Adelaide Bartlett

Stranger than Fiction

All the elements of romance are to be found in the strange story of Adelaide Bartlett. But, in addition to its romance, the story is also of intense interest as a study in psychology. Questions of human weakness, of mental struggles, of temperamental difficulties and differences are involved. Lastly one is faced with one of the sex problems which have beset man and woman from the earliest days, which are a part of their inheritance and which will never cease to plague them so long as the world remains what it is. More than this need not be said here. The facts tell their own tale.

The opening scene is a wedding in Croydon Parish Church. The bridegroom was a man of at least thirty-five years of age, the bride a girl just turned sixteen.

There was nothing of the exuberant joy of the young lover about Edwin Bartlett. He was restrained in manner, and if his somewhat expressionless face, with its abstracted look in the eyes, indicated anything, it was settled satisfaction at the prospect of commencing married life under the peculiar conditions which he had laid down for himself and his wife and over which he had long pondered.

These conditions were, to say the least, eccentric. His girl-wife was little more than a child in ideas, in feelings, in experience. She had read through the strange marriage contract her husband had prepared without comprehending its meaning, and, indeed, some of its terms were so mystical that had she been older she might not have been much the wiser.

It would be hard to find a parallel to the position of the beautiful girl who, at an age when pinafores and dolls are hardly forgotten, had become the wife of a man old enough to be her father. Certainly no novelist could imagine a more romantic and unusual set of circumstances. She was an alien; she had not a single friend in the land in which she was to make her home to advise her, and she was marrying with the full knowledge that some of her husband’s relatives were her enemies.

Adelaide Blanche de la Tremouille had, three months before her marriage, come from Orleans on a visit to the family of a Mr. Charles Bartlett. There is no mention of father and mother in the public records, and she was probably an orphan. Gloriously handsome, with her big, passionate, dark eyes, her luxuriant hair, she had all the fervour of the southern temperament, and Edwin Thomas Bartlett, Charles Bartlett’s brother, saw in her the embodiment of his morbid ideas of love and marriage.

No doubt he tried to explain them to the young girl, but probably she attached but little importance to his theories. Englishmen used to be considered by French people as all more or less mad, and maybe Adelaide made allowances on this ground and thought that everything would settle down sooner or later into the humdrum, prosaic groove of married life. She was mistaken. She was destined to become the central figure in a mysterious life-drama, on which the curtain was lifted sufficiently to whet curiosity, and then suddenly lowered, leaving the dark mystery unsolved.

The marriage contract, embodying the views of Edwin Thomas Bartlett, laid down that a man should have two wives​—​one for “companionship” and one for “service.” Bartlett did not definitely explain himself, but it was implied that by “service” was meant household duties, cooking and the like, while “companionship” was to be interpreted in a purely intellectual sense.

The strange man looked upon his young bride as his “wife-companion,” and in accordance with this arrangement, the marriage was not followed by the usual blissful honeymoon trip. Instead, the philosophical Edwin packed off the girl whom he had just made his wife to a school at Stoke Newington to complete her education; and from there, later on, to a convent school in Belgium.

It was the oddest state of affairs possible, the child-wife working hard at her studies, spending her holidays with her husband in apartments, and going back to school at the end of each vacation.

Two years of this strange married life went over, and then Mrs. Bartlett came to England from her convent school, permanently to live with her husband at Herne Hill, where Mr. Bartlett had a grocer’s shop. A year after this his mother died, and at the joint invitation of husband and wife, Mr. Bartlett senior went to live with them.

This was a great mistake, for the old man had always disliked his son’s young wife. The latter seems to have been quite under the control of her eccentric husband, and amiably acquiesced in everything he suggested. But her mind had not been developed; she had not reached her twentieth year and she had not shaken off the effects of the unworldly convent school training.

Throughout their married life, Edwin Bartlett and his wife were looked upon by all who knew them as a most affectionate couple, but it seemed that a rift within the lute occurred about this period. Soon after her father-in-law came to reside with them, he began to circulate defamatory stories with regard to his daughter-in-law. Ultimately he was prevailed upon to write an apology, which was printed and distributed at the instigation of Edwin Bartlett, who, with all his odd notions, was devoted to his wife, and indignant at the aspersions cast upon her.

During this time she became a mother. Her experience was a very painful one and the child was born dead. What influence the recollection of this agonising period had upon her temperament and upon her views of marriage cannot be said, but it is not unreasonable to assume that a change was brought about which had something to do with the tragic events which happened afterwards.

Some two years after this domestic episode the Bartletts removed from Herne Hill to another shop in Lordship Lane, Dulwich; and from there to The Cottage, Phipps Bridge, Merton Abbey, near Wimbledon, and at Merton there entered upon the scene a young man who was destined to influence the futures of both Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett. This was George Dyson, a Wesleyan minister, then about twenty-seven years old.

Mr. Dyson was in charge of a small chapel in the High Street, Merton, which the Bartletts attended, and he called upon them as members of his congregation. The young preacher would occasionally take tea at The Cottage, and Mr. Bartlett conceived such a liking for him that he invited him to call more frequently.

This pleasant friendship was interrupted for a while by Dyson going to Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated and took his B.A. degree. On his return to Merton, Mr. Bartlett said he would like his wife to take up her studies again, and requested Dyson to have the supervision of them. Dyson consented, and used to call and give Mrs. Bartlett lessons in Latin, history, geography and mathematics.

What Edwin Bartlett had in his mind in regard to Dyson cannot be said for certain. Most people would hold that in throwing his wife constantly in the society of an educated man near her own age, his action was extremely foolish. However this may be, it does not seem that he had any object other than a desire to see Adelaide become a woman of many accomplishments. It apparently did not occur to him that the “companionship” of the marriage contract was likely to apply more to George Dyson than to himself.

It will be gathered from a confidential conversation which Mrs. Bartlett had with the medical man, who subsequently was called in to attend her husband, that the latter had morbid tendencies tinging, if not suggesting, the complacency with which he regarded the relations of his wife with Dyson.

All that can be said on this point is that if Edwin Bartlett was a little mad, there was considerable method in his madness. Even his relations with Dyson were laid down in accordance with a settled plan; and from a letter he wrote to Dyson soon after the latter was installed as Adelaide’s tutor, we get an inkling of what was going on in his mind. The letter ran thus:

“Dear George,​—​Permit me to say I feel great pleasure in thus addressing you for the first time. To me it is a privilege to think that I am allowed to feel towards you as a brother, and I hope our friendship may ripen as time goes on, without anything to mar its future happiness. Would I could find words to express my thankfulness to you for the very loving letter you sent Adelaide to-day. It would have done anybody good to see her overflowing with joy as she read it whilst walking along the street, and afterwards as she read it to me. I felt my heart going out to you. I long to tell you how proud I feel at the thought I should soon be able to clasp the hand of the man who from his heart could pen such noble thoughts. Who can help loving you? I feel that I must say two words, ‘Thank you’; and my desire to do so is my excuse for troubling you with this. Looking towards the future with joyfulness,

I am,
Yours affectionately,

Dyson’s reply was couched in the same spirit:

“Dear Edwin” (he wrote),​—​“Thank you very much for the brotherly letter you sent me yesterday. I am sure I respond from my heart to your wish that our friendship may ripen with the lapse of time, and I do so with confidence, for I feel that our friendship is founded on a firm and abiding basis​—​trust and esteem. I have from a boy been ever longing for the confidence and trust of others. I have never been so perfectly happy as when in possession of these. It is in this respect among many others that you have shown yourself a true friend. You have thanked me and now I thank you, yet I ought to confess that I read your warm and generous letter with a kind of half fear​—​a fear lest you should ever be disappointed in me and find me a far more prosy and matter-of-fact creature than you expect. Thank you, moreover, for the telegram; it was very considerate to send it. I am looking forward with much pleasure to next week. With very kind regards,

Believe me,
Yours affectionately,

This was the beginning of a new order of things. What Adelaide thought of this closer friendship we are not told definitely, but it would have been wonderful if she had not a certain amount of affection for the “friend of the family.” Indeed, there was much to excuse her if she fell in love with him.

Shortly after this Dyson was appointed pastor of a chapel in Putney, and the Bartletts removed from Merton to Claverton Street, Pimlico, where they lived in apartments. At Claverton Street the lessons were resumed, and instead of coming once a week, Dyson would call three or four times, generally about three o’clock in the afternoon. The close partnership of Dyson was indicated by Mr. Bartlett providing him with a season ticket, while a blue serge lounge coat and a pair of slippers were kept for his use, so as to make him feel at home and comfortable. They were now on such terms of familiarity that husband and wife would allude to him as “Georgius Rex.”

Some time previously Mr. Bartlett made a will, leaving all he possessed to his wife. This will was as follows:

“Herne Hill, S.E.

“September 3rd, 1885.

“I will and bequeath all my property and every thing I am possessed of to my wife Adelaide, for her sole use, and I appoint George Dyson, B.A., Wesleyan minister, and E. Wood, solicitor, my executors.

“(Signed) Thomas Edwin Bartlett.

“Witness to my signature, Herbert Eustace

“Arthur Brooks.””

The Bartletts had now been married some ten years, and up to this time Edwin Bartlett had been looked upon as a strong, healthy man. After coming to Pimlico, however, he suffered a good deal from neuralgia and nerve disturbance generally, and there seems to be little doubt that he dosed himself with all kinds of medicine, as people who are in continuous pain often are tempted to do. Then came on a sudden illness, and for the first time a doctor was sent for, Mrs. Bartlett acting on her own initiative in seeking medical advice for her husband.

The doctor, Mr. Alfred Leach, a surgeon, on examining Mr. Bartlett, was rather puzzled. The symptoms indicated gastritis, but the state of the gums suggested that the illness was due to mercury. Questioned on the point by the doctor, the patient attributed his condition to having taken a pill of unknown strength out of a drawer of sample pills. The explanation confirms the suggestion that Bartlett was addicted to physicking himself indiscriminately.

Dr. Leach, in his evidence given in connection with what happened afterwards, threw an interesting sidelight on the domestic life of the Bartletts, and especially on the attitude of Edwin Bartlett towards his wife.

“I remember distinctly,” he says, “on one occasion​—​I think it was the first time I saw Dyson​—​seeing Mr. Bartlett sitting with a look of being lost in admiration at his wife while she was discussing some subject or other with Dyson. I don’t think I took any part in the conversation, for I was chiefly interested in watching my patient, who stood, never uttering a word, but concerned only in listening and admiring.” Later on, Dr. Leach said, Mr. Bartlett spoke in terms of the highest admiration and affection of Mr. Dyson. “Oh, yes!” were his words. “We are very proud of Mr. Dyson.”

A little later Dr. Dudley was called in in consultation, at the special desire of Mr. Bartlett himself, on the extraordinary ground that if anything fatal occurred his friends might suspect his wife of having poisoned him! Dr. Dudley examined the sick man, and found that his organs were healthy, without the least sign of any disease. He approved the treatment that was being followed, and the suspicious symptoms soon passed away.

From the beginning of his illness Mr. Bartlett had occupied a small iron bedstead in the front sitting room by the fireplace, while his wife rested on a sofa or a chair. She attended to her husband night and day with anxious attention, at night time seeing to the fire, making beef-tea, etc., and Dr. Leach stated he could not have wished for a more devoted nurse.

Indeed, the doctor remonstrated with her for not taking more rest, and in the course of the conversation Mrs. Bartlett, in relation to her feelings towards her husband, said:

“I wish we were unmarried, so that we might have the happiness of marrying again.”

There is no reason to doubt her sincerity. She was never weary of looking after him, and had ever his comfort in her mind. For instance, the medicine was kept on the mantelshelf, and when the doctor asked her why she did not keep it on a table near the bed, her answer was:

“Oh, I like to make the room as little like an invalid’s room as possible!”

Throughout his illness, which Mr. Bartlett himself put down to being mainly due to his having been overworked in business, his condition was one of nervous exhaustion and depression and he was evidently hypochondriacal and anxious. He had crying fits, and would sit in a chair and cry for an hour. When asked why he did so, he gave the contradictory reply that it was because he felt so happy. Dr. Leach advised him to go to Torquay without Mrs. Bartlett, as he was really an hysterical patient, and was too much petted by his wife. A sea voyage would have done him most good, the doctor thought.

On the 28th (the month was December) Mr. Bartlett went for a drive, and came home showing every sign of returning health. On December 30th he was so well that Dr. Leach decided to discontinue his visits. The next day he dined about three in the afternoon, when he ate a hearty meal of jugged hare. In the evening, between five and six, Dr. Leach called to take his patient to the dentist to have another tooth drawn. His gums had been in a very bad state, and already he had had seventeen teeth extracted.

Mr. Bartlett seemed better than the doctor had ever seen him. He acknowledged he felt better​—​a thing he was loth to admit, having made up his mind for continued daily medical visits. Mr. Roberts, the dentist, extracted the tooth; he too considered Mr. Bartlett’s condition and spirits to be much better.

This was the last time these two professional gentlemen saw their patient alive.

It was December 31st. When he returned from the dentist’s, Mr. Bartlett told his landlady that he thought the worst was over and that he would soon get better. He thanked her for the dinner she had served him, and told her how much he had enjoyed it.

He had a tea-supper, with oysters, cake, chutney, etc. He sat up to the meal, and afterwards walked about the room. He was altogether in excellent spirits, his mind dwelling on the good things of life, for he told the maid to get him a haddock for the next morning’s breakfast, saying he would “get up an hour earlier at the thought of having it.” It seemed as though he alternated between over-eating and over-dosing himself.

At four o’clock on the morning of New Year’s Day, the Doggetts, who owned the house, were aroused by a knocking at their bedroom door.

“Come down! I believe Mr. Bartlett is dead!” was the startling announcement uttered in the agitated voice of Mrs. Bartlett. Then the servant was sent post-haste for the doctor.

When the Doggetts reached the drawing room, Mrs. Bartlett asked them if they thought her husband was dead, whereupon Mr. Doggett put his hand over his heart.

“Yes,” was the reply, “he must have been dead two or three hours. He is perfectly cold.”

Mrs. Bartlett then explained what had happened.

“I had fallen asleep,” said she, “with my hand over his foot. I awoke with cramp in my arm, and found him lying on his face. I put him in the position in which you see him, and tried to pour brandy down his throat.”

When the Doggetts saw him, he was lying on his back, with his left hand on his breast.

Dr. Leach confirmed the landlord’s statement that Mr. Bartlett had been dead from two to three hours. Mrs. Bartlett then burst out crying bitterly.

The doctor was puzzled, and asked Mrs. Bartlett whether she could give him any explanation, and she replied that she was unable to do so.

While the inquest was being held, and pending the post-mortem and analysis, Adelaide Bartlett and George Dyson met at the house of a mutual friend​—​a Mrs. Matthews. He was deadly pale, we are told, and she had lost the lovely olive of her complexion. It was now tinged with sallowness. It was not wonderful that both should be agitated, for between them maybe they held the secret of death.

“You told me that Edwin would die soon,” he began in a low voice, but not so low that Mrs. Matthews could not hear.

“I did not!” was the emphatic reply.

Dyson did not pursue the subject. There was a long pause. His eyes were cast down. Then nervously​—​almost timidly​—​he said:

“I wish you’d give me back those papers of mine, Adelaide.”

She looked at him in scorn. She saw clearly enough that at the very moment when she needed support and sympathy this man, who had benefited so much from his acquaintance with her and her husband, would fail her. She knew what papers he referred to. On them were written some verses which he had dedicated to her.

At that moment Adelaide Bartlett was perfectly conscious of the terrible chain of condemning circumstances which was slowly gripping her, and she was conscious, also, that Dyson’s object was to clear himself, no matter what suspicion was attached to her.

“I shall not give you the papers!” she cried indignantly, and as much as to say, “If I am suspected, so shall you be!”

Then Dyson’s nerve failed him, and he bowed down over the piano, and the words, “I am a ruined man!” burst from him.

Soon after he went out, and she made no effort to detain him. She saw plainly enough she would have to fight her battle alone.

Some days after this, Adelaide called on Dr. Leach. She was anxious to know what the doctors had found to cause her husband’s death.

Mrs. Bartlett,” said the doctor, “I think I have some good news for you. Report says the Government analyst is going to give acetate of lead as the cause of death, which is nonsense; and there is also another report that he is going to return chloroform as the cause of death, and that is impossible. At any rate, it should set your mind at rest. Had it been one of those cases of secret poisoning​—​that is, poison given in small doses​—​you might be accused by some people of having poisoned him.”

Dr. Leach’s words were overwhelming​—​how overwhelming he did not at the moment suspect. Her answer struck him dumb with amazement.

“I am afraid, doctor, it is too true!” she sighed. “I wish that anything but chloroform had been found!”

She had reason, indeed, to wish this, for it was the link which completed the chain of circumstances from which, for anything she could tell, she might never be able to free herself.

It all centred in a request she made of Dyson while her husband was lying ill. She told him that Mr. Bartlett suffered from an internal complaint, for which she had doctored him for five or six years. He was very sensitive about it, and on that account would have no regular doctor. The disease, she said, caused him very great pain, and to soothe him she was accustomed to use chloroform, which she applied externally.

Upon receiving this explanation, about the truth of which there is some doubt, the young Wesleyan minister promised to obtain some of the drug if he could. She handed him a sovereign to cover the expense.

At a shop in Putney, within a few yards of his chapel, he procured an ounce bottle of the drug, and at two chemists at Wimbledon, who had been members of his congregation, he succeeded in obtaining four ounces more. He poured the whole into a larger bottle and gave it to Mrs. Bartlett.

The inquest followed in due course and, according to the medical evidence, chloroform was the only poison found present in the body. Everything pointed to the administration of a large and fatal dose of the drug.

Mrs. Bartlett told the coroner that she had had chloroform in her possession, and that she had obtained it to soothe her husband when he fell into paroxysms of neuralgic pain. On the last day of the year she took the chloroform to him. He looked at the bottle, took it, and put it on the mantelpiece by the side of the bed. She went to sleep with her arm round his foot, and then woke and found him dead.

But no bottle was found on the mantelpiece, nor could Bartlett have reached it without rising in bed. Moreover, taking chloroform internally causes great pain unless the person is previously stupefied.

Then came a startling surprise. The Rev. George Dyson voluntarily related the story of his share in the mystery. The result was that the jury returned a verdict of “wilful murder” against Adelaide Bartlett, making Dyson “an accessory before the fact.”

The trial came on, and lasted a whole week. No evidence being offered against Dyson, he was at once acquitted, and from the dock stepped into the witness box to tell his story.

And it must be confessed that he seemed very anxious to tell all he knew without any consideration for the prisoner. One point on which the prosecution laid stress was a statement alleged to have been made to him by Mrs. Bartlett to the effect that Mr. Bartlett was suffering from some sort of internal complaint and that she gave him chloroform to relieve him. The post-mortem did not confirm this. All the organs, said the doctors, were perfectly healthy. That this was so did not affect Mrs. Bartlett’s belief that her husband had an internal ailment. Edwin Bartlett was a malade imaginaire and could easily conjure up bodily dangers. A person of this temperament is only happy when talking about himself, and he might well have given his wife the idea that he was not destined long for this world. It is feasible that she might even have said that “Edwin might die soon,” and with perfect honesty. The majority of women are prone to exaggeration. It was, however, the line of the prosecution to take everything seriously in order to prove their case. The unfortunate expression of Mrs. Maybrick that her husband was “sick unto death” was twisted into a serious piece of evidence against her when she might have meant the words purely as a figure of speech. As to Adelaide Bartlett’s words, she denied she told Dyson that “Edwin might die soon.” Dyson could not remember every word of the various conversations he had with the woman with whom he was in love, and he might have forgotten those particular words, but he did not choose to do so, and he did not appear to be concerned whether they would prejudice her in the eyes of the jury.

On the question of the purchase of the chloroform Mr. Dyson was frank enough. He had been asked by Mrs. Bartlett to get four ounces, but he was afraid to ask for so much of one chemist, so spread his purchases over three, alleging in each case that his purpose was to remove grease stains. The one bottle containing the three different quantities he gave to Mrs. Bartlett on the Grosvenor Road Embankment and handed her the change out of the sovereign he had from her for the purchase. This was on December 29th. On the 30th Mrs. Bartlett upbraided him for something he had said. “I had advised her,” explained Dyson, “to get a nurse to assist her, consequent upon her telling me that friends were saying unkind things about her​—​that she was not giving him full attention.” She replied that I suspected her​—​did not trust her. This was said in the presence of her husband, who exclaimed, “Oh, you can trust her. If you’d had twelve years’ experience as I have had you’d know you could trust her.”

There was nothing in her reproach of Dyson, taken by itself, but when on the following day Dyson received from her a letter in which she said it was her great grief to tell him that Mr. Bartlett had died at two o’clock that morning, it was possible for ill-natured people to read into her objection to have assistance something akin to a sinister motive.

This was on Friday. Dyson went to see her on Saturday and she told him what had happened, using much the same words as she had written him. On the way to the Westminster Town Hall, where the inquest was held, Dyson asked her if she had used the chloroform and she said, “I haven’t used it. I haven’t had occasion to use it. The bottle is there just as you gave it me.” “This is a very critical time for me,” said Dyson, “and then she told me to put away from my mind the fact that she possessed a medicine chest and that I had given her the chloroform.”

We have already given a summary of what occurred between Mrs. Bartlett and Dyson at the house of Mrs. Matthews, but as Dyson in his evidence went fully into the matter we append his version.

On January 4th Dyson called on Dr. Leach and then went on to Peckham where the Matthews lived, there saw Mrs. Bartlett and asked her what she had done with the chloroform. She said, “Oh, damn the chloroform!” was very angry and stamped her foot and rose from her chair. “At this point,” said Dyson, “Mrs. Matthews came in and went out again. I reminded her what she had said about Mr. Bartlett’s internal ailment and wanted to know if anything had been said about it at the post-mortem. I asked her if she did not tell me Edwin’s life would be a short one. ‘You did tell me that Edwin was going to die shortly.’ She said she did not. I said, ‘I am a ruined man.’ I then told her I was going to make a clean breast of the affair; that I should tell everything I knew about it. She did not wish me to do so. She did not wish me to mention the chloroform.”

A watch left by Mr. Bartlett to Dyson Mrs. Bartlett had given him on the day after Mr. Bartlett’s death and this watch Dyson wanted to return to her and did so.

Dyson, apparently, had but one idea​—​his own safety. He had certainly committed himself. His difficulty was how to explain why he had bought 4 ounces of chloroform in so secret and circuitous a fashion. One may accept his belief that the chloroform was to soothe pain from an internal trouble. It is highly probable that Adelaide told him this. It does not follow that she also told him her husband was likely to die soon. As will be seen later on, she had another reason at the back of her mind for wanting the chloroform, but this reason was of a nature which she could not disclose to anyone​—​least of all to Dyson.

But there the chloroform was; Dyson had bought the stuff and it had to be accounted for. Naturally, he asked Mrs. Bartlett what had become of it. She was indignant and asked why he did not charge her direct with giving the chloroform. Afterwards she said she had poured out the chloroform and had thrown away the bottle.

This proved to be the fact. In travelling to Peckham by train she had thrown the bottle out of the carriage window. In so doing she had practically imitated Dyson, who had not only thrown away on Wandsworth Common the bottles in his possession, but afterwards pointed out the spot to the police where they were found.

In the face of all this, the important point to be decided is the purpose for which Mrs. Bartlett wanted the chloroform. If the story she told Dr. Leach was correct​—​and extraordinary as it may appear, it bears the aspect of truth​—​she did not want the chloroform to injure her husband or to relieve pain, but simply to lull him to sleep with an object which some married women may appreciate but will not discuss.

She confided the poignant story of her married life wholly and solely to the doctor and we give it without comment. “Being married young,” Dr. Leach told the court, “she had been induced to enter into a marriage compact scarcely understanding the meaning of its terms; and this marriage compact was that the marital relations of the pair were, in deference to certain peculiar views held by her husband, to be of an entirely platonic character, with a solitary exception when a breach of the terms was permitted in consequence of her fondness for children and her anxiety to become a mother. After her confinement, the former terms​—​those of a platonic nature​—​were resumed, she being indifferent in the matter. Her husband was affectionate and they each strove in every way to fulfil each other’s wishes and succeeded in living upon most amicable terms.… She said her position had not been an easy one. It might be almost called cruel, for her husband, though meaning no cruelty, put her in a position very difficult for a woman to maintain. No female friends were ever invited to the house, or relations, but he had always liked to surround her with male acquaintances. She said: ‘He thought me clever, he wished to make me more clever, and the more attention and admiration I gained from these male acquaintances, the more delighted did he appear.’ During the last few months of his life the man’s nature seemed to be somewhat changed. ‘We became acquainted with Mr. Dyson and,’ said she, ‘my husband threw us together. He requested us in his presence to kiss and he seemed to enjoy it.’ She gave me to understand​—​in fact, she used these words, ‘he had given me to Mr. Dyson.…’ Now her husband having fully effected the transfer, I mean in the platonic sense, wished to resume marital rights. This Mrs. Bartlett resented. She said, ‘Edwin, you know you have given me to Mr. Dyson; it is not right that you should do now what during all the years of our married life you abstained from.’ She said it was a duty to her womanhood and to the man to whom she was practically affianced at his wish, and he agreed that she was right.”

“Now, as he got better while I was treating him, these manifestations of his became very urgent and she sought for means the more thoroughly to emphasise her appeal to him or to prevent his putting his impulses into effect, and one of the means, unfortunately, was the possessing herself of a quantity of chloroform. She said her object was to sprinkle some upon a handkerchief and wave it in his face every time it was necessary, thinking that thereby he would go peacefully to sleep.”

“Then she went on to say: ‘I never kept a secret from Edwin and the presence of that chloroform in my drawer troubled my mind. And I was also troubled with some scruples as to whether putting my plan into practice would have been right, whether I should be doing a right or a wrong thing, and the last day of the year when he was in bed I brought the chloroform to him and gave it to him.’ I asked her,” said Dr. Leach, “‘Was not your husband very cross with you, or alarmed, or what was his demeanour?’ She said, ‘No, he was not cross; we talked amicably and seriously and he turned round on his side and pretended to go to sleep, or to sulk, or something of that kind.’ He looked at the chloroform, she explained, which was in a large, round bottle, corked, and not full, and put it by the side where he was sitting or lying, on the mantelpiece at the corner. The next thing was that she fell asleep sitting in the chair where she always slept. I may add,” said Dr. Leach, “she had slept there ever since I had attended the patient, notwithstanding my remonstrances. She went to sleep with her arm round his feet, then awoke and heard him snoring, and then woke again and found he was dead.”

Dr. Leach spoke highly of her care and attention of her husband during his illness. A better nurse, he said, he could not wish to have. He was also emphatic as to her anxiety for an immediate post-mortem examination.

The trial lasted six days, and there were moments when things looked very ugly against the pale little fragile woman in the dock, but she was defended by one of the most powerful advocates of that time, Sir Edward Clarke, then Mr. Clarke, and she must have felt hopeful as he parried every point directed against her and turned it to advantage. As there was no direct evidence as to the administering chloroform, the prosecution advanced the theory that she had first stupefied her husband by inhalation, and while he was unconscious had poured the chloroform down his throat. Mr. Edward Clarke, who had mastered everything that was to be learned about chloroform and its properties, drew from Dr. Stevenson, the distinguished analyst, the opinion that chloroform could not have been so given without causing intense irritation, apart from the difficulty of inducing the act of swallowing. In other words, had it been so administered, as the prosecution suggested, Mr. Bartlett must have been awakened. Mr. Clarke laid great stress on Mrs. Bartlett’s earnest desire that the post-mortem should be performed without delay, pointing out that the shorter the interval between death and autopsy the more likely was it that poison​—​supposing it had been taken​—​would be found. Had Adelaide Bartlett been guilty she would have urged some reason for postponing the post-mortem, but it was the other way.

It was significant that Mr. Justice Wills, in his summing-up, supported Mr. Clarke in his contention on this point and admitted that it was in the prisoner’s favour. His lordship was not disposed readily to accept Mrs. Bartlett’s reason as disclosed by her to Dr. Leach for wanting the chloroform. He supported his objection by an allusion to a matter which need not be gone into here. It is sufficient to say that his lordship did not sufficiently appreciate how a woman might act under circumstances which appealed to her whole nature. The summing-up, however, must be pronounced extremely fair, and if anything, the balance was in favour of the prisoner.

The stress and strain upon the woman with an issue of life or death facing her was terrible, and Sir Edward Clarke in his Memoirs tells how at the turning point of the trial he received a slip of paper from the dock with these pathetic words:

“Monsieur, I am very grateful to you although I do not look at you.”

When the jury, after a prolonged absence, returned into court and the foreman announced the verdict, “Not guilty,” the intense strain he had gone through had its effect on the great lawyer, and for the first time during his fifty years of advocacy he broke down.

“I found myself sobbing,” he writes. “I dropped my head on the desk before me and some twenty minutes passed before I recovered myself.”

The public were wildly excited, and such a demonstration of feeling on behalf of a woman who had been declared innocent of a terrible charge has rarely been seen. Her advocate shared her triumph. As he made his way to the courtyard the jury were awaiting to grasp him by the hand, his carriage was surrounded by a cheering crowd along the Old Bailey, and in Holborn it was a continuous shout of delight from pedestrians and from omnibuses.

Yet the puzzle of the chloroform remained. Certain it is that chloroform was found in Edwin Bartlett’s body and as certain that it killed him. How did it get there? The strange thing is that his death should have immediately followed that intimate talk with his wife. The man’s mind was not normal. Is it possible that in a spasm of dementia he put the bottle to his lips? How long it would take for chloroform to act when taken internally is not known. It has been asserted that the death of Bartlett from this cause is the only case on record. The medical witnesses did not think so, but they were not very positive. It is admissible to suggest that, though suffering great pain, he had time to replace the bottle on the mantelshelf, and in his agony to have turned round as Mrs. Bartlett described. However this may be, the veil that hides the fate of Edwin Bartlett has never been lifted.