The Wyvern Mystery, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu


At the George Inn, a little way out of Hatherton, the boy, to his inexpressible delight, at last found Tom Orange.

He told Tom at once of his adventure at the shop window, and the occurrence darkened Tom’s countenance. He peeped out and took a long look toward Hatherton.

“Put the horse to the fly and bring it round at once,” said Tom, who put his hand in his pocket and drew forth a rather showy handful of silver.

I don’t pretend to say, when Tom was out of regular employment, from what pursuits exactly he drew his revenue. They had rather improved than otherwise; but I dare say there were anxious compensations.

The boy had eaten his breakfast before he reached Hatherton. So much the better; for the apparition of the Sergeant–Major would have left him totally without appetite. As it was, he was in an agony to be gone, every moment expecting to see him approach the little inn to arrest him and Tom.

Tom Orange was uneasy, I am sure, and very fidgety till the fly came round.

“You know Squire Fairfield of Wyvern?” said the hostess, while they were waiting.

“Ay,” said Tom.

“Did you hear the news?”

“What is it?”

“Shot the night before last in a row with poachers. Gentlemen should leave that sort o’ work to their keepers; but they was always a fightin’ wild lot, them Fairfields; and he’s lyin’ now a dead man—all the same—gave over by Doctor Willett and another—wi’ a whole charge o’ duck-shot lodged under his shoulder.”

“And that’s the news?” said Tom, raising his eyes and looking through the door. He had been looking down on the ground as Mrs. Gumford of the George told her story.

“There’s sharp fellows poachers round there, I’m told,” he said, “next time he’d a’ been out himself with the keepers to take ’em dead or alive. I suppose that wouldn’t answer them.”

“Tis a wicked world, said the lady.

“Damned wicked,” said Tom. “Here’s the fly—”

In they got and drove off.

Tom was gloomy, and very silent.

“Tom, where are we going to?” asked the boy at last.

“All right,” said Tom. “All right, my young master. You’ll find it’s to none but good friends. And, say now—Haven’t I been a good friend to you. Master Harry, all your days, sir? Many a mile that you know nothing about has Tom Orange walked on your business, and down to the cottage and back again; and where would you or her have been if it wasn’t for poor Tom Orange?”

“Yes, indeed, Tom, and I love you, Tom.”

“And now, I’ve took you away from that fellow, and I’m told I’m likely to be hanged for it. Well, no matter.”

“Oh, Tom; poor Tom! Oh! no, no, no!” and he threw his arms round Tom’s neck in a paroxysm of agonised affection, and, in spite of the jolting, kissed Tom; sometimes on the cheek, on the eyebrow, on the chin, and in a great jolt violently on the rim of his hat, and it rolled over his shoulder under their feet.

“Well, that is gratifyin’,” said Tom, drying his eyes. “There is some reward for prenciple after all, and if you come to be a great man some o’ these days, you’ll not forget poor Tom Orange, that would have spent his last bob and spilt his heart’s blood, without fee or reward, in your service.”

Another explosion of friendship from the boy assured Tom of his eternal gratitude.

“Do you know this place, sir?” asked Tom, with a return of his old manner, as making a sudden turn the little carriage drove through an open gate, and up to a large old-fashioned house. A carriage was waiting at the door.

There could be no mistake. How delightful! and who was that “Mammy” at the hall door, and in an instant they were locked in one another’s arms, and “Oh! the darlin’,” and “Mammy, mammy, mammy!” were the only words audible, half stifled in sobs and kisses.

In a minute more there came into the hall—smiling, weeping, and with hands extended toward him, the pretty lady dressed in black, and her weeping grew into a wild cry, as coming quickly she caught him to her heart. “My darling, my child, my blessed boy, you’re the image—Oh! darling, I loved you the moment I saw you, and now I know it all.”

The boy was worn out. His march, including his divergence from his intended route, had not been much less than thirty miles, and all in chill and wet.

They got him to his bed and made him thoroughly comfortable, and with mammy at his bedside, and her hand, to make quite sure of her, fast in his, he fell into a deep sleep.

Alice had already heard enough to convince her of the boy’s identity, but an urgent message from Harry, who was dying, determined her to go at once to Wyvern to see him, as he desired. So, leaving the boy in charge of “mammy,” she was soon on her way to the old seat of the Fairfields.

If Harry had not known that he was dying, no power could ever have made him confess the story he had to tell.

There were two points on which he greatly insisted.

The first was, that believing that his brother was really married to Bertha Velderkaust, he was justified in holding that his nephew had no legal right to succeed.

The second was, that he had resolved, although he might have wavered lately a little, never to marry, and to educate the boy better than ever he was educated himself, and finally to make him heir to Wyvern, pretending him to be an illegitimate son of his own.

Whether the sergeant-Major knew more than he was ordered or undertook to know, he never gave the smallest ground to conjecture. He stated exactly what had passed between him and Harry Fairfield. By him he was told that the child which was conveyed to Marjory Trevellian’s care was his own unacknowledged son.

On the very same evening, and when old Mildred Tarnley was in the house at Twyford, was a child taken, with the seeds of consumption already active in it, from a workhouse in another part of England and placed there as the son of Charles Fairfield and Alice. It was when, contrary to all assurances, this child appeared for a few days to rally, and the situation consequent on its growing up the reputed heir to Wyvern alarmed Harry, that he went over, in his panic, to the Grange, and there opened his case, that the child at Twyford was a changeling, and not his brother’s son.

When, however, the child began to sink, and its approaching death could no longer be doubtful, he became, as we have seen, once more quite clear that the baby was the same which he had taken away from Carwell Grange.

Dr. Willett’s seeing the child so often at Twyford, also prevented suspicion, though illogically enough, for had they reflected they might easily have remembered that the doctor had hardly seen the child twice after its birth while at the Grange, and that, like every one else, he took its identity for granted when he saw it at Twyford.

Alice returned greatly agitated late that evening. No difficulty any longer remained, and the boy, with ample proof to sustain his claim, was accepted as the undoubted heir to Wyvern, and the representative of the ancient family of Fairfield.

The boy, Henry Fairfield, was as happy as mortal can be, henceforward. His little playmate, the pretty little girl whom Alice had adopted, who called her “mamma,” and yet was the daughter of a distant cousin only, has now grown up, and is as a girl even more beautiful than she was as a child. Henry will be of age in a few months, and they are then to be married. They now reside at Wyvern. The estate, which has long been at nurse, is now clear, and has funded money beside.

Everything promises a happy and a prosperous reign for the young Fairfield.

Mildred Tarnley, very old, is made comfortable at Carwell Grange.

Good old Dulcibella is still living, very happy, and very kind, but grown a little huffy, being perhaps a little over petted. In all other respects, the effect of years being allowed for, she is just what she always was.

Tom Orange, with a very handsome sum presented by those whom he had served, preferred Australia to the old country.

Harry Fairfield had asserted, in his vehement way, while lying in his last hours at Wyvern, that the fellow with the handkerchief over his face who shot him was, he could all but swear, his old friend Tom Orange.

Tom swore that had he lived he would have prosecuted him for slander. As it is, that eccentric genius has prospered as the proprietor of a monster tavern at Melbourne, where there is comic and sentimental singing, and some dramatic buffooneries, and excellent devilled kidneys and brandy.

Marjory Trevellian lives with the family at Wyvern, and I think if kind old Lady Wyndale were still living the consolations of Alice would be nearly full.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57