I hoped to see him when he returned, but was not destined to do so until two years later.
Before relating my unexpected meeting with him in 1881, I must describe a certain somewhat remarkable case which I was so fortunate as to have put into my hands shortly after my return from the country.
It was one day in October that a distinguished-looking gentleman of about fifty-five entered my office, introduced himself as Mr. Crabshaw, and asked me to take the following case.
An old woman named Nancy Blake had recently died in Virginia, leaving a large amount of property. This Nancy Blake had lived for over half a century all alone, and almost entirely secluded. She had left neither will nor near relatives, and the question was, who is her nearest of kin? My visitor informed me that long ago he had known of the existence of an eccentric woman in Virginia,—a great-aunt of his now deceased wife. Nothing had been heard from her, however, for twenty-five years, and it was supposed that she was dead; but he had just received information that led him to believe in the identity of the old lady Blake with the aforementioned great-aunt. If the relationship could be established, then his daughter Cecilia would be the true heir. Her claim had been brought to the attention of the court, and she bad been informed that there was another claimant. Would I undertake the case? After a long talk with Mr. Crabshaw, I decided that I would do so. I agreed to call at his house the next day and have another talk with him, and also meet his daughter, preparatory to my trip to Virginia.
Mr. Crabshaw, who, as I subsequently learned, was descended from an English family which had been represented in this country for two generations only, lived in the famous and once aristocratic quarter of Boston known as West End. A short residence on our republican soil had done little to Americanize the Crabshaw family, who lived in true English style. The household consisted only of Mr. Crabshaw and his one daughter, Cecilia, and a small retinue of servants, although he was not possessed of any very large wealth. My first meeting with Miss Crabshaw was at once a pleasure and a surprise; the first because she was a most charming young lady, and the latter because she was the original of the picture shown me a few months before by Christopher Gault. I did not mention the coincidence, however, but proceeded directly to the business in hand. Miss Cecilia was an exceedingly sensible and intelligent young lady and I could get more needed information in ten minutes from her than in half an hour from the old gentleman.
The last time that I met Mr. Crabshaw before going to Virginia, I mentioned having met Mr. Gault the summer before.
“You got acquainted with him then, did you? I am very glad to know it. He is a fine young man—a very estimable fellow, sir. I have always known the family, and always liked Christopher. As you are very likely aware, he thinks a great deal of Cecilia, and she is a pretty firm friend of his. Now that is all very well, sir, as long as they don’t get sentimental, or anything of that kind.”