Part 2 out of 9
veriest scrapings of a miserly household. The old man, soured by his
great disappointment, grew sordid and covetous with increasing years, and
the lives of the women were hard and hopeless. By little cheats, and
petty contrivances, and pitiful falsifications of financial statements,
they managed to scrape together a few louis now and then for the
struggling exile; and to do this was the sole delight of their patient
lives. They contrived also to correspond secretly with Gustave, and were
informed of the birth of his son.
"Ah, if thou couldst see how beautiful he is," wrote the father, "this
child of pure and true love, thou wouldst no longer regret my breach of
faith with Madelon Frehlter. I knew not until now how like infant
children are to angels. I knew not how true to nature are the angels in
the pictures of Raffaelle and Murillo. Thou knowest the print of
Murillo's Assumption; the picture is in the Louvre. If thou canst
remember that picture, dear mother, thou hast but to recall the face of
one of the cherubim about the feet of our Lady, and thou hast the
portrait of my boy. He opens his eyes, and looks at me as I write. Ah!
that he and I and my Susan were with thee in the little salon at
Beaubocage--my sister, Susan, you, and I united round this darling's
cradle. He has been born in poverty, but his birth has made us very
The sentiment of this letter was no spurious or transient feeling. For
this child Gustave Lenoble evinced an unchanging fondness. It was indeed
no part of his nature to change. The little one was his comfort in
affliction, his joy during every brief interval of prosperity. When the
battle was well nigh fought, and he began to feel himself beaten. His
chief anxieties, his ever-returning fears, were for his wife and child.
To Susan the thought of parting from him was a despair too deep for
tears. She would have been something less than woman if she had not loved
her husband with more than common affection. She watched the change that
illness brought in the frank face, the stalwart figure; and little by
little the awful truth came home to her. The hour was at hand in which
she must lose him.
"If you could have rest, Gustave, better medical advice, more comforts,
you would soon be strong again, I am sure your father would not refuse to
forgive you now. Write to him, dearest. Go back to Beaubocage, and let
your mother and sister nurse you. I will stay here with the little one.
It shall be forgotten that you have a wife and child."
"No, dear one; I will not desert you, even for a day, to buy back my
father's love. I would rather be here with you than in the pleasantest
home without you. But we must face the future, Susan; we must be brave
and wise, for the little one's sake. You are not so strong that you can
afford to trust blindly in your power to protect him by-and-by. I have
written a letter to my father. He has proved himself a hard man to me,
cruel and obdurate beyond all my fears; but I know he is not altogether
heartless. When I am dead, you will take the letter in one hand, the
child in the other, and go to Beaubocage. I believe he will adopt the
boy, and that the little one will give him the comfort and happiness he
hoped from me. He must be very lonely; and I cannot doubt that his heart
will melt when he sees the child's face, and hears that he has no longer
a son. As for yourself, my poor girl, I see for you no hope except in the
old Yorkshire home, and the friends you fear to see again."
"I no longer fear them," said his wife, with unwonted energy, "I could
not go to them seven years ago; but I can go to them as your wife."
"Ah, thank God, the poor name is worth something for you."
"Yes, dear; and I will go back to them--to-morrow."
"To-morrow, Gustave. I have been selfish and cruel to delay so long. The
old dread of seeing my sister's reproachful face has been strong enough
to hold me back, when a little courage might have enabled me to help you.
The burden has been all on you, and I have done nothing. O, what a wretch
I must have been to sit idly by and see you suffer, and make no effort to
"But, my darling, you have not been idle. You have been the dearest and
most industrious of wives, and have helped me to bear my burden. You have
done more, dear--you have made my burden pleasant to me."
"I will try to lighten it, Gustave," cried Susan, with excitement. "O,
why, why did I never try before! My sister and her husband are well
off--rich perhaps. If they are still living, if no cruel changes have
come to pass at Newhall, they could help us with a little money. They
might even give us a home. I will start for England to-morrow."
"Nay, my dear, you are not strong enough to travel so far alone. It
seems, indeed, a happy thought this of your rich relations; but you must
not undertake such a journey. You might write."
"No, Gustave, I will trust to no letter; I will go. It will be no pain
for me to humble myself for your sake. I will go straight to my sister. I
know what a tender compassionate heart it is that I shall appeal to."
There was much discussion; but Susan was resolute. To scrape together the
money for the journey she made efforts that were heroic in a nature so
weak as hers. She went to the Monte de Piete with the last of her little
treasures, that one dear trinket to which she had clung even when hunger
was at the door--the gimmal or alliance ring that Gustave had placed upon
her finger before God's altar--the double symbolic circlet which bore on
one side her name, on the other her husband's. This dearest of all her
possessions she surrendered for a few francs, to make up the sum needful
for her journey.
What it cost her to do this, what it cost her to tear herself away
from her sick husband and her only child, who shall say? There are
pangs that cannot be counted, agonies that will come within no
calculation--the infinite of pain. She went. Two kind souls, a labourer
and his wife, lodgers in the same garret-story, promised to care for
and help the invalid and child. There is no desolation in which a child
will not find a friend.
The journey was long and fatiguing; the anguish of her poor aching heart
almost too much for endurance--a heart so heavy that even hope could
scarce flutter it. It was dull damp weather, though in the middle of
summer. The solitary traveller caught cold on the journey, and arrived in
London in a high fever. Ill, faint, and helpless, the great city seemed
to her unspeakably dismal--most stony of all stony-hearted mothers to
this wretched orphan. She could go no farther than the darksome city inn
where the coach from Southampton brought her. She had come _via_ Havre.
Here she sank prostrate, and had barely sufficient strength to write an
incoherent letter to her sister, Mrs. Halliday, of Newhall Farm, near
Huxter's Cross, Yorkshire.
The sister came as fast as the fastest coach on the great northern road
could carry her. There was infinite joy in that honest sisterly heart
over this one sinner's repentance. Fourteen years had gone by since the
young city-bred beauty had fled with that falsest of men, and most
hardened of profligates, Montague Kingdon; and tidings from Susan were
unlooked for and thrilling as a message from the grave.
Alas for the adverse fate of Susan Meynell! The false step of her youth
had set her for ever wrong upon life's highway. When kind Mrs. Halliday
came, Gustave Lenoble's wife was past her help; wandering in her mind; a
girl again, but newly run away from her peaceful home; and with no
thought save of remorse for her misdeeds.
The seven years of her married life seemed to have faded out of her mind.
She raved of Montague Kingdon's baseness, of her own folly, her vain
regret, her yearning for pardon; but of the dying husband in the garret
at Rouen she uttered no word. And so, with her weary head upon her
sister's breast, she passed away, her story untold, no wedding-ring on
her wasted finger to bear witness that she died an honest man's wife; no
letters or papers in her poor little trunk to throw light on the fourteen
years in which she had been a castaway.
Mrs. Halliday stayed in London to see the wanderer laid in the quiet city
churchyard where her family rested, and where for her was chosen an
obscure corner in which she might repose forgotten and unknown.
But not quite nameless. Mrs. Halliday could not leave the grave unmarked
by any record of the sister she had loved. The stone above the grave of
Gustave's wife bore her maiden name, and the comforting familiar text
about the one sinner who repenteth.
FORGIVEN TOO LATE.
For a week of long days and longer nights there was no step sounded on
the stair, no opening or shutting of a door in the old dilapidated house
where he lay languishing on the brink of an open grave, that did not move
Gustave Lenoble with a sudden emotion of hope. But the footsteps came and
went, the doors were opened and shut again and again, and the traveller
so waited, so hoped for did not return.
The boy--the brave bright son, who seemed to inherit all that was noblest
and best in his father's nature--pined for his mother. The man endured a
martyrdom worse than the agony of Damiens, the slow tortures of La Barre.
What had befallen her? That she could desert him or his child was a
possibility that never shaped itself in his mind. _That_ drop of poison
was happily wanting in his cup; and the bitterness of death was sweet
compared to the scorpion-sting of such a supposition.
She did not return. Calamity in some shape had overtaken her--calamity
dire as death; for, with life and reason, she could not have failed to
send some token, some tidings, to those she loved. The sick man waited a
week after the day on which he had begun to expect her return. At the end
of that time he rose, with death in his face, and went out to look for
her--to look for her in Rouen; for her whom the instinct of his heart
told him was far away from that city--as far as death from life. He went
to the Cour de Messageries, and loitered and waited amidst the bustle of
arriving and departing diligences, with a half-imbecile hope that she
would alight from one of them. The travellers came and went, pushing and
hustling him in their selfish haste. When night came he went back to his
garret. All was quiet. The boy slept with the children of his good
neighbour, and was comforted by the warmth of that strange hearth.
Gustave lit his candle, a last remaining morsel.
"You will last my time, friend," he said, with a wan smile.
He seated himself at the little table, pushed aside the medicine-bottles,
searched for a stray sheet of letter-paper, and then began to write.
He wrote to his mother, telling her that death was at hand, and that the
time had come in which she must succour her son's orphan child. With this
he enclosed a letter to his father--that letter of which he had spoken to
his wife, and which had been written in the early days of his illness.
This packet he directed to Madame Lenoble, at Beaubocage. There was no
longer need for secrecy.
"When those letters are delivered I shall be past blame, and past
forgiveness," he thought.
In the morning he was dead.
The neighbours posted the letter. The neighbours comforted and protected
the child for two days; and then there came a lady, very sad, very quiet,
who wept bitterly in the stillness of that attic chamber where Gustave
Lenoble lay; and who afterwards, with a gentle calmness of manner that
was very sweet to see, made all necessary arrangements for a humble, but
not a mean or ignominious, funeral.
"He was my brother," she said to the good friends of the neighbouring
garret. "We did our best to help him, my mother and I; but we little
thought how bitterly he wanted help. The brave heart would not suffer us
to know that."
And then she thanked them with much tenderness for their charity to the
dead man; and with these good people she went on foot through the narrow
streets of the city to see her brother laid in his grave.
Until this was done the mournful lady, who was not yet thirty years of
age, and of a placid nun-like beauty, abandoned herself to no transport
of love for her orphan nephew; but when that last office of affection had
been performed, she took the little one on her knees, and folded him to
her breast, and gave him her heart, as she had given it long ago to his
father; for this gentle unselfish creature was one who must needs have
some shrine at which to offer her daily sacrifice of self. Already she
was beginning to think how the orphan was to be cared for and the widow
also, for whose return she looked daily.
For the return of Susan Lenoble Cydalise waited at Rouen several days
after the funeral. She had, happily, an old school-fellow comfortably
established in the city; and in the house of this old friend she found a
home. No one but her mother and this friend, whom she could trust, knew
of the business that had brought her from Beaubocage. In seven years the
father had never uttered his only son's name; in all the seven years that
name had never been spoken in his hearing.
When three weeks had gone by since the departure of Susan for England,
all hope of her return was abandoned by Mademoiselle Lenoble and the
neighbours who had known the absent woman.
"She had the stamp of death on her face when she went away," said the
labourer's wife, "as surely as it was on him that she left. I told her
she had no strength for the journey; but she would go: there was no
moving her from that. She had rich friends _la-bas_, who might help her
husband. It was for that she went. That thought seemed to give her a kind
of fever, and the strength of fever."
"And there has come no letter--nothing?"
On this Cydalise determined to return to Beaubocage. She could not well
leave the child longer on the hands of these friendly people, even by
paying for his maintenance, which she insisted on doing, though they
would fain have shared their humble _pot-a-feu_ and coarse loaf with
him unrecompensed. She determined on a desperate step. She would take
her brother's orphan child back with her, and leave the rest to
Providence--to the chance of some sudden awakening of natural affection
in a heart that had long languished in a kind of torpor that was almost
The little fellow pined sadly for those dear familiar faces, those tender
soothing voices, that had vanished so suddenly from his life. But the
voice of his aunt was very sweet and tender, and had a tone that recalled
the father who was gone. With this kind aunt he left Rouen in the
lumbering old vehicle that plied daily betwixt that city and Vevinord.
"Thou canst call me Cydalise for a while, my little one," she said to
him; for she did not wish the child to proclaim the relationship between
them yet awhile.
Ah, what bitter tears the two women shed over the soft fair curls of that
little head, when they had the boy all to themselves in the turret
chamber at Beaubocage, on whose white walls the eyes of Cydalise had
opened almost every morning of her pure eventless life!
"Why dost thou cry so, madame?" the child asked of his grandmother, as
she held him in her arms, kissing and weeping over him; "and what have
they done with my father--and mamma too? She went away one day, but she
told me that she would come back, so quickly, ah, so quickly! and the
days passed, and they shut papa in his room, and would not let me go to
him; and mamma did not come, though I asked the Blessed Virgin to send
her back to me."
"Dear child, thy father and mother are in a brighter place than this hard
world, where they had so much sorrow," Madame Lenoble answered, gently.
"Yes, they were often sorry," murmured the boy thoughtfully. "It was
because of money; but then, when there was no money, mamma cried and
kissed me, and kissed papa, and the good papa kissed us both, and somehow
it always ended in happiness."
Francois Lenoble was, happily, absent on this day of tribulation. The
women took their fill of sorrow, but it was sorrow mingled with a strange
bitter sweetness that was almost joy. The seigneur of Beaubocage had gone
to dine, as he still often did, with his old friend Baron Frehlter; for
the breach of faith which had caused a lifelong disunion of father and
son had not divided the two proprietors. Nay, indeed the Baron had been
generous enough to plead the cause of the castaway.
"A man cannot dispose at will of his affections, my friend," he urged;
"and it was more generous in your son to break faith with my daughter
before marriage than after."
Mademoiselle Frehlter had not broken her heart on account of her lover's
falsehood. She had been sufficiently indignant on the occasion, and had
been more impatient of her mother's pet priest and pet poodle during the
brief period in which she wore the willow. She had recovered her good
humour, however, on being wooed by a young subaltern in a cavalry
regiment stationed at Vevinord, the offshoot of a grander house than that
of Lenoble, and whose good looks and good lineage had ultimately
prevailed with the Baron. That gentleman had by no means too good an
opinion of the son-in-law thus forced upon him; but peace was the highest
good (with unlimited tobacco) to which his Germanic soul aspired; and for
the sake of peace in the present he was content to hazard his daughter's
happiness in the future.
"_That_ is very brilliant," he said of M. Paul de Nerague, the young
lieutenant of light cavalry; "but it is not solid, like Gustave. Your son
is honest, candid--a brave heart. It is for that I would have given him
Madelon. But it is Providence which disposes of us, as our good father
St. Velours tells us often; and one must be content. Young Nerague
pleases my daughter, and I must swallow him, though for me he smells too
strong of the barracks: _ca flaire la caserne, mon ami_."
That odour of the barracks which distinguished the sub-lieutenant Paul de
Nerague became more odious after his marriage with the virtuous Madelon,
when he was established--_niche_, as he himself called it--in very
comfortable, though somewhat gruesome, apartments at Cotenoir. His
riotous deportment, his hospitable disposition (as displayed in the
frequent entertainment of his brothers-in-arms at the expense of his
father-in-law), his Don Juan-like demeanour in relation to the housemaids
and kitchen-wenches of the chateau--innocent enough in the main, but on
that account so much the more audacious--struck terror to the hearts of
Madame Frehlter and her daughter; and the elder lady was much gratified
by that thirst for foreign territory which carried the greater part of
the French army and the regiment of the vivacious Paul to the distant
wilds of Algeria.
The virtuous Madelon was too stolid to weep for her husband. But even her
stolidity was not proof against the fiery influence of jealousy, and,
waking and sleeping, her visions were of veiled damsels of Orient
assailing the too inflammable heart of Lieutenant de Nerague.
The young officer was yet absent at that period in which Cydalise
returned from Rouen with her brother's child.
The little boy was sleeping peacefully in a cot beside his aunt's bed (it
had been his father's cot thirty years ago) when Francois Lenoble
returned from Cotenoir that night.
It was not till the next day that he saw the child. He had been making
his usual morning's round in the gardens and orchards, when he came into
the salon, and saw the little boy seated near his grandmother's chair,
playing with some dominoes. Something--perhaps the likeness to his dead
son--the boy's black clothes, for Cydalise had contrived to dress him in
decent mourning--struck suddenly on the old man's heart. "Who is that
boy?" he asked, with a strange earnestness.
"Your son Gustave's only child," answered his wife gently,--"his
Francois Lenoble looked at her, and from her to the boy; tried to speak,
but could not; beckoned the child, and then dropped heavily into a chair
and sobbed aloud. Until this moment no one had ever seen him shed a tear
for the son he had put away from his home--and, as it had seemed, from
his heart. Not by one sigh, not by one mournful utterance of the familiar
name, had he betrayed the depth of that wound which he had endured,
silently, obstinately, in all these years.
They suffered him to bemoan his dead son unhindered by stereotyped
consolations. The two women stood by, and pitied him in silence. The
little boy stared wonderingly, and at last crept up to the
sorrow-stricken father. "Why do you cry, poor old man?" he asked. "You
have not lost your papa and mamma, as I have lost mine, have you? I want
to stay with you and be your little boy, please. She told me to say
that," he added, pointing to Cydalise.--"And I have said it right,
haven't I?" he asked of the same lady.--"I think I shall love you,
because you are like my papa, only older and uglier," the little one
concluded, with angelic candour.
The seigneur of Beaubocage dried his tears with an effort.
Beaubocage--Cotenoir. Ah, me! what empty sounds those two once magic
names seemed to him now that his son's life had been sacrificed to so
paltry an ambition, so sordid a passion, so vile and grovelling a desire!
He took the boy on his knee, and kissed him tenderly. His thoughts
bridged over a chasm of five-and-twenty years as his lips pressed
that fair young brow; and it was his own son--the son whom he had
disowned--whose soft hair was mingling itself now with the grey bristles
on his rugged chin.
"My child," he murmured softly, "the fear is that I shall love thee too
well, and be to thee as much too weakly indulgent as I was wickedly stern
to thy father. Anything is easier to humanity than justice."
This was said to himself rather than to the boy.
"Tell me thy name, little one," he asked presently, after a few moments'
"I have two names, monsieur."
"Thou must call me grandfather. And the two names?"
"I shall call thee Gustave."
"But papa always called me Francois, and mamma said it was the name of a
cruel man; but papa said he loved the name--"
"Ah, no more, little one!" cried the lord of Beaubocage suddenly;
"thou knowest not with what dagger-thrusts thou dost pierce this poor
GUSTAVE THE SECOND.
The little Gustave grew and flourished. Such love was lavished on him as
rarely falls to the lot of children, though the spring of many lives may
be rich in love's pure white blossom. The existence of this child seemed
all happiness. He brought hope, and a sense of atonement, and all sweet
things, to the quiet family at Beaubocage; and as he grew from childhood
to boyhood, from boyhood to manhood, it seemed to that household as if
the first Gustave of their love had never been taken from them. That
Orphic fable of Zagreus repeats itself in many households. For the one
bright creature lost another is given; and then comes a time when it is
almost difficult to separate the image of the missing one from the dear
substitute who so nearly fills his place.
Francois Lenoble and his wife enjoyed a green old age, and the affection
of their grandson made the cup of life sweet for them to the very dregs.
There are, happily, some natures which indulgence cannot injure; some
luxuriant flowers which attain strength as well as beauty under the
influence of these tropical heats of affection. Gustave the second
possessed all the noble qualities of Gustave the first. Frank, generous,
brave, constant, affectionate, light-hearted, he shone on the failing
eyes of his kindred radiant as a young Apollo, brave as a mortal
Those things which the ignorant heart has at some time so passionately
desired are apt to be granted when the desire has grown somewhat cold and
dead. Thus it was with the ambition of Francois Lenoble. He lived to see
the lands of Cotenoir and Beaubocage united in the person of his
grandson, who married Clarice, the only surviving child of M. and Madame
de Nerague. Two sons and a daughter had been born at Cotenoir; but the
sons withered and faded in early boyhood, and even the daughter, though
considered a flourishing plant in that poor garden of weakling blossoms,
was but a fragile creature.
The old people at Beaubocage survived the seigneur and chatelaine of
Cotenoir by some years, and survived also the fiery lieutenant, who fell
in Algeria without having attained his captaincy, or added any military
renown to the good old name of de Nerague in his own magnificent person.
Francois saw his grandson established at Cotenoir before he died. He
expired with his hand in that of Gustave, whom, in the half-consciousness
of that last hour, he mistook for the son he had disowned.
"What door was that that shut?" he asked, in an eager whisper. "Who said
I turned my son out of doors--my only son? It's false! I couldn't have
done it! Hark! there's the door shutting again! It sounds like the door
of a tomb."
After this he dozed a little, and woke with a smile on his face.
"I have been dreaming of thy father, Gustave," he said calmly. "I thought
that I saw him with a light shining in his face, and that he kissed and
This was the end. The faithful wife was not slow to follow her husband to
the grave, and there was now only a placid maiden lady at Beaubocage,
Mademoiselle Cydalise Lenoble, whom everyone within ten leagues of
Vevinord knew and loved,--a lay abbess, a Sister of Mercy in all save the
robes; a tender creature, who lived only to do good.
Ten years passed, and M. Lenoble of Cotenoir was a widower with two
fair young daughters at a convent school on the outskirts of Vevinord,
and a boisterous son at an academy in Rouen. Gustave had never followed
any profession; the lands of Beaubocage secured him a competence,
so prudently had the small estate been managed by the kindred who
adored him. His marriage had given him fortune. He had no need of
trade or profession. His life was laid out for him like a prim Dutch
flower-garden. He was to live at Cotenoir, and look after his estate, and
smoke his pipe, as Baron Frehlter had done, and be a good husband to his
wife, a kind father to his children. This latter part of his duty came
natural to M. Lenoble. It was not in him to be otherwise than kind to
women and children. His invalid wife praised him as a model of marital
perfection. It was Gustave who wheeled her sofa from one room to another,
Gustave who prepared her medicines, Gustave whose careful hands adjusted
curtains and _portieres_. The poor woman lived and died believing herself
the happiest of wives. She mistook kindness for love.
M. Lenoble bore his wife's demise with Christian calmness. He was sorry
that the fragile creature should have been taken so early from the
pleasant home that was hers by right, but of passionate grief, or dreary
sense of irreparable loss, there was none in that manly heart. There were
times when the widower reproached himself for this want of feeling; but
in very truth Madame Lenoble, _jeune_, had lived and died a nonentity.
Her departure left no empty place; even her children scarcely missed her.
The father was all-in-all.
Gustave had married at twenty years of age. He was twenty-nine when his
wife died. His eldest daughter, Clarice, eight; his second, Madelon,
seven; the boy, a spoilt young dog of five, not yet despatched to the
great school at Rouen.
But in '65 Mademoiselle Clarice was fifteen years of age, and a very
charming performer on the pianoforte, as the good nuns at the Convent of
the Sacred Heart, at Vevinord, told the father. Mademoiselle Madelon was
looking forward to her fourteenth anniversary, and she, too, was a very
pretty pianist, and altogether a young prodigy of learning and goodness,
as the nuns told the master of Cotenoir. The demoiselles of Cotenoir
stood high in the estimation of pupils and mistress; they were a kind of
noblesse; and the simple-minded superioress spoke of these young persons
with some pride when she described her establishment to a stranger. It
was a very comfortable little colony, a small world enclosed by high
walls. The good mothers who taught and cherished the children were for
the greater part ladies of superior and even exalted station; and there
was a gentleness, a tenderness, in their care for these young lambs not
always to be insured by the payment of an annual stipend. It must be
confessed that the young lambs were apt to be troublesome, and required a
good deal of watching. To the eye of the philosopher that convent school
would have afforded scope for curious study; for it is singular to
discover what exceptional vices the youthful mind can develop from its
inner consciousness, in homes as pure as this. There were black sheep
even in the convent of the Sacre Coeur, damsels marked with a sign that
Happily for Gustave Lenoble, his daughters were amongst the brightest and
the purest of those girl-graduates. They gave him no trouble, except when
they asked him for a home.
"It seems so dull and dreary at Cotenoir, papa," they said, "though you
are always so kind. It doesn't seem like home. Beaubocage is more
home-like. At Cotenoir, when you are out, there is no one to talk to; and
we have no little parties, no excursions into the country, none of those
pleasures which the other girls tell us they have during the holidays."
This was the gist of the lamentations of Mademoiselles Clarice and
Madelon; and the father knew not how to supply the mysterious something
which was wanting to make Cotenoir a pleasant home. The girls could
complain of no restraint, or pine for no indulgence, since their father
was always prompt to gratify every whim. But there was some element of
happiness wanting, nevertheless; and M. Lenoble perceived that it was so.
The life at Cotenoir was desultory, straggling; an existence of perpetual
dawdling; a life of shreds and patches, half-formed resolutions, projects
begun and broken off in the middle. The good genius, the household angel,
order, was wanting in that mansion. There was waste, dirt, destruction of
all kinds, in the rambling old chateau; old servants, too weak or too
lazy to work; old tradesmen, presuming on old-established habits of
imposition, unquestioned so long as to have become a right--for the
feudal system of fine and forfeiture has only changed hands. The power
still flourishes, only it is the villein who takes tithe of his lord.
The servants at Cotenoir had gone their own ways with but little
interference since the death of Madame de Nerague, which occurred two
years before that of her daughter, Clarice Lenoble. Poor invalid Clarice
had been quite unable to superintend her household; and since her death
Mademoiselle Cydalise had been too feeble of health to assume any
authority in her nephew's establishment, even if the household of
Cotenoir would have submitted to interference from Beaubocage, which in
all likelihood they would not.
Thus it happened that things had taken their own course at the chateau,
and the course had been somewhat erratic. There is nothing so costly as
muddle, and Gustave Lenoble had of late begun to perceive that he had the
maximum of expense with the minimum of comfort. Meanwhile the kind old
aunt at Beaubocage gave her nieces much valuable advice against the time
when they should be old enough to assume the management of their father's
house. The sweet unselfish lady of Beaubocage had indeed undergone hard
experience in the acquirement of the domestic art. Heaven and her own
memory alone recorded those scrapings and pinchings and nice calculations
of morsels by which she had contrived to save a few pounds for her
outcast brother. Such sordid economics show but poorly on earth; but it
is probable that in the mass of documentary evidence which goes before
the Great Judge, Mademoiselle Lenoble's account-book will be placed on
the right side.
Book the Third.
Captain Paget went his way to Rouen in a placid but not an exulting mood,
after parting with his young friend Valentine Hawkehurst at the London
Bridge terminus of the Brighton line. He was setting out upon an
adventure wild and impracticable as the quest of Jason and his Argonauts;
and this gallant captain was a carpet-knight, sufficiently adventurous
and audacious in the diplomatic crusades of society, but in nowise eager
to hazard his life on tented field and in thick press of war. If the
Fates had allowed the accomplished Horatio to choose his own destiny, he
would have elected to live in the immediate neighbourhood of St. James's
Street, from the first day to the last of the London season, and to dine
artistically and discreetly at one of those older and more exclusive
clubs dear and familiar to him from the bright years of his youth. He was
by nature a _flaneur_, a gossip, a lover of expensive luxuries and
frivolous pleasures. He was not only incapable of a high thought himself,
but was an unbeliever in the possibility of high thoughts or noble
principles in the world he lived in. He measured the universe by that
narrow scrap of tape which was the span of his own littleness. To him
Caesar was an imperial brigand, Cicero a hypocritical agitator. To him
all great warriors were greedy time-servers like John Churchill; all
statesmen plausible placemen; all reformers self-seeking pretenders. Nor
did Captain Paget wish that it should be otherwise. In his ideal
republic, unselfishness and earnestness would have rendered a man rather
a nuisance than otherwise. With the vices of his fellow-men the
diplomatic Horatio was fully competent to deal; but some of his most
subtle combinations on the chess-board of life would have been checkmated
by an unexpected encounter with intractable virtue.
The necessity of living was the paramount consideration to which this
gentleman had given his mind from the time when he found himself a
popular subaltern in a crack regiment, admired for his easy manners and
good looks, respected by meaner men for his good blood, and rich in
everything except that vulgar dross without which the life of West-end
London is so hollow a delusion, so bitter a comedy of mean shifts and
That freebooter of civilization, the man who lives by his wits, is
subject to strange fluctuations from prosperity to adversity. He is the
miner or gold-digger of civilized life; and as there are times when his
pickaxe strikes suddenly on a rich lode, so there are dreary intervals in
which his spade turns up nothing but valueless clay, and the end of each
day's work leaves him with no better evidence of his wasted labour than
the aching limbs which he drags at nightfall to his dismal shanty.
For some months Captain Paget had found Philip Sheldon a very useful
acquaintance. The stockbroker had been the secret inaugurator of two or
three joint-stock companies, though figuring to the outer world only as
director; and in the getting-up of these companies Horatio had been a
useful instrument, and had received liberal payment for his labours.
Unhappily, so serene an occupation as promoting cannot go on for ever; or
rather, cannot remain for ever in the same hands. The human mind is
naturally imitative, and the plagiarisms of commerce are infinitely more
audacious than the small larcenies of literature. The joint-stock company
market became day by day more crowded. No sooner did Philip Sheldon float
the Non-destructive Laundry Company, the admirable organization of which
would offer a guarantee against the use of chloride of lime and other
destructive agencies in the wash-tub, than a rival power launched a
colourable imitation thereof, in the Union-is-Strength Domestic Lavatory
Company, with a professor of chemistry specially retained as inspector of
wash-tubs. Thus it was that, after the profitable ripening of three such
schemes, Mr. Sheldon deemed it advisable to retire from the field, and
await a fitter time for the further exercise of his commercial genius.
Captain Paget's relations with the stockbroker did not, however,
terminate with the cessation of his labours as secretary,
jack-of-all-trades, and promoter. Having found him, so far, clever, and
to all appearance trustworthy--and this was an important point, for no
man so much needs honourable service as a rogue--Philip Sheldon
determined upon confiding to Horatio the conduct of a more delicate
business than anything purely commercial. After that discovery of the
telegraphic message sent by his brother George to Valentine Hawkehurst,
and the further discovery of the advertisement relating to the unclaimed
wealth of the lately deceased John Haygarth, Mr. Sheldon lost no time in
organizing his plans for his own aggrandizement at the expense of his
"George refused to let me in for a share of chances when I showed myself
willing to help him," thought Philip. "He may discover by-and-by that I
have contrived to let myself into his secrets; and that he might have
played a better game by consenting to a partnership."
A life devoted to his own interests, and a consistent habit of
selfishness, had rendered Mr. Sheldon, of the Lawn, Bayswater, and Stags
Court, City, very quick of apprehension in all matters connected,
immediately or remotely, with the making of money. The broken sentences
of the telegram betrayed by the blotting-pad told him a great deal. They
told him that there was a certain Goodge, in the town of Ullerton, who
possessed letters so valuable to George Sheldon, as to be bought by his
agent Valentine Hawkehurst. Letters for which Sheldon was willing to give
money must needs be of considerable importance, since money was a very
scarce commodity with that hunter of unconscious heirs-at-law. Again, a
transaction which required the use of so expensive a medium as the
electric telegraph rather than the penny post, might be fairly supposed a
transaction of some moment. The letters in question might relate to some
other estate than that of John Haygarth, for it was quite possible that
the schemer of Gray's Inn had other irons in the fire. But this was a
question of no moment to Philip Sheldon.
If the letters--or the information contained therein--were likely to be
useful to George, they might be useful to him. If George found it worth
his while to employ an agent at Ullerton, why should not he (Philip) have
his agent in the same town? The pecuniary risk, which might be a serious
affair to George, was child's play for Philip, who had always plenty of
money, or, at any rate, the command of money. The whole business of
heir-at-law hunting seemed to the stockbroker a very vague and shadowy
piece of work, as compared to the kind of speculation that was familiar
to him; but he knew that men had made money in such a manner, and any
business by which money could be made, was interesting to him. Beyond
this, the notion of cutting the ground from under his brother's feet had
a certain attraction for him. George's manner to him had been somewhat
offensive to him on more than one occasion since--well, since Tom
Halliday's death. Mr. Sheldon had borne that offensiveness in mind, with
the determination to "take it out of" his brother on the earliest
It seemed as if the opportunity had arrived, and Philip was not one of
those men who wait shivering on the shore when Fortune's tide is at the
flood. Mr. Sheldon launched his bark upon the rising waters, and within
two hours of his discovery in the telegraph-office was closeted with
Horatio Paget in the little parlour in Omega Street, making arrangements
for the Captain's journey to Ullerton.
That Horatio was the right man for the work he wanted done, Mr. Sheldon
had been quick to perceive.
"He knows Hawkehurst, and will be able to reckon up any manoeuvres of his
better than a stranger; and is, I think, altogether as deep an old
gentleman as one could hope to meet with, barring _the_ traditional
gentleman who did odd jobs for Dr. Faustus," the stockbroker said to
himself, as his hansom sped along Park Lane on its way to Chelsea. The
eagerness with which Captain Paget took up the idea of this business was
very agreeable to his patron.
"This is an affair in which success hinges on time," said Mr. Sheldon;
"so, if you mean to go in for the business, you must start for Ullerton
by the two o'clock express. You'll have just time to throw your razors
and a clean shirt into a carpet-bag while I talk to you. I've got a cab
outside, and a good one, that will take you to Euston Square in half an
The Captain showed himself prompt in action. His bedchamber was a small
apartment at the back of the parlour, and here he packed his bag while
conversing with his employer.
"If you get upon the ground in time, you may obtain a look at the letters
before they are handed over to Hawkehurst, or you may outbid him for
them," said Mr. Sheldon; "but remember, whatever you do must be so done
as to keep Hawkehurst and George completely in the dark as to our
proceedings. If once they find out we are on their track, our chances
will be gone, for they have got the information and we haven't; and it's
only by following close in their footsteps we can hope to do anything."
"That is understood," replied the Captain, stooping over his bag; "I
shall keep myself as close as possible, you may depend upon it. And it
shan't be my fault if Valentine sees me or hears of me. I shall want
money, by the bye; for one can't stir a step in this sort of affair
without ready cash."
"I am quite aware of that. I stopped at the West-end branch of the Unitas
and cashed a cheque for forty pounds. You can do a good deal in the way
of bribery for forty pounds, in such a place as Ullerton. What you have
to do is to keep your eye on Hawkehurst, and follow up every channel of
information that he opens for you. He has the clue to the labyrinth,
remember, the reel of cotton, or whatever it was, that the young woman
gave that Roman fellow. All you have to do is to get hold of it, and
follow your leader." continued Philip, with his watch in his hand. "This
business of the letters will be sharp work, for the chances are against
us here, as it's more than likely the papers will have changed hands
before you can get to Ullerton. But if you can't buy the letters, you may
buy the information contained in them, and that is the next best thing.
Your first move will be to ferret out this man Goodge. Everybody knows
everybody else in such a place as Ullerton, large and busy as the town
is, and you won't find that difficult. When you see Goodge, you'll know
how to deal with him. The mode and manner of your dealing I leave to
yourself. You are a man of the world, and will know how to manipulate the
gentleman, whoever he may be. And now lock your bag and cut downstairs as
fast as you can. Time's up. Here's your money--three tens, two fives.
_From Horatio Paget to Philip Sheldon_.
Royal Hotel, Ullerton, Oct. 7, 186--.
My dear sir,--I arrived here last evening just in time to run against
Hawkehurst on the platform, which was rather a provoking encounter at the
outset. He went further north by the same train that brought me from
London. This train only stops at three places after Ullerton--Slowport,
Black Harbour, and Manchester; and I shall take pains to discover which
of these towns was Hawkehurst's destination. There was one satisfaction
in seeing his departure by this train, inasmuch as it assured me that I
had the ground clear for my own operations.
I had no difficulty in discovering the whereabouts of Goodge--_the_
Goodge we want--and at eight o'clock was comfortably seated in that
gentleman's parlour, talking over the affair of the letters. Tolerably
quick work, I think you will allow, my dear sir, for a man whose years
have fallen into the sere and yellow leaf.
Mr. Goodge is a Methodist parson--a class of person I have always
detested. I found him peculiarly amenable to monetary influence. I need
scarcely tell you that I was careful to conceal my identity from this
person. I made so bold as to borrow the cognomen of an old-established
firm of solicitors in the Fields, and took a somewhat high tone
throughout the interview. I informed Mr. Goodge that the young man who
had called on him with reference to certain letters connected with the
affairs of the Haygarth family--and I perceived from Mr. Goodge's face
that we were on the right track--was a person of disreputable character,
engaged in an underhand transaction calculated to injure a respected
client of our house. I saw that the words "house" and "our" were
talismanic in their effect upon the Methodist parson. You see, my dear
sir, there is no one can manage this sort of thing so well as a
gentleman. It comes natural to him. Your vulgar diplomatist seldom knows
how to begin, and never knows when to stop. Here I had this low-bred
Methodist fellow impressed by the idea of my individual and collective
importance after five minutes' conversation. "But this comes too near the
praising of myself; therefore hear other things," as the bard observes.
A very little further conversation rendered Mr. Goodge malleable. I found
that Hawkehurst had approached him in the character of your brother's
articled clerk, but under his own proper name. This is one point gained,
since it assures me that Valentine is not skulking here under a feigned
name; and will enable me to shape my future inquiries about him
accordingly. I also ascertained Hawkehurst's whereabouts when in
Ullerton. He stays at a low commercial house called the Black Swan. It
appears that the man Goodge possesses a packet of letters written by a
certain Mrs. Rebecca Haygarth, wife of one Matthew Haygarth. In what
relationship this Matthew may stand to the intestate is to be discovered.
It is evident he is an important link in the chain, or your brother would
not want the letters. I need not trouble you with our conversation in
detail. In gross it amounted to this: Mr. Goodge had pledged himself to
hand over Mrs. Haygarth's letters, forty or so in number, to Hawkehurst
in consideration of twenty pounds. They would have been already in
Hawkehurst's possession, if Mr. Goodge had not objected to part with them
except for ready money. In consideration of a payment of twenty pounds
from me, he was willing to let me read all the letters, and select any
ten I pleased to take. This bargain was not arrived at without
considerable discussion, but it certainly struck me as a good one.
I opened the packet of papers then and there, and sat up until six
o'clock the next morning, reading Mrs. Haygarth's letters in Mr. Goodge's
parlour. Very fatiguing occupation for a man of my years. Mr. Goodge's
hospitality began and ended in a cup of coffee. Such coffee! and I
remember the mocha I used to get at Arthur's thirty years ago,--a
Promethean beverage, that illumined the dullest smoking-room bore with a
flash of wit or a glimmer of wisdom.
I enclose the ten letters which I have selected. They appear to me to
tell the history of Mrs. Haygarth and her husband pretty plainly; but
there is evidently something mysterious lurking behind the commonplace
existence of the husband. That is a matter for future consideration. All
I have to do in the present is to keep you as well informed as your
brother. It may strike you that the letters I forward herewith, which are
certainly the cream of the correspondence, and the notes I have made from
the remaining letters, are scarcely worth the money paid for them. In
reply to such an objection, I can only say that you get more for _your_
money than your brother George will get for his.
The hotel at which I have taken up my quarters is but a few paces from
the commoner establishment where Hawkehurst is stopping. He is to call on
Goodge for the letters to-day; so his excursion will be of brief
duration. I find that the name of Haygarth is not unknown in this town,
as there are a family of Judsons, some of whom call themselves Haygarth
Judson. I intend inviting my landlord--a very superior person for his
station--to discuss a bottle of wine with me after my chop this evening,
and hope to obtain some information from him. In the meantime I shall
keep myself close. It is of vital consequence that I should remain unseen
by Hawkehurst. I do not believe he saw me on the platform last night,
though we were as close to each other as we well could be.
Let me know what you think of the letters, and believe me to be, my
dear sir, very faithfully yours,
H. N. C. PAGET. PHILIP SHELDON, Esq.,
&c. &c. &c.
* * * * *
_Philip Sheldon to Horatio Paget_.
Bayswater, Oct. 8,186-.
DEAR PAGET,--The letters are mysterious, and I don't see my way to
getting much good out of them, but heartily approve your management of
matters, and give you _carte blanche_ to proceed, according to your own
Yours truly, P.S.
* * * * *
_Horatio Paget to Philip Sheldon_.
Royal Hotel, Oct. 9, 186-.
MY DEAR SIR,--The cultivation of my landlord has been very profitable.
The house is the oldest in the town, and the business has descended in a
direct line from father to son since the time of George the Second. This
man's grandfather entertained the officers of William Duke of Cumberland,
honoured by his contemporaries with the soubriquet of Billy the Butcher,
during the "forty-five." I had to listen to and applaud a good many
stories about Billy the Butcher before I could lead my landlord round to
the subject of the Haygarths. But he was not more prosy than many men I
have met at dinner-parties in the days when the highest circles in the
land were open to your humble servant.
The Haygarth family, of which the intestate John Haygarth was the last
male descendant, were for a long period inhabitants of this town, and
obtained their wealth by trading as grocers and general dealers in a shop
not three hundred yards from the room in which I write. The building is
still standing, and a curious, old-fashioned-looking place it is. The
last of the Haygarths who carried on business therein was one Jonathan,
whose son Matthew was the father of that Reverend John Haygarth, lately
deceased, intestate. You will thus perceive that the letters I sent you
are of much importance, as they relate solely to this Matthew, father of
My next inquiries related to the Judson family, who are, it appears,
descended from the issue of a certain Ruth Haygarth's marriage with one
Peter Judson. This Ruth Haygarth was the only sister of the Matthew
alluded to in the letters, and therefore was aunt of the intestate. It
would herefrom appear that in this Judson family we must naturally look
for the rightful claimant to the fortune of the deceased John Haygarth.
Possessed of this conviction, I proceeded to interrogate my landlord very
cautiously as to the status, &c. of the Judson family, and amongst other
questions, asked him with a complete assumption of indifference, whether
he had ever heard that the Judsons expected to inherit property from any
branch of the Haygarth family.
This careless interrogatory produced information of, as I imagine, a very
valuable character. A certain Theodore Judson, attorney of this town,
calls himself heir-at-law to the Haygarth estates; but before he can
establish his claim, this Theodore must produce evidence of the demise,
without heirs, of one Peter Judson, eldest surviving grandson of Ruth
Haygarth's eldest son, a scamp and ne'er-do-well--if living, supposed to
be somewhere in India, where he went, as supercargo to a merchant vessel
about, the year '41--who stands prior to Theodore Judson in the
succession. I conclude that the said Theodore, who, as a lawyer, is
likely to do things _secundum artem_, is doing his _possible_ to obtain
the necessary evidence; but in the meantime he is at a dead lock, and the
whole affair appears to be in a charming condition for speculative
interference. I opine, therefore, that your brother really has hit upon a
good thing this time; and my only wonder is, that instead of allowing his
agent, Hawkehurst, to waste his time hunting up old letters of Matthew
Haygarth's (to all appearance valueless as documentary evidence), he does
not send Valentine to India to hunt for Peter Judson, who, if living, is
the rightful heir to the intestate's fortune, and who, as a reckless
extravagant fellow, would be likely to make very liberal terms with any
one who offered to procure him a large lump of money.
I confess that I am quite at a loss to understand why your brother George
does not take this very obvious course, and why Valentine potters about
in this neighbourhood, when a gold mine is waiting to be _exploite_ on
the other side.
I shall be very glad to have your views upon this subject, for at the
present moment I am fain to acknowledge that I do not see my way to
taking any further steps in this business, unless by commencing a search
for the missing Peter.
I am, my dear Sir, very truly yours,
H. N. C. PAGET.
* * * * *
_Philip Sheldon to Horatio Paget_.
Bayswater, Oct. 10, 186--.
DEAR PAGET,--When so old a stager as G. S. does not take the obvious
course, the inference is that there is a better course to be taken--_not_
obvious to the uninitiated.
You have done very well so far, but the information you have obtained
from your landlord is only such information as any one else may obtain
from the current gossip of Ullerton. You haven't yet got to the _dessous
des cartes_. Remember what I told you in London. G. S. _has_ the clue to
this labyrinth; and what you have to do is to hold on to the coat-tails
(in a figurative sense) of his agent, V. H.
Don't put your trust in prosy old landlords, but continue to set a watch
upon that young man, and follow up his trail as you did in the matter of
If the Peter Judson who went to India three-and-twenty years ago were the
right man to follow, G.S. would scarcely give twenty pounds for the
letters of Mrs. Matthew Haygarth. It appears to me that G. must be
looking for an heir on the Haygarth side of the house; and if so, rely
upon it he has his reasons. Don't bewilder yourself by trying to
theorize, but get to the bottom of G.'s theory.
Yours truly, P. S.
_Horatio Paget to Philip Sheldon_.
* * * * *
Royal Hotel, Oct. 12, 186.--
MY DEAR SIR,--Considering the advice contained in your last very good, I
lost no time in acting upon it. I need hardly tell you, that to employ
the services of a hired spy, and to degrade myself in some sort to the
level of a private inquirer, was somewhat revolting to a man, who, in the
decadence of his fortunes, has ever striven to place some limit on the
outrages which that hard taskmaster, poverty, may have from time to time
compelled him to inflict upon his self-respect. But in the furtherance of
a cause which I conclude is in no manner dishonourable, since an
unclaimed heritage must needs be a prize open to all, I submitted to this
temporary degradation of my higher feelings, and I trust that when the
time arrives for the settlement of any pecuniary consideration which
I am to derive from these irksome and uncongenial labours, my wounded
self-respect may not be omitted from the reckoning. The above exordium
may appear to you tedious, but it is only just to myself to remind you
that you are not dealing with a vulgar hireling. My first step, after
duly meditating your suggestions, was to find a fitting watch for the
movements of Hawkehurst. I opined that the best person to play the spy
would be that class of man whose existence seems for the most part
devoted to the lounging at street corners, the chewing of straw, and that
desultory kind of industry known in the _patois_ of this race as
"fetching errands." This is the man, or boy, who starts up from the
pavement (as through a trap-door in the flags) whenever one alights from
or would enter any kind of vehicle. Unbidden, unrequired, and obnoxious,
the creature arises, and opens a door, or lays some rag of his wretched
attire on a muddy wheel, and then whines, piteous, for a copper. Such a
man, or such a boy, I felt convinced must exist among the hangers-on of
the Royal Hotel; nor was I mistaken. On inquiring for a handy lad,
capable of attending upon my needs at all hours in the day, and not a
servant in the hotel, but a person who would be wholly at my own
disposal, I was informed that the Boots had a younger brother who was
skilled in the fetching of errands, and who would be happy to wait upon
me for a very reasonable remuneration, or in the words of the waiter
himself, would be ready to leave it--i.e. the remuneration--to my own
generosity. I know that there are no people who expect so much as those
who leave the assessment of their claims to your own generosity; but
as I wanted good service, I was prepared to pay well. The younger Boots
made his appearance in due course--a sharp young fellow enough--and I
forthwith made him my slave by the promise of five shillings a day for
every day in which I should require his services. I then told him that it
was my misfortune to own--with a strong inclination to disown--a
reprobate nephew, now an inhabitant of that very town. This nephew, I had
reason to believe, was going at a very rapid rate to the dogs; but my
affectionate feelings would not allow him to consummate his own
destruction without one last effort to reclaim him. I had therefore
followed him to Ullerton, whither I believed him to be led by the worst
possible motives; and having done so, my next business was to keep myself
informed of his whereabouts.
Seeing that the younger Boots accepted these statements with
unquestioning faith, I went on to inquire whether he felt himself equal
to the delicate duty of hanging about the yard of the Black Swan, and
watching the doors of exit from that hotel, with a view to following my
recreant nephew wherever he might go, even if considerably beyond the
limits of Ullerton. I saw that the lad's intelligence was likely to be
equal to this transaction, unless there should arise any difficult or
complicated position by reason of the suspicion of Hawkehurst, or other
mischance. "Do you think you can watch the gentleman without being
observed?" I asked. "I'm pretty well sure I can, sir," answered the boy,
who is of an enterprising, and indeed audacious, temper. "Very well,"
said I, "you will go to the Black Swan Inn. Hawkehurst is the name by
which my nephew is known there, and it will be your duty to find him
out." I gave the boy a minute account of Valentine's appearance, and
other instructions with which I need not trouble you. I further furnished
him with money, so that he might be able to follow Hawkehurst by rail, or
any other mode of conveyance, if necessary; and then despatched him, with
an order to come back to me when he had seen our man safely lodged in the
Black Swan after his day's perambulations. "And if he shouldn't go out at
all?" suggested the lad. "In that case you must stick to your post till
nightfall, and pick up all the information you can about my unfortunate
nephew from the hangers-on of the hotel," said I. "I suppose you know
some one at the Black Swan?" The boy informed me, in his untutored
language, that he knew "a'most all of 'em," and thereupon departed.
At nine o'clock at night he again appeared before me, big with the
importance of his day's work. He had seen my nephew issue forth from the
Black Swan within an hour of leaving my presence, and had followed him,
first to Mr. William Judson's in Ferrygate, where he waited and hung
about nearly an hour, keeping himself well out of view round the corner
of Chalkin Street, a turning close to Mr. Judson's house. After leaving
this gentleman's house, my renegade nephew had proceeded--carrying a
letter in his hand, and walking as if in very good spirits (but that
fellow Hawkehurst would walk to the gallows in good spirits)--to the
Lancaster Road, where he was admitted into Lochiel Villa, a house
belonging, as my Mercury ascertained from a passing baker's boy, to Miss
Judson, sister of the William Judson of Ferrygate. You will perceive that
this town appears to teem with the Judson family. My messenger, with
praiseworthy art, contrived to engage in a game of tip-cat (what, I
wonder, _is_ a tip-cat?) with some vagrant boys disporting themselves in
the roadway, within view of Miss Judson's house. Hence, after the lapse
of more than an hour, Boots-Mercury beheld my recreant relative emerge,
and from this point followed him--always with extreme caution--back to
the Black Swan. Here he hung about the yard, favoured by his close
acquaintance with the ostler, until eight o'clock in the evening, no
event of the smallest importance occurring during all those hours. But at
eight there arrived a young woman, with a packet from Miss Judson to Mr.
Hawkehurst. The packet was small, and was sealed with red wax. This was
all my Mercury could ascertain respecting it; but this was something.
I at once divined that this packet must needs contain letters. I asked
myself whether those letters or papers had been sold to Hawkehurst, or
only lent to him, and I immediately concluded that they could only have
been lent. It was all very well for Goodge, the Methodist parson, to
traffic in the epistles of Mrs. Matthew Haygarth, but it was to the last
degree unlikely that a well-to-do maiden lady would part with family
letters or papers for any pecuniary consideration whatever. "No," I said
to myself, "the documents have been lent, and will have to be returned;"
and thereupon I laid my plans for the next day's campaign, with a view to
obtaining a peep at those letters, by fair means or foul. I told the boy
to be at his post in the inn yard early the next morning, and if my
nephew did not leave the inn, my agent was to ascertain what he was
doing, and to bring me word thereof. "I'll tell you what it is, Boots," I
said; "I have reason to believe that sadly disposed nephew of mine has
some wicked intention with regard to Miss Judson, who is nearly related
to a young lady with whom that unprincipled young man is, or pretends to
be, in love; and I very much fear that he means to send her some letters,
written by this foolish niece of hers to my more foolish nephew, and
eminently calculated to wound the good lady's feelings. Now, in order to
prevent this very shameful conduct on his part, I want to intercept any
packet or letter which that mistaken youth may send to Miss Judson. Do
you feel yourself capable of getting hold of such a packet, on
consideration of a bonus of half-a-sovereign in addition to the five
shillings per diem already agreed upon?"
This, in more direct and vulgar phraseology, was what I said to the boy;
and the boy departed, after pledging himself to bring me any packet which
Hawkehurst might despatch from the Swan Inn. The only fear was that
Hawkehurst might carry the packet himself, and this contingency appeared
Fortune favoured us. My reprobate nephew was too ill to go out. He
intrusted Miss Hudson's packet to his waiter, the waiter confided it to
the Boots, the Boots resigned the responsibility in favour of my boy
Mercury, who kindly offered to save that functionary the trouble of a
walk to the Lancaster Road.
At eleven A.M. the packet was in my hands. I have devoted the best part
of to-day to the contents of this packet. They consist of letters written
by Matthew Haygarth, and distinguished by a most abominable orthography;
but I remember my own father's epistolary composition to have been
somewhat deficient in this respect; nor is it singular that the humble
citizen should have been a poor hand at spelling in an age when royal
personages indulged in a phonetic style of orthography which would
provoke the laughter of a modern charity-boy. That the pretender to the
crown of England should murder the two languages in which he wrote seems
a small thing; but that Frederick the Great, the most accomplished of
princes, bosom-friend of Voltaire, and sworn patron of the literati,
should not have been able to spell, is a matter for some astonishment. I
could but remember this fact, as I perused the epistles of Matthew
Haygarth. I felt that these letters had in all probability been carefully
numbered by the lady to whom they belong, and that to tamper with them to
any serious extent might be dangerous. I have therefore only ventured to
retain one insignificant scrawl as an example of Matthew Haygarth's
caligraphy and signature. From the rest I have taken copious notes. It
appears to me that these letters relate to some _liaison_ of the
gentleman's youth; though I am fain to confess myself surprised to
discover that, even in a period notorious for looseness of morals, a man
should enter into such details in a correspondence with his sister.
_Autres temps, autres moeurs_. I have selected my extracts with great
care, and hope that you may be able to make more use of them than I can
at present imagine possible. I shall post this letter and enclosure with
my own hands, though in order to do so I must pass the Black Swan. I
shall despatch my messenger to Lochiel Villa, with Miss Judson's packet,
under cover of the darkness.
In much haste, to catch the London mail,
Truly yours, H.N.C.P.
* * * * *
_From Philip Sheldon to Horatio Paget_. City, Oct. 12, 186--
Dear Paget,--Come back to town. You are only wasting money, time, and
trouble. Yours, P.S.
TOO CLEVER, FOR A CATSPAW.
Captain Paget returned to town, mystified by that sudden summons from his
patron, and eager to know what new aspect of affairs rendered his further
presence in Ullerton useless or undesirable.
Horatio arrived in the great city half-a-dozen hours before his sometime
protege, and was comfortably installed when Valentine returned to those
lodgings in Omega Street, Chelsea, which the two men occupied in common.
Captain Paget went into the City to see Philip Sheldon on the day of his
return, but did not succeed in finding the stockbroker. The evening's
post brought him a letter from Philip, appointing an interview at
Bayswater, at three o'clock on the following day--the day after
Valentine's return from Ullerton.
Punctual to the moment appointed by this letter, Captain Paget appeared
at the Lawn on the following day. He was ushered into Mr. Sheldon's
study, where he found that gentleman awaiting him, grave and meditative
of mood, but friendly, and indeed cordial, in his manner to the returning
"My dear Paget, sit down; I am delighted to see you. Your trip has made
you look five years younger, by Jove! I was sorry to find you had called
while I was out, and had waited for me upwards of an hour yesterday. I
have a good deal of worry on my shoulders just now; commerce is all
worry, you know. The Marquis of Lambeth has come into the market and
bought up two-thirds of the Astrakhan Grand Trunk debenture bonds, just
as our house had speculated for the fall. And since it has got wind that
the Marquis is sweet upon the concern, the bonds are going up like a
skyrocket. Such is life. I thought we had better have our little talk
here; it's quieter than in the City. Have some sherry and soda; you like
that Manzanilla of mine, I know."
And the hospitable Philip rang the bell, without thinking it necessary to
wait for his guest's answer.
There was a cordiality, a conciliating friendliness about the
stockbroker's manner which Horatio Paget did not like.
"He's too civil by half," the Captain said to himself; "he means to do
"And now about this Ullerton business," Mr. Sheldon began, when the wine
and soda-water had been brought, and a tall tumbler of that refreshing
compound filled for the Captain; "you have really managed matters
admirably. I cannot too much applaud your diplomatic tact. You would have
put a what's-his-name--that fellow of Napoleon's--to the blush by your
management of the whole business. But, unfortunately, when it's all done
it comes to nothing; the whole affair is evidently, from beginning to
end, a mare's-nest. It is one of those wild geese which my brother George
has been chasing for the last ten years, and which never have resulted in
profit to him or anybody else; and I should be something worse than a
fool if I were to lend myself any longer to such a folly."
"Humph," muttered the Captain, "here is a change indeed!"
"Well, yes," Mr. Sheldon answered coolly. "I dare say my conduct does
seem rather capricious; but you see George put me out of temper the other
day, and I was determined, if he had got a good thing, to cut the ground
from under his feet. All your communications from Ullerton tend to show
me that he has not got hold of a good thing, and that in any attempt to
circumvent him I should only be circumventing myself, wasting your time,
and my own money. This Judson family seems numberless; and it is evident
to me that the Reverend John Haygarth's fortune will be a bone of
contention amongst the Judsons in the High Court of Chancery for any
indefinite number of years between this and the milennium. So I really
think, my dear Paget, we'd better consider this transaction finished. I
will give you whatever honorarium you think fit to name for your trouble,
and we'll close the affair. I shall find plenty more business as good, or
better, for you to do."
"You are very good," replied the Captain, in nowise satisfied by this
promise. It was all too smooth, too conciliatory. And there was a
suddenness in this change of plan that was altogether mysterious. So
indeed might a capricious man be expected to drop a speculation he had
been eager to inaugurate, but Philip Sheldon was the last of men to be
suspected of caprice.
"You must have taken an immense deal of trouble with those extracts,
now," said the stockbroker carelessly, as Horatio rose to depart,
offended and angry, but anxious to conceal his anger. "What, are you off
so soon? I thought you would stop and take a chop with us."
"No, thanks; I have an engagement elsewhere. Yes, I took an
inordinate trouble with those extracts, and I am sorry to think they
should be useless."
"Well, yes, it is rather provoking to you, I dare say. The extracts would
be very interesting from a social point of view, no doubt, to people who
care about such things; but in a legal sense they are waste-paper. I
can't understand why Hawkehurst was in Ullerton; for, as you yourself
suggested, that Peter Judson who went to India must be the Judson wanted
for this case."
"Your brother may be in league with some other branch of the Judson
family. Or what if he is hunting for an heir on the Haygarth side?" asked
the Captain, with a very close watch upon Mr. Sheldon's face. Let the
stockbroker be never so skilful a navigator of the high seas of life,
there was no undercurrent, no cross trade-wind, no unexplained veering of
the magnetic needle to the west, in the mysteries whereof the Captain was
not also versed. When Columbus wanted to keep his sailors quiet on that
wondrous voyage over an unknown ocean to the Western world, the
diplomatic admiral made so bold as to underrate the length of each day's
sail in an unveracious log, which he kept for the inspection of his crew;
but no doctoring of the social log-book could mislead the acute Horatio.
"How about the Haygarth side of the house?" he asked again; for it had
seemed to him that at his first mention of the name of Haygarth Mr.
Sheldon had winced, ever so little. This time, however, he betrayed not
the faintest concern; but he was doubtless now on his guard.
"Well, I don't see how there can be any claimant on that side of the
house," he said carelessly. "You see, according to your old landlord's
statement--which I take to be correct--Jonathan Haygarth had but one son,
a certain Matthew, who married one Rebecca So-and-so, and had, in his
turn one only son, the intestate John. Now, in that case, where is your
heir to come from, except through Matthew's sister Ruth, who married
"Isn't it just possible that Matthew Haygarth may have married twice, and
had other children? Those letters certainly suggest the idea of a secret
alliance of some kind on Haygarth's part, and the existence of a family,
to whom he appears to have been warmly attached. My first idea of this
affair was that it must have been a low _liaison_; but I could hardly
realize the fact of Matthew's confiding in his sister under any such
circumstances, however lax in his morals that gentleman may have been.
Mrs. Matthew Haygarth's letters hint at some mystery in her husband's
life. Is it not likely that this hidden family was a legitimate one?"
"I can't quite see my way to that idea," Mr. Sheldon answered, in a
meditative tone. "It seems very unlikely that any marriage of Haygarth's
could have remained unknown to his townsmen; and even if it were so, I
doubt the possibility of our tracing the heirs from such a marriage. No,
my dear Paget, I have resolved to wash my hands of the business, and
leave my brother George in undisturbed possession of his ground."
"In that case, perhaps, you will return my notes; they are
interesting to me."
Here again the faintest indication of annoyance in the stockbroker's face
told its tale to Captain Paget. For your accomplished navigator of the
unknown seas there is no ocean bird, no floating weed, that has not a
language and a significance.
"You can have your notes, if you want them," answered Mr. Sheldon; "they
are at my office. I'll hunt them up and send them to you; or you had
better look in upon me in the City early next week, and I can give you a
cheque at the same time."
"Thanks. I will be sure and do so."
"You say the orthography of the original letters was queer. I suppose
your copies were faithful in all matters except the orthography. And in
the names, you of course adhered to the original spelling?"
"Most decidedly," replied Captain Paget, opening the door to depart,
and with a somewhat cynical smile upon his face, which was hidden from
"I suppose there is no doubt of your accuracy with regard to the name of
"Not the least. Good afternoon. Ah, there's our young friend Hawkehurst!"
exclaimed the Captain, in his "society" voice, as he looked out into the
hall, where Valentine was parting with Diana.
He came and greeted his young friend, and they left the house together.
This was the occasion upon which Valentine was startled by hearing the
name "Meynell" pronounced by the lips of Philip Sheldon.
CAPTAIN PAGET IS PATERNAL.
Horatio Paget left the Lawn after the foregoing interview, fully
convinced that Mr. Sheldon was only desirous to throw him off the scent,
in order to follow up the chase alone, for his sole profit and advantage.
"My last letter conveyed some intelligence that altered his whole plan of
action," thought the Captain; "that is perfectly clear. He was somewhat
wanting in tact when he recalled me so suddenly. But I suppose he thought
it would be easy to throw dust in my poor old eyes. What was the
intelligence that made him change his mind? That is the grand question."
Captain Paget dined alone at a West-End restaurant that evening. He dined
well, for he had in hand certain moneys advanced by his patron, and he
was not disposed to be parsimonious. He sat for some time in meditative
mood over his pint bottle of Chambertin, and the subject of his
meditation was Philip Sheldon.
"Yes," he murmured at last, "that is it. The charm is in the name of
Meynell. Why else should he question me about the orthography of that
name? I sent him information about Matthew Haygarth in the wife's
letters, and he took no special notice of that information. It was only
when the name of Meynell cropped up that he changed his tactics and tried
to throw me over. It seems to me that he must have some knowledge of this
Meynell branch, and therefore thinks himself strong enough to act alone,
and to throw me over the bridge. To throw me over," the Captain repeated
to himself slowly. "Well, we'll see about that. We'll see; yes, we'll
At noon on the following day Captain Paget presented himself again at the
Bayswater villa, where his daughter ate the bread of dependence. He
appeared this time in a purely paternal character. He came to call upon
his only child. Before paying this visit the Captain had improved the
shining hour by a careful study of the current and two or three back
volumes of the Post-Office and Trade Directories; but all his researches
in those interesting volumes had failed to reveal to him the existence of
any metropolitan Meynells.
"The Meynells whom Sheldon knows may be in the heart of the country," he
said to himself, after these futile labours.
It was a fine autumnal morning, and as Miss Paget was at home and
disengaged, her affectionate father suggested that she should take a walk
with him in Kensington Gardens. Such a promenade had very little
attraction for the young lady; but she had a vague idea that she owed a
kind of duty to her father not remitted by his neglect of all duties to
her; so she assented with a smile, and went out with him, looking very
handsome and stylish in her simple but fashionable attire, no part of
which had been provided by the parent she accompanied.
The Captain surveyed her with some sense of family pride. "Upon my word,
my dear, you do me credit!" he exclaimed, with a somewhat patronising
kindness of tone and manner; "indeed any man might be proud of such a
daughter. You are every inch a Paget."
"I hope not, papa," said the girl involuntarily; but the Captain's more
delicate instincts had been considerably blunted in the press and jostle
of life, and he did not feel the sting of this remark.
"Well, perhaps you are right, my love," he replied blandly; "the Pagets
_are_ an unlucky family. Like those Grecian people, the Atri--,
what's-his-name--the man who was killed in his bath, you know. His wife,
or the other young person who had come to visit his daughters, made the
water too hot, you know--and that kind of thing. I am not quite clear
about the story, but it's one of those farragos of rubbish they make
young men learn at public schools. Yes, my dear, I really am amazingly
pleased by your improved appearance. Those Sheldon people dress you very
nicely; and I consider your residence in that family a very agreeable
arrangement for all parties. You confer a favour on the girl by your
society, and so on, and the mother provides you with a comfortable home;
All I wonder is that your good looks haven't made their mark before this
with some of Sheldon's rich stockbroking fellows."
"We see very little of the stockbroking fellows, as you call them, at the
"Indeed! I thought Sheldon kept a great deal of company."
"O no. He gives a dinner now and then, a gentleman's dinner usually; and
poor Mrs. Sheldon is very anxious that it should all go off well, as she
says; but I don't think he is a person who cares much for society."
"His mind seems completely occupied by his business, you see, papa. That
horrible pursuit of gain seems to require all his thoughts, and all his
time. He is always reading commercial papers, the _Money Market_ and _On
Change_, and the _Stockbrokers' Vade Mecum_, and publications of that
kind. When he is not reading he is thinking; and by his manner one would
fancy his thoughts were always gloomy and unpleasant. What a miserable,
hateful, unholy life to lead! I would not be that man for all the money
in the Bank of England. But it is a kind of treachery to tell these
things. Mr. Sheldon is very good to me. He lets me sit at his table and
share the comforts of his home, and I must be very ungrateful to speak
against him. I do _not_ mean to speak against him, you see, papa--I only
mean that a life devoted to money-making is in itself hateful."
"My dear child, you may be assured that anything you say to _me_ will go
no further," said the Captain, with dignity; "and in whom should you
confide, if not in your father? I have a profound respect for Sheldon and
his family--yes, my love, a profound respect; and I think that girl
Sarah--no, I mean Charlotte--a very charming young person. I need
scarcely tell you that the smallest details of your life in that family
possess a keen interest for me. I am not without a father's feelings,
Diana, though circumstances have never permitted me to perform a father's
And here the solitary tear which the accomplished Horatio could produce
at will trembled in his eye. This one tear was always at his command. For
the life of him he could not have produced a second; but the single drop
never failed him, and he found one tear as effective as a dozen, in
giving point and finish to a pathetic speech.
Diana looked at him, and wondered, and doubted. Alas, she knew him only
too well! Any other creature in this wide world he might deceive, but not
her. She had lived with him; she had tasted the bitterness of dependence
upon him--ten times more bitter than dependence on strangers. She had
shown him her threadbare garments day after day, and had pleaded for a
little money, to be put off with a lying excuse. She could not forget
this. She had forgiven him long ago, being of too generous a nature to
brood upon past injuries. But she could not forget what manner of man he
was, and thank him for pretty speeches which she knew to be meaningless.
They talked a little more of Mr. Sheldon and his family, but Diana did
not again permit herself to be betrayed into any vehement expressions of
her opinions. She answered all her father's questions without restraint,
for they were very commonplace questions, of a kind that might be
answered without any breach of faith.
"Amongst the Sheldons' acquaintances did you ever hear of any people
called Meynell?" Captain Paget asked at length.
"Yes," Diana replied, after a moment's thought; "the name is certainly
very familiar to me;" and then, after a pause, she exclaimed, "Why, the
Meynells were relations of Charlotte's! Yes, her grandmother was a Miss
Meynell; I perfectly remember hearing Mrs. Sheldon talk about the
Meynells. But I do not think there are any descendants of that family now
living. Why do you ask the question, papa? What interest have you in the
"Well, my dear, I have my reasons, but they in no manner concern Mr.
Sheldon or his family; and I must beg you to be careful not to mention
the subject in your conversation with those worthy people. I want to know
all about this Meynell family. I have come across some people of that
name, and I want to ascertain the precise relationship existing between
these people and the Sheldons. But the Sheldons must know nothing of this
inquiry for the present. The people I speak of are poor and proud, and
they would perish rather than press a relationship upon a rich man,
unless fully justified by the closeness of family ties. I am sure you
understand all this, Diana?"
"Not very clearly, papa."
"Well, my dear, it is a delicate position, and perhaps somewhat difficult
for the comprehension of a third party. All you need understand is the
one fact, that any information respecting the Meynell family will be
vitally interesting to my friends, and, through them, serviceable to me.
There is, in fact, a legacy which these friends of mine could claim,
under a certain will, if once assured as to the degree of their
relationship to your friend Charlotte's kindred on the Meynell side of
the house. To give them the means of securing this legacy would be to
help the ends of justice; and I am sure, Diana, you would wish to do
"Of course, papa, if I can do so without any breach of faith with my
employers. Can you promise me that no harm will result to the Sheldons,
above all to Charlotte Halliday, from any information I may procure for
you respecting the Meynell family?"
"Certainly, Diana, I can promise you that. I repeat most solemnly,
that by obtaining such information for me you will be aiding the cause
If Horatio Paget might ever be betrayed into the inconsistency of a
truthful assertion, it seemed to his daughter that it was likely to be in
this moment. His words sounded like truth; and, on reflection, Diana
failed to perceive that she could by any possibility inflict wrong on her
friends by obliging her father in this small affair.
"Let me think the matter over, papa," she said.
"Nonsense, Diana; what thinking over can be wanted about such a trifle? I
never before asked you a favour. Surely you cannot refuse to grant so
simple a request, after the trouble I have taken to explain my reasons
for making it."
There was some further discussion, which ended in Miss Paget consenting
to oblige her father.
"And you will manage matters with tact?" urged the Captain, at parting.
"There is no especial tact required, papa," replied Diana; "the matter is
easy enough. Mrs. Sheldon is very fond of talking about her own affairs.
I have only to ask her some leading question about the Meynells, and she
will run on for an hour, telling me the minutest details of family
history connected with them. I dare say I have heard the whole story
before, and have not heeded it: I often find my thoughts wandering when
Mrs. Sheldon is talking."
Three days after this Captain Paget called on Mr. Sheldon in the City,
when he received a very handsome recompense for his labours at Ullerton,
and became repossessed of the extracts he had made from Matthew
Haygarth's letters, but not of the same Mr. Haygarth's autograph letter:
that document Mr. Sheldon confessed to having mislaid.
"He has mislaid the original letter, and he has had ample leisure for
copying my extracts; and he thinks I am such a consummate fool as not to
see all that," thought Horatio, as he left the stockbroker's office,
enriched but not satisfied.
In the course of the same day he received a long letter from Diana
containing the whole history of the Meynells, as known to Mrs. Sheldon.
Once set talking, Georgy had told all she could tell, delighted to find
herself listened to with obvious interest by her companion.
"I trust that you have not deceived me, my dear father," Diana concluded,
after setting forth the Meynell history. "The dear good soul was so
candid and confiding, and seemed so pleased by the interest I showed in
her family affairs, that I should feel myself the vilest of wretches if
any harm could result to her, or those she loves, from the information
The information was very complete. Mrs. Sheldon had a kindly and amiable
nature, but she was not one of those sensitive souls who instinctively
shrink from a story of bitter shame or profound sorrow as from a cureless
wound. She told Diana, with many lamentations, and much second-hand
morality, the sad history of Susan Meynell's elopement, and of the
return, fourteen years afterwards, of the weary wanderer. Even the poor
little trunk, with the name of the Rouen trunk-maker, Mrs. Sheldon dwelt
upon with graphic insistence. A certain womanly delicacy had prevented
her ever telling this story in the presence of her brother-in-law, George
Sheldon, whose hard worldly manner in no way invited any sentimental
revelation. Thus it happened that George had never heard the name of
Meynell in connection with his friend Tom Halliday's family, or had heard
it so seldom as to have entirely forgotten it. To Horatio his daughter's
letter was priceless. It placed him at once in as good a position as
Philip Sheldon, or as George Sheldon and his coadjutor, Valentine
Hawkehurst. There were thus three different interests involved in the
inheritance of the Reverend John Haygarth.
Captain Paget sat late by a comfortable fire, in his own bedchamber, that
night, enjoying an excellent cigar, and meditating the following jottings
from a pedigree:--
CHARLOTTE MEYNELL, married JAMES HALLIDAY.
THOMAS HALLIDAY, only son of above, married GEORGINA, now Mrs. SHELDON;
| had issue,
SUSAN MEYNELL, only and elder sister of the above-named Charlotte, ran
away from her home, in Yorkshire, with a Mr. Kingdon, brother to Lord
Darnsville. Fate unknown during fourteen years of her life. Died in
London, 1835. Buried under her maiden name; but no positive evidence to
show that she was unmarried.
THE CAPTAIN'S COADJUTOR.
Once in possession of the connection between the intestate John Haygarth
and the Halliday family, Captain Paget's course was an easy one. He
understood now why his investigations had been so suddenly brought to a
standstill. Philip Sheldon had discovered the unexpected connection, and
was eager to put a stop to researches that might lead to a like discovery
on the part of his coadjutor.
"And Sheldon expects to prove his stepdaughter's claim to this fortune?"
thought the Captain. "He will affect ignorance of the whole transaction
until his plans are ripe, and then spring them suddenly upon his brother
George. I wonder if there is anything to be made out of George by letting
him into the secret of his brother's interference? No; I think not.
George is as poor as a church mouse, and Philip must always be the more
On the broad basis afforded by Diana's letter Captain Paget was able to
build up the whole scheme of the Haygarthian succession. The pedigree of
the Meynells was sufficiently simple, if their legitimate descent from
Matthew Haygarth could be fairly proved. Charlotte Halliday was
heiress-at-law to the fortune of John Haygarth, always provided that her
great-aunt Susan died without legitimate issue.
Here was the one chance which appeared to the adventurous mind of Horatio
Paget worth some trouble in the way of research. Fourteen years of Susan
Meynell's life had been spent away from all who knew her. It was
certainly possible that in that time she might have formed some
This was the problem which Horatio set himself to solve. Your adventurer
is, of all manner of men, the most sanguine. Sir Walter Raleigh sees
visions of gold and glory where grave statesman see only a fool's
paradise of dreams and fancies. To the hopeful mind of the Captain these
fourteen unrecorded years of Susan Meynell's life seemed a very Golconda.
He did not, however, rest satisfied with the information afforded by
"I will have the story of these Meynells at first-hand as well as at
second-hand," he said to himself; and he lost no time in presenting
himself again at the Villa--this time as a visitor to Mrs. Sheldon.
With Georgy he had been always a favourite. His little stories of the
great world--the Prince and Perdita, Brummel and Sheridan--though by no
means novel to those acquainted with that glorious period of British
history, were very agreeable to Georgy. The Captain's florid flatteries
pleased her; and she contrasted the ceremonious manners of that gentleman
with the curt business-like style of her husband, very much to the
Captain's advantage. He came to thank her for her goodness to his child,
and this occasion gave him ample opportunity for sentiment. He had asked
to see Mrs. Sheldon alone, as his daughter's presence would have been
some hindrance to the carrying out of his design.
"There are things I have to say which I should scarcely care to utter
before my daughter, you see, my dear Mrs. Sheldon," he said, with
pathetic earnestness. "I should not wish to remind the dear child of her
desolate position; and I need scarcely tell you that position is _very_
desolate. A father who, at his best, cannot provide a fitting home for a
delicately nurtured girl, and who at any moment may be snatched away, is
but a poor protector. And were it not for your friendship, I know not
what my child's fate might be. The dangers and temptations that beset a
handsome young woman are very terrible, my dear Mrs. Sheldon."
This was intended to lead up to the subject of Susan Meynell, but Georgy
did not rise to the bait. She only shook her head plaintively in assent
to the Captain's proposition.
"Yes, madam; beauty, unallied with strength of mind and high principles,
is apt to be a fatal dower. In every family there are sad histories,"
murmured the sentimental Horatio.
Even this remark did not produce the required result; so the Captain drew
upon his invention for a specimen history from the annals of his own
house, which was a colourable imitation of Susan Meynell's story.
"And what was the end of this lovely Belinda Paget's career, my dear Mrs.
Sheldon?" he concluded. "The gentleman was a man of high rank, but a
scoundrel and a dastard. Sophia's brother, a cornet in the First Life
Guards, called him out, and there was a meeting on Wimbledon Common, in
which Lavinia's seducer was mortally wounded. There was a trial, and the
young captain of Hussars, Amelia's brother, was sentenced to
transportation for life. I need scarcely tell you that the sentence was
never carried out. The young man fell gloriously at Waterloo, at the head
of his own regiment, the Scotch Fusiliers, and Lavinia--I beg pardon,
Amelia; nay, what am I saying? the girl's name was Belinda--embraced the
Roman Catholic faith, and expired from the effects of stigmata inflicted
by her own hands in a paroxysm of remorse for her brother's untimely
death at the hands of her seducer."
This lively little impromptu sketch had the desired effect. Melted by the
woes of Belinda, or Sophia, or Amelia, or Lavinia Paget, Mrs. Sheldon was
moved to relate a sad event in her husband's family; and encouraged by
the almost tearful sympathy of the Captain, she again repeated every
detail of Susan Meynell's life, as known to her kindred. And as this
recital had flowed spontaneously from the good soul's lips, she would he
scarcely likely to allude to it afterwards in conversation with Mr.
Sheldon; more especially as that gentleman was not in the habit of
wasting much of his valuable time in small-talk with the members of his
Captain Paget had duly calculated this, and every other hazard that
menaced the intricate path he had mapped out for himself.
Satisfied by Mrs. Sheldon's repetition of Susan Meynell's story, and
possessed of all the information he could hope to obtain from that
quarter, Horatio set himself to consider what steps must next be taken.
Much serious reflection convinced even his sanguine mind that the
enterprise was a difficult one, and could scarcely be carried through
successfully without help from some skilled genealogist.
"George Sheldon has given his lifetime to this sort of thing, and is a
skilled lawyer to boot," Captain Paget said to himself. "If I hope to go
in against him, I must have someone at my elbow as well versed in this
sort of business as he is."
Having once admitted this necessity, the Captain set himself to consider
where he was to find the right person. A very brief meditation settled
this question. One among the numerous business transactions of Captain
Paget's life had brought him in contact with a very respectable little
French gentleman called Fleurus, who had begun his career as a notary,
but, finding that profession unprofitable, had become a hunter of
pedigrees and heirs-at-law--for the most part to insignificant legacies,
unclaimed stock, and all other jetsam and flotsam thrown up on the
shadowy shores of the Court of Chancery. M. Fleurus had not often been so
fortunate as to put his industrious fingers into any large pie, but he
had contrived to make a good deal of money out of small affairs, and had
found his clients grateful.
"The man of men," thought Horatio Paget; and he betook himself to the
office of M. Fleurus early next day, provided with all documents relating
to the Haygarthian succession.
His interview with the little Frenchman was long and satisfactory. On
certain conditions as to future reward, said reward to be contingent on
success, M. Fleurus was ready to devote himself heart and soul to the
interests of Captain Paget.
"To begin: we must find legal evidence of this Matthew Haygarth's
marriage to the mother of this child C., who came afterwards to marry the
man Meynell; and after we will go to Susan Meynell. Her box came from
Rouen--that we know. Where her box came from she is likely to have come
from. So it is at Rouen, or near Rouen, we must look for her. Let me see:
she die in 1835! that is long time. To look for the particulars of her
life is like to dive into the ocean for to find the lost cargo of a ship
that is gone down to the bottom, no one knows where. But to a man really
expert in these things there is nothing of impossible. I will find you
your Susan Meynell in less than six months; the evidence of her marriage;
if she was married; her children, if she had children."
In less than six months--the margin seemed a wide one to the impatient
Horatio. But he knew that such an investigation must needs be slow, and
he left the matters in the hands of his new ally with a sense that he had
done the best thing that could be done. Then followed for Horatio Paget
two months of patient attendance upon fortune. He was not idle during
this time; for Mr. Sheldon, who seemed particularly anxious to conciliate
him, threw waifs and strays of business into his way. Before the middle
of November M. Fleurus had found the register of Matthew Haygarth's
marriage, as George Sheldon had found it before him, working in the same
groove, and with the same order of intelligence. After this important
step M. Fleurus departed for his native shores, where he had other
business besides the Meynell affair to claim his attention. Meanwhile the
astute Horatio kept a close eye upon his young friend Valentine. He knew
from Diana that the young man had been in Yorkshire; and he guessed the
motive of his visit to Newhall, not for a moment supposing that his
presence in that farmhouse could have been accidental. The one turn of
affairs that utterly and completely mystified him was Mr. Sheldon's
sanction of the engagement between Valentine and Charlotte. This was a
mystery for which he could for some time find no solution.
"Sheldon will try to establish his stepdaughter's claim to the fortune;
that is clear. But why does he allow her to throw herself away on a
penniless adventurer like Hawkehurst? If she were to marry him before
recovering the Haygarth estate, she would recover it as his wife, and the
fortune would be thrown unprotected into his hands."
More deliberate reflection cast a faint light upon Philip Sheldon's
motives for so quixotic a course.
"The girl had fallen in love with Val. It was too late to prevent that.
She is of age, and can marry whom she pleases. By showing himself opposed
to her engagement with Val, he might have hurried her into rebellion, and
an immediate marriage. By affecting to consent to the engagement, he
would, on the contrary, gain time, and the advantage of all those chances
that are involved in the lapse of time."
Within a few days of Christmas came the following letter from M.
_From Jacques Rousseau Fleurus to Horatio Paget_.
Hotel de la Pucelle, place Jeanne d'Arc, Rouen, 21st December, 186--.
MONSIEUR,--After exertions incalculable, after labours herculean, I come
to learn something of your Susan Meynell,--more, I come to learn of her
marriage. But I will begin at the beginning of things. The labours, the
time, the efforts, the courage, the patience, the--I will say it without
to blush--the genius which this enterprise has cost me, I will not
enlarge upon. There are things which cannot tell themselves. To commence,
I will tell you how I went to Rouen, how I advertised in the journals of
Rouen, and asked among the people of Rouen--at shops, at hotels, by the
help of my allies, the police, by means which you, in your inexperience
of this science of research, could not even figure to yourself--always
seeking the trace of this woman Meynell. It was all pain lost. Of this
woman Meynell in Rouen there was no trace.
In the end I enraged myself. "Imbecile!" I said to myself, "why seek in
this dull commercial city, among this heavy people, for that which thou
shouldst seek only in the centre of all things? As the rivers go to the
ocean, so flow all the streams of human life to the one great central
ocean of humanity--PARIS! It is there the Alpha and the Omega--there the
mighty heart through which the blood of all the body must be pumped, and
is pumping always," I say to myself, unconsciously rising to the
sublimity of my great countryman, Hugo, in whose verse I find an echo of
my own soul, and whose compositions I flatter myself I could have
surpassed, if I had devoted to the Muses the time and the powers which I
have squandered on a _vilain_ metier, that demands the genius of a
Talleyrand, and rewards with the crust of an artisan.
In Paris, then, I will seek the woman Meynell, and to Paris I go. In my
place an inexperienced person would advertise in the most considerable
papers; would invite Susan Meynell to hear of something to her
advantage; and would bring together a crowd of false Susan Meynells,
greedy to obtain the benefice. Me, I do nothing in this style there. On
the contrary, in the most obscure little journals of Paris I publish a
modest little advertisement as from the brother of Susan Meynell, who
implores his sister to visit him on his deathbed.
Here are follies, you will say. Since Susan Meynell is dead it is thirty
years, and her brother is dead also. Ah, how you are dull, you insulars,
and how impossible for your foggy island to produce a Fouche, a Canler, a
genius of police, a Columbus of the subterranean darknesses of your city.
The brother, dying, advertises for the sister, dead; and who will answer
that letter, think you? Some good Christian soul who has pity for the
sick man, and who will not permit him to languish in waiting the sister
who will come to him never. For us of the Roman Catholic religion the
duty of charity is paramount. You of the Anglican faith--bah, how you are
cold, how you are hard, how you are unpitiable!
My notice appears once, my notice appears twice, three times, four times,
many times. I occupy myself about my other business, and I wait. I do not
wait unusefully. In effect, a letter arrives at last at the address of
the dying, from a lady who knew Susan Meynell _before her marriage with
Think you not that to me this was a moment of triumph? _Before her
marriage with M. Lenoble!_ Those words appear under my eyes in the
writing of the unknown lady. "It is found!" I cry to myself; and then I
hasten myself to reply to the unknown lady. Will she permit me to see
With all politeness I make the request; with all politeness it is
answered. The lady calls herself Mademoiselle Servin. She resides in the
street Grande-Mademoiselle, at the corner of the Place Lauzun. It is of
all the streets of Paris the most miserable. One side is already removed.
In face of the windows of those houses that still stand they are making a
new Boulevard. Behind they are pulling down edifices of all kinds in the
formation of a new square. At the side there is a yawning chasm between
two tall houses, through which they pierce a new street. One sees the
interior of many rooms rising one above another for seven stories. Here
the gay hangings of an apartment of little master; there the still
gaudier decoration of a boudoir of these ladies. High above these
luxurious salons--ah, but how much more near to the skies!--one sees the
poor grey paper, blackened and smoky, of a garret of sempstress, or
workman, and the hearths black, deserted. These interiors thus exposed
tighten me the heart. It is the autopsy of the domestic hearth.
I find the Mademoiselle Servin an old lady, grey and wan. The house where
she now resides is the house which she has inhabited five-and-thirty
years. They talk of pulling it down, and to her the idea of leaving it is
exquisite pain. She is alone, a teacher of music. She has seen
proprietors come and go. The _pension_ has changed mistresses many times.
Students of law and of medicine have come and passed like the shadows of
a magic lantern; but this poor soul has remained still in her little room
on the fourth, and has kept always her little old piano.
It was here she knew Susan Meynell, and a young Frenchman who became in
love with her, for she was beautiful like the angels, this lady said to
Until we meet for all details. Enough that I come to discover where the
marriage took place, that I come to obtain a copy of the register, and
that I do all things in rule. Enough that the marriage is a good
marriage--a regular marriage, and that I have placed myself already in
communication with the heir of that marriage, who resides within some few
leagues of this city.
My labours, my successes I will not describe. It must that they will be
recompensed in the future. I have dispensed much money during these
Agree, monsieur, that I am your devoted servitor,
JACQUES ROUSSEAU FLEURUS.
* * * * *
It was in consequence of the receipt of this missive that the Captain
trusted himself to the winds and waves in the cheerless December weather.
He was well pleased to find that M. Fleurus had made discoveries so
important; but he had no idea of letting that astute practitioner absorb
all the power into his own hands.
"I must see Susan Meynell's heir," he said to himself; "I must give him
clearly to understand that to me he owes the discovery of his claims, and
that in this affair the Frenchman Fleurus is no more than a paid agent."
Book the Fourth.
GUSTAVE IN ENGLAND.
Once having offered up the fondest desires of her own heart on the
shrine of duty, Diana Paget was not a person to repent herself of the
pious sacrifice. After that Christmas night on which she had knelt at
Charlotte's feet to confess her sad secret, and to resign all claim to
the man she had loved so foolishly, so tenderly, with such a romantic
and unselfish devotion, Miss Paget put away all thought of the past from
her heart and mind. Heart and mind seemed empty and joyless without
those loved tenants, though the tenants had been only fair wraiths of
dreams that were dead. There was a sense of something missing in her
life--a blank, dull calm, which was at first very painful. But for
Charlotte's sake she was careful to hide all outward token of
despondency, and the foolish grief, put down by so strong a hand, was
ere long well-nigh stifled.
Those dark days which succeeded Christmas were a period of halcyon peace
for Valentine and Charlotte. The accepted lover came to the villa when he
pleased, but was still careful not to encroach on the license allowed
him. Once a week he permitted himself the delight of five-o'clock tea in
Mrs. Sheldon's drawing-room, on which occasions he brought Charlotte all
the news of his small literary world, and a good deal of useful
information out of the books he had been reading. When Mr. Sheldon
pleased to invite him to dinner on Sunday he gladly accepted the
invitation, and this Sunday dinner became in due course an established
"You may as well make this your home on a Sunday," said Mr. Sheldon one
day, with careless cordiality; "I dare say you find Sunday dull in your
"Yes, papa," cried Charlotte, "he does find it very dull--dreadfully
dull--don't you, Valentine?"
And she regarded him with that pretty, tender, almost motherly look,
which young ladies who are engaged are apt to bestow on their affianced
Miss Halliday was very grateful to her stepfather for his kindness to her
landless adorer, and showed her appreciation of his conduct in many
pretty little caressing ways, which would have been infinitely bewitching
to a person of sentiment.
Unfortunately Mr. Sheldon was not sentimental, and any exhibition of
feeling appeared to have an irritating effect upon his nerves. There were
times when he shrank from some little sudden caress of Charlotte's as
from the sting of an adder. Aversion, surprise, fear--what was it that
showed in the expression of his face at these moments? Whatever that
strange look was, it departed too quickly for analysis; and the
stockbroker thanked his stepdaughter for her little affectionate