A rank and gruesome aspect


A few days ago a gentleman of our acquaintance removed from one house in the West End to another which he had recently purchased. As the tenement which he had vacated was about to be occupied by an incoming tenant, he gave orders that it should be cleaned out, and everything put in order for the reception of his successor. Passing his old house one day last week, our friend looked in to see that his instructions had been attended to, and perhaps to take a look at the old domicile where he had spent many happy years; and while so visiting he found an Irishman just finishing the job of cleaning out the dunghill or dusthole. Addressing a casual remark to the labourer, the latter replied,—

“There’s been quare work going on hereabout; for we’ve just found a man or woman’s leg in this very hole.”

“Surely you mistake,” said the gentleman, in a laughing tone, “for I never heard that any member of my family had lost such an important member.”

“There’s no lie in it,” said the other “but I suspect it took place a long time ago; for they have cut him up, and reisted him into a mummy, or something of that sort; the flesh, sir, is as hard as mahogany, and as black as my hat, and the feet and toes are all crumpled up.”

This story was corroborated by a number of bystanders who had been attracted to the Mews Lane by the discovery, and of course there could be no longer any doubt of the occurrence.

“And where’s the leg?” said the gentleman.

“Oh, we sent that down to the Police Office in a sack,” said the labourer. Our friend thought it was his best course to wend his way to the same place; but while he did so, bewildered and annoyed at such an occurrence in connection with his old house, an incident came to his recollection that in some degree promised to clear up the mystery. He remembered that some dozen years ago, a foreign correspondent had sent him the present of a bear’s ham; but however valuable it might have really been, the flesh had such a rank and gruesome aspect, that no member of his family would eat it, and it was accordingly ordered to be hung up in the cellar to await the chance of some guest arriving with a Russian stomach to whom the bear’s leg would have been a dainty. It is to be remembered that the foot is left attached to a ham of this sort as a proof of its genuine character. Arrived at the Police Office, the sack was opened; and sure enough here was the ham which had created so much excitement in a West End Mews Lane as the limb of a human being who had not met with fair play in the matter of his exit from this world. To put the thing beyond any doubt, a medical gentleman was called in, who laughed heartily, while he confirmed the statement of our friend as to the actual character of the remains. Rumour, however, says, that the Irishman who made the discovery holds his original opinion, despite the testimony of all the anatomists in Glasgow.

The Glasgow Herald, Monday 1 May 1854


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