List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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sailor, and alluded to his having been recently shipwrecked on
the coast of Africa, and taken up by a Dutch vessel. These
documents were all received with great interest, and their
probable authenticity seemed generally admitted. Mr. Reed then
observed: "We shall close our evidence, gentlemen, by laying
before you testimony, sufficient in itself to prove triumphantly
the identity of the plaintiff, when connected with a small
portion only of that which has preceded it."

He drew from his papers an old Russia-leather pocketbook, with
the initials W. S. stamped upon in large Gothic letters.

Mr. Wyllys made an involuntary movement as it was held up for
examination; that very pocket-book, or one exactly like it, had
he given himself to the son of his old friend, the very last time
he saw him. He watched the proceedings at this moment with
intense interest--evident to everybody.

"This pocket-book, gentlemen, is the property of the plaintiff,"
continued Mr. Reed. "The initials of his name, W. S., stamped
upon it, are half-effaced, yet still sufficiently distinct to
tell their story. But the contents of this precious book are of
still greater importance to the interests of my client."

Mr. Reed then opened it and drew from one side a letter, and read
the address, "William Stanley, New York, care of Jonas Thomson,
Master of the ship Dorothy Beck." "This letter, gentlemen of the
jury, is signed John Stanley--it is from the father of William
Stanley, in whose name I now submit it to your examination." The
letter was then read; it corresponded entirely with the
circumstances already known to the reader; its date, nature,
handwriting, all were perfectly correct, and the signature was
sworn to by several witnesses. Mr. Wyllys was evidently moved
when the letter was read; he asked to look at it, and all eyes
were turned on his venerable countenance, as he silently examined
the paper. It was remarked that the hand which held the letter
was not steady, and the features which bent over it betrayed
perceptible agitation. Mr. Wyllys turned to Hazlehurst, as he
finished reading the sheet.

"It is undeniably genuine; the letter of John Stanley to his
son!" he said.

A short consultation succeeded between the defendants. Hazlehurst
wrote a line or two on a slip of paper, and handed it to Mr.
Wyllys, and then to Ellsworth and Mr. Grant.

"Will the counsel for the plaintiff tell us, why these documents
were not produced at the interview with the defendants?" asked
Mr. Ellsworth.

"We had several reasons for not doing so," replied Mr. Clapp.
"Had our client not been received so coldly, and every effort
employed to misunderstand him, we should have produced them
earlier; although it would have been impossible to have shown
them at that meeting, since they were not then in our

"Will the plaintiff state where, and from whom he first received
that pocket-book?" asked Mr. Grant.

Here the counsel for the plaintiff consulted together a moment.
It seemed as if their client was willing to answer the question;
and that Mr. Reed advised his doing so, but Mr. Clapp opposed it.

"The defendants must be aware," he said, "that they had no right
to question his client; Mr. Stanley therefore declined answering;
he had already, at the proper time and place, answered many
inquiries of theirs, in a manner which had, doubtless, appeared
satisfactory to the court, although it had not satisfied the
defendants. Mr. Stanley had lost all hope of answering any
question of the defendants, in a manner SATISFACTORY TO THEM."

Here the defendants were engaged for a moment in making notes.

Mr. Reed proceeded with the contents of the pocket-book. "The
letter of the father to his erring son, is not the only testimony
we shall produce from the pocket-book of my client, gentlemen."

A printed slip of newspaper, soiled, and yellow with age, was
then drawn from one of the pockets, and read by Mr. Reed:
"Married, Wednesday, the 10th, at Trinity Church, New York, by
the Rev. Charles G. Stanley, John Stanley, of Greatwood,
Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth, daughter of the late Myndert Van
Ryssen, of Poughkeepsie."

Again the defendants showed evident interest. Mr. Wyllys passed
his hand over his face, to drive away melancholy recollections of
the past; the present Mrs. Stanley was Miss Van Ryssen, and at
that marriage he had stood by the side of his friends, as the
priest united them.

"Is not that a touching memorial, gentlemen, of the workings of
natural feeling in the heart of a misguided boy? He had left his
father, left his home, left his friends in a fit of reckless
folly, but when he meets with the name of the parent from whom he
is estranged, in an American paper, in a distant land, he cuts
the paragraph from the sheet, and it is carefully preserved among
his precious things, during many succeeding years of hardships,
and of wrongs. But there is another striking fact connected with
that scrap of paper; the individual whose name stands there, as
connected in the closest of human ties with the young man's
father, is the same, whose legal representative I now see before
me, prepared to oppose, by every means in his power, the claim of
the son to the inheritance bequeathed him, with the forgiveness
of his dying father. The simplest language I can choose, will
best express the force of facts so painful. The circumstances are
before you; it rests with you to say, whether tardy justice shall
not at length make some amends for the wrongs of the last
eighteen years."

The defendants here asked to look at the paper; they could find
no fault with it; in texture, colour, accuracy, every point, it
corresponded with what it should be.

Mr. Reed paused an instant, and then continued. "But, gentlemen
of the jury, this old and well-worn pocket-book, the companion of
my client's wanderings, and hard fortunes; the letter from the
father to the son, received as authentic, without an instant's
hesitation, by the defendants themselves; the marriage notice of
the deceased father and the step-mother, now his legal opponent,
are not the only proofs to be drawn from this portion of our

Mr. Reed then opened the pocket-book, and showed that it had
originally contained a number of leaves of blank paper; these
leaves were partially covered with the hand-writing of William
Stanley. The date of his going to sea, and the names of the
vessels he had sailed in, were recorded. Brief, random notes
occurred, of no other importance than that of proving the
authenticity of the pocket-book. A sailor's song was written on
one page; another was half-covered with figures, apparently some
trifling accounts of his own. The date of a particular storm of
unusual severity, was put down, with the latitude and longitude
in which it occurred, the number of hours it lasted, and the
details of the injury done to the vessel. This rude journal, if
such it may be called, was handed to the jury, and also examined
by the defendants.

Mr. Grant took it, observing with his usual set expression, and
caustic manner, that "it was certainly the pocket-book of a
sailor, probably the pocket-book of William Stanley. It was
connected with a singular story, a very singular story indeed;
but, really, there was one fact which made it altogether the most
extraordinary compound of leather and paper, that ever happened
to fall in his way. If he was not mistaken, he had understood
that the plaintiff, among other remarkable adventures, claimed to
have just escaped drowning, by the skin of his teeth, when picked
up on the coast of Africa, in the winter of 181-. His pocket-book
seemed to have borne the shipwreck equally well; it was landed
high and dry in that court-house, without a trace of salt-water
about it. How did the plaintiff manage to preserve it so well? He
should like the receipt, it might prove useful."

{"receipt" = recipe}

Mr. Grant had been looking down very attentively at the
pocket-book while speaking, occasionally holding it up for others
to see, with studied carelessness; as he put the question, he
suddenly raised his eyes, without changing his position, and
fixed them searchingly, with a sort of ironical simplicity, on
Mr. Clapp and his client.

"I can tell him all about it," the plaintiff was heard to say, by
those near him.

There was a moment's consultation between the plaintiff and his
counsel. A juror then expressed a wish to hear the explanation.

Mr. Clapp rose and said: "When Mr. Stanley was picked up by the
'William,' does the counsel for my client's step-mother suppose,
that he was the only remnant of the wreck floating about? If he
does, he happens to be mistaken. Mr. Stanley says there were two
others of the crew picked up at the time he was, with the hope of
restoring life, but they were dead. There were also several
chests, and various other objects brought on board the 'William.'
One of the chests was his client's. The pocket-book was contained
in a tin box, which happened to be wrapped in a piece of old
sail-cloth, and nothing in the box was wet. It contained several
old bank-notes, besides the pocket-book, and they were not wet.
He hoped the counsel for his client's step-mother was satisfied."

Mr. Grant bowed. "Much obliged for the explanation; but he was
still inclined to think, that there must have been some peculiar
process employed with that highly important pocket-book."

Mr. Clapp replied by a short burst of indignation, at the
intolerable insinuations of his opponent, and appealed to the
court to silence them. Mr. Grant was accordingly reminded by the
judge, that unless he had something beyond mere insinuations to
offer, his remarks could not be listened to. Mr. Reed then
related how these papers had been lost by his client, some years
since; they had been left in a box at a boarding-house, during a
voyage he made in the Pacific; the house was burnt down, and Mr.
Stanley had believed his papers lost, until he recently heard
they were in possession of a shipmate, at New Bedford. Mr. Clapp
and himself had gone there, and easily obtained them again from
Robert Stebbins, the man in whose hands they had been since the
fire. The fact of the fire was proved; Stebbins was sworn, and
testified to having saved the box with his own effects, and his
having quite lately returned it to the owner, on first hearing an
account of the suit in which he was engaged. This part of the
testimony was clearly laid before the court by Mr. Reed; and the
evidence for the plaintiffs was closed, with these papers, and
the examination of Stebbins, through whose hands they had come.

The cross-examination of the different witnesses was still
conducted by Mr. Grant; several of the witnesses were made to
contradict each other, and partially to contradict themselves;
but as it was only on points of minor importance, no material
change could be effected in the general appearance of things, in
spite of all Mr. Grant's ingenuity. He kept Stebbins a long time
on the stand; and once or twice this individual seemed a good
deal confused in manner and expression; still nothing important
could be drawn from him, his account of the papers corresponding
sufficiently well with that of the plaintiff.

It was late in the afternoon when the proceedings of the trial
reached this stage, and the court adjourned. Some of Hazlehurst's
friends were uneasy, others were confident of success; Mr.
Stryker declared he thought the sailor had made out a very strong
case, and he predicted that he would gain the suit. It is not to
be supposed that Mrs. Stanley, and the ladies at Wyllys-Roof,
were left in ignorance of what passed in the court-room. Robert
Hazlehurst, at whose house Mrs. Stanley and Miss Wyllys were
staying, made brief notes of the proceedings every few hours, and
sent them to his wife and friends, who despatched them by every
mail to the younger ladies at Wyllys-Roof.

When the court met again, the time for the defendants to be heard
had arrived.

The defence was opened by Hazlehurst; he had had but little
practice at the bar, but, like most educated Americans, it
required but little to fit him for speaking in public. His voice
was good, his manner and appearance were highly in his favour; he
had the best of materials to work with, native ability,
cultivated by a thorough education, and supported by just views
and sound principles. Energy of character and feeling helped him
also; warming as he proceeded, he threw himself fully into his
subject, and went on with a facility surprising to himself, and
far surpassing the most sanguine expectations of his friends. As
for his opponents, they had anticipated very little from him. We
give a sketch of his opening remarks:

"It is the first time, gentlemen," he said, on rising to speak,
"that the individual who now addresses you, has ever appeared in
a high court of justice, as an act of self-defence. I have never
yet been solemnly called upon to account for my past actions by
any fellow-creature. My moral motives have never yet been
publicly impugned. The position in which I now stand, accused of
denying the just rights of another, of wilfully withholding the
parental inheritance from the son of my benefactor, is therefore
as novel to myself in its whole character, as it must appear
remarkable to you in its peculiar circumstances.

"I have already learned, however, during the few years that I
have filled a place on the busy stage of active life, that in the
world to which we belong, Truth herself is compelled to appear on
the defensive, nearly as often, perhaps, as Error. I have no
right therefore to complain. So long as I am included in the same
accusation, so long as I am associated in the same defence with
the venerable man at my side--one, whose honourable career has
furnished to the community represented by this assembly, a noble
model of conduct during three-score years and ten; one whom it
has been the especial object of my endeavours to follow, in my
own path through life--so long, I can have no wish to shrink from
the situation in which I am placed; I can find no room for doubts
or misgivings, as to the wisdom and rectitude of the course I
have adopted.

"That the position, however, in which we stand before you, on the
present occasion, gentlemen, is one that requires explanation, we
readily admit; it is too remarkable in its particulars to escape
the searching inquiry of justice. We appear in this court, the
executors and legatee of Mr. Stanley--his widow, his nearest
friend, and his adopted representative--to deny a claim, just in
itself, advanced in the name of his only son. Such a position
must be either quite untenable, totally unjustifiable, an outrage
upon the common decency of society, or it must stand on the firm
foundation of truth. You will easily believe, that such a
position would never have been taken, under circumstances so
extraordinary, by three individuals, possessing only a common
share of honesty and good sense, unless they had held it to be
one which they could maintain. You will readily admit, that it is
the very last position which a man of clear integrity, good

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