WE have, in the progress of our work, exhibited many a monster of atrocity; but it was reserved for us to crown the climax of wickedness with the case of Antonio Tardit, the deliberate murderer of his countryman, his fellow-soldier, his fellow-prisoner, in a strange country, where both endured all the deprivations of captivity; and for what? because he suspected the victim of his long cherished vengeance to have supplied materials for a satire, in which Tardit considered himself ridiculed!
In the year 1811, a French prisoner in Porchester depot composed some verses; and, among the characters introduced in the poem, one, very unfortunately, struck Tardit, who was also a prisoner of war, as expressly written to satirize him. This idea, whether erroneous or not, invariably operated upon the demoniac spirit of the wretch, who sought numerous opportunities to glut his vengeance on another prisoner, named Leguey, who, he imagined, had given the hints to the writer of the verses, enabling him to delineate the characteristic traits in question.
Fifteen long mouths, with all the irksomeness of a prison, were unable to cool the fiery vengeance which burned within his breast; and, early in the year 1813, he prepared to sacrifice his victim. In order to render his weapon, a large sharp knife, more certain in its operation, he first sharpened it, and then bound the handle with a thick cord, that the grasp might be more firm.
This knife he denominated his 'guardian angel,' and slept every night with it under his pillow. The dreams of this monster so much disturbed a fellow-prisoner, who slept in an adjoining hammock, that he asked Tardit if he should not awaken him whenever he became so dreadfully agitated. 'No!' replied this demon of vengeance, for I am then dreaming of a deadly enemy who has dishonoured me; and, although be appears to conquer for a time, yet the vision always terminates by giving me his blood.'
On Monday evening, March the 1st, 1813, about eight o'clock, Tardit found the long-wished for opportunity; when rushing upon his victim in the privy, he literally ripped him open, when the bowels, in consequence, obtruded themselves, and the unfortunate man bent forward to receive his entrails, exclaiming, 'I am murdered!'
'Oh, no!' cried the murderer, ironically, it is merely a scratch; then twice plunged his knife in the back of Leguey, exclaiming, 'Take that -- and that!' He was proceeding thus to inflict additional wounds, when his murderous arm was arrested; on which the villain exclaimed, 'I have now completed my work, and am content; you may take the weapon and me where you like!'
While they were binding his arms, he desired those around him to stand aside, that he might glut his vengeance by looking on his immolated victim, remarking ironically, 'I have sent you before me on your journey, that you may provide me a lodging.' One of the prisoners then inquired why he did not prove that he, at least, possessed one noble sentiment, by plunging the weapon in his own breast after the perpetration of the deed, in order to escape the gallows, 'It was,' replied the wretch, 'originally my intention; but it afterwards struck me that I might expire first, and then the certainty of taking away his life would not have been known to me, and nothing less would have gratified my heart.'
Soon after the villain was ironed he fell into a sound and tranquil sleep, from which he did not awake until late the following morning, when he said he had not had so undisturbed a repose for the last twelve months.
Tardit was tried at the ensuing summer assizes for Hampshire, and found Guilty. In his defence he said Legney had dishonoured him, and reduced him to despair. Sentence was immediately passed on him, and the next day but one he suffered the penalty of his diabolical crime.