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By all accounts, it was love at first sight. Unfortunately, that love was completely one-sided.
John Rutter Carden was a 41-year old Irish landowner who had somewhat of a reputation as a ladies man and an eccentric (he once drove off some his trespassing tenants using a cannon mounted on the roof of his house). While the tenants living on his Tipperary estate were often less than thrilled with him, he was generally regarded as tough but fair and a favourite of many of his neighbouring landowners.
Everything changed for him in 1852 when he was invited to stay with some friends in County Cork in 1852. It was there that he was introduced to the Honourable Mrs. George Gough of Rathronan House and her two younger sisters, Laura and Eleanor Arbuthnot. Since their parents were dead, both Laura and Eleanor stood to inherit a vast estate but that didn't appear to be what first attracted Carden to the 18-year-old Eleanor. While managing not to scare his intended off right away, he began planning his strategy for winning Eleanor's heart.
Given the age difference between them, Carden didn't make his intentions known to the Goughs for some time. Instead, he took advantage of every opportunity to visit their home and invite them to his home as well. Since direct proposals were out of fashion at the time, Carden instead approached her older sister, Mrs. Gough, for Eleanor's hand in marriage. She flatly rejected his proposal. Not only didn't Eleanor have the slightest interest in Carden, but her family considered her to be too young to even consider marriage. He was told not to approach Eleanor again and to find someone else to marry.
But John Carden refused to take no for an answer. Since Eleanor hadn't refused him to his face, he constructed an elaborate fantasy that she really wanted to accept but was simply too shy to say so. Blaming her family for keeping them apart, he became obsessed with getting Eleanor away from them so that she could be free to marry him. When he wrote to Eleanor about his plan to "rescue" her, she naturally showed it to her relatives and the Gough family flatly told him never to try contacting her again. Eleanor also wrote a brief note to Carden telling him that she was deeply insulted by his letter.
John Carden appeared to accept this rejection though he was privately crushed. Since Carden and Eleanor's family were landed gentry who often met at local events and get-togethers, they continued to meet socially from time to time. He even managed to talk to Eleanor on occasion (but never alone). Still determined to get her away from the Gough family, Carden came up with a scheme to kidnap her and win her love that way.
Learning that the Goughs and the Arbuthnot sisters were traveling to Scotland to attend a ball, Carden quickly traveled to Scotland to show up at the same party unexpectedly. His presence there terrified Eleanor, especially since he kept staring at her all night. On the following day, he walked twenty miles just to have a chance to stare at her while she went by in a carriage. But if Eleanor and her family found that frightening, they would have been even more terrified if they knew what he was planning.
To get Eleanor to himself, Carden began working out an elaborate scheme to kidnap Eleanor and take her away on a yacht that he would have waiting for them. Aboard the yacht, he arranged for an exclusive cabin for his beloved, complete with an expensive wardrobe for the sea voyage. He spent a fortune purchasing the yacht and fitting it with every luxury he could devise. He even hired servants who had once worked at her home.
In the meantime, Carden continued to turn up everywhere that Eleanor and her family went. Though he pretended that these "meetings" were accidental, the Goughs were increasingly bothered by what he was doing. Once they left Scotland and returned to Ireland, Carden followed them back home as well. After Eleanor injured herself by falling from a horse, Carden lost any chance at seeing her at all since he was banned from her family's home.
Being forcibly cut off from Eleanor made Carden more frantic than ever. Carden even offered Eleanor's guardian all of his money in return for being allowed to marry her. To get her away from Carden, Mrs. Gough took Eleanor to Paris for convalescence and, sure enough, Carden followed them there aboard his new yacht. He had more sense than to approach them though and simply waited until their return to Ireland.
It was on June 2, 1854 that John Carden finally went ahead with his kidnapping scheme. While Eleanor, her two sisters, and the family governess were traveling to church in their carriage, Carden was following them on his horse when, suddenly, three men burst out of a ditch, seized the horses, and threatened the coach driver, with their knives. Carden tried to take Eleanor out of the carriage but the governess successfully fought him off. While Carden managed to pull the governess out of the carriage, the three men, who had been hired by Carden, assumed she was his intended and tried to help him abduct her.
Meanwhile, two men from the Gough's estate came to help the women fight off Carden and his gang while Mrs. Gough ran to the house screaming for help. Carden tried to take Eleanor again but she and her sister fought him off. When men from the Gough estate finally showed up, Carden ordered his men to start shooting but they all ran instead. Police were finally called in and the entire gang was captured nearly twenty miles away. Carden was placed in prison pending his court hearing.
Which was when things got really bizarre.
To be continued
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