The Beautiful Rose Carrington

A Haunted Life

Three actors figure in the Carrington drama, one a rich man of high scientific attainments, an ardent student of astronomy, and a Fellow of the Royal Society; the second, a beautiful woman of small education; the third, a miscreant of the worst type.

Felix Carrington by taste and training was apparently the last man to whom romance would appeal. All his life, absorbed in his favourite study, he had been somewhat of a recluse. But maybe the constant watching of the stars and the mystic speculations induced by the loneliness and solitude of nightly vigils tend to lead the mind from the world as workaday people see it. Should the right woman cross his path the philosopher forgets his philosophy and abandons his science, and no one so ready as he to fall in love and follow wherever that love may lead him.

This appears, anyhow, to have been the fate of Mr. Carrington. While on a flying visit to London (his residence was a little way in the country) he chanced to pass a very handsome young woman by whom he was at once irresistibly attracted. He had no difficulty in making her acquaintance. She was a stranger in London, she was lonely and in poor circumstances, and probably was sufficiently appreciative of the admiration of the well-dressed gentleman to give him encouragement. That he was twice her age made no difference.

The exchange of a few words stimulated his interest, and one can imagine that it was not long before she told him something about herself. She was a Somersetshire girl and had all the luxuriant beauty of form and brilliant colouring for which the Somersetshire women are famed. Her manners were naturally modest, her voice was soft and musical, and if Mr. Carrington discovered at that first interview she was quite illiterate​—​she could not even read​—​the discovery did not lessen his infatuation. If not quite a case of Cophetua and the beggar maid, it was not far removed.

But Rose Helen Rodway​—​the name she gave​—​did not tell her elderly admirer everything concerning her life, as the latter was destined to find out. He could easily have discovered something about her had he chosen to go to Bristol, her native place, but he was quite contented to take her as she was, a lovely country girl with whom he was, rightly or wrongly enraptured. Before long he made her his wife.

Some little time after the marriage a well set up, middle-aged man of soldierly air made his appearance on the scene and was introduced to Mr. Carrington as his wife’s brother. This was William Rodway. He had been a trooper in the Dragoon Guards.

William Rodway was always out of work, and he would come pretty often to his wealthy sister for money. Mr. Carrington had settled a goodly sum upon his wife, and she always had some spare cash.

This went on for some time, till on one occasion Mr. Carrington went on a visit to Scotland. Mrs. Carrington was to follow him on the following day, but she did not do so. When she saw her husband he noticed she was in great distress, and bit by bit the terrible truth came out.

William Rodway was not any relative but a man who, before she met Mr. Carrington, was her lover and had exercised tremendous influence over her. After her marriage he carried on a species of blackmail. He got money from her continually; he compelled her to meet him; and even obtained from her her marriage certificate and other papers.

At last the prosecution became too persistent and merciless to be borne, and Mrs. Carrington told the truth to her husband. The result of this confession was that her husband urged her to break off her acquaintance with the man.

“I have never desired to keep it on,” she replied sadly, “but he frightens me, and he has always compelled me to meet him. I have never done so willingly.”

Just before this Mr. Carrington had bought an estate near Farnham. It was in the Weald of Surrey, in that portion lying between Farnham and Hindhead, and known as “The Devil’s Jumps.” These three remarkable hills bearing the Satanic designation are quite isolated from the adjoining plain. The situation being admirable for the observance of astronomical and atmospheric phenomena, Mr. Carrington constructed in the centre of one of these elevations, and at a great outlay, an observatory, having previously erected a large and handsome residence at the foot of the hill.

He hoped that in this out-of-the-way spot his wife would be freed from the annoyances of Rodway. This, however, did not prove to be the case. Rodway found his way to Surrey, and used to frequent a public house in the neighbourhood of Farnham and talk of Mrs. Carrington in the most familiar fashion. The matter soon began to be gossiped about, and there was not one of Mrs. Carrington’s servants who did not know more about the lady’s humble origin, and her acquaintance with the rather good-looking, soldierly man of middle age, than she did herself.

On one occasion, after having drunk a good deal of beer, and allowed his tongue to run on about Mrs. Carrington, he rapped out:

“The fellow who has her shan’t enjoy her much longer. Before a month is over, I’ll have her, dead or alive!”

All this while the poor lady was aware of his hanging about the neighbourhood, and was in a state of mental terror. Yet it does not seem she had the courage to tell her husband.

On the 18th of August Rodway went to Farnham, called at the public house before mentioned, and stayed there for the night. On the following day he went to Mr. Carrington’s house and knocked at the door.

Probably Mrs. Carrington suspected it was her persecutor, for instead of sending the servant she went herself.

“Rose,” said he, scowlingly, “I want the cloak and shawl, the dog, and the money you owe me!”

“Very well, you shall have the money and the other things, excepting the dog. I will send them to you. As for the dog, that’s my husband’s, and I must speak to him about it.”

Upon this the man’s scowl deepened, and he broke out angrily:

“I’ll move you from that!”

And he struck his stick on the ground.

He turned as if to go from her, and went a step or two, but turned round again and stabbed her in the arm. She tried to run away; but he followed her, and stabbed her again in the back, and she fell, the knife sticking in her.

He raised her, and took out the knife, exclaiming:

“You’ve been a bad woman to me!”

She seized the knife, and tried to take it from him. He began to cut himself with it, and she cried:

“Don’t​—​don’t! Throw it down!”

“It will soon be over, and we shall meet in heaven!”

The disturbance was by this time audible to the servants, and one of them came and watched and listened, and saw the struggle, and did nothing.

In vain the poor wounded woman begged this girl to run for help; but not a step did she stir. Whether it was callousness, stupidity or terror we cannot say; but the fact remains that she contented herself with listening to all that passed.

Mrs. Carrington then, finding no help in the house, dragged herself, bleeding from her wounds, towards the inn.

On her way thither she was met by a man, who assisted her, and while he was supporting her, Rodway who had followed, passed them, and they all went into the inn and sat down.

“For Heaven’s sake, go for a doctor!” she cried.

But the men were almost as stupid as the servant girl. They seemed quite dazed.

Rodway then asked her to have some brandy, and went on to say:

“I’ve done all there is to be done, and if I’ve injured her, I am very sorry for it. I never intended to hurt her; but she treated me with such contempt that I resolved to kill myself before her eyes.”

By this time the country fellows hanging about the inn roused themselves. One of them went for a constable, and ultimately the man was secured.

On his way to the station he said to the constable:

“Poor Rose! I loved her. I hope she’ll not die; I hope she’ll recover.”

His own cuts were not particularly serious. There was one on his arm, and several slight ones on his chest. If he had really intended to kill himself he went about the work in a very half-hearted way.

The wounds of Mrs. Carrington were, on the other hand, much more serious, and one nearly cost her her life. But after a time she recovered and was able to give evidence at the Kingston Assizes, the trial taking place quite nine months after the occurrence.

She gave her evidence with great frankness and apparent truthfulness, and without the least appearance of reticence. She was cross-examined at great length by the prisoner’s counsel, Mr. Edward (now Sir Edward) Clarke, as to the painful circumstance of her past life, and answered without hesitation, though not without evident pain. Maybe it was a relief to know that the torture she had suffered at the hands of Rodway was at an end, though she had to lay bare many painful reminiscences.

There seemed to be no doubt as to the guilt of the man. It was proved that two days before the event he bought a knife which opened with a spring, so as to become fixed, and the blade of which was several inches in length. Before he was arrested, he wrote a letter to a friend, in which he said: “I have stabbed the woman to the heart, I hope.”

Despite this, Mr. Clarke made a strong defence, to the effect that Rodway meant to kill himself, and aimed at his own heart the blow which, to his horror, entered her arm, and through her arm to her chest. Then, clasping her round the waist to support her, they fell, and the knife unfortunately entered her back. The argument in support of this theory was that if Rodway had meant to kill her he could not have failed to do so.

In this view, the ingenious barrister explained the purchase of the knife with reference to the intention to commit suicide, and he sought also to give the expression in the letter a singular explanation. He suggested the terms were not “I have stabbed the woman to the heart, I hope,” but “I have stabbed the wound to the heart, I hope.”

But the judge and jury, who examined the letter carefully, shook their heads at the suggestion, and the counsel, beaten from one point, rushed to another, and suggested that the letter was unfinished, and that the sentence, “I hope,” had not been concluded, and might mean, “I hope she will recover.”

Unfortunately, these words were not written, and there was nothing to support Mr. Clarke’s plausible supposition. The jury speedily found the miscreant guilty.

It was then alleged that Rodway, years before, had been guilty of felony. It was proved that a man was then convicted (by the name of Edward Smith) of manslaughter by killing a woman, and was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, and the prisoner was identified by one of the officers of the gaol where he was confined. The officer, though over twenty years had elapsed, recognised Rodway as Smith on seeing him along with twenty other prisoners at Horsemonger Lane Gaol. He should have known him, he said, among 5,000.

But this was trying to prove too much, and it failed to satisfy the jury.

Had the prisoner’s conviction been established, Rodway would have been sentenced to penal servitude for life. As it was, Mr. Justice Bovill gave him twenty years. It was pretty certain, said the learned judge, that the fellow had been living on funds supplied by Mrs. Carrington, and that, enraged at the discontinuance of the supplies​—​for it was proved she had sent him no money after going to reside at Farnham​—​he had murderously assaulted her.

With the disappearance of Rodway from the scene the tragedy does not end.

What effect the dastardly attempt on the life of Mrs. Carrington, and the public exposure of her past history, had upon the relations of husband and wife it is impossible to say. No light has ever been thrown upon the interior of the Carrington household. Mr. Carrington continued to live at his house at Farnham, but we may be sure that life for both must have been a solitary one. It is pretty certain that the county gentry would hold aloof from visiting a house upon which such a dark shadow rested.

Whatever was the state of affairs, a fresh sensation occurred about three years after the conviction of Rodway. Mrs. Carrington was found dead in her bed. All that the coroner was able to find out was that for some time past she had been in bad health. A post-mortem was held, but the doctor could only say that she had been suffocated. There was no evidence to show how or when she died, nor could it be discovered what was the cause of suffocation.

A curious fact was elicited during the process of inquiry. There was no servant in the house, nor had there been for some weeks. This was not because Mr. Carrington could not afford the expense, because he was a rich man, and the reason did not appear to be forthcoming.

Anyway, the jury took their own view of the matter, and at their request the coroner censured Mr. Carrington “for not finding a proper person to look after his wife.”

Even this was not the end of the fatal chain of events. Mr. Carrington, after the death of his wife, absented himself from home for about a fortnight. Where he went to or what he did is not known. At any rate, he returned to his desolate house at Farnham one Saturday night, and was never seen again alive.

As he was known to be in the house, and as it was also known that all the servants had left, his non-appearance began to excite some alarm, and eventually information was given to the police.

An inspector, accompanied by a constable, went to the house about four days after Mr. Carrington’s arrival, and found it silent and neglected. Knocking at the door failed to bring any response, and eventually an entrance was forced.

They searched the house, but found nothing suspicious till they came to one of the servants’ rooms. The door was locked on the inside. This door was broken open, and here they discovered Mr. Carrington lying dead on a mattress on the floor, between the bottom of the bed and the fireplace, with a handkerchief tied round his head. His watch was on the mantelpiece, and had stopped at half-past twelve.

The police locked up the house, and returned the next morning with a doctor. In the dining room they found Mr. Carrington’s travelling bag, and in it an empty chloral bottle. There were also found other chloral bottles, all empty, in the dining room.

The doctor said that the handkerchief tied round the head of the deceased was to hold a tea-leaf poultice on the left ear, evidently put on to alleviate pain.

On making a post-mortem examination, the doctors came to the conclusion that Mr. Carrington had died from “apoplexy,” and that he had fallen down in a fit.

It may have been so, but the explanation is not very satisfactory. It is not clear why he selected one of the inferior rooms in the house for his sleeping apartment, nor why he should have placed the mattress on the floor.

There the mystery remains. It does not seem clear that Mr. Carrington had any relations. If so, there is no mention of anyone belonging to his family attending the inquest. Mr. Carrington died as he lived​—​strange, mysterious, solitary.