He was turning over the papers in the bureau for the third or fourth time, with trembling hands, in the desperate hope that somehow or other the missing will might have escaped former investigations, when he was arrested by a sudden exclamation from Mr. Missenden, the Plimborough surgeon. "I don't think you need look any farther, Sir Reginald," said this gentleman.
Brimsdown rolled it round his tongue as though it were a vintage port pronounced it lingeringly, rolling the "rr's" sonorously, and hissing the "ss's" with a caressing sibilant sound. Turrald of Missenden! Robert Turold was the lineal descendant of the name, and worthy of the title. Mr. Brimsdown had always felt that, from the very first. There was something noble and dominating in his presence.
He published, it is said, four pamphlets in 1815; and in 1824 brought out the first volume of his 'Slavery of the British West India Colonies delineated. This is an elaborate digest of the slave laws; and it was followed in 1830 by a second volume describing the actual working of the system. From about 1819 Stephen had a small country house at Missenden, Bucks.
As a boy he had pored over the crabbed parchments in the family deed-box which indicated but did not record the family descent, and he had vowed to devote his life to prove the descent and restore the ancient title of Turrald of Missenden to the Turolds of which he was the head.
Surely the peacock, with its incomparable parade of glorious colour and the scrannel voice of it issuing forth, as in mockery, from its painted throat, must, like my landlady's butterflies at Great Missenden, have been invented by some skilful fabulist for the consolation and support of homely virtue: or rather, perhaps, by a fabulist not quite so skilful, who made points for the moment without having a studious enough eye to the complete effect; for I thought these melting greens and blues so beautiful that afternoon, that I would have given them my vote just then before the sweetest pipe in all the spring woods.
In the early morning of his seventieth birthday, it is said, he left Missenden on foot, walked twenty-five miles to Hampstead, where he breakfasted with a son-in-law, thence walked to his office in London, and, after doing his day's work, walked out to Kensington Gore in the evening.
Great Missenden was close at hand, as she had said, in the trough of a gentle valley, with many great elms about it. The smoke from its chimneys went up pleasantly in the afternoon sunshine. The sleepy hum of a threshing-machine filled the neighbouring fields and hung about the quaint street corners.
"What do you mean?" cried Reginald, eagerly. "I believe the will is found." "Thank Heaven!" exclaimed the young man. "You mistake, Sir Reginald," said Mr. Missenden, who was kneeling by the fire-place, looking intently at some object in the polished steel fender; "if I am right, and that this really is the document in question, I fear it will be of very little use to you."
If to-morrow the blow falls, and the worst of our ill fears is realised, the girl will none the less tell stories to the child on her lap in the cottage at Great Missenden, nor the good Belgians light their candle, and mix their salad, and go orderly to bed. The next morning was sunny overhead and damp underfoot, with a thrill in the air like a reminiscence of frost.
There was a manuscript in monkish hand, setting forth, "in the name of God, Amen," the secret history of Simon, as divulged by him on his deathbed for the information of his two sons. In this confession he claimed kinship with the last Lord Turrald of Great Missenden. But he had not dared to claim the title and rich estates on his brother's death, because he was a proscribed man.