List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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up, with the hope of reviving them. But you have heard the whole
sad story before, Harry."

"Certainly; I merely wished to hear the facts again, ma'am, from
your own lips, lest I might have forgotten some important point."

"Although you were quite a child at the time, Harry," said Mr.
Wyllys, "eight or ten I believe, still, I should think you must
remember the anxiety to discover the real fate of William
Stanley. I have numbers of letters in my hands, answers to those
I had written with the hope of learning something more positive
on the subject. We sent several agents, at different times, to
the principal sea-ports, to make inquiries among the sailors; it
all resulted in confirming the first story, the loss of the
Jefferson, and all on board. Every year, of course, made the
point more certain."

"Still, we cannot say that is not impossible {sic} he should have
escaped," observed Harry.

"Why should he have waited eighteen years, before he appeared to
claim his property?--and why should he not come directly to his
father's executors, instead of seeking out such a fellow as
Clapp? It bears on the very face every appearance of a gross
imposture. Surely, Harry, you do not think there is a shade of
probability as to the truth of this story?"

"Only a possibility, sir; almost everything is against it, and
yet I shall not rest satisfied without going to the bottom of the

"That, you may be sure, we shall be forced to do. Clapp will give
us trouble enough, I warrant; he will leave no stone unturned
that a dirty lawyer can move. It will be vexatious, but there
cannot be a doubt as to the result."

"You encourage me," said Mrs. Stanley; "and yet the idea of
entering into a suit of this kind is very painful!"

"If it be a conspiracy, there is no treatment too bad for those
who have put the plot together!" exclaimed Harry. "What a
double-dyed villain Clapp must be!"

"He will end his career in the State-Prison," said Mr. Wyllys.

"The Hubbards, too; that is another disagreeable part of the
business," said Harry.

"I am truly sorry for them," replied Mr. Wyllys. "It will give
them great pain."

"What steps shall we first take, sir?" inquired Harry.

"We must look into the matter immediately, of course, and find
out upon what grounds they are at work."

"I am utterly at a loss to comprehend it!" exclaimed Mrs.
Stanley. "Such a piece of bare-faced audacity!"

"Clapp must rest all his hope of success on our want of positive
proof as to the death of William Stanley," observed Harry. "But
his having dared to bring forward an individual to personate the
dead man, is really a height of impudence that I should never
have conceived of."

"If I did not know him to be an incarnation of cunning, I should
think he had lost his senses," replied Mr. Wyllys; "but happily
for honest men, rogues generally overreach themselves; after they
have spread their nets, made the mesh as intricate as possible,
they almost invariably fall into their own snare. Such will,
undoubtedly, be the result in this case." 

"Had you not better return to Longbridge at once," said Mrs.
Stanley, "in order to inquire into the matter?"

"Certainly; we had better all be on the spot; though I am
confident we shall unmask the rogues very speedily. You were
already pledged to return with us, Mrs. Stanley; and I shall be
glad to see you at Wyllys-Roof, again, Harry."

"Thank you, sir; you are very good," replied Hazlehurst, with
something more than the common meaning in the words; for he
coloured a little on remembering the occurrences of his last
visit to Longbridge, more than three years since.

 "We shall find it difficult," continued Mr. Wyllys, "to get an
insight into Clapp's views and plans. He will, no doubt, be very
wary in all he does; though voluble as ever in what he says. I
know his policy of old; he reverses the saying of the cunning
Italian, volto sciolto, bocca stretta."

{"volto sciolto, bocca stretta" = open countenance, tight lips

"But his first step has not been a cautious one," observed Harry.
"It is singular he should have allowed his client to write to
Mrs. Stanley. Do you remember William Stanley's handwriting
distinctly?" he added, again handing the letter to Mr. Wyllys.

"Yes; and it must be confessed this hand resembles his; they must
have got possession of some of young Stanley's handwriting."

"But how could they possibly have done so?" said Mrs. Stanley.

"That is what we must try to find out, my dear madam."

"He must have been very confident that it was a good imitation,"
said Hazlehurst; "for, of course, he knew you must possess
letters of William Stanley's. I don't remember to have seen
anything but his signature, myself." 

"Yes; it is a good imitation--very good; of course Clapp was
aware of it, or the letter would never have been sent."

"William was very like his father in appearance, though not in
character," observed Mrs. Stanley, thoughtfully. "He was very
like him."

"Should this man look like my poor husband, I might have some
misgivings," said Mrs. Stanley. "We must remember at least, my
dear Mr. Wyllys, that it is not impossible that William may be

"Only one of the most improbable circumstances you could name, my
dear friend. I wish to see the man, however, myself; for I have
little doubt that I shall be able at once to discover the
imposture, entirely to our own satisfaction at least--and that is
the most important point."

"Should the case present an appearance of truth, sufficient to
satisfy a jury, though we ourselves were not convinced, it would
still prove a very serious thing to you, my dear Harry," observed
Mrs. Stanley.

"No doubt: very serious to Hazlehurst, and a loss to all three.
But I cannot conceive it possible that such a daring imposture
can succeed so far. We shall be obliged, however, to proceed with
prudence, in order to counteract the cunning of Clapp."

After a conversation of some length between the friends, it was
agreed that Hazlehurst should answer the letters, in the name of
Mrs. Stanley and Mr. Wyllys, as well as his own. It was also
decided that they should return to Longbridge immediately, and
not take any decided steps until they had seen the individual
purporting to be William Stanley. The bare possibility that Mr.
Stanley's son might be living, determined Mrs. Stanley and
Hazlehurst to pursue this course; although Mr. Wyllys, who had
not a doubt on the subject from the first, had felt no scruple in
considering the claimant as an impostor. We give Harry's letter
to Mr. Clapp.

"Saratoga, June, 18--.


"The letters addressed by you to Mrs. Stanley, Mr. Wyllys and
myself, of the date of last Tuesday, have just reached us. I
shall not dwell on the amazement which we naturally felt in
receiving a communication so extraordinary, which calls upon us
to credit the existence of an individual, whom we have every
reason to believe has lain for nearly eighteen years at the
bottom of the deep: it will be sufficient that I declare, what
you are probably already prepared to hear, that we see no cause
for changing our past opinions on this subject. We believe
to-day, as we have believed for years, that William Stanley was
drowned in the wreck of the Jefferson, during the winter of 181-.
We can command to-day, the same proofs which produced conviction
at the time when this question was first carefully examined. We
have learned no new fact to change the character of these proofs.

"The nature of the case is such, however, as to admit the
possibility--and it is a bare possibility only--of the existence
of William Stanley. It is not necessarily impossible that he may
have escaped from the wreck of the Jefferson; although the weight
of probability against such an escape, has more than a
hundred-fold the force of that which would favour a contrary
supposition. Such being the circumstances, Mr. Stanley's
executors, and his legatee, actuated by the same motives which
have constantly guided them since his death, are prepared in the
present instance to discharge their duty, at whatever cost it may
be. They are prepared to receive and examine any proofs, in the
possession of yourself and your client, as to the identity of the
individual purporting to be William Stanley, only son of the late
John William Stanley, of ----- county, Pennsylvania. They demand
these proofs. But, they are also prepared, sir, to pursue with
the full force of justice, and the law of the land, any
individual who shall attempt to advance a false claim to the name
and inheritance of the dead. This matter, once touched, must be
entirely laid bare: were duty out of the question, indignation
alone would be sufficient to urge them, at any cost of time and
vexation, to unmask one who, if not William Stanley, must be a
miserable impostor--to unravel what must either prove an
extraordinary combination of circumstances, or a base conspiracy.

"Prepared, then, to pursue either course, as justice shall
dictate, Mrs. Stanley and Mr. Wyllys, executors of the late Mr.
Stanley, and myself, his legatee, demand: First, an interview
with the individual claiming to be William Stanley. Secondly,
whatever proofs of the identity of the claimant you may have in
your possession. And we here pledge ourselves to acknowledge the
justice of the claim advanced, if the evidence shall prove
sufficient to establish it; or in the event of a want of truth
and consistency in the evidence supporting this remarkable claim,
we shall hold it a duty to bring to legal punishment, those whom
we must then believe the guilty parties connected with it.

"Mrs. Stanley and Mr. Wyllys wish you, sir, to understand this
letter as an answer to those addressed by you to themselves. They
are on the point of returning to Longbridge, where I shall also
join them; and we request that your farther communications to us,
on this subject, may be addressed to Wyllys-Roof.


This letter was written, and approved by Mrs. Stanley and Mr.
Wyllys, before the consultation broke up; it was also signed by
them, as well as by Harry.

The amazement of Miss Wyllys and Elinor, on hearing the purport
of Mr. Clapp's letters, was boundless. Had they seen William
Stanley rise from the ground before them, they could scarcely
have been more astonished; not a shadow of doubt as to his death
in the Jefferson, had crossed their minds for years. Like their
friends, they believed it a plot of Mr. Clapp's; and yet his
daring to take so bold a step seemed all but incredible.

When some hours' consideration had made the idea rather more
familiar to the minds of our friends, they began to look at the
consequences, and they clearly saw many difficulties and
vexations before the matter could be even favourably settled; but
if this client of Mr. Clapp's were to succeed in establishing a
legal claim to the Stanley estate, the result would produce much
inconvenience to Mrs. Stanley, still greater difficulties to Mr.
Wyllys, while Harry would be entirely ruined in a pecuniary
sense; since the small property he had inherited from his father,
would not suffice to meet half the arrears he would be obliged to
discharge, in restoring his share of the Stanley estate to
another. Hazlehurst had decided, from the instant the claim was
laid before him, that the only question with himself would regard
his own opinion on the subject; the point must first be clearly
settled to his own judgment. He would see the man who claimed to
be the son of his benefactor, he would examine the matter as
impartially as he could, and then determine for himself. Had he
any good reason whatever for believing this individual to be
William Stanley, he would instantly resign the property to him,
at every cost.

All probability was, however, thus far, against the identity of
the claimant; and unless Hazlehurst could believe in his good
faith and honesty, every inch of the ground should be disputed to
the best of his ability. Mr. Wyllys was very confident of
defeating one whom he seriously believed an impostor: it was a
dirty, disagreeable job to undertake, but he was sanguine as to
the result. Mrs. Stanley was at first quite overcome by agitation
and astonishment; she had some doubts and anxieties; misgivings
would occasionally cross her mind, in spite of herself, in spite
of Mr. Wyllys's opinion; and the bare idea of opposing one who
might possibly be her husband's son, affected all her feelings.
Like Hazlehurst, she was very desirous to examine farther into
the matter, without delay; scarcely knowing yet what to hope and
what to fear.

Ellsworth and Mrs. Creighton soon learned the extraordinary
summons which Harry had received; he informed them of the facts

"The man is an impostor, depend upon it, Mr. Hazlehurst!"
exclaimed Mrs. Creighton, with much warmth.

"I have little doubt of it," replied Harry; "for I do not see how
he can well be anything else."

"You know, Hazlehurst, that I am entirely at your service in any
way you please," said Ellsworth.

"Thank you, Ellsworth; I have a habit of looking to you in any
difficulty, as you know already."

"But I cannot conceive that it should be at all a difficult
matter to unravel so coarse a plot as this must be!" cried Mrs.
Creighton. "What possible foundation can these men have for their
story? Tell me all about it, Mr. Hazlehurst, pray!" continued the
lady, who had been standing when Harry entered the room, prepared
to accompany her brother and himself to Miss Wyllys's room. "Sit
down, I beg, and tell me at once all you choose to trust me
with," she continued, taking a seat on the sofa.

Harry followed her example. "You are only likely to hear a great
deal too much of it I fear, if you permit Ellsworth and myself to
talk the matter over before you." He then proceeded to give some
of the most important facts, as far as he knew them himself, at
least. Judging from this account, Mr. Ellsworth pronounced
himself decidedly inclined to think with Mr. Wyllys, that this
claim was a fabrication of Clapp's. Mrs. Creighton was very warm
in the expression of her indignation and her sympathy. After a
long and animated conversation, Mr. Ellsworth proposed that they
should join the Wyllyses: his sister professed herself quite
ready to do so; and, accompanied by Harry, they went to the usual
rendezvous of their party, at Congress Hall.

Robert Hazlehurst had already left Saratoga with his family,
having returned from Lake George for that purpose, a day earlier
than his friends; and when Mrs. Creighton and the two gentlemen
entered Miss Wyllys's parlour, they only found there the Wyllyses
themselves and Mary Van Alstyne, all of whom had already heard of
Harry's threatened difficulties. Neither Miss Agnes nor Elinor
had seen him since he had received the letters, and they both
cordially expressed their good wishes in his behalf; for they
both seemed inclined to Mr. Wyllys's opinion of the new claimant.

"We have every reason to wish that the truth may soon be
discovered," said Miss Agnes.

"I am sorry you should have such a painful, vexatious task before

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