'My son, learn to say No,' was the dying injunction of a pious mother to a beloved youth; and, though the advice was concise, it is one of the most sage that ever was delivered from mortal lips. He that learns to say 'No' to the first invitation to crime will never become guilty; for the climax of iniquity is never attained at once, but must be approached through all the progressive ways of vice. Reader! peruse the atrocious narrative we are about to relate; and, while you mourn for the weakness and wickedness of your species, commune with yourself on the importance of learning to say 'No,' an ignorance of which brought this guilty pair to an ignominious death.
John Lomas lived as servant with a farmer named Morrey, who resided in Cheshire, and by whom he was treated with great kindness. Lomas, not being more than twenty years of age, attracted the notice of his mistress; and, though she was the mother of five children, she admitted a criminal passion for her servant boy. Some acts of kindness on her part conciliated the youth, and the condescension of the mistress emboldened him to familiarity. The wholesome barriers of respect and deference being once broken through, modesty was left without a protector, and the guilty pair plunged into all the excesses of forbidden enjoyment. Heinous as was their conduct, had it stopped here, they would have escaped the miserable condition to which they reduced themselves. But the guidance of virtue once forsaken, the progress of guilt is rapid.
This atrocious pair, either apprehensive of discovery, or wishing to perpetuate their guilty connexion, resolved on removing the unsuspicious husband, whose existence they thought a drawback on their mutual happiness.
Various attempts to murder the unfortunate man proved abortive, until the night of the 11th of April, 1812. Morrey had been out at a cocking, and returned home at the usual hour. He spoke with his usual kindness to Lomas, and laughed and joked with his wife as they were going to bed, little suspecting the dreadful intentions which that barbarous woman harboured towards the father of her children. Between one and two o'clock Mrs. Morrey got up and went to Lomas's room, desiring him to get up, and murder her husband. The infatuated youth obeyed the horrid summons, and, ascending, had an axe put into his hands; while his mistress held the candle, Lomas struck his master three blows on the head, and as the unfortunate man moaned, he was heard by a servant-maid in an adjoining apartment, who, making a noise, alarmed the murderers, when they ran out of the room, Mrs. Morrey extinguishing, at the same time, the candle.
Morrey continuing to moan, Lomas was sent in again to dispatch him but, after giving several blows, came out without having effected his horrid purpose. At this Mrs. Morrey said, 'John, he is alive; go in and kill him;' and put a razor into his hand for the purpose. On his entering a third time, their miserable victim was yet alive, and seemed to recognise Lomas, whom he caught by the shirt, and laid his head down on his breast, in a supplicating manner; but at this moment the monster drew the razor twice across his throat, and terminated his struggles for existence.
Mrs. Morrey now went into the servant-maid's room, and prevented her from escaping through the window, telling her to remain quiet, as there were murderers in the house.
To save appearances, Lomas ran through the neighbourhood, lamenting and proclaiming that some villains had murdered his master. Several people attended, and blood being found on Lomas, and traced to his room, he was accused of the murder, when he unhesitatingly confessed it, and implicated his mistress. When the constable came to take her into custody, she drew from her pocket a razor, and inflicted a deep wound in her throat; but it did not prove mortal. The razor was found in a pond, where Lomas had thrown it; and his bloody shirt was taken out of his trunk, where he had concealed it.
So great was the sensation produced in the country by the perpetration of this horrid murder, that when the trial of these malefactors came on at Chester, July 21st, 1812, the court was crowded to excess, it being computed that four thousand persons attended to hear the verdict.
The trial continued six hours. Edith Morrey wore a veil when she was put to the bar; but this being ordered to be removed, she held her handkerchief to her face, and preserved, throughout the awful investigation, a sullen, unmoved, hardness. From the time of her imprisonment, she protested her innocence; and, thinking that there was not a sufficient evidence to criminate her, she spoke with confidence of acquittal. On the other hand, Lomas all along confessed his crime in all its horrid circumstances.
The facts of the case being proved, the jury, without retiring, pronounced them Guilty, and they were ordered for execution the ensuing Monday. When sentence was passed, Lomas stretched out his hands and exclaimed, 'I deserve it all -- I don't wish to live; but I hope for mercy.' His more miserable companion pleaded pregnancy; and, a jury of matrons proving this to be case, she was respited.
On Sunday, the day before execution, Edith Morrey acknowledged her guilt, and desired to speak with Lomas. This was granted, and they partook of the sacrament together, previous to which they had some mutual recrimination, Morrey being unwilling to acknowledge the minute particulars of her atrocious conduct. But they parted in friendship; and, praying for each other, acknowledged their sins.
On Monday, according to his sentence, Lomas was removed from Chester Castle to the New City Gaol. The sheriffs received him at the boundaries, and, on being placed in a cart, he fell on his knees, and continued in prayer till he arrived at the gaol, in front of which the drop was erected. He declared he would rather die than live, and every part of his deportment evinced the sincerity of his professions. When the rope was placed round his neck, he addressed a few words to the surrounding multitude, observing that he had made his peace with God, and warned them to take example by his present awful situation. Soon after he was launched into eternity; but, being in the vigour of youth and health, he struggled violently before he quitted this mortal state.
The miserable Edith Morrey having given birth to an infant, and the time of parturition over, she prepared to meet the fate of her paramour. On the 7th of February, 1813, she was conducted to the place of execution, and it is some alleviation to our feelings that she died a penitent. She was dressed in widow's weeds, and, when placed upon the platform, she advanced to the front and addressed the multitude. 'My dear Christians, I hope you will take warning by my melancholy situation. My crime has been of a double nature. In the first place I have broken one of God's commandments, by committing adultery, and defiling the marriage bed; and, in the next, I have committed a most inhuman murder, imbruing my hands in the blood of an affectionate and most indulgent husband.'-- Then clasping her hands, she exclaimed, 'Lord, unto thee I commend my spirit,' and in a moment after she was launched into eternity.