|Newspaper Title||Devon Herald (Latrobe, Tas. : 1877 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||The Maitlands|
Edward Maitland was a wealthy landed proprietor in one of the richest pastoral districts of Victoria. He had one son, Walter, of whom he was not a little proud, but with whom he was, perhaps, a little severe. Maitland pcre was extremely afraid of his son Walter making a mesalliance—possibly, because he himself had married his father's cook, and was afraid that such little peculiarties were hereditary. However that may be, Walter was perfectly certain, that if he did marry beneath him, his father would straightway east him off with the proverbial shilling. Has was probably the reason why, with that strange . perversity _ that makes the majority . of people long for the precise thing that they are warned to shun, Mr. Walter Maitland fell ovnrlouui over head and or,* ears in J- Jove I— ™-n. with n, the pretty <-<---
daughter of John Morrison, a poor but honest selector in Gipps Land. Walter was a romantic youth in those days—he was but twenty years of ageg-and it afforded him a strange and fearful aeiight to masquerade in his shooting excursions under the name of Walter Brown. Under the name of Walter j Brown he married pretty Jane Morrison, and straightway took a anng little cottage tor her / ma suburb . of Melbourne, • — -r . jams is no use of. living under cireum- I Btaiweei wlnoh savour of the upmantio, unless j
it is done properly; and, therefore, Walter made up his mind that he would keep his wife ignorant of what he considered his exalted origin until he beoame his own master. In the meantime, he gave out that he was a commercial traveller for a soft goods house in the city. This was a very soft thing, indeed, if it had been analysed; but Mrs. Brown knew no more about softgoods than Mr. Brown, and she was, of course, under the impression that, when her husband was away visiting the paternal acres, he was perambulating the country in those gorgeous vehicles so much affected by eommeroial The only person who knew of the little comedy, besides Walter himself, was his oousin, Henry Maitland, Years rolled on, but Mr. Walter Maitland, much to the surprise of his aristooratio friends, remained a confirmed bachelor. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Brown were blessed with one fair daughter, whom the perspicuous reader will immediately reoognise as Lucy, who so strangely disappeared from the ken of her lover, 'Victor Levison. The auspicious birth of a daughter made an additional attraction to the romantic dove oote of Mr. Walter Brown alias Maitland. But Walter continued the even tenor of his way. He was happy in his cottage as Walter Brown, and be was happy on his father's station as Walter Maitland. In either case he was a happy-go-lucky, careless, .romantic dog, who hugged his own little mystery to his own heart, and never thought that any harm would come of it. All in good time he would appear as the prince in the fairy tale, and oarry his astonished wife and no less astonished child to his palatial and ancestral home. But when one, with the best intentions in the world, begins telling lies, or living lies, things don't 'pan out,' properly always. Ten years after his marriage his father died and he succeeded to the property. Now, whether it was that he was ashamed of his wife; or whether, as some have whispered, that be had another wife somewhere else ; or whether, simply that he was too easy going to alter the life which had grown habitual to him we cannot say : but, certain it is, that after the death of his father, and up to the time of his own—accidental death we were going to say, but deliberate murder is the phrase required—he continued his dual existence. Walter was always an easy going, honest, careless soul; and we don't believe a word about the rumoured second wife. His faults were numerous enough; but his principal weakness was a pernicious habit of 1 letting things slide,' and shunting off work of any kind and responsiblities of all kinds on to other shoulders. The pair of shoulders which took the most of this work were those of his consin Henry. Henry Maitland was a clever man '
with a keen, dark eye which, to a close observer, had a slightly treacherous look, and his face, when he was not wearing his society mask, had a hungry avaricious expression. A good physiognomist would have said that he was a miser; a good phrenologist would have put him down as a first class murderer; they would both have been right. Henry Maitland had a badly balanced head. He had an abnormal development of two organs— very useful in their place but dangerous when in excess—acquisitiveness and destructiveness. Henry Maitland was Walters only surviving relative. If Walter died intestate he would suc- I...U.L I'j - me ~ pnjperxy r The only thing that stood in the way was the wife and daughter. How to get over this difficulty was the question . " Watty old boy," said Henry with the assumption of bluff heartiness and good humour, which he adopted always when not absolutely alone—this assumption of good natured roughness was the mask under which he found it most convenient to do the meanest of his actions—" Watty old boy, I want to talk seriously to you." "Oh bother 1 What is it ?" " It is a matter which affects the welfare of your wife and child." " Of my wife and child?" said Walter muingly. "Yes I ought to bring them up here. What does it matter ow people will talk. arried for the last sevnteen years under an ssumed name. After ll it will only be a
nine days wonder. Yes, you are quite right, Henry, I must bring them up at once." " That is a very good resolution, bravo I' cried Henry in his most honest and effusive style: I am glad to hear you talk like that, but that is not what I was thinking about, dear boy." " Of what then ?" " Have you made your will, Walter ?" " No." "Careless fellow." " Why I don't look like dying, do I ?" " No, but we are all mortal, and if you were to die without making your will, see what possibilities of trouble might arise. You ought to think of your wife and daughter." "You are a good fellow Harry," said Walter impulsively, " let me do it at once; you're scribe enough for that I'm sure." " Of course I can do it," replied Harry slowly, " but had you not better get it done by a lawyer ?" " Oh, hang lawyers! They only confuse things. Three lines will do it. I'll leave all my iproperty to Lucy, subject to the payment of £1000 a year to my wife, and a thousand a year to you old boy, and the thing is done." " Well, yes, of course, that's simple enough, and if you wish me to do it, I'll draw up a
" Do, there's a good fellow, and then the thing will be off my mind." Next day Henry staved at home, and Walter rode into the township upon some business, Hemy was very busy all day writing out the will, in the most elaborate legal style, with the help of some legal handbooks. After writing out one will, ha wrote out another.
In the first will he had disposed of the property as Walter Maitland instructed him. In the second will, he transposed the names in such a way, as to leave the bulk of the property to "my oousin, Henry Maitland," and one thousand a year to Miss Jane Morrison, commonly known as Mrs. Walter Brown. The two pieces of foolscap were exactly the same in appearance to start with. Henry Maitland, to still further increase the deception, made a series of elaborate, but appa- I
rently accidental, blotcheB upon the first will; and then, with a most commendable patience, proceeded to make fac simile blotches upon the second will. The two wills were in appoarance, identical. After he had finished his task, Henry went to the gun rack, took out Walter's breech-loader, and took it down to the blacksmith's ah op. There was nobody about, as Henry had sent the blacksmith to hang a gate, at the extreme end of the run. With „ some curious tools, he w W W i 0 , UB worked Bwfty indasiriously, at the inside of the left hand arrel, until he was apparently satisfied,
When ho had finished, there was a perceptible crack, or groove, in the barrel, about six 'inches from the breech. This orack he filled up with grease, until it was no longer' to bo 'seen, when looking through the barrel, and having finished his work to his entire satisfaction, he returned to the house, and replaced the gun in the rack. When Walter returned in the evening, he read the will first written, with many groans at its length. "That >s about what you want, isn't it?" asked Henry cheerfully. " Oh yes!" said Walter, throwing it on the table with a sigh of relief. " I suppose you had better get in a couple of the men to witness it." Henry pioked up the will, and walking carelessly over to the fire-place, rang the bell. It did not require much sleight-of-hand to conceal the will Walter had just read, and return to his seat with the fac simile in his hand in place of the original. The housemaid now appeared in response to the ring, and she was instructed to send Thompson, the overseer, and Blake, the boundary rider, in. The fraudulent will was lying on the table. In five minutes it was duly signed, Bealed, and delivered, and in five minutes more it was securely looked up in Mr. Walter Maitland's private safe. Then Mr. Henry Maitland planned a shooting excursion for the following morning. The moBt expensive guns are not absolutely fe ; and when Mr W alter Maitland's dead body was brought into the house, Henry Maitland said he would never have confidence in one of those new-fangled breech-loaders again.