Miss Waldegrave’s Will
by Inspector F.

I GOT into a sad scrape between one and two o’clock on the morning of the morrow of Queen Victoria’s coronation day—a scrape which had curious consequences. Many of us that have reached years of discretion,—a not quite accurately determined age, by-the-bye,—will remember that what with the illuminations and the general saturnalia, the time of slumber was as bright and busy as the day. I myself, after midnight, perhaps before, was excessively busy, but nothing like as bright, as I flatter myself I, in the ordinary state, am, or at least then was; for I must not forget that the chilling, if not absolutely quenching snows of twenty-four winters have since passed over my head. The day was very hot, which circumstance seemed to create a sort of sympathetic affinity between loyalty and malt liquor; and I must confess to having drunk her Majesty’s health oftener than was quite consistent with the functions of a sworn guardian of the Queen’s peace. Still I was perfectly myself whilst on duty; but when relieved therefrom—not till late in the evening,—for the pressure upon the services of the force was tremendous,—I must certainly have gone a little too far, or I should not have been such an ass, being in plain clothes, and not obliged to interfere, as to have rudely meddled with five or six swells, who burst roystering out of the Blue Posts hotel, in the Haymarket, singing, shouting, vociferating, in the most obstreperously loyal spirit. I did interfere, and the result was, that in a space of time which my after-recollection could not measure, I found myself in the gutter, and that after being picked up, borne into the said tavern or hotel, washed, and renovated internally with soda water and brandy, I became clearly conscious of two dreadful black eyes, and a miserably painful sprained ankle. The swells were nowhere—nowhere in sight, I mean; but, like all genuine swells, real nobs, they had left five sovereigns with Mr. Banks, who knew me, “as a plaster for the Peeler.”
“Black eyes” was a few days’ matter, but the sprained ankle proved a very obstinate, painful affair. The suffering injured my general health, and as it was held at headquarters that I had received the hurt whilst acting in discharge of my duty, I was granted leave of absence for three months, salary to go on as usual. There is a sick fund in the Force, to which from the first I had been a subscriber, and much surprise was expressed that I did not throw myself upon the Fund. Well, I could not do so. The 19th clause stipulates that no officer can receive assistance from that particular fund, except for sickness occasioned by hurts received whilst on actual duty. There are other funds that have no such limitation. I could not make the necessary declaration. I was not on duty: in fact, I was, if not exactly tipsy, unusually excited; and much as two or three of our fellows, who knew all about it, laughed at me, I think I did right.
It was a long time—that is to say, two or three weeks—before I could decide where to have my three months’ holiday, salary going on as usual. At last I decided upon Jersey, the metropolis of the Channel Islands. I was captivated by the seemingly fabulous, untaxed cheapness of the place. I am a lover of the weed, and it tickled me amazingly to hear from the skipper of a Jersey brig, from which early potatoes were discharging in the docks, that in Jersey taverns—nay, hotels—you have capital brandy-and-water for twopence a glass, and the best tobacco, ad libitum, for nothing!
Quite true, absolute fact, I found. A very desirable place of abode is Jersey—untaxed, unturnpiked Jersey, for ladies and gentlemen of limited income—as hundreds of English half-pay officers, who have sought refuge there, can testify. The island itself is very beautiful, and I do not think I ever more fully enjoyed myself, in a physical sense, than during the six weeks which elapsed between the 8th of July and the 19th of August, 1838—on which 19th day of August I learned, by unpleasant experience, that in one respect, at all events, Jersey may be a very undesirable place of temporary residence for a friendless stranger.

The morning was unusually fine and refreshing, and after making a capital breakfast at about one-third of the cost of an ordinary one at a London hotel, I strolled out on the pier, and interested myself by watching the commercial activity going on in the harbour of St. Helier’s. One of the Southampton steamers came in whilst I was so occupied, and amongst her passengers I recognised Mr. James Repworth, the then reputed respectable bill-broker of Finsbury Pavement, London. I had myself done business, legitimate business, with him, on several occasions. He did not at first see me, and he was passing onward from the head of the pier steps, when I accosted him with “Mr. Repworth.” He looked sharply about, recognised me at a glance, all colour forsook his face, and he was within an ace of falling over the edge of the pier into the water. “You—you,” he stammered, “what—what do you want with me?” The guilty consciousness which unmasks cowards and fools, all except hardened desperadoes in crime, so plainly betrayed itself in the man’s manner and speech, that it was upon my tongue to say—“I want to take you back to England, Mr. Repworth.” I, however, merely replied, “Nothing just now, sir,” and was walking on, when an elderly English lady in a one-horse car, who was disappointed that friends from England had not arrived, said, addressing me, “Can you tell me, sir, when the South Western steamer is expected?” It chanced that I could tell her. “The South Western, madam, was advertised to leave Southampton at six this morning, in order to make a daylight passage. It is likely, therefore, she will land her passengers by about eight o’clock this evening—before, possibly, as she is a very fast vessel.” The lady appearing to be deaf, I spoke with so loud a voice that Mr. Repworth, who had not moved from the spot where I accosted him, necessarily heard every word. His fears, no doubt, gave them a significance as regarded himself not intended by me. He was well known, I afterwards found, to men of position and influence in Jersey, had, more than once pursued thither and effected the capture of runaways indebted to him. He was quite familiar consequently with the most effective mode of working the altogether atrocious law of debtor and creditor, which prevails, or did at the time I am writing of prevail, in the Norman Isles. He was in addition, though I knew it not, a desperate man playing a desperate game, and possessed, when he had time to measure his position, of the effrontery and daring of the devil himself. How to prevent the possibility of my seeing him go on board the steamer for St. Malo, which would start about noon—and so tread out the chance that I might follow him to France, and cause his detention there till exact intelligence and directions were received from England, (which I could easily have done by charging him with travelling under a false name—that of Charles Warner, he being so designated in a passport he had managed to obtain in London.) All this, I say, must have been present to his own mind; whilst the barest chance that I might already have received some inkling of the tremendous necessity he was under of making himself scarce without delay, commanded him to avoid by any expedient the slightest risk of arrest.

The Jersey law of debtor and creditor was an instrument at hand, well adapted for his purpose. That law or practice may be briefly described, (I am speaking, you remember; of four-and-twenty years ago.) Any one, by making out his little bill, from ten shillings upwards, and taking it to a sheriff, or as he is legally called, Dénonciateur—of whom there were two in the Island—can at once, without making any affidavit or going through any formality whatever, arrest any one he pleases, not being a Jersey landed proprietor. He accompanies the Dénonciateur, who at once goes in search of the individual whose name figures as debtor on the bill, and if that person be found, cannot pay the amount with costs, or find a landed proprietor to bail him, forthwith he goes to gaol, where he may remain to the day of judgment—which by-the-bye, in Jersey, never comes—unless he pays the debt or settles with his creditor, there being practically no relief for insolvent debtors; if they do not happen to be landed proprietors; in which case, I understood, the egress from prison was a simple process enough as—easy as lying.
I was in blissful ignorance of all this, and had I been an adept in that particular mystery of iniquity it would not have entered my head to imagine that I could ever have the remotest concern therewith. As I sat in the coffee room of the Royal Hotel, munching a sandwich, imbibing a moderate quantity of ale, and meditating very unsatisfactorily upon Mr. James Repworth, of Finsbury-pavement, London, my enlightenment was, sudden, complete.

In marched the said James Repworth, in company with a tan, grey-haired, stoutish gentleman.

“Your name is F—,” said Mr. Hugh Godfray, Dénonciateur.
“My name is F—. Well, sir?”
“Can you pay this account?” was the brusque, business-like rejoinder; the Dénonciateur, at the same time handing me the following document.

“Mr. F—,
“To James Repworth, Dr.
“To balance of sundry moneys lent
to him at interest  .     .     .     .     .     .     .     . £272   10    0

                        British currency     .     .     .   . £272   10    0

“What tomfoolery is this?” I exclaimed, after a glance at the account. “Why I don’t owe James Repworth a shilling.”
“I told you how it would be,” said that casehardened scoundrel, speaking with a smile to the sheriff.
“Yes;” said Mr. Hugh Godfray. “But it is almost always so. You were luckily just in time. Can you pay this debt?” he added, with stern brevity.
“Debt be —” (I was very savage which was some excuse). “Debt be —, I do not owe the man a penny I tell you. What proof has he that I do?”

“The proof will be discussed by the Royal Court. Again I ask, will you pay the money?”

“No—certainly not.”
“Can you procure bail,” (caution, Mr. Hugh Godfray called it, using the legal French word). “Can you procure bail? For so heavy an amount I shall require two landed proprietors of Jersey.”
“Of course I cannot, and if I could, would not.”

“Very well, then you must go to gaol.”
“Bosh! What devil’s game is this you are trying on, Mr. Repworth? Do you think to frighten me? I am a London police officer, Mr. Godfray,” I added, addressing that quite amused gentleman.
“So I was told. But London police officers, borrow money sometimes, I suppose, which they are either unable or unwilling to repay. Come, Mr. F—,” he added, “I cannot wait here.”

“I shall neither pay the money nor go to gaol,” said I, doggedly seating myself, under, as it were, the shadow of Britannia’s shield. “I’m an Englishman, and—”

Chut, chut,” interrupted that irreverent Dénonciateur. “Englishman, Frenchman, or German, to gaol you go, so don’t be foolish;” and he beckoned to a number of respectable looking men in the room. Islanders all, I may presume, and naturally disposed to back legitimate native authority.

The end was that I found myself being borne away—wafted as I may say, out of the hotel by two athletic individuals, who, each with an arm within mine, aided by any amount required of pushings, shovings from behind, propelled me gaol-ward at the rate of at least four miles an hour.
I was consequently there in less than ten minutes, formally consigned to the custody of Mr. Sullivan, the governor of the prison—a pensioned British veteran, and very civil man—conducted to my room, and left to my reflections.
Wasn’t I wild! Didn’t I grind my teeth? Couldn’t I have almost torn my flesh with rage? Was there ever such a devilish trick played a man before, and what was the meaning of it? That was the query—the question! Why should James Repworth cage me? Well, I should find that out some day, no doubt, meanwhile I would write to the Lieutenant-Governor of the Island, Major-General Campbell, demanding immediate release. Of course it would not be for a moment tolerated that an Englishman, with Magna Charta, Habeas Corpus, and the Bill of Rights at his back, could be kidnapped in that sort of way! Certainly not! So I wrote to the Lieutenant-Governor. The answer opened my eyes wider than usual. It was from the Lieutenant-Governor’s Secretary, who was directed by Major-General Campbell “to express his regret, if any wrong had been done, but that his Excellency could not interfere with the course of civil justice.” Good lord, justice! That rotten twig snapped, the only course left was to write to my friends, and official superiors in England, asking for advice and assistance, and meantime to bite the bridle with as little damage to my own teeth as possible.

The gaol was pretty full and the prisoners, with one exception, all English. In fact, the debtor’s prison was facetiously called L’Hotel d’Angleterre by the natives. The exception was, I remember, a Jersey married woman, who having by some legal dodge peculiar to the Island, been separated, as to property, from her husband, was herself personally liable for debts contracted in the business which both really carried on. This was how I understood the matter; but perhaps there may be some mistake.
Amongst the English prisoners was a Mr. Richard Waldegrave, a young man, clearly not more than five and twenty. That which first attracted my attention to and sympathy for him, was that he like myself was caged at the suit of that villain, Repworth. Wrongfully, no doubt; he was a grossly injured innocent like myself, and we would club our wits to devise revenge upon the scoundrel. I ventured to express myself in that sense, and met with an unexpected rebuff.

“You are quite mistaken, sir,” said Mr. Richard Waldegrave. “The debt for which Repworth arrested me is a just one. I came here, like a fool, to evade payment, or rather to avoid prison—payment being quite out of the question. In England I should have been liberated by the Insolvent Court in a month. Here I may remain till doomsday—even if, as you suspect, Repworth is at this moment an absconded bankrupt. During two or three months’ unmolested fling which I had here, I contracted debts with a dozen tradespeople which I can never discharge, and all have lodged detainers against me. I am, please to understand, a very worthless, reckless scamp.”
He passed on, leaving me not a little astonished. Well, he had the look of a devil-may-care scamp. The originally fine dark face, brilliant eyes, sinewy figure, bore, rigidly scanned, plain evidence of reckless, socially defiant life. He had certainly interested me, for the reasons already mentioned, but I should at once cast him from my thoughts.
I thought to do so, but circumstances proved stronger than my purpose. The very next day, going down the stairs or steps into the yard, I met a young Englishman, one Mr. Challis, with whom I had a slight acquaintance. I used to meet him of an evening sometimes at a public house in Grosvenor-mews, Grosvenor-square. He was inquiring, I found, for Mr. Richard Waldegrave, and after curtly expressing surprise and regret at seeing me in such a place, he passed on with the turnkey.
During the two following days he was in close confab with Waldegrave till the hour at which all strangers were compelled to depart, arrived. At all events, if they were not engaged in secret consultation, they were together all day, in Waldegrave’s room, with the door bolted from within.
Soon after Challis was gone, on the evening of the second day, Waldegrave come to my room, closed the door behind him, and, uninvited, seated himself.
“You are Mr. F—, I am told, a police officer of somewhat a new pattern: of the Bow-street runner genus, but serving in a better disciplined, more carefully organized corps?”

“Challis is your informant, of course. Well, suppose so.”
“I may hereafter have pressing need of the services of such a man. You will, I have no doubt, be speedily released. May I ask where, when I again find myself in England, I may address a note to you?”
“My address,” said I, at once writing it down, and handing him the scrap of paper, “is at your service. I thought you had no expectation, no hope of escape· from this place?”
“Nay, there is always hope. I may be able to settle with these ravenous creditors of mine. Time will show. Good night, sir.”
I was struck with a strongly marked change of expression in the young man’s countenance. The dreary gloominess had vanished: there was brightness, vivacity. Brightness of joy, vivacity of hopeful expectation.
It was very desirable that Mr. Waldegrave should, and speedily, settle with his creditors. His money was gone: he had nothing to subsist upon, or would for the future have nothing to subsist upon, but the allowance, about sixpence per diem, which the incarcerating creditor is compelled to allow his debtor. A very pitiable plight for a prisoner in a strange land. He would have, moreover, to sleep upon a straw bed, or bundle, covered by a coarse rug, for the broker, who had furnished his room, upon hire, suddenly insisted upon payment. A rough altercation ensued, ending in so serious a fray between Waldegrave and the broker, that the turnkeys were summoned to separate them. The broker insisted upon either his money or his goods, and as money was not forthcoming, Waldegrave at last, persuaded by Mr. Sullivan, sullenly consented to let the man quietly take away his things.
The matter so concluded, the broker sent for his men, he himself being determined not to leave the place till the property, such as it was, had returned to his own possession. He however, left the stone corridor, on each side of which were the debtors’ rooms, not choosing, as he said, to remain within easily reached distance of so hot-tempered a customer. I followed him and the governor of the gaol to the yard, and knowing the sad discomfort to Waldegrave which the carrying off of his household stuff would cause, attempted a mild remonstrance with the broker. The hog of a fellow grunted an emphatic refusal, and Mr. Sullivan remarked that it was not likely he would grant favours to a man who had nearly throttled him, merely for asking for his own. The broker’s men soon came, and their master, handing one a written list, bade them be sure that the blankets, sheets, &c., &c., belonging to the press-bedstead were all right. Two or three minutes afterwards he suddenly said, addressing Mr. Sullivan, with whom he had continued to gossip, “I think I’ll go and see all right myself, eh? There will be four of us; and the fellow, however he may show his teeth, won’t be able to bite.”
Mr. Sullivan nodded approval, and away sped the broker up the stone steps. He was a clever fellow, that broker, whose name, if I remembered it, I should not give; a man who knew how many sovereigns made fifty, at the very least, and who being familiar with the medieval sinuosities of channel island law, could calculate, with sufficient precision, whether or not that number, a greater being unobtainable, could compensate him for threading the, by no means very dangerous labyrinth to a native lauded proprietor, congenitally, one may say, familiar therewith. Amazing power of face, too, had that broker, though the face was undoubtedly plain, pockmarked; perhaps those accidents were helps. I am inclined to think so.

But I must not maunder in this way on the road, or I shall never turn into the main track of the story of Mrs. Waldegrave’s Will. In about a quarter of an hour down came poor Waldegrave’s household goods. A beggarly inventory!

“Any tantrums?” asked the governor of the prison, who was still airing himself in the green-swarded yard.

“No!” replied the broker. “No! we were too many for him. But he is desperate savage—growling like a bear. I say,” he added, (an uncommon clever fellow, I repeat, was that broker), “I say, you there with the press-bedstead, stop a minute. Put it down. Are you sure that the counterpane is there?”
“Quite sure.”

“Never mind, I’ll just look;” and that admirable man, speaking professionally, positively unbuttoned the door, flung wide one of the flaps, and peered in.
“All right; go on.”

Mr. Sullivan motioned to the man at the gate, and the men with the rubbishy furniture passed through.

This was at about two in the afternoon. I remained awhile in the yard, and when returning to my own room, knocked at Waldegrave’s door. There was no answer—I pushed, and found it was fastened within. He’s in a sullen mood still, I concluded, and proceeded to my own den.
At eight o’clock the turnkeys came round, as usual, to bolt every prisoner into his own room. That of Waldegrave was found empty; and it was supposed at first that he was hobnobbing, card playing, or what not, with some of the other debtors. Not a bit of it. Mr. Waldegrave was not in the prison; that fact ten minutes search established beyond doubt. How had he escaped? When—by what means?

The truth flashed upon us all simultaneously. He had been carried away in the press-bedstead! The quarrel and scrimmage with the broker were make-believes to prevent suspicion. To be sure I had found the escaped prisoner’s door fastened, but that proved nothing. A confederate, and prisoners for debt are all and always confederates, might easily consent to remain within for an hour or two, certain to be able to slip out unobserved whenever he pleased. The conviction of Waldegrave’s escape, and the manner of it, which filled the hearts of the governor and his assistants with rage and dismay, excited in us prisoners obstreperous, unbounded mirth. The echoes of our laughter made the thundering old gaol ring again. I, myself, was nearly choked with cachinnating convulsions, so to speak, and, far into the night, the silence was broken by sudden guffaws by one or another of us, whom exuberant merriment forbad to sleep. Nothing, I knew, could be made of or done with the broker and his men. They had no hand in the escape of that fellow Waldegrave. He must have got away over a wall, or up a chimney, or something! How should they know? How—indeed?
Very cleverly done: No doubt of it, and the incident scarcely lost its exhilarative influence upon my mind, till I received replies from England to my letters, which, coupled with a communication I received from Dénonciateur Godfray, set me painfully pondering as to by what press-bedstead, or other contrivance, I should ever manage to escape from that accursed prison.
My letters expressed lots of sympathy, regret, indignation, and the rest of it, but the sum total was that I could only get release by the action of the Royal Court of Jersey. In a Tuesday’s copy of the Times, forwarded to me, I found the name of James Repworth, scrivener and bill-broker, of Finsbury-pavement, London, figuring in the list of bankrupts. One of my correspondents said no doubt was entertained that he had absconded, though the day named for his surrender was still three weeks distant. It was also rumoured, added my friend, that he had committed forgeries to a very large amount. This, as we all know, proved to be perfectly correct. Mr. James Repworth’s rumoured felonies could not, I knew, affect my position, but I thought his being gazetted bankrupt might, and I sent a note to Mr. Hugh Godfray, requesting an early interview. Mr. Godfray came, and I laid the case before him. He replied that Mr. Repworth’s being a bankrupt was nothing to the purpose. The documents and decisions of the English bankruptcy courts were not recognised in the island. Besides, the debt claimed of me by Mr. Repworth would pass to the assignees, who might continue the suit on their own account. Finally, Mr. Repworth had lodged six months’ sustenance money with the governor of the prison, and his procureur, an advocate of the Royal Court would oppose, no doubt successfully, my discharge, should I apply to the court before the matter was thoroughly investigated—and that, added the Dénonciateur, is a long ladder to climb. Six months, at least, the period for which the sum necessary for my detention had been lodged, I must, at all events, make up my mind to remain in prison!

Darkness and devils! Six months! I should go distracted before half that time elapsed. And I really think I should! Fortunately relief came before the expiration of another week. The gate of perdition was flung wide by Satan himself—my release effected by the miscreant that cooped me. I was sitting upon my pallet bed, savagely considering the situation, and how I might most effectually memorialize the British Lion, which animal, I almost feared, must have fallen into his second whelphood, when the Dénonciateur entered the cell.

“You can leave the prison, Mr. F—, this moment. Your discharge has been lodged at the gate.”
“How! what!” cried I, jumping up. “Say that again, if you please.”
The Sheriff did so, adding that letters had been received by himself and Mr. Repworth’s procureur, from my real or alleged creditor, directing my immediate liberation. “A sealed note for yourself was enclosed,” added Mr. Godfray: “Here it is.”

I give a verbatim copy of that note:—

“Nowhere, August 31st, 1838.

“I have forwarded the necessary orders to release you from the custody of the Jersey gaoler. I make no apology, having acted solely upon the principle of self-preservation, and without the slightest malice. Circumstanced as I was, you would have done the same. I have also sent an order to liberate a fellow prisoner of yours, Mr. Richard Waldegrave—a man for whom I feel a sort of regard; why, it is needless to explain. Locked up, both of you, by the same man, you will naturally have become intimate with each other, and you, being a detective police officer, the very man of whom he most stands in need, that intimacy will continue after you leave Jersey. Now, though I do not, for the reason already given, formally apologize for having shut you up in gaol, still I cannot but admit that you have been somewhat rudely dealt with; and I therefore give you a hint that may possibly be of use to you in your profession. Should Mr. Richard Waldegrave ever retain your services to investigate certain family affairs, you will find a Mrs. Rawlings, a laundress, who not so very long ago lived in a bystreet leading out of Ball’s-Pond-road, Kingsland, of use to you. Hoping that, although your temper must have suffered, your health has not,
“I am, yours, &c.
“J. R.”

I thrust the impudent thief’s note into my pocket, packed up my carpet bag, shaved, washed, bade adieu to my fellow prisoners, hurried off, and, less than two hours afterwards, was on board the South-Western, steaming swiftly across St. Aubin’s Bay, en route for Southampton. I have omitted to mention in its proper place, that a letter for Mr. Waldegrave, bearing an armorial seal, and directed in a female hand, was brought to the prison the morning after that gentleman’s escape. It was, of course, taken back by the postman, and no doubt returned to England, stamped with “Left the place.”
I had been in London about ten days, when the post brought me a note, signed Richard Waldegrave. I was earnestly requested to name a place, where he could, at my earliest convenience, have a long conference with me upon business.

I named ten o’clock the next day, and the place of meeting.
Mr. Waldegrave looked healthier in body than when I had last seen him, but the gleaming vivacity of his restless glances was quite as intense and unintelligible as then. We had a hearty laugh at the press-bedstead escape, which, of course, had been managed by the broker, acting by direction of Mr. Challis.

“A capital fellow is Challis,” said Mr. Waldegrave, “and a sincere friend.”
“A relative?”
“Yes; we are second cousins, and have been companions from childhood. You will see him presently, as I, upon receiving your note, appointed to meet him here.”
“Is he involved, or interested in the business upon which you wish to consult me?”

“Interested, unquestionably; involved in some sort, one may say. Challis has met you, several times, I believe?”

“Yes, and at a place where, judging from his appearance, his evidently superior education, and, I may say, aristocratic manners, he should not have been seen. I occasionally visit the place professionally.”
“A betting place, I suppose, frequented by knowing ones in horseflesh—up to, or pretending to be up to, the secrets and mysteries of training stables?”

“Quite right, Mr. Waldegrave.”
“I was sure of it. Fred Challis has already lost a fair fortune in the pursuit of that will-of-the-wisp, vast, continuous success on the turf. But heaven knows I should be the last to preach upon other men’s follies, though mine are certainly not attributable to to lust of gain. The truth is that Challis is a child in cunning. He believes others to be as honest as himself, and so believing, may be as easily led by the nose, hoodwinked, duped, or fooled, as if he were the merest booby.”

“Do you know, Mr. Waldegrave, that my impression of Mr. Challis differs widely, very widely indeed, from yours? But, of course, you who have known him so long must estimate him infinitely better than a man who has but few and brief opportunities of observing him, and even then with, one may say, careless indifference.”

“Just so: the truth, as respects Mr. Challis, is as I have stated it. Of that be assured. And now to place you au fait of the complicated web of facts, contradictions, probabilities, and surmises, which I ask your aid to unravel. I have made, you see, copious notes, and shall be able to run the narrative off with quickness and accuracy.”
“Go on, Mr. Waldegrave, I am all attention, and, as is my custom, shall jot down notes for my own guidance as you proceed.”
“I am the only nephew,” began Mr. Waldegrave, “of the wealthy and childless Mrs. Waldegrave, of Beaulieu Abbey, Buckinghamshire: I might if I chose, be her acknowledged, proclaimed heir, and actually rolling in riches; yet it was but the other day, as you know, I escaped from a debtor’s prison. Again, I am the husband of a young, beautiful, and accomplished lady, although I really have no wife.”
“Riddle-me riddle-me-ree. The story opens like an introduction to an elaborate puzzle.”
“It is an elaborate puzzle: that is the right phrase. As my name indicates, I am Mrs. Waldegrave’s deceased husband’s brother’s son. That husband, that brother, died when I was in my fourth year; and the childless widow at once took charge of me. I could not have fallen into better, kindlier hands. A more admirable, exemplary woman than Mrs. Waldegrave never, in my belief, drew the breath of life. One prominent characteristic I must emphatically dwell upon. Once she has, to her own conviction, discerned the path of duty—that path, strewn with thorns as it may be, she will pursue, though with bleeding feet, unswervingly. Nothing would turn her aside—not the flaming sword of a destroying angel.”
“Which flaming sword would, however, effectually stop her painful promenade,” said I, with a smile. “You mean to say that your aunt is a lady of unchangeable determination when she knows or believes herself to be in the right. Pray, sir, tell the story as simply as may be; I shall remember it better.”
“You have hit my meaning exactly,” said the young man, not at all offended. “I proceed. For more than two years I was my aunt’s sole pet, no other person did she manifest the slightest affection for. At the end of that time, the husband of a much loved only sister, who had expired in giving birth to her first child, Emily, died. The orphan girl was comparatively unprovided for; and of course she was immediately domiciled at Beaulieu Abbey. We grew together, Emily Gaston and I—she in marvellous beauty and attractiveness of every kind; I, in strength, precocious virility of body and mind; I can scarcely remember the time when I did not love Emily—love her with passion. I will give you an illustration of what I say. A few weeks after the celebration of my twelfth birthday, young Challis—he is only about a year my senior, though he looks older—was passing his annual month’s visit at Beaulieu Abbey. He was a handsome lad, as he is still, spite of late hours, a handsome man. Fred was very attentive to Emily, —became her shadow. Why should he not? The most natural thing in the world, though to me gall and wormwood. I was sure also that gay, vivacious Emily liked Fred very much. Again, why not? That mutual liking, nevertheless, roused all the latent devil in my hot boy-nature. I wept with rage when alone; and a hundred times was on the point of leaping at the unconsciously offending youth and tearing him to pieces. It is quite essential you should know all this, Mr. Detective.”

“I think so. Go on, sir; and as direct to the main points as you can.”
“The capping point of my absurd folly came at last. I could no longer resist the impulse of my absurd rage. There was a game upon the lawn—I forget what game; we were all children—Challis about the oldest; and each lad or youth became entitled in succession, I suppose, to kiss the girl he preferred to kiss. It was Fred’s turn before mine, and he, of course, selected Emily. Of course he did! Who would not that had eyes in his head? It was, however, too much for me. I sprang like a wild beast at the poor lad, struck him furious blows in the face, the body, tore his hair, the clothes off his back, before anyone could effectually interfere—acted, in short, like the mad booby I really for the time was.

“Fred, the best natured fellow in the world, as I have said already more than once, readily forgave me, and we were afterwards closer friends than ever. At Oxford that friendship continued unabated, and he gave the bride away when, I being in my twenty-third, Emily in her twenty-first year, we were married. There were no formal settlements, but we well knew that all Mrs. Waldegrave’s property, real and personal, was devised by will to me, with remainder to Emily, and any children we might have. A painful incident which occurred about two months previous to the marriage, proved how true and deep was my cousin’s friendship for me. I received, not one only, but several anonymous letters in quick succession, containing insinuations against Emily. They referred to certain flirtations alleged to have taken place with a Captain Bowden, quartered with his regiment at High Wycombe, and whom I had heard spoken of as one of the most conceited, pretentious puppies in existence. I was at first indignant that such letters should be addressed to me; next worried, alarmed! Certainly Emily was of a gay disposition, of elastic, joyous, temperament—not in the least a prude in the disagreeable sense of the term—but it was impossible to believe that she could have been guilty of even indiscretion. That I firmly believed; still I was made very miserable by those accursed letters, and Frederick Challis, pressing me to confide to him the cause of my evident disquiet, I did so. He pooh-poohed the accusations—insinuations, I should say—anathematized the dastardly, calumniators, and finally agreed to quietly sift the matter, so as to ascertain if there was the slightest residium of truth upon which the calumny was based. He was gone a week; and upon his return assured me that the whole thing was a fabrication. There might certainly have been, perhaps there had been, some slight, but perfectly innocent flirtation with Captain Bowden when Emily was on a visit at Old Hall, near High Wycombe; nothing more than that, if that. I have since had reason to believe that, actuated by what I must call false tenderness for me, and firmly convinced himself that although Emily Gaston had been guilty of gross indiscretion, nothing beyond that could be laid to her charge, he concealed certain facts with which I certainly ought to have been made acquainted.”

“Ah! and I suppose, Mr. Waldegrave, that those poisoned arrows, seemingly shot at random, I mean the anonymous letters, never wholly ceased to rankle in your bosom?”

“Never, as you say, wholly ceased to rankle. Still my young wife seemed to breathe, to exhale around her such an atmosphere of purity, of peace, and serenity of soul, that to harbour a thought insulting to her seemed almost blasphemy. I felt this for the first six months of wedded life. Then the anonymous letters, evidently from the same party, recommenced. The insinuations this time were bolder, more pronounced. My wife was accused in almost direct terms of carrying on a correspondence with Captain Bowden. There were allusions to circumstances within my own knowledge which seemed to give ghastly colour to the maddening imputation, I determined to again consult my cousin Challis—”

“Mr. Challis,” interrupted I, “was again at Beaulieu Abbey when the second batch of anonymous letters was received?”
“He was. You seem to be harbouring some strange crochet in your head, Mr. Detective, about Mr. Challis?”
“Not at all, Mr. Waldegrave. The coincidence of his presence at Beaulieu Abbey each time the anonymous slanders reached you struck me, that is all.”
“That, my fine fellow, is all nonsense. Be quite sure of that, as I am. I was saying that I determined to again advise with my cousin, my only too unsuspicious cousin. I broke the matter abruptly to him one morning when we were taking a stroll together. ‘Have you happened, Fred,’ said I, to hear of Captain Bowden being in this neighbourhood? He started involuntarily, changed colour, looked at me searchingly, and at last said, ‘Why do you ask? No absurd, jealous whim, I hope?’

“‘I ask because I wish to know—will know, if Bowden is lurking in the neighbourhood,’ said I, with angry passion; and at last cousin Challis was fain to reluctantly acknowledge that he had twice, thrice, met Captain Bowden riding on horseback in plain clothes and, it seemed, anxious to avoid observation. As to any concernment of my wife with the fellow’s movements, my cousin scouted the notion with contempt. To cut this story short,” continued Mr. Waldegrave, speaking with heat and rapidity, “which no doubt wearies you—”

“Not in the least, Mr. Waldegrave. I listen with even more than professional interest.”

“At any rate, to me the subject is a very painful one. It is like tearing open an old, partially healed wound. I must be brief with it. Another letter came to hand the next morning, by which I was curtly informed that my wife had made an assignation with Captain Bowden for that very evening. The place was named, the time stated just about dusk, when it was known that I should be at an agricultural dinner.”
“Did it not strike you, Mr. Waldegrave, as rather strange, that a third person, and an enemy, it would appear, to both the guilty parties, should have been made the depository of such a secret?”
“I do not remember whether it did or not. Hear me to the end. Evening came on, dull and moist. A slight drizzle of rain fell for a short time as I watched in ambush near the place of assignation. Shortly before the appointed time, a gentleman in military undress arrived on the spot, and sauntered to and fro, whistling. Captain Bowden, I doubted not, though personally he was unknown to me. The place was sequestered. A person coming from Beaulieu Abbey could for almost, I think the whole distance, conceal him or herself from any one more than a few yards off. No more convenient spot could have been selected. About ten minutes of torturing suspense limped past, when Captain Bowden exultingly exclaimed, ‘There she is! I am here, darling!’ he added, instantly hurrying towards the coppice path, at the near end of which, not daring to come into the open, dusk at it was, stood my wife. Great God! Shall I ever forget the horror, the agony of that moment?”
“Your wife, Mr. Waldegrave! Are you sure? Did you distinctly see her face?”

“I could not but be sure it was my wife, though I did not even indistinctly see her face. She was too closely veiled. But that veil, a peculiarly embroidered one, was my wife’s, the bonnet hers, the shawl worn, a rich Indian one, of a remarkable pattern, woven in striking colours, for which I had paid a hundred guineas not a fortnight before—was my wife’s. I flew after the adulteress and her paramour with the bound, the yell of a tiger. The woman screamed and fled. Bowden turned to bay, confronting me, and barring pursuit of his leman. There was a fierce struggle; but though a powerful fellow, I should have throttled or otherwise disposed of him, but for a stunning blow on the head, which he dealt with a short stout stick, cudgel rather, which he carried. My senses reeled, and I fell heavily. I must have remained in a state of insensibility more than an hour, for when recalled to consciousness by the sharp evening air the sky was studded with stars, and the full moon had risen considerably above the horizon. I felt weak and dizzy, but had strength enough to reach the Abbey. You may imagine the terrible scene which ensued. The adulteress, with a shameless effrontery, marvellous in one so young; so nurtured, denied that she had left the Abbey for one moment that evening, and appealed to her personal attendant to confirm what she had said. The girl-woman tried to back up for her mistress’s assertion, but could not; she trembled with emotion, burst into tears, and left the room. I asked for the shawl, the veil, the bonnet. They could not for a time be found. At last I discovered them, put away in a dark sort of lumber closet, readily reached from my wife’s dressing room. The shawl, the bonnet, the veil, were still wet, and a pair of my wife’s boots, found in the same place, were also wet and soiled with mud. What further proof of the unhappy woman’s guilt could be required?”

“The case certainly had an ugly look. What is the girl-woman—the lady’s maid’s name?”

“Charlotte Rawlings—a well-looking—”

“Rawlings—Rawlings! Let me see. You said Rawlings?”

“I did, and a well-looking wench she was. What of her name?”

“ Nothing, nothing, Go on, sir.”

“You will hardly believe it, but positively my Aunt obstinately, fiercely refused to believe a word to my wife’s discredit. Her confidence in Emily’s truthfulness and honour was not in the slightest degree shaken. She believed that a wicked plot had been set on foot to ruin her; and without the shadow of a shade of proof against the poor creature, except that she was about my wife’s figure and height and could have dressed herself in her mistress’s clothes, Charlotte Rawlings was forthwith turned out of the house, with a stern warning not to apply to Mrs. Waldegrave for a character. Me, the imperious, inflexible lady loaded with what, could she have condescended to use the appropriate language, would have been execrations of the most furious character. I was reviled as a slanderer, a witless dupe, a jealous idiot, utterly unworthy of my angel wife; the storm of indignant passion ending by a peremptory command to instantly beg that angel-wife’s pardon for having dared insult, outrage her by such infamous, utterly groundless suspicions, or leave Beaulieu Abbey at once and for ever. I am as proud, in a certain sense, as my aunt— as obstinate as she. I refused to purchase wealth by the sacrifice of my honour, and in my turn vowed to be a stranger to Beaulieu Abbey as long as the adulteress was sheltered there. I left the same evening, and have never seen the place since.”
“May I ask what part Mr. Challis played upon the occasion?”

“No part at all. He did not make his appearance the whole evening. He called upon me the following morning, and never was a man more cut up, more saddened than he. Fred still persisted in the possibility of my wife’s innocence, though at a loss to suggest any theory upon which such an opinion could be based. As to Charlotte Rawlings, the imputation cast upon her was, he felt in honour bound to admit, most completely false. The truth was he himself had an intrigue with the handsome lady’s-maid, who had met him at about the very time when I was watching for Captain Bowden—a circumstance which fully accounted for the poor young woman’s agitation when questioned.”
“No doubt. Well, Mr. Waldegrave, anything more?”
“Not very much more. My cousin volunteered to be the bearer of a hostile message to Captain Bowden, whose regiment was then stationed at Portsmouth, and departed at once. He was just too late. The transport in which the regiment had embarked for India sailed from Spithead a few hours before he reached Portsmouth. My cousin was compelled to acknowledge that he was informed, whether truly or not, that Captain Bowden, who had been away on leave of absence, had only just saved his distance, and been obliged to hire a private boat to take him off to Spithead. The meeting I interrupted was no doubt to have been a farewell one for a time.”
“Have you a memorandum of dates?” I asked.

“Yes, you will find them in these notes. I am methodical in that regard. Well, I left for London—having first drawn out the whole balance at my bankers, about fifteen hundred pounds—plunged into the most extravagant dissipation—drank—gambled— found myself without a shilling, borrowed money of Repworth, a county man of mine, and who would not believe at first that the estrangement between my aunt and me would continue. We quarrelled, he threatened proceedings, and I bolted to Jersey—got shamefully into debt there, but that you know all about. This is all, I think, it is necessary to inform you of.”
“The deuce it is. Then what do you want me for?”

“Tut—to be sure. What a scatterbrained ass I am getting to be. First let me tell, or I shall forget it, that I received an intimation from my aunt’s lawyer when I had been only about a week in London, that she had destroyed her former will, and executed a new one, the main provision or principle of which was, that if I by my own proper solicitation, were not reconciled to my wife before she, the testatrix died, I should inherit only enough to save me from actual starvation—one hundred pounds a year, namely. The meaning of that menace was obvious enough, and I returned the letter in a blank envelope. I now come to the sudden appearance of my cousin Challis, at the Jersey prison; and what brought him there.”
“That is just what I want to hear, Mr. Waldegrave.”

“I had not even given Fred notice of my intention to run off to Jersey; a sort of morbid desire to hide myself from all the world possessed me. I did not even pass by my own name in the island. Repworth exploded that particular falsehood, and one of that worthy’s clerks, a day or two after the flight of his employer, chancing to meet with Challis, disclosed the name of my prison house.”
“Chanced to meet with Mr. Challis! All the chief incidents of the narrative seem to have been brought about by chance! Pardon the interruption. Proceed sir.”
“His purpose in visiting Jersey was, of course, to effect my release. But how to accomplish it? He was himself almost completely cleared out—a hundred pounds being about all he could command then, or would be able to command, till some heavy bets he had made came off favourably. That was a distant and doubtful chance. At last, in his anxiety to effect my immediate liberation, he hit upon the press-bedstead dodge. How cleverly he managed it I need not tell you.”
“Very cleverly, that’s a fact, at any rate. But then he had such a first-class fellow in that broker to work it. I call that man a regular genius.”

“Challis,” continued Mr. Waldegrave, “brought me letters sent to my address in London. One proved to be from the anonymous letter writer.”
“The devil! Excuse me. Mr. Challis and the anonymous letters cropping up together again does startle me.”
“Stuff! The letter was very brief, merely stating that, in a very short time, the writer would be able to furnish me with information that would enable me to convince Mrs. Waldegrave, senior, of my wife’s guilt. That promise has been kept. By early post yesterday I received a note to the effect that if I would send a trusty agent—a clever detective officer would be the likeliest to succeed—to the Royal Hotel, Leamington, Warwickshire, information might be obtained which carefully, judiciously followed up, would remove all doubt from the most incredulous mind. The agent is to ask for the chambermaid who chiefly attended upon a Mrs. Kirkton, who, with her husband, Captain Kirkton, was staying there a short time since. I immediately wrote to you. Are you willing to undertake the affair?”

“I have no objection to do so. In fact it wouldn’t signify if I had, after receiving, as I did by the same post as your note, a written order from headquarters to attend to your affair.”

“I supposed you would. Challis promised to manage that. Hi! here you are, old boy! Your name was the last upon my lips.”
The young men heartily shook hands. Mr. Challis dropped into a seat, and I was enabled to get a good look at that prematurely “old boy”; and the more easily that he seemed to have a decided objection to presenting his full front towards me, even when addressing me, speaking sideways, as it were, and regarding Mr. Waldegrave. He looked very shaky, haggard, and there was a nervous, flitting tremor in his eyes, more familiar to police officers than other men. The losses and anxieties of turf-gambling might, however, quite sufficiently account for those appearances.
The ground was gone over again, and in the end Mr. Challis was of opinion that I should go to Leamington, hear what the chambermaid had to say, judge of the value of any evidence she would be able to give, return and report my opinion thereof.

“Now, James, another thing. You know the iron inflexibility of your aunt in sticking to an opinion she has once formed. I have myself heard her say only a few weeks since that she would not believe anything in disparagement of your wife if one rose from the dead to assert it.”
“What then,” I asked, “is the practical use of these inquiries?”
“Such a declaration as that of Mrs. Waldegrave, senior,” said Mr. Challis, sideways, “must, Mr. F—, be taken with allowance, with reserve. The venerable lady merely meant to proclaim anew her own unalterable conviction of my cousin’s wife’s immaculate purity. But there are modes of convincing even her. If evidence that will hold water can be procured, a suit for a separation a mensâ et thoro, preparatory to petitioning parliament to pass a divorce bill, must be preferred. Should the Judge decide against my cousin’s wife, his aunt could not for very shame hold out any longer against the injured husband—her own nephew too.”

I remarked that the course suggested was no doubt a proper, but it would be a very tedious one. A twelvemonth might elapse before the cause was set down for hearing. In the meantime a lady of the elder Mrs. Waldegrave’s age might die.

“Die! die!” interrupted Mr. Challis, with a kind of startle, and almost facing me. “Not likely; not in the least likely. She is as tough as pin wire.”
“My aunt has always enjoyed capital health,” said Mr. Waldegrave.
“Very well, the risk is not mine; and it may be that the course chalked out by Mr. Challis is the best to follow. It is settled then that I start for Leamington and question the chambermaid at the Royal Hotel. I shall, depend upon it, Mr. Waldegrave, endeavour to elicit the truth; but I should be a hundred times better pleased if, by discovering the truth, I could establish your wife’s innocence.”

“Would you could! Would to God you could!” burst from the young man with deep, genuine feeling. “Stay one moment,” he added, as my hand was upon the door. “Mr. Challis thinks you had better take this, as with it you will be able the more satisfactorily to question the chambermaid with respect to the lady calling herself Mrs. Kirkton.” This was a miniature of a most lovely young woman, his wife’s, worn in his bosom, which he detached; and after passionately kissing it, weeping, almost sobbing the while, handed it to me.

I decided upon starting for Leamington by the 3.14 train; meanwhile I took, according to my general custom, when in a state of perplexity, a lengthened horizontal. To speak more explicitly, I lay down on a sofa and had a good think; put together, now this way, now that way, the different items, scraps, and hints, furnished me, in order to ascertain how they held together, and what, as a whole, they seemed to be like. The result was, that instead of taking a cab for Euston station, I sallied out, hailed an omnibus, and was after about an hour’s ride put down at the Kingsland-gate, at the end of Ball’s-pond road. The hardhearted villain who locked me up in the Jersey gaol, had said a Mrs. Rawlings would be of service to me if I were ever called upon to make inquiry about the affairs of the Waldegrave family; and the name of the suspicious lady’s-maid at Beaulieu Abbey, was Rawlings. I would see Mrs. Rawlings, laundress, before leaving London. There could be no harm in that.

I soon found out that large, lively, good-looking body—a widow, in seemingly very comfortable circumstances for her condition of life. My excuse for entering her domicile was to ascertain her charge for washing and ironing gentlemen’s shirts. That simple query was soon answered, and I then bluntly asked if her daughter Charlotte, who once lived as lady’s-maid at Beaulieu Abbey, was still unmarried.
What a jump the woman gave; her face, the natural or at least ordinary colour of which was sufficiently high, reddening in a moment to the hue of fire, whilst a whole shower of bright, sharp, pinpoints, seemed to dart out at me from her clear, brown eyes.

“It can’t much signify, I suppose,” said the vixenish tongue, coming to the rescue, “it can’t much signify to an old fellow, of fifty, if he’s an hour, whether any daughter of mine, if I’ve got one, is married or not.”
“Come, I say, draw it mild. Fifty indeed! Thirty you mean. But is Charlotte married?”
“Fifty or thirty, twenty or a hundred, that can be no business of your’s, I’m sure.”
I changed my course of sailing, seeing it was of no manner of use to keep on that tack.
“You had transactions,” said I, “with Mr. Repworth of Finsbury-pavement.”
The reddened cheeks became pallid as quickly as they had fired up.

“Surely,” stammered the woman, “you ain’t come from that howdacious villain to inquire about my Charlotte! Why I’m told he’ll be hanged if ever he sets foot in this country again. And,” added Mrs. Rawlings, with emphatic sincerity, “And serve him precious well right, too, the hungry old wretch.”
“I am not come from Mr. Repworth of Finsbury-pavement to ask about Charlotte. I should scorn the action. Only as you were so rumbustious with a fellow, I thought I’d just drop a hint that I wasn’t quite such a fool as I look.”
“Well, well,” said the laundress softening, but still eyeing me with intense suspicion. “Well, well, Charlotte is not married yet. And if you’ll tell me your name, and where she knew you, I’ll write and mention that you have called.”
“Can’t I write myself?”

“Tain’t likely, Mr. What’s-your-name; not leastways at first.”

“Say Jones called, Mrs. Rawlings. Jones that met her once or twice at Aylesbury.”
Mrs. Rawlings promised faithfully to do so, and I took friendly leave. One point was ascertained, the lady’s-maid at Beaulieu Abbey, Mr. Challis’s leman, if he was to be believed, was the daughter of the Mrs. Rawlings to whom I had been referred as being peculiarly cognizant of the Waldegrave family secrets. Good!
Next to Mr. Repworth’s offices in Finsbury-pavement, where I knew clerks were still at work, making up the bankrupt’s accounts for the assignees. In reply to my questions, the chief clerk said all he knew about Mrs. Rawlings was that Mr. Repworth, much to his, the clerk’s, astonishment, used to discount the laundress’s notes of hand, payable at sight, two of which, amounting together to upwards of fifty pounds, were in the hands of the official assignee. “It is not intended to proceed against the poor woman for the amount,” added the clerk, “and an intimation to that effect has been given Mrs. Rawlings.”
I had had business with the same official assignee before, and found no difficulty in obtaining possession of them, upon explaining that I wanted the loan of the bills for police purposes, and giving an undertaking to return them within twenty-four hours or pay the nominal value.

“God bless us! you back again!” shrilly exclaimed Mrs. Rawlings, disturbed at her tea.
“What now, for gracious sake?”

“Why, look here, Mrs. Rawlings; you are very comfortable here, got a nice, well-feathered nest. That patent mangle, now, must have cost a nice penny, and if it’s sold by auction will fetch, I’ll be bound, a ten-pound note at the very lowest.”
“What do you mean, you impudent fellow, by talking of my selling my goods by auction? Well, you are the coolest, most howdacious—”
“Hold hard! hold hard! Then there’s the shaycart, and the cob I saw in the yard, to carry the things out. They’ll fetch me, under the hammer, twenty pound. Then the goodwill of the business will bring me something.”
“Bring you, you villain!” screamed the laundress, springing up, and boiling over. “Get out of my house, or, as I’m a living woman, I’ll scald you out!” she added, viciously gripping the handle of the singing teakettle.

“Hold hard, mother, I say again. You had better. Well, that will make thirty; then there’s the furniture here, and in the parlour, and the bedrooms; and the teaspoons and sugar tongs are silver, I see, so that I shan’t be much out if I’m driven to it, and I hope I shan’t be driven to it, with my fifty pounds!”
“Lord save us! Fifty pounds!” trembled out the now really terrified woman, relaxing her grasp of the kettle. “What fifty pounds?”
“The fifty pounds made up by these two pieces of stamped paper—notes of hand signed by you, I believe. Yes; I fancy this is your name, Mary Rawlings, signed here and here.”
Mrs. Rawlings did not faint, but the sight of the fatal papers completely paralyzed even her tongue, and she stared from them at me, from me to them in hopeless dismay.
“Look here, mother; I have got these confounded things into my own hands, as you see. Now, I don’t want to do anything to hurt you, certainly not; but I must and will see Charlotte. I’ve heard of things, and I’m not going to be bowled out even by a gentleman, if he is a gentleman. There’s a snug public house to be let just now; and, in short, the thing must be settled out of hand. I must and will see Charlotte this very night, if there’s a train that’ll take me to her.’”
“Oh, that’s it,” said Mrs. Rawlings, fast recovering, and brightening, and with a sigh of immense relief. “Lord! how you have frightened me. You shall see Charlotte, as soon as you can reach the place she lives at. And you,” added the laundress, with her most coaxy smile, “And you will give me them—those notes of hand—when I give you her direction?”
“No, mother, no; not till after I have actually seen Charlotte.”
“Well, that will do. Good gracious, Jones, how you did frighten me. You shouldn’t have done it. Howsomever, it’s all right now, as I hope it’ll be all right with you and Charlotte; I do, indeed. Come, sit down, and have a cup of tea. For my part,” continued the buxom laundress, “if I was a gal, courted by a man who just to find out where I lived would give fifty pounds for them two cussed bits of paper, I should be sure he was no shammer, and would turn up trumps to the last. But there, Charlotte always had a wonderful way of twisting men folk round her finger. Wonderful!”
“That is right, mother; a very little lump, please. And real gentlemen some of them, I’ve heard.”
“Real gentlemen! I should think so. Why, there is one who was worth thousand upon thousands, but who’ve lost it all by horse-racing, they say, would give his eyes for her. Wouldn’t he? We often thought she must have saved a good lot of money, but she’s close as wax.”
“Who is he?”

“Musn’t tell. Charlotte may, perhaps. And couldn’t she say a pretty say about him and other folk, if she liked. Oh, dear!”
“Now, mother, time’s on the wing. I must be jogging: Charlotte’s direction, that’s all that stops the way.”
“Take and write it down yourself; here’s ink and paper. I ain’t very fluent at writing. Stop a bit; I’ve a word to say. You know, of course, having made Charlotte’s acquaintance at Aylesbury, that she terribly offended the proud old lady at Beaulieu Abbey, who set scandalous stories afloat about her, and wouldn’t give the poor dear girl a character. You did hear of that, of course you did. Well, in consequence of that, Charlotte have been obliged to take her aunt’s name of Pearson.”
“All right. Pearson or Rawlings is all the same to me, so it’s the same girl!”
“Of course it is; write down Miss Charlotte Pearson, head chambermaid at the Royal Hotel, Leamington. What’s the matter?”
“A kind of a twinge of colic, that’s all. I’m subject to them. ‘Charlotte Pearson head chambermaid at the Royal Hotel, Leamington.’ All right. Goodbye, mother.”
“Goodbye, Jones. I say, it takes me a long time to write a letter; I’ve no occasion to send one, have I?’

“Not the least occasion.”

“And, Jones, you’ll bring me them devilish bits of paper when you come back? But of course you will; I ain’t afraid of that. Do you know, Jones—it’s a fact, as I’m a living woman—that that villain Repworth told Charlotte and me, both us being together, that them two notes was burned to ashes long ago.”
“You don’t say so! What deception, eh?”

“Ain’t it? Goodbye. Love to Charlotte.”

I was early at the Royal Hotel, Leamington, the next morning, with a note written and directed to Charlotte Pearson, the head chambermaid, which a porter promised to deliver to that damsel, who was not yet up, or at least not down. He announced that a London detective officer, commissioned by Mr. Waldegrave, wished to see her. In a few minutes the porter returned with a message that Miss Pearson would see me in a few minutes. Meantime I was invited into one of the rooms and to take a seat.
A very good-looking young woman, no one could dispute that, and bold as good-looking, that was equally indisputable. Her figure was even elegant. “I am here, Miss Pearson,” said I, going to business at once, “I am here to inquire concerning a Mrs. Kirkton. It is insinuated that she was Mrs. Richard Waldegrave, of Beaulieu Abbey, Buckinghamshire.’
“I have so heard, and have little doubt of it.”

“Indeed! Will you describe the lady to me?”

The description tallied precisely with the portrait.
“But here,” continued the brazen minx, “is her very self. This portrait, Mrs. Kirkton, as she called herself, left upon her toilet table, and has never dared to claim it.”
The portrait was the fac-simile of that lent me by Waldegrave; painted evidently by the same hand. I quietly rose, fastened the door, and resumed my seat; the girl colouring and staring with both her eyes—and fine eyes they were, too. “Charlotte Rawlings, I—Now don’t scream, or make a fuss. Sit down. I know you to be Charlotte Rawlings, formerly lady’s maid at Beaulieu Abbey, Buckinghamshire, to Mrs. Richard Waldegrave. I know also that you have been engaged for years in a felonious conspiracy against that lady, with Mr. Frederick Challis, a conspiracy carried on by means of personation, anonymous letters, and now by this stolen portrait. And it is my duty to take you at once into custody for that felonious conspiracy. Come, we must be gone.”
The young woman’s breath came thick and short; her face was white as paper, and her limbs shook as with ague. For all that I could read in her fierce eyes that she was even then mentally debating whether it might or might not be worth her while to show fight.
“Come, Charlotte Rawlings; we will walk first to the police station here. Your things can be brought to you there.”
“Do not be quite so fast, Mr. Police officer. It will not advantage your employers to drive me to desperation.”
“I do not understand you.”
“Yes, you do. The felonious conspiracy you speak of cannot be proved, I am sure of that. You might prove enough to ruin me. In fact, to be taken into custody at all would be fatal to my prospects. I am engaged to be married to a young man whom I have long known, and who will make me an excellent husband. He dotes upon me, and has just come into a small fortune. Yesterday only he signed a lease for one of the best taverns in London, paying down four thousand pounds of his own money, and one thousand which I insisted upon a certain person providing me with, if he were compelled to sell every stick he had in the world to raise it. My future husband arrived here late last night; he will be down presently. Now are you, acting for Mr. and Mrs. Waldegrave, open to a bargain?”
“I must first ascertain the nature of the bargain.”

“That is only right. Now pay attention. I have told you the circumstances that in some degree place me in your power. But there is another side to look at. Old Mrs. Waldegrave is dying—won’t—can’t live three months.”
“Old Mrs. Waldegrave dying! I am sorry to hear of it. Yet as far as concerns you and Mr. Challis, the event will be without importance. Mrs. Richard Waldegrave will inherit the whole of the property; her husband’s mind, by your and Challis’s conviction, will be purged of jealousy, he will be reconciled to his slandered wife, and all, so far, will be well.”
“Ah, Mr. Detective Officer, you are clever, no doubt, but you have only learned half your lesson. By a codicil to her will, executed within the last two months, Frederick Challis, who has insinuated himself into both the ladies’ favour and esteem, takes half the property, both of landed estate and personal, should Mr. Richard Waldegrave not be openly reconciled to his wife before the death of the testatrix.”
“The devil and his dam! that is ill news, indeed. Are you sure?”
“Enquire of Mrs. Waldegrave’s lawyers. Now as to my terms. First, that not one breath against my character shall be publicly breathed. Next, that as we, I mean my affianced husband and myself, shall require two thousand pounds to complete our purchase, which money must be paid six months hence, and which I have Challis’s undertaking in black upon white to furnish me with—Mr. Waldegrave in that respect shall stand in Challis’s shoes. In return, I will hand you such irrefragable proofs of Mrs. Richard Waldegrave’s innocence, that there shall not be a doubt to hang suspicion upon; letters in Frederick Challis’s own writing, for I have been from the first wary in the matter, and he is simply a sly fool—the only strong passion of his heart being hatred of his cousin Waldegrave. A much feebler, but still, I believe, a real passion he entertains for me, and fears much more than he loves me. Him I utterly scorn and despise. People said I was his trull. He was and is my slave, and should remain so for fifty years, did old Mrs. Waldegrave live so long.”

What a clever, fierce, handsome vixen it was; I pitied her husband, spite of his brilliant business prospects.

“Well, Mr. Detective, what say you? decide at once. Mrs. Waldegrave senior cannot, I repeat, live three months; you can easily ascertain if I speak truth or not; if we agree, I will go with you at once to London, confront that poor craven Challis in presence of his cousin, and wring a confession of his turpitude from his own lips, of my guilt, as well as his, if you like, but I was poor, ambitious, vain. Yet for all his fine university learning, I have proved too clever for him; and no great harm will have been done. Waldegrave was always a jealous fool, and the malady, which it may be now hoped will have been washed away for good and all, would have been sure to have broken out for some other equally groundless cause. Of course, if you do not agree to my terms, I shall deny point-blank all I have been saying to you.”
There was for and against. Mr. Waldegrave might, upon my report of the woman’s admissions, dismiss all jealous fancies from his brain, and he might not; his cousin Challis’s influence over him was so great. Charlotte Rawlings, too, would prove a formidable opponent. And Mrs. Waldegrave senior was dying, could not live, they said, three months, she might not live three days. This last consideration decided me. The bargain was struck, concluded, that is to say as far as I could conclude such a bargain in Mr. Waldegrave’s behalf. Charlotte Rawlings was quite satisfied.

It was agreed that we should start for London by the eleven o’clock train, I first telegraphing to Mr. Waldegrave to meet me with Mr. Challis upon a most important matter, where I had parted with them the day before, at about half-an-hour after the train would be due in London.
“And now, Miss Rawlings,” said I, “there is still one circumstance left dark. I can understand that Challis’s object was merely to gain time, to keep alive Waldegrave’s jealous rage till the old lady’s decease, but what on earth induced him to go to Jersey and release his cousin Waldegrave?
“I will tell you why: Mrs. Richard Waldegrave had chanced to see, in a Jersey paper, I believe, that her husband was in prison there; and it having come to her knowledge that Captain Bowden had left for India with his regiment ten days before the assignation, she expressed her intention of writing to her husband, begging him to reconsider his rash, unjust judgment. So anxious was Challis that Waldegrave should not receive that letter, that he should get his cousin where his address would be not known, at Beaulieu Abbey, that the man absolutely went upon his knees to me, begging me to forego for a time the thousand pounds he was scraping together for me. Likely! He knew that if that money had not been forthcoming I should have gone to Mrs. Waldegrave and made a clean breast of the whole business. Challis has asked me to marry him a hundred times,” added the bold, unblushing hussey, “but I knew better than that. A house built upon sand was not exactly a house of which I was ambitious to be mistress.”

Waldegrave and his cousin were anxiously awaiting my arrival when Charlotte Rawlings and I drove up in a cab. The scene which followed was really terrible, in respect of Challis pitiable—a more craven wretch I had never met with. Charlotte Rawlings more than fulfilled her promise.
The very next day Mr. Richard Waldegrave took an early train for Buckinghamshire, having prepared the inmates of Beaulieu Abbey for his return by a letter posted the previous evening. Mrs. Waldegrave senior lived more than two years after the reconciliation. Challis, who was utterly ruined, went abroad, to Australia, I believe, furnished forth, no doubt, by his cousin.
Charlotte Rawlings, otherwise Mrs.—, and her husband, appear to be prospering in the world. They have a splendid establishment, but the end for them is not yet. The laundress lives with them, is a sort of second mistress; she and I have always a joke about that “sly wretch Jones,” whenever we happen to meet.

From Experiences of a Real Detective by Inspector F.
Edited by “Waters,” author of Recollections of a Police Officer, Leonard Harlowe, etc.
London: Ward, Lock, & Tyler, 1862. 143-89.