B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

The Duchess of Rosemary Lane online

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his life was so varied and full of colour, that he could not for the
moment connect the face with the circumstance.

"Answer me," he said peremptorily. "Have I not seen you before?"

"You have, sir."


"Years ago - at Springfield - when I, with two children, was taking a
holiday in the country."

"Ah, I remember perfectly. Our meeting was not a pleasant one."

"It was not my fault that it was not so."

"I remember also that you gave me the address of an inn at which you
were stopping, and that I informed you I should call there. I _did_
call, and you had gone. You ran away, I presume."

"I followed my course, being a free man, and not bound to wait for

"It is a matter of no importance. Two children! Yes; I should know
them again, I think. One, a child, with a very beautiful face. Is she

"She is, sir; as a woman, though she is scarcely yet out of her
girlhood, she is more beautiful than she was as a child. I am here on
her behalf."

"On her behalf!" exclaimed Mr. Temple, taking the note from the table.
"You use the words 'vital importance.'"

"They are correctly used, as you will perhaps admit when you hear me."

"I will hear you. Of vital importance to yourself and to me?"

"That is so, sir."

Mr. Temple considered for a moment. His career had been one which
necessitated rapid conclusions.

"Write your name, trade, and address on this paper."

Seth Dumbrick did as he was desired. His manner was closely watched by
Mr. Temple, who expected to detect a reluctance to give the
information. But Seth Dumbrick wrote unhesitatingly, and with

"This is your true name and address?"

"I have no other. I am here to speak the truth."

"Say what you have to say."

"I must trespass upon your patience, but I will be as brief as it is
possible for me to be. It is very many years ago - I cannot recall how
many; the age of the child, if it can be ascertained, will verify
that - that a little girl was strangely and mysteriously brought into
my neighbourhood by a man whom I never saw, and who remained in
Rosemary Lane for probably not longer than a couple of hours. This
stranger took a room in the house of acquaintances of mine - - "

"Write on the paper, beneath your own name, the name of these

Seth Dumbrick wrote the name of Chester, which Mr. Temple did not
glance at. He was more engaged in observing the manner in which the
man before him submitted to the tests he demanded. Seth continued:

"The stranger took a room that was to let in the house, and paid, I
believe, two weeks' rent in advance. The night that he took the room
he disappeared from the neighbourhood, and was never more seen in it."

"Leaving the child?"

"Leaving the child. Not long after the occurrence the persons who
occupied the house fell into misfortune, and the woman into whose care
the child had been strangely thrown was compelled by circumstances to
give up her house, and take a situation in the country."

"All this bears upon your errand to me?"

"Every word of it. The woman had a little girl of her own, a few years
older than the foundling, who contracted an absorbing love for the
deserted stranger. It is not necessary to relate how I, upon the
breaking up of the woman's home, took upon myself the care of her
child and the child whom the villain - that is the correct word, in my
opinion - deserted. These children have lived with me ever since, and
under my care have grown to womanhood."

The talent Seth Dumbrick exhibited for condensation and clearness had
its effect upon Mr. Temple, who knew how to appreciate the rare

The child you have referred to for her beauty is the child who was
deserted. Nothing is known of her parentage or belongings. She has
grown up amongst us, and is loved by all. To me, a childless man, she
is as my own daughter, and I could not feel more deeply for her were
she of my own blood. But it was a matter of remark from the first, and
has continued so, that, from all appearance, she is superior in
certain ways to those whom a strange fate has condemned her to herd
with. You see, sir, that I do not rate myself and those of my order
too highly. I have given her what education it was in my power to
bestow. She is in all respects a lady, and as beautiful a girl as this
city contains. As is natural, so bright a being has attracted the
attention of those in my station of life - I do not say in hers - who
desire matrimony. But she has consistently declined to entertain their
proposals, and has, so to speak, set her head above them - as she has
done from the first, in every possible way. Whether this comes from
her parents, who, for the credit of human nature, I hope are dead, it
is beyond me to say. There are mysteries which we weak mortals are
powerless to probe. I come now, sir, to that part of my story which
most nearly touches the object of my visit to you.

"Before you proceed, favour me with the name of this child."

"I must ask you to receive it in all seriousness, sir. I am afraid
that I am principally to blame for it, but it sprung out of a
whimsical fancy, and in one of those moments of extravagance for which
we are scarcely accountable. The child had no name; the villain who
brought her into the neighbourhood, and deserted her, left none behind
him; and in such a moment as I have spoken of, the name - if it can be
called so - of the Duchess of Rosemary Lane was given her. It was
undoubtedly wrong, but it has clung to her, and she bears no other."

"Go on now to the immediate purport of your note to me."

"As I have said, she has attracted the attention of many suitors in my
station of life, but she has turned a deaf ear to all. She has
attracted other attention - the attention of a gentleman moving
presumably, nay certainly, in a higher position in society than that
she occupies. Have you no suspicion of the point I am coming to?"


"The person I speak of," proceeded Seth, with a heavy sigh, "meets my
child regularly, and has given her such gifts as only a gentleman
could afford to give."

"An old story," interrupted Mr. Temple.

"Continue to hear me patiently, sir. I have but little more to say.
This gentleman writes constantly to her, but not to the home in which
she has lived from childhood. I am here to ask you whether it is
possible that such an intimacy will result in a manner honourable to
the girl whom I, an old and childless man, love with all the
earnestness and devotion of which I am capable - for whose happiness I
would lay down my life as surely as every word I have spoken to you is
the honest and straightforward truth."

"And it is to this point you must come at once," said Mr. Temple,
whose tone would have been arrogant but for the effect which the
genuine pathos of his visitor produced upon him against his will.
"What interest can I have in the name of this gentleman, who, seeing a
pretty girl who is flattered by his attentions, follows her, and falls
into the trap she lays for him - - "

But if his speech had not trailed off here, it would have been
arrested by Seth's indignant protest.

"Stop!" he cried, in a ringing voice. "Hear first the name of the man
who is wooing my child, and who from your own sentiments - for nature
transmits good and evil qualities from father to son - is seeking to
entrap an innocent girl!"

At this moment these two men - the one so high in the world, the other
so low - changed positions. It was Mr. Temple who cowered, and Seth
Dumbrick who raised his head to the light.

"Speak the name then," said Mr. Temple.

"Your son - Arthur Temple!"

A cold smile served at once to hide Mr. Temple's agitation and to
outwardly denote the value he wished Seth Dumbrick to believe he
placed upon his statement.

"And you," he said, with contemptuous emphasis, "have connived at this
intimacy, and have come to me to place a price upon - - "

Again he was interrupted indignantly by Seth.

"You mistake. I have never, so that I could recognise it, seen the
face of your son; I have had no conversation with my child upon the
subject, and she does not know of my visit to you. She has not
confided in me."

"How then do you happen to be aware of the particulars you have
narrated so fluently? How have you gained the knowledge of the letters
and the gifts?"

"Having only the good of my child at heart, and being better versed in
the villainies - - "

"Be careful of your words."

"If your son has no honourable intention towards my girl, the word is
in its proper place. Being better versed in the ways of the world than
she, a young and inexperienced child, can possibly be, I exercised my
rightful authority, and searched her trunk, to discover what she was
concealing from me. I found the tokens there. The letters are written
on paper stamped with a crest, surrounded by Latin words which I do
not understand."

Mr. Temple, in silence, handed Seth a sheet of notepaper.

"The crest and words," said Seth, putting on his spectacles to examine
them, "are the same as these."

"Is that all you have to say?"

"All - with the exception that three nights ago I witnessed the meeting
between your son and my child."

"How did you discover where he lives?"

"I followed him to this house, and learnt that it was yours."

"You would have made a good detective, my man."

"What I have done," said Seth simply, "has been prompted and guided by

Mr. Temple, shading his face with his hand, was silent a little. He
could not doubt the truth of Seth's statement, and his desire was to
save his san from awkward consequences which might result from his
imprudence. He raised his eyes, and said, in a hard tone:

"Your price?"

Seth Dumbrick stared at Mr. Temple, and his frame shook with

"Your price," repeated Mr. Temple, "for those letters?"

"Are you asking me," said Seth, resting his hand heavily on the table
to obtain some control over his words, "to put a price upon my child's

"I will have no insolent construction placed upon my question. You
have heard it. Answer it."

"It should have blistered your tongue," said Seth, with bitter
emphasis, "to utter it. Is that answer sufficient?"

"Quite," replied Mr. Temple, striking the bell with a fierceness he
would have shown had it been human and his enemy. A servant entered.

"Turn this person from the house," he said sternly.

The servant stood before Seth Dumbrick, who knew that there was no
appeal. But before he took his departure, he said sternly:

"If Divine justice be not a delusion, you will live to repent this
night. Into your home may come the desolation you would assist in
bringing into mine."

He had time to say no more' for at a peremptory gesture from Mr.
Temple, the servant forced him from the room.

Mr. Temple instantly touched the bell again, and another servant

"Is Richards in?"

"Yes, sir."

"Send him to me immediately."

Almost on the instant, Richards made his appearance. A man of the same
age as his master, tall and spare, with a manner so habitually
watchful that, although he seldom looked a person in the face, not a
movement or expression escaped his notice.

"A man is now being shown out of the house," said Mr. Temple
hurriedly, "whom you will follow to his home. Lose not a moment.
Ascertain every particular relating to himself, his life, and his
domestic history. You understand?"

Richards nodded. He was a man not given to the wasting of speech.

"This is a secret and confidential service," said Mr. Temple. "Breathe
not a word concerning it to a soul but myself - understand, not to a
soul but myself - not even to my son. Hasten now, or you may miss him."


Richards, a secret silent man, had been in Mr. Temple's service for a
great number of years. Long before Mr. Temple had achieved
distinction, he had observed in this man certain qualities which he
deemed might be useful to him; and he took Richards into his service.
He found the man invaluable, and had entrusted to him many delicate
commissions, all of which had been carried out to his satisfaction.
The men were necessary to each other. As the possessor of secrets the
revelation of which, in former years, might have proved awkward, the
master was bound to his servant by a strong, albeit somewhat dangerous
tie. Richards made use of his power without showing his hand, by
asking from time to time for additions to his salary, which were
freely accorded. Richards had saved money, and the service was an easy
and, to a great extent, an independent one.

He had a knack of keeping his opinions to himself, and of devoting
himself, all appearance, entirely to the business entrusted to
him - which he invariably contrived should add to the weight of his
purse. Mr. Temple had a high opinion of Richards; so high that he had
said to his son,

"Arthur, if at any time you want any business of a delicate nature
transacted, which you would rather not appear in yourself, employ

Arthur thought the suggestion strange, as he could not conceive what
delicate business he should require attended to, which he should be
ashamed to appear in; but a very short time was sufficient to convince
him that his father was wiser than he. Certain circumstances occurred
which caused him, a fortnight since, to call in the help of Richards;
and it thus happened that, at one and the same time, Richards was
employed on confidential commissions for the father and the son. A
singular, but not unusual phase in these commissions was the absolute
silence imposed upon Richards.

"Not a word of this to my father," Arthur Temple said.

The stipulation was not needed. Richards was the soul of secrecy.

On the same day Richards presented two written reports - one to the
father, the other to the son. The report presented to Mr. Temple ran

"In accordance with instructions, I have to report -

"The name of the man is Seth Dumbrick. He is a cobbler, and lives in
Rosemary Lane.

"Rosemary Lane is in one of the poorest quarters of London. All the
people who live there are poor.

"Seth Dumbrick is a single man, and has never been married - either
directly or indirectly.

"He has two persons living with him - both young women, whom he has
brought up from childhood. They are not his children. One is Sally
Chester. Her parents, when she was a child, lived in Rosemary Lane;
they fell into misfortune; the father died in the hospital; the mother
took service in the country. They had another child, a son. His name
is Edward, or, as he was familiarly called, Ned. This son was a thief;
he went, or was sent away, to Australia. Upon the precise manner of
his going my information is not clear.

"The other person living with Seth Dumbrick goes by the title of the
Duchess of Rosemary Lane; she has no Christian or surname. Nothing is
known of her parentage.

"Sally Chester is a plain person. The Duchess of Rosemary Lane is a
beautiful woman.

"It is whispered about in the neighbourhood that the Duchess of
Rosemary Lane will one day marry a gentleman, and that she will become
a fine lady. She herself has this anticipation; I had it from her own

"Seth Dumbrick is very poor, and Sally Chester takes in work to help
to support them. The Duchess of Rosemary Lane does not work.

"I have nothing further to report at present."

The report presented to Arthur Temple ran thus:

"To a certain point my report is now complete, and I present it, being
prepared to prosecute the inquiry, and carry it on from day to day, if
I am instructed so to do.

"So that there may be no mistake about my understanding of the
instructions given to me, I recapitulate them.

"On the 17th of last month you sent for me, and informed me that you
were being robbed. You had missed at various times articles of
jewelry, the particulars and description of which I wrote down from
your dictation, for the purpose of identification. The principal of
the articles were a diamond breastpin, a ring with sunk diamonds and
emeralds, a silver cigar-case. I inquired if you were being robbed of
anything but articles of jewelry. You replied, not to your knowledge.
I inquired if you were careful in looking over your banking account.
You replied that you were not in the habit of doing so. I requested
that you should look into the matter before I commenced to prosecute
my investigations.

"On the following day, the 18th, you sent for me, and informed me that
you had looked into your banking account, and that you had been robbed
of money by means of forged cheques. It was what I expected.

"I went with you to the bank, and made certain inquiries and took
possession of the forged cheques which had been cashed, and of five
genuine cheques which had also been cashed, and which I required for
my own purposes. In accordance with my wish the bank was not made
acquainted with these forgeries. I inquired whether you had a
suspicion of any person. You replied that you had no suspicion.

"On the following day, the 19th, I requested that you should send by
your valet, James Kingsford, a letter addressed to the manager of the
bank, stating that for the next two months you did not intend to draw
any one cheque for a larger sum than £20. I desired that this letter
should, as though by accident, be given unsealed into the hands of
your valet, James Kingsford. This was done, and the result justified
my anticipation. From the 19th to the 26th, two forged cheques were
presented, each for a sum under £20. They were paid. The total amount
of the forged cheques reached £674.

"On the 26th, I desired you to send another letter, imperfectly
fastened, to the bank manager, by your valet, stating that, pending
certain arrangements you had in contemplation, you did not intend to
draw any further cheques upon your account without due notice being
given. From that day no forged cheques were presented for payment.

"During the whole of the time I was proceeding with my secret
investigation, and have continued it until this date, with this

"A person of the name of Ned, or Edward Chester, has lately returned
from Australia, where he resided for ten or twelve years. Of his
career there I have no information; the time employed by me in this
investigation not having been long enough to obtain it. He is an
Englishman, born in London, and living during his boyhood, and
afterwards at intervals, in Rosemary Lane a common street, in a common
locality, in the east of London. Since his return he has not made
himself known to any of his former associates, with the exception of
one, whom I will presently mention, and who can scarcely be called an

"Ned Chester, before he left for Australia, was a thief, but at the
same time a person whose manners were superior to those of his
associates. He took a strange fancy, as a young man, to a child, a
little girl, living in Rosemary Lane, of whose parentage nothing was
known. When he left for Australia, this little girl was probably not
more than five or six years of age, but I do not pledge myself to a
year or two. While he was in Australia he sent her money, which the
man who has brought her up received and spent. Returning home, after
an absence of ten or twelve years, he renewed his acquaintance with
her. She is now a very beautiful young woman.

"It was his intention to introduce himself in his proper name, having
an idea that she must have been thinking of him during his absence as
much as he had been thinking of her; but he amused himself at first by
conversing with her as a stranger. He soon discovered that the young
woman had no recollection of him, and that she had never bestowed a
thought upon him; he discovered, also, that she was dissatisfied with
her position in life, and that she had a fancy in her head that,
because her parents were not known, she must certainly be a lady. He
told her he was a gentleman, and when she asked for his name, he gave
the name of Arthur Temple. He pledged her to secrecy upon this point,
on the grounds that he did not wish to have anything to do with her
friends and neighbours, and that family reasons required that their
intimacy should for a time be kept from the knowledge of his father.
He represented that, upon his father's death, who, he said, was an old
man, he would come into possession of a large fortune.

"Under the name of Arthur Temple, he meets the young woman regularly.
He has given her presents, and has frequently written to her upon
paper bearing your father's crest.

"The name by which the young woman is known is The Duchess of Rosemary

"The man who is passing himself upon her as Arthur Temple is your
valet, James Kingsford. You will thus perceive that Ned Chester, James
Kingsford, and the fictitious Arthur Temple, are one and the same

"It is this person, also, who has uttered the forged cheques, and who
has stolen the missing jewelry.

"This report is longer than I desired, but to place you in possession
of all the particulars, I have found it impossible to abbreviate it."

The receipt of this communication caused Arthur Temple great
excitement. It appeared to him that it was the real commencement of
his life's experience. The loss of the money, and the discovery of the
man who had robbed him, did not so much affect him as that portion of
the narrative which related to the beautiful girl whom Ned Chester was
deceiving. His imagination was stirred, and his chivalrous heart
prompted him to defend and save her. He went at once in search of
Richards, with the man's statement in his hand, and plunged
immediately into the subject.

"I have no reason to doubt the truth of your report, Richards."

"You need have none, sir."

"It _is_ true?"

"Every word of it."

"How have you obtained so much information in as short a time?"

"My method - if you will excuse my saying so much - is my own."

"Undoubtedly. Perhaps you have had some conversation with the rogue
who robbed me."

"I have; he is not aware of the position I hold with respect to your
father and yourself."

"The means in this case," said Arthur Temple, in a tone of slight
dissatisfaction, "possibly justified the end."

"You must judge of that for yourself, sir. I have no doubt in my

"You have seen the person who has brought up this girl?"

"I have; and have had some talk with him. His name is Seth Dumbrick;
he lives in Rosemary Lane."

"That accounts, then, for the whimsical title of the girl."

"Possibly, sir."

"You have seen her?"

"I have."

"And, she is, as you say, pretty?"

"I have not used the word pretty. She is beautiful."

"Richards," said Arthur Temple, with excitement, "the girl must be

Richards did not reply. He was a practical man, and was not given to
sentimental action on the spur of the moment.

"It is my duty," continued Arthur, "to save her. Will you assist me?"

Richards hesitated. The reports he had written to Mr. Temple and
Arthur were straightforward and to the point. In so far, he had done
his duty. But there was a matter he had not touched upon in those
reports - a discovery he had made which had astonished and perplexed

That he himself was culpable in the matter did not affect him;
sufficient that he was not punishable; and if it came to the value of
one man's word against another's, he knew full well that, in this
instance, he held the winning card. He was an old man, and he was
tired of servitude. He had saved sufficient money to pass the
remainder of his days in comfort; and perhaps, for the peculiar
service he was enabled to render Arthur Temple - a service the nature
of which held no place in Arthur's mind - the young man would
generously remember him. Then, again, it was an act of justice which
chance had placed in his hands the power to perform; such an act,
brought about by himself, might condone for many a piece of dirty work
in the past. It is not necessary to pause and inquire by what process
of reasoning these thoughts, leading to a definite and startling
course of action, formed themselves in his mind. They came at a time
when most men in shackles, having the power to free themselves, would
gladly have availed themselves of the power. There were reasons which,
in the conclusion he was arriving at, undoubtedly played an important
part. One of these was that it was possible, if he did not make
himself the principal instrument of rendering atonement for a great
wrong, the discovery might be made in a manner disadvantageous to
himself. Another reason, although he was scarcely conscious of it, was

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Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonThe Duchess of Rosemary Lane → online text (page 21 of 24)