Seven Stars: The Fruitier and His Grapes

Spitalfields Market, London, in the early 1890s

In the Shadow of the Seven Stars

Related song: Wrecking Ball

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Batchelor and Mr. Grand arrived at 44 Berner Street to get a statement from Matthew Packer, the fruitier whose stand near the murder scene had been open the night of the murder. The police had already taken a statement from Mr. Packer on the night of the murder. He told them that he had seen nothing of interest. For that reason, he had not been considered a witness for the Grand Jury inquest.

“Did you see anything out of the ordinary on Saturday night, Mr. Packer?” asked Mr. Grand.

“As I told th’ constable, I didn’t see nothing out o’ the usual,” answerd Packer defensively.

“We’ve heard differently,” insisted Mr. Batchelor.

“I don’t know whose been talking,” replied Packer.

“Word travels quickly,” said Mr. Batchelor.

“Perhaps this might refresh your memory,” said Mr. Grand, placing a half-crown in Packer’s hand.

“You sold grapes to a man and woman on Saturday night. What time was that?” asked Mr. Batchelor.

“It weren’t out of th’ ordinary. Tha’s why I was open and tha’s why I didn’t say nothin’ prior,” confessed Packer.

“The time!” implored Mr. Grand.

“T’was ’round eleven forty-five,” answered Packer.

“You sure this was Saturday night?” inquired Mr. Grand.

“You say so,” said Packer, feeling he was being backed into a corner.

“As you yourself recall,” offered Mr. Batchelor a bit more soflty than Mr. Grand.

“Surely,” said Packer, “The club was meeting an’ I stayed open for it.”

“So, you get late business from club patrons?” asked Mr. Batchelor.

“Yes… from th’ pubs and th’ halls,” said Packer.

“Eleven forty-five PM?” asked Mr. Grand again.

“Thereabouts,” offered Packer, “I was out with my cart until the night came on wet. I came home t’ take my wife’s place so she could get a rest.”

“Can you describe the man?” asked Mr. Batchelor.

“Oh, somewha’ square o’ frame, normal height, dark clothing. He weren’t a working man,” answered Packer.

“Why would you say that, Mr. Packer?” asked Mr. Batchelor.

“Th’ way he spo’,” said Packer.

“Can you describe it?” questioned Mr. Grand.

“Oh, he says to me, ‘I say, old man, how do you sell your grapes?’ and I told him, ‘Sixpence a pound the black ‘uns, sir, and fourpence a pound the white ‘uns,'” recalled Packer, “And then he says to her, ‘Which will you have, my dear, black or white? You shall have whichever you like best.’ The woman chose the black ‘uns. Then he says to me, ‘Give us a half pound of th’ black ones, then.’ He had a loud, sharp sort of voice and a quick, commanding way with him.”

“How old would you say this man was?” asked Mr. Batchelor.

“Middle 30s, maybe a bit younger or older,” answered Packer.

“And his height, could you be more specific?” asked Mr. Grand.

“No more than five-seven. The woman was tall from wha’ I could see, but th’ man was abou’ normal, tho’ taller than th’ woman,” reflected Packer.

“Is there anything else you remember?” asked Mr. Batchelor.

“I took him for a clerk. He wore a wideawake hat. Th’ two stood aroun’ across th’ way fer abou’ a ha’f hour.” answered Packer.

“What were they doing and why were you watching them so long?” asked Mr. Grand forcefully.

“I had nothin’ else to look at,” answered Packer slyly. “They were jus’ talking. I said to my wife, ‘They must be a couple o’ fools standin’ in th’ rain eatin’ grapes!'”

“What then?” asked Mr. Grand.

“We closed tha sho’ an’ went t’bed,” replied Packer.

“What about the couple?” Mr. Grand pressed.

“They were still standing there when we went t’bed. Twas right about midnight. Pubs had shut up by then,” replied Packer.

“That’s all you recall?” asked Mr. Batchelor.

“Tha’s it,” replied Mr. Packer, who indeed had nothing more to say.

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