Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Aug/1856) - The Coloured Lady and the Convict: A Romance in Real Life

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Some two months ago a coloured lady, of engaging manners, good address, and considerable intelligence, came over from Halifax, in Nova Scotia, to Liverpool, by one of the mail steamers which ply between those two places; it being understood, both on board the vessel and afterwards, that she was a widow of considerable means. During the voyage, as we have been informed by one of the passengers—the eldest son of Mr. L. Pitkethly, formerly of this town, but now of Manchester — her presence on board was the occasion of an exciting episode, which brought out the peculiarities of national character in a manner not anticipated. At first the lady took her place at the cabin table like the rest of the saloon passengers; but a Cockney, who was also on board, and who had been travelling for a few weeks in the Southern States of America, went privately to the captain, and protested against the admission of a coloured lady to the saloon table; and the captain thereupon went privately to the lady, and informed her that she must in future (during the voyage) take her meals in her own berth. The rest of the passengers, missing from the table the lady whom all had noticed, and whom many regarded for her sociable and lady-like qualities, made enquiry as to the reason of her absence; and on learning what had transpired, were very indignant both with the cockney objector “to colour,” and with the captain, for having so readily given way to the unreasonable demand made upon him. The lady was forthwith restored to her former place, which she thenceforth kept; and the cockney was frequently roasted on his peculiar notions of individual liberty and the freedom of person. What was also very remarkable in this transaction, a citizen of the United States, and a Southern man too, was amongst the first and the most vehement to insist on the coloured lady’s restoration to the society of the chief cabin, and in denunciation of the spirit of arrogant exclusiveness and arrant pride which had induced the cockney Englishman to object to her presence. In this manner the vessel at length reached Liverpool, and the lady came forward to Huddersfield, and on to Almondbury, where she sought out a family of the name of Lodge, residing at a beer-house in that once renowned “city on the hills,” but now degenerate village. With this family she took up her abode; and soon rumour was rife as to the reason why a rich but coloured widow had crossed the Atlantic, and made her way to the Lodges of Almondbury. It was known that some fourteen years ago, a member of this family, with another man of the name of Wood, were transported for 20 years each, for a burglary committed in the house of Samuel Stringer, at Castle Hill. It was also known that the convict, Lodge, was entitled to a ticket of leave, and that he had been transferred from the Bermudas, whether he had been transported to this country for the purpose of being conditionally set at liberty. With the rest of the story, and with the conclusion deduced from the foregoing premises, rumour had no difficulty: the lady — the widow — and the convict had become acquainted in the far-off land; and she with her “gear and grace,” had followed him to his native home for the purpose of being indissolubly united together, when liberty enabled him to “take unto himself a wife.” Of course, on this hypothesis, she was but awaiting his return home from London, where he was known to be; and in the meantime was spending her money tolerably freely amongst and upon the family with whom she contemplated a close relationship. During her residence at Almondbury, she was a constant attendant at the Methodist Chapel; and her life appearing to be an exemplification of religious sanctity, she received various invitations to visit the houses of the principal members of that persuasion in the locality — and her fame of romantic attachment and wealth spread so rapidly, that crowds assembled round the chapel door to only see her ingress and egress.

This week, however, was destined to put a new face on the affair; for on Wednesday two persons came down from London to Huddersfield; one a gentleman having connection with the Bermudas, and the other a London detective. This pair having put themselves in connection with the heads of police in this town, repaired to Almondbury in search of the rich widow — the coloured lady; and finding that she had gone with the convict’s brother to Bradford, thither they repaired, and speedily came in contact with the object of their search, to whom they explained the reason of their visit. She immediately came away with them; and then the mystery of the romance became a little cleared up. It transpired that the widow was no widow at all — unless of the kind known by the term — “widow bewitched;” but that she had a husband of her own colour and kind, rejoicing in the world-renowned name of Romeo! and that she had also three youthful scions of the tree Romeo, whom she had deserted, and left to mourn over the absconded wife and mother.

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore are thou Romeo ?

It further transpired that, while Bermuda, the convict, Lodge, who is a fine, strapping, well-proportioned fellow, had been employed in a surgery; and that there he had come in contact with the family of the Romeo’s, the male head of the family being a sail maker under government, and Mrs. Romeo a store or shop keeper, in which capacity she had materially aided in getting together the worldly means with which the family were blessed — or cursed. This acquaintanceship with Mrs. Romeo must have been somewhat ardent, and of some years duration; for letters have been seen, sent both by the convict himself, speaking of his lady acquaintance in the most glowing terms, as one “who let him want for nothing” — and from the lady also, with considerable money-presents to the family of her white friend. It further transpired that Mrs. Romeo, on learning that Lodge was to be transferred to this country, and being bitterly conscious that she had not lived on the best of terms with her husband, packed up various dresses and about £800 or £900 in gold, and took her departure to Halifax, in Nova Scotia, taking with her her eldest son, a boy about eleven years of age. The lad, finding that his mother intended to proceed to England, made his escape from her, and by some means found his way back to Bermuda, and informed the elder Romeo of his bereavement. Thereupon, with much of worldly policy in the action, the husband wrote to an agent in London, desiring him to watch the proceedings of his spouse, and obtain for him again, it possible, the worldly-gear with which she had absquatulated. In consequence of communications made to the Inspector of Prisons, the convict, Lodge, was detained in Pentonville prison longer than he would have been; in fact, detained to prevent the fondly-anticipated meeting between him and the run-away Mrs. Romeo. When other arrangements were completed, the parties before described came down from London, and visited the quoandam “widow” at Bradford. On finding that they knew all about her, she at once expressed her willingness to return to Bermuda, to her husband and three children, whom she had deserted. She came with the parties to Huddersfield, and remained at Mr. Heaton’s on the Wednesday night, and the gold in her possession was there counted over, in the presence of witnesses. It consisted of doubloons and other foreign coins, and amounted to £500; the remainder of the money she is supposed to have spent on her journey and in this country. On Thursday morning she took her departure for Liverpool accompanied by the agent, who engaged to see her safely on her way for Bermuda ’ere he returns to London; and thus for the present ends this chapter of real-life romance, to the great disappointment and loss of the Lodge family.