Part 5 out of 6
"I cannot precisely tell you. They wish to see you alone, and you can
urge your own views and offers." He trembled violently, and shrank
nervously back as I placed my hand on the door-handle of the private
office. He presently recovered in some degree his self-possession, passed
in, and I withdrew from the humiliating, but salutary spectacle, of
obdurate tyrant-power compelled to humble itself before those whom it had
previously scorned and trampled upon.
The legal arrangements which Flint and I had suggested were effected, and
Linden, senior, accompanied by his son, daughter-in-law, and Mrs. Arnold,
set off in restored amity for Holmford House. Edwin Majoribanks abandoned
his action, and Palliser, finding that matters were satisfactorily
arranged, retired to England. We afterwards knew that he had discovered
the defect of title, on applying to a well-known conveyancer, to raise a
considerable sum by way of mortgage, and that his first step was to
threaten legal proceedings against Crowther & Jenkins for the recovery of
his money; but a hint he obtained of the futility of proceedings against
them, determined him to offer the estate at a low figure to Linden,
relying upon that gentleman's ostentatious contempt of lawyers that the
blot in the title, subjected only to his own common-sense spectacles,
would not be perceived.
THE CHEST OF DRAWERS.
I am about to relate a rather curious piece of domestic history, some
of the incidents of which, revealed at the time of their occurrence in
contemporary law reports, may be in the remembrance of many readers. It
took place in one of the midland counties, and at a place which I shall
call Watley; the names of the chief actors who figured in it must also,
to spare their modesty of their blushes, as the case may be, be
changed; and should one of those persons, spite of these precautions,
apprehend unpleasant recognition, he will be able to console himself
with the reflection, that all I state beyond that which may be gathered
from the records of the law courts will be generally ascribed to the
fancy or invention of the writer. And it is as well, perhaps, that it
should be so.
Caleb Jennings, a shoemaker, cobler, snob--using the last word in its
genuine classical sense, and by no means according to the modern
interpretation by which it is held to signify a genteel sneak or
pretender--he was anything but that--occupied, some twelve or thirteen
years ago, a stall at Watley, which, according to the traditions of the
place, had been hereditary in his family for several generations. He may
also be said to have flourished there, after the manner of cobblers; for
this, it must be remembered, was in the good old times, before the
gutta-percha revolution had carried ruin and dismay into the
stalls--those of cobblers--which in considerable numbers existed
throughout the kingdom. Like all his fraternity whom I have ever fallen
in with or heard of, Caleb was a sturdy radical of the Major Cartwright
and Henry Hunt school; and being withal industrious, tolerably skillful,
not inordinately prone to the observance of Saint Mondays, possessed,
moreover, of a neatly-furnished sleeping and eating apartment in the
house of which the projecting first floor, supported on stone pillars,
over-shadowed his humble work-place, he vaunted himself to be as really
rich as an estated squire, and far more independent.
There was some truth in this boast, as the case which procured us the
honor of Mr. Jennings's acquaintance sufficiently proved. We were
employed to bring an action against a wealthy gentleman of the vicinity
of Watley for a brutal and unprovoked assault he had committed, when in a
state of partial inebriety, upon a respectable London tradesman who had
visited the place on business. On the day of trial our witnesses appeared
to have become suddenly afflicted with an almost total loss of memory;
and we were only saved from an adverse verdict by the plain,
straight-forward evidence of Caleb, upon whose sturdy nature the various
arts which soften or neutralize hostile evidence had been tried in vain.
Mr. Flint, who personally superintended the case, took quite a liking to
the man; and it thus happened that we were called upon sometime
afterwards to aid the said Caleb in extricating himself from the
extraordinary and perplexing difficulty in which he suddenly and
unwittingly found himself involved.
The projecting first floor of the house beneath which the humble
work-shop of Caleb Jennings modestly disclosed itself, had been occupied
for many years by an ailing and somewhat aged gentleman of the name of
Lisle. This Mr. Ambrose Lisle was a native of Watley, and had been a
prosperous merchant of the city of London. Since his return, after about
twenty years' absence, he had shut himself up in almost total seclusion,
nourishing a cynical bitterness and acrimony of temper which gradually
withered up the sources of health and life, till at length it became as
visible to himself as it had for sometime been to others, that the oil of
existence was expended, burnt up, and that but a few weak flickers more,
and the ailing man's plaints and griefs would be hushed in the dark
silence of the grave.
Mr. Lisle had no relatives at Watley, and the only individual with whom
he was on terms of personal intimacy, was Mr. Peter Sowerby, an attorney
of the place, who had for many years transacted all his business. This
man visited Mr. Lisle most evenings, played at chess with him, and
gradually acquired an influence over his client which that weak gentleman
had once or twice feebly, but vainly endeavored to shake off. To this
clever attorney, it was rumored, Mr. Lisle had bequeathed all his wealth.
This piece of information had been put in circulation by Caleb Jennings,
who was a sort of humble favorite of Mr. Lisle's, or, at all events, was
regarded by the misanthrope with less dislike than he manifested towards
others. Caleb cultivated a few flowers in a little plot of ground at the
back of the house, and Mr. Lisle would sometimes accept a rose or a bunch
of violets from him. Other slight services--especially since the recent
death of his old and garrulous woman-servant, Esther May, who had
accompanied him from London, and with whom Mr. Jennings had always been
upon terms of gossiping intimacy--had led to certain familiarities of
intercourse; and it thus happened that the inquisitive shoemaker became
partially acquainted with the history of the wrongs and griefs which
preyed upon, and shortened the life of the prematurely-aged man.
The substance of this every-day, common-place story, as related to us by
Jennings, and subsequently enlarged and colored from other sources, may
be very briefly told.
Ambrose Lisle, in consequence of an accident which occurred in his
infancy, was slightly deformed. His right shoulder--as I understood, for
I never saw him--grew out, giving an ungraceful and somewhat comical
twist to his figure, which, in female eyes--youthful ones at least--sadly
marred the effect of his intelligent and handsome countenance. This
personal defect rendered him shy and awkward in the presence of women of
his own class of society; and he had attained the ripe age of
thirty-seven years, and was a rich and prosperous man, before he gave the
slightest token of an inclination towards matrimony. About a twelvemonth
previous to that period of his life, the deaths--quickly following each
other--of a Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, threw their eldest daughter, Lucy, upon
Mr. Lisle's hands. Mr. Lisle had been left an orphan at a very early age,
and Mrs. Stevens--his aunt, and then a maiden lady--had, in accordance
with his father's will, taken charge of himself and brother till they
severally attained their majority. Long, however, before that, she
married Mr. Stevens, by whom she had two children--Lucy and Emily. Her
husband, whom she survived but two months, died insolvent; and in
obedience to the dying wishes of his aunt, for whom he appears to have
felt the tenderest esteem, he took the eldest of her orphan children to
his home, intending to regard and provide for her as his own adopted
child and heiress. Emily, the other sister, found refuge in the house of
a still more distant relative than himself.
The Stevenses had gone to live in a remote part of England--Yorkshire, I
believe--and it thus fell out, that, till his cousin Lucy arrived at her
new home, he had not seen her for more than ten years. The pale, and
somewhat plain child, as he had esteemed her, he was startled to find had
become a charming woman; and her naturally gay and joyous temperament,
quick talents, and fresh young beauty, rapidly acquired an overwhelming
influence over him. Strenuously, but vainly, he struggled against the
growing infatuation--argued, reasoned with himself--passed in review the
insurmountable objections to such a union, the difference of age--he,
leading towards thirty-seven, she, barely twenty-one: he, crooked,
deformed, of reserved, taciturn temper--she, full of young life, and
grace, and beauty. It was useless; and nearly a year had passed in the
bootless struggle, when Lucy Stevens, who had vainly striven to blind
herself to the nature of the emotions by which her cousin and guardian
was animated towards her, intimated a wish to accept her sister Emily's
invitation to pass two or three months with her. This brought the affair
to a crisis. Buoying himself up with the illusions which people in such
an unreasonable frame of mind create for themselves, he suddenly entered
the sitting-room set apart for her private use, with the desperate purpose
of making his beautiful cousin a formal offer of his hand. She was not in
the apartment, but her opened writing-desk, and a partly-finished letter
lying on it, showed that she had been recently there, and would probably
soon return. Mr. Lisle took two or three agitated turns about the room,
one of which brought him close to the writing-desk, and his glance
involuntarily fell upon the unfinished letter. Had a deadly serpent
leaped suddenly at his throat, the shock could not have been greater. At
the head of the sheet of paper was a clever pen-and-ink sketch of Lucy
Stevens and himself--he, kneeling to her in a lovelorn, ludicrous
attitude, and she, laughing immoderately at his lachrymose and pitiful
aspect and speech. The letter was addressed to her sister Emily; and the
enraged lover saw not only that his supposed secret was fully known, but
that he himself was mocked, laughed at, for his doting folly. At least
this was his interpretation of the words which swam before his eyes. At
the instant Lucy returned, and a torrent of imprecation burst from the
furious man, in which wounded self-love, rageful pride, and long pent-up
passion, found utterance in wild and bitter words. Half an hour
afterwards Lucy Stevens had left the merchant's house--for ever, as it
proved. She, indeed, on arriving at her sister's, sent a letter,
supplicating forgiveness for the thoughtless, and, as he deemed it,
insulting sketch, intended only for Emily's eye; but he replied merely by
a note written by one of his clerks, informing Miss Stevens that Mr.
Lisle declined any further correspondence with her.
The ire of the angered and vindictive man had, however, begun sensibly to
abate, and old thoughts, memories, duties, suggested partly by the blank
which Lucy's absence made in his house, partly by remembrance of the
solemn promise he had made her mother, were strongly reviving in his
mind, when he read the announcement of marriage in a provincial journal,
directed to him, as he believed, in the bride's hand-writing; but this
was an error, her sister having sent the newspaper. Mr. Lisle also
construed this into a deliberate mockery and insult, and from that hour
strove to banish all images and thoughts connected with his cousin, from
his heart and memory.
He unfortunately adopted the very worst course possible for effecting
this object. Had he remained amid the buzz and tumult of active life, a
mere sentimental disappointment, such as thousands of us have sustained
and afterwards forgotten, would, there can be little doubt, have soon
ceased to afflict him. He chose to retire from business, visited Watley,
and habits of miserliness growing rapidly upon his cankered mind, never
afterwards removed from the lodgings he had hired on first arriving
there. Thus madly hugging to himself sharp-pointed memories, which a
sensible man would have speedily cast off and forgotten, the sour
misanthrope passed a useless, cheerless, weary existence, to which death
must have been a welcome relief.
Matters were in this state with the morose and aged man--aged mentally
and corporeally, although his years were but fifty-eight--when Mr. Flint
made Mr. Jennings's acquaintance. Another month or so had passed away
when Caleb's attention was one day about noon claimed by a young man
dressed in mourning, accompanied by a female similarly attired, and from
their resemblance to each other he conjectured were brother and sister.
The stranger wished to know if that was the house in which Mr. Ambrose
Lisle resided. Jennings said it was; and with civil alacrity left his
stall and rang the front-door bell. The summons was answered by the
landlady's servant, who, since Esther May's death, had waited on the
first-floor lodger; and the visitors were invited to go up stairs. Caleb,
much wondering who they might be, returned to his stall, and from thence
passed into his eating and sleeping-room just below Mr. Lisle's
apartments. He was in the act of taking a pipe from the mantel-shelf, in
order to the more deliberate and satisfactory cogitation on such an
unusual event, when he was startled by a loud shout, or scream rather,
from above. The quivering and excited voice was that of Mr. Lisle, and
the outcry was immediately followed by an explosion of unintelligible
exclamations from several persons. Caleb was up stairs in an instant,
and found himself in the midst of a strangely-perplexing and distracted
scene. Mr. Lisle, pale as his shirt, shaking in every limb, and his eyes
on fire with passion, was hurling forth a torrent of vituperation and
reproach at the young woman, whom he evidently mistook for some one else;
whilst she, extremely terrified, and unable to stand but for the
assistance of her companion, was tendering a letter in her outstretched
hand, and uttering broken sentences, which her own agitation and the fury
of Mr. Lisle's invectives rendered totally incomprehensible. At last the
fierce old man struck the letter from her hand, and with frantic rage
ordered both the strangers to leave the room. Caleb urged them to comply,
and accompanied them down stairs. When they reached the street, he
observed a woman on the other side of the way, dressed in mourning, and
much older apparently, though he could not well see her face through the
thick veil she wore, than she who had thrown Mr. Lisle into such an agony
of rage, apparently waiting for them. To her the young people immediately
hastened, and after a brief conference the three turned away up the
street, and Mr. Jennings saw no more of them.
A quarter of an hour afterwards the house-servant informed Caleb that Mr.
Lisle had retired to bed, and although still in great agitation, and, as
she feared, seriously indisposed, would not permit Dr. Clarke to be sent
for. So sudden and violent a hurricane in the usually dull and drowsy
atmosphere in which Jennings lived, excited and disturbed him greatly;
the hours, however, flew past without bringing any relief to his
curiosity, and evening was falling, when a peculiar knocking on the floor
over-head announced that Mr. Lisle desired his presence. That gentleman
was sitting up in bed, and in the growing darkness his face could not be
very distinctly seen; but Caleb instantly observed a vivid and unusual
light in the old man's eyes. The letter so strangely delivered was lying
open before him; and unless the shoe-mender was greatly mistaken, there
were stains of recent tears upon Mr. Lisie's furrowed and hollow cheeks.
The voice, too, it struck Caleb, though eager, was gentle and wavering.
"It was a mistake, Jennings," he said; "I was mad for the moment. Are
they gone?" he added in a yet more subdued and gentle tone. Caleb
informed him of what he had seen; and as he did so, the strange light in
the old man's eyes seemed to quiver and sparkle with a yet intenser
emotion than before. Presently he shaded them with his hand, and remained
several minutes silent. He then said with a firmer voice, "I shall be
glad if you will step to Mr. Sowerby, and tell him I am too unwell to see
him this evening. But be sure to say nothing else," he eagerly added, as
Caleb turned away in compliance with his request; "and when you come
back, let me see you again."
When Jennings returned, he found to his great surprise Mr. Lisle up and
nearly dressed; and his astonishment increased a hundred-fold upon
hearing that gentleman say, in a quick but perfectly collected and
decided manner, that he should set off for London by the mail-train.
"For London--and by night!" exclaimed Caleb, scarcely sure that he
"Yes--yes! I shall not be observed in the dark," sharply rejoined Mr.
Lisle; "and you, Caleb, must keep my secret from every body, especially
from Sowerby. I shall be here in time to see him to-morrow night, and he
will be none the wiser." This was said with a slight chuckle; and as soon
as his simple preparations were complete, Mr. Lisle, well wrapped up,
and his face almost hidden by shawls, locked his door, and assisted by
Jennings, stole furtively down stairs, and reached unrecognized the
railway station just in time for the train.
It was quite dark the next evening when Mr. Lisle returned; and so well
had he managed, that Mr. Sowerby, who paid his usual visit about half an
hour afterwards, had evidently heard nothing of the suspicious absence of
his esteemed client from Watley. The old man exulted over the success of
his deception to Caleb, the next morning, but dropped no hint as to the
object of his sudden journey.
Three days passed without the occurrence of any incident tending to the
enlightenment of Mr. Jennings upon these mysterious events, which,
however, he plainly saw had lamentably shaken the long-since failing man.
On the afternoon of the fourth day, Mr. Lisle walked, or rather tottered,
into Caleb's stall, and seated himself on the only vacant stool it
contained. His manner was confused, and frequently purposeless, and there
was an anxious, flurried expression in his face, which Jennings did not
at all like. He remained silent for some time, with the exception of
partially inaudible snatches of comment or questionings, apparently
addressed to himself. At last he said, "I shall take a longer journey
to-morrow, Caleb--much longer; let me see--where did I say? Ah, yes! to
Glasgow; to be sure to Glasgow!"
"To Glasgow, and to-morrow!" exclaimed the astounded cobbler.
"No, no--not Glasgow; they have removed," feebly rejoined Mr. Lisle.
"But Lucy has written it down for me. True--true; and to-morrow I
shall set out."
The strange expression of Mr. Lisle's face became momentarily more
strongly marked, and Jennings, greatly alarmed, said, "You are ill, Mr.
Lisle; let me run for Dr. Clarke."
"No--no," he murmured, at the same time striving to rise from his seat,
which he could only accomplish by Caleb's assistance, and so supported,
he staggered indoors. "I shall be better to-morrow," he said faintly, and
then slowly added, "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow! Ah, me! Yes,
as I said, to-morrow, I"--He paused abruptly, and they gained his
apartment. He seated himself, and then Jennings, at his mute
solicitation, assisted him to bed.
He lay some time with his eyes closed; and Caleb could feel--for Mr.
Lisle held him firmly by the hand, as if to prevent his going away--a
convulsive shudder pass over his frame. At last he slowly opened his
eyes, and Caleb saw that he was indeed about to depart upon the long
journey from which there is no return. The lips of the dying man worked
inarticulately for some moments; and then with a mighty effort, as it
seemed, he said, whilst his trembling hand pointed feebly to a bureau
chest of drawers that stood in the room, "There--there, for Lucy; there,
the secret place is"--Some inaudible words followed, and then after a
still mightier struggle than before, he gasped out, "No word--no
word--to--to Sowerby--for her--Lucy."
More was said, but undistinguishable by mortal ear; and after gazing with
an expression of indescribable anxiety in the scared face of his
awe-struck listener, the wearied eyes slowly reclosed--the deep silence
flowed past; then the convulsive shudder came again, and he was dead!
Caleb Jennings tremblingly summoned the house-servant and the landlady,
and was still confusedly pondering the broken sentences uttered by the
dying man, when Mr. Sowerby hurriedly arrived. The attorney's first care
was to assume the direction of affairs, and to place seals upon every
article containing or likely to contain anything of value belonging to
the deceased. This done, he went away to give directions for the funeral,
which took place a few days afterwards; and it was then formally
announced that Mr. Sowerby succeeded by will to the large property of
Ambrose Lisle; under trust, however, for the family, if any, of Robert
Lisle, the deceased's brother, who had gone when very young to India, and
had not been heard of for many years--a condition which did not at all
mar the joy of the crafty lawyer, he having long since instituted private
inquiries, which perfectly satisfied him, that the said Robert Lisle had
died, unmarried, at Calcutta.
Mr. Jennings was in a state of great dubiety and consternation. Sowerby
had emptied the chest of drawers of every valuable it contained; and
unless he had missed the secret receptacle Mr. Lisle had spoken of, the
deceased's intentions, whatever they might have been, were clearly
defeated. And if he had _not_ discovered it, how could he, Jennings, get
at the drawers to examine them? A fortunate chance brought some relief to
his perplexities. Ambrose Lisle's furniture was advertised to be sold by
auction, and Caleb resolved to purchase the bureau chest of drawers at
almost any price, although to do so would oblige him to break into his
rent-money, then nearly due. The day of sale came, and, the important lot
in its turn was put up. In one of the drawers there were a number of
loose newspapers, and other valueless scraps; and Caleb, with a sly grin,
asked the auctioneer, if he sold the article with all its contents. "Oh,
yes," said Sowerby, who was watching the sale; "the buyer may have all it
contains over his bargain, and much good may it do him." A laugh followed
the attorney's sneering remark, and the biddings went on. "I want it,"
observed Caleb "because it just fits a recess like this one in my room
underneath." This he said to quiet a suspicion he thought he saw
gathering upon the attorney's brow. It was finally knocked down to Caleb
at L5 10s., a sum considerably beyond its real value; and he had to
borrow a sovereign in order to clear his speculative purchase. This done,
he carried off his prize, and as soon as the closing of the house for the
night secured him from interruption, he set eagerly to work in search of
the secret drawer. A long and patient examination was richly rewarded.
Behind one of the small drawers of the _secretaire_ portion of the piece
of furniture was another small one, curiously concealed, which contained
Bank-of-England notes to the amount of L200, tied up with a letter, upon
the back of which was written, in the deceased's hand-writing, "To take
with me." The letter which Caleb, although he read print with facility,
had much difficulty in making out, was that which Mr. Lisle had struck
from the young woman's hand a few weeks before, and proved to be a very
affecting appeal from Lucy Stevens, now Lucy Warner, and a widow, with
two grown-up children. Her husband had died in insolvent circumstances,
and she and her sister Emily, who was still single, were endeavoring to
carry on a school at Bristol, which promised to be sufficiently
prosperous if the sum of about L150 could be raised, to save the
furniture from her deceased husband's creditors. The claim was pressing,
for Mr. Warner had been dead nearly a year, and Mr. Lisle being the only
relative Mrs. Warner had in the world, she had ventured to entreat his
assistance for her mother's sake. There could be no moral doubt,
therefore, that this money was intended for Mrs. Warner's relief; and
early in the morning Mr. Caleb Jennings dressed himself in his Sunday's
suit, and with a brief announcement to his landlady that he was about to
leave Watley for a day or two, on a visit to a friend, set off for the
railway station. He had not proceeded far when a difficulty struck
him--the bank-notes were all twenties; and were he to change a
twenty-pound note at the station, where he was well known, great would be
the tattle and wonderment, if nothing worse, that would ensue. So Caleb
tried his credit again, borrowed sufficient for his journey to London,
and there changed one of the notes.
He soon reached Bristol, and blessed was the relief which the sum of
money he brought afforded Mrs. Warner. She expressed much sorrow for the
death of Mr. Lisle, and great gratitude to Caleb. The worthy man
accepted with some reluctance one of the notes, or at least as much as
remained of that which he had changed; and after exchanging promises
with the widow and her relatives to keep the matter secret, departed
homewards. The young woman, Mrs. Warner's daughter, who had brought the
letter to Watley, was, Caleb noticed, the very image of her mother, or,
rather, of what her mother must have been when young. This remarkable
resemblance it was, no doubt, which had for the moment so confounded and
agitated Mr. Lisle.
Nothing occurred for about a fortnight after Caleb's return to disquiet
him, and he had begun to feel tolerably sure that his discovery of the
notes would remain unsuspected, when, one afternoon, the sudden and
impetuous entrance of Mr. Sowerby into his stall caused him to jump up
from his seat with surprise and alarm. The attorney's face was deathly
white, his eyes glared like a wild beast's, and his whole appearance
exhibited uncontrollable agitation. "A word with you, Mr. Jennings," he
gasped--"a word in private, and at once!" Caleb, in scarcely less
consternation than his visitor, led the way into his inner room, and
closed the door.
"Restore--give back," screamed the attorney, vainly struggling to
dissemble the agitation which convulsed him--"that--that which you have
purloined from the chest of drawers!"
The hot blood rushed to Caleb's face and temples; the wild vehemence and
suddenness of the demand confounded him; and certain previous dim
suspicions that the law might not only pronounce what he had done
illegal, but possibly felonious, returned upon him with terrible force,
and he quite lost his presence of mind.
"I can't--I can't," he stammered. "It's gone--given away"--
"Gone!" shouted, or, more correctly, howled--Sowerby, at the
same time flying at Caleb's throat as if he would throttle him.
"Gone--given away! You lie--you want to drive a bargain with
This was a species of attack which Jennings was at no loss how to meet.
He shook the attorney roughly off, and hurled him, in the midst of his
vituperation, to the further end of the room.
They then stood glaring at each other in silence, till the attorney,
mastering himself as well as he could, essayed another and more rational
mode of attaining his purpose:--
"Come, come, Jennings," he said, "don't be a fool. Let us understand each
other. I have just discovered a paper, a memorandum of what you have
found in the drawers, and to obtain which you bought them. I don't care
for the money--keep it; only give me the papers--documents."
"Papers--documents!" ejaculated Caleb, in unfeigned surprise.
"Yes--yes; of use to me only. You, I remember, cannot read writing; but
they are of great consequence to me--to me only, I tell you."
"You can't mean Mrs. Warner's letter?"
"No--no; curse the letter! You are playing with a tiger! Keep the money,
I tell you; but give up the papers--documents--or I'll transport you!"
shouted Sowerby with reviving fury.
Caleb, thoroughly bewildered, could only mechanically ejaculate that he
had no papers or documents.
The rage of the attorney when he found he could extract nothing from
Jennings was frightful. He literally foamed with passion, uttered the
wildest threats; and then suddenly changing his key, offered the
astounded cobbler one--two--three thousand pounds--any sum he chose to
name, for the papers--documents! This scene of alternate violence and
cajolery lasted nearly an hour; and then Sowerby rushed from the house as
if pursued by the furies, and leaving his auditor in a state of thorough
bewilderment and dismay. It occurred to Caleb, as soon as his mind had
settled into something like order, that there might be another secret
drawer; and the recollection of Mr. Lisle's journey to London recurred
suggestively to him. Another long and eager search, however, proved
fruitless; and the suspicion was given up, or, more correctly, weakened.
As soon as it was light the next morning, Mr. Sowerby was again with
him. He was more guarded now, and was at length convinced that Jennings
had no paper or document to give up. "It was only some important
memoranda," observed the attorney carelessly, "that would save me a
world of trouble in a lawsuit I shall have to bring against some heavy
debtors to Mr. Lisle's estate; but I must do as well as I can without
them. Good morning." Just as he reached the door a sudden thought
appeared to strike him. He stopped and said, "By the way, Jennings, in
the hurry of business I forgot that Mr. Lisle had told me the chest of
drawers you bought, and a few other articles, were family relics which
he wished to be given to certain parties he named. The other things I
have got; and you, I suppose, will let me have the drawers for--say a
pound profit on your bargain?"
Caleb was not the acutest man in the world; but this sudden proposition,
carelessly as it was made, suggested curious thoughts. "No," he answered;
"I shall not part with it. I shall keep it as a memorial of Mr. Lisle."
Sowerby's face assumed as Caleb spoke, a ferocious expression. "Shall
you?" said he. "Then, be sure, my fine fellow, that you shall also have
something to remember me by as long as you live."
He then went away, and a few days afterwards Caleb was served with a writ
for the recovery of the two hundred pounds.
The affair made a great noise in the place; and Caleb's conduct being
very generally approved, a subscription was set on foot to defray the
cost of defending the action--one Hayling, a rival attorney to Sowerby,
having asserted that the words used by the proprietor of the chest of
drawers at the sale barred his claim to the money found in them. This
wise gentleman was intrusted with the defence; and strange to say, the
jury--a common one--spite of the direction of the judge returned a
verdict for the defendant, upon the ground that Sowerby's jocular or
sneering remark amounted to a serious, valid leave and license to sell
two hundred pounds for five pounds ten shillings!
Sowerby obtained, as a matter of course, a rule for a new trial; and a
fresh action was brought. All at once Hayling refused to go on, alleging
deficiency of funds. He told Jennings that in his opinion it would be
better that he should give in to Sowerby's whim, who only wanted the
drawers in order to comply with the testator's wishes. "Besides,"
remarked Hayling in conclusion, "he is sure to get the article, you know,
when it comes to be sold under a writ of _fi fa_." A few days after this
conversation it was ascertained that Hayling was to succeed to Sowerby's
business, the latter gentleman being about to retire upon the fortune
bequeathed him by Mr. Lisle.
At last Caleb, driven nearly out of his senses, though still doggedly
obstinate, by the harassing perplexities in which he found himself,
thought of applying to us.
"A very curious affair, upon my word," remarked Mr. Flint, as soon as
Caleb had unburdened himself of the story of his woes and cares; "and in
my opinion by no means explainable by Sowerby's anxiety to fulfill the
testator's wishes. He cannot expect to get two hundred pence out of you;
and Mrs. Warner, you say, is equally unable to pay. Very odd indeed.
Perhaps if we could get time, something might turn up."
With this view Flint looked over the papers Caleb had brought, and found
the declaration was in _trover_--a manifest error--the notes never
admittedly having been in Sowerby's actual possession. We accordingly
demurred to the form of action, and the proceedings were set aside. This,
however, proved of no ultimate benefit. Sowerby persevered, and a fresh
action was instituted against the unhappy shoe-mender. So utterly
overcrowed and disconsolate was poor Caleb, that he determined to give up
the drawers which was all Sowerby even now required, and so wash his
hands of the unfortunate business. Previous, however, to this being done,
it was determined that another thorough and scientific examination of
the mysterious piece of furniture should be made; and for this purpose
Mr. Flint obtained a workman skilled in the mysteries of secret
contrivances, from the desk and dressing-case establishment in King
Street, Holborn, and proceeded with him to Watley.
The man performed his task with great care and skill; every depth and
width was guaged and measured, in order to ascertain if there were any
false bottoms or backs; and the workman finally pronounced that there was
no concealed receptacle in the article.
"I am sure there is," persisted Flint, whom disappointment as usual
rendered but the more obstinate; "and so is Sowerby: and he knows too,
that it is so cunningly contrived as to be undiscoverable, except by a
person in the secret, which he no doubt at first imagined Caleb to be.
I'll tell you what we'll do--You have the necessary tools with you. Split
the confounded chest of drawers into shreds--I'll be answerable for the
This was done carefully and methodically, but for some time without
result. At length the large drawer next the floor had to be knocked to
pieces; and as it fell apart, one section of the bottom, which, like all
the others, was divided into two compartments, dropped asunder, and
discovered a parchment laid flat between the two thin leaves, which, when
pressed together in the grooves of the drawer, presented precisely the
same appearance as the rest. Flint snatched up the parchment, and his
eager eye had scarcely rested an instant on the writing, when a shout of
triumph burst from him. It was the last will and testament of Ambrose
Lisle, dated August 21, 1838--the day of his last hurried visit to
London. It revoked the former will, and bequeathed the whole of his
property, in equal portions, to his cousins Lucy Warner and Emily
Stevens, with succession to their children; but with reservation of
one-half to his brother Robert or children, should he be alive, or have
Great, it may be supposed was the jubilation of Caleb Jennings at this
discovery; and all Watley, by his agency, was in a marvelously short
space of time in a very similar state of excitement. It was very late
that night when he reached his bed; and how he got there at all, and what
precisely had happened, except, indeed, that he had somewhere picked up a
splitting headache, was, for some time after he awoke the next morning,
very confusedly remembered.
Mr. Flint, by reflection, was by no means so exultant as the worthy
shoe-mender. The odd mode of packing away a deed of such importance, with
_no assignable motive for doing so_, except the needless awe with which
Sowerby was said to have inspired his feeble-spirited client, together
with what Caleb had said of the shattered state of the deceased's mind
after the interview with Mrs. Warner's daughter, suggested fears that
Sowerby might dispute, and perhaps successfully, the validity of this
last will. My excellent partner, however, determined, as was his wont, to
put a bold face on the matter; and first clearly settling in his own mind
what he should and what he should _not_ say, waited upon Mr. Sowerby. The
news had preceded him, and he was at once surprised and delighted to find
that the nervous crest-fallen attorney was quite unaware of the
advantages of his position. On condition of not being called to account
for the moneys he had received and expended, about L1200, he destroyed
the former will in Mr. Flint's presence, and gave up, at once, all the
deceased's papers. From these we learned that Mr. Lisle had written a
letter to Mrs. Warner, stating what he had done, and where the will would
be found, and that only herself and Jennings would know the secret. Prom
infirmity of purpose, or from having subsequently determined on a
personal interview, the letter was not posted; and Sowerby subsequently
discovered it, together with a memorandum of the numbers of the
bank-notes found by Caleb in the secret drawer--the eccentric gentleman
appears to have had quite a mania for such hiding-places--of a
The affair was thus happily terminated; Mrs. Warner, her children, and
sister, were enriched, and Caleb Jennings was set up in a good way of
business in his native place, where he still flourishes. Over the
centre of his shop there is a large nondescript sign, surmounted by a
golden boot, which upon a close inspection is found to bear a
resemblance to a huge bureau chest of drawers, all the circumstances
connected with which may be heard, for the asking, and in much fuller
detail than I have given, from the lips of the owner of the
establishment, by any lady or gentleman who will take the trouble of a
journey to Watley for that purpose.
Tempus fugit! The space of but a few brief yesterdays seems to have
passed since the occurrence of the following out-of-the-way
incidents--out-of-the-way, even in our profession, fertile as it is in
startling experiences; and yet the faithful and unerring tell-tale and
monitor, Anno Domini 1851, instructs me that a quarter of a century has
nearly slipped by since the first scene in the complicated play of
circumstances opened upon me. The date I remember well, for the
Tower-guns had been proclaiming with their thunder-throats the victory of
Navarino but a short time before a clerk announced, "William Martin, with
a message from Major Stewart."
This William Martin was a rather sorry curiosity in his way. He was now
in the service of our old client, Major Stewart; and a tall, good-looking
fellow enough, spite of a very decided cast in his eyes, which the
rascal, when in his cups--no unusual occurrence--declared he had caught
from his former masters--Edward Thorneycroft, Esq., an enormously rich
and exceedingly yellow East India director, and his son, Mr. Henry
Thorneycroft, with whom, until lately transferred to Major Stewart's
service, he had lived from infancy--his mother and father having formed
part of the elder Thorneycroft's establishment when he was born. He had a
notion in his head that he had better blood in his veins than the world
supposed, and was excessively fond of aping the gentleman; and this he
did, I must say, with the ease and assurance of a stage-player. His name
was scarcely out of the clerk's lips when he entered the inner office
with a great effort at steadiness and deliberation, closed the door very
carefully and importantly, hung his hat with much precision on a brass
peg, and then steadying himself by the door-handle, surveyed the
situation and myself with staring lack-lustre eyes and infinite gravity.
I saw what was the matter.
"You have been in the 'Sun,' Mr. Martin?"
A wink, inexpressible by words, replied to me, and I could see by the
motion of the fellow's lips that speech was attempted; but it came so
thick that it was several minutes before I made out that he meant to
say the British had been knocking the Turks about like bricks, and
that he had been patriotically drinking the healths of the said
British or bricks.
"Have the goodness, sir, to deliver your message, and then instantly
leave the office."
"Old Tho-o-o-rney," was the hiccoughed reply, "has smoked the--the
plot. Young Thorney's done for. Ma-a-aried in a false name;
"What gibberish is this about old Thorney and young Thorney? Do you not
come from Major Stewart?"
"Ye-e-es, that's right; the route's arrived for the old trump; wishes
to--to see you"
"Major Stewart dying! Why, you are a more disgraceful scamp than I
believed you to be. Send this fellow away," I added to a clerk who
answered my summons. I then hastened off, and was speedily rattling over
the stones towards Baker Street, Portman Square, where Major Stewart
resided. As I left the office I heard Martin beg the clerk to lead him to
the pump previous to sending him off--no doubt for the purpose of
sobering himself somewhat previous to reappearing before the major,
whose motives for hiring or retaining such a fellow in his modest
establishment I could not understand.
"You were expected more than an hour ago," said Dr. Hampton, who was just
leaving the house. "The major is now, I fear, incapable of business."
There was no time for explanation, and I hastily entered the
sick-chamber. Major Stewart, though rapidly sinking, recognized me; and
in obedience to a gesture from her master the aged, weeping house-keeper
left the room. The major's daughter, Rosamond Stewart, had been absent
with her aunt, her father's maiden sister, on a visit, I understood, to
some friends in Scotland, and had not, I concluded, been made acquainted
with the major's illness, which had only assumed a dangerous character a
few days previously. The old soldier was dying calmly and
painlessly--rather from exhaustion of strength, a general failure of the
powers of life, than from any especial disease. A slight flush tinged the
mortal pallor of his face as I entered, and the eyes emitted a
"It is not more, my dear sir," I replied softly but eagerly to his look,
"than a quarter of an hour ago that I received your message."
I do not know whether he comprehended or even distinctly heard what I
said, for his feeble but extremely anxious glance was directed whilst
I spoke to a large oil-portrait of Rosamond Stewart, suspended over
the mantel-piece. The young lady was a splendid, dark-eyed beauty,
and of course the pride and darling of her father. Presently
wrenching, as it were, his eyes from the picture, he looked in my
face with great earnestness, and bending my ear close to his lips, I
heard him feebly and brokenly say, "A question to ask you, that's
all; read--read!" His hand motioned towards a letter which lay open
on the bed; I ran it over, and the major's anxiety was at once
explained. Rosamond Stewart had, I found, been a short time
previously married in Scotland to Henry Thorneycroft, the son of the
wealthy East India director. Finding his illness becoming serious,
the major had anticipated the time and mode in which the young people
had determined to break the intelligence to the irascible father of
the bridegroom, and the result was the furious and angry letter in
reply which I was perusing. Mr. Thorneycroft would never, he
declared, recognize the marriage of his undutiful nephew--nephew,
_not_ son; for he was, the letter announced, the child of an only
sister, whose marriage had also mortally offended Mr. Thorneycroft,
and had been brought up from infancy as his (Mr. Thorneycroft's) son,
in order that the hated name of Allerton, to which the boy was alone
legally entitled, might never offend his ear. There was something
added insinuative of a doubt of the legality of the marriage, in
consequence of the misnomer of the bridegroom at the ceremony.
"One question," muttered the major, as I finished the perusal of the
letter--"Is Rosamond's marriage legal?"
"No question about it. How could any one suppose that an involuntary
misdescription can affect such a contract?"
"Enough--enough!" he gasped. "A great load is gone!--the rest is with
God. Beloved Rosamond"--The slight whisper was no longer audible; sighs,
momently becoming fainter and weaker, followed--ceased, and in little
more than ten minutes after the last word was spoken, life was extinct. I
rang the bell, and turned to leave the room, and as I did so surprised
Martin on the other side of the bed. He had been listening, screened by
the thick damask curtains, and appeared to be a good deal sobered. I
made no remark, and proceeded on down stairs. The man followed, and as
soon as we had gained the hall said quickly, yet hesitatingly,
"Well, what have you to say?"
"Nothing very particular, sir. But did I understand you to say just now,
that it was of no consequence if a man married in a false name?"
"That depends upon circumstances. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing--nothing; only I have heard it's transportation, especially
if there's money."
"Perhaps you are right. Anything else?"
"No," said he, opening the door; "that's all--mere curiosity."
I heard nothing more of the family for some time, except with reference
to Major Stewart's personal property, about L4000 bequeathed to his
daughter, with a charge thereon of an annuity of L20 a year for Mrs.
Leslie, the aged house-keeper; the necessary business connected with
which we transacted. But about a twelvemonth after the major's death, the
marriage of the elder Thorneycroft with a widow of the same name as
himself, and a cousin, the paper stated, was announced; and pretty nearly
a year and a half subsequent to the appearance of this ominous paragraph,
the decease of Mr. Henry Thorneycroft at Lausanne, in Switzerland, who
had left, it was added in the newspaper stock-phrase of journalism, a
young widow and two sons to mourn their irreparable loss. Silence again,
as far as we were concerned, settled upon the destinies of the
descendants of our old military client, till one fine morning a letter
from Dr. Hampton informed us of the sudden death by apoplexy, a few days
previously, of the East India director. Dr. Hampton further hinted that
he should have occasion to write us again in a day or two, relative to
the deceased's affairs, which, owing to Mr. Thorneycroft's unconquerable
aversion to making a will, had, it was feared, been left in an extremely
unsatisfactory state. Dr. Hampton had written to us, at the widow's
request, in consequence of his having informed her that we had been the
professional advisers of Major Stewart, and were in all probability those
of his daughter, Mrs. Henry Allerton.
We did not quite comprehend the drift of this curious epistle; but
although not specially instructed, we determined at once to write to Mrs.
Rosamond Thorneycroft or Allerton, who with her family was still abroad,
and in the meantime take such formal steps in her behalf as might appear
We were not long in doubt as to the motives of the extremely civil
application to ourselves on the part of the widow of the East India
director. The deceased's wealth had been almost all invested in land,
which went, he having died intestate, to his nephew's son, Henry
Allerton; and the personals in which the widow would share were
consequently of very small amount. Mrs. Thorneycroft was, therefore,
anxious to propose, through us, a more satisfactory and equitable
arrangement. We could of course say nothing till the arrival of Mrs.
Rosamond Allerton, for which, however, we had only a brief time to wait.
There were, we found, no indisposition on that lady's part to act with
generosity towards Mr. Thorneycroft's widow--a showy, vulgarish person,
by the way, of about forty years of age--but there was a legal difficulty
in the way, in consequence of the heir-at-law being a minor. Mrs.
Thorneycroft became at length terribly incensed, and talked a good deal
of angry nonsense about disputing the claim of Henry Allerton's son to
the estates, on the ground that his marriage, having been contracted in
a wrong name, was null and void. Several annoying paragraphs got in
consequence into the Sunday newspapers, and these brought about a
About twelve o'clock one day, the Widow Thorneycroft bounced
unceremoniously into the office, dragging in with her a comely and rather
interesting-looking young woman, but of a decidedly rustic complexion and
accent, and followed by a grave, middle-aged clergyman. The widow's large
eyes sparkled with strong excitement, and her somewhat swarthy features
were flushed with hot blood.
"I have brought you," she burst out abruptly, "the real Mrs.
"No, no!" interrupted the young woman, who appeared much
agitated--"Thorneycroft, not Allerton!"--
"I know, child--I know; but that is nothing to the purpose. This young
person, Mr. Sharp, is, I repeat, the true and lawful Mrs. Henry
"Pooh!" I answered; "do you take us for idiots? This," I added with some
sternness, "is either a ridiculous misapprehension or an attempt at
imposture, and I am very careless which it may be."
"You are mistaken, sir," rejoined the clergyman mildly. "This young woman
was certainly married by me at Swindon church, Wilts, to a gentleman of
the name of Henry Thorneycroft, who, it appears from the newspapers,
confirmed by this lady, was no other than Mr. Henry Allerton. This
marriage, we find, took place six months previously to that contracted
with Rosamond Stewart. I have further to say that this young woman, Maria
Emsbury, is a very respectable person, and that her marriage-portion, of
a little more than eight hundred pounds, was given to her husband, whom
she has only seen thrice since her marriage, to support himself till the
death of his reputed father, constantly asserted by him to be imminent."
"A story very smoothly told, and I have no doubt in your opinion quite
satisfactory; but there is one slight matter which I fancy you will find
somewhat difficult of proof--I mean the identity of Maria Emsbury's
husband with the son or nephew of the late Mr. Thorneycroft."
"He always said he was the son of the rich East Indian, Mr.
Thorneycroft," said the young woman with a hysterical sob; "and here,"
she added, "is his picture in his wedding-dress--that of an officer of
the Gloucestershire Yeomanry. He gave it me the day before the wedding."
I almost snatched the portrait. Sure enough it was a miniature of Henry
Allerton--there could be no doubt about that.
Mr. Flint, who had been busy with some papers, here approached and
glanced at the miniature.
I was utterly confounded, and my partner, I saw, was equally dismayed;
and no wonder, entertaining as we both did the highest respect and
admiration for the high-minded and beautiful daughter of Major Stewart.
The Widow Thorneycroft's exultation was exuberant.
"As this only legal marriage," said she, "has been blessed with no issue,
I am of course, as you must be aware, the legitimate heiress-at-law, as
my deceased husband's nearest blood-relative. I shall, however," she
added, "take care to amply provide for my widowed niece-in-law."
The young woman made a profound rustic courtesy, and tears of unaffected
gratitude, I observed, filled her eyes.
The game was not, however, to be quite so easily surrendered as they
appeared to imagine. "Tut! tut!" exclaimed Mr. Flint bluntly--"this may
be mere practice. Who knows how the portrait has been obtained?"
The girl's eyes flashed with honest anger. There was no practice about
her I felt assured. "Here are other proofs: My husband's signet-ring,
left accidentally, I think, with me, and two letters which I from
curiosity took out of his coat-pocket--the day, I am pretty sure it was,
after we were married."
"If this cumulative circumstantial evidence does not convince you,
gentlemen," added the Rev. Mr. Wishart, "I have direct personal testimony
to offer. You know Mr. Angerstein of Bath?"
"Well, Mr. Henry Thorneycroft or Allerton, was at the time this marriage
took place, on a visit to that gentleman; and I myself saw the
bridegroom, whom I had united a fortnight previously in Swindon church,
walking arm-and-arm with Mr. Angerstein in Sydney Gardens, Bath. I was at
some little distance, but I recognized both distinctly, and bowed. Mr.
Angerstein returned my salutation, and he recollects the circumstance
distinctly. The gentleman walking with him in the uniform of the
Gloucestershire Yeomanry was, Mr. Angerstein is prepared to depose, Mr.
Henry Thorneycroft or Allerton."
"You waste time, reverend sir," said Mr. Flint with an affectation of
firmness and unconcern he was, I knew, far from feeling. "We are the
attorneys of Mrs. Rosamond Allerton, and shall, I dare say, if you push
us to it, be able to tear this ingeniously-colored cobweb of yours to
shreds. If you determine on going to law, your solicitor can serve us; we
will enter an appearance, and our client will be spared unnecessary
They were about to leave, when, as ill-luck would have it, one of the
clerks who, deceived by the momentary silence, and from not having been
at home when the unwelcome visitors arrived, believed we were disengaged,
opened the door, and admitted Mrs. Rosamond Allerton and her aunt, Miss
Stewart. Before we could interpose with a word, the Widow Thorneycroft
burst out with the whole story in a torrent of exultant Volubility that
it was impossible to check or restrain.
For awhile contemptuous incredulity, indignant scorn, upheld the assailed
lady; but as proof after proof was hurled at her, reinforced by the grave
soberness of the clergyman and the weeping sympathy of the young woman,
her firmness gave way, and she swooned in her aunt's arms. We should have
more peremptorily interfered but for our unfortunate client's deprecatory
gestures. She seemed determined to hear the worst at once. Now, however,
we had the office cleared of the intruders without much ceremony and, as
soon as the horror-stricken lady was sufficiently recovered, she was
conducted to her carriage, and after arranging for an early interview on
the morrow, was driven off.
I found our interesting, and, I feared, deeply-injured client much
recovered from the shock which on the previous day had overwhelmed her;
and although exceedingly pale--lustrously so, as polished Parian
marble--and still painfully agitated, there was hope, almost confidence,
in her eye and tone.
"There is some terrible misapprehension in this frightful affair, Mr.
Sharp," she began. "Henry, my husband, was utterly incapable of a mean or
dishonest act, much less of such utter baseness as this of which he is
accused. They also say, do they not," she continued, with a smile of
haughty contempt, "that he robbed the young woman of her poor dowry--some
eight hundred pounds? A proper story!"
"That, I confess, from what little I know of Mr. Henry Thorneycroft,
stamps the whole affair as a fabrication; and yet the Reverend Mr.
Wishart--a gentleman of high character, I understand--is very positive.
The young woman, too, appeared truthful and sincere."
"Yes--it cannot be denied. Let me say also--for it is best to look at
the subject on its darkest side--I find, on looking over my letters,
that my husband was staying with Mr. Angerstein at the time stated. He
was also at that period in the Gloucestershire Yeomanry. I gave William
Martin, but the other day, a suit of his regimentals very little the
worse for wear."
"You forget to state, Rosamond," said Miss Stewart, who was sitting
beside her niece, "that Martin, who was with his young master at Bath, is
willing to make oath that no such marriage took place as asserted, at
"That alone would, I fear, my good madam, very little avail. Can I see
"Certainly." The bell was rung, and the necessary order given.
"This Martin is much changed for the better, I hear?"
"O yes, entirely so," said Miss Stewart. "He is also exceedingly attached
to us all, the children especially; and his grief and anger, when
informed of what had occurred, thoroughly attest his faithfulness and
Martin entered, and was, I thought, somewhat confused by my apparently
unexpected presence. A look at his face and head dissipated a
half-suspicion that had arisen in both Flint's mind and my own.
I asked him a few questions relative to the sojourn of his master
at Bath, and then said, "I wish you to go with me and Bee this
As I spoke, something seemed to attract Martin's attention in the
street, and suddenly turning round, his arm swept a silver pastil-stand
off the table. He stooped down to gather up the dispersed pastils, and as
he did so, said, in answer to my request, "that he had not the slightest
objection to do so."
"That being the case, we will set off at once, as she and her friends are
probably at the office by this time. They are desirous of settling the
matter off-hand," I added with a smile, addressing Mrs. Allerton, "and
avoiding, if possible, the delays and uncertainties of the law."
As I anticipated, the formidable trio were with Mr. Flint. I introduced
Martin, and as I did so, watched, with an anxiety I could hardly have
given a reason for, the effect of his appearance upon the young woman. I
observed nothing. He was evidently an utter stranger to her, although,
from the involuntary flush which crossed his features, it occurred to me
that he was in some way an accomplice with his deceased master in the
cruel and infamous crime which had, I strongly feared, been perpetrated.
"Was this person present at your marriage?" I asked.
"Certainly not. But I think--now I look at him--that I have seen him
somewhere--about Swindon, it must have been."
William Martin mumbled out that he had never been in Swindon; neither, he
was sure, had his master.
"What is that?" said the girl, looking sharply up, and suddenly
coloring--"What is that?"
Martin, a good deal abashed, again mumbled out his belief that young Mr.
Thorneycroft, as he was then called, had never been at Swindon.
The indignant scarlet deepened on the young woman's face and temples, and
she looked at Martin with fixed attention and surprise. Presently
recovering, as if from some vague confusedness of mind, she said, "What
you _believe_, can be no consequence--truth is truth, for all that."
The Rev. Mr. Wishart here interposed, remarking that as it was quite
apparent we were determined to defend the usurpation by Miss Rosamond
Stewart--a lady to be greatly pitied, no doubt--of another's right, it
was useless to prolong or renew the interview; and all three took
immediate leave. A few minutes afterward Martin also departed, still
vehemently asserting that no such marriage ever took place at Swindon or
No stone, as people say, was left unturned by us, in the hope of
discovering some clue that might enable us to unravel the tangled web of
coherent, yet, looking at the character of young Mr. Allerton,
_improbable_ circumstance. We were unsuccessful, and unfortunately many
other particulars which came to light but deepened the adverse complexion
of the case. Two respectable persons living at Swindon were ready to
depose on oath that they had on more than one occasion seen Maria
Emsbury's sweetheart with Mr. Angerstein at Bath--once especially at the
theatre, upon the benefit-night of the great Edmund Kean, who had been
playing there for a few nights.
The entire case, fully stated, was ultimately laid by us before eminent
counsel--one of whom is now, by the by, a chief-justice--and we were
advised that the evidence as set forth by us could not be contended
against with any chance of success. This sad result was communicated by
me to Mrs. Allerton, as she still unswervingly believed herself to be,
and was borne with more constancy and firmness than I had expected. Her
faith in her husband's truth and honor was not in the slightest degree
shaken by the accumulated proofs. She would not, however, attempt to
resist them before a court of law. Something would, she was confident,
thereafter come to light that would vindicate the truth, and confiding in
our zeal and watchfulness, she, her aunt, and children, would in the
meantime shelter themselves from the gaze of the world in their former
retreat at Lausanne.
This being the unhappy lady's final determination, I gave the other side
notice that we should be ready on a given day to surrender possession of
the house and effects in South Audley Street, which the Widow
Thorneycroft had given up to her supposed niece-in-law and family on
their arrival in England, and to re-obtain which, and thereby decide the
whole question in dispute, legal proceedings had already been commenced.
On the morning appointed for the purpose--having taken leave of the
ladies the day previously--I proceeded to South Audley Street, to
formally give up possession, under protest, however. The niece and aunt
were not yet gone. This, I found, was owing to Martin, who, according to
the ladies, was so beside himself with grief and rage that he had been
unable to expedite as he ought to have done, the packing intrusted to his
care. I was vexed at this, as the Widow Thorneycroft, her protegee, and
the Rev. Mr. Wishart, accompanied by a solicitor, were shortly expected;
and it was desirable that a meeting of the antagonistic parties should be
avoided. I descended to the lower regions to remonstrate with and hurry
Martin, and found, as I feared, that his former evil habits had returned
upon him. It was not yet twelve o'clock, and he was already partially
intoxicated, and pale, trembling, and nervous from the effects, it was
clear to me, of the previous night's debauch.
"Your mistress is grossly deceived in you!" I angrily exclaimed; "and if
my advice were taken, you would be turned out of the house at once
without a character. There, don't attempt to bamboozle me with that
nonsense; I've seen fellows crying drunk before now."
He stammered out some broken excuses, to which I very impatiently
listened; and so thoroughly muddled did his brain appear, that he either
could not or would not comprehend the possibility of Mrs. Allerton and
her children being turned out of house and home, as he expressed it, and
over and over again asked me if nothing could yet be done to prevent it.
I was completely disgusted with the fellow, and sharply bidding him
hasten his preparations for departure, rejoined the ladies, who were by
this time assembled in the back drawing-room, ready shawled and bonneted
for their journey. It was a sad sight. Rosamond Stewart's splendid face
was shadowed by deep and bitter grief, borne, it is true, with pride and
fortitude; but it was easy to see its throbbing pulsations through all
the forced calmness of the surface. Her aunt, of a weaker nature, sobbed
loudly in the fullness of her grief; and the children, shrinking
instinctively in the chilling atmosphere of a great calamity, clung,
trembling and half-terrified, the eldest especially, to their mother. I
did not insult them with phrases of condolence, but turned the
conversation, if such it could be called, upon their future home and
prospects in Switzerland. Some time had thus elapsed when my combative
propensities were suddenly aroused by the loud dash of a carriage to the
door, and the peremptory rat-tat-tat which followed. I felt my cheek
flame as I said, "They demand admittance as if in possession of an
assured, decided right. It is not yet too late to refuse possession, and
take the chances of the law's uncertainty."
Mrs. Allerton shook her head with decisive meaning. "I could not bear
it," she said in a tone of sorrowful gentleness. "But I trust we shall
not be intruded upon."
I hurried out of the apartment, and met the triumphant claimants. I
explained the cause of the delay, and suggested that Mrs. Thorneycroft
and her friends could amuse themselves in the garden whilst the
solicitor and I ran over the inventory of the chief valuables to be
This was agreed to. A minute or two before the conclusion of this
necessary formality, I received a message from the ladies, expressive of
a wish to be gone at once, if I would escort them to the hotel; and
Martin, who was nowhere to be found, could follow. I hastened to comply
with their wishes; and we were just about to issue from the front
drawing-room, into which we had passed through the folding-doors, when we
were confronted by the widow and her party, who had just reached the
landing of the great staircase. We drew back in silence. The mutual
confusion into which we were thrown caused a momentary hesitation only,
and we were passing on when the butler suddenly appeared.
"A gentleman," he said, "an officer, is at the door, who wishes to see a
Miss Maria Emsbury, formerly of Swindon."
I stared at the man, discerned a strange expression in his face,
and it glanced across me at the same moment that I had heard no
knock at the door.
"See Miss Emsbury!" exclaimed the Widow Thorneycroft, recovering her
speech--"there is no such person here!"
"Pardon me, madam," I cried, catching eagerly at the interruption, as a
drowning man is said to do at a straw--"this young person _was_ at least
Miss Emsbury. Desire the officer to walk up." The butler vanished
instantly, and we all huddled back disorderly into the drawing-room, some
one closing the door after us. I felt the grasp of Mrs. Allerton's arm
tighten convulsively round mine, and her breath I heard, came quick and
short. I was hardly less agitated myself.
Steps--slow and deliberate steps--were presently heard ascending the
stairs, the door opened, and in walked a gentleman in the uniform of a
yeomanry officer, whom at the first glance I could have sworn to be the
deceased Mr. Henry Allerton. A slight exclamation of terror escaped Mrs.
Allerton, followed by a loud hysterical scream from the Swindon young
woman, as she staggered forward towards the stranger, exclaiming, "Oh,
merciful God!--my husband!" and then fell, overcome with emotion, in his
"Yes," said the Rev. Mr. Wishart promptly, "that is certainly the
gentleman I united to Maria Emsbury. What can be the meaning of
"Is that sufficient, Mr. Sharp?" exclaimed the officer, in a voice that
removed all doubt.
"Quite, quite," I shouted--"more than enough!"
"Very well, then," said William Martin, dashing off his black curling
wig, removing his whiskers of the same color, and giving his own light,
but now cropped head of hair and clean-shaved cheeks to view. "Now, then,
send for the police, and let them transport me--I richly merit it. I
married this young woman in a false name; I robbed her of her money, and
I deserve the hulks, if anybody ever did."
You might have heard a pin drop in the apartment whilst the repentant
rascal thus spoke; and when he ceased, Mrs. Allerton, unable to bear up
against the tumultuous emotion which his words excited, sank without
breath or sensation upon a sofa. Assistance was summoned; and whilst the
as yet imperfectly-informed servants were running from one to another
with restoratives, I had leisure to look around. The Widow Thorneycroft,
who had dropped into a chair, sat gazing in bewildered dismay upon the
stranger, who still held her lately-discovered niece-in-law in his arms;
and I could see the hot perspiration which had gathered on her brow run
in large drops down the white channels which they traced through the
thick rouge of her cheeks. But the reader's fancy will supply the best
image of this unexpected and extraordinary scene. I cleared the house of
intruders and visitors as speedily as possible, well assured that matters
would now adjust themselves without difficulty.
And so it proved. Martin was not sent to the hulks, though no question
that he amply deserved a punishment as great as that. The self-sacrifice,
as he deemed it, which he at last made, pleaded for him, and so did his
pretty-looking wife; and the upshot was, that the mistaken bride's dowry
was restored, with something over, and that a tavern was taken for them
in Piccadilly--the White Bear, I think it was--where they lived
comfortably and happily, I have heard, for a considerable time, and
having considerably added to their capital, removed to a hotel of a
higher grade in the city, where they now reside. It was not at all
surprising that the clergyman and others had been deceived. The disguise,
and Martin's imitative talent, might have misled persons on their guard,
much more men unsuspicious of deception. The cast in the eyes, as well as
a general resemblance of features, also of course greatly aided the
Of Mrs. Rosamond Allerton, I have only to say, for it is all I know, that
she is rich, unwedded, and still splendidly beautiful, though of course
somewhat _passe_ compared with herself twenty years since. Happy, too, I
have no doubt she is, judging from the placid brightness of her aspect
the last time I saw her beneath the transept of the Crystal Palace, on
the occasion of its opening by the Queen. I remember wondering at the
time, if she often recalled to mind the passage in her life which I have
THE ONE BLACK SPOT.
On the evening of a bleak, cold March day, in an early year of this
century, a woman, scantily clad, led a boy about eight years old, along
the high-road towards the old city of Exeter. They crept close to the
hedge-side to shelter themselves from the clouds of dust, which the
sudden gusts of east wind blew in their faces.
They had walked many miles, and the boy limped painfully. He often looked
up anxiously into his mother's face, and asked if they had much farther
to go? She scarcely appeared to notice his inquiries; her fixed eyes and
sunken cheek gave evidence that sorrow absorbed all her thoughts. When he
spoke, she drew him closer to her side, but made no reply; until, at
length, the child, wondering at her silence, began to sob. She stopped
and looked at her child for a moment, her eyes filled with tears. They
had gained the top of a hill, from which was visible in the distance, the
dark massive towers of the cathedral and the church-spires of the city;
she pointed them out, and said, "We shall soon be there, Ned." Then,
sitting down on a tree that was felled by the road-side, she took "Ned"
on her lap, and, bending over him, wept aloud.
"Are you very tired, mother?" said the boy, trying to comfort her. "'Tis
a long way--but don't cry--we shall see father when we come there."
"Yes--you will see your father once more."
She checked herself; and, striving to dry her tears, sat looking
wistfully towards the place of her destination.
The tramp of horses, coming up the hill they had just ascended, drew the
boy's attention to that direction. In a moment he had sprung from his
mother, and was shouting, with child-like delight, at the appearance of a
gay cavalcade which approached. About thirty men on horseback, in crimson
liveries, surrounded two carriages, one of which contained two of His
Majesty's Judges, accompanied by the High Sheriff of the county, who,
with his javelin-men, was conducting them to the city, in which the Lent
Assizes were about to be held.
The woman knelt until the carriages and the gaudy javelin-men had turned
the corner at the foot of a hill, and were no longer visible; with her
hands clasped together, she had prayed to God to temper with mercy the
heart of the Judge, before whom her unfortunate husband, now in jail,
would have to stand his trial. Then, taking the boy again by the
hand--unable to explain to him what he had seen--she pursued her way with
him, silently, along the dusty road.
As they drew nearer to the city, they overtook various groups of
stragglers, who had deemed it their duty, in spite of the inclement
weather to wander some miles out of the city to catch an early glimpse of
"My Lord Judge," and the gay Sheriff's officers. Troops, also, of
itinerant ballad-singers, rope-dancers, mountebanks, and caravans of wild
beasts, still followed the Judges, as they had done throughout the
circuit. "Walk more slowly, Ned," said the mother, checking the boy's
desire to follow the shows. "I am very tired; let us rest a little here."
They lingered until the crowd was far ahead of them--and were left alone
on the road.
Late in the evening, as the last stragglers were returning home, the
wayfarers found themselves in the suburbs of the city, and the forlorn
woman looked around anxiously for a lodging. She feared the noisy people
in the streets; and, turning timidly towards an old citizen who stood by
his garden-gate, chatting to his housekeeper, and watching the
passers-by--there was a kindness in his look which gave her
confidence--so, with a homely courtesy, she ventured to inquire of him
where she might find a decent resting-place.
"Have you never been here before?" he asked.
"Never but once, sir, when I was a child, many years ago."
"What part of the country do you come from?"
"Uffeulme? How did you get here?"
"We have walked."
"You don't say that you have trudged all the way with that youngster?"
The housekeeper drowned the reply by loudly announcing to the old
gentleman that his supper was waiting--"We have no lodgings, my good
woman," she said, turning away from the gate.
"Stop, Martha, stop," said the citizen. "Can't we direct them
somewhere?--you see they are strangers. I wonder where they could get
"I am sure I don't know," replied Martha, peevishly; "your supper will be
"We've had no supper," said the boy.
"Poor little fellow!" said the old gentleman; "then I am sure you shall
not go without. Martha, the bread and cheese!" And, opening the
garden-gate, he made the travelers enter and sit down in the
summer-house, whilst he went to fetch them a draught of cider.
In spite of Martha's grumbling, he managed to get a substantial repast;
but it grieved him that the woman, though she thanked him very gratefully
and humbly, appeared unable to eat.
"Your boy eats heartily," said he, "but I am afraid you don't enjoy it."
With a choking utterance she thanked him, but could not eat.
The good old man was striving, as well as he could, to explain to
them their way to a part of the city, where they might find a
lodging, when the garden-gate opened, and a young man gave to the
host a hearty greeting.
At the sound of his voice, the cup the woman held in her hand, fell to
the ground. This drew the youth's attention to her; he looked earnestly
at her for a moment, and with an exclamation of surprise, said, "Why,
this is Susan Harvey?"
The woman hid her face in her hands, and moaned.
"Do you know her, then, Alfred?" said the uncle.
"She nursed me when I was a little sickly boy," replied the youth; "she
lived many years in my father's house."
"Then I am sure you will take her to some lodging to-night, for she is
quite a stranger here. There is Martha calling to me again; she is not
in the best temper to-night, so I had better go in, and I leave them to
"Oh! tell me, Mr. Gray, have you seen him?" cried the woman eagerly.
"I have been with him to-day, Susan," said Gray, kindly taking her
hand--"do not be cast down; all that can be done for Martin, shall be
done. Let me take you where you can rest to-night, and to-morrow you can
be with him."
The weary little boy had fallen asleep on the seat; the mother strove to
arouse him, but Alfred Gray prevented her, by taking the little fellow
in his arms. He carried him by her side through the streets; she could
utter no words of gratitude, but her tears flowed fast, and told how the
young man's sympathy had fallen like balm upon her wounded heart. "God
has taken pity on me," she said, when they parted.
With a quick step Alfred regained his uncle's cottage; he had a
difficult task to accomplish. Martin Harvey, now awaiting his trial for
poaching, and for being concerned in an affray with Sir George Roberts'
game-keepers, had once been his father's apprentice. Young Gray had
been endeavoring to procure for him all the legal help which the laws
then allowed; but his own means were limited, and, when he met Susan
and her boy in the garden, he had come to visit his uncle to ask his
assistance. He had now returned on the same errand. He pleaded
earnestly, and with caution, but was repulsed. It was in vain he urged
the poverty of agricultural laborers at that season, and the temptation
which an abundance of game afforded to half-starved men and their
"Nonsense, Alfred!" said old Mr. Gray. "I would not grudge you the money
if you did not want it for a bad purpose. You must not excuse men who go
out with guns and fire at their fellow-creatures in the dark."
"Martin did not fire, uncle--that is what I want to prove, and save him,
if I can, from transportation. He has a wife and child."
"Wife and child!" repeated the old man thoughtfully. "You did not tell me
he had a wife and child; that poor woman came from Uffeulme."
"Providence must have guided her," said the younger Gray. "It was indeed
Harvey's wife and son whom you so lately relieved."
"You shall have the money. I have all through life prayed that my heart
may not be hardened; and I find, old as I am, that, every day I have
fresh lessons to learn."
The next morning, while Alfred held anxious consultation with the
lawyers, the wife and husband met within the prison walls. They sat
together in silence, for neither could speak a single word of hope. The
boy never forgot that long and dreary day, during which he watched, with
wondering thoughts, the sad faces of his ruined parents.
The Crown Court of the Castle was next morning crowded to overflowing.
Among the struggling crowd that vainly sought to gain admission, was
Martin Harvey's wife. She was rudely repulsed by the door-keepers, who
"wondered what women wanted in such places." She still strove to keep her
ground, and watched with piteous looks the doors of the court. She braved
the heat and pressure for some time; but a sickly faintness at length
came over her. She was endeavoring to retreat into the open air, when she
felt some one touch her shoulder, and turning, saw Alfred Gray making his
way toward her. After a moment's pause in the cool air, he led her round
to a side-door, through which there was a private entrance into the
court. He whispered a word to an officer, who admitted them, and pointed
to a seat behind the dock, where they were screened from observation, and
where the woman could see her husband standing between his two
The prisoners were listening anxiously to the evidence which the
principal game-keeper was offering against them. The first, a man about
sixty, excited greater interest than the others. He earnestly attended to
what was going on, but gave no sign of fear, as to the result. Brushing
back his gray locks, he gazed round the court, with something like a
smile. This man's life had been a strange one. Early in his career he
had been ejected from a farm which he had held under the father of the
present prosecutor, Sir George Roberts; he soon after lost what little
property had been left him, and, in despair enlisted--was sent abroad
with his regiment--and for many years shared in the toils and
achievements of our East Indian warfare. Returning home on a small
pension, he fixed his abode in his native village, and sought to indulge
his old enmity against the family that had injured him by every kind of
annoyance in his power. The present baronet, a narrow-minded tyrannical
man, afforded by his unpopularity good opportunity to old Ralph Somers to
induce others to join him in his schemes of mischief and revenge. "The
game," which was plentiful on the estate, and the preservation of which
was Sir George's chief delight, formed the principal object of attack;
the poverty of the laborers tempted them to follow the old soldier, who
managed affairs so warily, that for nine years he had been an object of
the utmost terror and hatred to Sir George and his keepers, whilst all
their efforts to detect and capture him had, until now, been fruitless.
Martin Harvey, who stood by his side with his shattered arm in a sling,
bore marks of acute mental suffering and remorse; but his countenance was
stamped with its original, open, manly expression--a face often to be
seen among a group of English farm laborers, expressive of a warm heart,
full of both courage and kindness.
The evidence was soon given. The game-keepers, on the night of the 24th
of February, were apprised that poachers were in the plantations. Taking
with them a stronger force than usual, all well-armed, they discovered
the objects of their search, in a lane leading out into the fields, and
shouted to them to surrender. They distinctly saw their figures flying
before them, and when they approached them, one of the fugitives turned
round and fired, wounding one of the keepers' legs with a quantity of
small shot. The keeper immediately fired in return, and brought down a
poacher; old Ralph's voice was heard shouting to them to desist, and upon
coming up they found him standing by the side of Martin Harvey, who had
fallen severely wounded. Three guns lay by them, one of which had been
discharged, but no one could swear who had fired it; search was made all
night for the other man, but without success.
When the prisoners were called on for their defence, they looked at one
another for a moment as if neither wished to speak first; Ralph, however,
began. He had little to say. Casting a look of defiance at Sir George and
his lady, who sat in a side-gallery above the court, he freely confessed
that hatred to the man who had injured him in his youth, and who had
treated him with harshness on his return from abroad, had been the motive
of his encouraging and aiding in these midnight depredations; he
expressed sorrow for having occasioned trouble to his neighbor Harvey.
"What I can say will be of little use to me here," said Martin Harvey, in
a hollow voice; "I am ruined, beyond redress; but I was a very poor man
when I first joined, with others, in snaring game; I often wanted bread,
and saw my wife and child pinched for food also. The rich people say game
belongs to them; but--well--all I can say more is, that I take God to
witness I never lifted a murderous gun against my fellow-man; he who did
it has escaped; and I have suffered this broken limb--but that I don't
mind--I have worse than that to bear--I have broken my wife's heart, and
my child will be left an orphan."
His voice failed. There was an uneasy movement among the audience: and
a lady, who had been leaning over the rails of the side-gallery
listening with deep attention, fainted, and was carried out of court.
The prisoner's pale wife, who had bowed her head behind him in silent
endurance, heard a whisper among the bystanders that it was Lady
Roberts, and a hope entered her mind that the lady's tender heart might
feel for them.
"Have you any witnesses to call?" asked the Judge.
Martin looked round with a vacant gaze; the attorney whispered to him,
and beckoned to Alfred Gray.
Alfred went into the witness-box, and told of the honesty, sobriety, and
good conduct of Martin Harvey, during all the years he was in his
father's house--"He was there before I was born," said the young man,
"and only left when I was obliged to leave also, sixteen years after. A
better man never broke bread--he was beloved by every body who knew him.
Till now his character was never tainted. It's the one black spot."
The Judge commenced summing up; it was evident to all who had paid
attention to the evidence, that the conviction of two of the prisoners
was certain. Alfred Gray knew this, and strove to induce the wife to
leave with him before the fatal close of proceedings; but she shook her
head and would not go. "I shall have strength to bear it," she said.
He sat down by her side, and heard the fearful verdict of "guilty"
pronounced against her husband and Ralph Somers; and then the dreaded
doom of transportation for life awarded to them. As they turned to leave
the dock, Martin looked down upon the crushed and broken-hearted being
whom he had sworn to protect and cherish through life, and in spite of
every effort to repress it, a cry of agony burst from his lips; it was
answered by a fainter sound, and Alfred Gray lifted the helpless,
lifeless woman from the ground, and carried her into the open air.
Months passed; and on the day when the convict ship, with its freight of
heavy hearts, began its silent course over the greatwaters, the widowed
wife took her fatherless child by the hand, and again traversed the weary
road which led them to their desolated home.
The kindness of the Grays had supplied a few immediate necessaries. Some
one had told her of women having, by the aid of friends, managed to meet
their husbands once more in those distant parts of the earth; and this
knowledge once in her agitated mind, raised a hope which inspired her to
pursue her daily task without fainting, and to watch an opportunity of
making an attempt which she had meditated, even during that dreadful day
of Martin's trial. She resolved to seek admission into Sir George
Roberts' mansion, and appeal to the pity of his wife. It was told in the
village that Lady Roberts had implored her husband to interpose in behalf
of the men; that his angry and passionate refusal had caused a breach
between them; that they had lived unhappily ever since; that he had
strictly forbidden any one to mention the subject, or to convey to Lady
Roberts any remarks that were made in the neighborhood.
Susan Harvey trembled when she entered the mansion, and timidly asked
leave to speak to Lady Roberts.
The servant she addressed had known her husband, and pitied her distress;
and, fearing lest Sir George might pass, he led her into his pantry,
watching an opportunity to let the lady know of her being there.
After a time Lady Roberts' maid came, and beckoned her to follow
up-stairs. In a few moments the soft voice of the lady of the mansion was
cheering her with kind words, and encouraging her to disclose her wishes.
Before she had concluded, a step was heard without, at which the lady
started and turned pale. Before there was time for retreat Sir George
hastily entered the apartment.
"Who have you here, Lady Roberts?"
"One who has a request to make, I believe," said the lady, mildly. "I
wish a few moments with her."
"Have the goodness to walk out of this house," said the baronet to Susan.
"Lady Roberts, I know this woman and I will not allow you to harbor such
Although the convict's wife never again ventured into that house, her
wants, and those of her child, were, during three years, ministered to by
the secret agency of the Good Heart that lived so sadly there; and when,
at the expiration of that period, Lady Roberts died, a trusty messenger
brought to the cottage a little legacy--sufficient, if ever news came of
Martin, to enable the wife and child, from whom he was separated, to make
their way across the earth, and to meet him again.
But during those weary years no tidings of his fate had reached either
his wife or Alfred Gray--to whom he had promised to write when he reached
his destination. Another year dragged its slow course over the home of
affliction, and poor Susan's hopes grew fainter day by day. Her sinking
frame gave evidence of the sickness that cometh from the heart.
One summer evening, in the next year, Alfred Gray, entered his uncle's
garden with a letter, and was soon seated in the summer-house reading it
aloud to his uncle and Martha. Tears stood in the old man's eyes, as some
touching detail of suffering or privation was related. And, indeed, the
letter told of little beside. It was from Martin. Soon after his arrival
in the settlement, Martin had written to Alfred, but the letter had never
reached England--not an unusual occurrence in those times. After waiting
long, and getting no reply, he was driven by harsh treatment, and the
degradation attending the life he led, to attempt, with old Ralph, an
escape from the settlement. In simple language, he recorded the dreary
life they led in the woods; how, after a time, old Ralph sickened and
died; and how, in a desolate place, where the footsteps of man had,
perhaps, never trod before, Martin Harvey had dug a grave, and buried his
old companion. After that, unable to endure the terrible solitude, he had
sought his way back to his former master, and had been treated more
harshly than before. Fever and disease had wasted his frame, until he had
prayed that he might die and be at rest; but God had been merciful to
him, and had inclined the heart of one for whom he labored, who listened
with compassion to his story, took him under his roof, and restored him
to health. And now, Martin had obtained a ticket of leave, and served his
kind master for wages, which he was carefully hoarding to send to Alfred
Gray, as soon as he should hear from him that those he loved were still
preserved, and would come and embrace him once more in that distant land.
"They shall go at once, Alfred," said old Mr. Gray, the moment the last
sentence was read; "they shall not wait; we will provide the
He did not now fear to appeal to his companion. Martha had grown kinder
of late, and she confessed she had learned of her cousin what gives most
comfort to those who are drawing near their journey's end. "I can help
them a little," she said.
"We will all help a little," Alfred replied. "I shall be off at break of
day to-morrow, on neighbor Collins's pony, and shall give him no rest
until he sets me down at Uffeulme."
Accordingly, early next morning, Alfred Gray was riding briskly along
through the pleasant green lanes which led toward his native village. It
was the middle of June, bright, warm, sunny weather; and the young man's
spirits was unusually gay, everything around him tending to heighten the
delight which the good news he carried had inspired him with. The pony
stepped out bravely, and was only checked when Alfred came in sight of
the dear old home of his childhood, and heard the well-known chimes
calling the villagers to their morning service, for it was Sunday. Then
for a few moments the young man proceeded more slowly, and his
countenance wore a more saddened look, as the blessed recollections of
early loves and affections with which the scene was associated in his
mind, claimed their power over all other thoughts. The voice of an old
friend, from an apple-orchard hard by, recalled him from his reveries.
He shook hands through the hedge. "I will come and see you in the
evening, Fred. I must hasten on now. She will go to church this morning,
and I must go with her."
"Who?" asked the other.
Alfred pointed to the cottage where Susan Harvey dwelt. "I bring her good
news--I have a letter. Martin is living and well."
The friend shook his head.
Alfred dismounted, and walked towards Susan Harvey's cottage. The door
was closed, and when he looked through the window he could see no one
inside. He lifted the latch softly and entered. There was no one there;
but his entrance had been heard, and a moment after, a fine stout lad
came out of the inner chamber, took Alfred's proffered hand, and in
answer to his inquiries, burst into tears.
"She says she cannot live long, sir; but she told me last night, that
before she died, you would come and tell us news of father. She has been
saying all the past week that we should hear from him soon."
Whilst the boy spoke, Alfred heard a weak voice, calling his name from
the inner room.
"Go in," he said, "and tell her I am here."
The boy did so, and then beckoned him to enter.
Susan's submissive features were but little changed, from the time when
her husband was taken from her; but the weak and wasted form that strove
to raise itself in vain, as Alfred approached the bed-side, too plainly
revealed that the struggle was drawing to a close--that the time of rest
was at hand.
"Thank God, you are come," she said; "you have heard from him? Tell me
quickly, for my time is short."
"I come to tell you good news, Susan. You may yet be restored to him."
"I shall not see Martin in this world again, Mr. Gray; but I shall close
my eyes in peace. If you know where he is, and can tell me that my boy
shall go and be with him, and tell him how, through these long weary
years, we loved him, and thought of him, and prayed for him--" Here she
broke off, and beckoned the boy to her. She held his hands within her
own, whilst Alfred Gray read from the letter all that would comfort her.
When he had done, she said, "God will bless you--you have been very good
to us in our misery. Now, will you promise me one thing more? Will you
send my boy to his father, when I am gone?"
The promise was made; and the boy knelt long by her bedside, listening
to the words of love and consolation which, with her latest breath, she
uttered for the sake of him who, she hoped, would hear them again from
his child's lips.
* * * * *
Nearly forty years have passed since they laid her among the graves of
the humble villagers of Uffeulme. Few remain now who remember her story
or her name--but, on the other side of the world, amid scenery all
unlike to that in which she dwelt, there stands a cheerful settler's
home, and under the shadow of tall acacia trees which surround the
little garden in which some few English flowers are blooming, there are
sitting, in the cool of the summer evening, a group whose faces are all
of the Anglo-Saxon mould. A happy looking couple, in the prime of life,
are there, with children playing around them; and one little gentle
girl, they call Susan, is sitting on the knee of an aged, white-haired
man, looking lovingly into his face, and wondering why his eye so
watches the setting sun every night, as it sinks behind the blue waters
in the distance. Two tall, handsome lads, with guns on their shoulders,
enter the garden, and hasten to show the old man the fruits of their
"We have been lucky to-day, grandfather," says the younger; "but Alfred
says these birds are not like the birds in old England."
"You should hear the sailors talk about the game in England, Martin,"
replies the brother.
"Grandfather has told us all about England, except the 'birds.' He thinks
we should run away, if he were to describe them."
The old man looks steadily at the boys for a moment, and his eyes fill
with tears. "It is a glorious land," he says, with a faltering voice; "it
is our country; but, Alfred, Martin, you will never leave this happy home
to go there. Birds there are the rich man's property, and you would not
dare carry those guns of yours over English ground. If ever you go there,
your father will tell you where there is a church-yard--and among the
graves of the poor, there is one--"
He stopped, for Edward Harvey came to the place where his father sat, and
took his trembling hand within his own; the boys obeyed their mother's
signal, and followed her into the house; the two men remained sitting
together, until the silent stars came out.
Then the aged man, leaning on his son's arm, rejoined the family at the
supper-table--and the peace of God rested on the solitary home. Edward
Harvey had faithfully kept within his heart, the memory of his mother's
Martin, his father, had nobly effaced the one Black Spot.
THE GENTLEMAN BEGGAR.
One morning, about five years ago, I called by appointment on Mr. John
Balance, the fashionable pawnbroker, to accompany him to Liverpool, in
pursuit of a Levanting customer--for Balance, in addition to pawning,
does a little business in the sixty per cent. line. It rained in torrents
when the cab stopped at the passage which leads past the pawning-boxes to
his private door. The cabman rang twice, and at length Balance appeared,
looming through the mist and rain in the entry, illuminated by his
perpetual cigar. As I eyed him rather impatiently, remembering that
trains wait for no man, something like a hairy dog, or a bundle of rags,
rose up at his feet, and barred his passage for a moment. Then Balance
cried out with an exclamation, in answer apparently to a something I
could not hear, "What, man alive!--slept in the passage!--there, take
that, and get some breakfast, for Heaven's sake!" So saying, he jumped
into the "Hansom," and we bowled away at ten miles an hour, just catching
the Express as the doors of the station were closing. My curiosity was
full set--for although Balance can be free with his money, it is not
exactly to beggars that his generosity is usually displayed; so when
comfortably ensconced in a _coupe_ I finished with--
"You are liberal with your money this morning; pray, how often do you
give silver to street-cadgers?--because I shall know now what walk to
take when flats and sharps leave off buying law."
Balance, who would have made an excellent parson if he had not been bred
to a case-hardening trade, and has still a soft bit left in his heart
that is always fighting with his hard head, did not smile at all, but
looked as grim as if squeezing a lemon into his Saturday night's punch.
He answered slowly, "A cadger--yes; a beggar--a miserable wretch, he is
now; but, let me tell you, Master David, that that miserable bundle of
rags was born and bred a gentleman--the son of a nobleman, the husband of
an heiress, and has sat and dined at tables where you and I, Master
David, are only allowed to view the plate by favor of the butler. I have
lent him thousands, and been well paid. The last thing I had from him was
his court-suit; and I hold now his bill for one hundred pounds that will
be paid, I expect, when he dies."
"Why, what nonsense you are talking! you must be dreaming this morning.
However, we are alone; I'll light a weed, in defiance of Railway-law,
while you spin that yarn; for, true or untrue, it will fill up the time
"As for yarn," replied Balance, "the whole story is short enough; and as
for truth, that you may easily find out if you like to take the trouble.
I thought the poor wretch was dead, and I own it put me out meeting him
this morning, for I had a curious dream last night."
"Oh, hang your dreams! Tell us about this gentleman beggar that bleeds
you of half-crowns--that melts the heart even of a pawnbroker!"
"Well, then, that beggar is the illegitimate son of the late Marquis of
Hoopborough by a Spanish lady of rank. He received a first rate
education, and was brought up in his father's house. At a very early age
he obtained an appointment in a public office, was presented by the
marquis at court, and received into the first society, where his handsome
person and agreeable manners made him a great favorite. Soon after coming
of age, he married the daughter of Sir E. Bumper, who brought him a very
handsome fortune, which was strictly settled on herself. They lived in
splendid style, kept several carriages, a house in town, and a place in
the country. For some reason or other, idleness, or to please his lady's
pride he said, he resigned his appointment. His father died, and left him
nothing; indeed, he seemed at that time very handsomely provided for.
"Very soon Mr. and Mrs. Molinos Fitz-Roy began to disagree. She was cold,
correct--he was hot and random. He was quite dependent on her, and she
made him feel it. When he began to get into debt, he came to me. At
length some shocking quarrel occurred--some case of jealousy on the
wife's side, not without reason, I believe; and the end of it was, Mr.
Fitz-Roy was turned out of doors. The house was his wife's, the furniture
was his wife's, and the fortune was his wife's--he was, in fact, her
pensioner. He left with a few hundred pounds ready money, and some
personal jewelry, and went to a hotel. On these and credit he lived.
Being illegitimate, he had no relations--being a fool, when he spent his
money, he lost his friends. The world took his wife's part, when they
found she had the fortune, and the only parties who interfered were her
relatives, who did their best to make the quarrel incurable. To crown
all, one night he was run over by a cab, was carried to a hospital, and
lay there for months, and was, during several weeks of the time,
unconscious. A message to the wife, by the hands of one of his debauched
companions, sent by a humane surgeon, obtained an intimation that 'if he
died, Mr. Croak, the undertaker to the family, had orders to see to the
funeral,' and that Mrs. Molinos was on the point of starting for the
Continent, not to return for some years. When Fitz-Roy was discharged, he
came to me, limping on two sticks, to pawn his court-suit, and told me
his story. I was really sorry for the fellow--such a handsome,
thoroughbred-looking man. He was going then into the west somewhere, to
try to hunt out a friend. 'What to do, Balance,' he said, 'I don't know.
I can't dig, and unless somebody will make me their gamekeeper, I must
starve, or beg, as my Jezebel bade me, when we parted!'
"I lost sight of Molinos for a long time, and when I next came upon him
it was in the Rookery of Westminster, in a low lodging-house, where I was
searching with an officer for stolen goods. He was pointed out to me as
the 'gentleman-cadger,' because he was so free with his money when 'in
luck.' He recognized me, but turned away then. I have since seen him, and
relieved him more than once, although he never asks for anything. How he
lives, Heaven knows. Without money, without friends, without useful
education of any kind, he tramps the country, as you saw him, perhaps
doing a little hop-picking or hay-making, in season, only happy when he
obtains the means to get drunk. I have heard through the kitchen whispers
that you know come to me, that he is entitled to some property; and I
expect if he were to die his wife would pay the hundred pound bill I
hold; at any rate, what I have told you I know to be true, and the bundle
of rags I relieved just now is known in every thieves' lodging in England
as the 'gentleman cadger.'"
This story produced an impression on me: I am fond of speculation, and
like the excitement of a legal hunt as much as some do a fox-chase. A
gentleman, a beggar--a wife rolling in wealth--rumors of unknown property
due to the husband;--it seemed as if there were pickings for me amidst
this carrion of pauperism.
Before returning from Liverpool, I had purchased the gentleman beggar's
acceptance from Balance. I then inserted in the "Times" the following
advertisement: "_Horatio Molinos Fitz-Roy_.--If this gentleman will apply
to David Discount, Esq., Solicitor, St. James's, he will hear of
something to his advantage. Any person furnishing Mr. R's correct
address, shall receive L1 1s. reward. He was last seen," &c. Within
twenty-four hours I had ample proof of the wide circulation of the
"Times." My office was besieged with beggars of every degree, men and
women, lame and blind, Irish, Scotch, and English--some on crutches, some
in bowls, some in go-carts. They all knew him as "the gentleman," and I
must do the regular fraternity of tramps the justice to say, that not one
would answer a question until he made certain that I meant the
"gentleman" no harm.
One evening, about three weeks after the appearance of the advertisement,
my clerk announced "another beggar." There came in an old man leaning
upon a staff, clad in a soldier's greatcoat, all patched and torn, with a
battered hat, from under which a mass of tangled hair fell over his
shoulders and half concealed his face. The beggar, in a weak, wheezy,
hesitating tone, said, "You have advertized for Molinos Fitz-Roy. I hope
you don't mean him any harm; he is sunk, I think, too low for enmity now;
and surely no one would sport with such misery as his." These last words
were uttered in a sort of piteous whisper.
I answered quickly, "Heaven forbid I should sport with misery--I mean and
hope to do him good, as well as myself."
"Then, sir, I am Molinos Fitz-Roy!"
While we were conversing candles had been brought in. I have not very
tender nerves--my head would not agree with them--but I own I started and
shuddered when I saw and knew that the wretched creature before me was
under thirty years of age, and once a gentleman. Sharp, aquiline
features, reduced to literal skin and bone, were begrimed and covered
with dry fair hair; the white teeth of the half-open mouth chattered with
eagerness, and made more hideous the foul pallor of the rest of the
countenance. As he stood leaning on a staff half bent, his long, yellow
bony fingers clasped over the crutch-head of his stick, he was indeed a
picture of misery, famine, squalor, and premature age, too horrible to
dwell upon. I made him sit down, sent for some refreshment which he
devoured like a ghoul, and set to work to unravel his story. It was
difficult to keep him to the point; but with pains I learned what
convinced me that he was entitled to some property, whether great or
small there was no evidence. On parting, I said, "Now, Mr. F, you must
stay in town while I make proper inquiries. What allowance will be enough
to keep you comfortably?"
He answered humbly after much pressing, "Would you think ten shillings
I don't like, if I do those things at all, to do them shabbily--so I
said, "Come every Saturday and you shall have a pound." He was profuse in
thanks, of course, as all such men are as long as distress lasts.
I had previously learned that my ragged client's wife was in England,
living in a splendid house in Hyde Park Gardens, under her maiden name.
On the following day the Earl of Owing called upon me, wanting five
thousand pounds by five o'clock the same evening. It was a case of life
or death with him, so I made my terms and took advantage of his pressure
to execute a _coup de main._ I proposed that he should drive me home to
receive the money, calling at Mrs. Molinos in Hyde Park Gardens, on our
way. I knew that the coronet and liveries of his father, the Marquis,
would ensure me an audience with Mrs. Molinos Fitz-Roy.
My scheme answered. I was introduced into the lady's presence. She was,
and probably is, a very stately, handsome woman, with a pale complexion,
high solid forehead, regular features, thin, pinched, self-satisfied
mouth. My interview was very short. I plunged into the middle of the
affair, but had scarcely mentioned the word _husband_, when she
interrupted me with, "I presume you have lent this profligate person
money, and want me to pay you." She paused, and then said, "He shall not
have a farthing." As she spoke, her white face became scarlet.
"But, Madam, the man is starving. I have strong reasons for believing he
is entitled to property, and if you refuse any assistance, I must take
other measures." She rang the bell, wrote something rapidly on a card,
and, as the footman appeared, pushed it towards me across the table, with
the air of touching a toad, saying, "There, sir, is the address of my
solicitors; apply to them if you think you have any claim. Robert, show
the person out, and take care he is not admitted again."
So far I had effected nothing; and, to tell the truth, felt rather
crest-fallen under the influence of that grand manner peculiar to certain
great ladies and to all great actresses.
My next visit was to the attorneys, Messrs. Leasem and Fashun, of
Lincoln's Inn Square; and there I was at home. I had had dealings with
the firm before. They are agents for half the aristocracy, who always
run in crowds like sheep after the same wine-merchants, the same
architects, the same horse-dealers, and the same law-agents. It may be
doubted whether the quality of law and land management they get on this
principle is quite equal to their wine and horses. At any rate, my
friends of Lincoln's Inn, like others of the same class, are
distinguished by their courteous manners, deliberate proceedings,
innocence of legal technicalities, long credit and heavy charges. Leasem,
the elder partner, wears powder and a huge bunch of seals, lives in Queen
Square, drives a brougham, gives the dinners and does the cordial
department. He is so strict in performing the latter duty, that he once
addressed a poacher who had shot a Duke's keeper, as "my dear creature,"
although he afterwards hung him.
Fashun has chambers in St. James Street, drives a cab, wears a tip, and
does the grand haha style.
My business lay with Leasem. The interviews and letters passing were
numerous. However, it came at last to the following dialogue:--
"Well, my dear Mr. Discount," began Mr. Leasem, who hates me like poison,
"I'm really very sorry for that poor dear Molinos--knew his father well;
a great man, a perfect gentleman; but you know what women are, eh, Mr.
Discount? My client won't advance a shilling; she knows it would only be
wasted in low dissipation. Now, don't you think (this was said very
insinuatingly)--don't you think he had better be sent to the work-house?
Very comfortable accommodation there, I can assure you--meat twice a
week, and excellent soup; and then, Mr. D., we might consider about
allowing you something for that bill."
"Mr. Leasem, can you reconcile it to your conscience to make such an
arrangement? Here's a wife rolling in luxury, and a husband starving!"
"No, Mr. Discount, not starving; there is the work-house, as I observed
before; besides, allow me to suggest that these appeals to feeling are
quite unprofessional--quite unprofessional."
"But, Mr. Leasem, touching this property which the poor man is
"Why, there again, Mr. D., you must excuse me; you really must. I don't
say he is, I don't say he is not. If you know he is entitled to
property, I am sure you know how to proceed; the law is open to you,
Mr. Discount--the law is open; and a man of your talent will know how
to use it."
"Then, Mr. Leasem, you mean that I must, in order to right this starving
man, file a Bill of Discovery, to extract from you the particulars of his
rights. You have the Marriage Settlement, and all the information, and
you decline to allow a pension, or afford any information; the man is to
starve, or go to the work-house?"
"Why, Mr. D., you are so quick and violent, it really is not
professional; but you see, (here a subdued smile of triumph,) it has been
decided that a solicitor is not bound to afford such information as you
ask, to the injury of his client."
"Then you mean that this poor Molinos may rot and starve, while you keep
secret from him, at his wife's request, his title to an income, and that
the Court of Chancery will back you in this iniquity?"
I kept repeating the word "starve," because I saw it made my respectable
opponent wince. "Well, then, just listen to me: I know that in the happy
state of our equity law, Chancery can't help my client; but I have
another plan--I shall go hence to my office, issue a writ, and take your
client's husband in execution--as soon as he is lodged in jail, I shall
file his schedule in the Insolvent Court, and when he comes up for his
discharge, I shall put you in the witness-box, and examine you on oath,
'touching any property of which you know the insolvent to be possessed,'
and where will be your privileged communications then?"
The respectable Leasem's face lengthened in a twinkling, his comfortable
confident air vanished, he ceased twiddling his gold chain, and at length
he muttered, "Suppose we pay the debt?"
"Why, then, I'll arrest him the day after for another."
"But, my dear Mr. Discount, surely such conduct would not be quite