We were sitting in the drawing-room of our house at Bayswater one evening after dinner, in high good-humour. I had that day been appointed to a certain post at the British Museum which would afford me ample opportunity for the studies in ...
We were sitting in the drawing-room of our house at Bayswater one
evening after dinner, in high good-humour. I had that day been
appointed to a certain post at the British Museum which would afford
me ample opportunity for the studies in which I was most interested,
and put me in possession of what I expected to find an ample
competence. We had been talking over my prospects, and the only cloud
I could discern upon the horizon was that I should have to be at my
post at an earlier hour in the morning than was comfortably compatible
with the three-mile walk from our house to the Museum.
"What a pity," said my youngest sister Patricia, "that we don't still
live in the dear old house in Welham Square! You could have got to the
Museum from there in five minutes."
I was born after we left Welham Square, but Patricia was six years my
senior, and could remember her nursery days there.
"Not at all," said my father, very abruptly; "the walk will do you all
the good in the world."
As the old gentleman had been, to all appearance, fast asleep for at
least ten minutes, I was rather surprised at the energy with which he
spoke. Looking up, I saw my mother making anxious signals to Patricia,
which she followed up by instantly changing the subject.
A few days afterwards, as I descended reluctantly into the bowels of
the earth at the Edgware Road Metropolitan Station, on the way to my
new work for the first time, this episode recurred to my mind, and I
began to speculate upon what might be the reasons that made the
mention of Welham Square distasteful to my parents. I determined to
consult my eldest sister Ellen on the subject, and from her, and some
other sources, I gradually accumulated the facts which I will present
here in the form of a continuous narrative.
No. 11 Welham Square has always been the freehold property of my
family. It was built, together with several adjoining houses, about
the beginning of the eighteenth century by the owner of a plot of land
in which the houses stand, a retired attorney, who had two nephews.
These were Andrew Masey, my great-great-great-grandfather, and his
cousin, Ronald Masey.
Ronald, who was generally thought to be his uncle's favourite, and
probable heir, was an exceedingly tall and powerful young man, with a
forbidding and melancholy expression of coun-tenance.
As a boy he was singularly backward, and his incapacity for mental
exertion seemed to develop, as he grew up, into something not far
removed from downright idiocy. His weakness of mind caused him to be
remarkably subject to the influence of those with whom he lived, and
in particular his cousin Andrew, my ancestor, was supposed to exercise
over him an influence almost amounting to fascination, and to be able
to mould him to all the purposes of an exceptionably vigorous will.
Shortly after the building of the houses in what is now Welham Square,
the uncle of these young men died, and Andrew took possession of all
his property under the provisions, as he asserted, of a will, the
existence of which no one except Ronald had any interest in disputing,
and which no one except Andrew, the sole executor and devisee, ever
Shortly before his uncle's death, Ronald had become engaged to a young
lady named Lettice White, to whom he was passionately attached, and it
was generally supposed among the neighbours that upon his accession to
the avuncular wealth the marriage would take place. But when a barely
decent interval had occurred since the old gentleman's obsequies, the
fair Lettice was led to the altar, not by the impecunious Ronald, but
by his more fortunate cousin Andrew.
The newly married pair took up their residence in No. 11, and Ronald
came to live with them.
When it was represented to Andrew by some of his few intimate
acquaintances that this arrangement was so singular as almost to be
thought improper, he curtly gave them to understand that Ronald's
mental condition was not such as to permit of his only living relation
allowing him to live alone, and that he was compelled by the merest
considerations of family affection to take the unfortunate young man
into his own household. So the three lived on in the stately and
somewhat gaunt mansion, Andrew collecting his rents with methodical
regularity, and otherwise giving his neighbours but little concern. As
for Ronald, there soon came to be little doubt in anyone's mind of his