Something of the general character of Stoneground and its people has been indicated by stray allusions in the preceding narratives. We must here add that of its present population only a small part is native, the remainder having been attracted during the recent prosperous days of brickmaking, from the nearer parts of East Anglia and the Midlands. The visitor to Stoneground now finds little more than the signs of an unlovely industry, and of the hasty and inadequate housing of the people it has drawn together. Nothing in the place pleases him more than the excellent train-service which makes it easy to get away. He seldom desires a long acquaintance either with Stoneground or its people.
The impression so made upon the average visitor is, however, unjust, as first impressions often are. The few who have made further acquaintance with Stoneground have soon learned to distinguish between the permanent and the accidental features of the place, and have been astonished by nothing so much as by the unexpected evidence of French influence. Amongst the household treasures of the old inhabitants are invariably found French knick-knacks: there are pieces of French furniture in what is called “the room” of many houses. A certain ten-acre field is called the “Frenchman’s meadow.” Upon the voters’ lists hanging at the church door are to be found French names, often corrupted; and boys who run about the streets can be heard shrieking to each other such names as Bunnum, Dangibow, Planchey, and so on.
Mr. Batchel himself is possessed of many curious little articles of French handiwork—boxes deftly covered with split straws, arranged ingeniously in patterns; models of the guillotine, built of carved meat-bones, and various other pieces of handiwork, amongst them an accurate road-map of the country between Stoneground and Yarmouth, drawn upon a fly-leaf torn from some book, and bearing upon the other side the name of Jules Richepin. The latter had been picked up, according to a pencilled-note written across one corner, by a shepherd, in the year 1811.
The explanation of this French influence is simple enough. Within five miles of Stoneground a large barracks had been erected for the custody of French prisoners during the war with Bonaparte. Many thousands were confined there during the years 1808-14. The prisoners were allowed to sell what articles they could make in the barracks; and many of them, upon their release, settled in the neighbourhood, where their descendants remain. There is little curiosity amongst these descendants about their origin. The events of a century ago seem to them as remote as the Deluge, and as immaterial. To Thomas Richpin, a weakly man who blew the organ in church, Mr. Batchel shewed the map. Richpin, with a broad, black-haired skull and a narrow chin which grew a little pointed beard, had always a foreign look about him: Mr. Batchel thought it more than possible that he might be descended from the owner of the book, and told him as much upon shewing him the fly-leaf. Thomas, however, was content to observe that “his name hadn’t got no E,” and shewed no further interest in the matter. His interest in it, before we have done with him, will have become very large.
For the growing boys of Stoneground, with whom he was on generally friendly terms, Mr. Batchel formed certain clubs to provide them with occupation on winter evenings; and in these clubs, in the interests of peace and good-order, he spent a great deal of time. Sitting one December evening, in a large circle of boys who preferred the warmth of the fire to the more temperate atmosphere of the tables, he found Thomas Richpin the sole topic of conversation.
“We seen Mr. Richpin in Frenchman’s Meadow last night,” said one.
“What time?” said Mr. Batchel, whose function it was to act as a sort of fly-wheel, and to carry the conversation over dead points. He had received the information with some little surprise, because Frenchman’s Meadow was an unusual place for Richpin to have been in, but his question had no further object than to encourage talk.
“Half-past nine,” was the reply.
This made the question much more interesting. Mr. Batchel, on the preceding evening, had taken advantage of a warmed church to practise upon the organ. He had played it from nine o’clock until ten, and Richpin had been all that time at the bellows.
“Are you sure it was half-past nine?” he asked.
“Yes,” (we reproduce the answer exactly), “we come out o’ night-school at quarter-past, and we was all goin’ to the Wash to look if it was friz.”
“And you saw Mr. Richpin in Frenchman’s Meadow?” said Mr. Batchel.
“Yes. He was looking for something on the ground,” added another boy.
“And his trousers was tore,” said a third.
The story was clearly destined to stand in no need of corroboration.
“Did Mr. Richpin speak to you?” enquired Mr. Batchel.
“No, we run away afore he come to us,” was the answer.
“Because we was frit.”
“What frightened you?”
“Jim Lallement hauled a flint at him and hit him in the face, and he didn’t take no notice, so we run away.”
“Why?” repeated Mr. Batchel.
“Because he never hollered nor looked at us, and it made us feel so funny.”
“Did you go straight down to the Wash?”
They had all done so.
“What time was it when you reached home?”
They had all been at home by ten, before Richpin had left the church.
“Why do they call it Frenchman’s Meadow?” asked another boy, evidently anxious to change the subject.
Mr. Batchel replied that the meadow had probably belonged to a Frenchman whose name was not easy to say, and the conversation after this was soon in another channel. But, furnished as he was with an unmistakeable alibi, the story about Richpin and the torn trousers, and the flint, greatly puzzled him.
“Go straight home,” he said, as the boys at last bade him good-night, “and let us have no more stone-throwing.” They were reckless boys, and Richpin, who used little discretion in reporting their misdemeanours about the church, seemed to Mr. Batchel to stand in real danger.
Frenchman’s Meadow provided ten acres of excellent pasture, and the owners of two or three hard-worked horses were glad to pay three shillings a week for the privilege of turning them into it. One of these men came to Mr. Batchel on the morning which followed the conversation at the club.
“I’m in a bit of a quandary about Tom Richpin,” he began.
This was an opening that did not fail to command Mr. Batchel’s attention. “What is it?” he said.
“I had my mare in Frenchman’s Meadow,” replied the man, “and Sam Bower come and told me last night as he heard her gallopin’ about when he was walking this side the hedge.”
“But what about Richpin?” said Mr. Batchel.
“Let me come to it,” said the other. “My mare hasn’t got no wind to gallop, so I up and went to see to her, and there she was sure enough, like a wild thing, and Tom Richpin walking across the meadow.”
“Was he chasing her?” asked Mr. Batchel, who felt the absurdity of the question as he put it.
“He was not,” said the man, “but what he could have been doin’ to put the mare into that state, I can’t think.”
“What was he doing when you saw him?” asked Mr. Batchel.
“He was walking along looking for something he’d dropped, with his trousers all tore to ribbons, and while I was catchin’ the mare, he made off.”
“He was easy enough to find, I suppose?” said Mr. Batchel.
“That’s the quandary I was put in,” said the man. “I took the mare home and gave her to my lad, and straight I went to Richpin’s, and found Tom havin’ his supper, with his trousers as good as new.”
“You’d made a mistake,” said Mr. Batchel.
“But how come the mare to make it too?” said the other.
“What did you say to Richpin?” asked Mr. Batchel.
“Tom,” I says, “when did you come in? ‘Six o’clock,’ he says, ‘I bin mendin’ my boots’; and there, sure enough, was the hobbin’ iron by his chair, and him in his stockin’-feet. I don’t know what to do.”
“Give the mare a rest,” said Mr. Batchel, “and say no more about it.”
“I don’t want to harm a pore creature like Richpin,” said the man, “but a mare’s a mare, especially where there’s a family to bring up.” The man consented, however, to abide by Mr. Batchel’s advice, and the interview ended. The evenings just then were light, and both the man and his mare had seen something for which Mr. Batchel could not, at present, account. The worst way, however, of arriving at an explanation is to guess it. He was far too wise to let himself wander into the pleasant fields of conjecture, and had determined, even before the story of the mare had finished, upon the more prosaic path of investigation.
Mr. Batchel, either from strength or indolence of mind, as the reader may be pleased to determine, did not allow matters even of this exciting kind, to disturb his daily round of duty. He was beginning to fear, after what he had heard of the Frenchman’s Meadow, that he might find it necessary to preach a plain sermon upon the Witch of Endor, for he foresaw that there would soon be some ghostly talk in circulation. In small communities, like that of Stoneground, such talk arises upon very slight provocation, and here was nothing at all to check it. Richpin was a weak and timid man, whom no one would suspect, whilst an alternative remained open, of wandering about in the dark; and Mr. Batchel knew that the alternative of an apparition, if once suggested, would meet with general acceptance, and this he wished, at all costs, to avoid. His own view of the matter he held in reserve, for the reasons already stated, but he could not help suspecting that there might be a better explanation of the name “Frenchman’s Meadow” than he had given to the boys at their club.
Afternoons, with Mr. Batchel, were always spent in making pastoral visits, and upon the day our story has reached he determined to include amongst them a call upon Richpin, and to submit him to a cautious cross-examination. It was evident that at least four persons, all perfectly familiar with his appearance, were under the impression that they had seen him in the meadow, and his own statement upon the matter would be at least worth hearing.
Richpin’s home, however, was not the first one visited by Mr. Batchel on that afternoon. His friendly relations with the boys has already been mentioned, and it may now be added that this friendship was but part of a generally keen sympathy with young people of all ages, and of both sexes. Parents knew much less than he did of the love affairs of their young people; and if he was not actually guilty of match-making, he was at least a very sympathetic observer of the process. When lovers had their little differences, or even their greater ones, it was Mr. Batchel, in most cases, who adjusted them, and who suffered, if he failed, hardly less than the lovers themselves.
It was a negotiation of this kind which, on this particular day, had given precedence to another visit, and left Richpin until the later part of the afternoon. But the matter of the Frenchman’s Meadow had, after all, not to wait for Richpin. Mr. Batchel was calculating how long he should be in reaching it, when he found himself unexpectedly there. Selina Broughton had been a favourite of his from her childhood; she had been sufficiently good to please him, and naughty enough to attract and challenge him; and when at length she began to walk out with Bob Rockfort, who was another favourite, Mr. Batchel rubbed his hands in satisfaction. Their present difference, which now brought him to the Broughtons’ cottage, gave him but little anxiety. He had brought Bob half-way towards reconciliation, and had no doubt of his ability to lead Selina to the same place. They would finish the journey, happily enough, together.
But what has this to do with the Frenchman’s Meadow? Much every way. The meadow was apt to be the rendezvous of such young people as desired a higher degree of privacy than that afforded by the public paths; and these two had gone there separately the night before, each to nurse a grievance against the other. They had been at opposite ends, as it chanced, of the field; and Bob, who believed himself to be alone there, had been awakened from his reverie by a sudden scream. He had at once run across the field, and found Selina sorely in need of him. Mr. Batchel’s work of reconciliation had been there and then anticipated, and Bob had taken the girl home in a condition of great excitement to her mother. All this was explained, in breathless sentences, by Mrs. Broughton, by way of accounting for the fact that Selina was then lying down in “the room.”
There was no reason why Mr. Batchel should not see her, of course, and he went in. His original errand had lapsed, but it was now replaced by one of greater interest. Evidently there was Selina’s testimony to add to that of the other four; she was not a girl who would scream without good cause, and Mr. Batchel felt that he knew how his question about the cause would be answered, when he came to the point of asking it.
He was not quite prepared for the form of her answer, which she gave without any hesitation. She had seen Mr. Richpin “looking for his eyes.” Mr. Batchel saved for another occasion the amusement to be derived from the curiously illogical answer. He saw at once what had suggested it. Richpin had until recently had an atrocious squint, which an operation in London had completely cured. This operation, of which, of course, he knew nothing, he had described, in his own way, to anyone who would listen, and it was commonly believed that his eyes had ceased to be fixtures. It was plain, however, that Selina had seen very much what had been seen by the other four. Her information was precise, and her story perfectly coherent. She preserved a maidenly reticence about his trousers, if she had noticed them; but added a new fact, and a terrible one, in her description of the eyeless sockets. No wonder she had screamed. It will be observed that Mr. Richpin was still searching, if not looking, for something upon the ground.
Mr. Batchel now proceeded to make his remaining visit. Richpin lived in a little cottage by the church, of which cottage the Vicar was the indulgent landlord. Richpin’s creditors were obliged to shew some indulgence, because his income was never regular and seldom sufficient. He got on in life by what is called “rubbing along,” and appeared to do it with surprisingly little friction. The small duties about the church, assigned to him out of charity, were overpaid. He succeeded in attracting to himself all the available gifts of masculine clothing, of which he probably received enough and to sell, and he had somehow wooed and won a capable, if not very comely, wife, who supplemented his income by her own labour, and managed her house and husband to admiration.
Richpin, however, was not by any means a mere dependent upon charity. He was, in his way, a man of parts. All plants, for instance, were his friends, and he had inherited, or acquired, great skill with fruit-trees, which never failed to reward his treatment with abundant crops. The two or three vines, too, of the neighbourhood, he kept in fine order by methods of his own, whose merit was proved by their success. He had other skill, though of a less remunerative kind, in fashioning toys out of wood, cardboard, or paper; and every correctly-behaving child in the parish had some such product of his handiwork. And besides all this, Richpin had a remarkable aptitude for making music. He could do something upon every musical instrument that came in his way, and, but for his voice, which was like that of the peahen, would have been a singer. It was his voice that had secured him the situation of organ-blower, as one remote from all incitement to join in the singing in church.
Like all men who have not wit enough to defend themselves by argument, Richpin had a plaintive manner. His way of resenting injury was to complain of it to the next person he met, and such complaints as he found no other means of discharging, he carried home to his wife, who treated his conversation just as she treated the singing of the canary, and other domestic sounds, being hardly conscious of it until it ceased.
The entrance of Mr. Batchel, soon after his interview with Selina, found Richpin engaged in a loud and fluent oration. The fluency was achieved mainly by repetition, for the man had but small command of words, but it served none the less to shew the depth of his indignation.
“I aren’t bin in Frenchman’s Meadow, am I?” he was saying in appeal to his wife—this is the Stoneground way with auxiliary verbs—“What am I got to go there for?” He acknowledged Mr. Batchel’s entrance in no other way than by changing to the third person in his discourse, and he continued without pause—“if she’d let me out o’ nights, I’m got better places to go to than Frenchman’s Meadow. Let policeman stick to where I am bin, or else keep his mouth shut. What call is he got to say I’m bin where I aren’t bin?”
From this, and much more to the same effect, it was clear that the matter of the meadow was being noised abroad, and even receiving official attention. Mr. Batchel was well aware that no question he could put to Richpin, in his present state, would change the flow of his eloquence, and that he had already learned as much as he was likely to learn. He was content, therefore, to ascertain from Mrs. Richpin that her husband had indeed spent all his evenings at home, with the single exception of the one hour during which Mr. Batchel had employed him at the organ. Having ascertained this, he retired, and left Richpin to talk himself out.
No further doubt about the story was now possible. It was not twenty-four hours since Mr. Batchel had heard it from the boys at the club, and it had already been confirmed by at least two unimpeachable witnesses. He thought the matter over, as he took his tea, and was chiefly concerned in Richpin’s curious connexion with it. On his account, more than on any other, it had become necessary to make whatever investigation might be feasible, and Mr. Batchel determined, of course, to make the next stage of it in the meadow itself.
The situation of “Frenchman’s Meadow” made it more conspicuous than any other enclosure in the neighbourhood. It was upon the edge of what is locally known as “high land”; and though its elevation was not great, one could stand in the meadow and look sea-wards over many miles of flat country, once a waste of brackish water, now a great chess-board of fertile fields bounded by straight dykes of glistening water. The point of view derived another interest from looking down upon a long straight bank which disappeared into the horizon many miles away, and might have been taken for a great railway embankment of which no use had been made. It was, in fact, one of the great works of the Dutch Engineers in the time of Charles I., and it separated the river basin from a large drained area called the “Middle Level,” some six feet below it. In this embankment, not two hundred yards below “Frenchman’s Meadow,” was one of the huge water gates which admitted traffic through a sluice, into the lower level, and the picturesque thatched cottage of the sluice-keeper formed a pleasing addition to the landscape. It was a view with which Mr. Batchel was naturally very familiar. Few of his surroundings were pleasant to the eye, and this was about the only place to which he could take a visitor whom he desired to impress favourably. The way to the meadow lay through a short lane, and he could reach it in five minutes: he was frequently there.
It was, of course, his intention to be there again that evening: to spend the night there, if need be, rather than let anything escape him. He only hoped he should not find half the parish there also. His best hope of privacy lay in the inclemency of the weather; the day was growing colder, and there was a north-east wind, of which Frenchman’s Meadow would receive the fine edge.
Mr. Batchel spent the next three hours in dealing with some arrears of correspondence, and at nine o’clock put on his thickest coat and boots, and made his way to the meadow. It became evident, as he walked up the lane, that he was to have company. He heard many voices, and soon recognised the loudest amongst them. Jim Lallement was boasting of the accuracy of his aim: the others were not disputing it, but were asserting their own merits in discordant chorus. This was a nuisance, and to make matters worse, Mr. Batchel heard steps behind him.
A voice soon bade him “Good evening.” To Mr. Batchel’s great relief it proved to be the policeman, who soon overtook him. The conversation began on his side.
“Curious tricks, sir, these of Richpin’s.”
“What tricks?” asked Mr. Batchel, with an air of innocence.
“Why, he’s been walking about Frenchman’s Meadow these three nights, frightening folk and what all.”
“Richpin has been at home every night, and all night long,” said Mr. Batchel.
“I’m talking about where he was, not where he says he was,” said the policeman. “You can’t go behind the evidence.”
“But Richpin has evidence too. I asked his wife.”
“You know, sir, and none better, that wives have got to obey. Richpin wants to be took for a ghost, and we know that sort of ghost. Whenever we hear there’s a ghost, we always know there’s going to be turkeys missing.”
“But there are real ghosts sometimes, surely?” said Mr. Batchel.
“No,” said the policeman, “me and my wife have both looked, and there’s no such thing.”
“Looked where?” enquired Mr. Batchel.
“In the ‘Police Duty’ Catechism. There’s lunatics, and deserters, and dead bodies, but no ghosts.”
Mr. Batchel accepted this as final. He had devised a way of ridding himself of all his company, and proceeded at once to carry it into effect. The two had by this time reached the group of boys.
“These are all stone-throwers,” said he, loudly.
There was a clatter of stones as they dropped from the hands of the boys.
“These boys ought all to be in the club instead of roaming about here damaging property. Will you take them there, and see them safely in? If Richpin comes here, I will bring him to the station.”
The policeman seemed well pleased with the suggestion. No doubt he had overstated his confidence in the definition of the “Police Duty.” Mr. Batchel, on his part, knew the boys well enough to be assured that they would keep the policeman occupied for the next half-hour, and as the party moved slowly away, felt proud of his diplomacy.
There was no sign of any other person about the field gate, which he climbed readily enough, and he was soon standing in the highest part of the meadow and peering into the darkness on every side.
It was possible to see a distance of about thirty yards; beyond that it was too dark to distinguish anything. Mr. Batchel designed a zig-zag course about the meadow, which would allow of his examining it systematically and as rapidly as possible, and along this course he began to walk briskly, looking straight before him as he went, and pausing to look well about him when he came to a turn. There were no beasts in the meadow—their owners had taken the precaution of removing them; their absence was, of course, of great advantage to Mr. Batchel.
In about ten minutes he had finished his zig-zag path and arrived at the other corner of the meadow; he had seen nothing resembling a man. He then retraced his steps, and examined the field again, but arrived at his starting point, knowing no more than when he had left it. He began to fear the return of the policeman as he faced the wind and set upon a third journey.
The third journey, however, rewarded him. He had reached the end of his second traverse, and was looking about him at the angle between that and the next, when he distinctly saw what looked like Richpin crossing his circle of vision, and making straight for the sluice. There was no gate on that side of the field; the hedge, which seemed to present no obstacle to the other, delayed Mr. Batchel considerably, and still retains some of his clothing, but he was not long through before he had again marked his man. It had every appearance of being Richpin. It went down the slope, crossed the plank that bridged the lock, and disappeared round the corner of the cottage, where the entrance lay.
Mr. Batchel had had no opportunity of confirming the gruesome observation of Selina Broughton, but had seen enough to prove that the others had not been romancing. He was not a half-minute behind the figure as it crossed the plank over the lock—it was slow going in the darkness—and he followed it immediately round the corner of the house. As he expected, it had then disappeared.
Mr. Batchel knocked at the door, and admitted himself, as his custom was. The sluice-keeper was in his kitchen, charring a gate post. He was surprised to see Mr. Batchel at that hour, and his greeting took the form of a remark to that effect.
“I have been taking an evening walk,” said Mr. Batchel. “Have you seen Richpin lately?”
“I see him last Saturday week,” replied the sluice-keeper, “not since.”
“Do you feel lonely here at night?”
“No,” replied the sluice-keeper, “people drop in at times. There was a man in on Monday, and another yesterday.”
“Have you had no one to-day?” said Mr. Batchel, coming to the point.
The answer showed that Mr. Batchel had been the first to enter the door that day, and after a little general conversation he brought his visit to an end.
It was now ten o’clock. He looked in at Richpin’s cottage, where he saw a light burning, as he passed. Richpin had tired himself early, and had been in bed since half-past eight. His wife was visibly annoyed at the rumours which had upset him, and Mr. Batchel said such soothing words as he could command, before he left for home.
He congratulated himself, prematurely, as he sat before the fire in his study, that the day was at an end. It had been cold out of doors, and it was pleasant to think things over in the warmth of the cheerful fire his housekeeper never failed to leave for him. The reader will have no more difficulty than Mr. Batchel had in accounting for the resemblance between Richpin and the man in the meadow. It was a mere question of family likeness. That the ancestor had been seen in the meadow at some former time might perhaps be inferred from its traditional name. The reason for his return, then and now, was a matter of mere conjecture, and Mr. Batchel let it alone.
The next incident has, to some, appeared incredible, which only means, after all, that it has made demands upon their powers of imagination and found them bankrupt.
Critics of story-telling have used severe language about authors who avail themselves of the short-cut of coincidence. “That must be reserved, I suppose,” said Mr. Batchel, when he came to tell of Richpin, “for what really happens; and that fiction is a game which must be played according to the rules.”
“I know,” he went on to say, “that the chances were some millions to one against what happened that night, but if that makes it incredible, what is there left to believe?”
It was thereupon remarked by someone in the company, that the credible material would not be exhausted.
“I doubt whether anything happens,” replied Mr. Batchel in his dogmatic way, “without the chances being a million to one against it. Why did they choose such a word? What does ‘happen’ mean?”
There was no reply: it was clearly a rhetorical question.
“Is it incredible,” he went on, “that I put into the plate last Sunday the very half-crown my uncle tipped me with in 1881, and that I spent next day?”
“Was that the one you put in?” was asked by several.
“How do I know?” replied Mr. Batchel, “but if I knew the history of the half-crown I did put in, I know it would furnish still more remarkable coincidences.”
All this talk arose out of the fact that at midnight on the eventful day, whilst Mr. Batchel was still sitting by his study fire, he had news that the cottage at the sluice had been burnt down. The thatch had been dry; there was, as we know, a stiff east-wind, and an hour had sufficed to destroy all that was inflammable. The fire is still spoken of in Stoneground with great regret. There remains only one building in the place of sufficient merit to find its way on to a postcard.
It was just at midnight that the sluice-keeper rung at Mr. Batchel’s door. His errand required no apology. The man had found a night-fisherman to help him as soon as the fire began, and with two long sprits from a lighter they had made haste to tear down the thatch, and upon this had brought down, from under the ridge at the South end, the bones and some of the clothing of a man. Would Mr. Batchel come down and see?
Mr. Batchel put on his coat and returned to the place. The people whom the fire had collected had been kept on the further side of the water, and the space about the cottage was vacant. Near to the smouldering heap of ruin were the remains found under the thatch. The fingers of the right hand still firmly clutched a sheep bone which had been gnawed as a dog would gnaw it.
“Starved to death,” said the sluice-keeper, “I see a tramp like that ten years ago.”
They laid the bones decently in an outhouse, and turned the key, Mr. Batchel carried home in his hand a metal cross, threaded upon a cord. He found an engraved figure of Our Lord on the face of it, and the name of Pierre Richepin upon the back. He went next day to make the matter known to the nearest Priest of the Roman Faith, with whom he left the cross. The remains, after a brief inquest, were interred in the cemetery, with the rites of the Church to which the man had evidently belonged.
Mr. Batchel’s deductions from the whole circumstances were curious, and left a great deal to be explained. It seemed as if Pierre Richepin had been disturbed by some premonition of the fire, but had not foreseen that his mortal remains would escape; that he could not return to his own people without the aid of his map, but had no perception of the interval that had elapsed since he had lost it. This map Mr. Batchel put into his pocket-book next day when he went to Thomas Richpin for certain other information about his surviving relatives.
Richpin had a father, it appeared, living a few miles away in Jakesley Fen, and Mr. Batchel concluded that he was worth a visit. He mounted his bicycle, therefore, and made his way to Jakesley that same afternoon.
Mr. Richpin was working not far from home, and was soon brought in. He and his wife shewed great courtesy to their visitor, whom they knew well by repute. They had a well-ordered house, and with a natural and dignified hospitality, asked him to take tea with them. It was evident to Mr. Batchel that there was a great gulf between the elder Richpin and his son; the former was the last of an old race, and the latter the first of a new. In spite of the Board of Education, the latter was vastly the worse.
The cottage contained some French kickshaws which greatly facilitated the enquiries Mr. Batchel had come to make. They proved to be family relics.
“My grandfather,” said Mr. Richpin, as they sat at tea, “was a prisoner—he and his brother.”
“Your grandfather was Pierre Richepin?” asked Mr. Batchel.
“No! Jules,” was the reply. “Pierre got away.”
“Shew Mr. Batchel the book,” said his wife.
The book was produced. It was a Book of Meditations, with the name of Jules Richepin upon the title-page. The fly-leaf was missing. Mr. Batchel produced the map from his pocket-book. It fitted exactly. The slight indentures along the torn edge fell into their place, and Mr. Batchel left the leaf in the book, to the great delight of the old couple, to whom he told no more of the story than he thought fit.