Incidents Reported By Serjeant Ballantine
Serjeant William Ballantine (1812-1887) was one of the foremost lawyers
in England, noted for his skill in cross-examination. He was counsel in
the Tichborne claimant case, one of the most celebrated in the history
of the English courts, and in the equally famed trial of the Gaekwar of
Baroda. The incidents which impressed him are to be found in
Ballantine's Some Experiences of a Barrister's Life, pp. 256-267.
"I do not think it will be out of place whilst upon this subject to
relate a story told of Sir Astley Cooper. I am not certain that it
has not been already in print, but I know that I have had frequent
conversations about it with his nephew.
[Footnote 22: Sir Astley Paston Cooper was perhaps the most famous and
influential surgeon of his time in England.]
"There had been a murder, and Sir Astley was upon the scene when a man
suspected of it was apprehended. Sir Astley, being greatly interested,
accompanied the officers with their prisoner to the gaol, and he and
they and the accused were all in a cell, locked in together, when they
noticed a little dog which kept biting at the skirt of the prisoner's
coat. This led them to examine the garment, and they found upon it
traces of blood which ultimately led to conviction of the man. When they
looked around the dog had disappeared, although the door had never been
opened. How it had got there or how it got away, of course nobody could
tell. When Bransby Cooper spoke of this he always said that of course
his uncle had made a mistake, and was convinced of this himself; Bransby
used to add that no doubt if the matter had been investigated it would
have been shown that there was a mode of accounting for it from natural
causes. But I believe that neither Sir Astley nor his nephew in their
hearts discarded entirely the supernatural."
Mr. Ballantine added an incident which some may think is accounted for
by a telepathic impression followed by auto-suggestion which lowered the
mental alertness of the player.
"There was a member of the club, a very harmless, inoffensive man of the
name of Townend, for whom Lord Lytton [the novelist] entertained a
mortal antipathy, and would never play whilst that gentleman was in the
room. He firmly believed that he brought him bad luck. I was witness to
what must be termed an odd coincidence. One afternoon, when Lord Lytton
was playing and had enjoyed an uninterrupted run of luck, it suddenly
turned, upon which he exclaimed, 'I am sure that Mr. Townend has come
into the club.' Some three minutes after, just time enough to ascend the
stairs, in walked that unlucky personage. Lord Lytton as soon as the
rubber was over, left the table and did not renew the play."