List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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and his client were placed beyond a doubt; and he himself was
good authority, for he was Robert Stebbins, the witness who had
sworn to having returned the pocket-book and the accompanying
documents to the plaintiff, as their rightful owner; he now
confessed that he had perjured himself for a heavy bribe, but
stood ready to turn state's evidence, and reveal all he knew of
the plot. Those papers had actually been placed in his care
thirteen years since by his own brother, Jonathan Stebbins, who
had died of small-pox in an hospital at Marseilles. This brother
had been a favourite companion of William Stanley's from his
first voyage; they had shipped together in the Jefferson, and
before sailing, Stanley had placed a package of papers and other
articles, for safe-keeping, in an old chest of Stebbins's, which
was left with the sailor's mother in Massachusetts. They were
wrecked in the Jefferson on the coast of Africa, as had been
already reported; but they were not drowned, they both succeeded
in reaching the shore, having lashed themselves to the same spar.
It was a desert, sandy coast, and they were almost starved after
having reached the land; their only shelter was a small cave in a
low ledge of rocks near the beach; they fed upon half-putrid
shell-fish thrown upon the sands by the gale, and they drank from
the pools of rain-water that had formed on the rock during the
storm; for they had saved nothing from the wreck but a sealed
bottle, containing their protections as American sailors, some
money in an old glove, and a few other papers. William Stanley
had been ill before the gale, and he had not strength to bear up
against these hardships; he declined rapidly, and aware that he
could not live, the young man charged his companion, if he ever
returned to America, to seek his family, relate the circumstances
of his death, and show the papers in the bottle--an old letter to
himself, and within it the notice of his father's marriage, which
he had cut from a paper, obtained from an American vessel spoken
on the voyage--and also the package left on shore in the old
chest, as these documents would be considered testimonials of his
veracity. He farther charged Stebbins to say that he asked his
father's forgiveness, acknowledging that he died repenting of his
past misconduct. The third day after the gale the young man
expired, and Stebbins buried him in the sand near the cave. The
survivor had a hard struggle for life; the rain-water had soon
dried away, and he set out at night in search of a spring to
relieve his thirst, still keeping in sight of the shore. As the
morning sun rose, when all but exhausted, he discovered on the
beach several objects from the wreck, which had drifted in that
direction, the wind having changed after the gale. He found a keg
of spirits and some half-spoiled biscuit, and by these means his
life was prolonged. He made a bag of his shirt, bound a few
things on his back, and buried others in the sand, to return to
if necessary, and then continued to follow the shore northward,
in search of some spring or stream. Fortunately, he soon came to
a woody tract which promised water, and climbing a tree he
watched the wild animals, hoping to discover where they drank; at
length, following a flock of antelopes, he came suddenly upon the
bank of a stream of some size; and to his unspeakable joy, saw on
the opposite bank a party of white men, the first human beings he
had beheld since Stanley's death; they proved to be Swedes
belonging to a ship in the offing; and immediately took him into
their boat. The vessel was bound to Stockholm, where she carried
young Stanley's shipmate; from there he went to St. Petersburgh,
where he met with the brother who related his story to
Hazlehurst, and both soon after enlisted in the Russian navy.
They were sent to the Black Sea, and kept there and in the
Mediterranean for five years, until the elder brother, Jonathan
Stebbins, died of small-pox in a hospital at Marseilles, having
never returned to America since the wreck of the Jefferson.
Before his death, however, he left all his effects and William
Stanley's papers to his brother. This man, Robert Stebbins,
seemed to have paid very little attention to the documents; it
was by mere chance that he preserved the old letter, and the
marriage notice within it, for he confessed that he had torn up
the protection, once when he wanted a bit of paper: he had never
known William Stanley himself, the inquiries about the young man
had ceased before he returned to America, and he had attached no
importance whatever to these papers. He had left them where they
had first been placed, in the old sea-chest at his mother's
house, near New Bedford, while he led the usual wandering life of
a sailor. He told Harry that he had at last quite forgotten this
package, until he accidentally fell in with a man calling himself
William Stanley, at a low tavern, only some five or six years
since, and, to his amazement, heard him declare he had been
wrecked in the Jefferson.

{"protection" = a paper testifying to the American citizenship of
a seaman, carried to protect him against being forced into the
British Navy as an Englishman. Stebbins' survival reflects
descriptions of a shipwreck on the Atlantic coast of North Africa
in James Fenimore Cooper's "Homeward Bound" (1838)}

"The fellow was half-drunk," said Stebbins; "but I knew his yarn
was a lie all the time, for I had sailed with him in another
ship, at the time my brother Jonathan was wrecked in the
Jefferson. He shipped then under the name of Benson, but I knew
his real name was Edward Hopgood--"

"Edward Hopgood!" exclaimed Harry, passing his hand over his
forehead--" surely I have heard that name before. Wait a moment,"
he added, to Stebbins; while he endeavoured to recollect why that
name, singular in itself, had a familiar sound to him. At length
his eye brightened, the whole matter became more clear; he
recollected when a mere child, a year or two before Mr. Stanley's
death, while staying at Greatwood during a vacation, to have
heard of the bad conduct of a young man named Edward Hopgood, a
lawyer's clerk in the adjoining village, who had committed
forgery and then run away. The circumstances had occurred while
Harry was at Greatwood, and had been so much talked of in a
quiet, country neighbourhood, as to make a decided impression on
himself, child as he was. Harry also remembered to have heard Mr.
Stanley tell Mr. Wyllys that this Hopgood was very distantly
related to himself, through the mother, who had made a very bad
connexion; adding, that this lad had been at Greatwood, and would
have been assisted by himself, had he not behaved very badly, and
done so much to injure his own son that he had been forbidden the
house. Harry farther remembered, that Clapp had belonged to the
same office from which this Hopgood had run away. There was,
however, one point which he did not understand; he thought he had
since heard that this Hopgood had turned actor, and died long
since of yellow-fever, at New Orleans. Still, he felt convinced
that there was a good foundation for Stebbins's story, and he
hoped soon to unravel the whole plot, from the clue thus placed
in his hands.

"Go on," said Harry, after this pause. "You say this man, whom
you knew to be Hopgood, called himself William Stanley. What
became of him?"

"It is the same chap that hoisted your colours, Mr. Hazlehurst;
him that the jury gave the verdict to in Philadelphia."

"Yes; I knew it must be the same individual before you spoke,"
said Harry, with a view to keep his informant accurate. "But how
did you know that his name was Hopgood? for you say he had
shipped under another."

"I knew it because he had told me so himself. He told me how he
had run away from a lawyer's office in Pennsylvany, gone to New
Orleans and turned play-actor a while, then shammed dead, and had
his name printed in the papers among them that died of
yellow-fever. He told me all that in his first voyage, when we
were shipmates, and that was just the time that my brother
Jonathan was wrecked in the Jefferson."

"When you afterwards heard him say he was William Stanley, did
you tell him you knew his real name?"

"Yes; I told him I knew he lied; for my brother had buried
Stanley with his own hands, and that I had his papers at home.
Then he told me, he was only laughing at the green-horns."

"Did you mention to any one at the time that you knew this man
was not William Stanley?"

"No, sir, for I didn't speak to him until we were alone; and we
parted company next morning, for I went to sea."

"When did you next see Hopgood?"

"Well, I didn't fall in with him again for a long while, until
this last spring. When I came home from a voyage to China in the
Mandarin, last May, I went to my mother's, near New Bedford, and
then I found a chap had been to see her in the winter, and
persuaded her to give him all the papers in the old chest, that
had belonged to William Stanley, making out he was one of the
young man's relations. It was that lawyer Clapp; and Hopgood had
put him on the track of them 'ere papers."

"What were the documents in your chest?"

"Most of what they had to show came from me: to be sure, Hopgood
had got some letters and papers, written to himself of late years
under the name of William Stanley; but all they had before the
wreck of the Jefferson came from me."

"Were there any books among the articles in your possession?"

"No, sir; nothing but the pocket-book."

"Are you quite sure? Was there not one book with William
Stanley's name in it?"

"Not one; that 'ere book they had in court didn't come from me;
how they got it I don't know," replied Stebbins positively; who,
it seemed, knew nothing of the volume of the Spectator.

"Where did you next meet Hopgood?"

"Well, I was mad when I found he had got them papers; but the
lawyer had left a message with my mother, saying if I came home,
she was to tell me I'd hear something to my advantage by applying
to him. So I went after him to the place where he lives; and sure
enough there was Hopgood, and he and Clapp as thick as can be
together. I guess they'd have liked it better if I had never
showed myself again: but they got round me, and told me how it
was all settled, and if I would only lend a hand, and keep quiet
about Hopgood, and speak for them once in a while, they would
enter into an agreement to give me enough to make a skipper of me
at once. Them 'ere lawyers they can make black look like
white--and so I agreed to it at last."

Hazlehurst strongly suspected that less persuasion had been
necessary than the man wished him to believe.

"Did they tell you all their plan?"

"Pretty much all; they said it was easy to make people believe
Hopgood was William Stanley, for he looked so much like the young
man, that he had been asked if that wasn't his name. He said it
was that first gave him the notion of passing off for William
Stanley--that, and knowing all about the family, and the young
man himself. He said Stanley had no near relations who would be
likely to remember him; there was only one old gentleman they was
afraid of, but they calculated they knew enough to puzzle him
too. Hopgood had been practising after Stanley's handwriting; he
was pretty good at that trade when he was a shaver," said
Stebbins, with a look which showed he knew the story of the
forgery. "He was bred a lawyer, and them 'ere lawyers are good at
all sorts of tricks. Clapp and him had made out a story from my
papers and what they know'd before, and got it all ready in a
letter; they agreed that from the time of the wreck, they had
better keep pretty straight to Hopgood's real life; and so they

"They seem to have laid all their plans before you."

"Well, they couldn't help it, for they wanted me to tell them all
I heard from my brother; but I told 'em to speak first. They made
out that Hopgood had a right to the property; for they said that
old Mr. Stanley had no family to leave it to, that you was a
stranger, and that Hopgood was a relation."

"This Hopgood, who first helped to corrupt William Stanley, even
if he had actually been a near relation, would have been the last
human being to whom Mr. Stanley would have left his property,"
said Harry, coolly. "But go on with your story; why did they not
show the pocket-book before the trial?"

"They settled it so, because they thought it would look better
before the jury."

"Why did you change your own mind so soon after the trial? You
should have come to me before."

"Hopgood and I had a quarrel only three days ago, when he was
drunk; he swore they could have done without me, and I swore I'd
be revenged. Then that fellow, Clapp, wouldn't pay me on the spot
according to agreement, as soon as they had gained the cause. I
had kept my part, and he hadn't lifted a finger yet for me; nor
he wouldn't if he could help it, for all he had given me his
word. I know him from more than one thing that came out; he is
one of your fellows who sham gentlemen, with a fine coat to his
back; but I wouldn't trust him with a sixpence out of sight; no,
nor out of arm's length," and Stebbins went on, swearing roundly
at Clapp and Hopgood, until Harry interrupted him.

"I know them 'ere lawyers, they think they can cheat Jack any
day; but I won't trust him an hour longer! I know your real
gentleman from your tricky sham at a minute's warning, though
their coats be both cut off the same piece of broadcloth. I
haven't served under Uncle Sam's officers for nothing. Now I'll
trust you, Mr. Hazlehurst, as long as it suits you; I'd no more
have talked to Clapp without having his name down in black and
white, as I have to you, than I'd be shot."

"The agreement I have made shall be strictly kept," replied
Harry, coldly. "Had you come to me before the trial, you would
have had the same reward, without the crime of perjury."

"Well, that 'ere perjury made me feel uncomfortable; and what
with having sworn vengeance on Clapp and Hopgood, I made up my
mind to go straight back to Philadelphy, and turn state's
evidence. I was waiting for a chance to get to New York when I
saw you on the wharf at Nantucket, and I knew you in a minute."

The conversation was here interrupted by a call from the beach,
which attracted Harry's attention, after having been so much
engrossed during the disclosures of Stebbins, as to be quite
regardless of what was going on about him. It was de Vaux who had
called--he now approached.

"I couldn't think where that fellow, Stebbins, had got to; if you
have nothing for him to do here, Hazlehurst, he is wanted

Harry and the sailor accordingly parted. After exchanging a few
words to conclude their agreement, they both returned to the

The Petrel seemed to be getting under way again; Smith and de
Vaux, who had just returned from the wood with their guns, and
Charlie, who had just left his sketching apparels, were standing
together looking on when Harry joined them.

"I didn't know what had become of you," said Charlie. "What a
long yarn that fellow seemed to be telling you!"

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