Part 6 out of 9
resting-place. That allusion to the Ullerton talk of London roisterings
indicates that Matthew's father believed him to be squandering the
paternal substance in the metropolis at the very time when the young
man was leading a simple domestic life within fifty miles of the
paternal abode. No man could do such a thing in these days of rapid
locomotion, when every creature is more or less peripatetic; but in
that benighted century the distance from Ullerton to Spotswold
constituted a day's journey. That Matthew was living in one place while
he was supposed to be in another is made sufficiently clear by several
passages in his letters, all more or less in the strain of the
"I was yesterday--markett-day--at G., wear I ran suddennly agenst Peter
Browne's eldest ladd. The boy openn'd his eyes wide, stearing like an
owle; butt I gaive him bakk his looke with interrest, and tolde him if
he was curiouse to know my name, I was Simon Lubchick, farmer, at his
servise. The pore simpel ladd arsk'd my pardonn humbly for having
mistook me for a gentelman of Ullerton--a frend of his father; on wich
I gaive him a shillin, and we parted, vastly plesed with eche other;
and this is nott the fust time the site of Ullerton fokes has putt me
into a swett."
Amongst later letters are very sad ones. The little M. is dead. The
father's poor aching heart proclaims its anguish in very simple words:
"_Nov_. 1751. I thank my dear sister kindly for her friendlinesse and
compashin; butt, ah, he is gone, and their semes to be no plesure or
comforte on this erth without him! onlie a littel childe of 6 yeres,
and yett so dere a creetur to this harte that the worlde is emty and
lonely without him. M. droopes sadly, and is more ailing everry day.
Indede, my dere Ruth, I see nothing butt sorrow before me, and I wou'd
be right gladd to lay down at peece in my littel M.'s grave."
I can find no actual announcements of death, only sad allusions here
and there. I fancy the majority of Matthew's letters must have been
lost, for the dates of those confided to my hands are very far apart,
and there is evidence in all of them of other correspondence. After the
letter alluding to little M.'s death, there is a hiatus of eight years.
Then comes a letter with the post-mark London very clear, from which I
transcribe an extract. "_October 4th_, 1759. The toun is very sadd;
everry body, high and low, rich and pore, in morning for Gennerel Wolf:
wot a nobel deth to die, and how much happier than to live, when one
considers the cairs and miseries of this life; and sech has bin the
oppinion of wiser fokes than y'r humble servent. Being in companie on
Thersday sennite with that distingwish'd riter, Dr. Johnson,--whose
admir'd story of _Raselass_ I sent you new from ye press, but who I am
bound to confesse is less admirable as a fine gentlemann than as an
orther, his linning siled and his kravatt twisted ary, and his manners
wot in a more obskure personn wou'd be thort ungenteel,--he made a
remark wich impress'd me much. Some one present, being almost all
gentelmenn of parts and learning, except y'r pore untuter'd brother,
observed that it was a saying with the ainchents that ye happiest of
men was him wich was never born; ye next happy him wich died the
soonest. On wich Dr. Johnson cried out verry loud and angry, 'That was
a Paggann sentyment, sir, and I am asham'd that a Xtian gentelmann
shou'd repete it as a subject for admerashun. Betwene these heathen men
and ye followers of Christ their is all ye differenc betwene a slave
and a servent of a kind Master. Eche bears the same burden; butt ye
servent knows he will recieve just wages for his work, wile ye slave
hopes for nothing, and so conkludes that to escape work is to be
happy!' I could but aknowlege the wisdomm and pyety of this speche;
yett whenn I see ye peopel going bye in their black rayment, I envy the
young Gennerel his gloreous deth, and I wish I was laying amongst the
plane on the hites of Quebeck. I went to look at ye old house in J.
St., but I wou'd not go in to see Mr. F. or ye old roomes; for I think
I shou'd see the aparishions of those that once liv'd in them. C.
thrivs at Higate, wear the aire is fresh and pewer. I go to see her
offen. She is nerely as high as you. Give my servis to Mrs. Rebecka,
sinse you say it will plese my father to do so, and he is now dispos'd
to think more kindly of me. Butt if he thinks I shal everr arske her to
be my wife he is mityly mistaken. You know wear my harte lies--in ye
grave with all that made life dere. Thank my father for the Bill, and
tell him I pass my time in good companie, and neether drink nor play;
and will come to Ullerton to pay him my respeckts when he pleses to bid
me. Butt I hav no desire to leeve London, as I am gladd to be neare C."
Who was C., whom Matthew visited at Highgate, and who was nearly as
tall as Ruth Judson? Was she not most likely the same C. mentioned in
conjunction with the little M. in the earlier letters? and if so, can
there be any doubt that she was the daughter of Matthew Haygarth? Of
whom but of a daughter would he write as in this letter? She was at
Highgate, at school most likely, and he goes to see her. She is nearly
as tall as Mrs. Judson. This height must have been a new thing, or he
would scarcely impart it as a piece of news to his sister. And then he
has no desire to leave London, as he is glad to be near C.
My life upon it, C. is a daughter.
Acting upon this conviction, I have transcribed all passages relating
to C., at whatever distance of time they occur.
* * * * *
Thus, in 1763, I find--"C. has grone very hansome, and Mrs. N. tells me
is much admir'd by a brother of her frend Tabitha. She never stirs
abrorde but with Tabitha, and if a dutchess, cou'd be scarce wated on
more cairfully. Mrs. N. loves her verry tenderly, and considers her the
sweetest and most wel bredd of young women. I hav given her the new
edishun of Sir Charls Grandisson, wich they read alowde in ye evenings,
turn and turn about, to Mrs. N. at her spinning. C. has given me a wool
comforter of her owne worke, and sum stockings wich are two thick to
ware, but I hav not told her so."
Again, in 1764: "Tabitha Meynell's brother goes more than ever to
Higate. He is a clark in his father's wearhouse; very sober and
estimabel, and if it be for ye hapiness of C. to mary him, I wou'd be
ye laste of men to sett my orthoritty agenst her enclinashun. She is
yett but ayteen yeres of age, wich is young to make a change; so I tell
Mrs. N. we will waite. Meanwhile ye young peapel see eche other offen."
Again, in 1765: "Young Meynell is still constant, expressing much love
and admirashun for C. in his discorse with Mrs. N., butt sattisfide to
wait my plesure before spekeing oppenly to C. He semes a most exempelry
young man; his father a cittizen of some repewt in Aldersgait-street,
ware I have din'd since last riting to you, and at hoose tabel I was
paid much considerashun. He, Tomas Meynell ye father, will give his son
five hundred pound, and I prommis a thousand pound with C. and to
furnish a house at Chelsee, a verry plesent and countriefide vilage; so
I make no doubt there will soon be a wedding.
"I am sorrie to here my father is aleing; give him my love and servise,
and will come to Ullerton immediate on receiving his commands. I am
plesed to think Mrs. Rebecka Caulfeld is so dutifull and kind to him,
and has comfortedd him with prairs and discorses. I thank her for this
more than for any frendshipp for my undeserving self. Pray tell her
that I am much at her servise.
"Our new king is lov'd and admir'd by all. His ministers not so; and
wise peopel do entertain themselfs with what I think foollish jokes
a-bout a _Skotch boote_. Perhapps I am not cleverr enuff to see the funn
in this joke."
In this letter I detect a certain softening of feeling towards Mrs.
Rebecca Caulfield. In the next year--'66--according to my notes,
Matthew's father died, and I have no letters bearing the date of that
year, which our Matthew no doubt spent at home. Nor have I any letters
from this time until the year of Matthew's marriage with Rebecca
Caulfield. In the one year of his union with Mrs. Rebecca, and the last
year of his life, there are many letters, a few from London and the
rest from the manor-house at Dewsdale. But in these epistles,
affectionate and confidential as they are, there is little positive
These are the letters of the regenerate and Wesleyanised Matthew; and,
like the more elaborate epistles of his wife Rebecca, deal chiefly with
matters spiritual. In these letters I can perceive the workings of a
weak mind, which in its decline has become a prey to religious terrors;
and though I fully recognise the reforming influence which John Wesley
exercised upon the people of England, I fancy poor Matthew would have
been better in the hands of a woman whose piety was of a less severe
type than that of Wesleyan Rebecca. There is an all-pervading tone of
fear in these letters--a depression which is almost despair. In the
same breath he laments and regrets the lost happiness of his youth, and
regrets and laments his own iniquity in having been so ignorantly and
Thus in one letter he says,--
"When I think of that inconsideratt foolish time with M., and how to be
nere her semed the highest blisse erth cou'd bistowe or Heven prommis,
I trimbel to think of my pore unawaken'd sole, and of her dome on wich
the tru light never shown. If I cou'd believe she was happy my owne
sorow wou'd be lesse; but I canot, sence all ye worthyest memberrs of
our seck agree that to die thinking onely of erthly frends, and
clingeng with a passhunate regrett to them we luv on erth is to be
lesse than a tru Xtian, and for sech their is but one dome."
And again, in a still later epistle, he writes,--
"On Toosday sennite an awakning discorse fromm a verry young man, until
lately a carppenter, but now imploid piusly in going from toun to toun
and vilage to vilage, preching. He says, that a life of cairlesse
happyness, finding plesure in ye things of this worlde, is--not being
repentied of--irretrevable damnation. This is a maloncally thort! I
fell to mewsing on M., with hoom I injoy'd such compleat happyness, tel
Deth came like a spekter to bannish all comforte. And now I knowe that
our lives wear vainity. I ashure you, dear sister, I am prodidjusly
sadd when I reffleckt upon this truth--ashuredly it is a harde saying."
Anon comes that strange foreknowledge of death--that instinctive sense
of the shadowy hand so soon to lay him at rest; and with that mystic
prescience comes a yearning for the little child M. to be laid where
his father may lay down beside him. There are many passages in the
latter letters which afford a clue to that mysterious midnight burial
"Last nite I drem't of the cherchyarde at S. I satte under the olde
yewe tree, as it semed in my dreme, and hurd a childes voice crying in
a very piteous mannerr. The thort of this dreme has oppress'd my
speritts all day, and Rebecka has enquier'd more than wunce wot ales
me. If little M. but lay nere at hande, in ye graive to wich I fele I
must soone be carrid, I beleive I shou'd be happyer. Reproove me for
this folley if you plese. I am getting olde, and Sattan temts me with
seche fooleish thorts. Wot dose it matter to my sole wear my vile bodie
is laid? and yet I have a fonde fooleish desier to be berrid with
And in these latest letters there is ample evidence of that yearning on
Matthew's part to reveal a secret which Rebecca's own correspondence
"We tawked of manny things, and she was more than ordinnary kind and
gentel. I had a mind to tell her about M, and aske her frendship for
C; but she seemed not to cair to here my sekrets, and I think wou'd be
offended if she new the trooth. So I cou'd not finde courrage to tell
her. Before I die I shal speek planely for the saik of C. and M. and ye
little one. I shal cum to U. erly nex weak to make my Wille, and this
time shal chainge my umour no more. I have burnt ye laste, not likeing
This passage occurs in the last letter, amongst the packet confided to
me. The letter is dated September 5, 1774. On the fourteenth of the
following month Matthew died, and in all probability the will here
alluded to was never executed. Certain it is that Matthew, whose end
was awfully sudden at the last, died intestate, whereby his son John
inherited the bulk, and ultimately the whole, of his fortune. There are
many allusions to this infant son in the last few letters; but I do not
think the little creature obtained any great hold on the father's
heart. No doubt he was bound and swaddled out of even such small
semblance to humanity as one may reasonably expect in a child of six or
seven weeks old, and by no means an agreeable being. And poor
weak-minded Matthew's heart was with that player-girl wife whom he
never acknowledged, and the little M. And thus ends the story of
Matthew Haygarth, so far as I have been able to trace it in the
unfathomable gloom of the past.
It seems to me that what I have next to do will be to hunt up
information respecting that young man Meynell, whose father lived in
Aldersgate Street, and was a respectable and solid citizen, of that
ilk; able to give a substantial dinner to the father of his son's
sweetheart, and altogether a person considerable enough, I should
imagine, to have left footprints of some kind or other on the sands of
Time. The inscrutable Sheldon will be able to decide in what manner the
hunt of the Meynells must begin. I doubt if there is anything more to
be done in Ullerton.
I have sent Sheldon a fair copy of my extracts from Matthew's
correspondence, and have returned the letters to Miss Judson, carefully
packed in accordance with her request. I now await my Sheldon's next
communication and the abatement of my influenza before making my next
move in the great game of chess called Life.
What is the meaning of Horatio Paget's lengthened abode in this town?
He is still here. He went past this house to-day while I was standing
at my window in that abject state of mind known only to influenza and
despair. I think I was suffering from a touch of both diseases, by the
bye. What is that man doing here? The idea of his presence fills me
with all manner of vague apprehensions. I cannot rid myself of the
absurd notion that the lavender glove I saw lying in Goodge's parlour
had been left there by the Captain. I know the idea _is_ an absurd one,
and I tell myself again and again that Paget _cannot_ have any inkling
of my business here, and therefore _cannot_ attempt to forestall me or
steal my hard-won information. But often as I reiterate this--in that
silent argument which a man is always elaborating in his own mind--I am
still tormented by a nervous apprehension of treachery from that man. I
suppose the boundary line between influenza and idiocy is a very narrow
one. And then Horatio Paget is such a thorough-paced scoundrel. He is
_lie_ with Philip Sheldon too--another thorough-paced scoundrel in a
quiet gentlemanly way, unless my instinct deceives me.
_October 12th_. There is treachery somewhere. Again the Haygarthian
epistles have been tampered with. Early this morning comes an indignant
note from Miss Judson, reminding me that I promised the packet of
letters should be restored to her yesterday at noon, and informing me
that they were not returned until last night at eleven o'clock, when
they were left at her back garden-gate by a dirty boy who rang the bell
as loudly as if he had been giving the alarm of fire, and who thrust
the packet rudely into the hand of the servant and vanished
immediately. So much for the messenger. The packet itself, Miss Judson
informed me, was of a dirty and disgraceful appearance, unworthy the
hands of a gentlewoman, and one of the letters was missing.
Heedless of my influenza, I rushed at once to the lower regions of the
inn, saw the waiter into whose hands I had confided my packet at
half-past ten o'clock yesterday morning, and asked what messenger had
been charged with it. The waiter could not tell me. He did not remember.
I told him plainly that I considered this want of memory very
extraordinary. The waiter laughed me to scorn, with that quiet
insolence which a well-fed waiter feels for a customer who pays twenty
shillings a week for his board and lodging. The packet had been given
to a very respectable messenger, the waiter made no doubt. As to
whether it was the ostler, or one of the boys, or the Boots, or a young
woman in the kitchen who went on errands sometimes, the waiter wouldn't
take upon himself to swear, being a man who would perish rather than
inadvertently perjure himself. As to my packet having been tampered
with, that was ridiculous. What on earth was there in a lump of
letter-paper for any one to steal? Was there money in the parcel? I was
fain to confess there was no money; on which the waiter laughed aloud.
Failing the waiter, I applied myself severally to the ostler, the boys,
the Boots, and the young woman in the kitchen; and then transpired the
curious fact that no one had carried my packet. The ostler was sure he
had not; the Boots could take his Bible oath to the same effect; the
young woman in the kitchen could not call to mind anything respecting a
packet, though she was able to give me a painfully circumstantial
account of the events of the morning--where she went and what she did,
down to the purchase of three-pennyworth of pearl-ash and a pound of
Glenfield starch for the head chambermaid, on which she dwelt with a
I now felt assured that there had been treachery here, as in the Goodge
business; and I asked myself to whom could I impute that treachery?
My instinctive suspicion was of Horatio Paget. And yet, was it not more
probable that Theodore Judson, senr. and Theodore Judson, junr. were
involved in this business, and were watching and counterchecking my
actions with a view to frustrating the plans of my principal? This was
one question which I asked myself as I deliberated upon this mysterious
business. Had the Theodore Judsons some knowledge of a secret marriage
on the part of Matthew Haygarth? and did they suspect the existence of
an heir in the descendant of the issue of that marriage? These were
further questions which I asked myself, and which I found it much more
easy to ask than to answer. After having considered these questions, I
went to the Lancaster-road, saw Miss Judson--assured her, on my word as
a gentleman, that the packet had been delivered by my hands into those
of the waiter at eleven o'clock on the previous day, and asked to see
the envelope. There it was--my large blue wire-wove office envelope,
addressed in my own writing. But in these days of adhesive envelopes
there is nothing easier than to tamper with the fastening of a letter.
I registered a mental vow never again to trust any important document
to the protection of a morsel of gummed paper. I counted the letters,
convinced myself that there was a deficiency, and then set to work to
discover which of the letters had been abstracted. Here I failed
utterly. For my own convenience in copying my extracts, I had numbered
the letters from which I intended to transcribe passages before
beginning my work. My pencilled figures in consecutive order were
visible in the corner of the superscription of every document I had
used. Those numbered covers I now found intact, and I could thus assure
myself that the missing document was one from which I had taken no
This inspired me with a new alarm. Could it be possible that I had
overlooked some scrap of information more important than all that I had
I racked my brains in the endeavour to recall the contents of that one
missing letter; but although I sat in that social tomb, Miss Judson's
best parlour, until I felt my blood becoming of an arctic quality, I
could remember nothing that seemed worth remembering in the letters I
had laid aside as valueless.
I asked Miss Judson if she had any suspicion of the person who had
tampered with the packet. She looked at me with an icy smile, and
answered in ironical accents, which were even more chilling than the
atmosphere of her parlour,--
"Do not ask if I know who has tampered with those letters, Mr.
Hawkehurst. Your affectation of surprise has been remarkably well put
on; but I am not to be deceived a second time. When you came to me in
the first instance, I had my suspicions; but you came furnished with a
note from my brother, and as a Christian I repressed those suspicions.
I know now that I have been the dupe of an impostor, and that in
entrusting those letters to you I entrusted them to an emissary and
tool of THEODORE JUDSON."
I protested that I had never to my knowledge set eyes upon either of
the Theodore Judsons; but the prejudiced kinswoman of those gentlemen
shook her head with a smile whose icy blandness was eminently
"I am not to be deceived a second time," she said. "Who else but
Theodore Judson should have employed you? Who else but Theodore Judson
is interested in the Haygarth fortune? O, it was like him to employ a
stranger where he knew his own efforts would be unavailing; it was like
him to hoodwink me by the agency of a hireling tool."
I had been addressed as a "young man" by the reverend Jonah, and now I
was spoken of as a "hireling tool" by Miss Judson. I scarcely knew
which was most disagreeable, and I began to think that board and
lodging in the present, and a visionary three thousand pounds in the
future, would scarcely compensate me for such an amount of ignominy.
I went back to my inn utterly crestfallen--a creature so abject that
even the degrading influence of influenza could scarcely sink me any
lower in the social scale. I wrote a brief and succinct account of my
proceedings, and despatched the same to George Sheldon, and then I sat
down in my sickness and despair, as deeply humiliated as Ajax when he
found that he had been pitching into sheep instead of Greeks, as
miserable as Job amongst his dust and ashes, but I am happy to say
untormented by the chorus of one or the friends of the other. In that
respect at least I had some advantage over both.
_October 13th_. This morning's post brought me a brief scrawl from
"Come back to town directly. I have found the registry of Matthew
And so I turn my back on Ullerton; with what rejoicing of spirit it is
not in language to express.
BOOK THE SIXTH.
THE HEIRESS OF THE HAYGARTHS.
Of all places upon this earth, perhaps, there is none more obnoxious
to the civilized mind than London in October; and yet to Valentine
Hawkehurst, newly arrived from Ullerton per North-Western Railway, that
city seemed as an enchanted and paradisiacal region. Were not the
western suburbs of that murky metropolis inhabited by Charlotte
Halliday, and might he not hope to see her?
He did hope for that enjoyment. He had felt something more than hope
while speeding Londonwards by that delightful combination of a liberal
railway management, a fast and yet cheap train. He had beguiled himself
with a delicious certainty. Early the next morning--or at any rate as
early as civilization permitted--he would hie him to Bayswater, and
present himself at the neat iron gate of Philip Sheldon's gothic villa.
_She_ would be there, in the garden most likely, his divine Charlotte,
so bright and radiant a creature that the dull October morning would be
made glorious by her presence--she would be there, and she would
welcome him with that smile which made her the most enchanting of
Such thoughts as these had engaged him during his homeward journey; and
compared with the delight of such visions, the perusal of daily papers
and the consumption of sandwiches, whereby other passengers beguiled
their transit, seemed a poor amusement. But, arrived in the dingy
streets, and walking towards Chelsea under a drizzling rain, the bright
picture began to grow dim. Was it not more than likely that Charlotte
would be absent from London at this dismal season? Was it not very
probable that Philip Sheldon would give him the cold shoulder? With
these gloomy contingencies before him, Mr. Hawkehurst tried to shut
Miss Halliday's image altogether out of his mind, and to contemplate
the more practical aspect of his affairs.
"I wonder whether that scoundrel Paget has come back to London?" he
thought. "What am I to say to him if he has? If I own to having seen
him in Ullerton, I shall lay myself open to being questioned by him as
to my own business in that locality. Perhaps my wisest plan would be to
say nothing, and hear his own account of himself. I fully believe he
saw me on the platform that night when we passed each other without
Horatio Paget was at home when his _protege_ arrived. He was seated by
his fireside in all the domestic respectability of a dressing-gown and
slippers, with an evening paper on his knee, a slim smoke-coloured
bottle at his elbow, and the mildest of cigars between his lips, when
the traveller, weary and weather-stained, entered the lodging-house
Captain Paget received his friend very graciously, only murmuring some
faint deprecation of the young man's reeking overcoat, with just such a
look of gentlemanly alarm as the lamented Brummel may have felt when
ushered into the presence of a "damp stranger."
"And so you've come back at last," said the Captain, "from Dorking?" He
made a little pause here, and looked at his friend with a malicious
sparkle in his eye. "And how was the old aunt? Likely to cut up for any
considerable amount, eh? It could only be with a view to that
cutting-up process that you could consent to isolate yourself in such
a place as Dorking. How did you find things?" "O, I don't know, I'm
sure," Mr. Hawkehurst answered rather impatiently, for his worst
suspicions were confirmed by his patron's manner; "I only know I found
it tiresome work enough."
"Ah, to be sure! elderly people always are tiresome, especially when
they are unacquainted with the world. There is a perennial youth about
men and women of the world. The sentimental twaddle people talk of the
freshness and purity of a mind unsullied by communion with the world is
the shallowest nonsense. Your Madame du Deffand at eighty and your
Horace Walpole at sixty are as lively as a girl and boy. Your
octogenarian Voltaire is the most agreeable creature in existence. But
take Cymon and Daphne from their flocks and herds and pastoral valleys
in their old age, and see what senile bores and quavering imbeciles you
would find them. Yes, I have no doubt you found your Dorking aunt a
nuisance. Take off your wet overcoat and put it out of the room, and
then ring for more hot water. You'll find that cognac very fine. Won't
you have a cigar?"
The Captain extended his russia-leather case with the blandest smile.
It was a very handsome case. Captain Paget was a man who could descend
into some unknown depths of the social ocean in the last stage of
shabbiness, and who, while his acquaintance were congratulating
themselves upon the fact of his permanent disappearance, would start up
suddenly in an unexpected place, provided with every necessity and
luxury of civilized life, from a wardrobe by Poole to the last
fashionable absurdity in the shape of a cigar-case.
Never had Valentine Hawkehurst found his patron more agreeably disposed
than he seemed to be this evening, and never had he felt more inclined
to suspect him.
"And what have you been doing while I have been away?" the young man
asked presently. "Any more promoting work?"
"Well, yes, a little bit of provincial business; a life-and-fire on a
novel principle; a really good thing, if we can only find men with
perception enough to see its merits, and pluck enough to hazard their
capital. But promoting in the provinces is very dull work. I've been to
two or three towns in the Midland districts--Beauport, Mudborough, and
Ullerton--and have found the same stagnation everywhere."
Nothing could be more perfect than the semblance of unconscious
innocence with which the Captain gave this account of himself: whether
he was playing a part, or whether he was telling the entire truth, was
a question which even a cleverer man than Valentine Hawkehurst might
have found himself unable to answer.
The two men sat till late, smoking and talking; but to-night Valentine
found the conversation of his "guide, philosopher, and friend"
strangely distasteful to him. That cynical manner of looking at life,
which not long ago had seemed to him the only manner compatible with
wisdom and experience, now grated harshly upon those finer senses which
had been awakened in the quiet contemplative existence he had of late
been leading. He had been wont to enjoy Captain Paget's savage
bitterness against a world which had not provided him with a house in
Carlton-gardens, and a seat in the Cabinet; but to-night he was
revolted by the noble Horatio's tone and manner. Those malicious sneers
against respectable people and respectable prejudices, with which the
Captain interlarded all his talk, seemed to have a ghastly grimness in
their mirth. It was like the talk of some devil who had once been an
angel, and had lost all hope of ever being restored to his angelic
"To believe in nothing, to respect nothing, to hope for nothing, to
fear nothing, to consider life as so many years in which to scheme and
lie for the sake of good dinners and well-made coats--surely there can
be no state of misery more complete, no degradation more consummate,"
thought the young man, as he sat by the fireside smoking and listening
dreamily to his companion. "Better to be Mrs. Rebecca Haygarth,
narrow-minded and egotistical, but always looking beyond her narrow
life to some dimly-comprehended future."
He was glad to escape at last from the Captain's society, and to retire
to his own small chamber, where he slept soundly enough after the day's
fatigues, and dreamed of the Haygarths and Charlotte Halliday.
He was up early the next morning; but, on descending to the
sitting-room, he found his patron toasting his _Times_ before a cheerful
fire; while his gold hunting-watch stood open on the breakfast-table, and
a couple of new-laid eggs made a pleasant wabbling noise in a small
saucepan upon the hob.
"You don't care for eggs, I know, Val," said the Captain, as he took
the saucepan from the hob.
He had heard the young man object to an egg of French extraction too
long severed from its native land; but he knew very well that for rural
delicacies from a reliable dairyman, at twopence apiece, Mr. Hawkehurst
had no particular antipathy. Even in so small a matter as a new-laid
egg the Captain knew how to protect his own interest.
"There's some of that Italian sausage you're so fond of, dear boy," he
said politely, pointing to a heel of some grayish horny-looking
compound. "Thanks; I'll pour out the coffee; there's a knack in these
things; half the clearness of coffee depends on the way in which it's
poured out, you see."
And with this assurance Captain Paget filled his own large breakfast-cup
with a careful hand and a tender solemnity of countenance. If he was a
trifle less considerate in the pouring out of the second cup, and if
some "grounds" mingled with the second portion, Valentine Hawkehurst
was unconscious of the fact.
"Do try that Italian sausage," said the Captain, as he discussed his
second egg, after peeling the most attractive crusts from the French
rolls, and pushing the crumb to his _protege_.
"No, thank you; it looks rather like what your shop-people call an old
housekeeper; besides, there's a little too much garlic in those
compositions for my taste."
"Your taste has grown fastidious," said the Captain; "one would think
you were going to call upon some ladies this morning."
"There are not many ladies on my visiting-list. O, by the way, how's
Diana? Have you seen her lately?"
"No," answered the Captain, promptly. "I only returned from my
provincial tour a day or two ago, and have had no time to waste dancing
attendance upon her. She's well enough, I've no doubt; and she's
uncommonly well off in Sheldon's house, and ought to think herself so."
Having skimmed his newspaper, Captain Paget rose and invested himself
in his overcoat. He put on his hat before the glass over the
mantelpiece, adjusting the brim above his brows with the thoughtful
care that distinguished his performance of all those small duties which
he owed to himself.
"And what may _you_ be going to do with yourself to-day, Val?" he asked
of the young man, who sat nursing his own knee and staring absently at
"Well, I don't quite know," Mr. Hawkehurst answered, hypocritically; "I
think I may go as far as Gray's Inn, and look in upon George Sheldon."
"You'll dine out of doors, I suppose?"
This was a polite way of telling Mr. Hawkehurst that there would be no
dinner for him at home.
"I suppose I shall. You know I'm not punctilious on the subject of
dinner. Anything you please--from a banquet at the London Tavern to a
ham-sandwich and a glass of ale at fourpence."
"Ah, to be sure; youth is reckless of its gastric juices. I shall find
you at home when I come in to-night, I daresay. I think I may dine in
the city. _Au plaisir_."
"I don't know about the pleasure," muttered Mr. Hawkehurst. "You're a
very delightful person, my friend Horatio; but there comes a crisis in
a man's existence when he begins to feel that he has had enough of you.
Poor Diana! what a father!"
He did not waste much time on further consideration of his patron, but
set off at once on his way to Gray's Inn. It was too early to call at
the Lawn, or he would fain have gone there before seeking George
Sheldon's dingy offices. Nor could he very well present himself at the
gothic villa without some excuse for so doing. He went to Gray's Inn
therefore; but on his way thither called at a tavern near the Strand,
which was the head-quarters of a literary association known as the
Ragamuffins. Here he was fortunate enough to meet with an acquaintance
in the person of a Ragamuffin in the dramatic-author line, who was
reading the morning's criticisms on a rival's piece produced the night
before, with a keen enjoyment of every condemnatory sentence. From this
gentleman Mr. Hawkehurst obtained a box-ticket for a West-end theatre;
and, armed with this mystic document, he felt himself able to present a
bold countenance at Mr. Sheldon's door.
"Will she be glad to see me again?" he asked himself. "Pshaw! I daresay
she has forgotten me by this time. A fortnight is an age with some
women; and I should fancy Charlotte Halliday just one of those bright
impressionable beings who forget easily. I wonder whether she is
_really_ like that 'Molly' whose miniature was found by Mrs. Haygarth
in the tulip-leaf escritoire; or was the resemblance between those two
faces only a silly fancy of mine?"
Mr. Hawkehurst walked the whole distance from Chelsea to Gray's Inn;
and it was midday when he presented himself before George Sheldon, whom
he found seated at his desk with the elephantine pedigree of the
Haygarths open before him, and profoundly absorbed in the contents of a
note-book. He looked up from this note-book as Valentine entered, but
did not leave off chewing the end of his pencil as he mumbled a welcome
to the returning wanderer. It has been seen that neither of the Sheldon
brothers were demonstrative men.
After that unceremonious greeting, the lawyer continued his perusal of
the note-book for some minutes, while Valentine seated himself in a
clumsy leather-covered arm-chair by the fireplace.
"Well, young gentleman," Mr. Sheldon exclaimed, as he closed his book
with a triumphant snap, "I think _you're_ in for a good thing; and you
may thank your lucky stars for having thrown you into my path."
"My stars are not remarkable for their luckiness in a general way,"
answered Mr. Hawkehurst, coolly, for the man had not yet been born from
whom he would accept patronage. "I suppose if I'm in for a good thing,
you're in for a better thing, my dear George; so you needn't come the
benefactor quite so strong for my edification. How did you ferret out
the certificate of gray-eyed Molly's espousals?"
George Sheldon contemplated his coadjutor with an admiring stare. "It
has been my privilege to enjoy the society of cool hands, Mr.
Hawkehurst; and certainly you are about the coolest of the lot--bar
one, as they say in the ring. But that is _ni ci ni la_. I have found
the certificate of Matthew Haygarth's marriage, and to my mind the
Haygarth succession is as good as ours."
"Ah, those birds in the bush have such splendid plumage! but I'd rather
have the modest sparrow in my hand. However, I'm very glad our affairs
are marching. How did you discover the marriage-lines?"
"Not without hard labour, I can tell you. Of course my idea of a secret
marriage was at the best only a plausible hypothesis; and I hardly
dared to hug myself with the hope that it might turn up trumps. My idea
was based upon two or three facts, namely, the character of the young
man, his long residence in London away from the ken of respectable
relatives and friends, and the extraordinary state of the marriage laws
at the period in which our man lived."
"Ah, to be sure! That was a strong point."
"I should rather think it was. I took the trouble to look up the
history of Mayfair marriages and Fleet marriages before you started for
Ullerton, and I examined all the evidence I could get on that subject.
I made myself familiar with the Rev. Alexander Keith of Mayfair, who
helped to bring clandestine marriages into vogue amongst the swells,
and with Dr. Gaynham--agreeably nicknamed Bishop of Hell--and more of
the same calibre; and the result of my investigations convinced me that
in those days a hare-brained young reprobate must have found it rather
more difficult to avoid matrimony than to achieve it. He might be
married when he was tipsy; he might be married when he was comatose
from the effects of a stand-up fight with Mohawks; his name might be
assumed by some sportive Benedick of his acquaintance given to
practical joking, and he might find himself saddled with a wife he
never saw; or if, on the other hand, of an artful and deceptive turn,
he might procure a certificate of a marriage that had never taken
place,--for there were very few friendly offices which the Fleet
parsons refused to perform for their clients--for a consideration."
"But how about the legality of the Fleet marriage?"
"There's the rub. Before the New Marriage Act passed in 1753 a Fleet
marriage was indissoluble. It was an illegal act, and the parties were
punishable; but the Gordian knot was quite as secure as if it had been
tied in the most orthodox manner. The great difficulty to my mind was
the _onus probandi_. The marriage might have taken place; the marriage
be to all intents and purposes a good marriage; but how produce
undeniable proof of such a ceremony, when all ceremonies of the kind
were performed with a manifest recklessness and disregard of law? Even
if I found an apparently good certificate, how was I to prove that it
was not one of those lying certificates of marriages that had never
taken place? Again, what kind of registers could posterity expect from
these parson-adventurers, very few of whom could spell, and most of
whom lived in a chronic state of drunkenness? They married people
sometimes by their Christian names alone--very often under assumed
names. What consideration had they for heirs-at-law in the future, when
under the soothing influence of a gin-bottle in the present? I thought
of all these circumstances, and I was half inclined to despair of
realising my idea of an early marriage. I took it for granted that such
a secret business would be more likely to have taken place in the
precincts of the Fleet than anywhere else; and having no particular
clue, I set to work, in the first place, to examine all available
documents relating to such marriages."
"It must have been slow work."
"It _was_ slow work," answered Mr. Sheldon with a suppressed groan,
that was evoked by the memory of a bygone martyrdom. "I needn't enter
into all the details of the business,--the people I had to apply to for
permission to see this set of papers, and the signing and
counter-signing I had to go through before I could see that set of
papers, and the extent of circumlocution and idiocy I had to encounter
in a general way before I could complete my investigation. The result
was nil; and after working like a galley-slave I found myself no better
off than before I began my search. Your extracts from Matthew's letters
put me on a new track. I concluded therefrom that there had been a
marriage, and that the said marriage had been a deliberate act on the
part of the young man. I therefore set to work to do what I ought to
have done at starting--I hunted in all the parish registers to be found
within a certain radius of such and such localities. I began with
Clerkenwell, in which neighbourhood our friend spent such happy years,
according to that pragmatical epistle of Mrs. Rebecca's; but after
hunting in all the mouldy old churches within a mile of St. John's-gate,
I was no nearer arriving at any record of Matthew Haygarth's existence.
So I turned my back upon Clerkenwell, and went southward to the
neighbourhood of the Marshalsea, where Mistress Molly's father was at
one time immured, and whence I thought it very probable Mistress Molly
had started on her career as a matron. This time my guess was a lucky
one. After hunting the registers of St. Olave's, St. Saviour's, and St.
George's, and after the expenditure of more shillings in donations to
sextons than I care to remember, I at last lighted on a document which
I consider worth three thousand pounds to you--and--a very decent sum
of money to me."
"I wonder what colour our hair will be when we touch that money?" said
Valentine meditatively. "These sort of cases generally find their way
into Chancery-lane, don't they?--that lane which, for some unhappy
travellers, has no turning except the one dismal _via_ which leads to
dusty death. You seem in very good spirits; and I suppose I ought to be
elated too. Three thousand pounds would give me a start in life, and
enable me to set up in the new character of a respectable rate-paying
citizen. But I've a kind of presentiment that this hand of mine will
never touch the prize of the victor; or, in plainer English, that no
good will ever arise to me or mine out of the reverend intestate's
hundred thousand pounds."
"Why, what a dismal-minded croaker you are this morning!" exclaimed
George Sheldon with unmitigated disgust; "a regular raven, by Jove! You
come to a fellow's office just as matters are beginning to look like
success--after ten years' plodding and ten years' disappointment--and
you treat him to maudlin howls about the Court of Chancery. This is a
new line you've struck out, Hawkehurst, and I can tell you it isn't a
"Well, no, I suppose I oughtn't to say that sort of thing," answered
Valentine in an apologetic tone; "but there are some days in a man's
life when there seems to be a black cloud between him and everything he
looks at. I feel like that today. There's a tightening sensation about
something under my waistcoat--my heart, perhaps--a sense of depression
that may be either physical or mental, that I can't get rid of. If a
man had walked by my side from Chelsea to Holborn whispering
forebodings of evil into my ear at every step, I couldn't have felt
more downhearted than I do."
"What did you eat for breakfast?" asked Mr. Sheldon impatiently. "A
tough beefsteak fried by a lodging-house cook, I daresay--they _will_
fry their steaks. Don't inflict the consequences of your indigestible
diet upon me. To tell me that there's a black cloud between you and
everything you look at, is only a sentimental way of telling me that
you're bilious. Pray be practical, and let us look at things from a
business point of view. Here is Appendix A.--a copy of the registry of
the marriage of Matthew Haygarth, bachelor, of Clerkenwell, in the
county of Middlesex, to Mary Murchison, spinster, of Southwark, in the
county of Surrey. And here is Appendix B.--a copy of the registry of
the marriage between William Meynell, bachelor, of Smithfield, in the
county of Middlesex, to Caroline Mary Haygarth, spinster, of Highgate,
in the same county."
"You have found the entry of a second Haygarthian marriage?"
"I have. The C. of Matthew's letters is the Caroline Mary here
indicated, the daughter and heiress of Matthew Haygarth--doubtless
christened Caroline after her gracious majesty the consort of George
II., and Mary after the Molly whose picture was found in the tulip-leaf
bureau. The Meynell certificate was easy enough to find, since the
letters told me that Miss C.'s suitor had a father who lived in
Aldersgate-street, and a father who approved his son's choice. The
Aldersgate citizen had a house of his own, and a more secure social
status altogether than that poor, weak, surreptitious Matthew. It was
therefore only natural that the marriage should be celebrated in the
Meynell mansion. Having considered this, I had only to ransack the
registers of a certain number of churches round and about
Aldersgate-street in order to find what I wanted; and after about a day
and a half of hard labour, I did find the invaluable document which
places me one generation nearer the present, and on the high-road to
the discovery of my heir-at-law. I searched the same registry for
children of the aforesaid William and Caroline Mary Meynell, but could
find no record of such children nor any further entry of the name of
Meynell. But we must search other registries within access of
Aldersgate-street before we give up the idea of finding such entries
in that neighbourhood."
"And what is to be the next move?"
"The hunting-up of all descendants of this William and Caroline Mary
Meynell, wheresoever such descendants are to be found. We are now
altogether off the Haygarth and Judson scent, and have to beat a new
"Good!" exclaimed Valentine more cheerfully. "How is the new covert to
"We must start from Aldersgate-street. Meynell of Aldersgate-street
must have been a responsible man, and it will be hard if there is no
record of him extant in all the old topographical histories of wards,
without and within, which cumber the shelves of your dry-as-dust
libraries. We must hunt up all available books; and when we've got all
the information that books can give us, we can go in upon hearsay
evidence, which is always the most valuable in these cases."
"That means another encounter with ancient mariners--I beg your pardon--
oldest inhabitants," said Valentine with a despondent yawn. "Well, I
suppose that sort of individual is a little less obtuse when he lives
within the roar of the great city's thunder than when he vegetates in
the dismal outskirts of a manufacturing town. Where am I to find my
octogenarian prosers? and when am I to begin my operations upon them?"
"The sooner you begin the better," replied Mr. Sheldon. "I've taken all
preliminary steps for you already, and you'll find the business
tolerably smooth sailing. I've made a list of certain people who may be
Mr. Sheldon selected a paper from the numerous documents upon the
"Here they are," he said: "John Grewter, wholesale stationer,
Aldersgate-street; Anthony Sparsfield, carver and gilder, in Barbican.
These are, so far as I can ascertain, the two oldest men now trading in
Aldersgate-street; and from these men you ought to be able to find out
something about old Meynell. I don't anticipate any difficulty about
the Meynells, except the possibility that we may find more of them than
we want, and have some trouble in shaking them into their places."
"I'll tackle my friend the stationer to-morrow morning," said
"You'd better drop in upon him in the afternoon, when the day's
business may be pretty well over," returned the prudent Sheldon. "And
now all you've got to do, Hawkehurst, is to work with a will, and work
on patiently. If you do as well in London as you did at Ullerton,
neither you nor I will have any cause to complain. Of course I needn't
impress upon you the importance of secrecy."
"No," replied Valentine; "I'm quite alive to that."
He then proceeded to inform George Sheldon of that encounter with
Captain Paget on the platform at Ullerton, and of the suspicion that
had been awakened in his mind by the sight of the glove in Goodge's
The lawyer shook his head.
"That idea about the glove was rather far-fetched," he said,
thoughtfully; "but I don't like the look of that meeting at the
station. My brother Philip is capable of anything in the way of
manoeuvring; and I'm not ashamed to confess that I'm no match for him.
He was in here one day when I had the Haygarth pedigree spread out on
the table, and I know he smelt a rat. We must beware of him,
Hawkehurst, and we must work against time if we don't want him to
"I shan't let the grass grow under my feet," replied Valentine. "I was
really interested in that Haygarthian history: there was a dash of
romance about it, you see. I don't feel the same gusto in the Meynell
chase, but I daresay I shall begin to get up an interest in it as my
investigation proceeds. Shall I call the day after to-morrow and tell
you my adventures?"
"I think you'd better stick to the old plan, and let me have the result
of your work in the form of a diary," answered Sheldon. And with this
the two men parted.
It was now half-past two o'clock; it would be half-past three before
Valentine could present himself at the Lawn--a very seasonable hour at
which to call upon Mrs. Sheldon with his offering of a box for the new
An omnibus conveyed him to Bayswater at a snail's pace, and with more
stoppages than ever mortal omnibus was subjected to before, as it
seemed to that one eager passenger. At last the fading foliage of the
Park appeared between the hats and bonnets of Valentine's opposite
neighbours. Even those orange tawny trees reminded him of Charlotte.
Beneath such umbrage had he parted from her. And now he was going to
see the bright young face once more. He had been away from town about a
fortnight; but taken in relation with Miss Halliday, that fortnight
seemed half a century.
Chrysanthemums and china-asters beautified Mr. Sheldon's neat little
garden, and the plate-glass windows of his house shone with all their
wonted radiance. It was like the houses one sees framed and glazed in
an auctioneer's office--the greenest imaginable grass, the bluest
windows, the reddest bricks, the whitest stone. "It is a house that
would set my teeth on edge, but for the one sweet creature who lives in
it," Valentine thought to himself, as he waited at the florid iron
gate, which was painted a vivid ultramarine and picked out with gold.
He tried in vain to catch a glimpse of some feminine figure in the
small suburban garden. No flutter of scarlet petticoat or flash of
scarlet plume revealed the presence of the divinity.
The prim maid-servant informed him that Mrs. Sheldon was at home, and
asked if he would please to walk into the drawing-room.
Would he please? Would he not have been pleased to walk into a raging
furnace if there had been a chance of meeting Charlotte Halliday amid
the flames? He followed the maid-servant into Mrs. Sheldon's
irreproachable apartment, where the show books upon the show table were
ranged at the usual mathematically correct distances from one another,
and where the speckless looking-glasses and all-pervading French polish
imparted a chilly aspect to the chamber. A newly-lighted fire was
smouldering in the shining steel grate, and a solitary female figure
was seated by the broad Tudor window bending over some needlework.
It was the figure of Diana Paget, and she was quite alone in the room.
Valentine's heart sank a little as he saw the solitary figure, and
perceived that it was not the woman he loved.
Diana looked up from her work and recognised the visitor. Her face
flushed, but the flush faded very quickly, and Valentine was not
conscious of that flattering indication.
"How do you do, Diana?" he said. "Here I am again, you see, like the
proverbial bad shilling. I have brought Mrs. Sheldon an order for the
Princess's." "You are very kind; but I don't think she'll care to go.
She was complaining of a headache this afternoon."
"O, she'll forget all about her headache if she wants to go to the
play. She's the sort of little woman who is always ready for a theatre
or a concert. Besides, Miss Halliday may like to go, and will easily
persuade her mamma. Whom could she not persuade?" added Mr. Hawkehurst
"Miss Halliday is out of town," Diana replied coldly.
The young man felt as if his heart were suddenly transformed into so
much lead, so heavy did it seem to grow. What a foolish thing it seemed
that he should be the victim of this fair enslaver!--he who until
lately had fancied himself incapable of any earnest feeling or deep
"Out of town!" he repeated with unconcealed disappointment.
"Yes; she has gone on a visit to some relations in Yorkshire. She
actually has relations; doesn't that sound strange to you and me?"
Valentine did not notice this rather cynical remark.
"She'll be away ever so long, I suppose?" he said.
"I have no idea how long she may stay there. The people idolise her, I
understand. You know it is her privilege to be idolised; and of course
they will persuade her to stay as long as they can. You seem
disappointed at not seeing her."
"I am very much disappointed," Valentine answered frankly; "she is a
There was a silence after this. Miss Paget resumed her work with rapid
fingers. She was picking up shining little beads one by one on the
point of her needle, and transferring them to the canvas stretched upon
an embroidery frame before her. It was a kind of work exacting extreme
care and precision, and the girl's hand never faltered, though a
tempest of passionate feeling agitated her as she worked.
"I am very sorry not to see her," Valentine said presently, "for the
sight of her is very dear to me. Why should I try to hide my feelings
from you, Diana? We have endured so much misery together that there
must be some bond of union between us. To me you have always seemed
like a sister, and I have no wish to keep any secret from you, though
you receive me so coldly that one would think I had offended you."
"You have not offended me. I thank you for being so frank with me. You
would have gained little by an opposite course. I have long known your
affection for Charlotte."
"You guessed my secret?"
"I saw what any one could have seen who had taken the trouble to watch
you for ten minutes during your visits to this house."
"Was my unhappy state so very conspicuous?" exclaimed Valentine,
laughing. "Was I so obviously spoony? _I_ who have so ridiculed
anything in the way of sentiment. You make me blush for my folly,
Diana. What is that you are dotting with all those beads?--something
"It is a prie-dieu chair I am working for Mrs. Sheldon. Of course I am
bound to do something for my living."
"And so you wear out your eyesight in the working of chairs. Poor girl!
it seems hard that your beauty and accomplishments should not find a
better market than that. I daresay you will marry some millionaire
friend of Mr. Sheldon's one of these days, and I shall hear of your
house in Park-lane and three-hundred guinea barouche."
"You are very kind to promise me* a millionaire. The circumstances of my
existence hitherto have been so peculiarly fortunate that I am
justified in expecting such a suitor. [*My millionaire printer's typo]
shall ask you to dinner at my house in Park-lane; and you shall play
_ecarte_ with him, if you like--papa's kind of _ecarte_."
"Don't talk of those things, Di," said Mr. Hawkehurst, with something
that was almost a shudder; "let us forget that we ever led that kind of
"Yes," replied Diana, "let us forget it--if we can."
The bitterness of her tone struck him painfully. He sat for some
minutes watching her silently, and pitying her fate. What a sad fate it
seemed, and how hopeless! For him there was always some chance of
redemption. He could go out into the world, and cut his way through the
forest of difficulty with the axe of the conqueror. But what could a
woman do who found herself in the midst of that dismal forest? She
could only sit at the door of her lonesome hut, looking out with weary
eyes for the prince who was to come and rescue her. And Valentine
remembered how many women there are to whom the prince never comes, and
who must needs die and be buried beneath that gloomy umbrage.
"O! let us have women doctors, women lawyers, women parsons, women
stone-breakers--anything rather than these dependent creatures who sit
in other people's houses working prie-dieu chairs and pining for
freedom," he thought to himself, as he watched the pale stern face in
the chill afternoon light.
"Do leave off working for a few minutes, and talk to me, Di," he said
rather impatiently. "You don't know how painful it is to a man to see a
woman absorbed in some piece of needlework at the very moment when he
wants all her sympathy. I am afraid you are not quite happy. Do confide
in me, dear, as frankly as I confide in you. Are these people kind to
you? Charlotte is, of course. But the elder birds, Mr. and Mrs.
Sheldon, are they kind?" "They are very kind. Mr. Sheldon is not a
demonstrative man, as you know; but I am not accustomed to have people
in a rapturous state of mind about me and my affairs. He is kinder to
me than my father ever was; and I don't see how I can expect more than
that. Mrs. Sheldon is extremely kind in her way--which is rather a
feeble way, as you know."
"You answered for Charlotte yourself just now. Yes, she is very, very,
very good to me; much better than I deserve. I was almost going to
quote the collect, and say 'desire or deserve.'"
"Why should you not desire or deserve her goodness?" asked Valentine.
"Because I am not a loveable kind of person. I am not sympathetic. I
know that Charlotte is very fascinating, very charming; but sometimes
her very fascination repels me. I think the atmosphere of that horrible
swampy district between Lambeth and Battersea, where my childhood was
spent, must have soured my disposition."
"No, Diana; you have only learnt a bitter way of talking. I know your
heart is noble and true. I have seen your suppressed indignation many a
time when your father's meannesses have revolted you. Our lives have
been very hard, dear; but let us hope for brighter days. I think they
must come to us."
"They will never come to me," said Diana.
"You say that with an air of conviction. But why should they not come
to you--brighter and better days?"
"I cannot tell you that. I can only tell you that they will not come.
And do you hope that any good will ever come of your love for Charlotte
Halliday--you, who know Mr. Sheldon?"
"I am ready to hope anything."
"You think that Mr. Sheldon would let his stepdaughter marry a
"I may not always be penniless. Besides, Mr. Sheldon has no actual
authority over Charlotte."
"But he has moral influence over her. She is very easily influenced."
"I am ready to hope even in spite of Mr. Sheldon's opposing influence.
You must not try to crush this one little floweret that has grown up in
a barren waste, Diana. It is my prison-flower."
Mrs. Sheldon came into the room as he said this. She was very cordial,
very eloquent upon the subject of her headache, and very much inclined
to go to the theatre, notwithstanding that ailment, when she heard that
Mr. Hawkehurst had been kind enough to bring her a box.
"Diana and I could go," she said, "if we can manage to be in time after
our six o'clock dinner. Mr. Sheldon does not care about theatres. All
the pieces tire him. He declares they are all stupid. But then, you
see, if one's mind is continually wandering, the cleverest piece must
seem stupid," Mrs. Sheldon added thoughtfully; "and my husband is so
After some further discussion about the theatres, Valentine bade the
ladies good afternoon.
"Won't you stop to see Mr. Sheldon?" asked Georgina; "he's in the
library with Captain Paget. You did not know that your papa was here,
did you, Diana, my dear? He came in with Mr. Sheldon an hour ago."
"I won't disturb Mr. Sheldon," said Valentine. "I will call again in a
He took leave of the two ladies, and went out into the hall. As he
emerged from the drawing-room, the door of the library was opened, and
he heard Philip Sheldon's voice within, saying,--
"--your accuracy with regard to the name of Meynell."
It was the close of a sentence; but the name struck immediately upon
Valentine's ear. Meynell!--the name which had for him so peculiar an
"Is it only a coincidence," he thought to himself, "or is Horatio Paget
on our track?"
And then he argued with himself that his ears might have deceived him,
and that the name he had heard might not have been Meynell, but only a
name of somewhat similar sound.
It was Captain Paget who had opened the door. He came into the hall and
recognised his _protege_. They left the house together, and the Captain
was especially gracious.
"We will dine together somewhere at the West-end, Val," he said; but,
to his surprise, Mr. Hawkehurst declined the proffered entertainment.
"I'm tired out with a hard day's work," he said, "and should be very
bad company; so, if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to Omega-street and
get a chop."
The Captain stared at him in amazement. He could not comprehend the man
who could refuse to dine luxuriously at the expense of his fellow-man.
Valentine had of late acquired new prejudices. He no longer cared to
enjoy the hospitality of Horatio Paget. In Omega-street the household
expenses were shared by the two men. It was a kind of club upon a small
scale; and there was no degradation in breaking bread with the elegant
To Omega-street Valentine returned this afternoon, there to eat a
frugal meal and spend a meditative evening, uncheered by one glimmer of
that radiance which more fortunate men know as the light of home.
VALENTINE'S RECORD CONTINUED.
_October 15th_. I left Omega-street for the City before noon, after a
hasty breakfast with my friend Horatio, who was somewhat under the
dominion of his black dog this morning, and far from pleasant company.
I was not to present myself to the worthy John Grewter, wholesale
stationer, before the afternoon; but I had no particular reason for
staying at home, and I had a fancy for strolling about the old City
quarter in which Matthew Haygarth's youth had been spent. I went to
look at John-street, Clerkenwell, and dawdled about the immediate
neighbourhood of Smithfield, thinking of the old fair-time, and of all
the rioters and merry-makers, who now were so much or so little dust
and ashes in City churchyards, until the great bell of St. Paul's
boomed three, and I felt that it might be a leisure time with Mr.
I found the stationer's shop as darksome and dreary as City shops
usually are, but redolent of that subtle odour of wealth which has a
mystical charm for the nostrils of the penniless one. Stacks of
ledgers, mountains of account-books, filled the dimly-lighted
warehouse. Some clerks were at work behind a glass partition, and
already the gas flared high in the green-shaded lamps above the desk at
which they worked. I wondered whether it was a pleasant way of life
theirs, and whether one would come to feel an interest in the barter of
day-books and ledgers if they were one's daily bread. Alas for me! the
only ledger I have ever known is the sainted patron of the northern
racecourse. One young man came forward and asked my business, with a
look that plainly told me that unless I wanted two or three gross of
account-books I had no right to be there. I told him that I wished to
see Mr. Grewter, and asked if that gentleman was to be seen.
The clerk said he did not know; but his tone implied that, in his
opinion, I could _not_ see Mr. Grewter.
"Perhaps you could go and ask," I suggested.
"Well, yes. Is it old or young Mr. Grewter you want to see?"
"Old Mr. Grewter," I replied.
"Very well, I'll go and see. You'd better send in your card, though."
I produced one of George Sheldon's cards, which the clerk looked at. He
gave a little start as if an adder had stung him.
"You're not Mr. Sheldon?" he said.
"No; Mr. Sheldon is my employer."
"What do you go about giving people Sheldon's card for?" asked the
clerk, with quite an aggrieved air. "I know Sheldon of Gray's Inn."
"Then I'm sure you've found him a very accommodating gentleman," I
"Deuce take his accommodation! He nearly accommodated me into the
Bankruptcy Court. And so you're Sheldon's clerk, and you want the
governor. But you don't mean to say that Grewter and Grewter are--"
This was said in an awe-stricken undertone. I hastened to reassure the
"I don't think Mr. Sheldon ever saw Mr. Grewter in his life," I said.
After this the clerk condescended to retire into the unknown antres
behind the shop, to deliver my message. I began to think that George
Sheldon's card was not the best possible letter of introduction.
The clerk returned presently, followed by a tall, white-bearded man,
with a bent figure, and a pair of penetrating gray eyes--a very
promising specimen of the octogenarian.
He asked me my business in a sharp suspicious way, that obliged me to
state the nature of my errand without circumlocution. As I got farther
away from the Rev. John Haygarth, intestate, I was less fettered by the
necessity of secrecy. I informed my octogenarian that I was prosecuting
a legal investigation connected with a late inhabitant of that street,
and that I had taken the liberty to apply to him, in the hope that he
might be able to afford me some information.
He looked at me all the time I spoke as if he thought I was going to
entreat pecuniary relief--and I daresay I have something the air of a
begging-letter writer. But when he found that I only wanted
information, his hard gray eyes softened ever so little, and he asked
me to walk into his parlour.
His parlour was scarcely less gruesome than his shop. The furniture
looked as if its manufacture had been coeval with the time of the
Meynells, and the ghastly glare of the gas seemed a kind of
anachronism. After a few preliminary observations, which were not
encouraged by Mr. Grewter's manner, I inquired whether he had ever
heard the name of Meynell.
"Yes," he said; "there was a Meynell in this street when I was a young
man--Christian Meynell, a carpet-maker by trade. The business is still
carried on--and a very old business it is, for it was an old business
in Meynell's time; but Meynell died before I married, and his name is
pretty well forgotten in Aldersgate-street by this time."
"Had he no sons?" I asked.
"Well, yes; he had one son, Samuel, a kind of companion of mine. But he
didn't take to the business, and when his father died he let things go
anyhow, as you may say. He was rather wild, and died two or three years
after his father." "Did he die unmarried?"
"Yes. There was some talk of his marrying a Miss Dobberly, whose father
was a cabinet-maker in Jewin-street; but Samuel was too wild for the
Dobberlys, who were steady-going people, and he went abroad, where he
was taken with some kind of fever and died."
"Was this son the only child?"
"No; there were two daughters. The younger of them married; the elder
went to live with her--and died unmarried, I've heard say."
"Do you know whom the younger sister married?" I asked.
"No. She didn't marry in London. She went into the country to visit
some friends, and she married and settled down in those parts--wherever
it might be--and I never heard of her coming back to London again. The
carpet business was sold directly after Samuel Meynell's death. The new
people kept up the name for a good twenty years--'Taylor, late Meynell,
established 1693,' that's what was painted on the board above the
window--but they've dropped the name of Meynell now. People forget old
names, you see, and it's no use keeping to them after they're
Yes, the old names are forgotten, the old people fade off the face of
the earth. The romance of Matthew Haygarth seemed to come to a lame and
impotent conclusion in this dull record of dealers in carpeting.
"You can't remember what part of England it was that Christian
Meynell's daughter went to when she married?"
"No. It wasn't a matter I took much interest in. I don't think I ever
spoke to the young woman above three times in my life, though she lived
in the same street, and though her brother and I often met each other
at the Cat and Salutation, where there used to be a great deal of talk
about the war and Napoleon Bonaparte in those days."
"Have you any idea of the time at which she was married?" I inquired.
"Not as to the exact year. I know it was after I was married; for I
remember my wife and I sitting at our window upstairs one summer Sunday
evening, and seeing Samuel Meynell's sister go by to church. I can
remember it as well as if it was yesterday. She was dressed in a white
gown and a green silk spencer. Yes--and I didn't marry my first wife
till 1814. But as to telling you exactly when Miss Meynell left
Aldersgate-street, I can't."
These reminiscences of the past seemed to exercise rather a mollifying
influence upon the old man's mind, commonplace as they were. He ceased
to look at me with sharp, suspicious glances, and he seemed anxious to
afford me all the help he could. "Was Christian Meynell's father called
William?" I asked, after having paused to make some notes in my
"That I can't tell you; though, if Christian Meynell was living to-day,
he wouldn't be ten years older than me. His father died when I was
quite a boy; but there must be old books at the warehouse with his name
in them, if they haven't been destroyed."
I determined to make inquiries at the carpet warehouse; but I had
little hope of finding the books of nearly a century gone by. I tried
"Do you know whether Christian Meynell was an only son, or the only son
who attained manhood?" I asked.
My elderly friend shook his head.
"Christian Meynell never had any brothers that I heard of," he said;
"but the parish register will tell you all about that, supposing that
his father before him lived all his life in Aldersgate-street, as I've
every reason to believe he did."
After this I asked a few questions about the neighbouring churches,
thanked Mr. Grewter for his civility, and departed.
I went back to Omega-street, dined upon nothing particular, and devoted
the rest of my evening to the scrawling of this journal, and a tender
reverie, in which Charlotte Halliday was the central figure.
How bitter poverty and dependence have made Diana Paget! She used to be
a nice girl too.
_Oct. 16th_. To-day's work has been confined to the investigation of
parish registers--a most wearisome business at the best. My labours
were happily not without result. In the fine old church of St. Giles,
Cripplegate, I found registries of the baptism of Oliver Meynell, son
of William and Caroline Mary Meynell, 1768; and of the burial of the
same Oliver in the following year. I found the record of the baptism of
a daughter to the same William and Caroline Mary Meynell, and further
on the burial of the said daughter, at five years of age. I also found
the records of the baptism of Christian Meynell, son of the same
William and Caroline Mary Meynell, in the year 1772, and of William
Meynell's decease in the year 1793. Later appeared the entry of the
burial of Sarah, widow of Christian Meynell. Later still, the baptism
of Samuel Meynell; then the baptism of Susan Meynell; and finally, that
of Charlotte Meynell.
These were all the entries respecting the Meynell family to be found in
the registry. There was no record of the burial of Caroline Mary, wife
of William Meynell, nor of Christian Meynell, nor of Samuel Meynell,
his son; and I knew that all these entries would be necessary to my
astute Sheldon before his case would be complete. After my search of
the registries, I went out into the churchyard to grope for the family
vault of the Meynells, and found a grim square monument, enclosed by a
railing that was almost eaten away by rust, and inscribed with the
names and virtues of that departed house. The burial ground is
interesting by reason of more distinguished company than the Meynells.
John Milton, John Fox, author of the Martyrology, and John Speed, the
chronologer, rest in this City churchyard.
In the hope of getting some clue to the missing data, I ventured to
make a second call upon Mr. Grewter, whom I found rather inclined to be
snappish, as considering the Meynell business unlikely to result in any
profit to himself, and objecting on principle to take any trouble not
likely to result in profit. I believe this is the mercantile manner of
looking at things in a general way.
I asked him if he could tell me where Samuel Meynell was buried.
"I suppose he was buried in foreign parts," replied the old gentleman,
with considerable grumpiness, "since he died in foreign parts."
"O, he died abroad, did he? Can you tell me where?"
"No, sir, I can't," replied Mr. Grewter, with increasing grumpiness; "I
didn't trouble myself about other people's affairs then, and I don't
trouble myself about them now, and I don't particularly care to be
troubled about them by strangers."
I made the meekest possible apology for my intrusion, but the outraged
Grewter was not appeased.
"Your best apology will be not doing it again," he replied. "Those that
know my habits know that I take half an hour's nap after dinner. My
constitution requires it, or I shouldn't take it. If I didn't happen to
have a strange warehouseman on my premises, you wouldn't have been
allowed to disturb me two afternoons running."
Finding Mr. Grewter unappeasable, I left him, and went to seek a more
placable spirit in the shape of Anthony Sparsfield, carver and gilder,
I found the establishment of Sparsfield and Son, carvers and gilders.
It was a low dark shop, in the window of which were exhibited two or
three handsomely carved frames, very much the worse for flies, and one
oil-painting, of a mysterious and Rembrandtish character. The
old-established air that pervaded almost all the shops in this
neighbourhood was peculiarly apparent in the Sparsfield establishment.
In the shop I found a mild-faced man of about forty engaged in
conversation with a customer. I waited patiently while the customer
finished a minute description of the kind of frame he wanted made for a
set of proof engravings after Landseer; and when the customer had
departed, I asked the mild-faced man if I could see Mr. Sparsfield.
"I am Mr. Sparsfield," he replied politely.
"Not Mr. Anthony Sparsfield?"
"Yes, my name is Anthony."
"I was given to understand that Mr. Anthony Sparsfield was a much older
"O, I suppose you mean my father," replied the mild-faced man. "My
father is advanced in years, and does very little in the business
nowadays; not but what his head is as clear as ever it was, and there
are some of our old customers like to see him when they give an order."
This sounded hopeful. I told Mr. Sparsfield the younger that I was not
a customer, and then proceeded to state the nature of my business. I
found him as courteous as Mr. Grewter had been disobliging.
"Me and father are old-fashioned people," he said; "and we're not above
living over our place of business, which most of the Barbican
tradespeople are nowadays. The old gentleman is taking tea in the
parlour upstairs at this present moment, and if you don't mind stepping
up to him, I'm sure he'll be proud to give you any information he can.
He likes talking of old times."
This was the sort of oldest inhabitant I wanted to meet with--a very
different kind of individual from Mr. Grewter, who doled out every
answer to my questions as grudgingly as if it had been a five-pound
I was conducted to a snug little sitting-room on the first-floor, where
there was a cheerful fire and a comfortable odour of tea and toast. I
was invited to take a cup of tea; and as I perceived that my acceptance
of the invitation would be accounted a kind of favour, I said yes. The
tea was very weak, and very warm, and very sweet; but Mr. Sparsfield
and his son sipped it with as great an air of enjoyment as if it had
been the most inspiring of beverages.
Mr. Sparsfield the elder was more or less rheumatic and asthmatic, but
a cheerful old man withal, and quite ready to prate of old times, when
Barbican and Aldersgate-street were pleasanter places than they are
to-day, or had seemed so to this elderly citizen.
"Meynell!" he exclaimed; "I knew Sam Meynell as well as I knew my own
brother, and I knew old Christian Meynell almost as well as I knew my
own father. There was more sociability in those days, you see, sir. The
world seems to have grown too full to leave any room for friendship.
It's all push and struggle, and struggle and push, as you may say; and
a man will make you a frame for five-and-twenty shillings that will
look more imposing like than what I could turn out for five pound, Only
the gold-leaf will all drop off after a twelvemonth's wear; and that's
the way of the world nowadays. There's a deal of gilding, and things
are made to look uncommon bright; but the gold all drops off 'em before
After allowing the old man to moralise to his heart's content, I
brought him back politely to the subject in which I was interested.
"Samuel Meynell was as good a fellow as ever breathed," he said; "but
he was too fond of the tavern. There were some very nice taverns round
about Aldersgate-street in those days; and you see, sir, the times were
stirring times, and folks liked to get together and talk over the day's
news, with a pipe of tobacco and a glass of their favourite liquor, all
in a sociable way. Poor Sam Meynell took a little too much of his
favourite liquor; and when the young woman that he had been keeping
company with--Miss Dobberly of Jewin-street--jilted him and married a
wholesale butcher in Newgate Market, who was old enough to be her
father, Sam took to drinking, and neglected his business. One day he
came to me and said, 'I've sold the business, Tony,'--for it was Sam
and Tony with us, you see, sir,--'and I'm off to France.' This was soon
after the battle of Waterloo; and many folks had a fancy for going over
to France now that they'd seen the back of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was
generally alluded to in those days by the name of monster or tiger, and
was understood to make his chief diet off frogs. Well, sir, we were all
of us very much surprised at Sam's going to foreign parts; but as he'd
always been wild, it was only looked upon as a part of his wildness,
and we weren't so much surprised to hear a year or two afterwards that
he'd drunk himself to death upon cheap brandy--odyvee as _they_ call
it, poor ignorant creatures--at Calais."
"He died at Calais?"
"Yes," replied the old man; "I forget who brought the news home, but I
remember hearing it. Poor Sam Meynell died and was buried amongst the
"You are sure he was buried at Calais?"
"Yes, as sure as I can be of anything. Travelling was no easy matter in
those days, and in foreign parts there was nothing but diligences,
which I've heard say were the laziest-going vehicles ever invented.
There was no one to bring poor Sam's remains back to England, for his
mother was dead, and his two sisters were settled somewhere down in
In Yorkshire! I am afraid I looked rather sheepish when Mr. Sparsfield
senior mentioned this particular county, for my thoughts took wing and
were with Charlotte Halliday before the word had well escaped his lips.
"Miss Meynell settled in Yorkshire, did she?" I asked.
"Yes, she married some one in the farming way down there. Her mother
was a Yorkshirewoman, and she and her sister went visiting among her
mother's relations, and never came back to London. One of them married,
the other died a spinster."
"Do you remember the name of the man she married?"
"No," replied Mr. Sparsfield, "I can't say that I do."
"Do you remember the name of the place she went to--the town or
village, or whatever it was?"
"I might remember it if I heard it," he responded thoughtfully; "and I
ought to remember it, for I've heard Sam Meynell talk of his sister
Charlotte's home many a time. She was christened Charlotte, you see,
after the Queen. I've a sort of notion that the name of the village was
something ending in Cross, as it might be Charing Cross, or Waltham
This was vague, but it was a great deal more than I had been able to
extort from Mr. Grewter. I took a second cup of the sweet warm liquid
which my new friends called tea, in order to have an excuse for
loitering, while I tried to obtain more light from the reminiscences of
the old frame-maker.
No more light came, however. So I was fain to take my leave, reserving
to myself the privilege of calling again on a future occasion.
_Oct. 18th_. I sent Sheldon a statement of my Aldersgate-street
researches the day before yesterday morning. He went carefully through
the information I had collected, and approved my labours.
"You've done uncommonly well, considering the short time you've been at
the work," he said; "and you've reason to congratulate yourself upon
having your ground all laid out for you, as my ground has never been
laid out for me. The Meynell branch seems to be narrowing itself into
the person of Christian Meynell's daughter and her descendants, and our
most important business now will be to find out when, where, and whom
she married, and what issue arose from such marriage. This I think you
ought to be able to do."
I shook my head rather despondingly.
"I don't see any hope of finding out the name of the young woman's
husband," I said, "unless I can come across another oldest inhabitant,
gifted with a better memory for names and places than my obliging
Sparsfield or my surly Grewter."
"There are the almshouses," said Sheldon; "you haven't tried them yet."
"No; I suppose I must go in for the almshouses," I replied, with the
sublime resignation of the pauper, whose poverty must consent to
anything; "though I confess that the prosiness of the almshouse
intellect is almost more than I can endure."
"And how do you know that you mayn't get the name of the place out of
your friend the carver and gilder?" said George Sheldon; "he has given
you some kind of clue in telling you that the name ends in Cross. He
said he should know the name if he heard it; why not try him with it?"
"But in order to do that, I must know the name myself," replied I, "and
in that ease I shouldn't want the aid of my Sparsfield."
"You are not great in expedients," said Sheldon, tilting back his
chair, and taking a shabby folio from a shelf of other shabby folios.
"This is a British gazetteer," he said, turning to the index of the
work before him. "We'll test the ancient Sparsfield's memory with every
Cross in the three Ridings, and if the faintest echo of the name we
want still lingers in his feeble old brain, we'll awaken it." My patron
ran his finger-nail along one of the columns of the index.
"Just take your pencil and write down the names as I call them," he
said. "Here we are--Aylsey Cross; and here we are again--Bowford Cross,
Callindale Cross, Huxter's Cross, Jarnam Cross, Kingborough Cross."
Then, after a careful examination of the column, he exclaimed, "Those
are all the Crosses in the county of York, and it will go hard with us
if you or I can't find the descendants of Christian Meynell's daughter
at one of them. The daughter herself may be alive, for anything we
"And how about the Samuel Meynell who died at Calais? You'll have to
find some record of his death, won't you? I suppose in these cases one
must prove everything."
"Yes, I must prove the demise of Samuel," replied the sanguine
genealogist; "that part of the business I'll see to myself, while you
hunt out the female branch of the Meynells. I want an outing after a
long spell of hard work; so I'll run across to Calais and search for
the register of Samuel's interment. I suppose somebody took the trouble
to bury him, though he was a stranger in the land."
"And if I extort the name we want from poor old Sparsfield's
"In that case you can start at once for the place, and begin your
search on the spot. It can't be above fifty years since this woman
married, and there must be some inhabitant of the place old enough to
remember her. O, by the bye, I suppose you'll be wanting more cash for
expenses," added Mr. Sheldon, with a sigh. He took a five-pound note
from his pocket-book, and gave it to me with a piteous air of
self-sacrifice. I know that he is poor, and that whatever money he does
contrive to earn is extorted from the necessities of his needier
brethren. Some of this money he speculates upon the chances of the
Haygarthian succession, as he his speculated his money on worse chances
in the past. "Three thousand pounds!" he said to me, as he handed me
the poor little five-pound note; "think what a prize you are working
for, and work your hardest. The nearer we get to the end, the slower
our progress seems to me; and yet it has been very rapid progress,
considering all things."
So sentimental have I become, that I thought less of that possible
three thousand pounds than of the fact that I was likely to go to
Yorkshire, the county of Charlotte's birth, the county where she was
now staying. I reminded myself that it was the largest shire in
England, and that of all possible coincidences of time and place, there
could be none more unlikely than the coincidence that would bring about
a meeting between Charlotte Halliday and me.
"I know that for all practical purposes I shall be no nearer to her in
Yorkshire than in London," I said to myself; "but I shall have the
pleasure of fancying myself nearer to her."
Before leaving George Sheldon, I told him of the fragmentary sentences
I had heard uttered by Captain Paget and Philip Sheldon at the Lawn;
but he pooh-poohed my suspicions.
"I'll tell you what it is, Valentine Hawkehurst," he said, fixing those
hard black eyes of his upon me as if he would fain have pierced the
bony covering of my skull to discover the innermost workings of my
brain; "neither Captain Paget nor my brother Phil can know anything of
this business, unless you have turned traitor and sold them my secrets.
And mark me, if you have, you've sold yourself and them into the
bargain: my hand holds the documentary evidence, without which all your
knowledge is worthless."
"I am not a traitor," I told him quietly, for I despise him far too
heartily to put myself into a passion about anything he might please to
say of me; "and I have never uttered a word about this business either
to Captain Paget or to your brother. If you begin to distrust me, it is
high time you should look out for a new coadjutor."
I had my Sheldon, morally speaking, at my feet in a moment.
"Don't be melodramatic, Hawkehurst," he said; "people sell each other
every day of the week, and no one blames the seller, provided he makes
a good bargain. But this is a case in which the bargain would be a very
After this I took my leave of Mr. Sheldon. He was to start for Calais
by that night's mail, and return to town directly his investigation was
completed. If he found me absent on his return, he would conclude that
I had obtained the information I required and started for Yorkshire. In
this event he would patiently await the receipt of tidings from that
I went straight from Gray's Inn to Jewin-street. I had spent the
greater part of the day in Sheldon's office, and when I presented
myself before my complacent Sparsfield junior, Sparsfield senior's tea
and toast were already in process of preparation; and I was again
invited to step upstairs to the family sitting-room, and again treated
with that Arcadian simplicity of confidence and friendliness which it
has been my fate to encounter quite as often in the heart of this
sophisticated city as in the most pastoral of villages. With people who
were so frank and cordial I could but be equally frank.
"I am afraid I am making myself a nuisance to you, Mr. Sparsfield," I
said; "but I know you'll forgive me when I tell you that the affair I'm
engaged in is a matter of vital importance to me, and that your help
may do a great deal towards bringing matters to a crisis."
Mr. Sparsfield senior declared himself always ready to assist his
fellow-creatures, and was good enough further to declare that he had
taken a liking to me. So weak had I of late become upon all matters of
sentiment, I thanked Mr. Sparsfield for his good opinion, and then went
on to tell him that I was about to test his memory.
"And it ain't a bad un," he cried, cheerily, clapping his hand upon his
knee by way of emphasis. "It ain't a bad memory, is it, Tony?"
"Few better, father," answered the dutiful Anthony junior. "Your
memory's better than mine, a long way."
"Ah," said the old man, with a chuckle, "folks lived different in my
day. There weren't no gas, and there weren't no railroads, and London
tradespeople was content to live in the same house from year's end to
year's end. But now your tradesman must go on his foreign tours, like a
prince of the royal family, and he must go here and go there; and when
he's been everywhere, he caps it all by going through the Gazette.
Folks stayed at home in my day; but they made their fortunes, and they
kept their health, and their eyesight, and their memory, and their
hearing, and many of 'em have lived to see the next generation make
fools of themselves."
"Why, father," cried Anthony junior, aghast at this flood of eloquence,
"what an oration!"
"And it ain't often I make an oration, is it, Tony?" said the old man,
laughing. "I only mean to say that if my memory's pretty bright, it may
be partly because I haven't frittered it away upon nonsense, as some
folks have. I've stayed at home and minded my own business, and left
other people to mind theirs. And now, sir, if you want the help of my
memory, I'm ready to give it."
"You told me the other day that you could not recall the name of the
place where Christian Meynell's daughter married, but you said you
should remember it if you heard it, and you also said that the name
ended in Cross."
"I'll stick to that," replied my ancient friend. "I'll stick to that."
"Very well then. It is a settled thing that the place was in
"Yes, I'm sure of that too."
"And that the name ended in Cross?"
"It did, as sure as my name is Sparsfield."
"Then in that case, as there are only six towns or villages in the
county of York the names of which end in Cross, it stands to reason
that the place we want must be one of those six."
Having thus premised, I took my list from my pocket and read aloud the
names of the six places, very slowly, for Mr. Sparsfield's edification.
"Aylsey Cross--Bowford Cross--Callindale Cross--Huxter's Cross--Jarnam
"That's him!" cried my old friend suddenly.
"Which?" I asked eagerly.
"Huxter's Cross; I remember thinking at the time that it must be a
place where they sold things, because of the name Huxter, you see,
pronounced just the same as if it was spelt with a cks instead of an x.
And I heard afterwards that there'd once been a market held at the
place, but it had been done away with before our time. Huxter's Cross;
yes, that's the name of the place where Christian Meynell's daughter
married and settled. I've heard it many a time from poor Sam, and it
comes back to me as plain as if I'd never forgotten it."
There was an air of conviction about the old man which satisfied me
that he was not deceived. I thanked him heartily for his aid as I took
"You may have helped to put a good lump of money in my pocket, Mr.
Sparsfield," I said; "and if you have, I'll get my picture taken, if
it's only for the pleasure of bringing it here to be framed."
With this valedictory address I left my simple citizens of Barbican. My
heart was very light as I wended my way across those metropolitan wilds
that lay between Barbican and Omega-street. I am ashamed of myself when
I remember the foolish cause of this elation of mind. I was going to
Yorkshire, the county of which my Charlotte was now an inhabitant. My
Charlotte! It is a pleasure even to write that delicious possessive
pronoun--the pleasure of poor Alnascher, the crockery-seller, dreaming
his day-dream in the eastern market-place.
Can any one know better than I that I shall be no nearer Charlotte
Halliday in Yorkshire than I am in London? No one. And yet I am glad my
Sheldon's business takes me to the woods and wolds of that wide
Huxter's Cross--some Heaven-forgotten spot, no doubt. I bought a
railway time-table on my way home to-night, and have carefully studied
the bearings of the place amongst whose mouldy records I am to discover
the history of Christian Meynell's daughter and heiress.
I find that Huxter's Cross lies off the railroad, and is to be
approached by an obscure little station--as I divine from the
ignominious type in which its name appears--about sixty miles northward
of Hull. The station is called Hidling; and at Hidling there seems to
be a coach which plies between the station and Huxter's Cross.
Figure to yourself again, my dear, the heir-at-law to a hundred
thousand pounds vegetating in the unknown regions of Huxter's Cross cum
Hidling, unconscious of his heritage!
Shall I find him at the plough-tail, I wonder, this mute inglorious
heir-at-law? or shall I find an heiress with brawny arms meekly
churning butter? or shall I discover the last of the Meynells taking
his rest in some lonely churchyard, not to be awakened by earthly voice
proclaiming the tidings of earthly good fortune?
I am going to Yorkshire--that is enough for me. I languish for the
starting of the train which shall convey me thither. I begin to
understand the nostalgia of the mountain herdsman: I pine for that
northern air, those fresh pure breezes blowing over moor and wold--
though I am not quite clear, by the bye, as to the exact nature of a
wold. I pant, I yearn for Yorkshire. I, the cockney, the child of
Temple Bar, whose cradle-song was boomed by the bells of St. Dunstan's
and St. Clement's Danes.
Is not Yorkshire my Charlotte's birthplace? I want to see the land
whose daughters are so lovely.
_November 1st_. This is Huxter's Cross, and I live here. I have lived
here a week. I should like to live here for ever. O, let me be rational
for a few hours, while I write the record of this last blissful week;
let me be reasonable, and business-like, and Sheldon-like for this one
wet afternoon, and then I may be happy and foolish again. Be still,
beating heart! as the heroines of Minerva-press romances were
accustomed to say to themselves on the smallest provocation. Be still,
foolish, fluttering, schoolboy heart, which has taken a new lease of
youth and folly from a fair landlord called Charlotte Halliday.
Drip, drip, drip, O rain! "The day is dark and cold and dreary, and the
vine still clings to the mouldering wall; and with every gust the dead
leaves fall:" but thy sweet sad verse wakes no responsive echo in my
heart, O tender Transatlantic Poet, for my heart is light and glad--
recklessly glad--heedless of to-morrow--forgetful of yesterday--full to
the very brim with the dear delight of to-day.
And now to business. I descend from the supernal realms of fancy to the
dry record of commonplace fact. This day week I arrived at Hidling,
after a tedious journey, which, with stoppages at Derby and Normanton,
and small delays at obscurer stations, had occupied the greater part of
the day. It was dusk when I took my place in the hybrid vehicle, half
coach, half omnibus, which was to convey me from Hidling to Huxter's
Cross. A transient glimpse at Hidling showed me one long straggling
street and a square church-tower. Our road branched off from the
straggling street, and in the autumn dusk I could just discover the dim
outlines of distant hills encircling a broad waste of moor.
I have been so steeped in London that this wild barren scene had a
charm for me which it could scarcely possess for others. Even the gloom
of that dark waste of common land was pleasant to me. I shared the
public vehicle with one old woman, who snored peacefully in the
remotest corner, while I looked out at the little open window and
watched the darkening landscape.
Our drive occupied some hours. We passed two or three little clusters
of cottages and homesteads, where the geese screamed and the cocks
crowed at our approach, and where a few twinkling tapers in upper
windows proclaimed the hour of bed-time. At one of these clusters of
habitation, a little island of humanity in the waste of wold and moor,
we changed horses, with more yo-oh-ing and come-up-ing than would have
attended the operation in a civilised country. At this village I heard
the native tongue for the first time in all its purity; and for any
meaning which it conveyed to my ear I might as well have been listening
to the _patois_ of agricultural Carthage.
After changing horses, we went up hill, with perpetual groanings, and
grumblings, and grindings, and whip-smacking and come-up-ing, for an
indefinite period; and then we came to a cluster of cottages, suspended
high up in the sharp autumn atmosphere as it seemed to me; and the
driver of the vehicle came to my little peephole of a window, and told
me with some slight modification of the Carthaginian _patois_ that I
I alighted, and found myself at the door of a village inn, with the red
light from within shining out upon me where I stood, and a battered old
sign groaning and creaking above my head. For me, who in all my life
had been accustomed to find my warmest welcome at an inn, this was to
be at home. I paid my fare, took up my carpet-bag, and entered the
I found a rosy-faced landlady, clean and trim, though a trifle floury
as to the arms and apron. She had emerged from a kitchen, an
old-fashioned chamber with a floor of red brick; a chamber which was
all in a rosy glow with the firelight, and looked like a Dutch picture,
as I peeped at it through the open doorway. There were the most
picturesque of cakes and loaves heaped on a wooden bench by the hearth,
and the whole aspect of the place was delicious in its homely comfort.
"O," I said to myself, "how much better the northern winds blowing over
these untrodden hills, and the odour of home-made loaves, than the
booming bells of St. Dunstan's, and the greasy steam of tavern chops
My heart warmed to this Yorkshire and these Yorkshire people. Was it
for Charlotte's sake, I wonder, that I was so ready to open my heart to
everybody and everything in this unknown land?
A very brief parley set me quite at ease with my landlady. Even, the
Carthaginian _patois_ became intelligible to me after a little
experience. I found that I could have a cosy, cleanly chamber, and be
fed and cared for upon terms that seemed absurdly small, even to a
person of my limited means. My cordial hostess brought me a meal which
was positively luxurious; broiled ham and poached eggs, such as one
scarcely hopes to see out of a picture of still life; crisp brown cakes
fresh from that wonderful oven whose door I had seen yawning open in
the Flemish interior below; strong tea and cream--the cream that one
reads of in pastoral stories.
I enjoyed my banquet, and then opened my window and looked out at the
still landscape, dimly visible in the faint starlight.
I was at the top of a hill--the topmost of an ascending range of hills--
and to some minds that alone is rapture. To inhale the fresh night air
was to drink deeply of an ethereal beverage. I had never experienced so
delicious a sensation since I had stood on the grassy battlements of
the Chateau d'Arques, with the orchards and gardens of sunny Normandy
spread like a carpet below my feet.
But this hill was loftier than that on which the feudal castle rears
its crumbling towers, and the landscape below me was wilder than
No words can tell how I rejoiced in this untrodden region--this
severance from the Strand and Temple Bar. I felt as if my old life was
falling away from me--like the scales of the lepers who were cleansed
by the Divine Healer. I felt myself worthier to love, or even to be
loved by, the bright true-hearted girl whose image fills my heart. Ah,
if Heaven gave me that dear angel, I think my old life, my old
recklessness, my old want of principle, would drop away from me
altogether, and the leper would stand forth cleansed and whole. Could I
not be happy with her here, among these forgotten hills, these widely
scattered homesteads? Could I not be happy dissevered eternally from
billiard-room and kursaal, race-ground and dancing-rooms? Yes,
completely and unreservedly happy--happy as a village curate with
seventy pounds a year and a cast-off coat, supplied by the charity of a
land too poor to pay its pastors the wage of a decent butler--happy as
a struggling farmer, though the clay soil of my scanty acres were never
so sour and stubborn, my landlord never so hard about his rent--happy
as a pedlar, with my pack of cheap tawdry wares slung behind me, and my
Charlotte tramping gaily by my side.
I breakfasted next morning in a snug little parlour behind the bar,
where I overheard two carters conversing in the Carthaginian _patois_,
to which I became hourly more accustomed. My brisk cheery landlady came
in and out while I took my meal; and whenever I could detain her long
enough, I tried to engage her in conversation.
I asked her if she had ever heard the name of Meynell; and after
profound consideration she replied in the negative.
"I don't mind hearing aught of folks called Meynell," she said with
more or less of the _patois_, which I was beginning to understand; "but
I haven't got mooch memory for nee-ams. I might have heard o' such
folks, and not minded t' nee-am."
This was rather dispiriting; but I knew that if any record of Christian
Meynell's daughter existed at Huxter's Cross, it was in my power to
I asked if there was any official in the way of a registrar to be found
in the village; and found that there was no one more important than an
old man who kept the keys of the church. The registers were kept in the
vestry, my landlady believed, and the old man was called Jonas Gorles,
and lived half a mile off, at the homestead of his son-in-law. But my
landlady said she would send for him immediately, and pledged herself
to produce him in the course of an hour. I told her that I would find
my way to the churchyard in the mean time, whither Mr. Gorles could
follow me as soon as convenient.
The autumnal morning was fresh and bright as spring, and Huxter's Cross
seemed the most delightful place on earth to me, though it is only a