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" The will, or the house?" peevishly retorted Gilbert.

" Both ! " cried the other, with an emphasis and ex-
pression that made me tremble.

" If we burn the house, the papers will not rise out of
it, depend on't, master," continued Gilbert : " and that
box, in the next closet, will not prove like Goody Blake's

I began to feel particularly uncomfortable.

" I wish they had all been burnt long ago," said mine


honest uncle After a pause he went on : " This scape-
grace nephew of mine will be here shortly. For fear of
accidents — accidents, I say, Gilbert — it were better to
have all safe. Who knows what may be lurking in the
old house, to rise up some day as a witness against us !
I intend either to pull it down or set fire to it. But we'll
make sure of the will first."

" A rambling jackanapes of a nephew ! " said Gilbert;
" I hoped the fishes had supped on him before now.
We never thought, master, he could be alive, as he sent
no word about his being either alive or dead. But I
guess," continued this amiable servant, " he might ha'
staid longer and you wouldn't ha' fretted for his com-

Listeners hear no good of themselves ; but I deter-
mined to reward the old villain very shortly for his good

" Gilbert, when there's work to do, thou art always
readier with thy tongue than with thy fingers. Look !
the match has gone out twice, — leave off puffing, and
fetch the box ; I'll manage about the candle."

I began to feel a strange sensation rambling about me.
Gilbert left the room, however, and I applied myself with
redoubled diligence to the crevice. My dishonest relation
proceeded to revive the expiring sparks : the light shone
full upon his hard features. It might be fancy, but guilt,
broad, legible, remorseless guilt, seemed to mark every
inflection of his visage : his brow contracted, — his eye
turned cautiously and fearfully round the apartment, and
more than once it rested upon the gap I had made. I
saw him strike his hand upon his puckered brow, and
a stifled groan escaped him ; but, as if ashamed of his


better feelings, he clenched it in an attitude of defiance,
and listened eagerly for the return of his servant. The
slow footsteps of Gilbert soon announced his approach,
and apparently with some heavy burden. He threw it
on the floor, and I heard a key applied and the rusty
wards answering to the touch. The business in which
they were now engaged was out of my limited sphere of

" I think, master, the damps will soon ding down the
old house : look at the wall ; the paper hangs for all the
world like the clerk's wig — ha, ha ! If we should burn
the house down, we'd rid it o' the ghosts. Would they
stand fire, think you, or be off to cooler quarters ? "

" Hush, Gilbert ; thou art wicked enough to bring a
whole legion about us, if any of them are within hearing.
I always seemed to treat these stories with contempt,
but I never could satisfy myself about the noises that
old Gidlow and his wife heard. Thou knowest he was
driven out of the house by them. People wondered
that I did not come and live here, instead of letting it
run to ruin. It's pretty generally thought that I fear
neither man nor devil ; but — oh ! here it is ; here is the
will. I care nothing for the rest, provided this be can-

" Ay, master, they said the ghost never left off scratch-
ing as long as any body was in the room. Which room
was it, I wonder ? — I never thought on 't to enquire ;
but — I don't like this a bit. It runs in my head it is
the very place, and behind that wall, too, where it took
up its quarters ; like as it might be just a-back of the
paper there. Think you, master, the old tyke has puU'd
it down wi' scratching ? "


" Gilbert," said my uncle solemnly, " I don't like
these jests of thine. Save them, I prithee, for fitter sub-
jects. The will is what we came for. Let us dispose of
that quietly, and I promise thee I'll never set foot here

As he spoke, he approached the candle ; — it was just
within my view, — and opened the will, that it might yield
the more readily to the blaze. I watched him evidently
preparing to consume a document with which I felt con-
vinced my welfare and interests were intimately connected.
There was not a moment to be lost ; but how to get pos-
session was no easy contrivance. If I sallied forth to its
rescue, they might murder me, or at least prevent its
falling into my hands. This plan could only prolong its
existence a few moments, and would to a certainty ensure
its eventual destruction. Gilbert's dissertation on the oc-
cupations and amusements of the ghost came very oppor-
tunely to my aid, and immediately I put into execution
what now appeared my only hope of its safety. Just as
a corner of the paper was entering the flame, I gave a
pretty loud scratch, at the same time anxiously observing
the effect it might produce. I was overjoyed to find the
enemy intimidated at least, by the first fire. Another
volley, and another succeeded, until even the sceptical
Gilbert was dismayed. My uncle seemed riveted to the
spot, his hands widely disparted, so that the flame and its
destined prey were now pretty far asunder. Neither of
the culprits spoke; and I hoped that little more would
be necessary to rout them fairly from the field. As yet
they did not seem disposed to move ; and I was afraid of
a rally, should reason get the better of their fears.

" Rats ! rats ! " shouted Gilbert. " Well singe their


tails for them." The scratchhig ceased. Again the paper
was approaching to its dreaded catastrophe.

" Beware ! " I cried, in a deep and sepulchral tone,
that startled even the utterer. What effect it had pro-
duced on my auditory I was left alone to conjecture.
The candle dropped from the incendiary's grasp, and the
spoil was left a prey to the bugbear that possessed their
imaginations. With feelings of unmixed delight, I heard
them clear the stairs at a few leaps, run through the hall,
and soon afterwards a terrific bellow from Gilbert an-
nounced their descent into the avenue.

Luckily the light was not extinct, and I lost no time
in taking possession of the document which I considered
of the most importance. A number of loose papers, the
contents of a huge trunk, were scattered about ; but my
attention was more particularly directed to the paper
which had been the object of my uncle's visit to the
manor-house. To my great joy, this was neither less nor
more than my father's will, witnessed and sealed in due
form, wherein the possessions of my ancestors were con-
veyed, absolutely and unconditionally, without entail, un-
encumbered and unembarrassed, to me and to my assigns.
I thought it most likely that the papers in and about the
trunk might be of use, either as corroborative evidence,
in case my uncle should choose to litigate the point and
brand the original document as a forgery, or as a direct
testimony to the validity of my claim. I was rather
puzzled in what manner to convey them from the place,
so as not to excite suspicion, should the two worthies
return. I was pretty certain they would not leave mat-
ters as they now stood when their fears were allayed, and
daylight would probably impart sufficient courage to in-


duce them to repeat their visit. On finding the papers
removed, the nature of this night's ghostly adntionition
would immediately be guessed, and measures taken to
thwart any proceedings which it might be in my power to
adopt. To prevent discovery, I hit upon the following
expedient. — I sorted out the waste paper, a considerable
quantity of which served as envelopes to the rest, setting
fire to it in such a manner that the contents of the trunk
might appear to have been destroyed by the falling of
the candle. 1 succeeded very much to my own satis-
faction. Disturbed and agonised as my feelings had been
during the discovery, the idea of having defeated the
plan of my iniquitous relative gave a zest to my acqui-
sitions almost as great as if I had already taken possession
of my paternal inheritance.

Before I left the apartment, 1 poured out my heart in
thanksgivings to that Unseen Power, whose hand, I am
firmly convmced, brought me thither at so critical a
moment, to frustrate the schemes and machinations of
the enemy.

Bundling up the papers, my knowledge of the vicinity
enabled me to reach a small tavern in the neighbourhood,
without the risk of being recognised. Here I continued
two or three days, examining the documents, with the as-
sistance of an honest limb of the law from W . He

entertained considerable doubts as to the issue of a trial,
feeling convinced that a forged will would be prepared, if
not already in existence, and that my relative would not
relinquish his fraudulent claim, should the law be openly
appealed to. He strongly recommended that proceedings
of a different nature should be first tried, in hopes of en-
closing the villain in his own toils ; and these, if success-

VOL. II. ^


ful, would save the uncertain and expensive process of a
suit. I felt unwilling to adopt any mode of attack but
that of open warfare, and urged that possession of the
real will would be sufficient to reinstate me as the lawful
heir. The man of law smiled. He enquired how I should
be able to prove, that the forgery which my uncle would
in all probability produce was not the genuine testament :
and, as the date would ir.evitably be subsequent to the
one I held, it would annul any former bequest. As to
my tale about burning the will, that might or might not
be treated as a story trumped up for the occasion. I had
no witnesses to prove the fact ; and though appearances
were certainly in my favour, yet the case could only be
decided according to evidence. With great reluctance I
consented to take a part in the scheme he chalked out for
my guidance ; and, on the third day from my arrival, I
walked a few miles and returned to the town, that it
might appear as if I had only just arrived. On being set
down at my uncle's, I had the satisfaction to find, as far
as could be gathered from his manner, that he had no
idea of my recent sojourn in the neighbourhood. Of
course the conversation turned on the death of my re-
vered parents, and the way in which their property had
been disposed of.

" I can only repeat," continued he, " what I, as the
only executor under your father's will, was commissioned
to inform you at his decease. The property was heavily
mortgaged before your departure ; and its continued de-
pression in value, arising from causes that could not have
been foreseen, left the executor no other alternative but
that of giving the creditors possession. The will is here,"
s-aid he, taking out a paper, neatly folded and mounted


with red tape, from a bureau. " It is necessarily brief,
and merely enumerates the names of the mortgagees and
amounts owing. I was unfortunately the principal cre-
ditor, having been a considerable loser from my wish to
preserve the property inviolate. For the credit of the
family I paid off the remaining incumbrances, and the
estate has lapsed to me as the lawful possessor."

He placed the document in my hands. I read in it a

very technical tribute of testamentary gratitude to M

S , Esq. styled therein "beloved brother;" and a

slight mention of my name, but no bequest, save that of
recommending me to the kindness of my relative, in case
it should please Heaven to send me once more to my
native shores. I was aware he would be on the watch ;
guarding, therefore, against any expression of my feelings,
I eagerly perused the deed, and with a sigh, which he
would naturally attribute to any cause but the real one, I
returned it into his hands.

" I find," said he, " from your letter received on the
23d current, that you are not making a long stay in this
neighbourhood. It is better, perhaps, that you should
not. The old house is sadly out of repair. Three years
ago next May, David Gidlow, the tenant under lease
from me, left it, and I have not yet been able to meet with
another occupant fully to my satisfaction ; indeed, I have
some intention of pulling down the house and disposing
of the materials."

" PuUing it down ! " I exclaimed, with indignation.

" Yes ; that is, it is so untenantable — so — what shall
I call it ? — that nobody cares to live there."

" I hope it is not haunted ? "

" Haunted ! " exclaimed he, surveying me with a se-
Y 2


vere and scrutinising glance. " What should have put
that into your head ? "

I was afraid I had said too much ; and anxious to allay
the suspicion I saw gathering in his countenance, " Nay,
uncle," I quickly rejoined ; " but you seemed so afraid
of speaking out upon the matter, that I thought there
must needs be a ghost at the bottom of it."

" As for that," said he, carelessly, " the foolish farmer
and his wife did hint something of the sort; but it is well
known that I pay no attention to such tales. The long
and the short of it, I fancy, was, that they were tired of
their bargain, and wanted me to take it off their hands."

Here honest Gilbert entered, to say that Mr. L ,

the attorney, would be glad to have a word with his

" Tell Mr. L to walk in. We have no secrets

here. Excuse me, nephew ; this man is one of our lawyers.
He has nothing to communicate but what you may hear,
I dare say. If he should have any private business, you
can step into the next room."

The attorney entering, I was introduced as nephew to

Mr. S , just arrived from the Indies, and so forth.

Standing, Mr. L made due obeisance.

" Sit down ; sit down, Mr. L ," cried my uncle.

" You need not be bowing there for a job. Poor fellow,
he has not much left to grease the paws of a lawyer.
Well, sir, your eri-and ? "

" I came, Mr. S , respecting the manor-house. Per-
haps you would not have any objections to a tenant ?"

" I cannot say just now. I have had some thoughts of
pulling it down."

" Sir ! you would not demolish a building, the growth


of centuries, — a family mansion — been in the descent since
James's time. It would be barbarous. The antiques would
be about your ears."

" I care nothing for the antiquities ; and, moreover, I
do not choose to let the house. Any further business with
me this morning, Sir ? "

" Nothing of consequence — I only came about the

" Pray, Mr. L— — ," said I, " what sort of a tenant have
you in view ; — one you could recommend ? I think my
uncle has more regard for the old mansion-house than
comports with the outrage he threatens. The will says, if
I read aright, that the house and property may be sold,
should the executor see fit ; but, as to pulling it down, I
am sure my father never meant any thing so deplorable.
Allow me another glance at that paper."

" Please to observe, nephew, that the will makes it
mine, and as such I have a right to dispose of the whole
in such manner as I may deem best. If you have any

doubts, I refer you to Mr. L , who sits smiling at your

unlawyer-like opinions."

" Pray allow me one moment," said the curious attor-
ney. He looked at the signature, and those of the parties

" Martha S , — your late sister, I presume ?"

My uncle nodded assent.

" Gilbert Ilodgon, — your servant ? "

" The same. To what purpose. Sir, are these ques-
tions ? " angrily enquired my uncle.

" Merely matters of form, — a habit we lawyers cannot
easily throw aside whenever we get a sight of musty parch-
ments. I hope you will pardon my freedom ? "


" Oh ! as for that, you are welcome to ask as many
questions as you tliink proper : they will be easily an-
swered, I take it."

" Doubtless," said the persevering man of words.
" Whenever I take up a deed, for instance, — it is just

the habit of the thing, Itlr. S , — I always look at it as

a banker looks at a note. He could not, for the life of
him, gather one up without first ascertaining that it was

" Genuine ! " exclaimed my uncle, thrown off his guard.
" You do not suspect that I have forged it ? "

" Forged it ! why how could that enter your head, Mr.
S ? I should as soon suspect you of forging a bank-
note, or coining a guinea. Ringing a guinea. Sir, does not
at all imply that the payee suspects the payer to be an
adept in that ingenious and much-abused art. We should
be prodigiously surprised if the payer were to start up in a
tantrum, and say, ' Do you suspect me, Sir, of having
coined it ? ' "

" Sir, if you came hither for the purpose of insulting

" I came upon no such business, Mr. S ; but, as you

seem disposed to be captious, I will make free to say, and
it would be the opinion of ninety-nine hundredths of the
profession, that it might possibly have been a little more
satisfactory to the heir-apparent, had the witnesses to this,
the most solemn and important act of a man's life, been
any other than, firstly, a defunct sister to the party claim-
ing the whole residue ; and, secondly, Mr. Gilbert Hodgon,
his servant. Nay, Sir," said the pertinacious lawyer,
rising, " I do not wish to use more circumlocution than
is necessary ; I have stated my suspicions, and if you are


an honest man, you can have no objections, at least, to
satisfy your nephew on the subject, who seems, to say the
truth, much astonished at our accidental parley."

" And, pray, who made you a ruler and a judge between
us ? "

" / have no business with it, I own ; but as you seemed
rather angry, I made bold to give an opinion on the little
technicalities aforesaid. If you choose. Sir," addressing
himself to me, " the matter is now at rest."

" Of course," I replied, " Mr. S will be ready to

give every satisfaction that may be required, as regards
the validity of the witnesses. I request, uncle, that you
will not lose one moment in rebutting these insinuations.
For your own sake and mine, it is not proper that your
conduct should go forth to the world in the shape in which
this gentleman may think fit to represent it."

" If he dare speak one word "

" Nay, uncle, that is not the way to stop folks' mouths
now-a-days. Nothing but the actual gag, or a line of
conduct that courts no favour and requires no conceal-
ment, will pass current with the world. I request. Sir,"
addressing myself to the attorney, " that you will not
leave this house until you have given Mr. S the op-
portunity of clearing himself from any blame in this

" As matters have assumed this posture," said Mr.

L , " I should be deficient in respect to the profession

of which I have the honour to be a member, did I not
justify my conduct in the best manner I am able. Have
I liberty to proceed ? "

" Proceed as you like, you will not prove the test^nnent
to be a forgery. The signing and witnessing were done


in my presence," said my uncle. He rose from his chair,
instinctively locked up his bureau ; and, if such stern
features could assume an aspect of still greater asperity,
it was when the interrogator thus continued : — " You

were, as you observe, Mr. S , an eye-witness to the

due. subscription of this deed. If I am to clear myself
from the imputation of unjustifiable curiosity, I must beg
leave to examine yourself and the surviving witness apart,
merely as to the minutiae of the circumstances under
which it was finally completed : for instance, was the late

Mr. in bed, or was he sick, or well, when the deed

was executed ? "

A cadaverous hue stole over the dark features of the
culprit ; their aspect varying and distorted, in which fear
and deadly anger painfully strove for pre-eminence.

" And wherefore apart ? " said he, with a hideous grin.
He stamped suddenly on the floor.

" If that summons be for your servant, you might have
saved yourself the trouble. Sir," said his tormentor, with
great coolness and intrepidity. " Gilbert is at my office,
whither I sent him on an errand, thinking he would be
best out of the way for a while. I find, however, that we
shall have need of him. It is as well, nevertheless, that
he is out of the reach of signals."

" A base conspiracy ! " roared the infuriated villain.
" Nephew, how is this? And in my own house, — bullied
— baited ! But I will be revenged, — I will "

Here he became exhausted with rage, and sat down.

On Mr. L attempting to speak, he cried out — "I

will answer no questions, and I defy you. Gilbert may
say what he likes ; but he cannot contradict my words.
I'll speak none."


" These would be strange words, indeed, Mr, S ,

from an innocent man. Know you that will ?" said the
lawyer, in a voice of thunder, and at the same time ex-
hibiting the real instrument so miraculously preserved
from destruction. I shall never forget his first look of
horror and astonishment. Had a spectre risen up, ar-
rayed in all the terrors of the prison-house, he could not
have exhibited more appalling symptoms of unmitigated
despair. He shuddered audibly. It was the very crisis
of his agony. A portentous silence ensued. Some mi-
nutes elapsed before it was interrupted. Mr. L was

the first to break so disagreeable a pause.

" Mr. S , it is useless to carry on this scene of

duplicity : neither party would be benefited by it. You
have forged that deed ! We have sufficient evidence of
your attempt to destroy this document I now hold, in the
very mansion which your unhallowed hands would, but
for the direct interposition of Providence, have levelled
with the dust. On one condition, and on one only, your
conduct shall be concealed from the knowledge of your
fellow-men. The eye of Providence alone has hitherto
tracked the tortuous course of your villany. On one con-
dition, I say, the past is for ever concealed from the eye
of the world." Another pause. My uncle groaned in the
agony of his spirit. Had his heart's blood been at stake,
he could not liave evinced a greater reluctance than he
now showed at the thoughts of relinquishing his ill-gotten

" What is it?"

" Destroy with your own hands that forged testimony
of your guilt. Your nephew does not wish to bring an
old man's grey hairs to an ignominious grave."

VOL. II. z


He took the deed, and, turning aside his head, com-
mitted it to the flames. He appeared to breathe more
freely when it was consumed ; but the struggle had been
too severe even for his unyielding frame, iron-bound
though it seemed. As he turned trembling from the
hearth, he sunk into his chair, threw his hands over his
face, and groaned deeply. The next moment he fixed
his eyes steadily on me. A glassy brightness suddenly
shot over them ; a dimness followed like the shadows of
death. He held out his hand ; his head bowed ; and he
bade adieu to the world and its interests for ever !


Printed by A. & R. Spottiswoode,

Should the style and plan of this Work meet the public appro-
bation, another Series of Lancashire Traditions will immediately be
put to press, and the Author pledges himself that the delay which
has occurred in the completion of the present Volumes shall not
again take place.

The Second Series may probably be expected in a very few months.
The following is a list of subjects : —

The Dead Man's Hand.

A Legend of Bewsey (with an Engraving).

The Mermaid of Martin Meer.

Ulverston Sands [with an Engraving).

RiviNGTON Hall; or the Spectre Horseman {ivith an Engraving).

The Lady Bessy.

The Pile of Foudery (with an Engraving).

Lancashire Witches (Second Series, with an Engraving).

Speke Hall (with an Engraving).

Windleshaw Abbey (icith an Engraving).

The " DuLE upo' Dun."

Clegg Hall (with an Engraving).

Clithero Castle or the Lacys (with an Engraving).

The Luck of Muncaster.

The Foundling.

The Demon of the Well (unih an Engraving).

The Captive, or a Monarch's Curse.

The Lost Farm (with an Engraving).

The Maid's Stratagem.

The ScuLL-HousE (with an Engraving).

Form L9-Series 444




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