Chapter XVI. {XXXIX}

“That which you hear, you’ll swear you see,  

There is such unity in the proofs.” Winter’s Tale.

{William Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale, V.ii.31-32}

WHEN Hazlehurst arrived at the little village in the neighbourhood of Greatwood, he was so fortunate as to find that many persons among the older members of the community, had a perfect recollection of William Stanley, and were ready to testify, to the best of their knowledge, as to any particulars that might be of service in the case.

His first inquiry was, for the young man’s nurse. He discovered that she had recently removed into a neighbouring state, with the son, in whose family she had lived since leaving the Stanleys. As soon as Harry had accompanied Mrs. Stanley to Greatwood, he set out in pursuit of this person, from whom he hoped to obtain important evidence. On arriving at the place where she was now to be found, he was much disappointed, for her faculties had been so much impaired by a severe attack of paralysis, that he could learn but little from her. She seemed to have cherished a warm affection for the memory of William Stanley, whose loss at sea she had never doubted. Whenever his name was mentioned she wept, and she spoke with feeling and respect of the young man’s parents. But her mind was much confused, and it was impossible to make any use of her testimony in a court of justice.

Thus thrown back upon those who had a less intimate personal knowledge of the young man, Harry pursued his inquiries among the families about Greatwood, and the village of Franklin Cross-Roads. With the exception of a few newcomers, and those who were too young to recollect eighteen years back, almost everybody in the neighbourhood had had some acquaintance with William Stanley. He had been to school with this one; he had sat in church, in the pew next to that family; he had been the constant playfellow of A — — — — — — ; and he had drawn B — — — — — — into more than one scrape. Numerous stories sprang up right and left, as to his doings when a boy; old scenes were acted over again, and past events, mere trifles perhaps at the time, but gaining importance from the actual state of things, were daily brought to light; there seemed no lack of information connected with the subject.

We must observe, however, before we proceed farther, that Hazlehurst had no sooner arrived at Greatwood, than he went to look after the set of the Spectator, to which the volume produced at the interview had belonged. He found the books in their usual place on an upper shelf, with others seldom used; every volume had the double names of Mr. Stanley and his son, but the set was not complete; there was not only one volume missing, but two were wanting! Hazlehurst sprang from the steps on which he was standing, when he made this discovery, and went immediately in pursuit of Mrs. Stanley, to inquire if she knew which volume was originally missing. She could not be sure, but she believed it was the eighth. Such was the fact; the eighth volume was not in its place, neither was the sixth, that which Mr. Clapp had in his possession; yet Mrs. Stanley was convinced, that only two years previously, there had been but one volume lost. Harry tried to revive his recollection of the time and place, when and where, he had read that volume, with the portrait of Steele, and Addison’s papers on the Paradise Lost; he should have felt sure it was at Greatwood, not long before going abroad with Mr. Henley, had it not been, that he found his brother had the very same edition in Philadelphia, and he might have read it there. He also endeavoured to discover when and how the second missing volume had been removed from its usual place on the shelf. But this was no easy task; neither the housekeeper — a respectable woman, in whom Mrs. Stanley and himself had perfect confidence — nor the servants, could form even a surmise upon the subject. At last Harry thought he had obtained a clue to everything; he found that two strangers had been at Greatwood in the month of March, that year, and had gone over the whole house, representing themselves as friends of the family. The housekeeper had forgotten their visit, until Harry’s inquiries reminded her of the fact; she then gave him the name of the young woman who had gone over the house with these two individuals. This girl was no longer at Greatwood, but in the neighbouring village; at Mrs. Stanley’s request, however, she came to give a report of the circumstance.

{“Spectator” = Susan Fenimore Cooper has been forgetful; the sailor, it was stated in Chapter 12, had a copy of Volume three; Addison’s essays on Paradise Lost, that Harry remembered reading, are in fact contained in Volumes four and five; but we are now told that it is Volumes six and eight that are missing from the shelf!}

“It was in March these two strangers were here, you say, Malvina?” observed Mrs. Stanley.

“Yes, ma’am; it was in March, when the roads were very bad.”

“What sort of looking persons were they, and how old should you have called them?” asked Hazlehurst.

“One was a tall and slim gentleman, with curly hair; the other looked kind o’ rough, he was stout, and had a red face; they wasn’t very young, nor very old.”

“Tell us, if you please, all you remember about their visit, just as it passed,” said Harry.

“Well, it happened Mrs. Jones was sick in her room when they called; they wanted to see the house, saying they knew the family very well. I asked them to sit down in the hall, while I went to tell Mrs. Jones; she hadn’t any objections, and told me to show them the rooms they wanted to see. So I took them over the house — first the parlours, then the other rooms.”

“Did they ask to see the bed-rooms?”

“Yes, sir; they went over all the house but the garret; they went into the kitchen and the pantry.”

“Did they stay some time?”

“Yes, sir; Mrs. Jones wondered they staid so long.”

“Did they go into the library?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you remember whether they looked at the books?”

“No; they didn’t stay more than a minute in the library.”

“Are you sure they did not look at any of the books?” repeated Harry.

“I am quite sure they didn’t, for the room was too dark, and they only staid half-a-minute. I asked them if I should open the shutters; but one of them said they didn’t care; he said he was never over-fond of books.”

Mrs. Stanley and Harry here exchanged looks of some surprise.

“Did they talk much to each other? — do you remember what they said?” continued Harry.

“Yes, they talked considerable. I reckon they had been here before, for they seemed to know a good deal about the house. When I showed them the south parlour, the gentleman with the red face said everything looked natural to him, but that room most of all; then he pointed to the large chair by the fire-place, and said: ‘That is where I last saw my father, in that very chair; he was a good old gentleman, and deserved to have a better son.’”

“Is it possible!” exclaimed Mrs. Stanley.

“But, my dear madam, it was all acting no doubt; they wished to pass for the characters they have since assumed; it only proves that the plot has been going on for some time.” “Do you remember anything else that was said?” added Hazlehurst, turning again to the girl.

“They talked considerable, but I didn’t pay much attention. They inquired when Mr. Hazlehurst was coming home; I said I didn’t know. The one with the curly hair said he guessed they knew more about the family than I did; and he looked queer when he said so.”

Nothing further was gathered from this girl, who bore an excellent character for truth and honesty, though rather stupid. The volume of the Spectator still remained as much a mystery as ever. Nor did a second conversation with this young woman bring to light anything new; her answers on both occasions corresponded exactly; and beyond proving the fact of Clapp’s having been over the house with the sailor, nothing was gained from her report. At the second conversation, Harry asked if she knew whether these strangers had remained long in the neighbourhood?

“I saw them the next day at meeting,” she replied, “and Jabez told me he met them walking about the place; that is all I know about it, sir.”

Jabez, one of the men on the farm, was questioned: he had seen these two strangers walking about the place, looking at the barns and stables, the same day they had been at the house; but he had not spoken to them; and this was the amount of his story.

Harry then inquired at the taverns in the neighbourhood; and he found that two persons, answering to the same description, had staid a couple of days, about the middle of March, at a small inn, within half a mile from Greatwood. Their bill had been made out in the name of “Mr. Clapp and friend.” This was satisfactory as far as it went, and accounted for the sailor’s knowledge of the house; though Mrs. Stanley could not comprehend at first, how this man should have pointed out so exactly, her husband’s favourite seat. Harry reminded her, however, that Clapp had passed several years of his youth at Franklin Cross-Roads, in a lawyer’s office, and had very probably been at Greatwood during Mr. Stanley’s life-time.

Hazlehurst had drawn up a regular plan of action for his inquiries; and after having discovered who could assist him, and who could not, he portioned off the neighbourhood into several divisions, intending to devote a day to each — calling at every house where he hoped to gain information on the subject of William Stanley.

He set out on horseback early in the morning, for his first day’s circuit, taking a note-book in his pocket, to record facts as he went along, and first turning his horse’s head towards the house of Mrs. Lawson, who had been a constant playfellow of William Stanley’s, when both were children. This lady was one of a large family, who had been near neighbours of the Stanleys for years, and on terms of daily intimacy with them; and she had already told Harry, one day when she met him in the village, that she held herself in readiness to answer, to the best of her ability, any questions about her former playmate, that he might think it worth while to ask. On knocking at this lady’s door, he was so fortunate as to find Mrs. Lawson at home; and, by especial luck, Dr. Lewis, a brother of her’s, who had removed from that part of the country, happened just then to be on a visit at his sister’s.

After a little preliminary chat, Hazlehurst made known the particular object of his call.

“Do I remember William Stanley’s personal appearance and habits? Perfectly; quite as well as I do my own brother’s,” replied the doctor, to Harry’s first inquiry.

“Mrs. Lawson told me that he used to pass half his time at your father’s house, and kindly offered to assist me, as far as lay in her power; and I look upon myself as doubly fortunate in finding you here to-day. We wish, of course, to collect as many minute details as possible, regarding Mr. Stanley’s son, as we feel confident, from evidence already in our power, that this new-comer is an impostor.”

“No doubt of it,” replied the doctor; “an extravagant story, indeed! Nearly eighteen years as still as a mouse, and then coolly stepping in, and claiming a property worth some hundreds of thousands. A clear case of conspiracy, without doubt.”

“Poor William was no saint, certainly,” added Mrs. Lawson; “but this sailor must be a very bad man.”

“Pray, when did you last see young Stanley!” asked Harry, of the lady.

“When he was at home, not long before his father’s death. He held out some promise of reforming, then. Billings, who first led him into mischief, was not in the neighbourhood at that time, and his father had hopes of him; but some of his old companions led him off again.”

“He must have been a boy of strange temper, to leave home under such circumstances; an only son, with such prospects before him.”

“Yes, his temper was very unpleasant; but then, Mr. Stanley, the father, did not know how to manage him.”

“He could scarcely have had much sense either, to have been so easily led astray by a designing young fellow, as that Billings seems to have been.”

“Flattery; flattery did it all,” observed the doctor. “Some people thought young Stanley little more than half-witted; but I have always maintained that he was not wanting in sense.”

“I don’t see how you can say so, doctor,” observed the sister. “I am sure it was a settled thing among us children, that he was a very stupid, disagreeable boy. He never took much interest in our plays, I remember.”

“Not in playing doll-baby, perhaps; but I have had many a holiday with him that I enjoyed very much, I can tell you. He never had a fancy for a book, that is true; but otherwise be was not so very dull as some people make out.”

“He had the reputation of being a dull boy, had he?”

“Oh, certainly,” said Mrs. Lawson. “at one time, when we were quite children, we all took arithmetic lessons together, and he was always at the foot of the class.”

“He had no head for figures, perhaps; it is more likely, though, that he wouldn’t learn out of obstinacy; he was as obstinate as a mule, that I allow.”

“What sort of games and plays did he like best?”

“I don’t know that he liked one better than another, so long as he could choose himself,” replied Dr. Lewis.

“Was he a strong, active boy?”

“Not particularly active, but a stout, healthy lad.”

“Disposed to be tall?”

“Tallish; the last time he was here, he must have measured about five feet ten.”

“Oh, more than that,” interposed Mrs. Lawson; “he was taller than our eldest brother, I know — full six feet one, I should say.”

“No, no, Sophia; certainly not more than five feet nine or ten. Remember, you were a little thing yourself at the time.”

“Do you remember the colour of his eyes, Mrs. Lawson?”

“Yes, perfectly; they were blue.”

“Brown, I should say,” added the doctor.

“No, John, you are quite mistaken; his eyes were blue, Mr. Hazlehurst- -very dark blue.”

“I could have taken my oath they were brown,” said the doctor.

Hazlehurst looked from one to the other in doubt.

“You were away from home, doctor, more than I was, and probably do not remember William’s face as distinctly as I do. I am quite confident his eyes were a clear, deep blue.”

“Well, I should have called them a light brown.”

“Were they large?” asked Harry.

“Of a common size, I think,” said the brother.

“Remarkably small, I should say,” added the sister.

“What colour was his hair?” asked Harry, giving up the eyes.

“Black,” said the doctor.

“Not black, John — dark perhaps, but more of an auburn, like his father’s portrait,” said Mrs. Lawson.

“Why, that is black, certainly.”

“Oh, no; auburn — a rich, dark auburn.”

“There is a greyish cast in that portrait, I think,” said Harry.

“Grey, oh, no; Mr. Stanley’s hair was in perfect colour when he died; I remember him distinctly, seeing him as often as I did,” said the lady. “The hair of the Stanley family is generally auburn,” she added.

“What do you call auburn?” said the doctor.

“A dark, rich brown, like William Stanley’s.”

“Now I call Mr. Robert Hazlehurst’s hair auburn.”

“My brother’s hair! Why that is sometimes pronounced sandy, and even red, occasionally,” said Harry.

“Not red; Lawson’s hair is red.”

“Mr. Lawson’s hair is more of a flaxen shade,” said the wife, a little quickly.

Despairing of settling the particular shade of the hair, Harry then inquired if there was any strongly marked peculiarity of face or person about William Stanley?

Here both agreed that they had never remarked anything of the kind; it appeared that the young man was made more like the rest of the world, than became the hero of such a singular career.

“Do you think you should know him, if you were to see him again, after such a long interval?”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the doctor; “some people change very much, from boys to middle-aged manhood, others alter but little.”

“I have no doubt that I could tell in a moment, if this person is William Stanley or an impostor,” said Mrs. Lawson. “Think how much we were together, as children; for ten years of his life, he was half the time at our house. I am sure if this sailor were William Stanley, he would have come to see some of us, long since.”

“Did he visit you when he was last at Greatwood?”

“No, he did not come at that time; but I saw him very often in the village, and riding about.”

“Do you remember his stuttering at all?”

“No; I never heard him that I know of; I don’t believe he ever stuttered.”

“He did stutter once in a while, Sophia, when he was in a passion.”

“I never heard him.”

“Young Stanley had one good quality, Mr. Hazlehurst, with all his faults; he spoke the truth — you could believe what he said.”

“My good brother, you are mistaken there, I can assure you. Time and again have I known him tell falsehoods when he got into a scrape; many is the time he has coaxed and teased, till he got us children into mischief — he was a great tease, you know — ”

“Not more so than most boys,” interposed the doctor.

“And after he had got us into trouble, I remember perfectly, that he would not acknowledge it was his fault. Oh, no; you could not by any means depend upon what he said.”

“Was he much of a talker?”

“No, rather silent.”

“Quite silent:” both brother and sister were in unison here, at last.

“He was good-looking, you think, Mrs. Lawson?”

“Oh, yes, good-looking, certainly,” replied the lady.

“Rather good-looking; but when he was last at home, his features had grown somewhat coarse, and his expression was altered for the worse,” said the doctor.

“He was free with his money, I believe?”

“Very extravagant,” said Mrs. Lawson.

“He didn’t care a fig for money, unless it was refused him,” said the doctor.

“Was there anything particular about his teeth?”

“He had fine teeth,” said Mrs. Lawson; “but he did not show them much.”

“A good set of teeth, if I remember right,” added the doctor.

“His complexion was rather dark, I believe?” said Harry.

“More sallow than dark,” said the lady.

“Not so very sallow,” said the gentleman.

“You asked just now about his eyes, Mr. Hazlehurst; it strikes me they were much the colour of yours.”

“But mine are grey,” said Harry.

“More of a hazel, I think.”

“Oh, no; William Stanley’s eyes were as different as possible from Mr. Hazlehurst’s, in colour and shape!” exclaimed the lady.

The conversation continued some time longer, but the specimen just given will suffice to show its character; nothing of importance was elicited, and not one point decidedly settled, which had not been already known to Harry. He continued his round of visits throughout the day, with much the same result. The memories of the people about Greatwood seemed to be playing at cross-purposes; and yet there was no doubt, that all those persons to whom Hazlehurst applied, had known young Stanley for years; and there was every reason to believe they were well disposed to give all the evidence in their power.

From Mrs. Lawson’s, Harry went to the house of another acquaintance, a Captain Johnson; and the following is the amount of what he gathered here, as it was hastily entered in his note-book:

“Eyes grey; hair black; rather stout for his age; sullen temper; very dull; bad company cause of his ruin; not cold-hearted; stuttered a little when excited; expression good when a boy, but much changed when first came home from sea; Billings the cause of his ruin.”

So much for Captain Johnson. The next stopping-place was at a man’s, by the name of Hill, who had been coachman at Mr. Stanley’s for several years; his account follows:

“Hill says: ‘Would get in a passion when couldn’t have his own way; have heard him stutter; always in some scrape or other after first went to college; eyes blue; hair brown; sharp enough when he pleased, but always heard he hated books; short for his age when first went to sea, and thin; had grown three or four inches when he came back; should have thought him five feet eight or nine, when last saw him; face grown fuller and red, when came home.’”

From Hill’s, Harry went to see Mr. Anderson, who had kept the principal tavern at Franklin Cross-Roads, during William Stanley’s boyhood; but he was not at home.

He then called at Judge Stone’s: “Mrs. S. thought him handsome young man; judge, quite ugly; husband says eyes a greenish colour; wife thinks were dark brown; height about my own, said judge; not near so tall, says Mrs. S.: both agreed he was morose in temper, and dull at learning.”

At several other places where Harry called, he found that William Stanley had been merely known by sight. Others related capital stories of scrapes, in which they had been implicated with the boy, but could tell Harry very little to the purpose, where it came to particular questions. Three individuals pronounced him tall, four thought he was middle-sized, two declared he was short. Two inferences, however, might be drawn from all that had been said: William Stanley must have been of an unpleasant temper; while general evidence pronounced him rather more dull than most boys. With these two facts at least sufficiently well established, while his head was filled with contradictory visions, of hair, eyes, and complexion, of various shades and colours, Harry returned in the evening, quite jaded and worn-out with his day’s exertions; not the least of which had been, to reconcile totally opposite accounts on a dozen different points.

Mrs. Stanley was awaiting his return with much anxiety; and while Harry was drinking an excellent cup of tea — the most refreshing thing in the world to a person who is fatigued, even in warm weather — he reported his day’s work. His friend seemed to think the account anything but encouraging; though Harry declared, that it was well worth the labour and vexation to establish the two facts, regarding the young man’s capacity and temper, in which respects he certainly differed from the claimant.

“What miserable hypocrites both this man and his lawyer must be!” exclaimed Mrs. Stanley.

“Hypocrisy figures often enough in courts of justice, ma’am, and is only too often successful for a time.”

“I am afraid, my dear Harry, they will give you a great deal of trouble!”

“I have no doubt of it,” replied Hazlehurst; “but still I hope to defeat them, and in the end, to punish their vile conspiracy.”

“A defeat would he distressing to both Mr. Wyllys and myself; but to you, my dear young friend, it would be serious indeed!” she observed, with feeling.

“We shall yet gain the day, I trust,” said Harry. “The consequences of defeat would indeed be very serious to me,” he added. “In such a case I should lose everything, and a little more, as Paddy would say. I made a deliberate calculation the other day, and I find, after everything I own has been given up, that there would still be a debt of some thirty thousand dollars to pay off.”

“It is wise, I suppose, to be prepared for the worst,” said Mrs. Stanley, sadly; “but in such a case, Harry, you must look to your friends. Remember, that I should consider it a duty to assist you, in any pecuniary difficulties which might result from a defeat.”

“You are very good, ma’am; I am grateful for the offer. In case of our failure, I should certainly apply to my immediate friends, for I could never bear the thought of being in debt to those rascals. But if the affair turns out in that way, I must stay at home and work hard, to clear myself entirely. I am young, and if we fail to repel this claim, still I shall hope by industry and prudence, to discharge all obligations before I am many years older.”

“I have never doubted, Harry, that in either case you would do what is just and honourable; but I mourn that there should be any danger of such a sacrifice.”

“It would be a sacrifice, indeed; including much that I have valued heretofore — tastes, habits, partialities, prospects, fortune, hopes — all must undergo a change, all must he sacrificed.”

“And hopes are often a precious part of a young man’s portion,” said Mrs. Stanley.

Hazlehurst happened to raise his eyes as she spoke, and, from the expression of her face, he fancied that she was thinking of Mrs. Creighton. He changed colour, and remained silent a moment.

“You would be compelled to give up your connexion with Mr. Henley,” she observed, by way of renewing the conversation.

“Yes, of course; I should have to abandon that, I could not afford it; I should have to devote myself to my profession. I have no notion, however, of striking my colours to these land-pirates until after a hard battle, I assure you,” he said, more cheerfully. “Great generals always prepare for a retreat, and so shall I, but only as the last extremity. Indeed, I think our affairs look more encouraging just now. It seems next to impossible, for such a plot to hold together in all its parts; we shall be able probably, to find out more than one weak point which will not bear an attack.”

“It is certainly important to establish the difference in temper and capacity, between the claimant and William Stanley,” said Mrs. Stanley.

“Highly important; Ellsworth is hard at work, too, in tracing the past life of the sailor, and by his last letters, I find he had written to young Stanley’s school-master, and to the family physician. He had seen the sailor, and in addition to Mr. Wyllys’s remarks upon his gait, which is different from that of William when a boy, Ellsworth writes, that he was very much struck with the shape of the man’s limbs, so different from those of the portrait of Mr. Stanley’s son, when a lad, which they have at Wyllys-Roof; he thinks the family physician may help him there; fortunately, he is still living.”

“It is a great pity the nurse’s faculties should have failed!” exclaimed Mrs. Stanley.

“Yes, it’s a pity, indeed; her evidence would have been very important. But we shall do without her, I hope.”

“Are you going to Wyllys-Roof again, before the trial?”

“No; I shall have too much to do, here and in Philadelphia. Mr. Wyllys has kindly asked me, however, to go there, as soon as the matter is settled, whether for good or for evil.”

“I thought I heard you talking over with Mr. de Vaux, some boating excursion, to take place in August, from Longbridge; has it been given up?”

“Not given up; but de Vaux very good-naturedly proposed postponing it, until after my affairs were settled. It is to take place as soon as I am ready; whether I shall join it with flying colours, or as a worsted man, time alone can decide.”

The mail was just then brought in; as usual there was a letter for Harry, from Ellsworth.

Wyllys-Roof, August, 183-.

“Our application to the family physician proves entirely successful, my dear Hazlehurst; my physiological propensities were not at fault. I had a letter last evening from Dr. H — — — — — — , who now lives in Baltimore, and he professes himself ready to swear to the formation of young Stanley’s hands and feet, which he says resembled those of Mr. Stanley, the father, and the three children, who died before William S. grew up. His account agrees entirely with the portrait of the boy, as it now exists at Wyllys-Roof; the arms and hands are long, the fingers slender, nails elongated; as you well know, Mr. Clapp’s client is the very reverse of this — his hands are short and thick, his fingers what, in common parlance, would be called dumpy. I was struck with the fact when I first saw him in the street. Now, what stronger evidence could we have? A slender lad of seventeen may become a heavy, corpulent man of forty, but to change the formation of hands, fingers, and nails, is beyond the reach of even Clapp’s cunning. We are much obliged to the artist, for his accuracy in representing the hands of the boy exactly as they were. This testimony I look upon as quite conclusive. As to the Rev. Mr. G — — — — — — , whose pupil young Stanley was for several years, we find that he is no longer living; but I have obtained the names of several of the young’s man’s companions, who will be able to confirm the fact of his dullness; several of the professors at the University are also living, and will no doubt be able to assist us. I have written a dozen letters on these points, but received no answers as yet. So far so good; we shall succeed, I trust. Mr. Wyllys bids you not forget to find out if Clapp has really been at Greatwood, as we suspected. The ladies send you many kind and encouraging messages. Josephine, as usual, sympathizes in all our movements. She says: ‘Give Mr. Hazlehurst all sorts of kind greetings from me; anything you please short of my love, which would not be proper, I suppose.’ I had a charming row on the river last evening, with the ladies. I never managed a law-suit in such agreeable quarters before.

“Faithfully yours,

“F. E.”