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The Evidence of Mr. Charles Armstrong

The Old Bailey (October 26, 1885). Quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong: A Child of 13 Bought for £5 (1974)

Mr. Armstrong: My wife never told me she suspected Eliza was the child described in the Pall Mall Gazette. She was too frightened to say anything about it.

Stead: Can you tell me when you first heard about the Pall Mall Gazette?

Mr. Armstrong: I cannot tell you, for I cannot read it.

Stead: When did you hear your neighbours say that your wife had sold Eliza?

Mr. Armstrong: I heard that every day from three weeks or a month after my daughter left. The neighbours talked because she did not write; but she did not have any chance to write, I expect. She was supposed to write every month. My wife told me that soon after the child went away.

Justice Lopes: You have never told us that before.

Stead: When the child did not write the neighbours began to talk?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes, and they blamed me too, saying that I was as bad as my wife.

Stead: Did you not tell them that you were not at home when Eliza went away?

Mr. Armstrong: I didn't tell them my business. Do you think I told them that I knocked my wife about. (Laughter) I heard the chaps reading the Pall Mall Gazette, but I would not listen to it, it was too grand.

Justice Lopes: What do you mean by "too grand"?

Mr. Armstrong: Why, it was beastly. (Laughter)

Stead: Did you understand the general drift of the story in the Pall Mall?

Mr. Armstrong: I didn't listen to it, I tell you. It was too bad. The chaps made a regular laughing stock about it.

(Laughter)

Stead: What, about the little child?

Mr. Armstrong: No, your paper. (Laughter) When the neighbours found that Mrs. Broughton had received a sovereign they began to smell a rat, I think, and the blame was then put off on her.

(Laughter)

Justice Lopes: When did you first learn that Mrs. Broughton had received a sovereign?

Mr. Armstrong: Not before we went to the police-station.

Stead: Did you hear about the sovereign through your neighbours?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes.

Stead: You never asked your wife anything about it?

Mr. Armstrong: No ; I did not want to ask her.

Stead: Were you not on speaking terms with her?

Mr. Armstrong: Oh, yes.

Stead: Living with her, and she getting your dinner every day?

Mr. Armstrong: Sometimes I ain't got no dinner. (Laughter) I told her to go to the police-court.

Stead: When you heard that Mrs. Broughton had had a sovereign did you not ask your wife to go to her?

Mr. Armstrong: She did go to her. She asked for a letter, but could not get it, and then she went to the police-station. When I heard about the sovereign, I felt very cross. It struck me then that my girl went for a bad purpose. People don't give sovereigns away for nothing.

Stead: When you thought that Mrs. Broughton had got a sovereign for a bad purpose you still considered it was not your business to go and kick up a row with her?

Mr. Armstrong: It was not. I would not do such a thing.

(Laughter)

Stead: You thought Mrs. Broughton had never told your wife about the sovereign?

Mr. Armstrong: Nor did she until the last thing— until my wife went to the magistrate.

Stead: I think you said that you were in the habit of leaving everything to your wife?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes.

Stead: And she had full power to act for you?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes.

Stead: You never deemed it worth while to ask her what explanation Mrs. Broughton had to give about the sovereign?

Mr. Armstrong: It had nothing to do with me.

Justice Lopes: But did you ask your wife?

Mr. Armstrong: No, I didn't.

Stead: Did your wife ever tell you she had heard that your daughter was safe?

Mr. Armstrong: She said she had a letter from Eliza, but there was no place to write back again to.

Stead: You were in and out all the morning on the day when your daughter went away? You were in at dinner with her?

Mr. Armstrong: No ; breakfast.

Stead: If your daughter says she had dinner with you, she is mistaken?

Mr. Armstrong: I very often have breakfast and dinner together.

(Laughter)

Stead: And if Eliza states that you said you thought she had nice new clothes on, she is mistaken?

Justice Lopes (to Stead): I have no recollection that she said that. If you want to prove that you must proceed in the regular way.

Stead: What time do you say it was when you finally came back from work on the day Eliza went away?

Mr. Armstrong: Between seven and eight in the evening. Then, when I asked where Eliza was, my wife told me she had gone into service.

Stead: Was that all that happened?

Mr. Armstrong: Oh, dear, no. (Laughter)

Stead: Did your wife ask you for any money for housekeeping?

Mr. Armstrong: She didn't ask me. I gave her 7s or 8s.

Justice Lopes: Was that before or after you struck her?

Mr. Armstrong: Oh, that was before she told me Eliza was gone. She would have got no money if I had known that. (Laughter)

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