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Giles! As I Live by John Lang

 

CHAPTER I.

Some forty-three years ago a wealthy banker, a Mr. Binkie, was travelling from London to Woodstock, when the progress of his carriage was arrested by two gentlemen of the road, who made the usual demand of "Your money or yourlife!" The banker instantly complied, and dropped a purse, containing gold and bank-notes, amounting to £70, into the hand which one of the gentlemen (both of them were masked) put into the carriage window. The hand, thus stretched forth, was ungloved, and while the banker was finding his purse, he could not help taking particular notice of it. There is something certainly in the shape of a hand. I do not mean to say that it is always a criterion of a man's or woman's birth; but, generally speaking, from looking at the hand, a very fair estimate may be formed of the owner's condition in life. Now, the hand into which the banker dropped his purse was a very peculiar band. It was not particularly small; but it was soft and white, and the fingers were so long as to be seemingly out of proportion. The nails were carefully pared, and there was a Pinkish hue about them. On the inner part of the thumb there was a scar, or mark rather, such a mark as would remain after a wound caused by the application of a piece of red-hot iron. The shape of this scar was that of a halfmoon, and its size about half an inch in length, with the proportionate breadth. The gentleman of the road, while holding out his hand, was compelled to stretch his body over the shoulder of his horse, and while in this position the banker had a good view of the back part of his neck, a portion of his hair, and the lower part of his right ear; for the mask that he wore covered only the features-the face. It would be a hard thing to swear to a man, by seeing only a small portion of the back part of his neck, and an ear; but so very peculiar was the formation in this case, that the banker felt convinced that whenever, or wherever, he might see them again, he would be able instantly to recognize them. What was this peculiar formation? It was this: Behind the ear there was no back part of the head, or, in the parlance of phrenologists, "no development of the animal passions." There was, also, another peculiarity. The skin of that portion of the neck which was visible was as smooth and white as that of some delicate high-born damsel; while the ear, in its size, and the delicacy of its shape, was far more like that of a woman than a man. In stature, this gentleman of the road was about five feet ten inches in height, and rather slight in figure. His dress was not like that in which Jack Sheppard, Tom King, and other notorious highwaymen of bygone days wed to delight, but more like that of a country squire, with the exception of a slouched hat, and a short black cloth cloak, such a one as Hamlet usually wears on the stage.

The banker was not asked for his watch or other valuables. As soon as his purse was pocketed, the postboy was commanded by the highwayman to "go on." It was about ten miles from Woodstock that this robbery took place; and as soon as it had been completed, as above described, the two gentlemen of the road leaped their horses into a field, and galloped across the country towards a town some six miles distant. The season of the year was winter--the hour, half-past three in the afternoon--and by the time that they arrived in the town towards which they galloped it was quite dark.

The banker had very urgent business in Woodstock, and was anxious to return to town with all speed; so urgent, indeed, was this business, that he would not speak about the robbery lest it should break in upon his time, which was of so much consequence. He was, therefore, silent on the subject until after his arrival in London, on the following day, when a formal intimation of the facts was forwarded to the police authorities, who inserted the usual advertisement in the "Hue and Cry."

The bank to which the gentleman who had been robbed belonged was a bank that issued its own notes, and it was a portion of their notes that had fallen into the hands of the highwayman. Five "fives;" the numbers were known, but the banker, for reasons of his own, did not furnish the police with those numbers. A memorandum, however, was made upon a card, and hung up inside the rails of every little desk in the counting-house--"53--12" to "53-16." Ere long every one connected with the house, partners, clerks, and even the porters and other servants, had their numbers by heart, and whenever they saw a "flyer" of the firm, looked into the corner of it instanter. Upwards of a year elapsed ere one of these lost ones was handed across the counter.

"53-14" came in one morning amongst a roll of other notes--representing a very large sum of money--as a payment from a banking--house in the west end of London. In pursuance of instructions that had been given in respect to this matter, the clerk who received "53-14" said nothing, but took it quietly to the partner from whom it had been stolen. Mr. Binkie examined it very minutely, and, with a smile on his countenance--for the hand and the neck, and the ear, and the form of the highwayman came very vividly before him at that moment--ejaculated "Humph!" This note had evidently travelled a good deal since the day that it was stolen. It was crumpled, worn, and almost filthy; but there was only one name written upon the back of it--"William Giles." If the present detective force had been then in existence, it would have been sufficient to have handed the note over to one of the inspectors; but the force did not then exist, and the banker was therefore induced to Institute, by private means, those inquiries which he deemed necessary. The great questions were--"Who is William Giles? Where did he get this bit of paper from? When? How?"

The bankers from whom it was received in payment had received it from another banker, who had taken it from a banker in the country, who had received it from a grazier, who took it from a butcher in Gosport in part payment of some sheep. The butcher when the note was shown to him by a clerk of the banking-house of Binkie and Co.--a Mr. Martin--remembered it perfectly, "owing to the name of 'Giles' on the back of it, and a cross in red ink, which he had himself made upon it; likewise a stain, which was caused by its falling on a bit of fat, when the gentleman who gave it him threw it on the block in payment of his bill."

"And what was the gentleman's name?" inquired Mr. Martin.

"His name, sir? Why, Mr. Grafton, who lives up here."

"And who is Mr. Grafton?"

"A gentleman of large property, and a nephew of Lord Banetree."

Mr. Martin waited upon Mr. Grafton; and, exhibiting the five-pound note, represented what the butcher had stated. "It is perfectly true," replied Mr. Grafton; "I did pay him that note. I remember the note perfectly; it was in my possession for several weeks."

"Do you know from whom you took it, sir?"

"Yes; from the landlord of a hotel in Bath. He gave it to me as part of the change for a twenty-pound note, after deducting the amount of his bill."

"Have you any objection to give me a letter to the landlord, sir?"

"Not the least." And Mr. Grafton sat down and wrote, not exactly a letter, but a declaration, which answered the same purpose. Armed with this document, Mr. Martin journeyed to Bath, saw the landlord, presented Mr. Grafton's declaration, and produced the five--pound note.

The landlord also "remembered the note perfectly;" and had, he said, a reason for so doing, which was this: that a tradesman in the town had refused to give gold for it, because he thought the firm that issued it was rather shaky.

"Shaky!" exclaimed Mr. Martin, rather indignantly. "Really, sir, I am at a loss to--"

"Well, I hope you will excuse me, sir, if I have given on any offence," said the fat, jovial, and good-tempered landlord. "I intended no offence, I assure you, sir. You asked me for particulars, and I have given you one, at all events."

"And may I ask from whom you received the note, sir?"

"Yes, sir, from a gentleman."

"What gentleman?"

"The gentleman whose name is written on the back of the note. You must not be offended, but to tell you the truth, I at that time had some misgivings about the firm--for rumours were abroad, sir--and I took the note from Mr. Giles, who was staying here for several days with a friend of his, on the express condition that if the firm failed before I parted with it, he would consider himself my debtor for the sum. But, sir, I took four other £5 notes, similar to this, from Mr. Giles."

"And what has become of these notes?"

"I parted with them in the usual course of business, sir, They are not forgeries, I hope?"

"Oh, dear, no. Were they new when you received them?"

"To the best of my recollection, they were. At all events, they were not so dirty as this is."

"And who is Mr. Giles?"

"Well, sir, he was a gentleman who came and stayed here for some days with a friend."

"And what is Mr. Giles?"

"Well, I should say he was a gentleman of independent means, and one who lived up to his income."

"And where does he reside?"

"By referring to my books, I can tell you, sir; for, previous to going away he, at my request, left his address. Yes; here it is. 'George Giles, Esq., Eagle Lodge, near Exeter, Devon.'"

"What kind of a person was Mr. Giles?"

"Well, sir, I have told you that he was a gentleman."

"But are you sure that he was a gentleman?"

"For twenty-one years, sir, I was the head butler of a nobleman of distinction, who entertained, both at his town house, and at his country seat, the best society in the kingdom; and since his lordship's death I have been the landlord of this hotel, which is not the smallest in the place, sir. Now, with that amount of experience, I think it would be very hard indeed if I did not know a gentleman when I spoke to him, or he spoke to me. Yes, sir, Mr. Giles was, and, if living, is a gentleman; well born and well bread sir. If he had represented himself to me as a duke or a marquis, I should not have doubted his word for one moment. His conversation, manners, bearing, and address, sir, were quite sufficient for me."

"But the name of Giles is not a particularly aristocratic one," suggested Mr. Martin.

"Perhaps not, sir," replied the landlord. "But, as families now intermarry, there is not much in names, sir. There is, at this moment, in the house a gentleman whose name is Smith, sir. Nevertheless, he is, to my knowledge, the grandson of one of England's proudest dukes. Names, sir? Why, the name of the boots of this hotel (and I have seen his baptismal register) is Augustus Philip Howard, and that of the head waiter, Alfred Montmorenci. Howard's father was a shoemaker; Montmorenci's a small greengrocer, who lived in Black Boy Alley all his life."

Mr. Martin having thanked the landlord for his information, and having dined at the hotel, took a post-chaise and departed for Exeter, where he inquired for Mr. Giles. No one had heard of such a gentleman in the neighbourhood. Eagle Lodge? there was no such place.

The clue to the discovery having ended at this point, Mr. Martin returned to London, and detailed to his employers the particulars of his journey. When Mr. Binki had heard the description given of Mr Giles, he grinned sardonically, and exclaimed: "Humph! I thought as much. A gentleman, eh?" Another year passed away, and all hope of discovering by whom he had been robbed had departed from the breast of the banker, when one afternoon, while walking up New Bond Street, he saw before him a gentleman-like looking person, but whose ear and neck (the back part thereof) made a great impression upon him. He followed this person, and was often as close to him as possible--so close, that he could distinctly see the texture of his skin. When in Piccadilly, nearly opposite to the White Horse, the banker made an experiment: "Mr. Giles!" said he, in a gentle tone. The person whom he was following started suddenly, turned round, looked at the banker with a rather vacant countenance, and then walked on. The banker now more boldly accosted the person, of whose identity he was now quite certain. Walking by his side, he said: "Surely, Mr. Giles, you remember me?"

"No, sir, I do not," was the reply, and he stopped.

"No?"

"No, sir! You have the advantage of me."

"Perhaps so, in this crowded street under existing circumstances; but the last time we met, Mr. Giles, you had the advantage--and a very decided advantage--over me. You then offered me your hand. Will you now accept mine?" and the banker removed his glove, and extended his palm.

"I tell you, sir, that you are mistaken," said the person accosted, folding his arms tightly across his chest. "In the first place, sir, how do you know that I am Mr. Giles?"

"That is the very point. Satisfy my curiosity. Tell me who you really are, and I promise you, on my word and honour as a gentleman, that our acquaintance here shall end, never again to be renewed."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"What I have said. But I have another condition to impose--which is, that you restore to me a small silver coin of the reign of Charles I, which was for many, many years in my possession, and subsequently came into yours. It has a hole in it, and the value of the coin is, intrinsically, less than sixpence."

"The only conclusion, sir, at which I can arrive is, that you are a maniac; and if a constable were at hand, I should not hesitate to give you into custody."

"Then I will be beforehand with you," cried the banker; and seizing the person whom he addressed by the collar of his coat, he held him firmly, calling aloud, "Help--help--help! Athief--athief--a thief!"

A crowd was speedily collected around them; and ere long a constable came up and took "the gentleman" into custody on a charge of highway robbery. Upon being asked his name, he remarked, pointing to the banker, "This person says my name is Giles. Be it Giles."

On the following day there was an examination at the police-office in Bow Street. The banker, who was permitted to look at the right hand of the accused, swore positively that he was the person who, upon a certain date, had stopped him on the king's highway, and took from him a purse containing £70 in bank-notes and gold, and a silver coin of the reign of Charles I. On being asked for his address, the prisoner declined to give any, which was considered very much against him; and he was remanded, in order that the evidence of the landlord at the Bath hotel might be taken. There was another circumstance, besides his refusal to give an address, which was construed greatly to his prejudice, or to use a more homely phrase, which "told against him." When apprehended he had upon his finger a signet ring; but between Piccadilly and the lockup he had contrived to part with it. When searched, a pocket-book was found upon him, and a purse. The former contained a number of memoranda in cipher, and unintelligible to those who examined them; the latter contained two bank notes of £10 each, four guineas in gold, and a few shillings in silver. His linen, which was unmarked, and his apparel, including his hat and his boots, were such as only gentlemen in those days ever dreamt of wearing. To use a popular expression current that day in the police-office--"Whether he had faked the swag or not, he was a tip-top nob, and no flies about it."

The moment that the landlord of the Bath hotel was confronted with the prisoner, he unhesitatingly recognized him as Mr. Giles, the gentleman from whom he had taken the bank-notes, the one of which (No. 53-14) was then produced in court. The magistrate having no kind of doubt about the case, fully committed the prisoner, "George Giles" to take his trial at the Old Bailey at the ensuing sessions.

CHAPTER II.

FOR Six long weeks George Giles lay in the cells of Newgate. At the expiration of that time the day of trial came, and he was arraigned in due form. He had no counsel, but defended himself most ably. No lawyer could have argued more adroitly, or more successfully, several technical objections that he took--especially that one which related to a proposal to screen his face with a mask (similar to that which it was alleged he had worn), while the prosecutor looked at the back of his head and his neck. "If," said he, "the prosecutor will swear that the mask now produced in court is the identical mask which was worn by the man who robbed him, I have no objection; on the contrary, I will gladly put it on my face; but if he cannot so swear I ask, in the name of justice and of decency, that it may be removed from my sight, and that of the Bench and the jury."

"But, my lord," urged the counsel for the prosecution, "it is just such a mask as was worn by the highwayman."

"And I," exclaimed the prisoner, "may be just such a man as the man who robbed the prosecutor; but still not that man."

Nor was his speech to the jury less ingenious than his objections taken during the trial. "As for not giving any address," said he, "I would ask you, gentlemen of the jury, whether there is no shame attached to even an accusation of this kind, false though it may be? Innocent as I am, and certain as I am of being acquitted, I would not for the whole world have my relations and friends know that I have been tried for such an offence. Nor would I have my enemies--and every man has enemies in this world--to know it. For, would they ever fail to remind rue of it? Is there one amongst you, gentlemen, who can lay his hand on his heart and say: 'I have no enemy who would rejoice on hearing that I have been placed in so awful a predicamentc?' The question is not, who I am, or where I live; but, am I the man who robbed the prosecutor? The shape of the back part of my head has been dwelt upon. There are thousands of men in this kingdom, and I doubt not, many in this court, at this moment, whose heads are shaped like mine. But the prosecutor has only noticed two: the head of the man who robbed him, and the head of myself. A comparison of handwriting is not allowed in law, I believe. Is the life of a British subject, then, to depend on comparing the shape of his head, or a portion thereof, with that of some criminal? Let reason, justice, and humanity, rise triumphantly, and with one voice forbid it! Great stress has also been laid upon the scar or mark upon my right hand. Is there a man in this court, or in this kingdom, who is devoid of some scar or mark on his right hand--a scar resulting from some slight wound inflicted in his childhood, or boyhood, or in later life? I will be bound that there is not one! We have all cut ourselves or burnt ourselves, at some period of our lives. Remember that the penalty of the crime of which I stand accused is death. Can you conscientiously consign a fellow-creature to so fearful a doom as that of being hanged by the neck in public, on evidence so flimsy and so unsatisfactory as that which you have heard this day? The learned counsel has said to you in his address: 'Let the prisoner account to you for the possession of the bank-notes which he endorsed, and passed to the landlord of the hotel.' For the past six weeks I have been shut up in a dark cell in Newgate. What opportunity have I had to discover the gentleman from whom I received them more than twenty months ago, at Doncaster--a gentleman whom I never saw before, and have never seen since--a gentleman whom I met in the ring, and with whom I betted on a horse--race? I won his money, and he paid me. Possibly this unsupported testimony of one who avows that he is a gambler may not meet with much consideration, but I desire to impress upon you that gambling is not a crime in the eye of the law: and that even royalty has pecuniary speculations touching turf events. The last, and withal the weekest, point to which I have to direct your attention is this: It has been urged against me that no Mr. Giles, of Eagle Lodge, could be found. There was no such a person, and no such a place! What are the facts? A banker's clerk--and you will bear in mind what he admitted on cross-examination--goes down to Exeter, puts up at an hotel, asks the landlord of that hotel or tavern--if he knows Mr. Giles, of Eagle Lodge? The landlord says 'No.' He (the banker's clerk) then talks to the 'boots,' and to the stable-boys, and they have no knowledge of such a person, or such a place. He then wanders about the town and inquires of several tradesmen, who can afford him no sort of information. Where upon he comes back perfectly satisfied that there is no Mr. Giles, and no Eagle Lodge; just as if it were absolutely essential that any gentleman going to reside in the neighbourhood of Exeter must register his existence with the landlord and servants of the Old Dun Cow, or those few tradespeople to whom the banker's clerk thought fit to confine his inquiries."

The judge summed up, rather in the prisoner's favour than otherwise, and the jury retired to consider their verdict. They were absent from four o'clock until a quarter to eleven, when they returned into court, and, amidst breathless silence, delivered their verdict of--"Guilty!" The judge, who seemed somewhat surprised, did not condemn the prisoner to be hanged, but ordered the sentence of "death" to be "recorded" against him. This was tantamount to transportation beyond seas for the term of his natural life.

After a brief probationary (?) period on board of a hulk George Giles was "drafted," and placed on board a convict ship, bound for Sydney, New South Wales.

Although the landlord of the Bath hotel has testified to the convict's manners, bearing, and address, his personal appearance has not yet been described. Be it known that he had violet--coloured eyes, which had an extremely soft and sweet expression; an aquiline nose, and a well-formed mouth, in which were set a row of pearly-white teeth; a rather prominent chin, and a neck most exquisitely moulded. His hair was of a chestnut colour. Giles was, in short, not only a very handsome, but a very peculiar--looking person; and his age, at the time of his conviction, was not in excess of twenty-five years. The doctor of the ship in which Giles was borne away from the land of his fathers to the far-distant penal colony, took what is called a great fancy for the young man, and contrived, during the five months that they were at sea, to make his position as little disagreeable to him as possible. This he effected by appointing him to take charge of the cabin in which were deposited the medicine-chests and hospital stores, and suffering him to take his meals and sleep therein, instead of among the four hundred and ninety convicts onboard.

"I am very curious to know your history," said the doctor to Giles, one day in private.

"I have none to narrate, sir," was the reply.

"Oh, yes, you have. Come tell it to me. I know what you were transported for, by the muster-roll and a copy of the calendar--the Newgate Calendar. But how came it about? You were guilty, I fancy?"

"Well, sir, I was convicted; and that amounts to the same thing, so far as I am now concerned."

"But, come; tell me. I have read the report of the trial very attentively, and the case appears to me such a strange and such a doubtful one."

"I can tell you nothing in addition to what you have read in that report, sir."

"Oh, yes, you can. Say, now, were you guilty or not?"

"I would rather say nothing about it, sir; but if you press me, I have no hesitation in saying that this is not the hand into which the banker dropped his purse, confidently as he swore to this mark on the ball of my thumb."

"Then you are the other man who was in company of the highwayman?"

"No, I am not, sir."

"Then you are innocent?"

"Again, sir, I implore you not to question me any further on this matter. I am very sensible of your great kindness to me; but I would rather incur your most severe displeasure than prolong this conversation, which is so peculiarly painful to my feelings."

"Very well. But there is one question that I must put to you; and you, I am sure, will not object to answer it."

"What is the question, sir?"

"Was Giles your real name or not?"

"It was not, sir."

"Then what was it?"

"I would rather have my tongue torn out by the roots, sir, than divulge the name of my family, the name under which I was born. Had I been sentenced to be hanged, and if my reprieve and pardon had been faithfully promised me on condition that I would state who I was and by whom begotten, I would have remained silent."

"Let me look at that mark on the ball of your thumb."

"There, sir."

"How was it done? By accident?"

"No, sir."

"How, then?"

"It was burnt in by a gipsy."

"Why?"

"That I hardly know. It was done when I was a child. Others have been branded in this way."

"What others?"

"Ah, sir, you are coming back to the old point. I must decline answering any further questions on the subject."

It was during the administration of General Macquire, as governor of New South Wales and its dependencies, that George Giles was transported for the term of his natural life; and it was in the autumn of the year 1815 that he arrived in that colony, and was "assigned," in company with two other convicts, to a Captain Bellamy, of the Royal Navy, who had retired from the service, and settled in Australia. Captain Bellamy, who was then about forty-five years of age, was a very extensive grantee, and had, in all, some seventy or eighty assigned servants, the greater portion of whom were employed on an estate which he possessed in the Hawkesbury district, and which estate--with the assistance of an overseer, who had formerly sailed with him as boatswain--he managed himself. On the occasion of having new men assigned to him, it was Captain Bellamy's wont to have "all hands piped" to listen to a short address, which, without variation, he always delivered in the following words:

"Men! I have called you together to bear witness to the truth of the few observations that I am about to make to these new--comers. I am a strict, but a just master. I feed you well, I clothe you well, and if you are sick you are well attended to; but, at the same time, if you are ever guilty of neglect of your work, fail to be obedient to command, or wanting in respect to myself, or your overseer--by--I flog you well. That's all. Pipe down, Jackson!"

These last words were addressed to the boatswain overseer, who instantly blew a shrill whistle; whereupon the convict servants dispersed and resumed their various labours, leaving the captain, the overseer, Giles and his two companions, in front of the house, which was "the quarter-deck."

"You are labourers, my men?" said the captain, addressing himself to the trio, who had just arrived, and were now standing before him.

"Yes, sir," said two of the men, touching their hats; but Giles spoke not, nor did he make any sign.

"Are you not a labourer, my man?" said the captain to Giles.

"No, sir."

"Indeed! What are you, then?"

"An apothecary, sir."

"An apothecary! I applied for three labourers. However, I ought not to complain, perhaps. Is there nothing you can turn your hand to, except compounding pills, spreading plaisters, and mixing syrups?"

"I shall be glad, sir, to make myself generally useful."

"Generally useful is such an infernally vague term--I hate it," said the captain, shaking his head. "Let us have one thing definite. Do you know anything about horses?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, Jackson, suppose we put him in the stables? We want help there."

"Yes, sir," said the overseer.

"Then be it so. By the bye, it strikes me that coach-house door would be none the worse for a little dumbscraping or a touch of the tar brush; so, to--morrow morning, at sunrise, let him be employed in that manly and wholesome occupation; it will give him an appetite for his breakfast. The others will go into the field, and hoe up their thirteen rood of ground each."

"Yes, sir," said the overseer.

"But before you billet them off just take their lines, and let me have them before sunset."

"Yes, sir." And then turning to Giles and the others, Mr. Jackson added: "Come along, my lads!"

The overseer led them into a room, where he measured them to a hair. He then took them into the store-room, where he weighed them, marking down the weight of each man in a book. He next commanded them to strip, whereupon he ascertained every mark or scar that each man had upon his Person, noting at the same time, the colour of each man's hair and eyes, shape of the nose, complexion, &c., &c. This done, he served out to each person ten pounds of seconds flour, ten pounds of salt beef, a quarter of a pound of brown sugar, two ounces of tea, two ounces of soap, and a 'fig' (one ounce) of colonial tobacco. "That's your week's rations," said he. "And now for your toggery. Here you are! one duck frock, one cotton shirt, one pair of duck trousers, one pair of boots, one straw hat, and one black handkerchief. And let me recommend you all to come as clean and neat as possible on Sundays to Divine Service into the captain's verandah; for there's nothing that his excellency is more particular about than the uniform appearance of all his crew on the Sabbath-day; and any of you as doesn't know how to tie a running knot, or what they calls a sailor's knot, in your neck-handkerchief, if you'll come to me in my leisure moments, I'll show you how to do it. And, lastly, about your sleeping. Here's a bed and a blanket a-piece for you. You (he addressed himself to Giles) as is going into the stables, will sleep in the stables; you as is going to work in the fields, will shake yourselves down along with those as works in the fields. You will find yourselves pretty comfortable here, I dare say. What the captain told you is very true. He is a strict, but a just man. I have known him ever since I was a little boy. He was only a middy when I fust sailed with him; and he was just the same then that he is now; not a bit of difference, only older, and a little more cantankerous, of course."

Let us now leave "Giles" on Captain Bellamy's estate, within Hawkesbury district, and change the scene to Europe.

One forenoon, about a year and six months after the trial and conviction of Giles, a gentleman called at Mr. Binkie's bank, and presented, across the counter, a cheque for £500. Mr. Martin, whose name has been already mentioned in connection with this narrative, and who was the cashier of the bank, inquired of the gentleman how he would receive the money?

"All in bank-notes, except £10 in gold," was the reply. Mr. Martin counted out the notes, and was about to shovel the gold into the hand of the gentleman, when, to his surprise, he beheld on the ball of his thumb exactly the same mark as that upon which had chiefly rested the conviction of another person. Mr. Martin was rather startled, and, putting down the shovel, said--"Would you have any objection, sir, to write your name on the back of this cheque?"

"Have you any doubt as to the signature? Do you believe it to be Lord Beekthorpe's signature or not?" was the abrupt reply.

"I know it to be Lord Beckthorpe's signature, sir."

"And is it not payable to bearer?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then why should I endorse it? What right have you to ask me to endorse it, sir? It is an impertinence to me as well as to Lord Beekthorpe. What right have you, pray, to know or to inquire the name of every or any person to whom a nobleman or gentleman thinks proper to give a cheque? If my banker took such a gross liberty with me, I'd never rest till I ruined him Now, sir, I demand that money; and, listen to me, if it is not paid instanter, I will, within one hour from this time, post my Lord Beckthorpe at every club in London, as a defaulter in the payment of his debts of honour, leaving you and he to settle and reconcile that unpleasantness between you." Hearing these violent words uttered in a loud and imperious tone of voice, Mr. Binkie left his seat in the bank parlour, and was advancing to the counter, when Mr. Martin met him and said, in a whisper: "Look at his right hand, sir." Mr. Binkie had a very good opportunity of doing this, for the gentleman, when he repeated energetically: "Do you honour Lord Beckthorpe's cheque on demand, payable to bearer, or do you not?" stretched forth his palm across the counter, and within two feet of Mr. Binkie's eyes.

"Oh, yes, we honour it, sir," said Mr. Binkie, now taking the case out of Mr. Martin's hands. "By all means, and it shall be paid; but, sir, it is sometimes usual with bankers to inquire who is the bearer, and it has long been a custom of ours to do so."

"Curse your customs!" cried the gentleman, who was evidently a man of violent and excitable temperament, and of an ungovernable will; "what do I care for your customs?" "Pray be calm, sir," said Mr. Binkie, observing the back part of the gentleman's head, and feeling rather uncomfortable whilst he did so. "The money shall be paid; but--" he stammered.

"Curse the money!" said the gentleman, and turning swiftly on his heel, and leaving the notes, gold, and cheque upon the counter, he hurried into the street, mounted a spirited horse, which was held by a groom at the door, and rode away, at a swift pace, from the city towards the west end of the town.

Mr. Binkie and Mr. Martin looked at each other in profound astonishment. The former pressed his head between his palms, and said: "I am bewildered!" The latter looked up at the ceiling, then down at the floor, and uttered, moodily: "It is incomprehensible!" Both the banker and his head clerk (for to that post Mr. Martin had been appointed) were half stupefied, and remained so until halfpast two o'clock, when Lord Beckthorpe, in a towering passion, and accompanied by two other gentlemen, constituents of the bank, rushed into the counting--house, and very abruptly aroused them.

"What's the amount of my balance here?" gasped Lord Beckthorpe, addressing Mr. Martin.

"Will you walk into the parlour, my lord, and take a chair?"

"No! What's my balance?"

Here Mr. Binkie came out, and timidly approaching the counter, where stood Lord Beckthorpe, with a countenance distorted with vehement passion, and with compressed lips.

"Lord Beckthorpe," Mr. Binkie began, "I am very sorry--"

"I do not want any expressions of your regret, sir," replied his lordship, cutting short the banker's speech; "I want my money!" Then addressing himself to Mr. Martin, he demanded: "Can't you tell me the amount of my balance? Quick, sir! Time is precious with me--my credit, my honour is at stake, sir!"

"The balance in your favour, my lord," said Mr. Martin, trembling, "is £9,214 16s. 3 1/2 d."

"Then just give it to me as short and as sharp as possible, in Bank of England notes and gold. I'll not have any of your notes. I'll draw a cheque for it;" and he did so.

"Yes, my lord," and Mr. Martin counted out the money nervously, but with accuracy, even to the 3 1/2d.

"I believe I have some trifle here?" said one of the gentlemen who had come to the bank with Lord Beckthorpe. "Let me know what it is, and give it to me."

"Yes, Sir John," said Mr. Martin, referring to his books; "your balance is £11,219 4s. 1d."

"Oh! Thank you. I did not think there was so much left. Well, let me have it, or rather pay it into Skinner and Flynte's, to my credit."

"Yes, Sir John. It shall be done." Sir John, was Sir John Nemberpage, then in his thirty-fifth year.

"I am afraid I have but deuced little to take from you," said the other gentleman (a rather elderly person), who had come with Lord Beckthorpe.

"I will see, general!" replied Mr. Martin; and then turning to letter 'L' he read aloud--"General Leicesterfield--balance £624 18s. 9d. How will you have it?" "The six hundred in notes, and the rest in coin."

"Our notes, general?"

"No. Bank of England."

When the money was paid to each constituent, Mr. Binkie addressed them as follows: "I dare say you were under the impression that this bank was not solvent, and hence the demur to pay the cheque presented this morning without any endorsement. Such is not the case, as you have discovered. I had my reasons for requiring the name of the person who presented the cheque."

"The person, sir!" exclaimed Sir John Nemberpage. "You mean the gentleman--my brother."

"Indeed, Sir John?"

"Yes, sir," interposed Lord Beckthorpe, "and my first cousin."

"Indeed, my lord? Then, why on earth should he refuse to endorse the cheque, or give me his name and address?"

"Because you had no right to ask it, and he did not choose, I suppose," suggested General Leicesterfield.

"Well, it is done, and it cannot, be helped," said Mr. Binkie, wiping the glasses of his spectacles with a yellow silk pocket--handkerchief. "But there was something so very odd--" here Mr. Binkie paused.

"About what?" inquired Lord Beckthorpe.

"About this business, my lord."

"What the deuce do you mean, sir?"

"Nothing, my lord."

"Well, then, let me give you the same advice that Charles James Fox once gave to a drivelling ass in the House of Commons, who told him that he meant nothing. 'The next time that you mean nothing, say nothing.'" And, with this insulting observation, his lordship walked out of the banking-house, followed by his companions, Sir John Nemberpage and General Leicesterfield.

Mr. Binkie had a brother-in-law, a Mr. Lyttlecoke, who was one of the most eminent king's counsel of the day. Mr. Binkie visited his brother-in--law, at his chambers, and communicated to him all the particulars connected with the presentation of the cheque, and the subsequent visit of his constituents. "And, to tell you the real truth," concluded Mr. Binkie, "I am now by no means satisfied that the man Giles was the person who robbed me on the highway."

"But it is too late to think about that now. One man has been already tried, convicted, and transported for the offence. Take my advice, and banish the whole affair from your mind."

"But I cannot do so. You see, I swore so positively to Giles, and now the horrible reflection is continually haunting me that I may have been mistaken."

"Apart from the mark on the hand (the half-moon on the ball of the thumb), and the shape of the back of the head--does this half--brother of Sir John Nemberpage in any way resemble the man Giles?" asked Mr. Lyttlecoke.

"Not in the least!" returned Mr. Binkie. "I never beheld two faces so unlike each other. The one (Giles) was a handsome fellow. The other is positively ugly. He has a low forehead, jet--black eyes, a snub nose, and long upper lip, irregular, rabbity teeth, and what is called 'underhung.' And they are, besides, so different in manners. There was a gravity about those of Giles. This man's are uncouth and strangely offensive. Oh! how I wish that I had not been so positive!"

"Pooh! pooh! Make your mind easy," said Mr. Lyttlecoke.

"Ah, brother! but what an awful thing if I have been the cause of wrongfully banishing for life an innocent man! Only think of that!"

CHAPTER III.

GEORGE GILES was, on the whole, what used to be termed by the masters of convict servants, a very good man; but on several occasions he misbehaved, and as Captain Bellamy never looked over but one offence--namely, the first--he was several times punished; that is to say, flogged. For five years and some months he was with Captain Bellamy, and during that period was seen by the captain every day. Indeed, he was almost constantly in the captain's sight; for in addition to helping in the stables, he waited at table, cleaned the knives, plate, boots, and shoes, and brushed the captain's clothes. Captain Bellamy was not a married man; but he had two convict women assigned to him, to do the washing, keep the furniture clean, attend to the dairy, and cook. One day, Giles, while assisting these women to move a heavy sideboard, intimated that it was his intention to destroy himself shortly. The women laughed at Giles; but before the week was out Giles was absent at "quarters" to which all hands wore shrilly "piped" by the boatswain-overseer, at daylight every morning.

"Where's Giles, Jackson?" asked Captain Bellamy of the overseer, when he missed Giles from his place in the avenue of convicts, through which the captain walked, looking into the face of every man present.

"I don't know, sir," replied Jackson.

"Well, wind the call again: and if he doesn't tumble up, when you have told the men off, ascertain the reason of his absence. Perhaps he is sick."

Here Jackson "winded" (blew) the call with such force that it might have been heard by any one (except those very deaf indeed) three miles distant, whilst to those within fifty yards it was literally ear-splitting. But Giles did not hear it; or if he did, he did not answer to it.

The overseer, having assigned to every man his day's work respectively, went to hunt up the missing Giles. He was not in his bed, nor had his bed been slept in; nor had Giles's clothes been taken away, except those articles of apparel which he wore when last seen. Everything that he owned was in his deal chest.

"Very strange!" said the captain, when these matters were reported to him. "Very strange! He cannot have turned bushranger?"

"Hardly that, sir. I don't think he was a man of that sort," said the overseer.

Here one of the convict women who was sweeping the floor of the room, made bold to speak as follows:

"If you please, sir, he told us--me and Caroline--the other day, that he was going to commit sooercide."

"Suicide!" said the captain; "why should he do that? He seemed very happy here. But whether he has committed suicide or has run away, I must, in the execution of my duty, report him to the authorities as having absconded. Where are his lines, Jackson?"

"Here, sir," replied the overseer, taking from his pocket a greasy book.

"Read them out, and I'll write them down."

Jackson dictated as follows--and the captain, in a very legible hand, transcribed his words on a sheet of foolscap:--Name, George Giles. Ship, Ploenix. Height, 5 feet 9 7/8. Weight, on the first of last month, 10st. 21b. 2oz. Hair, chesnut. Eyes, dark blue. Nose, beaky. Teeth, regular and white. Complexion fair, but rather sunburnt. Marks, scar on ball of right thumb, resembling a half-moon; large black mole on left chest, the letters 'L. N.' pricked into the right arm, just above the elbowjoint, and over them a dolphin.

"Has he ever been in the Navy, Jackson?" said the captain, on hearing of the dolphin and the letters.

"Lord bless your honour! no, sir," replied Jackson. "He does not know a marlinspike from a maintupbowlin. Had 'em done by some of the convicts coming out, I suspect, in token of some sweetheart as he left behind him, when he'd the herring-pond to come across, sir."

The description of the missing convict was forwarded to Sydney, and ere long appeared in that portion of the Government "Gazette" which was devoted to the description of convicts who had absconded from their masters.

Ten years had elapsed, and nothing had been heard of Giles. Captain Bellamy had, after a while, begun to think that the man had committed suicide by throwing himself into the River Hawkesbury, which flowed through his estate; and, by degrees, had ceased to think any more about him. Mr. Binkie, the prosecutor of Giles, had departed this life; Mr. Martin also had paid the debt of nature; so had Sir John Nemberpage, if nature will accept as payment of her debt a life sacrificed in a duel, arising out of a disreputable quarrel over a card--table. What had become of Sir John's brother (Charles), whose person and character, to some small extent, have been described in these pages, no one knew. He had disappeared very mysteriously in the latter part of the year 1820, and in 1823 the title and the estates devolved upon Lucius, the youngest son of the late Sir Jasper Nemberpage. In 1824, this youngest son, who had been travelling abroad (with his brother Charles, it was said), returned to England, and claimed, and was at once invested with his rights. He became, of course, Sir Lucius Nemberpage, and went to reside at the family seat, Nemberpage Hall, in the county of Huntingdon; and shortly after succeeding to his title and estates, he married the only daughter and heiress of Sir Charles Limbersault, by whom, in the course of seven years, he became the father of four children, three boys and a girl. It was said, or rather rumoured, that in early life Sir Lucius had been very wild and very gay; but no one could now complain of him on that score. He was a good husband, a good father, and a good landlord; in short, in every respect and relation of life, Sir Lucius Nemberpage was an excellent and exemplary member of society. He was always the first man in the county to befriend the poor, relieve the oppressed, and comfort the sorrowful. His popularity was unbounded, and deservedly so. Lady Nemberpage, who, by hearsay, was really beautiful woman, was likewise greatly respected and beloved by all who had the good fortune to know her. The children also of Sir Lucius and Lady Nemberpage were objects of admiration and regard in the county; they were so handsome, so healthy, so well-behaved, and so prettily mannered, and yet so natural in all their sayings and doings. In fact, they were well--educated, but not over-educated, children.

In the year 1836, Captain Bellamy, R.N., of Bellamy Castle, New South Wales, revisited his native land. His object in coming to England was to induce the Government to appoint him governor of New Zealand, Swan River, Port Phillip, or some other settlement at the Antipodes. The old gentleman was an uncle of mine (I must now speak in the first person), my late father having married his only sister. My mother and myself at the time of my uncle's arrival were living on a little ancestral estate, or piece of land containing some sixty or seventy acres. My uncle had not corresponded with my mother for many years; but somehow or other, soon after he landed in England, he discovered her address, and wrote to inform her of his arrival. She invited him to spend as much of his time as possible with us; and he came, accompanied by his boatswain-overseer, Mr. Jackson, who acted as his valet, toady, and shadow, and whom my uncle would, I am perfectly satisfied, have recommended as his colonial secretary, had the Government fallen in with his views. I could not help liking my uncle, his features were so like those of my mother and of my grandfather, whose portrait occupied the place of honour in our snug but unpretentious dining-room. At the same time, I must confess that my uncle's manners and habits were extremely distasteful to me. The truth is, that he had lived so long in the wilds of Australia, cut off from the world, as it were, and moving only amongst, or rather soaring above, men whom, to use his own words "he fed well, clothed well, worked well, and flogged well," that he had become utterly forgetful or regardless of most of the amenities of civilized society. For instance, he would sometimes take the charge of our small establishment entirely out of the hands of my mother and myself, and tell the man-servant who waited at table, that if he had him at Bellamy Castle he would give him seventy-five as "sure as he had a shirt to strip, or a back to bleed." And for what? For some awkwardness, or other venial offence, of which very few people in this country would have taken any notice. To the women servants, if he were displeased with them, he would not unfrequently say, "If you belonged to me, I'd have all that hair of yours cut of in the Paramatta factory, where they don't use a comb and scissors, but a gridiron and sheep-shears." He was, besides, so positive and so overbearing in his manners to myself, that if any one had guaranteed to me the possession at his death, of all the wealth which he was supposed to possess--and really did possess, on the condition that I would live in the same house for a year with him, I would not have been a party to the agreement. As for Mr. Jackson, I should have hated him, so much was he in the way, had it not been for his extraordinary devotion to his master, and a quaintness and sagacity which marked his every speech and action. Nevertheless, he must have been a man devoid of every moral principle, for he had not been a week at Penfield (the name of our little estate) before he had proposed marriage to every female in the establishment, and for aught I know to every female in the neighbourhood, albeit my uncle had more than once told me that Mr. Jackson had left behind him a wife and two children at Bellamy Castle! Happily for himself, perhaps, and, to my idea, happily for those to whom he paid his abrupt addresses, they were uniformly rejected.

It often occurred to me that my uncle, although he had for so many years been a settler, was under the impression that the whole world was a man--of-war, and that the particular part of it on which he happened to tread was the quarter-deck; and that Mr. Jackson also believed the earth to be a man--of-war, and that he was the boatswain of her.

My poor mother, who was one of the gentlest of beings, was afraid of my uncle, whom she had not seen since the days of her childhood. Indeed, she could hardly remember him; for he was not more than twelve years of age when he was sent to sea, and she was several years younger than he was. During the whole period of his naval career, he had never set foot on English soil. He had either been in South America, or on the African station, or cruising about New Zealand and Bass's Straits, taking bearings and chartt-making. The last vessel that he commanded was a small sloop--of-war with a roving commission.

Mr. Jackson, whose constant theme of conversation was "his excellency the captain," informed me that he was "an awfully smart man on board of ship--with the eye of a hawk, but terrible strict, and always acting up to that one motter (motto), 'Feed well, work well, and (if required) flog well.'."

In consequence of my mother's dread of him, I used to keep my uncle as much away from the house as possible, by taking him for a drive, or a ride, or a walk. I could not prevail upon him to visit any of the gentry in our neighbourhood, for he said he was "not wishful to make any acquaintances in England." He had "simply come home for a certain purpose, and, that accomplished, he was of again to the south." One fine morning in the spring, I asked him to accompany me to Newmarket to witness a match of pigeon--shooting. He expressed his readiness, and we set out for the scene of action.

There was a great gathering in the field, which lay at the back of the Rutland Arms, for the match was between two of the most renowned shots in the county, if not in the kingdom. From all parts had gentlemen and others come to witness the contest--from Cambridge, from Bury, from Lynn, from Ely, from Royston, and very many from London. I should say that there were not less than four or five thousand persons on the ground, and amongst them were many individuals of high rank.

When the match was about half over, my uncle seized me suddenly by the wrist, held me in iron grip, looked steadfastly into my eyes, and in a deep, sonorous, but subdued voice, exclaimed--GILES! AS I LIVE!

I could not comprehend him, and asked, with a smile, what he meant.

"William," he whispered, mysteriously, "there is Giles overthere! I see him, and I'll have him!" And releasing his hold of my wrist, he made his bony fingers and thumb the shape of an eagle's claw.

"Whom?" I inquired; "have whom? Who's your friend? where is he? what has he done?"

"I wish Jackson had come with us."

"Why?"

"He would soon seize and muzzle him. As it is, I shall have to do it myself, if a constable cannot be found."

"Do, my dear uncle, be more explicit."

"You see that man over there."

"I see a great many; but which man?"

"That man dressed in a suit of blue cloth, with a white hat."

"Yes; and I know him."

"Do you? what is his name?"

"Sir Lucius Nemberpage."

"Sir Lucius fiddlestick! It is Giles--George Giles!"

"I assure you, you are mistaken, uncle. But who may Giles be?"

"My assigned servant, who ran away from me, and who was never heard of afterwards."

Here I laughed.

"You may laugh," said my uncle, "but it will not he a laughing matter for that man. He will be hanged as sure as he is alive. That is the penalty, you know, for returning from transportation."

"Let me repeat, my dear uncle, that you are labouring under a mistake."

"A mistake, sir? Do you mean to tell me that I, who have served on board of ships of war in every grade, from midshipman up to commander--I, who have so vast a memory for persons and things, that I can call up, at any moment, the faces of a whole ship's company, including even the boys and the marines--do you mean to tell me that I cannot identify a man who, for five years, was a servant of mine; who attended to my horses, waited at my table, cleaned my boots, and brushed my clothes? What do you mean, sir?"

"Be not so angry and excited, uncle; and remember we are in a crowd, and not alone. You shall see Sir Lucius at a closer view presently, and then I am satisfied you will acknowledge your error. If you will allow me, I will introduce you to Sir Lucius, as soon as the match is over."

"Introduce me! Introduce me to my own servant! Egad, I'll introduce myself!" and again he made his right hand into the shape of an eagle's claw.

"I implore you not to commit yourself to any unseemly conduct, nor place me in a painfully unpleasant position. If you were to molest or insult Sir Lucius on this ground, the people here assembled would have you seized and conveyed to prison; indeed, the chances are that you would be beaten to death."

"Bah! that's Giles! The more I look at him the more am I convinced. Why, he's bowing in this direction!"

"Yes, and I have returned his bow. Pray be quiet; for I can see that he is coming to speak to me as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Shall I introduce you, or shall I not?"

"Very well, you may."

Sure enough, as soon as an opportunity presented itself, Sir Lucius did approach, shook hands with me, and inquired after the health of my mother, of which I gave a true report.

I then inquired after the health of Lady Nemberpage, and the children, and was rejoiced to hear they were "quite well." These compliments over, I said--"Will you allow me, Sir Lucius to introduce my uncle, Captain Bellamy, of the Royal Navy?"

The old gentleman, who up to that moment had been unnoticed by Sir Lucius, took off his hat, and made a very profound bow. He then drew himself up to his full height (six feet), and remained uncovered. I could not help observing that Sir Lucius became very pale and agitated, albeit he strove hard to maintain his wonted composure.

"Are you living in this part of the world, Captain Bellamy?" asked Sir Lucius, confusedly.

"No, Sir Lucius," was the reply; "my home is in Botany Bay, and I am only a visitor in Europe. My lodgings are in the neighbourhood of St. Giles's."

"Indeed!" said Sir Lucius, whose face now became crimson-coloured.

"Yes," said my uncle, taking from his pocket his old silver snuff-box, from which he took a pinch, and then held it forth to the baronet. "You take snuff, Sir Lucius?"

The baronet declined, with many thanks.

"But you were addicted to the vice of taking it formerly, were you not, Sir Lucius?"

"Occasionally I used to take a pinch."

"I thought so. Yes!" and here my uncle thrust his hands into his trousers--pockets, and shrugged up his shoulders so high that any one, standing behind him at that moment, would have supposed that he had no neck whatever.

Uncomfortable as Sir Lucius appeared in the presence of my uncle, and anxious as he seemed to get away, yet he lingered near us and with us. He was a man who doubts either his liberty to move, or the prudence of absenting himself, lest he should be talked of to his prejudice. This struck me as so very strange that I hardly know what to think of the statements made by my uncle. I involuntarily shuddered from head to foot, and hoped in my heart that there was no real foundation for those statements.

The sporting match over, the crowd had dispersed. But Sir Lucius, my uncle, and myself remained in the field, Why, I knew not. A servant, a groom of Sir Lucius', came up, touched his hat, and was about to speak, when Sir Lucius waved him off, saying, "By-and-by; by-and-by. Go home and say I am coming."

After an extremely awkward silence, my uncle exclaimed--"Well, it is time to move," and stepped out in the direction of the hotel. Sir Lucius and myself followed, or rather walked on either side of him.

"Will you take luncheon at the hotel?" I inquired of my uncle.

"Yes," he answered, snappishly.

"Well, I will run on ahead, and order it."

"Ah! not a bad idea. Run away, my boy. Run away! Run away! Run away!" And then, turning to Sir Lucius, he said--"And you may run with him, if you like, sir."

"Thank you, sir," replied Sir Lucius, not impudently, but respectfully and gratefully--more in the tone of a school-boy who has obtained permission to go fishing, or play at cricket.

After luncheon had been ordered at the hotel, Sir Lucius Nemberpage, trembling from head to foot, laid his hand upon my shoulder, and in a broken voice hurriedly said,--"Will you be my friend? May I give you my confidence?"

"I would do anything in the world for you, Sir Lucius," I replied.

"Protect me from your uncle! Let him not speak of me. My heart tells me that he has already been communicative to you. Is it not so?"

I made no reply.

"Protect me from your uncle! You have given me a promise that you will be my friend, and I am certain that you will do all in your power; but it will not be an easy matter, for he is a hard, strict, unbending, and--forgive me for saying so--a very vindictive old man. I know him alas! too well. I know him!"

"But you have never done him any wrong, Sir Lucius?"

"Ah, my dear sir, if you only knew my history, you would pity me from the very bottom of your heart. But hush! Here comes the old gentleman. That is his foot-step on the stairs--measured, soft, but audible."

Another moment, and my uncle entered the room. There was at once a dead silence. The waiter ere long came in, bearing on a tray hissing-hot beefsteaks, and a dish of mealy potatoes.

"I have no appetite for food," said my uncle, pacing the room; "and I would advise you, William, not to spoil yours for your dinner. It will afford me, however, very great pleasure," he added, sarcastically, "to stand behind Sir Lucius's chair, and, as I am not a proud man, to wait upon him."

Sir Lucius buried his face in his hands, and groaned heavily.

"I was mistaken, sir, was I?" said my uncle, turning to me. "I should have been beaten by the mob, and have been carried off to prison, if I had claimed my own property in that field--or, rather, the King's property--for when he left the island to which he was sent for his life, he escheated to the Crown. I was wrong, was I?--wrong about a man whose lines are still in my possession, whose lines would at once establish his identity, even if there could be any doubt about my recognition of his person? But how the deuce he has become Sir Lucius Nemberpage is to me the most mysterious part of the affair. It must have been by some diabolical false representation, which justice demands should be brought to light--justice to some rightful heir to the property and the title of which he has possessed himself. The name of this man is George Giles, and he has upon his right arm the letters 'L. N.' with a dolphin over them, and so pricked in were they, that the devil himself could not get rid of them without cutting off the flesh."

"It is perfectly true that I have upon my right arm the initials of my name, and over them the crest of my family," said Sir Lucius, looking up, meekly, at my uncle. "These initials are the initials of Lucius Nemberpage."

"Worn upon the arm of George Giles! I will swear to you as George Giles in any court of justice; and so will Jackson, as soon as he sees you." Then turning to me, my uncle said--"William, I wish to go home."

He was about to leave the room, but Sir Lucius sprang from his chair, rushed to the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket.

"Villain! Convict villain!" cried my uncle; "dare you make your own master a prisoner in a public-house?" And with these words he rushed towards the bell-rope; but I intercepted him, and laying my hands upon him with just the force that was required, I begged him to be quiet for a few minutes.

Thwarted in his purpose, whatever it might have been, my uncle's rage knew no bounds. Unable to leave the room, or ring the bell, he stamped, swore, and shouted at the top of his voice--"Fire! murder! thieves!" and then fell senseless on the floor.

The hotel servants, with the landlord at their head, came flocking to the door, which Sir Lucius, in great trepidation, opened, and then requested that surgical assistance might be instantly procured. After a few minutes a doctor came; and on looking at my uncle, informed us that he was dying. He had ruptured, in his rage, a large blood-vessel, and the fluid was issuing copiously from his mouth and nostrils. We removed the old gentleman to a bed in an adjoining apartment, and there, at nine o'clock, he breathed his last.

My mother was much too nervous, and in health far too delicate, to admit of having my uncle's body removed to our home; and arrangements were accordingly made that the corpse should be taken from the hotel to its last restingplace--the family vault of the Nemberpage family, Sir Lucius having begged, with tears in his eyes, that I would consent to this, after making me promise him that I would never mention the facts in my possession, so long as he or his wife and children were in existence. Sir Lucius could not attend the funeral; for Mr. Jackson, whom the baronet was very anxious to avoid, claimed a right to be one of my uncle's pall--bearers--and it was a right which no one could reasonably dispute, considering the premises upon which the claim was based. Mr. Jackson alleged that he "had been with the late captain for upwards of forty-four years, and during that time had never been out of his sight for more than a few hours together; that he had attended, and had been faithful, unto him, in sickness and in health; and whether he (Captain Bellamy) had gone up above or down below, he (John Jackson) hoped that, when he died, he should go to the same place, where he would never fail to salute him respectfully as a smart officer, a good man, and a perfect gentleman in every sense of the word."

A few days after my uncle's funeral, and when Jackson had gone to London, en route to Sydney, I received a note from Sir Lucius Nemberpage, in these words:--Dear--,--Come and see me. Lady N. and the children have gone to Ackridge House, to spend the day. You will find me all alone, in the library. Yours ever, L.N.

I ordered my horse, and in less than half an hour was at Nemberpage Hall. Sir Lucius looked jaded, ill, and half distracted.

"You have heard only half of a secret," he began, "which has been, and is still, preying on my very soul. It is but fair to you, and to myself especially, that you should know the whole of the secret; and here, in the most solemn manner, I call the Almighty to witness the truth of what I am about to relate. I was tried, convicted, found guilty, and sentenced to be transported for the term of my natural life, and became the convict-servant of your uncle, the late Captain Bellamy."

"For what offence, Sir Lucius?"

"No criminal offence. No offence whatever. But the offence which was 'proved' against me was that of a highway robbery. But hear me out. You are aware, as is everybody in the county, that my father had three sons, the late Sir John, my brother Charles, and myself. John was four years old when I was born, and Charley two years. We were all wild when we grew towards manhood; and gave my father a great deal of anxiety and trouble. No wonder that he thrashed us so unmercifully when we were boys--and struck us even when we were young men--although I think a milder course of treatment might have been more effectual; and I think it would have been more to our advantage had he taken some pains with our education, instead of not caring, or seeming not to care, whether we learned anything or not. And then he kept us very short of money; even John was stinted frightfully. But, wild as we all then were, John and I were not, by many degrees, so wild as Charley. He was, indeed, something more than wild. It pains me to say so;--but he was a perfect demon. Heaven only knows what crimes he may or may not have to answer for in another world. John and myself were both frightened of Charles, and yet we loved him. He was such a strange admixture of gentleness and ferocity. In the days to which I now refer, our family did not live in this county, but on a small estate in Oxfordshire. This estate on which I now live was rented to a nobleman. My father being a member of parliament for a borough in the neighbourhood, was frequently absent for weeks together in London, and my mother on all occasions accompanied him. Left alone in the house, we three young men placed no sort of restraint upon our passions and inclinations: we gambled, we drank, and, I am shocked to add, we kept very low company. At this time John was five-and-twenty, Charles twenty--three, and I just of age. Such a den as was that part of the large house which we young men inhabited it would be difficult to describe to you. Suddenly, my brother Charles was never in want of money. He had not only sufficient for his own wants, but his purse was always open to John and myself, when we were destitute of that valuable commodity. There was another young gentleman, the eldest son of a wealthy but penurious squire in the neighbourhood, who also became, suddenly, what is vulgarly called 'flush of money.' Charles and the young squire were very great friends; and often, when they produced their well-filled purses, would John and I remark:--'Why, you must have been upon the highway,' little thinking of the old proverb, 'There's many a true word spoke in jest.' We led this kind of life for more than two years, when Charles became indisposed; and the doctors recommended that he should have change of air and scene. He begged of me to accompany him, and I most willingly assented. We left home for London, and thence journeyed in a post-chaise to Bath. On the road thither, Charles (wherefore I knew not) suggested that we should travel under false names. I was to be Mr. George Giles, of Eagle Lodge, Devonshire--and he Mr. Francis Preston, of Honiton, in the same county. I was, morever, appointed the treasurer during the excursion, and had charge of the general purse. After staying at Bath for a few days, we went into Cornwall, where we remained a fortnight with a relation of ours, and then returned to our home. Some two years afterwards I was seized in Piccadilly." (The reader knows what followed.)

"But why, Sir Lucius," I asked, "did you not, when apprehended, give your own name?"

"Because that might not have cleared me of the imputation; and, besides, I was afraid of endangering the safety of Charles, who confessed to me afterwards, in New South Wales, that it was he who robbed Mr. Binkie on the highway, and what is more, he showed me the silver coin of the reign of Charles I., about which the old banker was so very anxious."

"In New South Wales, Sir Lucius? How came your brother Charles there? Was he also transported?"

"Oh dear, no. I had been some four years in Australia before I made Charles acquainted with my fate. My father and mother, thank heaven, never knew what it had been for they died shortly after I left England. And, if I may believe, as I think I may, what Charles told me, my brother John, also, was ignorant of my fate. The moment Charles received my letter he took a passage in a ship to Sydney, contrived to have several interviews with me, and with him I made my escape from the colony in a vessel bound for Calcutta; thence we came to Havre in a French vessel. It was then that we heard of my brother John's untimely death; and it was there, and not in Rome, as rumour has it, that my brother Charles died and was buried."

"But, Sir Lucius," said I, "you have told me that you were identified--I mean falsely identified--by that mark on the ball of your right thumb. Had your brother Charles that mark?"

"Yes. And I will tell you how both of us came to have it. My mother, who was as kind and as gentle a being as your own mother, was, nevertheless, a very weak and superstitious woman, and was one day told by a gipsy-woman, who came into the yard, that we boys, Charley and myself--our ages were then, respectively, six and four years, and we were sickly--would never thrive, or be fortunate in life, unless we were branded. And the hag was permitted to perform the operation with a silver instrument, which she carried with her for the purpose. It was applied when nearly red-hot, and left this cursed mark upon me."

"And something was said about a mark upon your arm--some letters."

"Yes, they are my initials. See?" (Sir Lucius bared his right arm.) "And this is our crest. When children, my father was afraid that one or other of us might be stolen by the gipsies, who in those days, and especially in Oxfordshire, often carried off the children of rich people; and so he caused us all to be thus marked--disfigured. John had 'J. N.,' Charley 'C. N.,'and I 'L. N.,' with the dolphin above. It was done with Indian ink, gunpowder, and some fine needles, and I can just remember roaring loudly during the operation. And now, I would put one question to you, which I hope you will answer candidly and from your heart. Do you doubt the truth of any of the statements I have made to you in respect to my unfortunate self?"

"No, Sir Lucius," I replied. "I believe them all most implicitly."

"Then I would ask you a great favour."

"What is it?"

"Will you correspond with me when we have gone abroad?"

"Yes; but I hope you will not leave this part of the oountry."

"I feel," said Sir Lucius, "that I have no right to remain in England, whence I was banished--whether wrongly or rightly it matters not. If I dared, I would settle in Australia; but that is out of the question. There I should be a prisoner of the Crown, or ignominiously hanged, if it were known that I had left the colony. As it is, I and all my family will embark next month for America, where I shall retain the name of my ancestors, but fling away the title."

And Sir Lucius Nemberpage and Lady Nemberpage and their children did embark for America; but they never arrived there. The vessel in which they had taken their passage foundered; and save one seaman, who was saved to tell the tale, all on board perished in the ocean!

End.

 
 
 
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