Part 1 out of 7
This etext was produced from the 1909 Rider and Co. edition by
David Price, email email@example.com
THE LADY OF THE SHROUD
by Bram Stoker
FROM "THE JOURNAL OF OCCULTISM"
A strange story comes from the Adriatic. It appears that on the
night of the 9th, as the Italia Steamship Company's vessel
"Victorine" was passing a little before midnight the point known as
"the Spear of Ivan," on the coast of the Blue Mountains, the
attention of the Captain, then on the bridge, was called by the look-
out man to a tiny floating light close inshore. It is the custom of
some South-going ships to run close to the Spear of Ivan in fine
weather, as the water is deep, and there is no settled current; also
there are no outlying rocks. Indeed, some years ago the local
steamers had become accustomed to hug the shore here so closely that
an intimation was sent from Lloyd's that any mischance under the
circumstances would not be included in ordinary sea risks. Captain
Mirolani is one of those who insist on a wholesome distance from the
promontory being kept; but on his attention having been called to the
circumstance reported, he thought it well to investigate it, as it
might be some case of personal distress. Accordingly, he had the
engines slowed down, and edged cautiously in towards shore. He was
joined on the bridge by two of his officers, Signori Falamano and
Destilia, and by one passenger on board, Mr. Peter Caulfield, whose
reports of Spiritual Phenomena in remote places are well known to the
readers of "The Journal of Occultism." The following account of the
strange occurrence written by him, and attested by the signatures of
Captain Mirolani and the other gentleman named, has been sent to us.
" . . . It was eleven minutes before twelve midnight on Saturday, the
9th day of January, 1907, when I saw the strange sight off the
headland known as the Spear of Ivan on the coast of the Land of the
Blue Mountains. It was a fine night, and I stood right on the bows
of the ship, where there was nothing to obstruct my view. We were
some distance from the Spear of Ivan, passing from northern to
southern point of the wide bay into which it projects. Captain
Mirolani, the Master, is a very careful seaman, and gives on his
journeys a wide berth to the bay which is tabooed by Lloyd's. But
when he saw in the moonlight, though far off, a tiny white figure of
a woman drifting on some strange current in a small boat, on the prow
of which rested a faint light (to me it looked like a corpse-
candle!), he thought it might be some person in distress, and began
to cautiously edge towards it. Two of his officers were with him on
the bridge--Signori Falamano and Destilia. All these three, as well
as myself, saw It. The rest of the crew and passengers were below.
As we got close the true inwardness of It became apparent to me; but
the mariners did not seem to realize till the very last. This is,
after all, not strange, for none of them had either knowledge or
experience in Occult matters, whereas for over thirty years I have
made a special study of this subject, and have gone to and fro over
the earth investigating to the nth all records of Spiritual
Phenomena. As I could see from their movements that the officers did
not comprehend that which was so apparent to myself, I took care not
to enlighten them, lest such should result in the changing of the
vessel's course before I should be near enough to make accurate
observation. All turned out as I wished--at least, nearly so--as
shall be seen. Being in the bow, I had, of course, a better view
than from the bridge. Presently I made out that the boat, which had
all along seemed to be of a queer shape, was none other than a
Coffin, and that the woman standing up in it was clothed in a shroud.
Her back was towards us, and she had evidently not heard our
approach. As we were creeping along slowly, the engines were almost
noiseless, and there was hardly a ripple as our fore-foot cut the
dark water. Suddenly there was a wild cry from the bridge--Italians
are certainly very excitable; hoarse commands were given to the
Quartermaster at the wheel; the engine-room bell clanged. On the
instant, as it seemed, the ship's head began to swing round to
starboard; full steam ahead was in action, and before one could
understand, the Apparition was fading in the distance. The last
thing I saw was the flash of a white face with dark, burning eyes as
the figure sank down into the coffin--just as mist or smoke
disappears under a breeze."
BOOK I: THE WILL OF ROGER MELTON
THE READING OF THE WILL OF ROGER MELTON AND ALL THAT FOLLOWED
Record made by Ernest Roger Halbard Melton, law-student of the Inner
Temple, eldest son of Ernest Halbard Melton, eldest son of Ernest
Melton, elder brother of the said Roger Melton and his next of kin.
I consider it at least useful--perhaps necessary--to have a complete
and accurate record of all pertaining to the Will of my late grand-
uncle Roger Melton.
To which end let me put down the various members of his family, and
explain some of their occupations and idiosyncrasies. My father,
Ernest Halbard Melton, was the only son of Ernest Melton, eldest son
of Sir Geoffrey Halbard Melton of Humcroft, in the shire of Salop, a
Justice of the Peace, and at one time Sheriff. My great-grandfather,
Sir Geoffrey, had inherited a small estate from his father, Roger
Melton. In his time, by the way, the name was spelled Milton; but my
great-great-grandfather changed the spelling to the later form, as he
was a practical man not given to sentiment, and feared lest he should
in the public eye be confused with others belonging to the family of
a Radical person called Milton, who wrote poetry and was some sort of
official in the time of Cromwell, whilst we are Conservatives. The
same practical spirit which originated the change in the spelling of
the family name inclined him to go into business. So he became,
whilst still young, a tanner and leather-dresser. He utilized for
the purpose the ponds and streams, and also the oak-woods on his
estate--Torraby in Suffolk. He made a fine business, and accumulated
a considerable fortune, with a part of which he purchased the
Shropshire estate, which he entailed, and to which I am therefore
Sir Geoffrey had, in addition to my grandfather, three sons and a
daughter, the latter being born twenty years after her youngest
brother. These sons were: Geoffrey, who died without issue, having
been killed in the Indian Mutiny at Meerut in 1857, at which he took
up a sword, though a civilian, to fight for his life; Roger (to whom
I shall refer presently); and John--the latter, like Geoffrey, dying
unmarried. Out of Sir Geoffrey's family of five, therefore, only
three have to be considered: My grandfather, who had three children,
two of whom, a son and a daughter, died young, leaving only my
father, Roger and Patience. Patience, who was born in 1858, married
an Irishman of the name of Sellenger--which was the usual way of
pronouncing the name of St. Leger, or, as they spelled it, Sent
Leger--restored by later generations to the still older form. He was
a reckless, dare-devil sort of fellow, then a Captain in the Lancers,
a man not without the quality of bravery--he won the Victoria Cross
at the Battle of Amoaful in the Ashantee Campaign. But I fear he
lacked the seriousness and steadfast strenuous purpose which my
father always says marks the character of our own family. He ran
through nearly all of his patrimony--never a very large one; and had
it not been for my grand-aunt's little fortune, his days, had he
lived, must have ended in comparative poverty. Comparative, not
actual; for the Meltons, who are persons of considerable pride, would
not have tolerated a poverty-stricken branch of the family. We don't
think much of that lot--any of us.
Fortunately, my great-aunt Patience had only one child, and the
premature decease of Captain St. Leger (as I prefer to call the name)
did not allow of the possibility of her having more. She did not
marry again, though my grandmother tried several times to arrange an
alliance for her. She was, I am told, always a stiff, uppish person,
who would not yield herself to the wisdom of her superiors. Her own
child was a son, who seemed to take his character rather from his
father's family than from my own. He was a wastrel and a rolling
stone, always in scrapes at school, and always wanting to do
ridiculous things. My father, as Head of the House and his own
senior by eighteen years, tried often to admonish him; but his
perversity of spirit and his truculence were such that he had to
desist. Indeed, I have heard my father say that he sometimes
threatened his life. A desperate character he was, and almost devoid
of reverence. No one, not even my father, had any influence--good
influence, of course, I mean--over him, except his mother, who was of
my family; and also a woman who lived with her--a sort of governess--
aunt, he called her. The way of it was this: Captain St. Leger had
a younger brother, who made an improvident marriage with a Scotch
girl when they were both very young. They had nothing to live on
except what the reckless Lancer gave them, for he had next to nothing
himself, and she was "bare"--which is, I understand, the indelicate
Scottish way of expressing lack of fortune. She was, however, I
understand, of an old and somewhat good family, though broken in
fortune--to use an expression which, however, could hardly be used
precisely in regard to a family or a person who never had fortune to
be broken in! It was so far well that the MacKelpies--that was the
maiden name of Mrs. St. Leger--were reputable--so far as fighting was
concerned. It would have been too humiliating to have allied to our
family, even on the distaff side, a family both poor and of no
account. Fighting alone does not make a family, I think. Soldiers
are not everything, though they think they are. We have had in our
family men who fought; but I never heard of any of them who fought
because they WANTED to. Mrs. St. Leger had a sister; fortunately
there were only those two children in the family, or else they would
all have had to be supported by the money of my family.
Mr. St. Leger, who was only a subaltern, was killed at Maiwand; and
his wife was left a beggar. Fortunately, however, she died--her
sister spread a story that it was from the shock and grief--before
the child which she expected was born. This all happened when my
cousin--or, rather, my father's cousin, my first-cousin-once-removed,
to be accurate--was still a very small child. His mother then sent
for Miss MacKelpie, her brother-in-law's sister-in-law, to come and
live with her, which she did--beggars can't be choosers; and she
helped to bring up young St. Leger.
I remember once my father giving me a sovereign for making a witty
remark about her. I was quite a boy then, not more than thirteen;
but our family were always clever from the very beginning of life,
and father was telling me about the St. Leger family. My family
hadn't, of course, seen anything of them since Captain St. Leger
died--the circle to which we belong don't care for poor relations--
and was explaining where Miss MacKelpie came in. She must have been
a sort of nursery governess, for Mrs. St. Leger once told him that
she helped her to educate the child.
"Then, father," I said, "if she helped to educate the child she ought
to have been called Miss MacSkelpie!"
When my first-cousin-once-removed, Rupert, was twelve years old, his
mother died, and he was in the dolefuls about it for more than a
year. Miss MacKelpie kept on living with him all the same. Catch
her quitting! That sort don't go into the poor-house when they can
keep out! My father, being Head of the Family, was, of course, one
of the trustees, and his uncle Roger, brother of the testator,
another. The third was General MacKelpie, a poverty-stricken Scotch
laird who had a lot of valueless land at Croom, in Ross-shire. I
remember father gave me a new ten-pound note when I interrupted him
whilst he was telling me of the incident of young St. Leger's
improvidence by remarking that he was in error as to the land. From
what I had heard of MacKelpie's estate, it was productive of one
thing; when he asked me "What?" I answered "Mortgages!" Father, I
knew, had bought, not long before, a lot of them at what a college
friend of mine from Chicago used to call "cut-throat" price. When I
remonstrated with my father for buying them at all, and so injuring
the family estate which I was to inherit, he gave me an answer, the
astuteness of which I have never forgotten.
"I did it so that I might keep my hand on the bold General, in case
he should ever prove troublesome. And if the worst should ever come
to the worst, Croom is a good country for grouse and stags!" My
father can see as far as most men!
When my cousin--I shall call him cousin henceforth in this record,
lest it might seem to any unkind person who might hereafter read it
that I wished to taunt Rupert St. Leger with his somewhat obscure
position, in reiterating his real distance in kinship with my family-
-when my cousin, Rupert St. Leger, wished to commit a certain idiotic
act of financial folly, he approached my father on the subject,
arriving at our estate, Humcroft, at an inconvenient time, without
permission, not having had even the decent courtesy to say he was
coming. I was then a little chap of six years old, but I could not
help noticing his mean appearance. He was all dusty and dishevelled.
When my father saw him--I came into the study with him--he said in a
"Good God!" He was further shocked when the boy brusquely
acknowledged, in reply to my father's greeting, that he had travelled
third class. Of course, none of my family ever go anything but first
class; even the servants go second. My father was really angry when
he said he had walked up from the station.
"A nice spectacle for my tenants and my tradesmen! To see my--my--a
kinsman of my house, howsoever remote, trudging like a tramp on the
road to my estate! Why, my avenue is two miles and a perch! No
wonder you are filthy and insolent!" Rupert--really, I cannot call
him cousin here--was exceedingly impertinent to my father.
"I walked, sir, because I had no money; but I assure you I did not
mean to be insolent. I simply came here because I wished to ask your
advice and assistance, not because you are an important person, and
have a long avenue--as I know to my cost--but simply because you are
one of my trustees."
"YOUR trustees, sirrah!" said my father, interrupting him. "Your
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, quite quietly. "I meant the
trustees of my dear mother's will."
"And what, may I ask you," said father, "do you want in the way of
advice from one of the trustees of your dear mother's will?" Rupert
got very red, and was going to say something rude--I knew it from his
look--but he stopped, and said in the same gentle way:
"I want your advice, sir, as to the best way of doing something which
I wish to do, and, as I am under age, cannot do myself. It must be
done through the trustees of my mother's will."
"And the assistance for which you wish?" said father, putting his
hand in his pocket. I know what that action means when I am talking
"The assistance I want," said Rupert, getting redder than ever, "is
from my--the trustee also. To carry out what I want to do."
"And what may that be?" asked my father. "I would like, sir, to make
over to my Aunt Janet--" My father interrupted him by asking--he had
evidently remembered my jest:
"Miss MacSkelpie?" Rupert got still redder, and I turned away; I
didn't quite wish that he should see me laughing. He went on
"MACKELPIE, sir! Miss Janet MacKelpie, my aunt, who has always been
so kind to me, and whom my mother loved--I want to have made over to
her the money which my dear mother left to me." Father doubtless
wished to have the matter take a less serious turn, for Rupert's eyes
were all shiny with tears which had not fallen; so after a little
pause he said, with indignation, which I knew was simulated:
"Have you forgotten your mother so soon, Rupert, that you wish to
give away the very last gift which she bestowed on you?" Rupert was
sitting, but he jumped up and stood opposite my father with his fist
clenched. He was quite pale now, and his eyes looked so fierce that
I thought he would do my father an injury. He spoke in a voice which
did not seem like his own, it was so strong and deep.
"Sir!" he roared out. I suppose, if I was a writer, which, thank
God, I am not--I have no need to follow a menial occupation--I would
call it "thundered." "Thundered" is a longer word than "roared," and
would, of course, help to gain the penny which a writer gets for a
line. Father got pale too, and stood quite still. Rupert looked at
him steadily for quite half a minute--it seemed longer at the time--
and suddenly smiled and said, as he sat down again:
"Sorry. But, of course, you don't understand such things." Then he
went on talking before father had time to say a word.
"Let us get back to business. As you do not seem to follow me, let
me explain that it is BECAUSE I do not forget that I wish to do this.
I remember my dear mother's wish to make Aunt Janet happy, and would
like to do as she did."
"AUNT Janet?" said father, very properly sneering at his ignorance.
"She is not your aunt. Why, even her sister, who was married to your
uncle, was only your aunt by courtesy." I could not help feeling
that Rupert meant to be rude to my father, though his words were
quite polite. If I had been as much bigger than him as he was than
me, I should have flown at him; but he was a very big boy for his
age. I am myself rather thin. Mother says thinness is an "appanage
"My Aunt Janet, sir, is an aunt by love. Courtesy is a small word to
use in connection with such devotion as she has given to us. But I
needn't trouble you with such things, sir. I take it that my
relations on the side of my own house do not affect you. I am a Sent
Leger!" Father looked quite taken aback. He sat quite still before
"Well, Mr. St. Leger, I shall think over the matter for a while, and
shall presently let you know my decision. In the meantime, would you
like something to eat? I take it that as you must have started very
early, you have not had any breakfast?" Rupert smiled quite
"That is true, sir. I haven't broken bread since dinner last night,
and I am ravenously hungry." Father rang the bell, and told the
footman who answered it to send the housekeeper. When she came,
father said to her:
"Mrs. Martindale, take this boy to your room and give him some
breakfast." Rupert stood very still for some seconds. His face had
got red again after his paleness. Then he bowed to my father, and
followed Mrs. Martindale, who had moved to the door.
Nearly an hour afterwards my father sent a servant to tell him to
come to the study. My mother was there, too, and I had gone back
with her. The man came back and said:
"Mrs. Martindale, sir, wishes to know, with her respectful service,
if she may have a word with you." Before father could reply mother
told him to bring her. The housekeeper could not have been far off--
that kind are generally near a keyhole--for she came at once. When
she came in, she stood at the door curtseying and looking pale.
"I thought, sir and ma'am, that I had better come and tell you about
Master Sent Leger. I would have come at once, but I feared to
"Well?" Father had a stern way with servants. When I'm head of the
family I'll tread them under my feet. That's the way to get real
devotion from servants!
"If you please, sir, I took the young gentleman into my room and
ordered a nice breakfast for him, for I could see he was half
famished--a growing boy like him, and so tall! Presently it came
along. It was a good breakfast, too! The very smell of it made even
me hungry. There were eggs and frizzled ham, and grilled kidneys,
and coffee, and buttered toast, and bloater-paste--"
"That will do as to the menu," said mother. "Go on!"
"When it was all ready, and the maid had gone, I put a chair to the
table and said, 'Now, sir, your breakfast is ready!' He stood up and
said, 'Thank you, madam; you are very kind!' and he bowed to me quite
nicely, just as if I was a lady, ma'am!"
"Go on," said mother.
"Then, sir, he held out his hand and said, 'Good-bye, and thank you,'
and he took up his cap.
"'But aren't you going to have any breakfast, sir?' I says.
"'No, thank you, madam,' he said; 'I couldn't eat here . . . in this
house, I mean!' Well, ma'am, he looked so lonely that I felt my
heart melting, and I ventured to ask him if there was any mortal
thing I could do for him. 'Do tell me, dear,' I ventured to say. 'I
am an old woman, and you, sir, are only a boy, though it's a fine man
you will be--like your dear, splendid father, which I remember so
well, and gentle like your poor dear mother.'
"'You're a dear!' he says; and with that I took up his hand and
kissed it, for I remember his poor dear mother so well, that was dead
only a year. Well, with that he turned his head away, and when I
took him by the shoulders and turned him round--he is only a young
boy, ma'am, for all he is so big--I saw that the tears were rolling
down his cheeks. With that I laid his head on my breast--I've had
children of my own, ma'am, as you know, though they're all gone. He
came willing enough, and sobbed for a little bit. Then he
straightened himself up, and I stood respectfully beside him.
"'Tell Mr. Melton,' he said, 'that I shall not trouble him about the
"'But won't you tell him yourself, sir, when you see him?' I says.
"'I shall not see him again,' he says; 'I am going back now!'
"Well, ma'am, I knew he'd had no breakfast, though he was hungry, and
that he would walk as he come, so I ventured to say: 'If you won't
take it a liberty, sir, may I do anything to make your going easier?
Have you sufficient money, sir? If not, may I give, or lend, you
some? I shall be very proud if you will allow me to.'
"'Yes,' he says quite hearty. 'If you will, you might lend me a
shilling, as I have no money. I shall not forget it.' He said, as
he took the coin: 'I shall return the amount, though I never can the
kindness. I shall keep the coin.' He took the shilling, sir--he
wouldn't take any more--and then he said good-bye. At the door he
turned and walked back to me, and put his arms round me like a real
boy does, and gave me a hug, and says he:
"'Thank you a thousand times, Mrs. Martindale, for your goodness to
me, for your sympathy, and for the way you have spoken of my father
and mother. You have seen me cry, Mrs. Martindale,' he said; 'I
don't often cry: the last time was when I came back to the lonely
house after my poor dear was laid to rest. But you nor any other
shall ever see a tear of mine again.' And with that he straightened
out his big back and held up his fine proud head, and walked out. I
saw him from the window striding down the avenue. My! but he is a
proud boy, sir--an honour to your family, sir, say I respectfully.
And there, the proud child has gone away hungry, and he won't, I
know, ever use that shilling to buy food!"
Father was not going to have that, you know, so he said to her:
"He does not belong to my family, I would have you to know. True, he
is allied to us through the female side; but we do not count him or
his in my family." He turned away and began to read a book. It was
a decided snub to her.
But mother had a word to say before Mrs. Martindale was done with.
Mother has a pride of her own, and doesn't brook insolence from
inferiors; and the housekeeper's conduct seemed to be rather
presuming. Mother, of course, isn't quite our class, though her folk
are quite worthy and enormously rich. She is one of the
Dalmallingtons, the salt people, one of whom got a peerage when the
Conservatives went out. She said to the housekeeper:
"I think, Mrs. Martindale, that I shall not require your services
after this day month! And as I don't keep servants in my employment
when I dismiss them, here is your month's wages due on the 25th of
this month, and another month in lieu of notice. Sign this receipt."
She was writing a receipt as she spoke. The other signed it without
a word, and handed it to her. She seemed quite flabbergasted.
Mother got up and sailed--that is the way that mother moves when she
is in a wax--out of the room.
Lest I should forget it, let me say here that the dismissed
housekeeper was engaged the very next day by the Countess of Salop.
I may say in explanation that the Earl of Salop, K.G., who is Lord-
Lieutenant of the County, is jealous of father's position and his
growing influence. Father is going to contest the next election on
the Conservative side, and is sure to be made a Baronet before long.
Letter from Major-General Sir Colin Alexander MacKelpie, V.C.,
K.C.B., of Croom, Ross, N.B., to Rupert Sent Leger, Esq., 14, Newland
Park, Dulwich, London, S.E.
July 4, 1892.
MY DEAR GODSON,
I am truly sorry I am unable to agree with your request that I should
acquiesce in your desire to transfer to Miss Janet MacKelpie the
property bequeathed to you by your mother, of which property I am a
trustee. Let me say at once that, had it been possible to me to do
so, I should have held it a privilege to further such a wish--not
because the beneficiare whom you would create is a near kinswoman of
my own. That, in truth, is my real difficulty. I have undertaken a
trust made by an honourable lady on behalf of her only son--son of a
man of stainless honour, and a dear friend of my own, and whose son
has a rich heritage of honour from both parents, and who will, I am
sure, like to look back on his whole life as worthy of his parents,
and of those whom his parents trusted. You will see, I am sure, that
whatsoever I might grant regarding anyone else, my hands are tied in
And now let me say, my dear boy, that your letter has given me the
most intense pleasure. It is an unspeakable delight to me to find in
the son of your father--a man whom I loved, and a boy whom I love--
the same generosity of spirit which endeared your father to all his
comrades, old as well as young. Come what may, I shall always be
proud of you; and if the sword of an old soldier--it is all I have--
can ever serve you in any way, it and its master's life are, and
shall be, whilst life remains to him, yours.
It grieves me to think that Janet cannot, through my act, be given
that ease and tranquillity of spirit which come from competence.
But, my dear Rupert, you will be of full age in seven years more.
Then, if you are in the same mind--and I am sure you will not change-
-you, being your own master, can do freely as you will. In the
meantime, to secure, so far as I can, my dear Janet against any
malign stroke of fortune, I have given orders to my factor to remit
semi-annually to Janet one full half of such income as may be derived
in any form from my estate of Croom. It is, I am sorry to say,
heavily mortgaged; but of such as is--or may be, free from such
charge as the mortgage entails--something at least will, I trust,
remain to her. And, my dear boy, I can frankly say that it is to me
a real pleasure that you and I can be linked in one more bond in this
association of purpose. I have always held you in my heart as though
you were my own son. Let me tell you now that you have acted as I
should have liked a son of my own, had I been blessed with one, to
have acted. God bless you, my dear.
COLIN ALEX. MACKELPIE.
Letter from Roger Melton, of Openshaw Grange, to Rupert Sent Leger,
Esq., 14, Newland Park, Dulwich, London, S.E.
July 1, 1892.
MY DEAR NEPHEW,
Your letter of the 30th ult. received. Have carefully considered
matter stated, and have come to the conclusion that my duty as a
trustee would not allow me to give full consent, as you wish. Let me
explain. The testator, in making her will, intended that such
fortune as she had at disposal should be used to supply to you her
son such benefits as its annual product should procure. To this end,
and to provide against wastefulness or foolishness on your part, or,
indeed, against any generosity, howsoever worthy, which might
impoverish you and so defeat her benevolent intentions regarding your
education, comfort, and future good, she did not place the estate
directly in your hands, leaving you to do as you might feel inclined
about it. But, on the contrary, she entrusted the corpus of it in
the hands of men whom she believed should be resolute enough and
strong enough to carry out her intent, even against any cajolements
or pressure which might be employed to the contrary. It being her
intention, then, that such trustees as she appointed would use for
your benefit the interest accruing annually from the capital at
command, AND THAT ONLY (as specifically directed in the will), so
that on your arriving at full age the capital entrusted to us should
be handed over to you intact, I find a hard-and-fast duty in the
matter of adhering exactly to the directions given. I have no doubt
that my co-trustees regard the matter in exactly the same light.
Under the circumstances, therefore, we, the trustees, have not only a
single and united duty towards you as the object of the testator's
wishes, but towards each other as regards the manner of the carrying
out of that duty. I take it, therefore, that it would not be
consonant with the spirit of the trust or of our own ideas in
accepting it that any of us should take a course pleasant to himself
which would or might involve a stern opposition on the part of other
of the co-trustees. We have each of us to do the unpleasant part of
this duty without fear or favour. You understand, of course, that
the time which must elapse before you come into absolute possession
of your estate is a limited one. As by the terms of the will we are
to hand over our trust when you have reached the age of twenty-one,
there are only seven years to expire. But till then, though I should
gladly meet your wishes if I could, I must adhere to the duty which I
have undertaken. At the expiration of that period you will be quite
free to divest yourself of your estate without protest or comment of
Having now expressed as clearly as I can the limitations by which I
am bound with regard to the corpus of your estate, let me say that in
any other way which is in my power or discretion I shall be most
happy to see your wishes carried out so far as rests with me.
Indeed, I shall undertake to use what influence I may possess with my
co-trustees to induce them to take a similar view of your wishes. In
my own thinking you are quite free to use your own property in your
own way. But as, until you shall have attained your majority, you
have only life-user in your mother's bequest, you are only at liberty
to deal with the annual increment. On our part as trustees we have a
first charge on that increment to be used for purposes of your
maintenance, clothes, and education. As to what may remain over each
half-year, you will be free to deal with it as you choose. On
receiving from you a written authorization to your trustees, if you
desire the whole sum or any part of it to be paid over to Miss Janet
MacKelpie, I shall see that it is effected. Believe me, that our
duty is to protect the corpus of the estate, and to this end we may
not act on any instruction to imperil it. But there our warranty
stops. We can deal during our trusteeship with the corpus only.
Further, lest there should arise any error on your part, we can deal
with any general instruction for only so long as it may remain
unrevoked. You are, and must be, free to alter your instructions or
authorizations at any time. Thus your latest document must be used
for our guidance.
As to the general principle involved in your wish I make no comment.
You are at liberty to deal with your own how you will. I quite
understand that your impulse is a generous one, and I fully believe
that it is in consonance with what had always been the wishes of my
sister. Had she been happily alive and had to give judgment of your
intent, I am convinced that she would have approved. Therefore, my
dear nephew, should you so wish, I shall be happy for her sake as
well as your own to pay over on your account (as a confidential
matter between you and me), but from my own pocket, a sum equal to
that which you wish transferred to Miss Janet MacKelpie. On hearing
from you I shall know how to act in the matter. With all good
Believe me to be,
Your affectionate uncle,
TO RUPERT SENT LEGER, ESQ.
Letter from Rupert Sent Leger to Roger Melton,
July 5, 1892.
MY DEAR UNCLE,
Thank you heartily for your kind letter. I quite understand, and now
see that I should not have asked you as a trustee, such a thing. I
see your duty clearly, and agree with your view of it. I enclose a
letter directed to my trustees, asking them to pay over annually till
further direction to Miss Janet MacKelpie at this address whatever
sum may remain over from the interest of my mother's bequest after
deduction of such expenses as you may deem fit for my maintenance,
clothing, and education, together with a sum of one pound sterling
per month, which was the amount my dear mother always gave me for my
personal use--"pocket-money," she called it.
With regard to your most kind and generous offer to give to my dear
Aunt Janet the sum which I would have given myself, had such been in
my power, I thank you most truly and sincerely, both for my dear aunt
(to whom, of course, I shall not mention the matter unless you
specially authorize me) and myself. But, indeed, I think it will be
better not to offer it. Aunt Janet is very proud, and would not
accept any benefit. With me, of course, it is different, for since I
was a wee child she has been like another mother to me, and I love
her very much. Since my mother died--and she, of course, was all-in-
all to me--there has been no other. And in such a love as ours pride
has no place. Thank you again, dear uncle, and God bless you.
Your loving nephew,
RUPERT SENT LEGER.
ERNEST ROGER HALBARD MELTON'S RECORD--Continued,
And now re the remaining one of Sir Geoffrey's children, Roger. He
was the third child and third son, the only daughter, Patience,
having been born twenty years after the last of the four sons.
Concerning Roger, I shall put down all I have heard of him from my
father and grandfather. From my grand-aunt I heard nothing, I was a
very small kid when she died; but I remember seeing her, but only
once. A very tall, handsome woman of a little over thirty, with very
dark hair and light-coloured eyes. I think they were either grey or
blue, but I can't remember which. She looked very proud and haughty,
but I am bound to say that she was very nice to me. I remember
feeling very jealous of Rupert because his mother looked so
distinguished. Rupert was eight years older than me, and I was
afraid he would beat me if I said anything he did not like. So I was
silent except when I forgot to be, and Rupert said very unkindly, and
I think very unfairly, that I was "A sulky little beast." I haven't
forgot that, and I don't mean to. However, it doesn't matter much
what he said or thought. There he is--if he is at all--where no one
can find him, with no money or nothing, for what little he had he
settled when he came of age, on the MacSkelpie. He wanted to give it
to her when his mother died, but father, who was a trustee, refused;
and Uncle Roger, as I call him, who is another, thought the trustees
had no power to allow Rupert to throw away his matrimony, as I called
it, making a joke to father when he called it patrimony. Old Sir
Colin MacSkelpie, who is the third, said he couldn't take any part in
such a permission, as the MacSkelpie was his niece. He is a rude old
man, that. I remember when, not remembering his relationship, I
spoke of the MacSkelpie, he caught me a clip on the ear that sent me
across the room. His Scotch is very broad. I can hear him say, "Hae
some attempt at even Soothern manners, and dinna misca' yer betters,
ye young puddock, or I'll wring yer snoot!" Father was, I could see,
very much offended, but he didn't say anything. He remembered, I
think, that the General is a V.C. man, and was fond of fighting
duels. But to show that the fault was not his, HE wrung MY ear--and
the same ear too! I suppose he thought that was justice! But it's
only right to say that he made up for it afterwards. When the
General had gone he gave me a five-pound note.
I don't think Uncle Roger was very pleased with the way Rupert
behaved about the legacy, for I don't think he ever saw him from that
day to this. Perhaps, of course, it was because Rupert ran away
shortly afterwards; but I shall tell about that when I come to him.
After all, why should my uncle bother about him? He is not a Melton
at all, and I am to be Head of the House--of course, when the Lord
thinks right to take father to Himself! Uncle Roger has tons of
money, and he never married, so if he wants to leave it in the right
direction he needn't have any trouble. He made his money in what he
calls "the Eastern Trade." This, so far as I can gather, takes in
the Levant and all east of it. I know he has what they call in trade
"houses" in all sorts of places--Turkey, and Greece, and all round
them, Morocco, Egypt, and Southern Russia, and the Holy Land; then on
to Persia, India, and all round it; the Chersonese, China, Japan, and
the Pacific Islands. It is not to be expected that we landowners can
know much about trade, but my uncle covers--or alas! I must say
"covered"--a lot of ground, I can tell you. Uncle Roger was a very
grim sort of man, and only that I was brought up to try and be kind
to him I shouldn't ever have dared to speak to him. But when was a
child father and mother--especially mother--forced me to go and see
him and be affectionate to him. He wasn't ever even civil to me,
that I can remember--grumpy old bear! But, then, he never saw Rupert
at all, so that I take it Master R- is out of the running altogether
for testamentary honours. The last time I saw him myself he was
distinctly rude. He treated me as a boy, though I was getting on for
eighteen years of age. I came into his office without knocking; and
without looking up from his desk, where he was writing, he said:
"Get out! Why do you venture to disturb me when I'm busy? Get out,
and be damned to you!" I waited where I was, ready to transfix him
with my eye when he should look up, for I cannot forget that when my
father dies I shall be Head of my House. But when he did there was
no transfixing possible. He said quite coolly:
"Oh, it's you, is it? I thought it was one of my office boys. Sit
down, if you want to see me, and wait till I am ready." So I sat
down and waited. Father always said that I should try to conciliate
and please my uncle. Father is a very shrewd man, and Uncle Roger is
a very rich one.
But I don't think Uncle R- is as shrewd as he thinks he is. He
sometimes makes awful mistakes in business. For instance, some years
ago he bought an enormous estate on the Adriatic, in the country they
call the "Land of Blue Mountains." At least, he says he bought it.
He told father so in confidence. But he didn't show any title-deeds,
and I'm greatly afraid he was "had." A bad job for me that he was,
for father believes he paid an enormous sum for it, and as I am his
natural heir, it reduces his available estate to so much less.
And now about Rupert. As I have said, he ran away when he was about
fourteen, and we did not hear about him for years. When we--or,
rather, my father--did hear of him, it was no good that he heard. He
had gone as a cabin-boy on a sailing ship round the Horn. Then he
joined an exploring party through the centre of Patagonia, and then
another up in Alaska, and a third to the Aleutian Islands. After
that he went through Central America, and then to Western Africa, the
Pacific Islands, India, and a lot of places. We all know the wisdom
of the adage that "A rolling stone gathers no moss"; and certainly,
if there be any value in moss, Cousin Rupert will die a poor man.
Indeed, nothing will stand his idiotic, boastful wastefulness. Look
at the way in which, when he came of age, he made over all his
mother's little fortune to the MacSkelpie! I am sure that, though
Uncle Roger made no comment to my father, who, as Head of our House,
should, of course, have been informed, he was not pleased. My
mother, who has a good fortune in her own right, and has had the
sense to keep it in her own control--as I am to inherit it, and it is
not in the entail, I am therefore quite impartial--I can approve of
her spirited conduct in the matter. We never did think much of
Rupert, anyhow; but now, since he is in the way to be a pauper, and
therefore a dangerous nuisance, we look on him as quite an outsider.
We know what he really is. For my own part, I loathe and despise
him. Just now we are irritated with him, for we are all kept on
tenterhooks regarding my dear Uncle Roger's Will. For Mr. Trent, the
attorney who regulated my dear uncle's affairs and has possession of
the Will, says it is necessary to know where every possible
beneficiary is to be found before making the Will public, so we all
have to wait. It is especially hard on me, who am the natural heir.
It is very thoughtless indeed of Rupert to keep away like that. I
wrote to old MacSkelpie about it, but he didn't seem to understand or
to be at all anxious--he is not the heir! He said that probably
Rupert Sent Leger--he, too, keeps to the old spelling--did not know
of his uncle's death, or he would have taken steps to relieve our
anxiety. Our anxiety, forsooth! We are not anxious; we only wish to
KNOW. And if we--and especially me--who have all the annoyance of
thinking of the detestable and unfair death-duties, are anxious, we
should be so. Well, anyhow, he'll get a properly bitter
disappointment and set down when he does turn up and discovers that
he is a pauper without hope!
To-day we (father and I) had letters from Mr. Trent, telling us that
the whereabouts of "Mr. Rupert Sent Leger" had been discovered, and
that a letter disclosing the fact of poor Uncle Roger's death had
been sent to him. He was at Titicaca when last heard of. So
goodness only knows when he may get the letter, which "asks him to
come home at once, but only gives to him such information about the
Will as has already been given to every member of the testator's
family." And that is nil. I dare say we shall be kept waiting for
months before we get hold of the estate which is ours. It is too
Letter from Edward Bingham Trent to Ernest Roger Halbard Melton.
176, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
December 28, 1906.
I am glad to be able to inform you that I have just heard by letter
from Mr. Rupert St. Leger that he intended leaving Rio de Janeiro by
the S.S. Amazon, of the Royal Mail Company, on December 15. He
further stated that he would cable just before leaving Rio de
Janeiro, to say on what day the ship was expected to arrive in
London. As all the others possibly interested in the Will of the
late Roger Melton, and whose names are given to me in his
instructions regarding the reading of the Will, have been advised,
and have expressed their intention of being present at that event on
being apprised of the time and place, I now beg to inform you that by
cable message received the date scheduled for arrival at the Port of
London was January 1 prox. I therefore beg to notify you, subject to
postponement due to the non-arrival of the Amazon, the reading of the
Will of the late Roger Melton, Esq., will take place in my office on
Thursday, January 3 prox., at eleven o'clock a.m.
I have the honour to be, sir,
EDWARD BINGHAM TRENT.
TO ERNEST ROGER HALBARD MELTON, ESQ., HUMCROFT, SALOP.
Cable: Rupert Sent Leger to Edward Bingham Trent. Amazon arrives
London January 1. SENT LEGER.
Telegram (per Lloyd's): Rupert Sent Leger to Edward Bingham Trent.
Amazon arrives London to-morrow morning. All well.--LEGER.
Telegram: Edward Bingham Trent to Ernest Roger Halbard Mellon.
Rupert Sent Leger arrived. Reading Will takes place as arranged.--
ERNEST ROGER HALBARD MELTON'S RECORD.
January 4, 1907.
The reading of Uncle Roger's Will is over. Father got a duplicate of
Mr. Trent's letter to me, and of the cable and two telegrams pasted
into this Record. We both waited patiently till the third--that is,
we did not say anything. The only impatient member of our family was
my mother. She DID say things, and if old Trent had been here his
ears would have been red. She said what ridiculous nonsense it was
delaying the reading of the Will, and keeping the Heir waiting for
the arrival of an obscure person who wasn't even a member of the
family, inasmuch as he didn't bear the name. I don't think it's
quite respectful to one who is some day to be Head of the House! I
thought father was weakening in his patience when he said: "True, my
dear--true!" and got up and left the room. Some time afterwards when
I passed the library I heard him walking up and down.
Father and I went up to town on the afternoon of Wednesday, January
2. We stayed, of course, at Claridge's, where we always stay when we
go to town. Mother wanted to come, too, but father thought it better
not. She would not agree to stay at home till we both promised to
send her separate telegrams after the reading.
At five minutes to eleven we entered Mr. Trent's office. Father
would not go a moment earlier, as he said it was bad form to seem
eager at any time, but most of all at the reading of a will. It was
a rotten grind, for we had to be walking all over the neighbourhood
for half an hour before it was time, not to be too early.
When we went into the room we found there General Sir Colin MacKelpie
and a big man, very bronzed, whom I took to be Rupert St. Leger--not
a very creditable connection to look at, I thought! He and old
MacKelpie took care to be in time! Rather low, I thought it. Mr.
St. Leger was reading a letter. He had evidently come in but lately,
for though he seemed to be eager about it, he was only at the first
page, and I could see that there were many sheets. He did not look
up when we came in, or till he had finished the letter; and you may
be sure that neither I nor my father (who, as Head of the House,
should have had more respect from him) took the trouble to go to him.
After all, he is a pauper and a wastrel, and he has not the honour of
bearing our Name. The General, however, came forward and greeted us
both cordially. He evidently had forgotten--or pretended to have--
the discourteous way he once treated me, for he spoke to me quite in
a friendly way--I thought more warmly than he did to father. I was
pleased to be spoken to so nicely, for, after all, whatever his
manners may be, he is a distinguished man--has won the V.C. and a
Baronetcy. He got the latter not long ago, after the Frontier War in
India. I was not, however, led away into cordiality myself. I had
not forgotten his rudeness, and I thought that he might be sucking up
to me. I knew that when I had my dear Uncle Roger's many millions I
should be a rather important person; and, of course, he knew it too.
So I got even with him for his former impudence. When he held out
his hand I put one finger in it, and said, "How do?" He got very red
and turned away. Father and he had ended by glaring at each other,
so neither of us was sorry to be done with him. All the time Mr. St.
Leger did not seem to see or hear anything, but went on reading his
letter. I thought the old MacSkelpie was going to bring him into the
matter between us, for as he turned away I heard him say something
under his breath. It sounded like "Help!" but Mr. S-- did not hear.
He certainly no notice of it.
As the MacS-- and Mr. S-- sat quite silent, neither looking at us,
and as father was sitting on the other side of the room with his chin
in his hand, and as I wanted to show that I was indifferent to the
two S's, I took out this notebook, and went on with the Record,
bringing it up to this moment.
When I had finished writing I looked over at Rupert.
When he saw us, he jumped up and went over to father and shook his
hand quite warmly. Father took him very coolly. Rupert, however,
did not seem to see it, but came towards me heartily. I happened to
be doing something else at the moment, and at first I did not see his
hand; but just as I was looking at it the clock struck eleven.
Whilst it was striking Mr. Trent came into the room. Close behind
him came his clerk, carrying a locked tin box. There were two other
men also. He bowed to us all in turn, beginning with me. I was
standing opposite the door; the others were scattered about. Father
sat still, but Sir Colin and Mr. St. Leger rose. Mr. Trent not did
shake hands with any of us--not even me. Nothing but his respectful
bow. That is the etiquette for an attorney, I understand, on such
He sat down at the end of the big table in the centre of the room,
and asked us to sit round. Father, of course, as Head of the Family,
took the seat at his right hand. Sir Colin and St. Leger went to the
other side, the former taking the seat next to the attorney. The
General knows, of course, that a Baronet takes precedence at a
ceremony. I may be a Baronet some day myself, and have to know these
The clerk took the key which his master handed to him, opened the tin
box, and took from it a bundle of papers tied with red tape. This he
placed before the attorney, and put the empty box behind him on the
floor. Then he and the other man sat at the far end of the table;
the latter took out a big notebook and several pencils, and put them
before him. He was evidently a shorthand-writer. Mr. Trent removed
the tape from the bundle of papers, which he placed a little distance
in front of him. He took a sealed envelope from the top, broke the
seal, opened the envelope, and from it took a parchment, in the folds
of which were some sealed envelopes, which he laid in a heap in front
of the other paper. Then he unfolded the parchment, and laid it
before him with the outside page up. He fixed his glasses, and said:
"Gentlemen, the sealed envelope which you have seen me open is
endorsed 'My Last Will and Testament--ROGER MELTON, June, 1906.'
This document"--holding it up--"is as follows:
"'I Roger Melton of Openshaw Grange in the County of Dorset; of
number one hundred and twenty-three Berkeley Square London; and of
the Castle of Vissarion in the Land of the Blue Mountains, being of
sound mind do make this my Last Will and Testament on this day Monday
the eleventh day of the month of June in the year of Our Lord one
thousand nine hundred and six at the office of my old friend and
Attorney Edward Bingham Trent in number one hundred and seventy-six
Lincoln's Inn Fields London hereby revoking all other wills that I
may have formerly made and giving this as my sole and last Will
making dispositions of my property as follows:
"'1. To my kinsman and nephew Ernest Halbard Melton Esquire, justice
of the Peace, Humcroft the County of Salop, for his sole use and
benefit the sum of twenty thousand pounds sterling free of all Duties
Taxes and charges whatever to be paid out of my Five per centum Bonds
of the City of Montreal, Canada.
"'2. To my respected friend and colleague as co-trustee to the Will
of my late sister Patience late widow of the late Captain Rupert Sent
Leger who predeceased her, Major-General Sir Colin Alexander
MacKelpie, Baronet, holder of the Victoria Cross, Knight Commander of
the Order of the Bath, of Croom in the county of Ross Scotland a sum
of Twenty thousand pounds sterling free of all Taxes and charges
whatsoever; to be paid out of my Five per centum Bonds of the City of
"'3. To Miss Janet MacKelpie presently residing at Croom in the
County of Ross Scotland the sum of Twenty thousand pounds sterling
free of all Duties Taxes and Charges whatsoever, to be paid out of my
Five per centum Bonds of the London County Council.
"'4. To the various persons charities and Trustees named in the
schedule attached to this Will and marked A. the various sums
mentioned therein, all free of Duties and Taxes and charges
Here Mr. Trent read out the list here following, and announced for
our immediate understanding of the situation the total amount as two
hundred and fifty thousand pounds. Many of the beneficiaries were
old friends, comrades, dependents, and servants, some of them being
left quite large sums of money and specific objects, such as curios
"'5. To my kinsman and nephew Ernest Roger Halbard Melton presently
living in the house of his father at Humcroft Salop the sum of Ten
thousand pounds sterling.
"'6. To my old and valued friend Edward Bingham Trent of one hundred
and seventy-six Lincoln's Inn Fields sum of Twenty thousand pounds
sterling free from all Duties Taxes and Charges whatsoever to be paid
out of my Five per centum Bonds of the city of Manchester England.
"'7. To my dear nephew Rupert Sent Leger only son of my dear sister
Patience Melton by her marriage with Captain Rupert Sent Leger the
sum of one thousand pounds sterling. I also bequeath to the said
Rupert Sent Leger a further sum conditional upon his acceptance of
the terms of a letter addressed to him marked B, and left in the
custody of the above Edward Bingham Trent and which letter is an
integral part of this my Will. In case of the non-acceptance of the
conditions of such letter, I devise and bequeath the whole of the
sums and properties reserved therein to the executors herein
appointed Colin Alexander MacKelpie and Edward Bingham Trent in trust
to distribute the same in accordance with the terms of the letter in
the present custody of Edward Bingham Trent marked C, and now
deposited sealed with my seal in the sealed envelope containing my
last Will to be kept in the custody of the said Edward Bingham Trent
and which said letter C is also an integral part of my Will. And in
case any doubt should arise as to my ultimate intention as to the
disposal of my property the above-mentioned Executors are to have
full power to arrange and dispose all such matters as may seem best
to them without further appeal. And if any beneficiary under this
Will shall challenge the same or any part of it, or dispute the
validity thereof, he shall forfeit to the general estate the bequest
made herein to him, and any such bequest shall cease and be void to
all intents and purposes whatsoever.
"'8. For proper compliance with laws and duties connected with
testamentary proceedings and to keep my secret trusts secret I direct
my Executors to pay all Death, Estate, Settlement, Legacy,
Succession, or other duties charges impositions and assessments
whatever on the residue of my estate beyond the bequests already
named, at the scale charged in the case of most distant relatives or
strangers in blood.
"'9. I hereby appoint as my Executors Major-General Sir Colin
Alexander MacKelpie, Baronet, of Croom in the County of Ross, and
Edward Bingham Trent Attorney at Law of one hundred and seventy-six
Lincoln's Inn Fields London West Central with full power to exercise
their discretion in any circumstance which may arise in the carrying
out my wishes as expressed in this Will. As reward for their
services in this capacity as Executors they are to receive each out
of the general estate a sum of one hundred thousand pounds sterling
free of all Duties and impositions whatsoever.
"12. The two Memoranda contained in the letters marked B and C are
Integral Parts of this my Last Will are ultimately at the Probate of
the Will to be taken as Clauses 10 and 11 of it. The envelopes are
marked B and C on both envelope and contents and the contents of each
is headed thus: B to be read as Clause 10 of my Will and the other C
to be read as Clause 11 of my Will.
"13. Should either of the above-mentioned Executors die before the
completion of the above year and a half from the date of the Reading
of my Will or before the Conditions rehearsed in Letter C the
remaining Executor shall have all and several the Rights and Duties
entrusted by my Will to both. And if both Executors should die then
the matter of interpretation and execution of all matters in
connection with this my Last Will shall rest with the Lord Chancellor
of England for the time being or with whomsoever he may appoint for
"'This my Last Will is given by me on the first day of January in the
year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seven.
"We Andrew Rossiter and John Colson here in the presence of each
other and of the Testator have seen the Testator Roger Melton sign
and seal this document. In witness thereof we hereby set our names
"'ANDREW ROSSITER clerk of 9 Primrose Avenue London W.C.
"'JOHN COLSON caretaker of 176 Lincoln's Inn Fields and Verger of St.
Tabitha's Church Clerkenwell London.'"
When Mr. Trent had finished the reading he put all the papers
together, and tied them up in a bundle again with the red tape.
Holding the bundle in his hand, he stood up, saying as he did so:
"That is all, gentlemen, unless any of you wish to ask me any
questions; in which case I shall answer, of course, to the best of my
power. I shall ask you, Sir Colin, to remain with me, as we have to
deal with some matters, or to arrange a time when we may meet to do
so. And you also, Mr. Sent Leger, as there is this letter to submit
to you. It is necessary that you should open it in the presence of
the executors, but there is no necessity that anyone else should be
The first to speak was my father. Of course, as a county gentleman
of position and estate, who is sometimes asked to take the chair at
Sessions--of course, when there is not anyone with a title present--
he found himself under the duty of expressing himself first. Old
MacKelpie has superior rank; but this was a family affair, in which
my father is Head of the House, whilst old MacKelpie is only an
outsider brought into it--and then only to the distaff side, by the
wife of a younger brother of the man who married into our family.
Father spoke with the same look on his face as when he asks important
questions of witnesses at Quarter Sessions.
"I should like some points elucidated." The attorney bowed (he gets
his 120 thou', any way, so he can afford to be oily--suave, I suppose
he would call it); so father looked at a slip of paper in his hand
"How much is the amount of the whole estate?"
The attorney answered quickly, and I thought rather rudely. He was
red in the face, and didn't bow this time; I suppose a man of his
class hasn't more than a very limited stock of manners:
"That, sir, I am not at liberty to tell you. And I may say that I
would not if I could."
"Is it a million?" said father again. He was angry this time, and
even redder than the old attorney. The attorney said in answer, very
quietly this time:
"Ah, that's cross-examining. Let me say, sir, that no one can know
that until the accountants to be appointed for the purpose have
examined the affairs of the testator up to date."
Mr. Rupert St. Leger, who was looking all this time angrier than even
the attorney or my father--though at what he had to be angry about I
can't imagine--struck his fist on the table and rose up as if to
speak, but as he caught sight of both old MacKelpie and the attorney
he sat down again. Mem.--Those three seem to agree too well. I must
keep a sharp eye on them. I didn't think of this part any more at
the time, for father asked another question which interested me much:
"May I ask why the other matters of the Will are not shown to us?"
The attorney wiped his spectacles carefully with a big silk bandanna
handkerchief before he answered:
"Simply because each of the two letters marked 'B' and 'C' is
enclosed with instructions regarding their opening and the keeping
secret of their contents. I shall call your attention to the fact
that both envelopes are sealed, and that the testator and both
witnesses have signed their names across the flap of each envelope.
I shall read them. The letter marked 'B,' directed to 'Rupert Sent
Leger,' is thus endorsed:
"'This letter is to be given to Rupert Sent Leger by the Trustees and
is to be opened by him in their presence. He is to take such copy or
make such notes as he may wish and is then to hand the letter with
envelope to the Executors who are at once to read it, each of them
being entitled to make copy or notes if desirous of so doing. The
letter is then to be replaced in its envelope and letter and envelope
are to be placed in another envelope to be endorsed on outside as to
its contents and to be signed across the flap by both the Executors
and by the said Rupert Sent Leger.
"'(Signed) ROGER MELTON 1/6/'06.
"The letter marked 'C,' directed to 'Edward Bingham Trent,' is thus
"'This letter directed to Edward Bingham Trent is to be kept by him
unopened for a term of two years after the reading of my Last Will
unless said period is earlier terminated by either the acceptance or
refusal of Rupert Sent Leger to accept the conditions mentioned in my
letter to him marked 'B' which he is to receive and read in the
presence of my Executors at the same meeting as but subsequent to the
Reading of the clauses (except those to be ultimately numbers ten and
eleven) of my Last Will. This letter contains instructions as to
what both the Executors and the said Rupert Sent Leger are to do when
such acceptance or refusal of the said Rupert Sent Leger has been
made known, or if he omit or refuse to make any such acceptance or
refusal, at the end of two years next after my decease.
"'(Signed) ROGER MELTON 1/6/'06.'"
When the attorney had finished reading the last letter he put it
carefully in his pocket. Then he took the other letter in his hand,
and stood up. "Mr. Rupert Sent Leger," he said, "please to open this
letter, and in such a way that all present may see that the
memorandum at top of the contents is given as -
"'B. To be read as clause ten of my Will.'"
St. Leger rolled up his sleeves and cuffs just as if he was going to
perform some sort of prestidigitation--it was very theatrical and
ridiculous--then, his wrists being quite bare, he opened the envelope
and took out the letter. We all saw it quite well. It was folded
with the first page outward, and on the top was written a line just
as the attorney said. In obedience to a request from the attorney,
he laid both letter and envelope on the table in front of him. The
clerk then rose up, and, after handing a piece of paper to the
attorney, went back to his seat. Mr. Trent, having written something
on the paper, asked us all who were present, even the clerk and the
shorthand man, to look at the memorandum on the letter and what was
written on the envelope, and to sign the paper, which ran:
"We the signatories of this paper hereby declare that we have seen
the sealed letter marked B and enclosed in the Will of Roger Melton
opened in the presence of us all including Mr. Edward Bingham Trent
and Sir Colin Alexander MacKelpie and we declare that the paper
therein contained was headed 'B. To be read as clause ten of my
Will' and that there were no other contents in the envelope. In
attestation of which we in the presence of each other append our
The attorney motioned to my father to begin. Father is a cautious
man, and he asked for a magnifying-glass, which was shortly brought
to him by a clerk for whom the clerk in the room called. Father
examined the envelope all over very carefully, and also the
memorandum at top of the paper. Then, without a word, he signed the
paper. Father is a just man. Then we all signed. The attorney
folded the paper and put it in an envelope. Before closing it he
passed it round, and we all saw that it had not been tampered with.
Father took it out and read it, and then put it back. Then the
attorney asked us all to sign it across the flap, which we did. Then
he put the sealing-wax on it and asked father to seal it with his own
seal. He did so. Then he and MacKelpie sealed it also with their
own seals, Then he put it in another envelope, which he sealed
himself, and he and MacKelpie signed it across the flap.
Then father stood up, and so did I. So did the two men--the clerk
and the shorthand writer. Father did not say a word till we got out
into the street. We walked along, and presently we passed an open
gate into the fields. He turned back, saying to me:
"Come in here. There is no one about, and we can be quiet. I want
to speak to you." When we sat down on a seat with none other near
it, father said:
"You are a student of the law. What does all that mean?" I thought
it a good occasion for an epigram, so I said one word:
"H'm!" said father; "that is so far as you and I are concerned. You
with a beggarly ten thousand, and I with twenty. But what is, or
will be, the effect of those secret trusts?"
"Oh, that," I said, "will, I dare say, be all right. Uncle Roger
evidently did not intend the older generation to benefit too much by
his death. But he only gave Rupert St. Leger one thousand pounds,
whilst he gave me ten. That looks as if he had more regard for the
direct line. Of course--" Father interrupted me:
"But what was the meaning of a further sum?"
"I don't know, father. There was evidently some condition which he
was to fulfil; but he evidently didn't expect that he would. Why,
otherwise, did he leave a second trust to Mr. Trent?"
"True!" said father. Then he went on: "I wonder why he left those
enormous sums to Trent and old MacKelpie. They seem out of all
proportion as executors' fees, unless--"
"Unless what, father?"
"Unless the fortune he has left is an enormous one. That is why I
"And that," I laughed, "is why he refused to answer."
"Why, Ernest, it must run into big figures."
"Right-ho, father. The death-duties will be annoying. What a
beastly swindle the death-duties are! Why, I shall suffer even on
your own little estate . . . "
"That will do!" he said curtly. Father is so ridiculously touchy.
One would think he expects to live for ever. Presently he spoke
"I wonder what are the conditions of that trust. They are as
important--almost--as the amount of the bequest--whatever it is. By
the way, there seems to be no mention in the will of a residuary
legatee. Ernest, my boy, we may have to fight over that."
"How do you make that out, father?" I asked. He had been very rude
over the matter of the death-duties of his own estate, though it is
entailed and I MUST inherit. So I determined to let him see that I
know a good deal more than he does--of law, at any rate. "I fear
that when we come to look into it closely that dog won't fight. In
the first place, that may be all arranged in the letter to St. Leger,
which is a part of the Will. And if that letter should be
inoperative by his refusal of the conditions (whatever they may be),
then the letter to the attorney begins to work. What it is we don't
know, and perhaps even he doesn't--I looked at it as well as I could-
-and we law men are trained to observation. But even if the
instructions mentioned as being in Letter C fail, then the corpus of
the Will gives full power to Trent to act just as he darn pleases.
He can give the whole thing to himself if he likes, and no one can
say a word. In fact, he is himself the final court of appeal."
"H'm!" said father to himself. "It is a queer kind of will, I take
it, that can override the Court of Chancery. We shall perhaps have
to try it before we are done with this!" With that he rose, and we
walked home together--without saying another word.
My mother was very inquisitive about the whole thing--women always
are. Father and I between us told her all it was necessary for her
to know. I think we were both afraid that, woman-like, she would
make trouble for us by saying or doing something injudicious.
Indeed, she manifested such hostility towards Rupert St. Leger that
it is quite on the cards that she may try to injure him in some way.
So when father said that he would have to go out shortly again, as he
wished to consult his solicitor, I jumped up and said I would go with
him, as I, too, should take advice as to how I stood in the matter.
The Contents of Letter marked "B" attached as an Integral Part to the
Last Will of Roger Melton.
June 11, 1907.
"This letter an integral part of my Last Will regards the entire
residue of my estate beyond the specific bequests made in the body of
my Will. It is to appoint as Residuary Legatee of such Will--in case
he may accept in due form the Conditions herein laid down--my dear
Nephew Rupert Sent Leger only son of my sister Patience Melton now
deceased by her marriage with Captain Rupert Sent Leger also now
deceased. On his acceptance of the Conditions and the fulfilment of
the first of them the Entire residue of my estate after payments of
all specific Legacies and of all my debts and other obligations is to
become his absolute property to be dealt with or disposed of as he
may desire. The following are the conditions.
"1. He is to accept provisionally by letter addressed to my
Executors a sum of nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand pounds
sterling free of all Duties Taxes or other imposts. This he will
hold for a period of six months from the date of the Reading of my
Last Will and have user of the accruements thereto calculated at the
rate of ten per centum per annum which amount he shall under no
circumstances be required to replace. At the end of said six months
he must express in writing directed to the Executors of my Will his
acceptance or refusal of the other conditions herein to follow. But
if he may so choose he shall be free to declare in writing to the
Executors within one week from the time of the Reading of the Will
his wish to accept or to withdraw altogether from the responsibility
of this Trust. In case of withdrawal he is to retain absolutely and
for his own use the above-mentioned sum of nine hundred and ninety-
nine thousand pounds sterling free of all Duties Taxes and imposts
whatsoever making with the specific bequest of one thousand pounds a
clear sum of one million pounds sterling free of all imposts. And he
will from the moment of the delivery of such written withdrawal cease
to have any right or interest whatsoever in the further disposition
of my estate under this instrument. Should such written withdrawal
be received by my Executors they shall have possession of such
residue of my estate as shall remain after the payment of the above
sum of nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand pounds sterling and the
payment of all Duties Taxes assessments or Imposts as may be entailed
by law by its conveyance to the said Rupert Sent Leger and these my
Executors shall hold the same for the further disposal of it
according to the instructions given in the letter marked C and which
is also an integral part of my Last Will and Testament.
"2. If at or before the expiration of the six months above-mentioned
the said Rupert Sent Leger shall have accepted the further conditions
herein stated, he is to have user of the entire income produced by
such residue of my estate the said income being paid to him Quarterly
on the usual Quarter Days by the aforesaid Executors to wit Major
General Sir Colin Alexander MacKelpie Bart. and Edward Bingham Trent
to be used by him in accordance with the terms and conditions
"3. The said Rupert Sent Leger is to reside for a period of at least
six months to begin not later than three months from the reading of
my Will in the Castle of Vissarion in the Land of the Blue Mountains.
And if he fulfil the Conditions imposed on him and shall thereby
become possessed of the residue of my estate he is to continue to
reside there in part for a period of one year. He is not to change
his British Nationality except by a formal consent of the Privy
Council of Great Britain.
"At the end of a year and a half from the Reading of my Will he is to
report in person to my Executors of the expenditure of amounts paid
or due by him in the carrying out of the Trust and if they are
satisfied that same are in general accord with the conditions named
in above-mentioned letter marked C and which is an integral part of
my Will they are to record their approval on such Will which can then
go for final Probate and Taxation. On the Completion of which the
said Rupert Sent Leger shall become possessed absolutely and without
further act or need of the entire residue of my estate. In witness
"(Signed) ROGER MELTON."
This document is attested by the witnesses to the Will on the same
(Personal and Confidential.)
MEMORANDA MADE BY EDWARD BINGHAM TRENT IN CONNECTION WITH THE WILL OF
January 3, 1907.
The interests and issues of all concerned in the Will and estate of
the late Roger Melton of Openshaw Grange are so vast that in case any
litigation should take place regarding the same, I, as the solicitor,
having the carriage of the testator's wishes, think it well to make
certain memoranda of events, conversations, etc., not covered by
documentary evidence. I make the first memorandum immediately after
the event, whilst every detail of act and conversation is still fresh
in my mind. I shall also try to make such comments thereon as may
serve to refresh my memory hereafter, and which in case of my death
may perhaps afford as opinions contemporaneously recorded some
guiding light to other or others who may later on have to continue
and complete the tasks entrusted to me.
CONCERNING THE READING OF THE WILL OF ROGER MELTON.
When, beginning at 11 o'clock a.m. on this the forenoon of Thursday,
the 3rd day of January, 1907, I opened the Will and read it in full,
except the clauses contained in the letters marked "B" and "C"; there
were present in addition to myself, the following:
1. Ernest Halbard Melton, J.P, nephew of the testator.
2. Ernest Roger Halbard Melton, son of the above.
3. Rupert Sent Leger, nephew of the testator.
4. Major-General Sir Colin Alexander MacKelpie, Bart., co-executor
with myself of the Will.
5. Andrew Rossiter, my clerk, one of the witnesses of the testator's
6. Alfred Nugent, stenographer (of Messrs. Castle's office, 21,
Bream's Buildings, W.C.).
When the Will had been read, Mr. E. H. Melton asked the value of the
estate left by the testator, which query I did not feel empowered or
otherwise able to answer; and a further query, as to why those
present were not shown the secret clauses of the Will. I answered by
reading the instructions endorsed on the envelopes of the two letters
marked "B" and "C," which were sufficiently explanatory.
But, lest any question should hereafter arise as to the fact that the
memoranda in letters marked "B" and "C," which were to be read as
clauses 10 and 11 of the Will, I caused Rupert Sent Leger to open the
envelope marked "B" in the presence of all in the room. These all
signed a paper which I had already prepared, to the effect that they
had seen the envelope opened, and that the memorandum marked "B. To
be read as clause ten of my Will," was contained in the envelope, of
which it was to be the sole contents. Mr. Ernest Halbard Melton,
J.P., before signing, carefully examined with a magnifying-glass, for
which he had asked, both the envelope and the heading of the
memorandum enclosed in the letter. He was about to turn the folded
paper which was lying on the table over, by which he might have been
able to read the matter of the memorandum had he so desired. I at
once advised him that the memorandum he was to sign dealt only with
the heading of the page, and not with the matter. He looked very
angry, but said nothing, and after a second scrutiny signed. I put
the memorandum in an envelope, which we all signed across the flap.
Before signing, Mr Ernest Halbard Melton took out the paper and
verified it. I then asked him to close it, which he did, and when
the sealing-wax was on it he sealed it with his own seal. Sir Colin
A. MacKelpie and I also appended our own seals. I put the envelope
in another, which I sealed with my own seal, and my co-executor and I
signed it across the flap and added the date. I took charge of this.
When the others present had taken their departure, my co-executor and
I, together with Mr. Rupert Sent Leger, who had remained at my
request, went into my private room.
Here Mr. Rupert Sent Leger read the memorandum marked "B," which is
to be read as clause 10 of the Will. He is evidently a man of
considerable nerve, for his face was quite impassive as he read the
document, which conveyed to him (subject to the conditions laid down)
a fortune which has no equal in amount in Europe, even, so far as I
know, amongst the crowned heads. When he had read it over a second
time he stood up and said:
"I wish I had known my uncle better. He must have had the heart of a
king. I never heard of such generosity as he has shown me. Mr.
Trent, I see, from the conditions of this memorandum, or codicil, or
whatever it is, that I am to declare within a week as to whether I
accept the conditions imposed on me. Now, I want you to tell me
this: must I wait a week to declare?" In answer, I told him that
the testator's intention was manifestly to see that he had full time
to consider fully every point before making formal decision and
declaration. But, in answer to the specific question, I could answer
that he might make declaration when he would, provided it was WITHIN,
or rather not after, the week named. I added:
"But I strongly advise you not to act hurriedly. So enormous a sum
is involved that you may be sure that all possible efforts will be
made by someone or other to dispossess you of your inheritance, and
it will be well that everything shall be done, not only in perfect
order, but with such manifest care and deliberation that there can be
no question as to your intention."
"Thank you, sir," he answered; "I shall do as you shall kindly advise
me in this as in other things. But I may tell you now--and you, too,
my dear Sir Colin--that I not only accept my Uncle Roger's conditions
in this, but that when the time comes in the other matters I shall
accept every condition that he had in his mind--and that I may know
of--in everything." He looked exceedingly in earnest, and it gave me
much pleasure to see and hear him. It was just what a young man
should do who had seen so generously treated. As the time had now
come, I gave him the bulky letter addressed to him, marked "D" which
I had in my safe. As I fulfilled my obligation in the matter, I
"You need not read the letter here. You can take it away with you,
and read it by yourself at leisure. It is your own property, without
any obligation whatever attached to it. By the way, perhaps it would
be well if you knew. I have a copy sealed up in an envelope, and
endorsed, 'To be opened if occasion should arise,' but not otherwise.
Will you see me to-morrow, or, better still, dine with me alone here
to-night? I should like to have a talk with you, and you may wish to
ask me some questions." He answered me cordially. I actually felt
touched by the way he said good-bye before he went away. Sir Colin
MacKelpie went with him, as Sent Leger was to drop him at the Reform.
Letter from Roger Melton to Rupert Sent Leger, endorsed "D. re Rupert
Sent Leger. To be given to him by Edward Bingham Trent if and as
soon as he has declared (formally or informally) his intention of
accepting the conditions named in Letter B., forming Clause 10 in my
Will. R. M., 1/1/'07.
"Mem.--Copy (sealed) left in custody of E. B. Trent, to be opened if
necessary, as directed."
June 11, 1906.
MY DEAR NEPHEW,
When (if ever) you receive this you will know that (with the
exception of some definite bequests) I have left to you, under
certain conditions, the entire bulk of my fortune--a fortune so great
that by its aid as a help, a man of courage and ability may carve out
for himself a name and place in history. The specific conditions
contained in Clause 10 of my Will have to be observed, for such I
deem to be of service to your own fortune; but herein I give my
advice, which you are at liberty to follow or not as you will, and my
wishes, which I shall try to explain fully and clearly, so that you
may be in possession of my views in case you should desire to carry
them out, or, at least, to so endeavour that the results I hope for
may be ultimately achieved. First let me explain--for your
understanding and your guidance--that the power, or perhaps it had
better be called the pressure, behind the accumulation of my fortune
has been ambition. In obedience to its compulsion, I toiled early
and late until I had so arranged matters that, subject to broad
supervision, my ideas could be carried out by men whom I had selected
and tested, and not found wanting. This was for years to the
satisfaction, and ultimately to the accumulation by these men of
fortune commensurate in some measure to their own worth and their
importance to my designs. Thus I had accumulated, whilst still a
young man, a considerable fortune. This I have for over forty years
used sparingly as regards my personal needs, daringly with regard to
speculative investments. With the latter I took such very great
care, studying the conditions surrounding them so thoroughly, that
even now my schedule of bad debts or unsuccessful investments is
almost a blank. Perhaps by such means things flourished with me, and
wealth piled in so fast that at times I could hardly use it to
advantage. This was all done as the forerunner of ambition, but I
was over fifty years of age when the horizon of ambition itself
opened up to me. I speak thus freely, my dear Rupert, as when you
read it I shall have passed away, and not ambition nor the fear of
misunderstanding, nor even of scorn can touch me. My ventures in
commerce and finance covered not only the Far East, but every foot of
the way to it, so that the Mediterranean and all its opening seas
were familiar to me. In my journeyings up and down the Adriatic I
was always struck by the great beauty and seeming richness--native
richness--of the Land of the Blue Mountains. At last Chance took me
into that delectable region. When the "Balkan Struggle" of '90 was
on, one of the great Voivodes came to me in secret to arrange a large
loan for national purposes. It was known in financial circles of
both Europe and Asia that I took an active part in the haute
politique of national treasuries, and the Voivode Vissarion came to
me as to one able and willing to carry out his wishes. After
confidential pour-parlers, he explained to me that his nation was in
the throes of a great crisis. As you perhaps know, the gallant
little Nation in the Land of the Blue Mountains has had a strange
history. For more than a thousand years--ever since its settlement
after the disaster of Rossoro--it had maintained its national
independence under several forms of Government. At first it had a
King whose successors became so despotic that they were dethroned.
Then it was governed by its Voivodes, with the combining influence of
a Vladika somewhat similar in power and function to the Prince-
Bishops of Montenegro; afterwards by a Prince; or, as at present, by
an irregular elective Council, influenced in a modified form by the
Vladika, who was then supposed to exercise a purely spiritual
function. Such a Council in a small, poor nation did not have
sufficient funds for armaments, which were not immediately and
imperatively necessary; and therefore the Voivode Vissarion, who had
vast estates in his own possession, and who was the present
representative a family which of old had been leaders in the land,
found it a duty to do on his own account that which the State could
not do. For security as to the loan which he wished to get, and
which was indeed a vast one, he offered to sell me his whole estate
if I would secure to him a right to repurchase it within a given time
(a time which I may say has some time ago expired). He made it a
condition that the sale and agreement should remain a strict secret
between us, as a widespread knowledge that his estate had changed
hands would in all probability result in my death and his own at the
hands of the mountaineers, who are beyond everything loyal, and were
jealous to the last degree. An attack by Turkey was feared, and new
armaments were required; and the patriotic Voivode was sacrificing
his own great fortune for the public good. What a sacrifice this was
he well knew, for in all discussions regarding a possible change in
the Constitution of the Blue Mountains it was always taken for
granted that if the principles of the Constitution should change to a
more personal rule, his own family should be regarded as the Most
Noble. It had ever been on the side of freedom in olden time; before
the establishment of the Council, or even during the rule of the
Voivodes, the Vissarion had every now and again stood out against the
King or challenged the Princedom. The very name stood for freedom,
for nationality, against foreign oppression; and the bold
mountaineers were devoted to it, as in other free countries men
follow the flag.
Such loyalty was a power and a help in the land, for it knew danger
in every form; and anything which aided the cohesion of its integers
was a natural asset. On every side other powers, great and small,
pressed the land, anxious to acquire its suzerainty by any means--
fraud or force. Greece, Turkey, Austria, Russia, Italy, France, had
all tried in vain. Russia, often hurled back, was waiting an
opportunity to attack. Austria and Greece, although united by no
common purpose or design, were ready to throw in their forces with
whomsoever might seem most likely to be victor. Other Balkan States,
too, were not lacking in desire to add the little territory of the
Blue Mountains to their more ample possessions. Albania, Dalmatia,
Herzegovina, Servia, Bulgaria, looked with lustful eyes on the land,
which was in itself a vast natural fortress, having close under its
shelter perhaps the finest harbour between Gibraltar and the
But the fierce, hardy mountaineers were unconquerable. For centuries
they had fought, with a fervour and fury that nothing could withstand
or abate, attacks on their independence. Time after time, century
after century, they had opposed with dauntless front invading armies
sent against them. This unquenchable fire of freedom had had its
effect. One and all, the great Powers knew that to conquer that
little nation would be no mean task, but rather that of a tireless
giant. Over and over again had they fought with units against
hundreds, never ceasing until they had either wiped out their foes
entirely or seen them retreat across the frontier in diminished
For many years past, however, the Land of the Blue Mountains had
remained unassailable, for all the Powers and States had feared lest
the others should unite against the one who should begin the attack.
At the time I speak of there was a feeling throughout the Blue
Mountains--and, indeed, elsewhere--that Turkey was preparing for a
war of offence. The objective of her attack was not known anywhere,
but here there was evidence that the Turkish "Bureau of Spies" was in
active exercise towards their sturdy little neighbour. To prepare
for this, the Voivode Peter Vissarion approached me in order to
obtain the necessary "sinews of war."
The situation was complicated by the fact that the Elective Council
was at present largely held together by the old Greek Church, which
was the religion of the people, and which had had since the beginning
its destinies linked in a large degree with theirs. Thus it was
possible that if a war should break out, it might easily become--
whatever might have been its cause or beginnings--a war of creeds.
This in the Balkans must be largely one of races, the end of which no
mind could diagnose or even guess at.
I had now for some time had knowledge of the country and its people,
and had come to love them both. The nobility of Vissarion's self-
sacrifice at once appealed to me, and I felt that I, too, should like
to have a hand in the upholding of such a land and such a people.
They both deserved freedom. When Vissarion handed me the completed
deed of sale I was going to tear it up; but he somehow recognized my
intention, and forestalled it. He held up his hand arrestingly as he
"I recognize your purpose, and, believe me, I honour you for it from
the very depths of my soul. But, my friend, it must not be. Our
mountaineers are proud beyond belief. Though they would allow me--
who am one of themselves, and whose fathers have been in some way
leaders and spokesmen amongst them for many centuries--to do all that
is in my power to do--and what, each and all, they would be glad to
do were the call to them--they would not accept aid from one outside
themselves. My good friend, they would resent it, and might show to
you, who wish us all so well, active hostility, which might end in
danger, or even death. That was why, my friend, I asked to put a
clause in our agreement, that I might have right to repurchase my
estate, regarding which you would fain act so generously."
Thus it is, my dear nephew Rupert, only son of my dear sister, that I
hereby charge you solemnly as you value me--as you value yourself--as
you value honour, that, should it ever become known that that noble
Voivode, Peter Vissarion, imperilled himself for his country's good,
and if it be of danger or evil repute to him that even for such a
purpose he sold his heritage, you shall at once and to the knowledge
of the mountaineers--though not necessarily to others--reconvey to
him or his heirs the freehold that he was willing to part with--and
that he has de facto parted with by the effluxion of the time during
which his right of repurchase existed. This is a secret trust and
duty which is between thee and me alone in the first instance; a duty
which I have undertaken on behalf of my heirs, and which must be
carried out, at whatsoever cost may ensue. You must not take it that
it is from any mistrust of you or belief that you will fail that I
have taken another measure to insure that this my cherished idea is
borne out. Indeed, it is that the law may, in case of need--for no
man can know what may happen after his own hand be taken from the
plough--be complied with, that I have in another letter written for
the guidance of others, directed that in case of any failure to carry
out this trust--death or other--the direction become a clause or
codicil to my Will. But in the meantime I wish that this be kept a
secret between us two. To show you the full extent of my confidence,
let me here tell you that the letter alluded to above is marked "C,"
and directed to my solicitor and co-executor, Edward Bingham Trent,
which is finally to be regarded as clause eleven of my Will. To
which end he has my instructions and also a copy of this letter,
which is, in case of need, and that only, to be opened, and is to be
a guide to my wishes as to the carrying out by you of the conditions
on which you inherit.
And now, my dear nephew, let me change to another subject more dear
to me--yourself. When you read this I shall have passed away, so
that I need not be hampered now by that reserve which I feel has
grown upon me through a long and self-contained life. Your mother
was very dear to me. As you know, she was twenty years younger than
her youngest brother, who was two years younger than me. So we were
all young men when she was a baby, and, I need not say, a pet amongst
us--almost like our own child to each of us, as well as our sister.
You knew her sweetness and high quality, so I need say nothing of
these; but I should like you to understand that she was very dear to
me. When she and your father came to know and love each other I was
far away, opening up a new branch of business in the interior of
China, and it was not for several months that I got home news. When
I first heard of him they had already been married. I was delighted
to find that they were very happy. They needed nothing that I could
give. When he died so suddenly I tried to comfort her, and all I had
was at her disposal, did she want it. She was a proud woman--though
not with me. She had come to understand that, though I seemed cold
and hard (and perhaps was so generally), I was not so to her. But
she would not have help of any kind. When I pressed her, she told me
that she had enough for your keep and education and her own
sustenance for the time she must still live; that your father and she
had agreed that you should be brought up to a healthy and strenuous
life rather than to one of luxury; and she thought that it would be
better for the development of your character that you should learn to
be self-reliant and to be content with what your dear father had left
you. She had always been a wise and thoughtful girl, and now all her
wisdom and thought were for you, your father's and her child. When
she spoke of you and your future, she said many things which I
thought memorable. One of them I remember to this day. It was
apropos of my saying that there is a danger of its own kind in
extreme poverty. A young man might know too much want. She answered
me: "True! That is so! But there is a danger that overrides it;"
and after a time went on:
"It is better not to know wants than not to know want!" I tell you,
boy, that is a great truth, and I hope you will remember it for
yourself as well as a part of the wisdom of your mother. And here
let me say something else which is a sort of corollary of that wise
I dare say you thought me very hard and unsympathetic that time I
would not, as one of your trustees, agree to your transferring your
little fortune to Miss MacKelpie. I dare say you bear a grudge
towards me about it up to this day. Well, if you have any of that
remaining, put it aside when you know the truth. That request of
yours was an unspeakable delight to me. It was like your mother
coming back from the dead. That little letter of yours made me wish
for the first time that I had a son--and that he should be like you.
I fell into a sort of reverie, thinking if I were yet too old to
marry, so that a son might be with me in my declining years--if such
were to ever be for me. But I concluded that this might not be.
There was no woman whom I knew or had ever met with that I could love
as your mother loved your father and as he loved her. So I resigned
myself to my fate. I must go my lonely road on to the end. And then
came a ray of light into my darkness: there was you. Though you
might not feel like a son to me--I could not expect it when the
memory of that sweet relationship was more worthily filled. But I
could feel like a father to you. Nothing could prevent that or
interfere with it, for I would keep it as my secret in the very holy
of holies of my heart, where had been for thirty years the image of a
sweet little child--your mother. My boy, when in your future life
you shall have happiness and honour and power, I hope you will
sometimes give a thought to the lonely old man whose later years your
very existence seemed to brighten.
The thought of your mother recalled me to my duty. I had undertaken
for her a sacred task: to carry out her wishes regarding her son. I
knew how she would have acted. It might--would--have been to her a
struggle of inclination and duty; and duty would have won. And so I
carried out my duty, though I tell you it was a harsh and bitter task
to me at the time. But I may tell you that I have since been glad
when I think of the result. I tried, as you may perhaps remember, to
carry out your wishes in another way, but your letter put the
difficulty of doing so so clearly before me that I had to give it up.
And let me tell you that that letter endeared you to me more than
I need not tell you that thenceforth I followed your life very
closely. When you ran away to sea, I used in secret every part of
the mechanism of commerce to find out what had become of you. Then,
until you had reached your majority, I had a constant watch kept upon
you--not to interfere with you in any way, but so that I might be
able to find you should need arise. When in due course I heard of
your first act on coming of age I was satisfied. I had to know of
the carrying out of your original intention towards Janet Mac Kelpie,
for the securities had to be transferred.
From that time on I watched--of course through other eyes--your chief
doings. It would have been a pleasure to me to have been able to
help in carrying out any hope or ambition of yours, but I realized
that in the years intervening between your coming of age and the
present moment you were fulfilling your ideas and ambitions in your
own way, and, as I shall try to explain to you presently, my
ambitions also. You were of so adventurous a nature that even my own
widely-spread machinery of acquiring information--what I may call my
private "intelligence department"--was inadequate. My machinery was
fairly adequate for the East--in great part, at all events. But you
went North and South, and West also, and, in addition, you essayed
realms where commerce and purely real affairs have no foothold--
worlds of thought, of spiritual import, of psychic phenomena--
speaking generally, of mysteries. As now and again I was baffled in
my inquiries, I had to enlarge my mechanism, and to this end started-
-not in my own name, of course--some new magazines devoted to certain
branches of inquiry and adventure. Should you ever care to know more
of these things, Mr. Trent, in whose name the stock is left, will be
delighted to give you all details. Indeed, these stocks, like all
else I have, shall be yours when the time comes, if you care to ask
for them. By means of The Journal of Adventure, The Magazine of
Mystery, Occultism, Balloon and Aeroplane, The Submarine, Jungle and
Pampas, The Ghost World, The Explorer, Forest and Island, Ocean and
Creek, I was often kept informed when I should otherwise have been
ignorant of your whereabouts and designs. For instance, when you had
disappeared into the Forest of the Incas, I got the first whisper of
your strange adventures and discoveries in the buried cities of
Eudori from a correspondent of The Journal of Adventure long before
the details given in The Times of the rock-temple of the primeval
savages, where only remained the little dragon serpents, whose giant
ancestors were rudely sculptured on the sacrificial altar. I well
remember how I thrilled at even that meagre account of your going in
alone into that veritable hell. It was from Occultism that I learned
how you had made a stay alone in the haunted catacombs of Elora, in
the far recesses of the Himalayas, and of the fearful experiences
which, when you came out shuddering and ghastly, overcame to almost
epileptic fear those who had banded themselves together to go as far
as the rock-cut approach to the hidden temple.
All such things I read with rejoicing. You were shaping yourself for
a wider and loftier adventure, which would crown more worthily your
matured manhood. When I read of you in a description of Mihask, in
Madagascar, and the devil-worship there rarely held, I felt I had
only to wait for your home-coming in order to broach the enterprise I
had so long contemplated. This was what I read:
"He is a man to whom no adventure is too wild or too daring. His
reckless bravery is a byword amongst many savage peoples and amongst
many others not savages, whose fears are not of material things, but
of the world of mysteries in and beyond the grave. He dares not only
wild animals and savage men; but has tackled African magic and Indian
mysticism. The Psychical Research Society has long exploited his
deeds of valiance, and looked upon him as perhaps their most trusted
agent or source of discovery. He is in the very prime of life, of
almost giant stature and strength, trained to the use of all arms of
all countries, inured to every kind of hardship, subtle-minded and
resourceful, understanding human nature from its elemental form up.
To say that he is fearless would be inadequate. In a word, he is a
man whose strength and daring fit him for any enterprise of any kind.
He would dare and do anything in the world or out of it, on the earth
or under it, in the sea or--in the air, fearing nothing material or
unseen, not man or ghost, nor God nor Devil."
If you ever care to think of it, I carried that cutting in my pocket-
book from that hour I read it till now.
Remember, again, I say, that I never interfered in the slightest way
in any of your adventures. I wanted you to "dree your own weird," as
the Scotch say; and I wanted to know of it--that was all. Now, as I
hold you fully equipped for greater enterprise, I want to set your
feet on the road and to provide you with the most potent weapon--
beyond personal qualities--for the winning of great honour--a gain,
my dear nephew, which, I am right sure, does and will appeal to you
as it has ever done to me. I have worked for it for more than fifty
years; but now that the time has come when the torch is slipping from
my old hands, I look to you, my dearest kinsman, to lift it and carry
The little nation of the Blue Mountains has from the first appealed
to me. It is poor and proud and brave. Its people are well worth
winning, and I would advise you to throw in your lot with them. You
may find them hard to win, for when peoples, like individuals, are
poor and proud, these qualities are apt to react on each other to an
endless degree. These men are untamable, and no one can ever succeed
with them unless he is with them in all-in-all, and is a leader
recognized. But if you can win them they are loyal to death. If you
are ambitious--and I know you are--there may be a field for you in
such a country. With your qualifications, fortified by the fortune
which I am happy enough to be able to leave you, you may dare much
and go far. Should I be alive when you return from your exploration
in Northern South America, I may have the happiness of helping you to
this or any other ambition, and I shall deem it a privilege to share
it with you; but time is going on. I am in my seventy-second year .
. . the years of man are three-score and ten--I suppose you
understand; I do . . . Let me point out this: For ambitious projects
the great nationalities are impossible to a stranger--and in our own
we are limited by loyalty (and common-sense). It is only in a small
nation that great ambitions can be achieved. If you share my own
views and wishes, the Blue .Mountains is your ground. I hoped at one
time that I might yet become a Voivode--even a great one. But age
has dulled my personal ambitions as it has cramped my powers. I no
longer dream of such honour for myself, though I do look on it as a
possibility for you if you care for it. Through my Will you will
have a great position and a great estate, and though you may have to
yield up the latter in accordance with my wish, as already expressed
in this letter, the very doing so will give you an even greater hold
than this possession in the hearts of the mountaineers, should they
ever come to know it. Should it be that at the time you inherit from
me the Voivode Vissarion should not be alive, it may serve or aid you
to know that in such case you would be absolved from any conditions
of mine, though I trust you would in that, as in all other matters,
hold obligation enforced by your own honour as to my wishes.
Therefore the matter stands thus: If Vissarion lives, you will
relinquish the estates. Should such not be the case, you will act as
you believe that I would wish you to. In either case the
mountaineers should not know from you in any way of the secret
contracts between Vissarion and myself. Enlightenment of the many
should (if ever) come from others than yourself. And unless such
take place, you would leave the estates without any quid pro quo
whatever. This you need not mind, for the fortune you will inherit
will leave you free and able to purchase other estates in the Blue
Mountains or elsewhere that you may select in the world.
If others attack, attack them, and quicker and harder than they can,
if such be a possibility. Should it ever be that you inherit the
Castle of Vissarion on the Spear of Ivan, remember that I had it
secretly fortified and armed against attack. There are not only
massive grilles, but doors of chilled bronze where such be needed.
My adherent Rooke, who has faithfully served me for nearly forty
years, and has gone on my behalf on many perilous expeditions, will,
I trust, serve you in the same way. Treat him well for my sake, if
not for your own. I have left him provision for a life of ease; but
he would rather take a part in dangerous enterprises. He is silent
as the grave and as bold as a lion. He knows every detail of the
fortification and of the secret means of defence. A word in your
ear--he was once a pirate. He was then in his extreme youth, and
long since changed his ways in this respect; but from this fact you
can understand his nature. You will find him useful should occasion
ever arise. Should you accept the conditions of my letter, you are
to make the Blue Mountains--in part, at least--your home, living
there a part of the year, if only for a week, as in England men of
many estates share the time amongst them. To this you are not bound,
and no one shall have power to compel you or interfere with you. I
only express a hope. But one thing I do more than hope--I desire, if
you will honour my wishes, that, come what may, you are to keep your
British nationality, unless by special arrangement with and consent
of the Privy Council. Such arrangement to be formally made by my
friend, Edward Bingham Trent, or whomsoever he may appoint by deed or
will to act in the matter, and made in such a way that no act save
that alone of Parliament in all its estates, and endorsed by the
King, may or can prevail against it.
My last word to you is, Be bold and honest, and fear not. Most
things--even kingship--SOMEWHERE may now and again be won by the
sword. A brave heart and a strong arm may go far. But whatever is
so won cannot be held merely by the sword. Justice alone can hold in
the long run. Where men trust they will follow, and the rank and
file of people want to follow, not to lead. If it be your fortune to
lead, be bold. Be wary, if you will; exercise any other faculties
that may aid or guard. Shrink from nothing. Avoid nothing that is
honourable in itself. Take responsibility when such presents itself.
What others shrink from, accept. That is to be great in what world,
little or big, you move. Fear nothing, no matter of what kind danger
may be or whence it come. The only real way to meet danger is to
despise it--except with your brains. Meet it in the gate, not the
My kinsman, the name of my race and your own, worthily mingled in
your own person, now rests with you!
Letter from Rupert Sent Leger, 32 Bodmin Street, Victoria, S.W., to
Miss Janet MacKelpie, Croom, Ross-shire.
January 3, 1907.
MY DEAREST AUNT JANET,
You will, I know, be rejoiced to hear of the great good-fortune which
has come to me through the Will of Uncle Roger. Perhaps Sir Colin
will have written to you, as he is one of the executors, and there is
a bequest to you, so I must not spoil his pleasure of telling you of
that part himself. Unfortunately, I am not free to speak fully of my
own legacy yet, but I want you to know that at worst I am to receive
an amount many times more than I ever dreamt of possessing through
any possible stroke of fortune. So soon as I can leave London--
where, of course, I must remain until things are settled--I am coming
up to Croom to see you, and I hope I shall by then be able to let you
know so much that you will be able to guess at the extraordinary
change that has come to my circumstances. It is all like an