Birds of Prey
Part 4 out of 9
cost eighteenpence or eighteen shillings; whether he rode in the most
perfect of broughams or walked in the mud. He took no heed for the
future; he forgot the past, and abandoned himself heart and soul to the
new delights of the present.
Never had Philip Sheldon found so willing a tool, so cheap a drudge.
Valentine was ready to do anything or everything for Charlotte's
stepfather, since his relations with that gentleman enabled him to
spend so much of his life with Charlotte.
But even in this sublimated state of mind Mr. Hawkehurst was not exempt
from the great necessity of Mr. Skimpole and humanity at large. He
wanted pounds. His garments were shabby, and he desired new and elegant
raiment in which to appear to advantage before the eyes of the woman he
loved. It had been his privilege on several occasions to escort Mrs.
Sheldon and the two younger ladies to a theatre; and even this
privilege had cost him money. He wanted pounds to expend upon those new
books and music which served so often as the excuse for a visit to the
Lawn. He wanted pounds for very trivial purposes; but he wanted them
desperately. A lover without pounds is the most helpless and
contemptible of mankind; he is a knight-errant without his armour,
a troubadour without his lute.
In his dilemma Mr. Hawkehurst resorted to that simple method which
civilisation has devised for the relief of pecuniary difficulties of a
temporary nature. He had met George Sheldon several times at the Lawn,
and had become tolerably intimate with that gentleman, whom he now knew
to be "the Sheldon of Gray's Inn," and the ally and agent of certain
bill-discounters. To George he went one morning; and after requesting
that Captain Paget should know nothing of his application, explained
his requirements. It was a very small sum which he asked for, modestly
conscious that the security he had to offer was of the weakest. He only
wanted thirty pounds, and was willing to give a bill at two months for
There was a good deal of hesitation on the part of the lawyer; but
Valentine had expected to meet with some difficulty, and was not
altogether unprepared for a point-blank refusal. He was agreeably
surprised when George Sheldon told him he would manage that "little
matter; only the bill must be for forty." But in proof of the liberal
spirit in which Mr. Hawkehurst was to be treated, the friendly lawyer
informed him that the two months should be extended to three.
Valentine did not stop to consider that by this friendly process he was
to pay at the rate of something over a hundred and thirty per cent per
annum for the use of the money he wanted. He knew that this was his
only chance of getting money; so he shut his eyes to the expensive
nature of the transaction, and thanked Mr. Sheldon for the
accommodation granted to him.
"And now we've settled that little business, I should like to have a
few minutes' private chat with you," said George, "on the understanding
that what passes between you and me is strictly confidential."
"You seem to have been leading rather an idle life for the last few
months; and it strikes me, Mr. Hawkehurst, you're too clever a fellow
to care about that sort of thing."
"Well, I have been in some measure wasting my sweetness on the desert
air," Valentine answered carelessly. "The governor seems to have
slipped into a good berth by your brother's agency; but I am not
Horatio Nugent Cromie Paget, and the brougham and lavender kids of the
Promoter are not for me."
"There is money to be picked up by better dodges than promoting,"
replied the attorney ambiguously; "but I suppose you wouldn't care for
anything that didn't bring immediate cash? You wouldn't care to
speculate the chances, however well the business might promise?"
"_C'est selon!_ That's as may be," answered Valentine coolly. "You see
those affairs that promise so much are apt to fail when it comes to a
question of performance. I'm not a capitalist; I can't afford to become
a speculator. I've been living from hand to mouth lately by means of
occasional contributions to a sporting weekly, and a little bit of
business which your brother threw in my way. I've been able to be
tolerably useful to him, and he promises to get me something in the way
of a clerkship, foreign correspondence, and that kind of thing."
"Humph!" muttered George Sheldon; "that means eighty pounds a year and
fourteen hours' work a day, letters that must be answered by this mail,
and so on. I don't think that kind of drudgery would ever suit you,
Hawkehurst. You've not served the right apprenticeship for that sort of
thing; you ought to try for some higher game. What should you say to an
affair that might put two or three thousand pounds in your pocket if it
"I should fed very much inclined to fancy it a bubble--one of those
dazzling rainbow-tinted globes which look so bright dancing about in
the sunshine, and explode into nothing directly they encounter any
tangible substance. However, my dear Sheldon, if you really have any
employment to offer to a versatile young man who is not overburdened
with vulgar prejudices, you'd better put the business in plain words."
"I will," answered George; "but it's not an affair that can be
discussed in five minutes. It's rather a serious matter, and involves a
good deal of consideration. I know that you're a man of the world, and
a very clever fellow into the bargain; but there's something more than
that wanted for this business, and that is patience. The hare is a very
fine animal in her way, you know; but a man must have a little of the
tortoise in him if he wants to achieve anything out of the common run
in the way of good luck. I have been working, and waiting, and
speculating the chances for the last fifteen years, and I think I've
got a good chance at last. But there's a good deal of work to be done
before the business is finished; and I find that I must have some one
to help me."
"What sort of business is it?"
"The search for the heir-at-law of a man who has died intestate within
the last ten years."
The two men looked at each other at this juncture; and Valentine
Hawkehurst smiled significantly.
"Within the last ten years?" he said. "That's rather a wide margin."
"Do you think you would be a good hand at hunting up the missing links
in the chain of a family history?" asked Mr. Sheldon. "It's rather
tiresome work, you know, and requires no common amount of patience and
"I can persevere," said Valentine decisively, "if you can show me that
it will be worth my while to do so. You want an heir-at-law, and I'm to
look for him. What am I to get while I'm looking for him? and what is
to be my reward if I find him?"
"I'll give you a pound a week and your travelling expenses while you're
employed in the search; and I'll give you three thousand pounds on the
day the heir gets his rights."
"Humph!" muttered Mr. Hawkehurst, rather doubtfully; "three thousand
pounds is a very respectable haul. But then, you see, I may fail to
discover the heir; and even if I do find him the chances are ten to one
that the business would be thrown into Chancery at the last moment; in
which case I might wait till doomsday for the reward of my labours."
George Sheldon shrugged his shoulders impatiently. He had expected this
penniless adventurer to catch eagerly at the chance he offered. "Three
thousand pounds are not to be picked up in the streets," he said. "If
you don't care to work with me, I can find plenty of clever fellows in
London who'll jump at the business."
"And you want me to begin work--?"
"And how am I to pay forty pounds in three months out of a pound a
"Never mind the bill," said Mr. Sheldon, with lofty generosity. "If you
work heart and soul for me, I'll square that little matter for you;
I'll get it renewed for another three months."
"In that case I'm your man. I don't mind a little hard work just now,
and I can live upon a pound a week where another man would starve. So
now for my instructions."
There was a brief pause, during which the lawyer refreshed himself by
walking up and down his office two or three times with his hands in his
pockets. After which relief he seated himself before his desk, took out
a sheet of foolscap, and selected a pen from the inkstand.
"It's just as well to put things in a thoroughly business-like manner,"
he said presently. "I suppose you'd have no objection to signing a
memorandum of agreement--nothing that would be of any use in a court of
law, you know, but a simple understanding between man and man, for our
own satisfaction, as a safeguard against all possibility of
misunderstanding in the future. I've every reason to consider you the
most honourable of men, you know; but honourable men turn round upon
each other sometimes. You might ask me for something more than three
thou' if you succeeded in your search."
"Precisely; or I might make terms with the heir-at-law, and throw you
over. Perhaps that was your idea?"
"Not exactly. The first half of the chain is in my hands, and the
second half will be worth nothing without it. But to prevent all
unpleasantness we may as well put our intentions upon record."
"I've not the least objection," replied Valentine with supreme
indifference. "Draw up whatever memorandum you please, and I'll sign
it. If you don't mind smoke, I should like to console myself with a
cigar while you draw the bond."
The question was a polite formula, the atmosphere of George Sheldon's
office being redolent of stale tobacco.
"Smoke away," said the lawyer; "and if you can drink brandy-and-soda at
this time of day, you'll find the _de quoi_ in that cupboard. Make
yourself at home."
Mr. Hawkehurst declined the brandy-and-soda, and regaled himself only
with a cigar, which he took from his own case. He sat in one of the
second-floor windows smoking, and looking dreamily into the gardens,
while George Sheldon drew up the agreement. He was thinking that any
hazard which took him away from London and Charlotte Halliday might be
a fortunate one.
The lawyer finished his document, which he read aloud for the benefit
of the gentleman who was to sign it. The agreement was in the following
"Memorandum of agreement between George Sheldon on the one part, and
Valentine Hawkehurst on the other part, whereby it is this day mutually
agreed by and between the parties hereto as follows:
"1. That, in consideration of a weekly salary of one pound while in
pursuit of certain inquiries, and of the sum of three thousand pounds
to be paid upon the arising of a certain event, namely, the
establishment of an heir-at-law to the estates of the late John
Haygarth, the said Valentine Hawkehurst shall act as agent for the said
George Sheldon, and shall not at any time during the continuance of
this agreement do any act to prejudice the inquiry or the steps now
being taken by the said George Sheldon to discover and establish an
heir-at-law to the estates of the late John Haygarth.
"2. That at no time hereafter shall the said Valentine Hawkehurst be
entitled to a larger recompense than is herein-before provided; nor
shall he be liable to the said George Sheldon for the return of any
moneys which the said George Sheldon may advance on account of the
said inquiries in the event of the same not resulting in the
establishment of an heir to the estates of the late John Haygarth.
"3. That the said Valentine Hawkehurst shall not alter his character of
agent to the said George Sheldon during the prosecution of the said
inquiry; that he shall deliver over to the said George Sheldon all
documents and other forms of evidence that may arise from his, the said
Valentine Hawkehurst's, inquires; and that he shall week by week,
and every week, and as often as may be necessary, report to the said
George Sheldon the result of such inquiries, and that he shall not
on any pretence whatever be at liberty to withhold such fruits of his
researches, nor discover the same to any one else than the said George
Sheldon, under a penalty of ten thousand pounds, to be recovered as
liquidated damages previously agreed between the parties as the measure
of damages payable to the said George Sheldon upon the breach of
this agreement by the said Valentine Hawkehurst.
"In witness whereof the parties hereto have this 20th day of September
1862 set their hands and affixed their seals." "That sounds stiff
enough to hold water in a court of law," said Valentine, when George
Sheldon had recited the contents of the document.
"I don't suppose it would be much good in Chancery-lane," returned the
lawyer carelessly; "though I daresay it sounds rather formidable to
you. When one gets the trick of the legal jargon, it's not easy to draw
the simplest form of agreement without a few superfluous words. I may
as well call in my clerk to witness our signatures, I suppose."
"Call in any one you like."
The clerk was summoned from a sunless and airless den at the back of
his principal's office. The two men appended their signatures to the
document; the clerk added his in witness of the genuine nature of those
signatures. It was an affair of two minutes. The clerk was dismissed.
Mr. Sheldon blotted and folded the memorandum, and laid it aside in one
of the drawers of his desk.
"Come," he said cheerily, "that's a business-like beginning at any
rate. And now you'd better have some brandy-and-soda, for what I've got
to say will take some time in the saying of it."
On this occasion Mr. Hawkehurst accepted the lawyer's hospitality, and
there was some little delay before the conversation proceeded.
It was a very long conversation. Mr. Sheldon produced a bundle of
papers, and exhibited some of them to his agent, beginning with that
advertisement in the _Times_ which had first attracted his notice, but
taking very good care _not_ to show his coadjutor the obituary in the
_Observer_, wherein the amount of the intestate's fortune was stated.
The ready wits which had been sharpened at so many different
grindstones proved keen enough for the occasion. Valentine Hawkehurst
had had little to do with genealogies or baptismal registers during his
past career; but his experiences were of such a manifold nature that he
was not easily to be baffled or mystified by any new experience. He
showed himself almost as quick at tracing up the intricacies of a
family tree as Mr. Sheldon, the astute attorney and practised
"I have traced these Haygarths back to the intestate's great-grandfather,
who was a carpenter and a Puritan in the reign of Charles the First. He
seems to have made money--how I have not been able to discover with any
certainty; but it is more than probable he served in the civil wars, and
came in for some of the plunder those crop-eared, psalm-singing,
pierce-the-brain-of-the-tyrant-with-the-nail-of-Jael scoundrels were
always in the way of, at the sack of Royalist mansions. The man made
money; and his son, the grandfather of the intestate, was a wealthy
citizen in the reigns of Anne and the first George. He was a grocer,
and lived in the market-place of Ullerton in Leicestershire; an
out-of-the-way sleepy place it is now, but was prosperous enough in
those days, I daresay. This man (the grandfather) began the world well
off, and amassed a large fortune before he had done with it. The lucky
beggar lived in the days when free trade and competition were unknown,
when tea was something like sixty shillings a pound, and when a
psalm-singing sleek-haired fellow, with a reputation for wealth and
honesty, might cheat his customers to his heart's content. He had one
son, Matthew, who seems, from what I can gather, to have been a wild sort
of fellow in the early part of his career, and not to have been at any
time on the best possible terms with the sanctimonious dad. This
Matthew married at fifty-three years of age, and died a year after his
marriage, leaving one son, who afterwards became the reverend
intestate; with whom, according to the evidence at present before me,
ends the direct line of the Haygarths." The lawyer paused, turned over
two or three papers, and then resumed his explanation. "The
sanctimonious grocer, Jonathan Haygarth, had one other child besides
the son--a daughter called Ruth, who married a certain Peter Judson,
and became the mother of a string of sons and daughters; and it is
amongst the descendants of these Judsons that we may have to look for
our heir at law, unless we find him nearer home. Now my idea is that we
_shall_ find him nearer home."
"What reason have you for forming that idea?" asked Valentine.
"I will tell you. This Matthew Haygarth is known to have been a wild
fellow. I obtained a good deal of fragmentary information about him
from an old man in some almshouses at Ullerton, whose grandfather was a
schoolfellow of Matthew's. He was a scapegrace, and was always spending
money in London while the respectable psalm-singer was hoarding it in
Ullerton. There used to be desperate quarrels between the two men, and
towards the end of Jonathan Haygarth's life the old man made half a
dozen different wills in favour of half a dozen different people, and
cutting off scapegrace Matthew with a shilling. Fortunately for
scapegrace Matthew, the old man had a habit of quarrelling with his
dearest friends--a fashion not quite exploded in this enlightened
nineteenth century--and the wills were burnt one after another, until
the worthy Jonathan became as helpless and foolish as his great
contemporary and namesake, the Dean of St. Patrick's; and after having
died 'first at top,' did his son the favour to die altogether,
_intestate_, whereby the roisterer and spendthrift of Soho and
Covent-garden came into a very handsome fortune. The old man died in
1766, aged eighty; a very fine specimen of your good old English
tradesman of the Puritanical school. The roisterer, Matthew, was by
this time forty-six years of age, and, I suppose, had grown tired of
roistering. In any case he appears to have settled down very quietly in
the old family house in the Ullerton market-place, where he married a
respectable damsel of the Puritan school, some seven years after, and
in which house, or in the neighbourhood whereof, he departed this life,
with awful suddenness, one year after his marriage, leaving his son and
heir, the reverend intestate. And now, my dear Hawkehurst, you're a
sharp fellow, and I daresay a good hand at guessing social conundrums;
so perhaps you begin to see my idea."
"I can't say I do."
"My notion is, that Matthew Haygarth may possibly have married before
he was fifty-three years of age. Men of his stamp don't often live to
that ripe age without being caught in matrimonial toils somehow or
other. It was in the days of Fleet marriages--in the days when young
men about town were even more reckless and more likely to become the
prey of feminine deception than they are now. The fact that Matthew
Haygarth revealed no such marriage is no conclusive evidence against my
hypothesis. He died very suddenly--intestate, as it seems the habit of
these Haygarths to die; and he had never made any adjustment of his
affairs. According to the oldest inhabitant in Ullerton almshouses,
this Matthew was a very handsome fellow, generous-hearted, open-handed
--a devil-may-care kind of a chap, the type of the rollicking heroes in
old comedies; the very man to fall over head and ears in love before he
was twenty, and to go through fire and water for the sake of the woman
he loved: in short, the very last man upon earth to live a bachelor
until his fifty-fourth year."
"He may have been a profligate, you were going to say, and have had
baser ties than those of Church and State. So he may; but if he was a
scoundrel, tradition flatters him. Of course all the information one
can gather about a man who died in 1774 must needs be of a very
uncertain and fragmentary character. But if I can trust the rather hazy
recollections of my oldest inhabitant about what his father told him
_his_ father had said of wild Mat Haygarth, the young man's wildness
was very free from vice. There is no legend of innocence betrayed or
infamy fostered by Matthew Haygarth. He appears to have enjoyed what
the young men of that day called life--attended cock-fights, beat the
watch, gambled a little, and was intimately acquainted with the
interior of the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons. For nearly twenty years
he seems to have lived in London; and during all those years he was
lost sight of by the Ullerton people. My oldest inhabitant's
grandfather was clerk to a merchant in the city of London, and had
therefore some opportunity of knowing his old schoolfellow's
proceedings in the metropolis. But the two townsmen don't seem to have
seen much of each other in the big city. Their meetings were rare, and,
so far as I can make out, for the most part accidental. But, as I said
before, my oldest inhabitant is somewhat hazy, and excruciatingly
prolix; his chaff is in the proportion of some fifty to one of his
wheat. I've given a good deal of time to this case already, you see,
Mr. Hawkehurst; and you'll find _your_ work very smooth sailing
compared to what I've gone through."
"I daresay that sort of investigation is rather tiresome in the earlier
"You'd say so, with a vengeance, if you had to do it," answered George
Sheldon almost savagely. "You start with the obituary of some old bloke
who was so disgustingly old when he consented to die that there is no
one living who can tell you when he was born, or who were his father
and mother; for, of course, the old idiot takes care not to leave a
blessed document of any kind which can aid a fellow in his researches.
And when you've had the trouble of hunting up half a dozen men of the
same name, and have addled your wretched brains in the attempt to patch
the half dozen men--turning up at different periods and in different
places--into one man, they all tumble to pieces like a child's puzzle,
and you find yourself as far as ever from the man you want. However,
_you_ won't have to do any of that work," added Mr. Sheldon, who was
almost in a passion when he remembered the trouble he had gone through.
"The ground has been all laid out for you, by Jove, as smooth as a
bowling-green; and if you look sharp, you'll pick up your, three thou'
before you know where you are."
"I hope I shall," answered Valentine coolly. He was not the sort of
person to go into raptures about three thousand pounds, though such a
sum must needs have seemed to him the wealth of a small Rothschild. "I
know I want money badly enough, and am ready and willing to work for it
conscientiously, if I get the chance. But to return to this Matthew
Haygarth. Your idea is that there may have been a marriage previous to
the one at Ullerton?"
"Precisely. Of course there may have been no such previous marriage;
but you see it's on the cards; and since it is on the cards, my notion
is that we had better hunt up the history of Matthew Haygarth's life in
London, and try to find our heir-at-law there before we go in for the
Judsons. If you knew how the Judsons have married and multiplied, and
lost themselves among herds of other people, you wouldn't care about
tracing the ramifications of _their_ family tree," said Mr. Sheldon,
with a weary sigh. "So be it," exclaimed Mr. Hawkehurst carelessly;
"we'll leave the Judsons alone, and go in for Matthew Haygarth."
He spoke with the air of an archaeological Hercules, to whom
difficulties were nothing. It seemed as if he would have been quite
ready to "go in" for some sidereal branch of the Plantagenets, or the
female descendants of the Hardicanute family, if George Sheldon had
suggested that the intestate's next of kin was to be found _there_.
"Mat Haygarth, by all means," he said. He was on jolly-good-fellow-ish
terms with the dead-and-gone grocer's son already, and had the tone of
a man who had been his friend and boon companion. "Mat Haygarth is our
man. But how are we to ferret out his doings in London? A man who was
born in 1720 is rather a remote kind of animal."
"The secret of success in these matters is time," answered the lawyer
sententiously: "a man must have no end of time, and he must keep his
brain clear of all other business. Those two conditions are impossible
for me, and that's why I want a coadjutor: now you're a clever young
fellow, with no profession, with no particular social ties, as I can
make out, and your time is all your own; ergo, you're the very man for
this business. The thing is to be done: accept that for a certainty.
It's only a question of time. Indeed, when you look at life
philosophically, what is there on earth that is _not_ a question of
time? Give the crossing-sweeper between this and Chancery-lane time
enough, and he might develop into a Rothschild. He might want nine
hundred years or so to do it in; but there's no doubt he could do it,
if you gave him time."
Mr. Sheldon was becoming expansive under the influence of the
brandy-and-soda; for even that mild beverage is not without its effect
on the intellectual man.
"As to this Haygarth case," he resumed, after the consumption of a
little more soda and a little more brandy, "it's a sure success, if we
work it properly; and you know three thou' is not to be despised,"
added George persuasively, "even if a fellow has to wait some time for
"Certainly not. And the bulk of the Haygarthian fortune--I suppose
that's something rather stiff?" returned Valentine, in the same
"Well, you may suppose it's a decent figure," answered Mr. Sheldon,
with an air of deprecation, "or how could I afford to give you three
thou' out of the share I'm likely to get?"
"No, to be sure. I think I shall take to the work well enough when once
I get my hand in; but I shall be very glad of any hint you can give me
"Well, my advice is this: begin at the beginning; go down to Ullerton;
see my oldest inhabitant. I pumped him as dry as I could, but I
couldn't give myself enough time for thoroughly exhaustive pumping; one
has to waste a small eternity before one gets anything valuable out of
those hazy old fellows. Follow up this Matthew from his birth; see the
place where he was born; ferret out every detail of his life, so far
as it is to be ferreted; trace his way step by step to London, and
when you get him there, stick to him like a leech. Don't let him slip
through your fingers for a day; hunt him from lodging to lodging,
from tavern to tavern, into jail and out of jail--tantivy, yoicks,
hark-forward! I know it's deuced hard work; but a man must work
uncommonly hard in these days before he picks up three thou'. In a
few words, the game is all before you; so go in and win," concluded
George Sheldon, as he poured the last amber drops from the slim
smoke-coloured bottle, and swallowed his glass of brandy undiluted
After that interview in Gray's Inn, there were more interviews of a
like character. Valentine received further instructions from George
Sheldon, and got himself posted up in the Haygarthian history, so far
as the lawyer's information furnished the materials for such posting.
But the sum total of Mr. Sheldon's information seemed very little to
his coadjutor when the young man looked the Haygarthian business full
in the face and considered what he had to do. He felt very much like a
young prince in the fairy tale who has been bidden to go forth upon an
adventurous journey in a trackless forest, where if he escape all
manner of lurking dangers, and remember innumerable injunctions, such
as not to utter a single syllable during the whole course of his
travels, or look over his left shoulder, or pat any strange dog, or
gather forest fruit or flower, or look at his own reflection in mirror
or water-pool, shining brazen shield or jewelled helm, he will
ultimately find himself before the gates of an enchanted castle, to
which he may or may not obtain admittance.
Valentine fancied himself in the position of this favourite young
prince. The trackless forest was the genealogy of the Haygarths; and in
the enchanted castle he was to find the crown of success in the shape
of three thousand pounds. Could he marry Charlotte on the strength of
those three thousand pounds, if he were so fortunate as to unravel the
tangled skein of the Haygarth history? Ah, no; that black-whiskered
stockbroking stepfather would ask for something more than three
thousand pounds from the man to whom he gave his wife's daughter.
"He will try to marry her to some rich City swell, I dare say,"
thought Valentine. "I should be no nearer her with three thousand
pounds for my fortune than I am without a sixpence. The best thing I
can do for her happiness and my own is to turn my back upon her, and
devote myself to hunting the Haygarths. It's rather hard too, just as I
have begun to fancy that she likes me a little."
In the course of those interviews in Gray's Inn which occurred before
Valentine took any active steps in his new pursuit, certain conditions
were agreed upon between him and Mr. Sheldon. The first and most
serious of these conditions was, that Captain Paget should be in nowise
enlightened as to his _protege's_ plans. This was a strong point with
George Sheldon. "I have no doubt Paget's a very good fellow," he said.
(It was his habit to call everybody a good fellow. He would have called
Nana Sahib a good fellow, and would have made some good-natured excuse
for any peccadilloes on the part of that potentate). "Paget's an
uncommonly agreeable man, you know; but he is not the man I should care
to trust with this kind of secret." Mr. Sheldon said this with a tone
that implied his willingness to trust Captain Paget with every other
kind of secret, from the contents of his japanned office-boxes to the
innermost mysteries of his soul.
"You see Paget is thick with my brother Phil," he resumed; "and
whenever I find a man thick with my relations, I make it a point to
keep clear of that man myself. Relations never have worked well in
harness, and never will work well in harness. It seems to be against
nature. Now Phil has a dim kind of idea of the game I want to play, in
a general way, but nothing more than a dim idea. He fancies I'm a fool,
and that I'm wasting my time and trouble. I mean him to stick to that
notion. For, you see, in a thing of this kind there's always a chance
of other people cutting in and spoiling a man's game. Of course, that
advertisement I read to you was seen by other men besides me, and may
have been taken up. My hope is that whoever has taken it up has gone in
for the female branch, and got himself snowed up under a heap of
documentary evidence about the Judsons. That's another reason why we
should put our trust in Matthew Haygarth. The Judson line is the
obvious line to follow, and there are very few who would think of
hunting up evidence for a hypothetical first marriage until they had
exhausted the Judsons. Now, I rely upon you to throw dust in Paget's
eyes, so that there may be no possibility of my brother getting wind of
our little scheme through him."
"I'll take care of that," answered Valentine; "he doesn't want me just
now. He's in very high feather, riding about in broughams and dining at
West-end taverns. He won't be sorry to get rid of me for a short time."
"But what'll be your excuse for leaving town? He'll be sure to want a
reason, you know."
"I'll invent an aunt at Ullerton, and tell him I'm going down to stop
"You'd better not say Ullerton; Paget might take it into his head to
follow you down there in order to see what sort of person your aunt
was, and whether she had any money. Paget's an excellent fellow, but
there's never any knowing what that sort of man will do. You'd better
throw him off the scent altogether. Plant your aunt in Surrey--say
"But if he should want to write to me?"
"Tell him to address to the post-office, Dorking, as your aunt is
inquisitive, and might tamper with your correspondence. I daresay his
letters will keep."
"He could follow me to Dorking as easily as to Ullerton."
"Of course he could," answered George Sheldon; "but then, you see, at
Dorking the most he could find out would be that he'd been made a fool
of; whereas if he followed you to Ullerton, he might ferret out the
nature of your business there."
Mr. Hawkehurst perceived the wisdom of this conclusion, and agreed to
make Dorking the place of his relative's abode.
"It's very near London," he suggested thoughtfully; "the Captain might
easily run down."
"And for that very reason he's all the less likely to do it," answered
the lawyer; "a man who thinks of going to a place within an hour's ride
of town knows he can go any day, and is likely to think of going to the
end of the chapter without carrying out his intention. A man who
resolves to go to Manchester or Liverpool has to make his arrangements
accordingly, and is likely to put his idea into practice. The people
who live on Tower-hill very seldom see the inside of the Tower. It's
the good folks who come up for a week's holiday from Yorkshire and
Cornwall who know all about the Crown jewels and John of Gaunt's
armour. Take my advice, and stick to Dorking."
Acting upon this advice, Valentine Hawkehurst lay in wait for the
Promoter that very evening. He went home early, and was seated by a
cheery little bit of fire, such as an Englishman likes to see at the
close of a dull autumn day, when that accomplished personage returned
to his lodgings.
"Deuced tiresome work," said the Captain, as he smoothed the nap of his
hat with that caressing tenderness of manipulation peculiar to the man
who is not very clear as to the means whereby his next hat is to be
obtained,--"deuced slow, brain-belabouring work! How many people
do you think I've called upon to-day, eh, Val? Seven-and-thirty! What
do you say to that? Seven-and-thirty interviews, and some of them very
tough ones. I think that's enough to take the steam out of a man."
"Do the moneyed swells bite?" asked Mr. Hawkehurst, with friendly
"Rather slowly, my dear Val, rather slowly. The mercantile fisheries
have been pretty well whipped of late years, and the fish are artful--
they are uncommonly artful, Val. Indeed, I'm not quite clear at this
present moment as to the kind of fly they'll rise to most readily. I'm
half inclined to be doubtful whether your gaudy pheasant-feather, your
brougham and lavender-kid business is the right thing for your angler.
It has been overdone, Val, considerably overdone; and I shouldn't
wonder if a sober little brown fly--a shabby old chap in a rusty
greatcoat, with a cotton umbrella under his arm--wouldn't do the trick
better. That sort of thing would look rich, you see, Val--rich and
eccentric; and I think on occasions--with a _very_ downy bird--I'd
even go so far as a halfp'orth of snuff in a screw of paper. I really
think a pinch of snuff out of a bit of paper, taken at the right
moment, might turn the tide of a transaction."
Impressed by the brilliancy of this idea, Captain Paget abandoned
himself for the moment to profound meditation, seated in his favourite
chair, and with his legs extended before the cheerful blaze. He always
had a favourite chair in every caravanserai wherein he rested in his
manifold wanderings, and he had an unerring instinct which guided him
in the selection of the most comfortable chair, and that one corner, to
be found in every room, which is a sanctuary secure from the incursions
The day just ended had evidently not been a lucky one, and the
Captain's gaze was darkly meditative as he looked into the ruddy little
"I think I'll take a glass of cold water with a dash of brandy in it,
Val," he said presently; and he said it with the air of a man who
rarely tasted such a beverage; whereas it was as habitual with him to
sit sipping brandy-and-water for an hour or so before he went to bed as
it was for him to light his chamber candle. "That fellow Sheldon knows
how to take care of himself," he remarked thoughtfully, when Valentine
had procured the brandy-and-water. "Try some of that cognac, Val; it's
not bad. To tell you the truth, I'm beginning to get sick of this
promoting business. It pays very little better than the India-rubber
agency, and it's harder work. I shall look about me for something
fresh, if Sheldon doesn't treat me handsomely. And what have you been
doing for the last day or two?" asked the Captain, with a searching
glance at his _protege's_ face. "You're always hanging about Sheldon's
place; but you don't seem to do much business with him. You and his
brother George seem uncommonly thick."
"Yes, George suits me better than the stockbroker. I never could get on
very well with your ultra-respectable men. I'm as ready to 'undertake a
dirty job' as any man; but I don't like a fellow to offer me dirty work
and pretend it's clean."
"Ah, he's been getting you to do a little of the bear business, I
suppose," said the Captain. "I don't see that your conscience need
trouble you about that. Amongst a commercial people money must change
hands. I can't see that it much matters how the change takes place."
"No, to be sure; that's a comfortable way of putting it, at any rate.
However, I'm tired of going about in the ursine guise, and I'm going to
cut it. I've an old aunt settled at Dorking who has got a little bit of
money to leave, and I think I'll go and look her up."
"An aunt at Dorking! I never heard of her before."
"O yes you have," answered Mr. Hawkehurst, with supreme nonchalance;
"you've heard of her often enough, only you've a happy knack of not
listening to other people's affairs. But you must have been wrapped up
in yourself with a vengeance if you don't remember to have heard me
speak of my aunt--Sarah."
"Well, well, it may be so," murmured the Captain, almost
apologetically. "Your aunt Sarah? Ah, to be sure; I have some
recollection: is she your father's sister?"
"No; she's the sister of my maternal grandmother--a great-aunt, you
know. She has a comfortable little place down at Dorking, and I can get
free quarters there whenever I like; so as you don't particularly want
me just now, I think I'll run down to her for a week or two."
The Captain had no objection to offer to this very natural desire on
the part of his adopted son; nor did he concern himself as to the young
man's motive for leaving London.
CHARLOTTE PROPHESIES RAIN.
Mr. Hawkehurst had no excuse for going to the Lawn before his
departure; but the stately avenues between Bayswater and Kensington are
free to any man; and, having nothing better to do, Valentine put a
shabby little volume of Balzac in his pocket, and spent his last
morning in town under the shadow of the mighty elms, reading one of the
great Honore's gloomiest romances, while the autumn leaves drifted
round him, dancing fairy measures on the grass, and scraping and
scuffling on the gravel, and while children with hoops and children
with balls scampered and screamed in the avenue by which he sat. He was
not particularly absorbed by his book. He had taken it haphazard from
the tattered collection of cheap editions which he carried about with
him in his wanderings, ignominiously stuffed into the bottom of a
portmanteau, amongst boots and clothes-brushes and disabled razors.
"I'm sick of them all," he thought; "the De Beauseants, and Rastignacs,
the German Jews, and the patrician beauties, and the Israelitish Circes
of the Rue Taitbout, and the sickly self-sacrificing provincial angels,
and the ghastly _vieilles filles_. Had that man ever seen such a woman
as Charlotte, I wonder--a bright creature, all smiles and sunshine,
and sweet impulsive tenderness; an angel who can be angelic without
being _poitri-naire_, and whose amiability never degenerates into
scrofula? There is an odour of the dissecting-room pervading all my
friend Balzac's novels, and I don't think he was capable of painting
a fresh, healthy nature. What a mass of disease he would have made Lucy
Ashton, and with what dismal relish he would have dilated upon the
physical sufferings of Amy Robsart in the confinement of Cumnor Hall!
No, my friend Honore, you are the greatest and grandest of painters of
the terrible school; but the time comes when a man sighs for something
brighter and better than your highest type of womanhood."
Mr. Hawkehurst put his book in his pocket, and abandoned himself to
meditation, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and his face
buried in his hands, unconscious of the trundling hoops and screaming
"She is better and fairer than the fairest heroine of a novel," he
thought. "She is like Heloise. Yes, the quaint old French fits her to a
'Elle ne fu oscure ne brune,
Ains fu clere comme la lune,
Envers qui les autres estoiles
Ressemblent petites chandoiles.'
Mrs. Browning must have known such a woman:
'Her air had a meaning, her movements a grace;
You turned from the fairest to gaze on her face;'
'She was not as pretty as women I know.'
Was she not?" mused the lover. "Is she not? Yes," he cried suddenly,
as he saw a scarlet petticoat gleaming in the distance, and a bright
young face under a little black turban hat--prettiest and most
bewitching of all feminine headgear, let fashion change as it may.
"Yes," he cried, "she is the loveliest creature in the world, and I
love her to distraction." He rose, and went to meet the loveliest
creature in the world, whose earthly name was Charlotte Halliday. She
was walking with Diana Paget, who, to more sober judges, might have
seemed the handsomer woman of the two. Alas for Diana! the day had been
when Valentine Hawkehurst considered her very handsome, and had need to
fight a hard battle with himself in order not to fall in love with her.
He had been conqueror in that struggle of prudence and honour against
nascent love, only to be vanquished utterly by Charlotte's brighter
charms and Charlotte's sunnier nature.
The two girls shook hands with Mr. Hawkehurst. An indifferent observer
might have perceived that the colour faded from the face of one, while
a blush mounted to the cheeks of the other. But Valentine did not see
the sudden pallor of Diana's face--he had eyes only for Charlotte's
blushes. Nor did Charlotte herself perceive the sudden change in her
dearest friend's countenance. And that perhaps is the bitterest sting
of all. It is not enough that some must weep while others play; the
mourners must weep unnoticed, unconsoled; happiness is so apt to be
Of course the conversation was the general sort of thing under the
given circumstances--just a little more inane and disjointed than the
ordinary small talk of people who meet each other in their walks
"How do you do, Mr. Hawkehurst?--Very well, thank you.--Mamma is very
well; at least no, not quite well; she has one of her headaches this
morning. She is rather subject to headache, you know; and the canaries
sing so loud. Don't the canaries sing abominably loud, Diana?--loudly
they would have made me say at Hyde Lodge; but it is only awfully
clever people who know when to use adverbs."
And Miss Halliday having said all this in a hurried and indeed almost
breathless manner, stopped suddenly, blushing more deeply than at
first, and painfully aware of her blushes. She looked imploringly at
Diana; but Diana would not come to the rescue; and this morning Mr.
Hawkehurst seemed as a man struck with sudden dumbness.
There followed presently a little discussion of the weather. Miss
Halliday was possessed by the conviction that there would be rain--
possibly not immediate rain, but before the afternoon inevitable rain.
Valentine thought not; was, indeed, positively certain there would be
no rain; had a vague idea that the wind was in the north; and quoted a
dreary Joe-Millerism to prove the impossibility of rain while the wind
came from that quarter. Miss Halliday and Mr. Hawkehurst held very
firmly to their several opinions, and the argument was almost a
quarrel--one of those little playful quarrels which form some of the
most delicious phases of a flirtation. "I would not mind wagering a
fortune--if I had one--on the certainty of rain," cried Charlotte with
"And I would not shrink from staking my existence on the conviction
that there will be no rain," exclaimed Valentine, looking with
undisguised tenderness at the glowing animated face.
Diana Paget took no part in that foolish talk about the possibilities
of the weather. She walked silently by the side of her friend
Charlotte, as far away from her old comrade, it seemed to her, as if
the Atlantic's wild waste of waters had stretched between them. The
barrier that divided them was only Charlotte; but then Miss Paget knew
too well that Charlotte in this case meant all the world.
The ice had been broken by that discussion as to rain or no rain, and
Miss Halliday and Mr. Hawkehurst talked pleasantly for some time, while
Diana still walked silently by her friend's side, only speaking when
compelled to do so. The strangeness of her manner would have been
observed by any one not utterly absorbed by that sublime egotism called
love; but Valentine and Charlotte were so absorbed, and had no idea
that Miss Paget was anything but the most delightful and amusing of
They had taken more than one turn in the broad avenue, when Charlotte
asked Mr. Hawkehurst some question about a piece which was speedily to
be played at one of the theatres.
"I do so much want to see this new French actress," she said. "Do you
think there is any possibility of obtaining orders, Mr. Hawkehurst? You
know what a dislike Mr. Sheldon has to paying for admission to a
theatre, and my pocket-money was exhausted three weeks ago, or I
wouldn't think of giving you any trouble about it."
Philosophers have observed that in the life of the plainest woman there
is one inspired moment in which she becomes beautiful. Perhaps it is
when she is asking a favour of some masculine victim--for women have a
knack of looking their prettiest on such occasions. Charlotte
Halliday's pleading glance and insinuating tone were irresistible.
Valentine would have given a lien on every shilling of his three
thousand pounds rather than disappoint her, if gold could purchase the
thing she craved. It happened fortunately that his occasional
connection with the newspapers made it tolerably easy for him to obtain
free admissions to theatres.
"Do not speak of the trouble; there will be no trouble. The orders
shall be sent you, Miss Halliday."
"O, thanks--a thousand thanks! Would it be possible to get a box, and
for us all to go together?" asked the fair encroacher; "mamma is so
fond of the theatre. She used to go often with poor papa, at York and
in London. And you are such an excellent critic, Mr. Hawkehurst, and it
would be so nice to have you with us,--wouldn't it, Di? You know what a
good critic Mr. Hawkehurst is?"
"Yes," answered Diana; "we used to go to theatres together very often."
This was a cry of anguish wrung from a bleeding heart; but to the two
absorbed egotists it seemed the simplest of casual observations.
"Do you think you could manage to get a box, Mr. Hawkehurst?" asked the
irresistible enslaver, putting her head on one side, in a manner which,
for the protection of weak mankind, should be made penal.
"I will try my uttermost," answered Valentine.
"O, then I'm sure you will succeed. And we shall be amused by your
deliciously bitter criticisms between the acts. One would think you had
studied under Douglas Jerrold."
"You do me too much honour. But before the new piece is produced I
shall have left London, and shall not have the pleasure of accompanying
you to the theatre."
"You are going to leave London?"
"So soon!" cried Charlotte, with undisguised regret; "and for a long
time, I suppose?" she added, very mournfully.
Miss Paget gave a little start, and a feverish flush lit up her face
for one brief moment.
"I am glad he is going," she thought; "I am very glad he is going."
"Yes," said Valentine, in reply to Charlotte's inquiry, "I am likely to
be away for a considerable time; indeed my plans are at present so
vague, that I cannot tell when I may come back to town."
He could not resist the temptation to speak of his absence as if it
were likely to be the affair of a lifetime. He could not refrain from
the delight of sounding the pure depths of that innocent young heart.
But when the tender gray eyes looked at him, so sweet in their sudden
sadness, his heart melted, and he could trifle with her unconscious
love no longer.
"I am going away on a matter of business," he said, "which may or may
not occupy some time; but I don't suppose I shall be many weeks away
Charlotte gave a little sigh of relief.
"And are you going very far?" she asked.
"Some distance; yes--a--hundred and fifty miles or so," Valentine
answered very lamely. It had been an easy thing to invent an ancient
aunt Sarah for the mystification of the astute Horatio; but Valentine
Hawkehurst could not bring himself to tell Charlotte Halliday a
deliberate falsehood. The girl looked at him wonderingly, as he gave
that hesitating answer to her question. She was at a loss to understand
why he did not tell her the place to which he was going, and the nature
of the business that took him away.
She was very sorry that he was going to disappear out of her life for a
time so uncertain, that while on the one hand it might be only a few
weeks, it might on the other hand be for ever. The life of a young
English damsel, in a prim villa at Bayswater, with a very commonplace
mother and a practical stockbroking stepfather, is rather a narrow kind
of existence; and to such a damsel the stranger whose hand lifts the
curtain that shrouds new and brighter worlds is apt to become a very
important personage, especially when the stranger happens to be young
and handsome, and invested with that dash of Bohemianism which to
artless and sentimental girlhood has such a flavour of romance.
Charlotte was very silent as she retraced her steps along the broad
gravel walk. As they drew near the Bayswater-gate she looked at her
watch. It was nearly one o'clock, and she had promised Mrs. Sheldon to
be home at one for luncheon, and afterwards shopping.
"I'm afraid we must hurry home, Di," she said.
"I am quite ready to go," answered Miss Paget promptly. "Good-bye,
"Good-bye, Diana; good-bye, Miss Halliday."
Mr. Hawkehurst shook hands with both young ladies; but shaking hands
with Charlotte was a very slow process compared to the same performance
"Good-bye," he repeated, in a lingering tone; and then, after standing
for some moments silent and irresolute, with his hat in his hand, he
put it on suddenly and hurried away.
The two girls had walked a few steps towards the gate when Charlotte
stopped before a stony-looking alcove, which happened at this
nursery-dinner-hour to be empty.
"I'm so tired, Di," she said, and went into the alcove, where she sat
down to rest. She had a little veil attached to her turban hat--a
little veil which she now drew over her face. The tears gathered slowly
in her eyes and fell through that flimsy morsel of lace with which she
would fain have hidden her childish sorrow. The tears gathered and fell
on her lap as she sat in silence, pretending not to cry. This much rain
at least was there to justify her prediction, uttered in such foolish
gaiety of heart half an hour before.
Miss Halliday's eyes were undimmed by tears? when she went back to the
gothic villa; but she had a feeling that some great sorrow had come
upon her--a vague idea that the last lingering warmth and brightness of
summer had faded all in a moment, and that chill gray winter had closed
in upon Bayswater without any autumnal interval. What was it that she
had lost? Only the occasional society of a young man with a handsome
pale face, a little haggard and wan from the effect of dissipated
habits and a previous acquaintance with care and difficulty--only the
society of a penniless Bohemian who had a certain disreputable
cleverness and a dash of gloomy sentimentality, which the schoolgirl
mistook for genius. But then he was the first man whose eyes had ever
softened with a mysterious tenderness as they looked at her--the first
whose voice had grown faintly tremulous when it syllabled her name.
There was some allusion to Mr. Hawkehurst's departure in the course of
dinner, and Philip Sheldon expressed some surprise.
"Going to leave town?" he said.
"Yes, papa," Charlotte answered; "he is going a long way into the
country,--a hundred and fifty miles, he said."
"Did he tell you where he was going?"
"No; he seemed unwilling to mention the place. He only said something
about a hundred and fifty miles."
MR. SHELDON ON THE WATCH.
Mr. Sheldon had occasion to see Captain Paget early the following day,
and questioned him closely about his _protege's_ movements. He had
found Valentine a very useful tool in sundry intricate transactions of
the commercial kind, and he expected his tools to be ready for his
service. He was therefore considerably annoyed by Valentine's abrupt
"I think young Hawkehurst might have told me he was going out of town,"
he said. "What the deuce has taken him off in such a hurry?"
"He is going to see some mysterious old aunt at Dorking, from whom he
seems to expect money," the Captain answered carelessly. "I daresay I
can do what you want, Sheldon."
"Very likely. But how comes that young fellow to have an aunt at
Dorking? I fancy I've heard him say he was without a relative or a
friend in the world--always excepting yourself."
"The aunt may he another exception; some poor old soul that he's half
ashamed to own, I daresay--the inmate of an almshouse, perhaps. Val's
expectations may be limited to a few pounds hoarded in a china teapot."
"I should have thought Hawkehurst the last man in the world to care
about looking after that sort of thing. I could have given him plenty
to do if he had stopped in town. He and my brother George are
uncommonly intimate, by the bye," added Mr. Sheldon meditatively. It
was his habit to be rather distrustful of his brother and of all his
brother's acquaintance. "I suppose you can give me Hawkehurst's
address, in case I should want to write to him?" he said.
"He told me to send my letters to the post-office, Dorking," answered
the Captain, "which really looks as if the aunt's residence were
something in the way of an almshouse."
No more was said about Valentine's departure. Captain Paget concluded
his business with his patron and departed, leaving the stockbroker
leaning forward upon his desk in a thoughtful attitude and scribbling
purposeless figures upon his blotting-paper.
"There's something queer in this young man running away from town;
there's some mystification somewhere," he thought. "He has not gone to
Dorking, or he would scarcely have told Lotta that he was going a
hundred and fifty miles from town. He would be likely to be taken off
his guard by her questions, and would tell the truth. I wonder whether
Paget is in the secret. His manner seemed open enough; but that sort of
man can pretend anything. I've noticed that he and George have been
very confidential lately. I wonder whether there's any underhand game
on the cards between those two."
The game of which Mr. Sheldon thought as he leant over his
blotting-paper was a very different kind of game from that which
really occupied the attention of George and his friend.
"I'll go to his lodgings at once," he said to himself by-and-by, rising
and putting on his hat quickly in his eagerness to act upon his
resolution. "I'll see if he really has left town."
The stockbroker hailed the first empty hansom to be seen in the crowded
thoroughfare from which his shady court diverged. In less than an hour
he alighted before the door of the house in which Captain Paget lodged.
"Is Mr. Hawkehurst in?" he asked of the girl who admitted him.
"No, sir; he's just left to go into the country. He hasn't been gone
ten minutes. You might a'most have met him."
"Do you know where he has gone?"
"I heard say it was Dorking, sir."
"Humph! I should like to have seen him before he went. Did he take much
"One portmanter, sir."
"I suppose you didn't notice where he told the man to drive?"
"Yes, sir; it was Euston-square."
"Ah! Euston-square. I'll go there, then, on the chance of catching
him," said Mr. Sheldon.
He bestowed a donation upon the domestic, reentered his hansom, and
told the man to drive to Euston-square "like a shot."
"So! His destination is Dorking, and he goes from Euston-square!"
muttered Mr. Sheldon, in sombre meditation, as the hansom rattled and
rushed, and jingled and jolted, over the stones. "There's something
under the cards here."
Arrived at the great terminus, the stockbroker made his way to the down
platform. There was a lull in the day's traffic, and only a few
listless wretches lounging disconsolately here and there, with eyes
ever and anon lifted to the clock. Amongst these there was no Valentine
Mr. Sheldon peered into all the waiting-rooms, and surveyed the
refreshment-counter; but there was still no sign of the man he sought.
He went back to the ticket-office; but here again all was desolate, the
shutters of the pigeon-holes hermetically closed, and no vestige of
The stockbroker was disappointed, but not defeated. He returned to the
platform, looked about him for a few moments, and then addressed
himself to a porter of intelligent aspect.
"What trains have left here within the last half-hour?" he asked.
"Only one, sir; the 2.15 down, for Manchester."
"You didn't happen to notice a dark-eyed, dark-haired young man among
the passengers--second class?" asked Mr. Sheldon.
"No, sir. There are always a good many passengers by that train; I
haven't time to notice their faces."
The stockbroker asked no further questions. He was a man who did not
care to be obliged to others for information which he could obtain for
himself. He walked straight to a place where the time-tables were
pasted on the wall, and ran his finger along the figures till he came
to those he wanted.
The 2.15 train was a fast train, which stopped at only four places--
Rugby, Ullerton, Murford, and Manchester.
"I daresay he has gone to Manchester," thought Mr. Sheldon--"on some
racing business most likely, which he wants to keep dark from his
patron the Captain. What a fool I am to trouble myself about him, as if
he couldn't stir without meaning mischief to me! But I don't understand
the friendship between him and George. My brother George is not likely
to take up any man without some motive."
After these reflections Mr. Sheldon left the station and went back to
his office in another hansom, still extremely thoughtful and somewhat
"What does it matter to me where they go or what they do?" he asked
himself, impatient of some lurking weakness of his own; "what does it
matter to me whether those two are friendly or unfriendly? They can do
me no harm."
There happened to be a kind of lull in the stormy regions of the Stock
Exchange at the time of Valentine Hawkehurst's departure. Stagnation
had descended upon that commercial ocean, which is such a dismal waste
of waters for the professional speculator in its hour of calm. All the
Bulls in the zoological creation would have failed to elevate the
drooping stocks and shares and first-preference bonds and debentures,
which hung their feeble heads and declined day by day, the weaker of
them threatening to fade away and diminish to a vanishing-point, as it
seemed to some dejected holders who read the Stock-Exchange lists and
the money article in the Times with a persistent hopefulness which
struggled against the encroachments of despair. The Bears had been
busy, but were now idle--having burnt their fingers, commercial
gentlemen remarked. So Bulls and Bears alike hung listlessly about a
melancholy market, and conversed together dolefully in corners; and the
burden of all their lamentations was to the effect that there never had
been such times, and things never had been so bad, and it was a
question whether they would ever right themselves. Philip Sheldon
shared in the general depression. His face was gloomy, and his manner
for the time being lost something of its brisk, business-like
cheerfulness. The men who envied his better fortunes watched him
furtively when he showed himself amongst them, and wondered whether
Sheldon, of Jull, Girdlestone, and Sheldon, had been hit by these bad
It was not entirely the pressure of that commercial stagnation which
weighed on the spirits of Philip Sheldon. The stockbroker was tormented
by private doubts and uncertainties which had nothing to do with the
On the day after Valentine's journey to Ullerton, Mr. Sheldon the elder
presented himself at his brother's office in Gray's Inn. It was his
habit to throw waifs and strays of business in the attorney's way, and
to make use of him occasionally, though he had steadily refused to lend
or give him money; and it was big habit, as it were, to keep an eye
upon his younger brother--rather a jealous eye, which took note of all
George's doings, and kept suspicious watch upon all George's
associates. Going unannounced into his brother's office on this
particular morning, Philip Sheldon found him bending over an outspread
document--a great sheet of cartridge-paper covered with a net-work of
lines, dotted about with circles, and with little patches of writing in
red and black ink in the neatest possible penmanship. Mr. Sheldon the
elder, whose bright black eyes were as the eyes of the hawk, took note of
this paper, and had caught more than one stray word that stood out in
larger and bolder characters than its neighbours, before his brother could
fold it; for it is not an easy thing for a man to fold an elephantine
sheet of cartridge when he is nervously anxious to fold it quickly, and
is conscious that the eyes of an observant brother are upon him.
Before George had mastered the folding of the elephantine sheet, Philip
had seen and taken note of two words. One of these was the word
INTESTATE, and the other the name HAYGARTH.
"You seem in a great hurry to get that document out of the way," said
Philip, as he seated himself in the client's chair.
"Well, to tell the truth, you rather startled me," answered George. "I
didn't know who it might be, you know; and I was expecting a fellow
who--" And then Mr. Sheldon the younger broke off abruptly, and asked,
with rather a suspicious air, "Why didn't that boy announce you?"
"Because I wouldn't let him. Why should he announce me? One would think
you were carrying on some political conspiracy, George, and had a
modern Thistlewood gang hidden in that cupboard yonder. How thick you
and Hawkehurst are, by the bye!"
In spite of the convenient "by the bye," this last remark of the
stockbroker's sounded rather irrelevant.
"I don't know about being 'thick.' Hawkehurst seems a very decent young
fellow, and he and I get on pretty well together. But I'm not as
'thick' with him as I was with Tom Halliday."
It was to be observed that Mr. Sheldon the younger was very apt to
refer to that friendship with the dead Yorkshireman in the course of
conversation with Philip.
"Hawkehurst has just left town," said Philip indifferently.
"Yes, I know he has."
"When did you hear it?"
"I saw him last night," answered George, taken off his guard by the
carelessness of his brother's manner.
"Did you?" cried Mr. Sheldon. "You make a mistake there. He left town
at two o'clock yesterday."
"How do you happen to know that?" asked George sharply.
"Because I happened to be at the station and saw him take his ticket.
There's something underhand in that journey of his by the way; for
Paget told me he was going to Dorking. I suppose he and Paget have some
game of their own on the cards. I was rather annoyed by the young man's
departure, as I had some work for him. However, I can find plenty of
fellows to do it as well as Hawkehurst could have done."
George was looking into an open drawer in his desk while his brother
said this. He had a habit of opening drawers and peering into them
absently during the progress of an interview, as if looking for some
particular paper, that was never to be found.
After this the conversation became less personal. The brothers talked a
little of the events of the day, the money-article in that morning's
Times, the probability or improbability of a change in the rate of
discount. But this conversation soon flagged, and Mr. Sheldon rose to
"I suppose that sheet of cartridge-paper which you had so much trouble
to fold is one of your genealogical tables," he said as he was going.
"You needn't try to keep things dark from me, George. I'm not likely to
steal a march upon you; my own business gives me more work than I can
do. But if you have really got a good thing at last, I shouldn't mind
going into it with you, and finding the money for the enterprise."
George Sheldon looked at his elder brother with a malicious flitter in
"On condition that you got the lion's share of the profits," he said.
"O yes; I know how generous you are, Phil. I have asked you for money
before today, and you have refused it."
Mr. Sheldon's face darkened just a little at this point. "Your manner
of asking it was offensive," he said.
"Well, I'm sorry for that," answered George politely. "However, you
refused me money when I did want it; so you needn't offer it me now I
don't want it. There are some people who think I have sacrificed my
life to a senseless theory; and perhaps you are one of them. But there
is one thing you may be certain of, Philip Sheldon: if ever I _do_ get
a good chance, I shall know how to keep it to myself."
There are men skilled in the concealment of their feelings on all
ordinary occasions, who will yet betray themselves in a crisis of
importance. George Sheldon would fain have kept his project hidden from
his elder brother; but in this one unguarded moment he forgot himself,
and allowed the sense of triumph to irradiate his face.
The stockbroker was a reader of men rather than books; and it is a
notable thing what superiority in all worldly wisdom is possessed by
men who eschew books. He was able to translate the meaning of George's
smile--a smile of mingled triumph and malice.
"The fellow _has_ got a good thing," he thought to himself, "and
Hawkehurst is in it. It must be a deuced good thing too, or he wouldn't
refuse my offer of money." Mr. Sheldon was the last man in the world to
reveal any mortification which he might experience from his brother's
"Well, you're quite right to stick to your chance, George," he said,
with agreeable frankness. "You've waited long enough for it. As for me,
I've got my fingers in a good many pies just at present; so perhaps I
had better keep them out of yours, whatever plums there may be to be
picked out of it by an enterprising Jack Horner. Pick out your plums
for yourself, old fellow, and I'll be one of the first to call you a
good boy for your pains."
With this Mr. Sheldon slapped his brother's shoulder and departed.
"I think I've had the best of Master Phil for once," muttered George;
and then he thrust his sinewy hands into the depths of his
trousers-pocket, and indulged in a silent laugh, which displayed his
strong square white teeth to perfection. "I flatter myself I took a
rise out of Phil to-day," he muttered.
The sense of a malicious triumph over a social enemy is a very
delightful kind of thing,--so delightful that a man is apt to ignore
the possible cost of the enjoyment. It is like the pleasure of kicking
a man who is down--very delicious in its way; only one never knows how
soon the man may be up again.
George Sheldon, who was tolerably skilled in the science of human
nature, should have known that "taking a rise" out of his brother was
likely to be a rather costly operation. Philip was not the safest man
to deal with at any time; but he was most dangerous when he was
BOOK THE FOURTH.
VALENTINE HAWKEHURST'S RECORD.
THE OLDEST INHABITANT.
Black Swan Inn, Ullerton, October 2nd.
As the work I am now employed in is quite new to me, and I am to keep
Sheldon posted up in this business day by day, I have decided on
jotting down the results of my inquiries in a kind of diary. Instead of
writing my principal a formal letter, I shall send a copy of the
entries in the diary, revised and amended. This will insure exactitude;
and there is just the possibility that the record may be useful to me
hereafter. To remember all I hear and pick up about these departed
Haygarths without the aid of pen and ink would be out of the question;
so I mean to go in for unlimited pen and ink like a hero, not to say a
And I am to do all this for twenty shillings a week, and the remote
possibility of three thousand pounds! O genius, genius! in all the
markets of this round world is there no better price for you than that?
How sweetly my Charlotte looked at me yesterday, when I told her I was
going away! If I could have dared to kneel at her feet under those
whispering elms,--unconscious of the children, unconscious of the
nursemaids,--if I could have dared to cry aloud to her, "I am a
penniless reprobate, but I love you; I am a disreputable pauper, but I
adore you! Have pity upon my love and forget my worthlessness!" If I
could have dared to carry her away from her prim suburban home and that
terrible black-whiskered stockbroking stepfather! But how is a man to
carry off the woman he adores when he has not the _de quoi_ for the
first stage of the journey?
With three thousand pounds in my pocket, I think I could dare anything.
Three thousand pounds! One year of splendour and happiness, and then--
the rest is chaos!
I have seen the oldest inhabitant. _Ay de mi_! Sheldon did not
exaggerate the prosiness of that intolerable man. I thought of the
luckless wedding guest in Coleridge's grim ballad as I sat listening to
this modern-ancient mariner. I had to remind myself of all the bright
things to be bought for three thousand pounds, every now and then, in
order to endure with fortitude, if not serenity. And now the day's work
is done, I begin to think it might as well have been left undone. How
am I to disintegrate the mass of prosiness which I have heard this day?
For three mortal hours did I listen to my ancient mariner; and how much
am I the wiser for my patience? Clever as you may fancy yourself, my
friend Hawkehurst, you don't seem to be the man for this business.
You have not the legal mind. Your genius is not the genius of
Scotland-yard, and I begin to fear that in your new line you may prove
yourself a failure.
However, where all is dark to me the astute Sheldon may see daylight,
so I'll observe the letter of my bond, and check off the residuum of
the ancient mariner's prosiness.
By dint of much pumping I obtained from my ancient, first, his father's
recollections of Matthew Haygarth a few years before his death, and
secondly, his grandfather's recollections of Matthew in his wild youth.
It seems that in those last years of his life Matthew was a most sober
and estimable citizen; attended the chapel of a nonconforming sect;
read the works of Baxter, and followed in the footsteps of his departed
father; was a kind husband to a woman who appears to me to have been
rather a pragmatical and icy personage, but who was esteemed a model of
womanly virtue, and who had money. Strange that these respectable and
wealthy citizens should be so eager to increase their store by alliance
with respectable and wealthy citizenesses.
In his later years Matthew Haygarth seems to have imitated his father
in many respects. Like his father, he executed more than one will; and,
like his father, he died intestate. The lawyer who drew up his will on
more than one occasion was a man called Brice--like his client,
After his marriage, our esteemed Matthew retired to a modest mansion in
the heart of the country, and some ten or fifteen miles from Ullerton.
The mansion in question is at a place called Dewsdale, and was the
property of the wife, and accrued to him through her.
This house and estate of some thirty acres was afterwards sold by the
rev. intestate, John Haygarth, shortly after his coming of age, and
within a year of his mother's death.
This much and no more could I extort from the oldest inhabitant
relative to the latter days of our Matthew.
Respecting his wild youth I obtained the following crumbs of
enlightenment. In the year 1741-2, being then one-and-twenty years of
age, he left Ullerton. It is my ancient mariner's belief that he ran
away from home, after some desperate quarrel with his father; and it is
also the belief of my ancient that he stayed away, without
intermission, for twenty years,--though on what precise fact that
belief is founded is much more than I can extract from the venerable
My ancient suggests--always in the haziest and most impracticable
manner--the possibility that Matthew in his wild days lodged somewhere
Clerkenwell way. He has a dim idea that he has heard his grandfather
speak of St. John's-gate, Clerkenwell, in connection with Matthew
Haygarth; but, as my ancient's grandfather seems to have been almost
imbecile at the time he made such remarks, _this_ is not much.
He has another idea--also very vague and impracticable--of having heard
his grandfather say something about an adventure of Matthew Haygarth's,
which was rather a heroic affair in its way--an adventure in which, in
some inexplicable manner, the wild Matthew is mixed up with a
dancing-girl, or player-girl, of Bartholomew Fair, and a nobleman.
This is the sum-total of the information to be extracted in three
mortal hours from my ancient. Altogether the day has been very
unsatisfactory; and I begin to think I'm not up to the sort of work
required of me. _Oct. 3rd._ Another long interview with my ancient. I
dropped in directly after my breakfast, and about an hour after his
dinner. I sat up late last night, occupied till nearly ten in copying
my diary for Sheldon--which was just in time for the London post--and
lingering over my cigar till past midnight, thinking of Charlotte. So I
was late this morning.
My ancient received me graciously. I took him half a pound of mild
bird's-eye tobacco, on diplomatic grounds. He is evidently the sort of
person who would receive Mephistopheles graciously, if the fiend
presented him with tobacco.
I returned to the charge--diplomatically, of course; talked about
Ullerton and Ullerton people in general, insinuating occasional
questions about the Haygarths. I was rewarded by obtaining some little
information about Mrs. Matthew. That lady appears to have been a
devoted disciple of John Wesley, and was fonder of travelling to divers
towns and villages to hear the discourses of that preacher than her
husband approved. It seems they were wont to disagree upon this
For some years before her marriage Mrs. Matthew was a member of a
Wesleyan confraternity, in those days newly established at Ullerton.
They held meetings and heard sermons in the warehouse of a wealthy
draper; and shortly before Mrs. Matthew's demise they built a chapel,
still extant, in a dingy little thoroughfare known as Waterhouse-lane.
On these points my ancient mariner is tolerably clear. They belong to
the period remembered by his father.
And now I believe him to be pumped dry. I gave him my benediction, and
left him smoking some of my tobacco, content with himself and with the
world--always excepting the authorities, or board, of the almshouses,
against whom he appears to nourish a grievance.
After leaving him, I walked about Ullerton for an hour or so before
returning to my humble hostelry. The streets of Ullerton are sealed
with the seal of desolation--the abomination of desolation reigns in
the market-place, where the grass flourishes greenly in the interstices
of the pavement. The place has known prosperity, and is prosperous no
longer; but although its chief trade has left it, there are still some
three or four factories in full swing. I heard clanging bells, and
met bare-headed women and uncouth-looking men hurrying to and fro.
I went to look at the Wesleyan chapel in Waterhouse-lane. It is a
queer little building, and bears some resemblance to a toy Noah's Ark
in red brick. Tall warehouses have arisen about it and hemmed it in,
and the slim chimney-shaft of a waterworks throws a black shadow aslant
its unpretending facade. I inquired the name of the present minister.
He is called Jonah Goodge, began life as a carpenter, and is accounted
the pink and pattern of piety. _Oct. 4th_. A letter from Sheldon awaited
me in the coffee-room letter-rack when I went downstairs to breakfast.
"MY DEAR HAWKEHURST,--Don't be disheartened if the work seems slow at
first. You'll soon get used to it.
"I should recommend you to adopt the following tactics:
"1st. Go to the house at Dewsdale, inhabited by M.H. and his wife. You
may have some difficulty in obtaining admission--and full liberty to
explore and examine--from the present servant or owner; but you are not
the man I take you for if you cannot overcome such a difficulty. I
enclose a few of my cards, which you can use at your discretion. They
show professional status. It would be as well to call yourself my
articled clerk, and to state that you are prosecuting an inquiry on the
behalf of a client of mine, who wishes to prove a certain event in the
past connected remotely with the H. family. If asked whether your
business relates to the property left by the rev. intestate, you must
reply decisively in the negative. But I must remind you that extreme
caution is required in every move you make. Wherever you can do your
work _without_ any reference to the name of Haygarth, avoid such
reference. Always remember that there may be other people on the same
"2nd. Examine the house in detail; look for old pictures, old
furniture, old needlework--if you are lucky enough to find the Haygarth
furniture was sold with the property, which I should think probable.
The rev. intestate must have been at the University when he made the
sale; and a young Cantab would in all likelihood pass over his
ancestral chairs and tables to the purchaser of his ancestral mansion,
as so much useless lumber. It is proverbial that walls have ears. I
hope the Dewsdale walls may have tongues, and favour you with a little
"3rd. When you have done all that is to be done at Dewsdale, your next
work must be to hunt up any scion of the lawyer Brice, if such scion be
in existence at Ullerton. Or if not to be found in Ullerton, ascertain
where the descendant, or decendants, of Brice is, or are, to be found.
Brice, the lawyer, must have known the contents of those wills executed
and afterwards destroyed by Haygarth, and may have kept rough draughts,
copies, or memoranda of the same. This is most important.--Yours truly,
This Sheldon is a wonderful man, and a cautious!--no Signature to his
I started for Dewidale immediately after my breakfast. I have made
arrangements for boarding in this house, which is a second-rate
commercial inn. They have agreed to give me board and lodging for
twenty shillings a week--the full amount of my stipend: so all that I
gain by my researches in the affairs of the departed Matthew is food
and shelter. However, as this food and shelter is perhaps more honestly
obtained than those little dinners which I have so often eaten with the
great Horatio, I will try to fancy a sweetness in the tough steaks and
greasy legs of mutton. O sheep of Midlandshire! why cultivate such
ponderous calves, and why so incline to sinews? O cooks of
Midlandshire! why so superficial in the treatment of your roasts, so
impetuous and inconsiderate when you boil?
A railroad now penetrates the rural district in which the village of
Dewsdale is situated. There is a little station, something like a
wooden Dutch oven, within a mile of the village; and here I alighted.
The morning savoured of summer rather than autumn. The air was soft and
balmy, the sunshine steeped the landscape in warm light, and the red
and golden tints of the fading foliage took new splendour from that
yellow sunshine. A man whose life is spent in cities must be dull of
soul indeed if he does not feel a little touched by the beauty of
rustic scenery, when he finds himself suddenly in the heart of the
country. I had seen nothing so fair as those English fields and copses
since I left the pine-clad hills of Foretdechene. An idiotic boy
directed me across some fields to Dewsdale. He sent me a mile out of
the way; but I forgave and blest him, for I think the walk did me good.
I felt as if all manner of vicious vapours were being blown out of my
head as the soft wind lifted my hair.
And so to Dewsdale. Strolling leisurely through those quiet meadows, I
fell to thinking of many things that seldom came into my mind in
London. I thought of my dead mother--a poor gentle creature--too frail
to carry heroically the burden laid upon her, and so a little soured by
chronic debt and difficulty. I have reason to remember her tenderly; we
shared so much misery together. I believe my father married her in the
Rules of the Bench; and if I am not sure upon this point, I know for a
certainty that I was born within those mystic boundaries.
And then my mind wandered to those nomadic adventures in which poor
Diana Paget and I were so much together. I think we were a little fond
of each other in those days; but in that matter I was at least prudent;
and now the transient fancy has faded, on Di's part as well as on mine.
If I could be as prudent where Charlotte H. is concerned!
But prudence and Charlotte's eyes cannot hold their own in the same
brain. Of two things, one, as our neighbours say: a man must cease to
be prudent, or he must forget those bewitching gray eyes.
I know she was sorry when she heard of my intended departure.
This is her birthday. She is twenty-one years of age to-day. I remember
the two girls talking of it, and Miss Halliday declaring herself "quite
old." My dear one, I drink your health in this poor tavern liquor, with
every tender wish and holy thought befitting your innocent girlhood!
MATTHEW HAYGARTH'S RESTING-PLACE.
I found the house at Dewsdale without difficulty. It is a stiff,
square, red-brick dwelling-place, with long narrow windows, a high
narrow door, and carved canopy; a house which savours of the _Tatler_
and _Spectator_; a house in which the short-faced gentleman might have
spent his summer holidays after Sir Roger's death. It stands behind a
high iron gate, surmounted by a handsome coat of arms; and before it
there lies a pleasant patch of greensward, with a pond and a colony of
cackling geese, which craned their necks and screamed at me as I passed
The place is the simplest and smallest of rural villages. There is a
public-house--the Seven Stars; a sprinkling of humble cottages; a
general shop, which is at once a shoemaker's, a grocer's, a
linen draper's, a stationer's, and a post office. These habitations, a
gray old church with a square tower, half hidden by the sombre foliage
of yews and cedars, and the house once inhabited by the Haygarths,
comprise the whole of the village. The Haygarthian household is now the
rectory. I ascertained this fact from the landlord of the Seven Stars,
at which house of entertainment I took a bottle of soda-water, in order
to _sonder le terrain_ before commencing business.
The present rector is an elderly widower with seven children; an easy
good-natured soul, who is more prone to bestow his money in charity
than to punctuality in the payment of his debts.
Having discovered thus much, I rang the bell at the iron gate and
boarded the Haygarthian mansion. The rector was at home, and received
me in a very untidy apartment, _par excellence_ a study. A boy in a
holland blouse was smearing his face with his inky fingers, and
wrestling with a problem in Euclid, while his father stood on a
step-ladder exploring a high shelf of dusty books.
The rector, whose name is Wendover, descended from the step-ladder and
shook the dust from his garments. He is a little withered old man, with
a manner so lively as to be on the verge of flightiness. I observed
that he wiped his dusty palms on the skirts of his coat, and argued
therefrom that he would be an easy person to deal with. I soon found
that my deduction was correct.
I presented Sheldon's card and stated my business, of course acting on
that worthy's advice. Could Mr. Wendover give me any information
relating to the Haygarth family?
Fortune favoured me throughout this Dewsdale expedition. The rector is
a simple garrulous old soul, to whom to talk is bliss. He has occupied
the house five-and-thirty years. He rents it of the lord of the manor,
who bought it from John Haygarth. Not a stick of furniture has been
removed since our friend Matthew's time; and the rev. intestate may
have wrestled with the mysteries of Euclid on the same old-fashioned
mahogany table at which I saw the boy in brown holland.
Mr. Wendover left his books and manuscripts scattered on the floor of
the study, and conducted me to a cool shady drawing-room, very
shabbily furnished with the spindle-legged chairs and tables of the
last century. Here he begged me to be seated, and here we were ever and
anon interrupted by intruding juveniles, the banging of doors, and the
shrill clamour of young voices in the hall and garden.
I brought all the diplomacy of which I am master to bear in my long
interview with the rector; and the following is a transcript of our
conversation, after a good deal of polite skirmishing:--
_Myself_. You see, my dear sir, the business I am concerned in is
remotely connected with these Haygarths. Any information you will
kindly afford me, however apparently trivial, may be of service in the
affair I am prosecuting.
_The Rector._ To be sure, to be sure! But, you see, though I've heard a
good deal of the Haygarths, it is all gossip--the merest gossip. People
are so fond of gossip, you know--especially country people: I have no
doubt you have remarked that. Yes, I have heard a great deal about
Matthew Haygarth. My late clerk and sexton,--a very remarkable man,
ninety-one when he died, and able to perform his duties very creditably
within a year of his death--very creditably; but the hard winter of '56
took him off, poor fellow, and now I have a young man. Old Andrew Hone
--that was my late clerk's name--was employed in this house when a lad,
and was very fond of talking about Matthew Haygarth and his wife. She
was a rich woman, you know, a very rich woman--the daughter of a brewer
at Ullerton; and this house belonged to her--inherited from her
_Myself_. And did you gather from your clerk that Matthew Haygarth and
his wife lived happily together?
_The Rector_. Well, yes, yes: I never
heard anything to the contrary. They were not a young couple, you know.
Rebecca Caulfield was forty years of age, and Matthew Haygarth was
fifty-three when he married; so, you see, one could hardly call it a
love-match. [_Abrupt inroad of bouncing damsel, exclaiming "Pa!"_]
Don't you see I'm engaged, Sophia Louisa? Why are you not at your
practice? [_Sudden retreat of bouncing damsel, followed by the
scrambling performance of scale of C major in adjoining chamber, which
performance abruptly ceases after five minutes_.] You see Mrs.
Haygarth was _not_ young, as I was about to observe when my daughter
interrupted us; and she was perhaps a little more steadfast in her
adherence to the newly arisen sect of Wesleyans than was pleasing to
her husband, although he consented to become a member of that sect. But
as their married life lasted only a year, they had little time for
domestic unhappiness, even supposing them not to be adapted to each
_Myself_. Mrs Matthew Haygarth did not marry again?
_The Rector_. No; she devoted herself to the education of her son, and
lived and died in this house. The room which is now my study she
furnished with a small reading-desk and a couple of benches, now in my
nursery, and made it into a kind of chapel, in which the keeper of the
general shop--who was, I believe, considered a shining light amongst
the Wesleyan community--was in the habit of holding forth every Sunday
morning to such few members of that sect as were within reach of
Dewsdale. She died when her son was nineteen years of age, and was
buried in the family vault in the churchyard yonder. Her son's
adherence to the Church of England was a very great trouble to her.
[_Inroad of boy in holland, very dejected and inky of aspect, also
exclaiming "Pa!"_] No, John; not till that problem is worked out. Take
that cricket-bat back to the lobby, sir, and return to your studies.
[_Sulky withdrawal of boy._] You see what it is to have a large family,
Mr.--Sheldon. I beg pardon, Mr.------
_Myself_. Hawkehurst, clerk to Mr. Sheldon.
_The Rector_. To be sure. I have some thoughts of the Law for one of my
elder sons; the Church is terribly overcrowded. However, as I was on
the point of saying when my boy John disturbed us, though I have heard
a great deal of gossip about the Haygarths, I fear I can give you very
little substantial information. Their connection with Dewsdale lasted
little more than twenty years. Matthew Haygarth was married in Dewsdale
church, his son John was christened in Dewsdale church, and he himself
is buried in the churchyard. That is about as much positive information
as I can give you; and you will perhaps remark that the parish register
would afford you as much. After questioning the good-natured old rector
rather closely, and obtaining little more than the above information, I
asked permission to see the house.
"Old furniture and old pictures are apt to be suggestive," I said; "and
perhaps while we are going over the house you may happen to recall some
further particulars relating to the Haygarth family."
Mr. Wendover assented. He was evidently anxious to oblige me, and
accepted my explanation of my business in perfect good faith. He
conducted me from room to room, waiting patiently while I scrutinised
the panelled walls and stared at the attenuated old furniture. I was
determined to observe George Sheldon's advice to the very letter,
though I had little hope of making any grand melodramatic discovery in
the way of documents hidden in old cabinets, or mouldering behind
I asked the rector if he had ever found papers of any kind in forgotten
nooks and corners of the house or the furniture. His reply was a
decided negative. He had explored and investigated every inch of the
old dwelling-place, and had found nothing.
So much for Sheldon's idea.
Mr. Wendover led me from basement to garret, encountering bouncing
daughters and boys in brown holland wherever we went; and from basement
to garret I found that all was barren. In the whole of the house there
was but one object which arrested my attention, and the interest which
that one object aroused in my mind had no relation to the Haygarthian
Over a high carved chimney-piece in one of the bedchambers there hung a
little row of miniatures--old-fashioned oval miniatures, pale and
faded--pictures of men and women with the powdered hair of the Georgian
period, and the flowing full-bottomed wigs familiar to St. James's and
Tunbridge-wells in the days of inoffensive Anne. There were in all
seven miniatures, six of which specimens of antique portraiture were
prim and starched and artificial of aspect. But the seventh was
different in form and style: it was the picture of a girlish face
looking out of a frame of loose unpowdered locks; a bright innocent
face, with gray eyes and marked black eyebrows, pouting lips a little
parted, and white teeth gleaming between lips of rosy red; such a face
as one might fancy the inspiration of an old poet. I took the miniature
gently from the little brass hook on which it hung, and stood for some
time looking at the bright frank face.
It was the picture of Charlotte Halliday. Yes; I suppose there is a
fatality in these things. It was one of those marvellous accidental
resemblances which every man has met with in the course of his life.
Here was this dead-and-gone beauty of the days of George the Second
smiling upon me with the eyes and lips of Philip Sheldon's
Or was it only a delusion of my own? Was my mind so steeped in the
thought of that girl--was my heart so impressed by her beauty, that I
could not look upon a fair woman's face without conjuring up her
likeness in the pictured countenance? However this may be, I looked
long and tenderly at the face which seemed to me to resemble the woman
Of course I questioned the rector as to the original of this particular
miniature. He could tell me nothing about it, except that he thought it
was not one of the Caulfields or Haygarths. The man in the
full-bottomed Queen-Anne wig was Jeremiah Caulfield, brewer, father
of the pious Rebecca; the woman with the high powdered head was the
pious Rebecca herself; the man in the George-the-Second wig was
Matthew Haygarth. The other three were kindred of Rebecca's. But the
wild-haired damsel was some unknown creature, for whose presence Mr.
Wendover was unable to account.
I examined the frame of the miniature, and found that it opened at the
back. Behind the ivory on which the portrait was painted there was a
lock of dark hair incased in crystal; and on the inside of the case,
which was of some worthless metal gilded, there was scratched the name
How this Molly with the loose dark locks came to be admitted among the
prim, and pious Caulfields is certainly more than I can understand.
My exploration of the house having resulted only in this little
romantic accident of the likeness to Charlotte, I prepared to take my
departure, no wiser than when I had first crossed the threshold. The
rector very politely proposed to show me the church; and as I
considered that it would be well to take a copy of the Haygarthian
entries in the register, I availed myself of his offer. He despatched a
maid-servant to summon his clerk, in order that that functionary might
assist in the investigation of the registers. The girl departed on this
errand, while her master conducted me across his garden, in which there
is now a gate opening into the churchyard.
It is the most picturesque of burial-grounds, darkened by the shadow of
those solemn yews and spreading cedars. We walked very slowly between
the crumbling old tombstones, which have almost all grown one-sided
with time. Mr. Wendover led me through a little labyrinth of lowly
graves to a high and ponderous iron railing surrounding a square space,
in the midst of which there is a stately stone monument. In the railing
there is a gate, from which a flight of stone step leads down to the
door of a vault. It is altogether rather a pretentious affair, wherein
one sees the evidence of substantial wealth unelevated by artistic
grace or poetic grandeur.
This is the family vault of the Caulfields and Haygarths.
"I've brought you to look at this tomb," said the rector, resting his
hand upon the rusted railing, "because there is rather a romantic story
connected with it--a story that concerns Matthew Haygarth, by the bye.
I did not think of it just now, when we were talking of him; but it
flashed on my memory as we came through the garden. It is rather a
mysterious affair; and though it is not very likely to have any bearing
upon the object of your inquiry, I may as well tell you about it,--as a
leaf out of family history, you know, Mr. Hawkehurst, and as a new
proof of the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction."
I assured the rector that I should be glad to hear anything he could
"I must premise that I only tell the story as I got it from my old
clerk, and that it may therefore seem rather indistinct; but there is
an entry in the register yonder to show that it is not without
foundation. However, I will waste no more words in preamble, but give
you the story, which is simply this:"--
The rector seated himself on a dilapidated old tombstone, while I
leaned against the rails of the Haygarth vault, looking down upon him.
"Within a month or two of Matthew Haygarth's death a kind of melancholy
came over him," said the rector. "Whether he was unhappy with his wife,
or whether he felt his health declining, is more than I can say. You
must remember that my informant was but a lad at the time of which I
speak, and that when he talked to me about the subject sixty years
afterwards he was a very old man, and his impressions were therefore
more or less vague. But upon certain facts he was sufficiently
positive; and amongst the circumstances he remembered most vividly are
those of the story I am going to tell you.
"It seems that within a very few weeks of Matthew's death, his wife,
Rebecca Haygarth, started on an expedition to the north, in the company
of an uncle, to hear John Wesley preach on some very special occasion,
and to assist at a love-feast. She was gone more than a fortnight; and
during her absence Matthew Haygarth mounted his horse early one morning
and rode away from Dewsdale.
"His household consisted of three maids, a man, and the lad Andrew
Hone, afterwards my sexton. Before departing on his journey Mr.
Haygarth had said that he would not return till late the next evening,
and had requested that only the man (whose name I forget) should sit up
for him." He was punctiliously obeyed. The household, always of early
habits, retired at nine, the accustomed hour; and the man-servant
waited to receive his master, while the lad Andrew, who slept in the
stables, sat up to keep his fellow-servant company.
"At ten o'clock Mr. Haygarth came home, gave his horse into the charge
of the lad, took his candle from the man-servant, and walked straight
upstairs, as if going to bed. The man-servant locked the doors, took
his master the key, and then went to his own quarters. The boy remained
up to feed and groom the horse, which had the appearance of having
performed a hard day's work.
"He had nearly concluded this business when he was startled by the
slamming of the back door opening into the courtyard, in which were the
stables and outhouses. Apprehending thieves, the boy opened the door of
the stable and looked out, doubtless with considerable caution.
"It was broad moonlight, and he saw at a glance that the person who had
opened the door was one who had a right to open it. Matthew Haygarth
was crossing the courtyard as the lad peeped out. He wore a long black
cloak, and his head drooped upon his breast as if he had been in
dejection. The lad--being, I suppose, inquisitive, after the manner of
country lads--made no more ado, but left his unfinished work and crept
stealthily after his master, who came straight to this churchyard,--
indeed to this very spot on which we are now standing.
"On this spot the boy Andrew Hone became the secret witness of a
strange scene. He saw an open grave close against the rails yonder, and
he saw a little coffin lowered silently into that grave by the sexton
of that time and a strange man, who afterwards went away in a mourning
coach, which was in waiting at the gate, and in which doubtless the
stranger and the little coffin had come.
"Before the man departed he assisted to fill up the grave; and when it
was filled Matthew Haygarth gave money to both the men--gold it seemed
to the lad Andrew, and several pieces to each person. The two men then
departed, but Mr. Haygarth still lingered.
"As soon as he fancied himself alone, he knelt down beside the little
grave, covered his face with his hands, and either wept or prayed,
Andrew Hone could not tell which. If he wept, he wept silently.
"From that night, my sexton said, Matthew Haygarth faded visibly.
Mistress Rebecca came home from her love-feast, and nursed and tended
her husband with considerable kindness, though, so far as I can make
out, she was at the best a stern woman. He died three weeks after the
event which I have described, and was buried in that vault close to the
little grave." I thanked Mr. Wendover for his succinct narrative, and
apologised for the trouble I had occasioned him.
"Do not speak of the trouble," he answered kindly; "I am used to
telling that story. I have heard it a great many times from poor old
Andrew, and I have told it a great many times."
"The story has rather a legendary tone," I said; "I should have
scarcely thought such a thing possible."
The rector shrugged his shoulders with a deprecating gesture.
"In our own day," he replied, "such an occurrence would be almost
impossible; but you must remember that we are talking of the last
century--a century in which, I regret to say, the clergy of the Church
of England were sadly lax in the performance of their duties. The
followers of Wesley and Whitefield could scarcely have multiplied as
they did if the flocks had not been cruelly neglected by their proper
shepherds. It was a period in which benefices were bestowed constantly
on men obviously unfitted for the holy office--men who were gamblers
and drunkards, patrons of cock-pits, and in many cases open and
shameless reprobates. In such an age almost anything was possible; and
this midnight and unhallowed interment may very well have taken place
either with the consent or without the knowledge of the incumbent, who,
I am told, bore no high character for piety or morality."
"And you say there is an entry in the register?"
"Yes, a careless scrawl, dated Sept. 19th, 1774, recording the burial
of one Matthew Haygarth, aged four years, removed from the
burial-ground attached to the parish church of Spotswold."
"Then it was a reinterment?"
"And is Spotswold in this county?"
"Yes; it is a very small village, about fifty miles from here."
"And Matthew Haygarth died very soon after this event?"
"He did. He died very suddenly--with an awful suddenness--and died
intestate. His widow was left the possessor of great wealth, which
increased in the hands of her son John Haygarth, a very prudent and
worthy gentleman, and a credit to the Church of which he was a member.
He only died very lately, I believe, and must therefore have attained a
It is quite evident that Mr. Wendover had not seen the advertisement in
the Times, and was ignorant of the fact that the accumulated wealth of
Haygarths and Caulfields is now waiting a claimant.
I asked permission to see the register containing the entry of the
mysterious interment; and after the administration of a shilling to the
clerk--a shilling at Dewsdale being equal to half a crown in London--
the vestry cupboard was opened by that functionary, and the book I
required was produced from a goodly pile of such mouldy brown
Back to Full Books