It transpired that Cream, who had received some medical education and
styled himself a "doctor," came to this country from America on October
1, 1891, and on arriving in London first stayed at Anderton's Hotel,
in Fleet Street. Shortly afterwards he took apartments in Lambeth, and
became engaged to a lady living at Berkhampstead.

He was identified as having been seen in the company of Matilda Clover,
and also by a policeman, as the man who left the house in Stamford
Street on the night that Marsh and Shrivell were murdered.

Dr. Stevenson, who made the analysis of the body of Matilda Clover
on May 6, 1892, stated in his evidence that he found strychnine in
the stomach, liver, and brain, and that quantitatively he obtained
one-sixteenth of a grain of strychnine from two pounds of animal
matter. He also examined the organs from the bodies of Alice Marsh and
Emma Shrivell. He found 6·39 grains of strychnine in the stomach and
its contents of Alice Marsh, and 1·6 grain of strychnine in the stomach
and its contents, also 1·46 grain in the vomit, and ·2 grain in a
small portion of the liver of Emma Shrivell.

The jury, after deliberating for ten minutes, returned a verdict of
guilty, and Thomas Neill, or Neill Cream, as he was otherwise known,
was sentenced to death. He was executed on November 15, 1892.



CHAPTER XXII

THE HORSFORD CASE


TOWARDS the close of the year 1897, a Mrs. Holmes, a widow, was living
with her three children at Stoneley, near Kimbolton. She had a cousin
named Walter Horsford, a well-to-do young farmer who occupied a farm at
Spaldwick about twelve miles away, and who frequently came to Stoneley
to visit her.

A romantic attachment eventually sprang up between them, which resulted
in a too intimate acquaintance.

After a while Horsford's affection began to wane, and in the end he
married another lady.

Shortly afterwards Mrs. Holmes left Stoneley and took up her residence
at St. Neots.

About December of the same year she wrote a letter to Horsford,
informing him of her condition, a piece of news which appears to have
greatly upset him, as he was in fear the information might reach his
wife.

On December 28 he called at a chemist's shop in Thrapstone, a
neighbouring town, and asked for a shilling's worth of strychnine, some
prussic acid, arsenic, and carbolic acid, which he stated he required
for poisoning rats. The chemist, to whom he was a stranger, requested
him to bring a witness, which he did, and the chemist's poison register
was duly signed by Horsford and a man who introduced him. He took the
poisons, which consisted of ninety grains of strychnine, one pound of
arsenic, and some prussic acid and carbolic acid, away with him.

About a week afterwards Mrs. Holmes received a letter from Horsford. It
was taken in by her daughter, who recognised his handwriting, and the
envelope is also supposed to have contained two packets of strychnine.

On the evening of January 7, 1898, Mrs. Holmes retired to bed,
apparently in her usual health, about half-past nine. The only other
persons in the house were her daughter Annie, her son Percy, and her
infant. The daughter noticed that her mother took a glass of water
upstairs with her, which was an unusual circumstance. On going to her
mother's bedroom shortly afterwards, she found her suffering great
pain, and she saw the glass, now almost empty, standing on a chest of
drawers.

Percy Holmes ran out and called in the assistance of some neighbours,
and then went for a doctor. When medical aid arrived, the unfortunate
woman was in convulsions and died shortly afterwards.

The day after her death the police searched the house, but failed to
find any trace of poison, and an inquest was held on January 8, which
Horsford was summoned to attend.

In his evidence before the coroner, he swore that he had neither
written to nor seen the deceased woman. The medical evidence proved
that death was caused by strychnine.

The inquest was adjourned for a week, and in the meanwhile Mrs.
Holmes was buried. From information received by the police, a further
search was made in the house, with the result that two packets were
discovered under the feather bed in Mrs. Holmes' bedroom. One packet of
buff-coloured paper was found to contain about thirty-three grains of
strychnine in powder, on which was written the words, "One dose. Take
as told," in Horsford's handwriting. On the second packet, the contents
of which had been used, was written, "Take in a little water. It is
quite harmless." This was also in Horsford's handwriting.

On January 10, Walter Horsford was arrested on the charge of perjury
committed at the inquest, and it was resolved to have another
examination made of the body of the deceased woman. On examination of
further documents and letters discovered by the police, the charge of
wilful murder was added to corrupt perjury against Horsford, and he was
committed for trial.

The trial took place on June 2, 1898, at Huntingdon, before Mr. Justice
Hawkins.

Dr. Stevenson stated in his evidence, he first made an analysis of a
portion of the body of Mrs. Holmes on January 19, and extracted 1·31
grain of strychnine, but no other poison. Subsequently he examined
the two packets discovered under the bed, and found one contained 33¾
grains of powdered strychnine, and the other, which presented the
appearance of having had the powder shaken out, a few minute crystals
of strychnine. In each case it was the pure alkaloid. The body was
exhumed nineteen days after death, and he then made an analysis of all
the chief organs, and obtained therefrom a total quantity of 3·69
grains of strychnine. Death usually occurred about half an hour after
the commencement of the symptoms. He judged there could not have been
less than ten grains of strychnine in the body at the time of death.

The jury found Walter Horsford guilty, and he was sentenced to death.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE GREAT AMERICAN POISON MYSTERY


ONE of the most carefully planned murders by means of poison in modern
times was investigated at the trial of Roland B. Molineux, who was
charged with causing the death of Mrs. Catherine J. Adams in New York
in 1899.

On November 10, 1898, a Mr. Henry C. Barnett, a produce booker, who was
a member of the Knickerbocker Athletic Club, one of the most prominent
social organizations in New York, received by post at the club a sample
box of Kutnow's Powder. He was in the habit of taking this and similar
preparations for simple ailments, and soon after receiving the box he
took a dose of its contents. He became ill immediately afterwards,
and was thought to be suffering from diphtheria. That he had a slight
attack of this disease there is little doubt, as the fact was proved
from a bacteriological examination made by his medical attendant. He
left his bed earlier than the doctor advised, and died presumably of
heart failure.

The contents of the box, however, were examined, which led to the
discovery that the powder had been tampered with and mixed with cyanide
of mercury; and although Mr. Barnett had died from natural causes, it
seemed clear an attempt had been made to poison him by some one who
knew he was in the habit of taking this powder. The investigation,
however, does not appear to have been carried farther.

The next chapter in the story occurred in connection with a Mr.
Harry Cornish, who occupied the position of physical director to the
Knickerbocker Athletic Club.

A day or two before Christmas in the same year, a packet directed to
him was delivered by post at his address. It contained a box, in which,
on opening, he found at one end a silver article for holding matches
or toothpicks; at the other end was a bottle labelled "Emerson's
Bromo-seltzer," and between the two was packed some soft tissue paper.

Mr. Cornish was at first under the impression that some one had sent
him the packet as a present. After removing the articles from the box,
he threw it and the wrapper into his wastepaper basket, but on second
thoughts he cut the address from the wrapper and kept it.

The bottle, labelled "Bromo-seltzer," which is a saline preparation
well known in America, was sealed over the top and bore the usual
revenue stamp. After tearing off the outside wrapper, Mr. Cornish
placed the bottle and the silver holder on his desk.

On the following Sunday he remarked to his aunt, a Mrs. Catherine
Adams, that he had received a present. Mrs. Adams and her daughter Mrs.
Rogers joked him about it, saying he must have some admirer, and was
afraid to bring his present home, as the sender's name was probably
upon it. So on Tuesday night Mr. Cornish took the bottle and the silver
holder home with him, and presented them to Mrs. Rogers, saying they
were no use to him and she might have them.

The next morning Mrs. Adams complained of a headache, and her daughter
suggested a dose of the Bromo-seltzer. Mr. Cornish was present, and
mixed a teaspoonful of the preparation from the bottle with a glass
of water, and gave it to his aunt. After drinking it she at once
exclaimed, "My, how bitter that is!"

"Why, that's all right!" said Mr. Cornish, as he took a drink from the
glass.

A few moments afterwards Mrs. Adams collapsed, and died within a short
time. Mr. Cornish was seized with violent vomiting, which doubtless
saved his life, and he recovered.

A post-mortem examination revealed the fact that Mrs. Adams had died
from cyanide poisoning; and on the bottle of Bromo-seltzer being
analysed the contents were found to have been mixed with cyanide of
mercury.

For a long time the affair seemed a complete mystery, and the police
investigations appeared likely to be fruitless. Then the particulars of
the death of Mr. Barnett, who was Chairman of the House Committee of
the Knickerbocker Club, were brought to light; and connecting them with
the fact that Mr. Cornish was also a prominent member of the club, and
had received the bottle of Bromo-seltzer by post in the same manner, it
seemed highly probable that both the poisoned packets which contained
cyanide of mercury, had been sent by the same hand.

Further examination proved that the bottle used was not a genuine
Bromo-seltzer one, and that the label had been removed from a genuine
bottle and carefully pasted on that sent to Mr. Cornish.

A firm of druggists in Cincinnati then came forward and stated, that
as far back as May 31, 1898, they had received a written application
signed "H. C. Barnett" for a sample box of pills, and another similar
application on December 21, 1898, which was signed "H. Cornish."

Both these applications were found to be in the same handwriting,
which was also strikingly similar to the address on the packet sent
to Mr. Cornish, which he had fortunately kept. The address given
by the applicant who called himself "H. C. Barnett," was 257, West
Forty-second Street; New York, a place where private letter-boxes are
rented for callers. The address given by the applicant signing himself
"H. Cornish," was a similar place at 1,620, Broadway, in the same
city. From these facts it seemed evident that an attempt had been made
to poison both Barnett and Cornish by some one who knew them, and
the poisoner had concealed his identity by employing the names of his
intended victims.

The nature of the poison used, cyanide of mercury, was also a slight
clue, as it is a substance which is not used in medicine and must in
all probability have been specially prepared for the purpose, by some
one with a good knowledge of chemistry.

At the coroner's inquest, which began on February 9, 1899, certain
facts were elicited that tended to bring suspicion on Roland B.
Molineux, who was also a member of the Knickerbocker Club and well
acquainted with Barnett and Cornish. He was also known to have
quarrelled with the latter. At the close of the inquest Molineux was
arrested, and removed to the Tombs prison.

Owing to legal technicalities in the original indictment, which charged
him with the murder of both Mr. Barnett and Mrs. Adams, he was twice
liberated, and then for the third time arrested.

The trial of Molineux for the murder of Mrs. Adams was a memorable one,
and lasted nearly three months. It began on November 14, 1899, at the
Central Criminal Court, New York, and was not concluded till February
11, 1900.

The evidence was entirely circumstantial. Most of the experts in
handwriting who were examined declared that the address on the packet
sent to Mr. Cornish was in Molineux's writing, and that he had also
written both applications to the druggists in Cincinnati. Further,
Molineux was engaged as a chemist to a colour factory in which cyanide
of mercury was used, which would enable him either to make or procure
that special poison, from which only three other fatal cases had been
recorded.

No witnesses were called for the defence, and the jury found Roland B.
Molineux guilty of "murder in the first degree," which, according to
American law, is murder with premeditation.



CHAPTER XXIV

SOME CURIOUS METHODS EMPLOYED BY SECRET POISONERS


THE strange and curious methods employed by poisoners to accomplish
their deadly purpose, form an interesting study to students of human
nature. The poisoner generally sets to work on a preconceived and
carefully thought-out plan, which he proceeds to carry out with all the
cunning he possesses. The methods that can be employed to introduce a
poisonous substance into the human body are necessarily limited; and
although they are varied at times according to the ingenuity in which
the deed is planned, we find the poisoner with all his craft shows but
little originality, and the modes used in ancient times are repeated
down through the centuries to the present day.

There seems little doubt that the earliest method employed by man was
the poisoned weapon.

The use of the poisoned arrow-head by primitive man goes back to a
period of remote antiquity. Among the cave remains of the palæolithic
period, arrow-and spear-heads of bone have been found marked with
depressions for containing poison, and this method of introducing
poison seems to have been practised by most of the aboriginal races.

Arrow poisons were well known to the Greeks and their word "toxicon"
signified a poisonous substance into which the arrow-"toxon" was
dipped. Homer alludes to the use of poisoned arrows in the "Odyssey,"
and Ovid mentions the bile and blood of vipers as being employed to
poison weapons. The Scythians and the tribes of the Caucasus were
reputed to use Viper poison mixed with the serum of human blood that
had decomposed. The Celts and the Gauls, according to Pliny, dipped
their arrow-heads in hellebore juice; and down to the seventh century
we find poisoned weapons were commonly used in Europe.

During the Middle Ages until the sixteenth century, the poisoned
dagger or sword formed the favourite weapon of the assassin, and the
preparation of the blade for this purpose was brought almost to a fine
art in Spain. It is recorded that Lorenzo de Medici was stabbed with a
poisoned dagger; and the Duke de Biscaglia, the second husband of the
famous Lucrezia Borgia, nearly fell a victim to the assassin's knife on
the steps of St. Peter's.

Of all other methods employed by poisoners, the administration of
the lethal dose through the medium of food or drink seems ever to
have been the favourite. The poisoned wine or cake recurs with a
somewhat monotonous frequency in the history of the poisoner, from
the earliest times down to the present day. Women especially seem to
have been attracted by this mode of poisoning, a fact probably due
to their control and direction of domestic matters, which rendered
the introduction of a poisonous substance into food or drink an easy
matter. Occasionally they have fallen victims to their own evil
designs, as instanced in the case of Rosamond the wife of Helmichis,
King of Lombardy, in the year 575. Wishing to rid herself of her
husband, she gave him a cup of poisoned wine on coming from his bath.
The king drank part of it, and suspecting its nature from the strange
effect it produced, he insisted she should drink the remainder, with
the result that both died shortly afterwards.

The Hindoos have an ingenious method of using powdered glass as a
lethal agent, either by mixing it with sherbet or some kind of food. In
such cases the substance acts by its irritant action on the stomach or
intestines, while at the same time, if successful, no trace of poison
can be discovered in the bodily organs.

A celebrated case in which this agent was used occurred in India
in 1874, when the Gaekwar, or reigning prince of Baroda was tried
for attempting to kill his political resident, Colonel Phayre, by
administering powdered glass to him in sherbet.

The Gaekwar was tried before a court consisting of three Indian princes
and three English judges, and was defended by the late Mr. Serjeant
Ballantine. The princes returned a verdict of "Not proven," while the
judges decided that he was guilty, with the result that the Gaekwar was
deposed.

The sweetmeat was a favourite form employed to administer poison
during the Middle Ages. Such confections were usually handed round to
the guests after a meal in Italy. Princes and nobles frequently used
this method of ridding themselves of an enemy; and if the plot failed
in the first instance, they were always ready to try it again, for,
as Cæsar Borgia is stated to have once exclaimed, "what has failed
at dinner-time will succeed at supper-time." Catherine de Medici
introduced this method into France, and her Florentine perfumers were
said to be adepts in mixing arsenic with sweetmeats.

The poisoned flowers of mediæval romance, and poisoned gloves and
boots, which figure so often in legend and story as lethal media, we
must dismiss as mere fables of an age when the historian drew largely
on his imagination.

The "poison ring," with its carefully concealed tiny spike, which was
intended to penetrate the flesh of the victim, might perhaps have set
up blood-poisoning, as would a similar wound if inflicted by a rusty
nail.

The use of rings with secret receptacles to contain poisons we have
already mentioned. Among the gems in the British Museum there is an
onyx which has been hollowed out to form a receptacle for poison. The
face of the stone is engraved with the head of a horned faun. To take
the poison, it was only necessary to bite through the thin shell of the
onyx and swallow the contents.

When the gold deposited by Camillus in the Capitol was taken away, it
is recorded that the custodian responsible for it "broke the stone of
his ring in his mouth," and died shortly afterwards.

The poisoners of the seventeenth century not content with introducing
poison into wine and other drinks, sought to improve on this method, by
preparing the goblet or cup in such a way, that it would impregnate any
liquid that was placed in it.

There is record of one François Belot who made a speciality of this
art, and, it is said, received a comfortable income therefrom; but he
fitly ended his days by being broken on the wheel on June 10, 1679.

According to a contemporary writer, his secret method consisted in
cramming a toad with arsenic, placing it in a silver goblet, and, after
pricking its head, crushing it in the vessel. While this operation was
being performed, certain charms were uttered.

"I know a secret," stated Belot, "such, that in doctoring a cup with
a toad, and what I put into it, if fifty persons chanced to drink from
it afterwards, even if it were washed and rinsed, they would all be
done for, and the cup could only be purified by throwing it into a hot
fire. After having thus poisoned the cup, I should not try it upon a
human being, but upon a dog, and I should entrust the cup to nobody."
And yet Belot's powers were believed in, and he enjoyed a substantial
reputation in his day.

His boasting is on a par with that of the magician Blessis, who
flourished about the same period. He declared to the world that he had
discovered a method of manipulating mirrors in such a way that any one
who looked in them received his death-blow!

The stories of the "poisoned shirt," which was a favourite medium with
the poisoners of the seventeenth century, are not, however, without a
substratum of fact.

The tail of the shirt was prepared by soaking it in a strong solution
of arsenic or corrosive sublimate. The object was to produce a violent
dermatitis, with ulceration about the perineum and neighbouring parts,
which should compel the victim to keep his bed. Medical men would then
be summoned in due course, and would probably judge the patient to be
suffering from syphilis, and administer mercury in large quantities.
The fatal dose could then be introduced at leisure.

The notorious La Bosse left on record her method of preparing the
"poisoned shirt." The garment was first to be washed, and the tail
then soaked in a strong solution of arsenic, so that it only looked
"a little rusty," as if it had been ill-washed and was stiffer than
usual. "The effect," she concludes, "it should produce on the wearer
is a violent inflammation and intense pain, and that when one came to
examine him, one would not detect anything."

The Duke of Savoy is said to have succumbed to the effects of a
poisoned shirt of this kind.

Some time ago Dr. Nass, a French medical man, made some interesting
experiments, with a view to testing the truth of these stories. He
carefully shaved a portion of the left lumbar region of a guinea-pig,
and gently rubbed the skin with a paste containing arsenic, in the
proportion of one in ten. He repeated this operation several times
during the day. Shortly afterwards the animal became prostrate, the
eyes became dull, it assumed a cholera-like aspect, and in forty-eight
hours died. The skin on which the paste had been applied remained
unchanged and unbroken, and showed no sign of ulceration. On examining
the internal organs after death, fatty degeneration of the viscera was
found, as is usual after arsenical poisoning.

This experiment does not, of course, actually prove the effect of a
shirt impregnated with arsenic being worn in direct contact with the
skin, but it shows that arsenic may be introduced into the body by
simple, gentle friction on an unbroken skin, and that the poisoned
shirt theory was possible.

The administration of poison in the form of medicine is another method
which has often been criminally employed. In France, the enema was at
one time frequently made use of for introducing arsenic, corrosive
sublimate, and opium into the system. The poisoner's aim, in such
cases, was to attribute the fatal effects which followed to disease.
Within recent years a curious case was tried at the Paris Court of
Assizes, in which a lady was charged with attempting to poison her
husband. It was known that the couple had lived unhappily together,
and arrangements had been made for a divorce. One morning the husband
complained of a severe headache, and his wife suggested a dose of
antipyrine, which she gave him in some mineral water. He remarked to
her at the time that the draught had a peculiar taste. Later in the
day she administered sundry cups of coffee to him; but he grew rapidly
worse and at night a doctor was summoned. He failed to diagnose the
complaint, and called in other medical men, who were equally puzzled.
One thing which they all noticed, was a peculiar dilation of the pupils
of the patient's eyes.

A consultation was held the next day, and shortly afterwards one of the
medical men received a note from the lady, in which she stated, that
her husband "was black. He was dead, more dead than any man I ever saw."

The doctor at once went to see the patient, and found him in a state
of collapse. He bled him twice and injected caffeine, but he still
remained motionless. After a time it occurred to the doctor that
the patient's symptoms resembled those of atropine poisoning, and,
resorting to other measures, he eventually brought him round. Then he
remembered, that the lady had previously asked him for some morphine
for herself, and when he had refused it, she requested some atropine
for her dog's eyes. He wrote her a prescription for a solution of
atropine, containing ten per cent. of the drug, and took it to the
chemist himself. On further inquiries it was proved that the lady had
procured atropine upon various other occasions by copying the doctor's
prescription and forging his signature.

At the trial, the medical evidence was very conflicting; but the
concensus of opinion was in favour of the theory that atropine had
been administered in small, repeated doses. The accused woman declared
in her defence, that atropine had been put into the medicine for her
husband in mistake by the chemist who had dispensed it. There was
no evidence to support this theory, and she was found guilty and
sentenced to five years' penal servitude.

A strange method, which said to have been employed by the Borgias, and
was afterwards used in France, was a combination of arsenic with the
secretions or products of decomposition of an animal to which it had
been administered. The poison was prepared by cutting open a pig, and
well sprinkling the carcase with arsenic or other poison. Then it was
left to putrefy, after which the liquids that ran from the decaying
mass were collected, and these formed the finished poison.

       *       *       *       *       *

As science advances, opening up fresh fields for research and poisons
of a still more deadly nature are revealed, so the chemist sets to work
to discover methods for their certain detection, and thus renders the
poisoners' fiendish work more difficult.

It is well to remember that even the most deadly poisons have their
proper use, and in skilled hands prove valuable instruments in
combating many diseases that afflict suffering humanity.


THE END


Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London.



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Corrections.

The first line indicates the original, the second the correction.

p. 19:

    And incident which happened to the army led by Mark Antony
    An incident which happened to the army led by Mark Antony

p. 24:

    the view of destorying the effects
    the view of destroying the effects

p. 33:

    violent pain and vomitting,
    violent pain and vomiting,

p. 33:

    as the poision was called, at his bidding.
    as the poison was called, at his bidding.

p. 40:

    and was arrested at Liége
    and was arrested at Liège

p. 45:

    ARSENIC has, perhaps, been more frequently used than any other
    poison for criminal puposes.

    ARSENIC has, perhaps, been more frequently used than any other
    poison for criminal purposes.

p. 60:

    supposed by the early Greeks to have orginated from the foam of the
    dog Cerberus.

    supposed by the early Greeks to have originated from the foam of the
    dog Cerberus.

p. 65:

    to which in many ways it is closely alied,
    to which in many ways it is closely allied,

p. 82:

    In was then taken downstairs,
    It was then taken downstairs,

p. 84:

    The symptoms appeared at a time whch would
    The symptoms appeared at a time which would

p. 85:

    The narcotic properities of the poppy
    The narcotic properties of the poppy

p. 106:

    as a medium for getting rid of h r niece.
    as a medium for getting rid of her niece.

p. 108:

    poisons herself with prussic acid of unheard-of strength,
    poisons herself with prussic acid of unheard of strength,

p. 112:

    in connection with the initals "E. S.,"
    in connection with the initials "E. S.,"

p. 113:

    and 1·6 grain of strychinne
    and 1·6 grain of strychnine

p. 118:

    but on seccond thoughts he cut the address
    but on second thoughts he cut the address

p. 119:

    was also a slight clue, as it it a substance
    was also a slight clue, as it is a substance

p. 122:

    Th eHindoos have an ingenious
    The Hindoos have an ingenious





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