During the autumn assizes, Michael Pendean was tried at Exeter and condemned to death for the murders of Robert, Bendigo and Albert Redmayne. He offered no defence and he was only impatient to return to his seclusion within the red walls of the county jail, where he occupied the brief balance of his days with just such a statement as Peter Ganns had foretold that he would seek to make.
This extraordinary document was very characteristic of the criminal. It possessed a sort of glamour; but it failed of real distinction and the quality proper to greatness, even as the crimes it recorded and the man responsible for them. Pendean’s confession revealed an insensibility, a faulty sense of humour, an affectation and a love for the glittering and the grandiose that robbed it of any supreme claim in the annals or literature of murder. The document ended with an assurance that Michael would never die at the hands of his fellow man. He had repeated this assertion on several occasions and every conceivable precaution was taken to prevent evasion of his sentence—an issue to be recorded in its proper place.
Here is his statement, word for word as he wrote it.
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“Hearken, ye judges! There is another madness besides, and it is before the deed. Ah! Ye have not gone deep enough into this soul! Thus speaketh the red judge: ’Why did this criminal commit murder? He meant to rob.’ I tell you, however, that his soul hungered for blood, not booty: he thirsted for the happiness of the knife!”
“What is this man? A coil of wild serpents at war against themselves—so they are driven apart to seek their prey in the world.”
So wrote one whose art and wisdom are nought to this rabbit-brained generation; but it was given to me to find my meat and drink within his pages and to see my own youthful impressions reflected and crystallized with the brilliance of genius in his stupendous mind.
Remember I, who write, am not thirty years old.
As a young man without experience I sometimes asked myself if some spirit from another order of beings than my own had not been slipped into my human carcase. It seemed to me that none with whom I came in contact was built on, or near, my own pattern, for I had only met one person as yet—my mother—who did not suffer from the malady of a bad conscience. My father and his friends wallowed in this complaint. They declared themselves openly to be miserable sinners and apparently held that the one respectable attitude for humanity at large. “Safety” was the only state to seek; “danger” the only condition to avoid. A very cowardice of curs are the Cornish!
I soon found, however, that history abounded in great figures who had thought and acted otherwise; and presently, in the light thrown from the theatre of the past, I recognized myself for what I was.