W. Knox (William Knox) Wigram.

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V.3



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS
REWARD.

BY A BARRISTER.



IN THREE YOLUMES.
VOL. III.




LONDON:

RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.

1867.



823 ^
V.3



FIVE HUNDEED POUNDS REWAED.



CHAPTEE I.

Lord St. Margarets' diplomacy had been
really a success. He had had a difficult
game to play, and had j)layed it thoroughly
to his liking. In the first place, with all
his aversion to the alliance which his son
was so anxious to thrust upon him, he had
never allowed one syllable to escape his lips,
which Ferdinand could by any possibility
construe as exacting obedience, or indicating
any umvillingness to let him follow up the

VOL. III. 1



2 FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.

object of his own choice. Lord St. Mar-
garets had known perfectly well, from the
beginning, that the match, for the time being,
was out of the question. The Admiral, he
was persuaded, would refuse his assent to
any arrangement of the kind, so long as his
pleasure required to be consulted at all. But
that piece of information he had been careful
to allow his son to acquire for himself It
was quite needless to urge what was absolute
matter of fact, just as the sagacious engi-
neer leaves the enemy to blunder upon a
bona fide battery without warning, whilst
he makes every possible parade of works
which he would rather should not be at-
tempted at all.

In the next place, his off-hand disparage-
ment of Helen and her possessions, so care-
less and indirect as to appear like mere
good-natured criticism, had its own time



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD. 3

and purpose. That it would have no im-
mediate effect lie was well aware. But it
would rest in his son's mind, | nevertheless.
And when he found himself suddenly and
rudel}^ thwarted at Eiverwood, then was the
hour when it might be expected to bear its
fruit.

A man in the first bitterness of disappoint-
ment — one who has beheld his darling object
in life either vanishing altogether, beyond
reach and hope, or drifting silently ahead
into the shadowy and uncertain future, hates
to be comforted by those who would tell
him that the prize, after all, was nothing
worth. Why should people insult his judg-
ment and mock his misery at the same
time ? But, let him alone, and that is, pro-
bably, the very consolation which will ulti-
mately spring up in his own mind. All
this had been foreseen by the thoughtful

1—2



4 FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWaHD.

father, who had scattered just sufficient en-
couragement for the soothing growth, when-
ever it spontaneously took place.

He was a little startled, certainly, shortly
after his arrival in Grrosvenor Square, by
receiving a letter from Ferdinand dated
' The Queen's Prison,' and informing him of
all that had occurred. Not but that it
tickled him extremely, in one sense ; but he
felt vexed with his son for making such a
fool of himself, and considered that the Court
had been hasty, and taken a great liberty
into the bargain. However, he wrote a very
kind note in reply, informing Ferdinand that
he would take immediate steps to procure
his release, in order to get into any fresh
scrapes he thought proper.

What these ' immediate steps' were, you
will probably never know. Lord Chancellor
Bacon, they say, was open to arguments



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS UEWARD. 5

more tangible tliau those employed in our
' windy war/ and his wink was as good as
his bond. No writer in a penny paper,
now-a-days, would hazard such imputation
upon even an imaginary judge — at least when
deciding between conflicting parties. But
Ferdinand's transgression might, in an in-
dulgent point of view, be looked upon as a
mere question of violated etiquette, and dis-
posed of without vindictive displeasure. And
if his father couldn't arrange thus much,
why where would have been the use of being
Lord St. Margarets at all, and as good a
Conservative as the Chancellor ?

In the meantime, having — in disregard
of Mr. Jacobs' friendly caution — so rapidly
succeeded in getting himself ' quodded for
nothing,' or rather for love, which in popular
phraseology means much the same thing,
Ferdinand had ample leisure to review his



6 FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.

own conduct, and find excuses, if he could, for
what, considered in calmer moments, looked
far too much like rash and reckless folly.

He would have given a great deal to have
been able to undo much of the past, both
upon Helen's account and his own. His
father's solicitor could only inform him that
his position was not one to be trifled with.
He stood committed to prison in downright
earnest, and during the pleasure of the
Court. Beyond question, all intercourse
with Miss Fleetlands must be suspended
until that young lady attained twenty-one -,
and since it could serve no possible purpose
to remain where he was, merely to indulge
in the reflection that she was daily growing
older, the sooner he made his submission,
and took leave of the Borough Eoad, the
better. The necessary steps should at once
be taken. Probably the Chancellor might



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD. 7

be disposed to view the case indulgently. It
was just one of those matters which nobody
could prophesy about.

Shortly afterwards, an intimation was re-
ceived from the Lord Chancellor, directing
that Ferdinand should attend at his private
room in Lincoln's Inn, the following after-
noon, at three o'clock. Thither he was
escorted in a cab. Business was encroaching
ujDon romance.

He was received with a degree of distant
and freezing gravity, which might have
chilled even the courage of a Victoria Cross.
It was not until after some moments of
saturnine silence, that his lordship conde-
scended to appear aware of his presence, and
ultimately to address him ; and when he
did, it was in a low, icy tone, and in sylla-
bles so far apart, that you might have
count;ed them easily. 'Aj^ /i/\ u^ ^<^f^^t-



8 PIVE HUNDRED POUNDS EEWAHD.

He was grieved, lie said, and surprised,
to see a person in Captain Hunsdon's high
position, wantonly encountering the dis-
pleasure of the Court. For his conduct
there could be no excuse. He had been
warned, and had slighted the warning. He
had disobeyed, and it was for the Court to
weigh the circumstances of that act of dis-
obedience, and inflict commensurate punish-
ment. One consideration alone, induced
him to stay his hand. Upon perusing cer-
tain papers before him, he perceived a state-
ment to the effect that, in the event of his
being discharged from custody, it was in-
tended that Captain Hunsdon should at
once leave England to join his regiment,
then on foreign service. With a proper
assurance to that effect, with a sufficient
undertaking upon the part of Captain
Hunsdon that he would thenceforth hold no



FIVE HUNDRED POUxVDS REWARD. 9

communication wliatever with the ward,
until she should attain the age of twenty-
one years — and upon Captain Hunsdon's
making due submission, and paying all costs
of his commitment, he was disposed to
direct his discharge from custody. His
lordship trusted that a warning so lenient,
would neither be misconstrued nor forgotten.
Captain Hunsdon might be removed.

There was nothing for it but to grin and
knock under. Ferdinand would perhaps
have been pleased to hear that, just before he
entered the Chancellor's room, Admiral
Mortlake had quitted it, after a ' wigging '
which would have astonished a midshipman,
and for which he had been expressly sum^
moned up to town.

The Lord Chancellor in fact had told him,
in those peculiarly reassuring accents for
which he was famous, that he considered his



10 FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.

conduct in allowing Helen to appear in the
hunting-field so insufficiently attended and
escorted, was a breach of his duty, grave
and scandalous ; that out of regard for her,
whom the Court would presume to be inno-
cent, he had directed the present proceedings
to take place in his private room ; but that,
had it been otherwise, he should have
visited him with marked censure at the bar
of the Court. He warned him against sup-
posing that he was himself the judge as to
who might be a proper match for his ward
— which it was for a higher intelligence
alone to determine ; observed that he in-
tended to consider at his leisure, whether
or not it was fit and proper that further
enquiries in the matter should be directed,
and concluded by pointedly desiring the
Admiral to observe, that what had already
befallen Helen, was nothing less than a



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS KEWAllD. 11

marked calamity, the result of most grievous
negligeuce — and to pay all his own costs of
the application.

After this benediction, the Admiral
jumped into his cab, firing broadsides right
and left all the way to the station. Even
the ticket-porters themselves, those dreamy
sentinels of the virgin apron and the pewter
badge, who see a little of this sort of thing
occasionally at the Court door, roused up
sufficiently to nudge one another as he drove
away.

Selfish people have at least one consider-
able pull over others, which need not be
grudged them, considering that in most
respects they are at no small disadvantage.
Your thoroughly selfish man generally has
the credit — to which most of us aspire — of
knowing his own mind. Nothing conduces
more to this sort of self- acquaintance than



12 FIVE HUNDHED POUNDS REWARD.

the caring very little what other people may-
feel, and not a bit in the world what they
may think or say. It was Admiral Mort-
lake's custom to make up his own mind, and
then act upon his resolution as inflexibly as
if he had only his late ship's company to
deal with.

And it so happened that, just as Helen's
little preparations were upon the point of
completion, her guardian, one morning at
breakfast, announced a plan which drove
her either to put her project into execution
without delay, or to consign it to indefinite
postponement.

It had occurred to him, while smoking
his afternoon pipe in the grim yew avenue,
and meditating upon his late encounter with
the keeper of Her Majesty's conscience, that
a trip to the Continent would be the very
thing under existing circumstances. Helen



riVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD. 13

had latterly begun to behave so very much
better, that she deserved some reward. A
month abroad — so, in his abysmal ignorance
of the female heart, he imagined — would be
quite sufficient to change the whole current
of her thoughts, to fill her mind with new
ideas, and cause all recent trouble to be re-
garded as a dream of the past. Paris cured
most people, and a round home, through the
pleasant roads of Normandy and Maine,
would settle the business.

To tell the truth, he rather wanted to get
out of the way himself. He couldn't think
of Lincoln's Inn without choking. He had
revenged himself, after his fashion, upon
Lord St. Margarets, and found himself cut
by the county. People, who had previously
tolerated him as eccentric, now avoided him
as cracked. Lord St. Margarets, indeed,
secretly chuckling over the whole affair, lost



14 PIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.

no opportunity of referring to it as an ex-
cellent joke, and declaring that it served
Ferdinand perfectly right, and would be the
best possible lesson to him against making
promiscuous acquaintances in future. But
this was not the popular view. Mortlake
could not even walk through the village
without being saluted by shrill cries of
" Cotched another Capting, guv'nor ?" and
similar specimens of juvenile wit. Eough
allusions to himself and his behaviour were
chalked upon his park fence. Mr. Salter-
ton's studied silence upon the subject was a
reproach in itself, whilst Sir Philip Chevy,
and young fellows of the Scatterley stamp,
threw all delicacy to the winds, and chaiBPed
him in a free and easy manner, which he
felt plainly enough, was intended to be in-
sulting. In short, he was in a very bad
position.



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD. 15

The proposition was a startliog one to
Helen. The idea of the Admiral, of all
people, talking of going to France was al-
most too extraordinary to be credible. Under
happier auspices, she might have been de-
lighted with such a change ; but the prospect
of travelling in such company was not
amusing, and she felt an irrepressible mis-
giving that the proposal was intended to
cover some deep-laid scheme of which she
herself was the object. A vague sense of
insecurity tormented her. She felt that,
once across the Channel, she would be per-
fectly in her Guardian's power, and the story
of a month's trip might be really only a blind.
Young ladies, who had been even less impru-
dent than herself, had been coaxed into con-
vents, and expiated their incaution by lifelong
imprisonment in a human menagerie. Was
it possible that the Admiral had some inten-



16 nVE HUNDHED POUNDS REWARD.

tion of this kind, and proposed to return
and take possession of her fortune, leaving
her to the uncovenanted mercies of a Lady
Superior ? Vague and childish as were
these alarms, they were sufficient to induce
her, at any risk, to put her scheme of escape
into immediate execution.

This was Monday. On Thursday the
Admiral had proposed to leave Eiverwood,
and take the early train from St. Mark's to
London. " Wednesday must be my day,"
thought Helen, and proceeded to remark
how very pleasant it all would be, and to
wonder when they might expect to find
themselves in Paris.

Upon the whole this sudden arrangement
seemed rather in her favour. Her plans
were already matured ; her summer-house-
Mdden disguise complete ; and the bustle of
preparation would probably render her task



FIVE nUDNRED POUNDS REWARD. 17

all the more easy. Nor was it without a
sensation of mischievous delight that she
reflected upon the strange consternation
which would follow her sudden and inex-
plicable disappearance at such an unlucky
moment ; and upon the fine unpacking which
would have to take place in the morning.

Wednesday arrived at last ; and although,
to do Helen justice, she had never for one
moment wavered in her determination, or
allowed her mind to flinch from the enter-
prise, it must be confessed that, as the hour
drew near, her excitement became almost
uncontrollable. She had determined to get
away, if possible, about half past five o'clock,
which would enable her to reach the railway
station shortly after sunset ; but, as the story
of her travels belongs to another department
of these pages, I shall at present say no more
of her movements than is absolutely neces-

VOL. III. 2



18 PIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWAHD.

sary. Fortunately for her, the house was in
that outrageous state of bustle and disorder
which commonly precedes a journey upon
the part of people altogether new to road
and rail, and which is so highly amusing to
seasoned old stagers like ourselves. Still
more fortunately, Mr. Salterton happened to
be just then absent, upon a month's holiday.
To have taken leave of him under the cir-
cumstances would have been more than em-
barrassing to Helen. It would have been
impossible.

She had, as you may imagine, been at
Mrs. Mortlake's beck and call during the
whole of the forenoon. The good lady
hated the projected journey more than can
be told ; and what with providing against
every possible contingency, and anticipating
every conceivable disaster, gave one the idea
of a person booked for the moon, and laying



FIVE HUNDKED POUNDS REWAllD. 19

in travelling-stock at short notice by the
light of nature. In fact, Helen was called
away from an agonising discussion as to the
best method of economising space, as pre-
sented in the empty skull of a huge imperial,
by a summons from her Guardian to his
study below.

She had been sent for to rummage among
the book-shelves for an old road-book, or
' itinerary,' of Northern France, which he
had some idea would be of use to them in
their expedition. But, whilst spending a
good deal of time upon her knees to no pur-
pose, the front door bell suddenly rang, and
* Mr. Clover and Mr. Tvvick,' were an-
nounced as visitors.

" Don't go," said the Admiral sharply, as
Helen rose to leave the room. '•' Find the
book first, at all events, or we shall start
without it to a certainty. Ha ! Good even-



20 FIVE HUNDEED POUNDS REWARD.

ing, Clover. I am happy to see you, Mr.
Twick."

It was evident that business of some sort
was about to be transacted, for a broad new
parchment deed, crackling like a bonfire,
was unfolded by Mr. Twick, and the Admi-
ral produced a bundle of brown documents
upon his part from the recesses of the iron
Ark. And then, biscuits and sherry were
rung for, and an animated conversation took
place, the purport of which was not clear to
Helen.

"Three thousand pounds, we make the
mortgage debt," began Mr. Twick, a jolly-
looking, chestnut-coloured man of five-and-
forty, with a curly head. " And half a
year's interest, less income-tax, is seventy-
three, two, six. You had a fancy, sir,
Clover tells me, for the money in cash — so
I've brought j^ou three thousand-pounders.



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD. 21

Not every clay one has tlie chance of hand-
ling a thousand-pound note. Pretty paper,
isn't it ?"

" Ha, ha !" growled the Admiral. " You've
had your laugh against me, as you came
along, I'll be bound. But money is money,
]\Ir. Twick, and if you'd lost what I've lost
by trusting to banks and clerks and all that
sort of humbug, you'd do as I do — keep a
strong box of your own. Grive you a week
to see your way through that door," added
he, glancing over his shoulder at the Ark.
"Now you want a receipt, I suppose, ha?"

" And your execution of this reconveyance,
23lease," replied Mr. Twick, spreading his
deed upon the table ; " and then Clover and
I will look over my client's documents to-
gether. This is the parcel ?"

'' Those are the deeds, sir, as I received
them. Probably you will attest my signa-



22 FIVE HUNDEED POUNDS REWARD.

ture. I deliver this as my act and deed.
Is all square, sir, lia ?"

" All right, sir." And the Admiral, after
having carefully scanned the three thousand-
pound notes, and compared their numbers
with a list handed to him by Mr. Twick,
enclosed them in a great red leather pocket-
book ; and, placing it upon one of the iron
shelves of the Ark, shut the door with a
bang which made the room shake.

" Safe investment," observed Mr. Clover,
with a slimy smile.

" So I fancy, at all events," returned the
Admiral dryly. " Tor the present, at least. I
have been advised to give matters a few weeks
turn before making the reinvestment which I
purpose. Things are going down in the city."

" There was a wonderful safe, shown at
the exhibition of '62, by a man from Cork,"
remarked Mr. Twick, sorting his papers.



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWAPvD. 23

" You should have seen it, Admh-al. You
locked the door, and then dropped the keys
into a little slit in the lid, which shut up of
itself — snap ! and there you were, safe as a
church."

"How the devil did you get it open
again ?" inquired Mr. Clover, without taking
his eyes off the table. Mr. Clover was a
stubborn man of business, and beyond a joke.

" Ah ! that's just what lost him a medal.
The jury asked the very sam.e question.
Unlucky, wasn't it ?"

" Can you and Clover stay and drink a
bottle of port ?" interposed the Admiral.
" We dine at seven."

" Thank you, impossible ! I have to be
in London again to-night. Directly I've
looked over these deeds of my client's with
Clover, I must be off to St. Marks, and catch
the six o'clock up train, if I can."



24 FIVE HTJNDUED POUNDS REWARD.

" Sorry for it. You shall give me a cast
to St. Marks in your carriage, if you will.
I have a matter to attend to there, which I
quite forgot this morning. We are off to
the Continent, all of us, to-morrow. Helen,
tell Mrs. Mortlake where I've gone, and ask
her to put off dinner. I shall be back by
half-past seven to a second."

This was all in Helen's favour. Her
guardian would be out of the way, which
was one good thing ; while, by suppressing
the message to his wife, a great deal of
bewilderment and mystification would be
introduced at the critical moment, which
was still better. For the Admiral was a
rigidly punctual man in the matter of his
meals. All sailors are so by habit. And
to find him missing at dinner-time, would
be almost enough to throw her own disap-
pearance into the shade, and make his wife
believe that chaos was come again.



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS EEWAKD. 2;)

The examination of the papers lasted some
quarter of an hour, during- which the Admiral
retired into an adjoining dressing-room to
change his coat. At last the documents
were pronounced satisfactory, and stuffed by
Mr. Twick into his great black leather bag.
Another glass of sherry was filled all round
to clinch the business, and in two minutes
more the post-chaise was clattering through
the lodge gates.

Helen looked at her watch. It was
twenty minutes past five. " Now or never !"
thought she, and was just leaving the room,
when a sudden idea struck her. It was one
of those presentient impulses which have
occurred to most of us at some period of our
lives, and of which it is impossible to give
any reasonable account. She walked straight
into her guardian's dressing-room, and ex-
amined the coat which he had just taken ofi*.



26 PIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.

A jingle in the breast-pocket, in which she
had observed him deposit the keys of the
Ark, rewarded her curiosity. They were
actually there ! clean forgotten, and left be-
hind! O, man of Cork, you should have
had this tale to tell, when the jurors waxed
so foolishly funny over your invincible strong
box.

With light, deliberate step, Helen pro-
ceeded to the Ark, unlocked it, and put the
red leather book into her dress-pocket. She
then refastened the door, replaced the keys
exactly where she had found them, gave one
glance round the room, and was gone.

I don't know that I am bound to account
for every action which I may happen to
have to record. What on earth could have
possessed her, if I may be allowed the vul-
garism, to carry off these bank-notes, passes
my comprehension altogether. Whether it



FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD. 27

was a mild access of kleptomania — which,
however, is commonly supposed to molest
ladies under circumstances to which she had
no pretension ; whether she indistinctly
fancied that she was securing a ' material
guarantee' for the restoration of thus much
of her fortune, at all events ; whether it was
sheer mischief, such as prompts the Gazza
Ladra to make away with silver spoons,
which are useless and out of place in her
rubbishy nest, I have not the smallest idea.
My conjecture, were I bound to conjecture
at all, would be, that she was simply bent
upon making the greatest row possible, and
forcing on, at all hazards, a general explana-
tion. Felony was certainly a strong mea-
sure ; but a young lady who has been
Avronged, and is bent upon righting herself,
is not apt to stick at trifles.

Certainly, if she could only have been



28 FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.

invisibly present at Eiverwood that evening,
her satisfaction ought to have been un-
bounded.

She had been missed, almost immediately
after her departure, by the ever- watchful
Crimp, who lost no time in informing Mrs.
Mortlake of her suspicions.

For a long time, that lady was perfectly
incredulous^ and stubbornly refused to see
anything remarkable in the story. Miss
Meetlands was somewhere about the place,
she was certain — perhaps in the shrubbery,
the garden, or the stables, and would re-
appear in due time. Crimp was talking
nonsense !

But when another half-hour had passed
away, and Helen was still unaccounted for,
she was obliged to confess that it was a
strange business altogether. A rigid exami-
nation of her bed-room, only made matters


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