« PreviousContinue »
Other letters, in a "feigned handwriting," and signed "Stephens," followed. When first shown these at the civil trial, the defendant denied having written them and said they were forgeries. But being hard pressed he at last admitted their authenticity, and deliberately acknowledged his falsehood. He had been induced to utter it, he said, because the truth "would injure him in his case."
In one of them he gave his address at " Liverpool." It was not his real address; and, being asked why he gave it, he returned frivolous and evasive answers, until at last he said, "I gave that address, though I was not going to Liverpool, because I did not want to be bothered with them." He was anxious, said Mr. Hawkins, to get the coveted information about his family, and then to have done with them. Nearer acquaintance would be awkward. So they were put off the track by the sham direction of "Liverpool."
These visits to Wapping, so grossly imprudent as they were, he had instinctively seen fit to conceal, even from his attorney. It was his guilty conscience which led him at first to practise such concealment. But afterward he felt obliged to deny them with especial emphasis, when rumors that he was Arthur Orton began to get about.
The presence of the real Orton or proof of his death would have nearly or quite ensured the defendant's success. Yet in neither shape did assistance arrive to him; though a Mr. Spofforth advertised offering a reward of ilOOO for evidence upon either of these points, and the fact of the offer was made public at Wagga-Wagga and elsewhere.
A knowledge of localities was all-important. So, soon after his arrival, the defendant went down to Alresford in the neighborhood of Tichborne, and scouted around the place, but very surreptitiously. He did not make himself known to the family, yet he put " R. C. T." on his trunks. He secured much useful information from Rous. This person had been the clerk of one Hopkins, the old attorney of the Tichborne family, and the information which he could impart was invaluable. He and the claimant got on together wonderfully well. But the defendant preferred sedulously to avoid Hopkins, and took care to prepare himself very carefully for their meeting, when at last it was inevitable.
Gosford also, his own old and trusty friend, confidant, and counsellor, the trustee and executor under his will, — not the Australian testament, but a will made by Roger before leaving England in 1854, — the custodian of the famous sealed packet, Gosford he was loath rather than desirous to encounter. When that gentleman was at the trouble of coming all the way to Gravesend to see the heir redivivus, the defendant actually refused to meet him. But a few days afterward Gosford made a second expedition, and this time he found his man and also his man's new solicitor, Mr. Holmes. The three came to London together, Gosford upon the road putting many interrogatories to the claimant. But the claimant could not answer them, at least not correctly. Especially he was asked as to the contents of the sealed packet, and could offer no suggestion at all concerning it. Gosford thereupon made up his mind that the claimant was an impostor, and told him so very bluntly to his face.
Lady Tichborne, his mother, was at Paris. Thither he at last went to see her. But after he had come to the city, the poor lady was obliged to go to call upon him, instead of receiving the first visit from him. He was lying on his bed with his face towards the wall as she was ushered into his apartment, in the presence of two witnesses, one of them a lawyer, the other a "brewer's clerk," his friend. His account of the interview was very indistinct. He could not say who spoke first; or whether his mother recognized him " at once, or after a time, or what; " but she did recognize him in time, — indeed, it was the errand on which she had come, and she was resolved and predetermined upon the fact of the identity. They talked a long while: his answers to her questions were ludicrously wide of accuracy. He talked of his grandfather, whom Roger had never seen; said he was a private in the army, whereas Roger was an officer; said he had had St. Vitus's dance, whereas Roger had rheumatism; that he was at school at Winchester, whereas Roger was educated at Stonyhurst, so far :is he was at school at all. But the infatuated mother pardoned every blunder, and wrote: "He confuses every thing, as if in a dream; but it will not prevent me from recognizing him, though his statements differ from mine!"
A great number of photographs of letters were introduced in evidence. Mr. Hawkins called the attention of the jurors to the hope expressed at the beginning by the defendant, that the Dowager had "got some of the letters." At first no resemblance between the handwriting of Roger and of the defendant could be seen; though after 1867 a resemblance began to exist and to increase, as the result doubtless of careful practice. But the defendant and Arthur Orton wrote alike, and made some identical and very peculiar errors in spelling. For example, they both wrote "nothink" for "nothing," "lick" for "like;" both used the phrase "a-going," and other like points of resemblance would be readily noticed.
In connection with the letters may be introduced a few entertaining sentences selected by Mr. Hawkins from the defendant's diary or pocket-book. On one leaf he had written, near the time when he first set up his pretensions to be an English baronet: "Some men has plenty brains and no money; some has plenty money and no brains. Surely the men as has plenty money and no brains are made for the men as has plenty of brains and no money." * Again he wrote: " R. C. Tichborne, Bart., some day, I hope." And yet again he recorded: "I, Thomas Castro, do certify that them as thinks that is my name don't know nothink about it." The merriment caused by the reading of these extracts was loud and prolonged. On another leaf was written the address of Mary Anne Loder, the old love of Orton, but a person whose humble existence could not reasonably be supposed ever to have come to the knowledge of Tichborne.
Every one of course remembers the inquiries that were prosecuted through both hemispheres concerning the " Osprey." The custom-house registers and all manner of other records, not in England alone, but in Australia, in North America, and in South America, were diligently searched for traces of such a vessel. The story as developed during the first trial, and told by Mr. Hawkins in his opening speech, was as follows: The defendant said he had been picked up at sea by a passing vessel, and by her had been carried to the port of Melbourne in Australia. Eight sailors, he said, had been rescued with him. After some hesitation he suggested that "Osprey" was the name of the craft which picked him up. Investigation showed that an "Osprey" had indeed arrived in Melbourne in July, 1854, about four months after the wreck of the " Bella," and that this would have been a natural time for her to have arrived had she sailed from the neighborhood where the "Bella" must have been lost, direct to Mel
* This was afterward stated to be a quotation from a novel by Miss Braddoa.
bourne. But the plausibility of this simple and not intrinsically improbable tale was dispelled by a series of circumstances. The eight sailors were each entitled to wages: sailors are well aware of their rights in this respect; yet no one of these eight men had ever been heard of by any person in any form. The defendant described the "Osprey" which saved him as being much larger than the real " Osprey" that came to Melbourne, and also as having a very different complement of men. He gave a wrong name for the captain, after at first hesitating as to whether he could remember the name at all. Two other names, also, of men among the crew he finally gave. They turned out not to be the names of any persons on the real "Osprey ;" and inquiry showed that all these names had been borne by persons on board the "Middleton," the ship which, it will be remembered, carried Arthur Orton to Hobart Town in 1852. There is a custom-house, an emigration office, and a Lloyd's agency at Melbourne; but nowhere did there appear any trace of the arrival of any shipwrecked passengers at the specified time. The log of the " Osprey" had been produced, and no entry was made in it of the rescue of any person on this voyage, — a most improbable omission had the event really occurred. Altogether such a gross degree of improbability began to attach to this narrative concerning the "Osprey," that in course of time the defendant, never very positive in the matter, was tempted to change his mind concerning her, and to adopt in her place a vessel called the "Themis." There was a story that the "Themis " had landed a second-class passenger at Melbourne in 1854. This passenger had given to the captain a check for seventeen or eighteen pounds, which had never been paid. The defendant now became quite sure that it was the " Themis " that had saved him. He remembered giving the check to the captain, and hearing that the check had been presented at his banker's, but that the funds which should have been standing there to his credit had been withdrawn, and that though his relatives acknowledged the genuineness of the check, they had refused to pay it, and it had been dishonored. He hastened down to Liverpool, to follow up this new thread, and thence wrote very hopefully: "It is now beyond a doubt it was the ' Themis' picked me up. The owners and agents are doing all they can to find me evidence." He even saw the " Themis," seemed to remember her, went on board of her, and at last actually went so far as to point out the room which he said that he occupied in her. But unfortunately, before the end was reached, the investigation was somewhat over warmly and thoroughly pursued. The log of the "Themis " was found, and showed no record of the rescue of any shipwrecked mariners. The check had never been heard of at the banker's, nor by any of Roger's family; and to crown the whole, the first mate of the "Themis" in 1854 turned up in person, and absolutely shattered the whole story.
As early as August, 1850, Roger had avowed his love for his cousin, Miss Kate Doughty, the heroine as she may be called of this novelette. On January 11, 1852, the attachment was acknowledged to the parents, and in February following, they gave to it a kind of qualified and conditional sanction. But, as it would appear, Roger's conduct was far from becoming such as the parents of the young lady desired that it should be; and a due regard for their daughter's welfare impelled them in the succeeding summer to break off the match. Yet he seems not to have dismissed all hope of some ultimate favorable turn in the affair. It was in this time of anxiety, of mingled despair and hope, that Roger deposited the sealed packet with his friend and counsellor Gosford; also, afterward, having his foreign tour in his mind, he made his will. On the fifth of January, 1853, he wrote to Slaughter: "My private wishes and intentions, as I intend to have them carried out if I live, I have confided to Mr. Gosford, and I request you and Mr. Gosford to act as trustees and executors of my will." January 17 he wrote to Gosford: "I have written my will and left it with Slaughter; and the only thing I have left out is about the church, which I will only build under the circumstances which I have left with you in writing."
When the defendant was questioned in the witness-box as to the contents of this mysterious packet, he manifested extreme reluctance to reply. But being hard pressed upon cross-examination he stated that his unwillingness arose out of "considerations of delicacy for others." At first he understood from Gosford that the document confided to him was still in existence in his hands, but after a time he learned that it had been destroyed. Emboldened by this discovery he ventured to remember more about it, and in 1868 he made the following affidavit in Chancery : —