[Testimony recorded by at the Court of Assizes, Spring Session 1667. Lucy Campion, Witness]
Judge Hale: State your name and occupation for the record.
Witness: My name is Lucy Campion and I was born in the year of our Lord, 1647. When I was fifteen, my mother sent me into service, and I worked for several years in the household of Master Hargrave. I believe you know him, sir?
Judge Hale: Note for the record the witness is referring to Thomas Hargrave, former member of the King’s Bench, and currently a magistrate in the City of London. But he is not your current employer?
Witness: No, sir. I am now apprenticed to Horace Aubrey, Master Printer.
Judge Hale: A female printer’s apprentice? Surely, the Stationer’s Guild has not licensed you to learn the trade?
Witness: [Long pause]. No, sir. Master Aubrey was good enough to take me on after the Great Fire, when he was trying to get his presses going again. I was looking to leave my current position.
Judge Hale: Why is that? Was Master Hargrave not treating you well?
Witness: [With fervor]. Oh no, sir! Master Hargrave treated me more decently than most servants could dream. But when his wife, my mistress, died in the plague—God rest her soul—and then his daughter left with the Quakers, I had no lady to serve. I could not well be a lady’s maid with only Master Hargrave and his son Adam to attend. Would not be decent.
Judge Hale: From lady’s maid to printer’s apprentice. Indulge the court, if you would. How did such a fantastic occurrence come to be?
Witness: [Smiling]. I discovered I had a skill at setting type and calling the stories.
Judge Hale: Surely such tasks require the ability to read and write. How did you learn such skills?
Witness: I did attend a dame’s school for a short while, when I was not helping my family with tasks on the farm. Afterwards, when I worked at the Hargraves, I admit that I learned from listening from behind the curtains to the tutors who came to teach their daughter Sarah. [whispering]. I practiced on my own at night.
[Uproar in the courtroom. “She should have been beaten!” many of the people began to shout, including several of the jurors].
Judge Hale: [Banging gavel]. Settle down! Let us move on. Miss Campion, it was in this capacity, that you did witness the theft by the defendant.
Witness: Yes, Master Aubrey’s other apprentice Lach and I had spent the morning setting the type for a new piece. I remember it was called “Strange News from Kent: The True Story of a Monstrous Dog Born With Two Heads.” Lach and I had been arguing about whether a dog with two heads would need to eat twice as much. I said not, but Lach said—
Judge Hale: [interrupting]. Please Miss Campion. We are concerned with what happened later in the afternoon. What you witnessed at Covent Garden market.
Witness: Of course, sir. My apologies. I just meant that Master Aubrey told us he could not abide our bickering and he sent me out with a piece we had set the day before. A ballad called “A Cuckolded Husband Murders His Wife.” Set to the tune of “Where Is My Love?” Told me to go to Covent Garden, since so many people still are camped there, waiting for the City to rebuild their homes.
Judge Hale: Did you see the defendant, Christopher Beale, at the market?
Witness: Yes, I had climbed up on an old stump, not too far from the vegetable sellers. When I began to sing my story, it didn’t take too long for a goodly crowd to gather. “Everyone loves a good murder,” Master Aubrey always says, and it’s true. Even people who can’t read can remember the words from the pictures. Besides, they’ll likely paste it up on their walls when they get home. So I knew it would not take me long to sell the lot. It was then that I saw that man [witness pointed at the defendant] milling in and out of my crowd.
Judge Hale: And what was Mr. Beale doing?
Witness: He was stealing! Taking pockets from people gathered there. I could see him, weaving in and about. I know his type you see. I’ve seen such thieves in the market before. Tricky one, he was.
Judge Hale: What did you do?
Witness: It was what he did next. I saw him push a little boy over, to get to his mother’s purse. ‘Thief!’ I cried! And that is when a good group of men did jump on him. And here we are. The stocks I suppose? Let a few turnips land on his head. That would be the right and proper punishment. I am sure you would agree?
Judge Hale: [coughing]. Thank you, Miss Campion, for your testimony and, er, unexpected counsel. That will be all.
You can read more about Lucy in The Masque of a Murderer , the third book in the “Lucy Campion” mystery series, published by Minotaur. The first two books in the series are A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate and From the Charred Remains.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 p.m. eastern on April 24 for the chance to win a copy of The Masque of a Murderer. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.
Meet the author
Susanna Calkins has been intrigued by murder ever since she first stumbled across murder ballads while working on her PhD in history. The idea that people used to sing about murder and other strange tales became the premise of her historical mysteries featuring Lucy Campion. Set in 17th century England, her novels have been short-listed for the Macavity (Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award), the Lovey, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third novel, THE MASQUE OF A MURDERER, will be released this April. If you’d like to know more about history, mystery, writing, or her books, visit her website and blog at www.susannacalkins.com. Feel free to connect with her on Facebook (Susanna Calkins, Author) and Twitter (@scalkins3).