Chapter XII. {XXXV}

“Do thou stand for my father, and examine me upon the particulars of my life.” “What manner of man, an’t please your majesty?” Henry IV

{William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV, II.iv.375-376, 420-421}

HAZLEHURST’s affairs had not remained stationary, in the mean time; Mrs. Stanley and himself were already at Wyllys-Roof, when Miss Wyllys and Elinor returned home, accompanied by the widowed Jane. The ladies had received frequent intelligence of the progress of his affairs, from Mr. Wyllys’s letters; still there were many details to be explained when the party was re-united, as several important steps had been taken while they were in New York. Mr. Clapp was no longer the only counsel employed by the claimant; associated with the Longbridge attorney, now appeared the name of Mr. Reed, a lawyer of highly respectable standing in New York, a brother-in-law of Judge Bernard’s, and a man of a character far superior to that of Mr. Clapp. He was slightly acquainted with Mr. Wyllys, and had written very civil letters, stating that he held the proofs advanced by his client, to be quite decisive as to his identity, and he proposed an amicable meeting, with the hope that Mr. Stanley’s claim might be acknowledged without farther difficulty. That Mr. Reed should have taken the case into his hands, astonished Hazlehurst and his friends; so long as Clapp managed the affair, they felt little doubt as to its beings a coarse plot of his own; but they had now become impatient to inquire more closely into the matter. Mrs. Stanley was growing very uneasy; Hazlehurst was anxious to proceed farther as soon as possible; but Mr. Wyllys was still nearly as sanguine as ever. All parties seemed to desire a personal interview; Mr. Reed offered to accompany his client to Wyllys-Roof, to wait on Mrs. Stanley; and a day had been appointed for the meeting, which was to take place as soon as Harry’s opponent, who had been absent from Longbridge, should return. The morning fixed for the interview, happened to be that succeeding the arrival of the ladies; and it will be easily imagined that every member of the family looked forward to the moment with most anxious interest. Perhaps they were not aware themselves, how gradually doubts had arisen and increased, in their own minds, since the first disclosure made by Mr. Clapp.

“Harry and myself have both seen this man at last, Agnes,” said Mr. Wyllys to his daughter, just after she had returned home, when alone with Elinor and herself. “Where do you suppose Harry saw him yesterday? At church, with Mr. Reed. And this morning I caught a glimpse of him, standing on the steps of Clapp’s office.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Miss Wyllys, who, as well as Elinor, was listening eagerly. How did he look? — what kind of man did he seem?”

“He looked like a sailor. I only saw him for a moment, however; for he was coming out of the office, and walked down the street, in an opposite direction from me. I must confess that his face had something of a Stanley look.”

“Is it possible!”

“Yes; so far as I could see him, he struck me as looking like the Stanleys; but, in another important point, he does not resemble them at all. You remember the peculiar gait of the family? — they all had it, more or less; anybody who knew them well must have remarked it often — but this man had nothing of the kind; he walked like a sailor.”

“I know what you mean; it was a peculiar motion in walking, well known to all their friends — a long, slow step.”

“Precisely; this man had nothing of it, whatever — he had the sailor swing, for I watched his movements expressly. William Stanley, as a boy, walked just like his father; for I have often pointed it out to Mr. Stanley, myself.”

“That mast be an important point, I should suppose; and yet, grandpapa, you think he looks like my uncle Stanley?” said Elinor.

“So I should say, from the glimpse I had of him.”

“What did Harry think of him?” asked Miss Wyllys.

“Hazlehurst did not see his face, for he sat before him in church. He said, that if he had not been told who it was, he should have pronounced him, from his general appearance and manner, a common-looking, sea-faring man, who was not accustomed to the service of the Church; for he did not seem to understand when he should kneel, and when he should rise.”

“But William Stanley ought to have known it perfectly,” observed Elinor; “for he must have gone to church constantly, with his family, as a child, until he went to sea, and could scarcely have forgotten the service entirely, I should think.”

“Certainly, my dear; that is another point which we have noted in our favour. On the other hand, however, I have just been carefully comparing the hand-writing of Clapp’s client, with that of William Stanley, and there is a very remarkable resemblance between them. As far as the hand-writing goes, I must confess, that I should have admitted it at once, as identical, under ordinary circumstances.”

“And the personal likeness, too, struck you, it seems,” added Miss Agnes.

“It did; so far, at least, as I could judge from seeing him only a moment, and with his hat on. To-morrow we shall be able, I trust, to make up our minds more decidedly on other important points.”

“It is very singular that he should not be afraid of an interview!” exclaimed Elinor.

“Well, I don’t know that, my child; having once advanced this claim, he must be prepared for examination, you know, under any circumstances. It is altogether a singular case, however, whether he be the impostor we think him, or the individual he claims to be. Truth is certainly more strange than fiction sometimes. Would you like to see the statement Mr. Reed sent us, when we applied for some account of his client’s past movements?”

Miss Agnes and Elinor were both anxious to see it.

“Here it is — short you see — in Clapp’s hand-writing, but signed by himself. There is nothing in it that may not possibly be true; but I fancy that we shall be able to pick some holes in it, by-and-bye.”

“Did he make no difficulty about sending it to you?” asked Miss Agnes.

“No, he seemed to give it readily; Mr. Reed sent it to us a day or two since.”

Miss Wyllys received the letter from her father, inviting Elinor to read it over her shoulder, at the same moment. It was endorsed, in Clapp’s hand, ” Statement of Mr. Stanley, prepared at the request of his father’s executor,” and ran as follows:

July1 st, 183-.

“I left home, as everybody knows, because I would have my own way in everything. It was against my best interests to be sure, but boys don’t think at such times, about anything but having their own will. I suppose that every person connected with my deceased father knows, that my first voyage was made to Russia, in the year 18 — , in the ship Dorothy Beck, Jonas Thomson, Master. I was only fourteen years old at the time. My father had taken to heart my going off, and when I came back from Russia he was on the look-out, wrote to me and sent me money, and as soon as he heard we were in port he came after me. Well, I went back with the old gentleman; but we had a quarrel on the road, and I put about again and went to New Bedford, where I shipped in a whaler. We were out only eighteen months, and brought in a full cargo. This time I went home of my own accord, and I staid a great part of one summer. I did think some of quitting the seas; but after a while things didn’t work well, and one of my old shipmates coming up into the country to see me, I went off with him. This time I shipped in the Thomas Jefferson, for China. This was in the year 1814, during the last war, when I was about eighteen. Most people, who know anything about William Stanley, think that was the last of him, that he never set foot on American ground again; but they are mistaken, as he himself will take the pains to show. So far I have told nothing but what everybody knows, but now I am going to give a short account of what has happened, since my friends heard from me. Well; the Jefferson sailed, on her voyage to China, in October; she was wrecked on the coast of Africa in December, and it was reported that all hands were lost: so they were, all but one, and that one was William Stanley. I was picked up by a Dutchman, the barque William, bound to Batavia. I kept with the Dutchman for a while, until he went back to Holland. After I had cut adrift from him, I fell in with some Americans, and got some old papers; in one of them I saw my father’s second marriage. I knew the name of the lady he had married, but I had never spoken to her. The very next day, one of the men I was with, who came from the same part of the country, told me of my father’s death, and said it was the common talk about the neighbourhood, that I was disinherited. This made me very angry; though I wasn’t much surprised, after what had passed. I was looking out for a homeward-bound American, to go back, and see how matters stood, when one night that I was drunk, I was carried off by an English officer, who made out I was a runaway. For five years I was kept in different English men-of-war, in the East Indies; at the end of that time I was put on board the Ceres, sloop of war, and I made out to desert from her at last, and got on board an American. I then came home; and here, the first man that I met on shore was Billings, the chap who first persuaded me to go to sea: he knew all about my father’s family, and told me it was true I was cut off without a cent, and that Harry Hazlehurst had been adopted by my father. This made me so mad, that I went straight to New Bedford, and shipped in the Sally Andrews, for a whaling voyage. Just before we were to have come home, I exchanged into another whaler, as second-mate, for a year longer. Then I sailed in a Havre liner, as foremast hand, for a while. I found out about this time, that the executors of my father’s estate had been advertising for me shortly after his death, while I was in the East Indies; and I went to a lawyer in Baltimore, where I happened to be, and consulted him about claiming the property; but he wouldn’t believe a word I said, because I was half-drunk at the time, and told me that I should get in trouble if I didn’t keep my mouth shut. Well, I cruized about for a while longer, when at last I went to Longbridge, with some shipmates. I had been there often before, as a lad, and I had some notion of having a talk with Mr. Wyllys, my father’s executor; I went to his house one day, but I didn’t see him. One of my shipmates who knew something of my story, and had been a client of Mr. Clapp’s, advised me to consult him. I went to his office, but he sent me off like the Baltimore lawyer, because be thought I was drunk. Three years after that I got back to Longbridge again, with a shipmate; but it did me no good, for I got drinking, and had a fit of the horrors. That fit sobered me, though, in the end; it was the worst I had ever had; I should have hanged myself, and there would have been an end of William Stanley and his hard rubs, if it hadn’t been for the doctor — I never knew his name, but Mr. Clapp says it was Dr. Van Horne. After this bad fit, they coaxed me into shipping in a temperance whaler. While I was in the Pacific, in this ship, nigh three years, and out of the reach of drink, I had time to think what a fool I had been all my life, for wasting my opportunities. I thought there must be some way of getting back my father’s property; Mr. Clapp had said, that if I was really the man I pretended to be, I must have some papers to make it out; but if I hadn’t any papers, he couldn’t help me, even if I was William Stanley forty times over. It is true, I couldn’t show him any documents that time, for I didn’t have them with me at Longbridge; but I made up my mind, while I was out on my last voyage, that as soon as I got home, I would give up drinking, get my papers together, and set about doing my best to get back my father’s property. We came home last February; I went to work, I kept sober, got my things together, put money by for a lawyer’s fee, and then went straight to Longbridge again. I went to Mr. Clapp’s office, and first I handed him the money, and then I gave him my papers. I went to him, because he had treated me better than any other lawyer, and told me if I was William Stanley, and could prove it, he could help me better than any other man, for he knew all about my father’s will. Well, he hadn’t expected ever to see me again; but he heard my story all out this time, read the documents, and at last believed me, and undertook the case. The rest is known to the executors and legatee by this time; and it is to be hoped, that after enjoying my father’s estate for nigh twenty years, they will now make it over to his son.

“Dictated to W. C. Clapp, by the undersigned,


{“Dutchman” = a ship trading between the Netherlands and the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), of which Batavia (now Jakarta) was the capital}

“Are these facts, so far as they are known to you, all true?” asked Miss Agnes, as she finished the paper. “I mean the earlier part of the statement, which refers to William Stanley’s movements before he sailed in the Jefferson?”

“Yes; that part of the story is correct, so far as it goes.”

“How extraordinary!” exclaimed Elinor.

“What does Harry think of this paper?”

“Both he and Mrs. Stanley are more disposed to listen to the story than I am; however, we are to meet this individual to-morrow, and shall be able then, I hope, to see our way more clearly.”

“Do you find any glaring inconsistency in the latter part of the account?” continued Miss Agnes.

“Nothing impossible, certainly; but the improbability of William Stanley’s never applying to his father’s executors, until he appeared, so late in the day, as Mr. Clapp’s client, is still just as striking as ever in my eyes. Mr. Reed accounts for it, by the singular character of the man himself, and the strange, loose notions sailors get on most subjects; but that is far from satisfying my mind.”

“Mrs. Stanley is evidently much perplexed,” observed Miss Wyllys; “she always feels any trouble acutely, and this startling application is enough to cause her the most serious anxiety, under every point of view.”

“Certainly; I am glad you have come home, on her account — she is becoming painfully anxious. It is a very serious matter, too, for Hazlehurst; he confessed to me yesterday, that he had some misgivings.”

“What a change it would make in all his views and prospects for life!” exclaimed Miss Wyllys.

“A change, indeed, which he would feel at every turn. But we are not yet so badly off as that. We shall give this individual a thorough, searching examination, and it is my firm opinion that he will not bear it. In the mean time we have agents at work, endeavouring to trace this man’s past career; and very possibly we may soon discover in that way, some inconsistency in his story.”

“The interview is for to-morrow, you say,” added Miss Agnes.

“To-morrow morning. It is to be considered as a visit to Mrs. Stanley; Mr. Reed and Clapp will come with him. He has engaged to bring a portion of his papers, and to answer any questions of ours, that would not injure him in case of an ultimate trial by law: after the interview, we are to declare within a given time whether we acknowledge the claim, or whether we are prepared to dispute it.”

“If you do carry it into a court of justice, when will the trial take place?” asked Miss Agnes.

“Probably in the autumn; they have already given notice, that they will bring it on as soon as possible, if we reject their demand.”

“Harry will not go abroad then, with Mr. Henley.”

“No; not so soon at least as he intended. So goes the world; Hazlehurst’s career suddenly stopped, by an obstacle we never dreamed of, at this late day. That poor young Taylor in his grave, too! How is Jane?”

“Very feeble, and much depressed.”

“Poor girl — a heavy blow to her — that was a sweet baby that she lost. I am glad to see the other child looks well. Jane’s affairs, too, are in a bad way, they tell me.”

Miss Agnes shook her head, and her father soon after left her.

Hazlehurst was, of course, much occupied, having many things to attend to, connected in different ways with the important question under consideration: there were old papers to be examined, letters to be written, letters to be read, and the family seldom saw him, except at his meals. It was evident, however, that all Mr. Wyllys’s displeasure against him, was fast disappearing under the influence of the strong interest now aroused in his favour. Miss Agnes had also resumed entirely, her former manner towards him. Elinor was quite unembarrassed, and frankly expressed her interest in his affairs; in fact, all parties appeared so much engrossed by this important topic, that no one seemed to have time to remember the unpleasant circumstances of Harry’s last visit to Wyllys-Roof. To judge from his manner, and something in his expression, if any one occasionally thought of the past, it was Hazlehurst himself; he seemed grateful for his present kind reception, and conscious that he had forfeited all claim to the friendly place in which he had been reinstated. Once or twice, he betrayed momentary feeling and embarrassment, as some allusion to past scenes was accidentally made by others, in the course of conversation.

The family were sitting together after tea, enjoying the summer evening twilight, after a long business consultation between the gentlemen. Harry seemed still engrossed by his own meditations; what was their particular nature at that moment, we cannot say; but he certainly had enough to think of in various ways. Harry’s friends left him in undivided possession of the corner, where he was sitting, alone; and Mr. Wyllys, after a quiet, general conversation with the ladies, asked Elinor for a song. At her grandfather’s request, she sang a pleasing, new air, she had just received, and his old favourite, Robin Adair. Fortunately, it did not occur to her, that the last time she had sung that song at Wyllys-Roof, with Hazlehurst as part of her audience, was the evening before their rupture; she appeared to have forgotten the fact, for no nervous feeling affected her voice, though her tones were lower than usual, as she did not wish to disturb Jane, who was in a distant part of the house. A letter from Mr. Reed was brought in, and drew Harry into the circle again; it was connected with the next day’s interview, and after reading it, Mr. Wyllys made some remarks upon the difference in the tone and manner of the communications they had received from Clapp, and from Mr. Reed; the last writing like a gentleman, the first like a pettifogger.

“I am glad, at least, that you will have a gentleman to deal with,” observed Elinor.

“Why, yes, Nelly; it is always advisable to secure a gentleman for friend or foe, he is the best substitute for a good man that one can find. But it is my opinion that Mr. Reed will not persevere in this case; I think he will soon be disgusted with Clapp, as his brother counsel. To-morrow, however, we shall have a nearer look at all our opponents, and I trust that we shall be able to make up our own minds at least, beyond a doubt.”

“I trust so!” replied Mrs. Stanley, whose anxiety had increased painfully.

“I wish Ellsworth were here!” exclaimed Harry; “as his feelings are less interested than those of either of us, he would see things in a more impartial light.”

“I wish he were here, with all my heart,” replied Mr. Wyllys. “I am a little afraid of both you, my excellent friend, and you, Hazlehurst; the idea of not doing justice to the shadow of William Stanley, will make you too merciful towards this claimant, I fear. I see plainly, Harry, that you have some scruples, and I caution you against giving way too much to them.”

Hazlehurst smiled, and passed his hand over his forehead. “Thank you, sir, for your advice,” he replied. “I shall try to judge the facts calmly; although the idea, that one may possibly be an usurper, is by no means pleasant; it is rather worse even, than that of giving up to an impostor.”

“It is a thousand pities that Ellsworth cannot be here until next week; he would have warned you, as I do, not to lose sight of the impostor.”

“It is quite impossible that he should come, until next Monday; I knew his business would not admit of it, when I wrote to him at your request; but he will be here at the very earliest moment that he can.”

In fact every one present, while they regretted Mr. Ellsworth’s absence, felt thoroughly convinced that there were various reasons, which gave him the best inclination in the world to be at Wyllys-Roof as soon as possible.

“I hope Mrs. Creighton will come with him too; she will enliven us a little, in the midst of our legal matters,” said Mr. Wyllys.

“Ellsworth mentions Mrs. Creighton’s coming particularly; she sends a message to the ladies, through him, which I have already delivered,” replied Hazlehurst, as he took up Mr. Reed’s letter, to answer it.

“Well, Agnes, shall we have a game of chess?” said Mr. Wyllys; and the circle was broken up, as the younger ladies joined Mrs. Taylor in her own room.

The hour of ten, on the following morning, had been fixed for the interview with the sailor and his counsel. Hazlehurst was walking on the piazza, as the time approached, and punctual to the moment, he saw a carriage drive up to the house; in it were Mr. Reed, Mr. Clapp, and their client. Harry stopped to receive them; and, as they mounted the steps one after the other, he bowed respectfully to Mr. Reed, slightly to Mr. Clapp, and fixed his eye steadily on the third individual.

“Mr. Stanley, Mr. Hazlehurst,” said Mr. Reed, in a quiet, but decided manner.

Harry bowed like a gentleman, Mr. Stanley like a jack-tar. The first steady, inquiring glance of Hazlehurst, was sufficient to show him, that the rival claimant was a man rather shorter, and decidedly stouter than himself, with dark hair and eyes, and a countenance by no means unpleasant, excepting that it bore evident traces of past habits of intemperance; as far as his features went, they certainly reminded Harry of Mr. Stanley’s portrait. The sailor’s dress was that which might have been worn by a mate, or skipper, on shore; he appeared not in the least daunted, on the contrary he was quite self-possessed, with an air of determination about him which rather took Harry by surprise.

A few indifferent observations were exchanged between Mr. Reed and Hazlehurst, as the party entered the house; they were taken by Harry into the drawing-room, and he then left them, to inform Mrs. Stanley and Mr. Wyllys of their arrival.

Mrs. Stanley, though a woman of a firm character, was very excitable in her temperament, and she dreaded the interview not a little; she had asked Miss Wyllys to remain with her on the occasion. Mr. Wyllys was sent for, and when he had joined the ladies, and Mrs. Stanley had composed herself, their three visitors were ushered into Miss Wyllys’s usual sitting-room by Hazlehurst. He introduced Mr. Reed to Mrs. Stanley and Miss Wyllys, named Mr. Clapp, and added, as the sailor approached: “Mr. Reed’s client, ma’am.”

“Mr. William Stanley,” added Mr. Reed, firmly, but respectfully.

Mrs. Stanley had risen from her seat, and after curtseying to the lawyers, she turned very pale, as the name of her husband’s son was so deliberately applied, by a respectable man, to the individual before her.

“I was just asking Mr. Stanley, when Mr. Hazlehurst joined us,” observed the forward Mr. Clapp, “if he remembered Wyllys-Roof at all; but he says his recollections of this place are rather confused.”

“When were you here last, sir?” asked Mr. Wyllys of the sailor, giving him a searching look at the same time.

“About five years ago,” was the cool reply, rather to Mr. Wyllys’s surprise.

“Five years ago! — I have no recollection of the occasion.”

The rest of the party were looking and listening, with curious, anxious interest.

“You don’t seem to have much recollection of me, at all, sir,” said the sailor, rather bitterly.

“Do you mean to say, that you were in this house five years ago?” asked Mr. Wyllys.

“I was here, but I didn’t say I was in the house.”

“What brought you here?”

“Pretty much the same errand that brings me now.”

“What passed on the occasion?”

“I can’t say I remember much about it, excepting that you did not give me an over-friendly greeting.”

“Explain how it happened, Mr. Stanley,” said Mr. Reed, “Mr. Wyllys does not understand you.”

“I certainly cannot understand what you mean me to believe. You say you were here, and did not receive a very friendly greeting — how was it unfriendly?”

“Why, you showed me the inside of your smoke-house; which, to my notion, wasn’t just the right berth for the son of your old friend, and I took the liberty of kicking off the hatches next morning, and making the best of my way out of the neighbourhood.”

“You remember the drunken sailor, sir, who was found one night, several years since, near the house,” interrupted Harry, who had been listening attentively, and observed Mr. Wyllys’s air of incredulity. “I had him locked up in the smoke-house, you may recollect.”

“And you must observe, Mr. Hazlehurst, that is a fact which might look ugly before a jury that did not know you,” remarked Mr. Clapp, in a sort of half-cunning, half-insinuating manner.

“I do not in the least doubt the ability of many men, sir, to distort actions equally innocent.”

“But you acknowledge the fact?”

“The fact that I locked up a drunken sailor, I certainly acknowledge; and you will find me ready to acknowledge any other fact equally true.”

“Do you believe this to be the person you locked up, Harry?” asked Mr. Wyllys.

“I think it not improbable that it is the same individual; but I did not see the man distinctly at the time.”

“I am glad, gentlemen, that you are prepared to admit the identity thus far. . . that is a step gained,” observed Mr. Clapp, running his hand through his locks.

“Permit me, Mr. Clapp, to ask you a question or two,” said Mr. Wyllys. “Now you recall that circumstance to me, I should like to ask, if we have not also heard of this individual since the occasion you refer to?”

“Yes, sir; you probably have heard of him since,” replied Mr. Clapp, baldly.

“And in connexion with yourself, I think?”

“In connexion with me, sir. You will find me quite as ready as Mr. Hazlehurst to admit facts, sir,” replied the lawyer, leaning back in his chair.

“When they are undeniable,” observed Mr. Wyllys, drily. “May I inquire what was the nature of that connexion?” asked the gentleman, with one of his searching looks.

The lawyer did not seem to quail beneath the scrutiny.

“The connexion, Mr. Wyllys, was the commencement of what has been completed recently. Mr. Stanley came to lay before me the claims which he now makes publicly.”

“You never made the least allusion to any claim of this kind to me, at that time,” said Mr. Wyllys.

“I didn’t believe it then; I am free to say so now,”

“Still, not believing the claim, it was singular, I may say suspicious, sir, that you never even mentioned the individual who made it.”

“Why, to tell you the truth, Mr. Wyllys, I had unpleasant thoughts about it; we were neighbours and old friends, and though I might make up my mind to undertake the case, if I thought it clear, I did prefer that you should not know about my having had anything to do with it, as long as I thought it a doubtful point. I think you must see that was only natural for a young lawyer, who had his fortune to make, and expected employment from you and your friends. I have no objections whatever to speaking out now, to satisfy your mind, Mr. Wyllys.”

“I believe I understand you, sir,” replied Mr. Wyllys, his countenance expressing more cool contempt than he was aware of.

“I think, however, there are several other points which are not so easily answered,” he added, turning to Mr. Reed, as if preferring to continue the conversation with him. “Do you not think it singular, Mr. Reed, to say the least, that your client should have allowed so many years to pass, without claiming the property of Mr. Stanley, and then, at this late day, instead of applying directly to the executors, come to a small town like Longbridge, to a lawyer so little known as Mr. Clapp, in order to urge a claim, so important to him as this we are now examining?” asked Mr. Wyllys, with a meaning smile.

“We are able to explain all those points quite satisfactorily, I think,” replied Mr. Reed.

“I object, however,” interposed Mr. Clapp, “to laying our case fully before the defendants, until we know what they conclude to do. We have met here by agreement, to give the defendants an opportunity of satisfying their own minds — that they may settle the point, whether they will admit our claim, or whether we must go to law to get our rights. It was agreed that the meeting should be only a common friendly visit, such as Mr. Stanley felt perfectly willing to pay to his step-mother, and old family friends. We also agreed, that we would answer any common questions that might help to satisfy the defendants, provided that they did not tend to endanger our future success, in the event of a trial. I think, Mr. Reed, that as there does not seem as yet much probability that the defendants will be easily convinced, it behooves us to be on our guard.”

“I will take the responsibility, sir, of answering other observations of Mr. Wyllys’s,” replied Mr. Reed. “As the object of the meeting was an amicable arrangement, we may be able to make the case more clear, without endangering our own grounds. Have you any remarks to make, madam?” he added, turning to Mrs. Stanley.

It had been settled between the friends, before the meeting, that Mr. Wyllys should be chief spokesman on the occasion; for, although the sailor claimed the nearer connexion of step-son to Mrs. Stanley, yet she had scarcely known her husband’s son, having married after he went to sea. Harry, it is true, had often been with young Stanley at his father’s house, but he was at the time too young a child to have preserved any distinct recollection of him. Mr. Wyllys was the only one of the three individuals most interested, who remembered his person, manner, and character, with sufficient minuteness to rely on his own memory. The particular subjects upon which the sailor should be questioned, had been also agreed upon beforehand, by Harry and his friends. In reply to Mr. Reed’s inquiry, Mrs. Stanley asked to see the papers which had been brought for their investigation.

Mr. Clapp complied with the request, by drawing a bundle of papers from his pocket. He first handed Mrs. Stanley a document, proving that William Stanley had made two voyages as seaman, in a Havre packet, in the year 1824, or nearly ten years since the wreck of the Jefferson. The captain of this vessel was well known, and still commanded a packet in the same line; very probably his mates were also living, and could be called upon to ascertain the authenticity of this paper. No man in his senses would have forged a document which could be so easily disproved, and both Mr. Wyllys and Hazlehurst were evidently perplexed by it, while Mrs. Stanley showed an increase of nervous agitation. Mr. Wyllys at length returned this paper to Mr. Reed, confessing that it looked more favourably than anything they had yet received. Two letters were then shown, directed to William Stanley, and bearing different dates; one was signed by the name of David Billings, a man who had been the chief instrument in first drawing William Stanley into bad habits, and had at length enticed him to leave home and go to sea; it was dated nineteen years back. As no one present knew the hand-writing of Billings, and as he had died some years since, this letter might, or might not, have been genuine. The name of the other signature was entirely unknown to Harry and his friends; this second letter bore a date only seven years previous to the interview, and was addressed to William Stanley, at a sailor’s boarding-house in Baltimore. It was short, and the contents were unimportant; chiefly referring to a debt of fifteen dollars, and purporting to be written by a shipmate named Noah Johnson: the name of William Stanley, in conjunction with the date, was the only remarkable point about this paper. Both letters had an appearance corresponding with their dates; they looked old and soiled; the first bore the post-office stamp of New York; the other had no post-mark. Mr. Wyllys asked if this Noah Johnson could be found? The sailor replied, that he had not seen him for several years, and did not know what had become of him; he had kept the letter because it acknowledged the debt. He replied to several other questions about this man, readily and naturally; though Mr. Wyllys had no means of deciding whether these answers were correct or not. Hazlehurst then made several inquiries about Billings, whom he had seen, and remembered as a bad fellow, the son of a country physician living near Greatwood. His height, age, appearance, and several circumstances connected with his family, were all very accurately given by Mr. Reed’s client, as Harry frankly admitted to Mrs. Stanley and Mr. Wyllys.

Mr. Reed looked gratified by the appearance of things, and Mr. Clapp seemed quite satisfied with the turn matters were now taking. Throughout the interview, Mr. Reed seemed to listen with a sort of calm interest, as if he had little doubt as to the result. Mr. Clapp’s manner was much more anxious; but then he was perfectly aware of the suspicions against him, and knew that not only this particular case, but his whole prospects for life, were at stake on the present occasion.

“Like most sailors, Mr. Stanley has kept but few papers,” observed Mr. Reed.

“He has been as careless about his documents, as he was about his property — he has lost some of the greatest importance,” observed Mr. Clapp. “Here is something, though, that will speak for him,” added the lawyer, as he handed Mrs. Stanley a book. It was a volume of the Spectator, open at the blank leaves, and showing the following words: “John William Stanley, Greatwood, 1804;” and below, these, “William Stanley, 1810;” the first sentence was in the hand-writing of the father, the second in the half-childish characters of the son; both names had every appearance of being autographs. The opposite page was partly covered with names of ships, scratches of the pen, unconnected sentences, and one or two common sailor expressions. Mrs. Stanley’s eyes grew dim for an instant, after she had read the names of her husband and step-son — she passed the book to Mr. Wyllys; he took it, examined it closely, but found nothing to complain of in its appearance.

{” Spectator“ = English daily periodical published by Richard Steele (1672-1729) and Joseph Addison (1672-1719) between 1711 and 1714; the eight volumes of the Spectatorhave been reprinted frequently in book form ever since}

“This is only the third volume; have you the whole set?” he asked, turning to the sailor.

“No, sir; I left the rest at home.”

“Is there such a set at Greatwood?” asked Mr. Wyllys, turning to Mrs. Stanley.

“There is,” replied the lady, in a low voice, “and one volume missing.”

Hazlehurst asked to look at the book; it was handed to him by Mr. Wyllys. He examined it very carefully, binding, title-page, and contents; Mr. Clapp watching him closely at the moment.

“Do you suspect the hand-writing?” asked the lawyer.

“Not in the least,” replied Hazlehurst. “You have read this volume often I suppose,” he added, turning to the sailor.

“Not I,” was the reply; “I ain’t given to reading in any shape; my shipmates have read that ‘ere book oftener than I have.”

“Did you carry it with you in all your voyages?”

“No; I left it ashore half the time.”

“How long have you had it in your possession?”

“Since I first went to sea.”

“Indeed! that is singular; I should have said, Mr. Clapp,” exclaimed Harry, suddenly facing the lawyer, “that only four years since, I read this very volume of the Spectator at Greatwood!”

If Hazlehurst expected Mr. Clapp to betray confusion, he was disappointed.

“You may have read some other volume,” was the cool reply; although Harry thought, or fancied, that he traced a muscular movement about the speaker’s eyelids, as he uttered the words: “That volume has been in the possession of Mr. Stanley since he first went to sea.”

“Is there no other copy of the Spectator at your country-place, Mrs. Stanley?” asked Mr. Reed.

“There is another edition, entire, in three volumes,” said Mrs. Stanley.

“I had forgotten it” said Hazlehurst; “but I am, nevertheless, convinced that it was this edition which I read, for I remember looking for it on an upper shelf, where it belonged.”

“It was probably another volume of the same edition; there must be some half-dozen, to judge by the size of this,” observed Mr. Reed.

“There were eight volumes, but one has been missing for years,” said Mrs. Stanley.

“It was this which I read, however,” said Harry; “for I remember the portrait of Steele, in the frontispiece.”

“Will you swear to it?” asked Mr. Clapp, with a doubtful smile.

“When I do take an oath, it will not be lightly, sir,” replied Hazlehurst.

“It is pretty evident, that Mr. Hazlehurst will not be easily satisfied,” added Mr. Clapp, with an approach to a sneer. “Shall we go on, Mr. Reed, or stop the examination?”

Mrs. Stanley professed herself anxious to ask other questions; and as she had showed more symptoms of yielding than the gentlemen, the sailor’s counsel seemed to cherish hopes of bringing her over to their side. At her request, Mr. Wyllys then proceeded to ask some questions, which had been agreed upon before the meeting.

“What is your precise age, sir?”

“I shall be thirty-seven, the tenth of next August.”

“Where were you born?”

“At my father’s country-place, in ------ county, Pennsylvania.”

“When were you last there before his death?”

“After my whaling voyage in the Sally-Ann, in the summer of 1814.”

“How long did you stay at home on that occasion?”

“Three months; until I went to sea in the Thomas Jefferson.”

“What was your mother’s name, sir?”

“My mother’s name was Elizabeth Radcliffe.”

“What were the names of your grand-parents?” added Mr. Wyllys, quickly.

“My grandfather Stanley’s name was William; I am named after him. My grandmother’s maiden name was Ellis. . . Jane Ellis.”

“What were the Christian names of your grand-parents, on your mother’s side?”

“Let me see. . . my memory isn’t over-good: my grandfather Radcliffe was named John Henry.”

“And your grandmother?”

The sailor hesitated, and seemed to change colour; but, perhaps it was merely because he stooped to pick up his handkerchief.

“It’s curious that I can’t remember her Christian name,” said he, looking from one to another; “but I always called her grandmother;. . . that’s the reason, I suppose.”

“Take time, and I dare say you will remember,” said Clapp. “Have you never chanced to see the old family Bible?”

The sailor looked at him, as if in thought, and suddenly exclaimed: “Her name was Agnes Graham!” Other questions were then asked, about the persons of his parents, the house at Greatwood, and the neighbourhood. He seemed quite at home there, and answered most of the questions with great accuracy. . . especially about the place and neighbourhood. He described Mr. Stanley perfectly, but did not appear to remember his mother so well; as she had died early, however, Mr. Reed and Mr. Clapp accounted for it in that way. He made a few mistakes about the place, but they were chiefly upon subjects of opinion, such as the breadth of a river, the height of a hill, the number of acres in a field; and possibly his account was quite as correct as that of Mr. Wyllys.

“On which side of the house is the drawing-room, at Greatwood?” asked Hazlehurst.

“Maybe you have changed it, since you got possession; but in my day it was on the north side of the house, looking towards the woods.”

“Where are the stairs?”

“They stand back as you go in. . . they are very broad.”

“Is there anything particular about the railing?”

The sailor paused. “Not that I remember, now,” he said.

“Can’t you describe it?. . . What is it made of?”

“Some kind of wood. . . dark wood. . . mahogany.”

“What is the shape of the balusters?”

He could not tell; which Mr. Wyllys thought he ought to have done; for they were rather peculiar, being twisted, and would probably be remembered by most children brought up in the house.

Mrs. Stanley then begged he would describe the furniture of the drawing-room, such as it was the last summer he had passed at Greatwood. He seemed to hesitate, and change countenance, more than he had yet done; so much so, as to strike Mrs. Stanley herself; but he immediately rallied again.

“Well,” said he, “you ask a man the very things he wouldn’t be likely to put on his log. But I’ll make it all out ship-shape presently.” He stooped to pick up his handkerchief, which had fallen again, and was going to proceed, when Mr. Clapp interrupted him.

“I must take the liberty of interfering,” said he, looking at his watch, as he rose from his seat, and moved towards Mr. Reed, asking if he did not think the examination had been quite long enough.

“I must say, gentlemen,” he added significantly, turning towards Mr. Wyllys and Harry, “that I think our client has had enough of it; considering that, upon the whole, there is no one here who has so much right to ask questions, instead of answering them, as Mr. Stanley.”

“I should suppose, sir,” said Mr. Reed, also rising and addressing Mr. Wyllys, “that you must have heard and seen enough for the object of our meeting. You have had a personal interview with Mr. Stanley; you confess that he is like his family, like himself, in short. . . allowing for the difference between a boy of eighteen and a man of thirty-seven, where the habits of life have been so different; you admit the identity of the hand-writing”.

“I beg your pardon, sir; not the identity, but the resemblance.”

“A perfectly natural resemblance, under the circumstances, I think you must allow.”

“Yes; the similarity of the hand-writing is remarkable, certainly.”

“During the last two hours you have asked the questions which best suited your own pleasure, and he has answered them with great accuracy, without one important mistake. What more can you possibly require?”

“I do not stand alone, sir; we claim the time previously fixed for consideration, before we give our final answer. We are, however, much obliged to you, Mr. Reed, for granting the interview, even if its results are not what you may have hoped for. We shall always remember your conduct on this occasion with respect.”

Mr. Wyllys then offered some refreshments to Mr. Reed; they were accepted, and ordered immediately.

Mr. Clapp was standing near Harry, and turning to him, he said: “Mr. Stanley has a favour to ask, Mr. Hazlehurst, though you don’t seem disposed to grant him any,” he added, with peculiar expression.

“’A fairfield, and no favour,’ is a saying you may have heard,” replied Hazlehurst, with a slight emphasis on the first word. “But what is your client’s request, sir?”

Mr. Clapp made a gesture towards the sailor, who then spoke for himself.

“I understand that two of my cousins are in the house, and I should be glad to see them before I leave it.”

“Whom do you mean, sir?”

“Elinor Wyllys and Mary Van Alstyne. I haven’t seen either of them since they were children; but as I have got but few relations, and no friends it seems, I should like to see them.”

“You must apply to Mr. Wyllys; the young ladies are under his care,” replied Harry, coldly.

But Mr. Wyllys took upon himself to refuse the sailor’s request, under the circumstances. Having taken some refreshments, Mr. Reed, his brother counsel, and their client now made their bows, and left the house. As they drove from the door, Mr. Reed looked calm and civil, Mr. Clapp very well satisfied; and the sailor, as he took his seat by Mr. Reed, observed, in a voice loud enough to be heard by Harry, who was standing on the piazza:

“It turns out just as I reckoned; hard work for a man to get his rights in this here longitude!”