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A Book of Remarkable Criminals by Irving

Littlewood described the prayer as earnest


(11) William Habron was subsequently given a free pardon and L800 by way of compensation.

Earlier in their interview Peace had expressed to Mr. Littlewood a hope that after his execution his name would never be mentioned again, but before they parted he asked Mr. Littlewood, as a favour, to preach a sermon on him after his death to the good people of Darnall. He wished his career held up to them as a beacon, in order that all who saw might avoid his example, and so his death be of some service to society.

Before Mr. Littlewood left, Peace asked him to hear him pray. Having requested the warders to kneel down, Peace began a prayer that lasted twenty minutes. He prayed for himself, his family, his victims, Mr. Littlewood, society generally, and all classes of the community. Mr. Littlewood described the prayer as earnest, fervent and fluent. At the end Peace asked Mr. Littlewood if he ought to see Mrs. Dyson and beg her forgiveness for having killed her husband. Mr. Littlewood, believing erroneously that Mrs. Dyson had already left the country, told Peace that he should direct all his attention to asking forgiveness of his Maker. At the close of their interview Peace was lifted into bed and, turning his face to the wall, wept.

Tuesday, February 25, was the day fixed for the execution of Peace. As the time drew near, the convict's confidence in ultimate salvation increased.

A Dr. Potter of Sheffield had declared in a sermon that "all hope of Peace's salvation was gone for ever." Peace replied curtly, "Well, Dr. Potter may think so, but I don't." Though his health had improved, Peace was still very feeble in body. But his soul was hopeful and undismayed. On the Saturday before his death his brother and sister-in-law, a nephew and niece visited him for the last time. He spoke with some emotion of his approaching end. He said he should die about eight o'clock, and that at four o'clock an inquest would be held on his body; he would then be thrown into his grave without service or sermon of any kind. He asked his relatives to plant a flower on a certain grave in a cemetery in Sheffield on the day of his execution. He was very weak, he said, but hoped he should have strength enough to walk to the scaffold. He sent messages to friends and warnings to avoid gambling and drinking. He begged his brother to change his manner of life and "become religious." His good counsel was not apparently very well received. Peace's visitors took a depressing view of their relative's condition. They found him "a poor, wretched, haggard man," and, meeting Mrs. Thompson who was waiting outside the gaol for news of "dear Jack," wondered how she could have taken up with such a man.

When, the day before his execution, Peace was visited for the last time by his wife, his stepson, his daughter, Mrs. Bolsover, and her husband, he was in much better spirits. He asked his visitors to restrain themselves from displays of emotion, as he felt very happy and did not wish to be disturbed. He advised them to sell or exhibit for money certain works of art of his own devising. Among them was a design in paper for a monument to be placed over his grave. The design is elaborate but well and ingeniously executed; in the opinion of Frith, the painter, it showed "the true feeling of an artist." It is somewhat in the style of the Albert Memorial, and figures of angels are prominent in the scheme. The whole conception is typical of the artist's sanguine and confident assurance of his ultimate destiny. A model boat and a fiddle made out of a hollow bamboo cane he wished also to be made the means of raising money. He was describing with some detail the ceremony of his approaching death and burial when he was interrupted by a sound of hammering. Peace listened for a moment and then said, "That's a noise that would make some men fall on the floor. They are working at my own scaffold." A warder said that he was mistaken. "No, I am not," answered Peace, "I have not worked so long with wood without knowing the sound of deals; and they don't have deals inside a prison for anything else than scaffolds." But the noise, he said, did not disturb him in the least, as he was quite prepared to meet his fate. He would like to have seen his grave and coffin; he knew that his body would be treated with scant ceremony after his death. But what of that? By that time his soul would be in Heaven. He was pleased that one sinner who had seen him on his way from Pentonville to Sheffield, had written to tell him that the sight of the convict had brought home to him the sins of his own past life, and by this means he had found salvation.


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