Imágenes de páginas

me ?" There was a pause.

“No-I will be plain and true with thee like a man. We will not let thee go; we will have thee back to England, dead or alive."

“Well-if I show him to you—and we both reach England—what will be done with me, think you ?hanging ?" “ Why—no;

I doubt whether thou art worthy of that. Thou wilt, perchance, be put into the stocks, morning, noon, and night, for three years ; and then publicly whipped ; and then be kicked out of Old England, and sent to a somewhat different place from this and when thou art there, how soon thou gettest shot, or hanged, matters not." Every one laughed at the eloquence of the constable but Isaacs.

“ What will it not make in my favour to tell you where he is, gentlemen ?" said the crestfallen Isaacs, quite cowered before the plain-spoken, resolute, athletic Englishman. To be sure it will ! An thou dost not, thou shalt not live to get hanged in England, for I will knock out thy brains here !" Isaacs seemed reflecting a while.

“Well,” said he, at length, “I see how it is--and perhaps 'twere better to tell all at once !

Look'ee, gentlemen !--I'm an injured man."

There was a laugh. “ I've done all in my power to release Fowler, and get him back to England—but could not compass it. I have used him handsomely, and given him almost all the moneys that were sent me from England.” Come, then-he'll be better able to tell us that himself," said the constable, urging his prisoner, and helping him on horseback ; “ thou must mind say all that before my lord the judge in England, who will have to sentence thee. I am a plain man, and don't see the use on't! Now lead thou on, Master Isaacs !"

Nearly bursting with fury, Isaacs, his horse's bridle held by the constable, directed the party in what direction to proceed; and in about two hours time the cavalcade entered the quiet farmyard of Fowler and Isaacs—and one of the party knocked at the housedoor. It was about twelve o'clock, and Fowler was greatly alarmed, thinking himself beset by banditti.

- Do but come down to us,” said Dick Forster, one of the party, thoroughly shaken into his sober senses, before setting out on the expedition, by his angry companion. “ Do but come down to us, and we will tell you the greatest piece of news you ever heard. Come! - come, an it be with a cocked pistol in each hand, and under both arms! Why, man, I am loving Richard Forster from England! And here be never so many friends come with me, to bear me company to you !" Fowler nearly leaped out of the window from which • he had been reconnoitring the party in the yard. In a trice he was down stairs, in the midst of them, with his cap and night shirt; and singling out Forster, who rushed forward to meet him, clasped him in his arms, laughing and crying by turns.

Why, dearest Dick, what art thou come here for? Who be all these ?" All bowed and removed their hats, and their eloquent spokesman proceeded—“We be come for to tell you of your rights, and riches, and honour, and titles, and our loves. You be no longer Bill Fowler, but Sir William Fowler Gwynne, a baronet of Gwynne Hall, Shropshire, with a hundred thousand pounds a year besides! An't he, gentlemen, eh?" —turning round with a confident air to his bowing companions.

“Sir William - Sir William -- what?” inquired Fowler, standing stupified among them. Bill--I mean Sir Bill—that is, Sir William,” stammered Dick Forster—"you be really a very great man, and here's one behind us will tell thee so, besides !” And stepping aside, poor Leroux, with his hands tied behind him, and in the grasp of the gigantic constable, stood forth to view. Fowler stared at him, breathlessly.

“ Isaacs !” said Forster, “I mean, Le-Le-what's it?-isn't all this true? Isn't Bill Fowler that was, a baronet now, by the name of Sir William Fowler ?”

" Ay, ay,

[ocr errors]

“Ay, I suppose so!" grumbled Isaacs, ashamed to look his ci-devant captive in the face.

“What! is it all true ?" said Fowler, approaching him, with a wondering air. “Is it no dream ?-no mockery ?” “You are Sir William Gwynne !" replied Isaacs, sullenly.

“And why are you tied in this way, eh ?” pursued Fowler, elevating his hands in astonishment.

6 Because he's a rogue as you are a baronet!” replied Dick Forster, promptly.

Fowler still looked bewildered. “Gentlemen," said he, suddenly, “I can't make it out; but I shall know better what to think, when I've slept upon it! But-if I'm really a baronet--why, I'll make you all drink this night with the greatest man you ever drank with before! I will empty


ale asks for you, and you can drink them. Come in, gentlemen--come in, I say!

7!The baronet was obeyed; and in a short time was sitting in his parlour, with a new-lighted fire, surrounded by his English friends, and with a fresh-tapped cask of ale upon the table, which supplied such excitement to them all, as found vent in songs that might have been heard a mile off, and were heard with peculiar satisfaction by Isaacs, who, with his legs tied together and his arms pinioned, lay in the room overhead. It need not occasion surprise to hear that the rising sun beheld the newly made baronet, and his jolly friends, lying huddled together on the parlour floor, in prostrate adoration before the shrine of Bacchus. It was arranged that they were all to set off for England without the delay of a day. Sir William Fowler was not long in making his preparations ; but one of-the expected guests did not evince such alacrity for the voyage as his companions. It was Isaacs; who took the opportunity, in some inexplicable way, of making his escape. When his mortified captors came, hardly sobered, into the room where they had left him, lo! their man was

gone! All search proved useless; no traces of him were ever discovered.

Let us travel faster to England than Sir William and his attendants, and view the aspect of matters awaiting his arrival.

Dr. Ebury lost no time, as he was, in proceeding up to London, and laying before the secretary of state the shocking confession he had received, thereby explaining the sudden and mysterious abduction of Fowler. The villanous plot began to unravel itself; but, as an affair of such magnitude, and criminating a man of the rank and fortune of Sir William Gwynne, the secretary of state enjoined the utmost deliberation and circumspection. The moment, however, Oxleigh's suicide was communicated to him, he felt warranted, at the instance of Mr. Parkhurst, the solicitor accompanying Dr. Ebury, in sending a commission of four persons to America ; two of them constables from the neighbourhood, and acquainted with the person of Fowler, to bring back the kidnapped heir to the titles and estates of Gwynne. In the mean time, Mr. Parkhurst hurried down to Shropshire with a warrant to arrest Oxleigh, and reached his house, with officers, during the time that a coroner's inquest was sitting on the body. He then proceeded to Gwynne Hall; but found Sir William in too dangerous circumstances to be moved. Very heavy bail was taken for him, and an officer besides left in the house. A most rigorous investigation into the whole affair was set on foot by Mr. Parkhurst and Dr. Ebury. The claims of the absent Fowler were thoroughly sisted, and found to be irrefragable. Morning, noon, and night, did Mr. Parkhurst devote cheerfully to the laborious inquiry ; writing with his own hands hundreds of folios." When, at length, he had collected all his materials, and, as the phrase is, " licked them a little into shape,” he set off with them for London, to secure the opinion and advice of the celebrated attorney general. Great interest was excited about the cause, even in the metropolis; and all parties waited with anxiety for the decision of the attorney general-as if his fiat had been that of the judges.

T'he day appointed by the attorney general for delivering his opinion on the voluminous case laid before him, happened, singularly enough, to be that on which the new baronet and his friends arrived in London, from America. Mr. Parkhurst soon received intelligence of the event ; and procured the attendance of Sir William, with himself, Dr. Ebury, and another, at the attorney general's chambers in the Temple, where he had intimated his intention of reading to them and explaining his opinion.

“ Gentlemen,” said he,“ I do not think I ever devoted such anxious care to a case as this. I have gone nearly a dozen times over this pile of papers, and had, all the while, the assistance of my eminent brother, the solicitor general. We completely agree in one opinion ; which is, that the title of Sir William Gwynne CANNOT BE DISTURBED." Mr. Parkhurst almost sank into the floor. “ There are two reasons for this," proceeded the attorney general, calmly; “first, the statute of limitations came into operation six months ago,

in Sir William's favour: and I need not say, that when the statute once begins to run, nothing can stop it. But even supposing that ground to be doubtful, as it may, possibly, be beat into a questionable shape, there is yet a fatal obstacle in the way of the person whose pretensions you have so zealously and ably espoused; Sir William Gwynne is THE RIGHT HEIR AT LAW.Mr. Parkhurst looked aghast. 66 In a matter of such moment as this, I have availed myself of a certain information, which was tendered to me in consideration of my office. I have here, and shall deliver into your hands, a document, formerly in the possession of the deceased Mr. Job Oxleigh, and unquestionably in his handwriting, stating, with proofs, that the wife of the late Mr. William Fowler Gwynne, the alleged mother of the person now present"--pointing to the soi-disant

« AnteriorContinuar »