Treasure by Lucy
A garden in the west of England some two and a half centuries ago;
an old-world garden, with prim yew hedges and a sundial, and, in one
shady and sequestered nook, two persons standing; one, a man some forty
years of age, tall and handsome, the other a lady of grace and beauty
some fifteen years his junior. Both were cloaked and muffled and spoke
in low and anxious tones.
An anxious task well done, sweetheart, the husband said at length,
in tones of satisfaction; and now, my darling, remember that this
secret lies betwixt thou and I. Be heedful in keeping itfor thine own
sake and that of our little babe. Should evil times arise, this hidden
treasure may yet prove provision for our boy and for thee. So saying,
he drew her arm within his own and led her into the house.
Sir Ralph Trevern had strongly espoused the Royal cause from the
commencement of the Civil troubles, and was now paying a hurried visit
to his home, to conceal his chief valuables, and to arrange for the
departure of his wife Sybil and his baby heir to Exeter; a town still
loyal to the king, and where he hoped his wife and babe would be safer
than in their remote Devonshire Manor House amid neighbours of
At Exeter Sybil Trevern remained until the city was forced to
capitulate in the spring of 1646; and then, widowed and landless (for
Sir Ralph had fallen at Marston Moor and his estate had been
confiscated), she was thankful to accept the invitation of some
Royalist friends, who had accompanied the queen, Henrietta Maria, in
her secret flight to France some while before, and journeyed, with her
babe, to join them in Paris.
There was no opportunity for Sybil Trevern to return to her old
home, now in the possession of enemies; and, remembering her husband's
strict charge of secrecy, she was reluctant to mention the hidden
treasure, even to her friends.
I will reveal it to our boy when he is of an age to understand it,
thought Lady Trevern; but she never lived to see her son grow into
manhood, or even into youth.
The trials and sorrows which had befallen her had told upon the
gentle woman; and while the little Ralph was still a child, his mother
passed into the Silent Land.
The concealment of valuables in secret places frequently results in
misadventure. Sybil had often described to her little son the concealed
valuables, which, if the exiled Royalists were ever able to re-visit
England, she hoped to recover for herself and for him; and, in later
years, Sir Ralph could still recall the enigmatical words in which his
mother had (possibly with the idea that the rhyme might, as it did,
cling to his childish memory) spoken to him of the hidden treasure.
Near the water, by the fern,
The Trevern secret you shall learn,
had often been whispered into his childish ears, and this rhyme was
now the only clue that he possessed to the hiding-place of all that
remained of his family's fortunes. The articles heedfully concealed by
the elder Sir Ralph were of no small value. Besides papers and
documents of some moment to the family, and some heirlooms (antique
silver so prized as to have been exempted, even by the devoted
Royalists, from contribution to the king's war treasure chest, for
which the University of Oxford, and many a loyal family, had melted
down their plate), Sir Ralph had hidden a most valuable collection of
jewels, notably a necklace of rubies and diamonds, which had been a
treasured possession of the Treverns since the days of Elizabeth, when
one of the family had turned gentleman adventurer, become a companion
of Drake and Hawkins, and won it as a prize from a Spanish galloon.
In his childhood, the present Sir Ralph had heard (from old servants
as well as from his mother) descriptions of these treasured jewels; but
the secret of their hiding-place now rested with the dead.
Sir Ralph grew to manhood, returned to England at the Restoration,
and finally, after much suing and delay, succeeded in obtaining
repossession of his small paternal estate. Then, for many months, did
he devote himself to a careful, but utterly unavailing, search about
his property, vainly seeking along the lake-side and all round the big
pond for the concealed valuablesbut never finding aught but
disappointment. The neighbours said that the silent, morose man, who
spent his days walking about the estate with bent head and anxious,
searching eyes, had become a trifle crazed; and indeed his fruitless
search after his hidden wealth had grown into a monomania.
As the years rolled by, Sir Ralph became a soured and misanthropic
man; for his estate had returned to him in a ruinous and burthened
condition, and the acquisition of his hidden treasure was really
necessary to clear off incumbrances and to repair the family fortunes.
Lady Trevern often assured her husband that it was more than
probable that the late Cromwellian proprietor had discovered the jewels
during his occupancy, and that, like a prudent man, he kept his own
counsel in the matter. But Sir Ralph still clung to the belief that
somewhere in his grounds, near the water and by the fern, the wealth
he now so sorely needed lay concealed. That in this faith Sir Ralph
lived and died was proved by his will, in which he bequeathed to the
younger of his two sons, and to his heirs, the jewels and other
specified valuables which the testator firmly believed were still
concealed somewhere about the Trevern property. The widowed Lady
Trevern, however, was a capable and practically-minded woman, little
inclined to set much value upon this visionary idea of treasure
trove. She was most reluctant to see her sons waste their lives in a
hopeless search after the missing property, and succeeded in impressing
both her children with her own views regarding the utter hopelessness
of their father's quest. And, as the years passed away, the story of
the Trevern Treasure became merely a kind of family legend. The
ferns said nothing, and the water kept its secret.
Fortune was not more kindly to the Treverns in the eighteenth
century than she had been in the seventeenth. Roger Trevern, the elder
son and inheritor of the estate, found it a hard struggle to maintain
himself and his large family upon the impoverished property, while the
younger son Richard, the designated heir of the missing treasure,
became implicated in the Jacobite rising of 1715, was forced to fly to
Holland after Mar's defeat, and died in exile, a few years after the
disaster of Sherrifmuir, bequeathing a destitute orphan girl to his
Roger Trevern, a most kindly man, welcomed this addition to his
already large family without a murmur; and little Mary Trevern grew up
with her cousins, beloved and kindly treated by all in the household.
It was only as the child grew into womanhood that a change came over
Madam Trevern's feelings towards her young niece; for Madam Trevern was
a shrewd and sensible woman, a devoted, but also an ambitious, mother.
Much as she liked sweet Mary Trevern, she had no desire to see her
eldest son, the youthful heir of the sadly encumbered estate, wedded to
a portionless bride, however comely and amiable. And Dick Trevern had
lately been exhibiting a marked preference for his pretty cousin, a
fact which greatly disturbed his mother's peace of mind.
Mary herself knew this, and did not resent her aunt's feelings in
the matter. The girl, as one of the elders among the children, had long
been familiar with the story of the family straits and struggles, and
could only acquiesce (though with a stifled sigh) in Madam Trevern's
oft repeated axiom that whenever Dick wedded, his bride must bring
with her sufficient dowry to free the estate from some of the
mortgages which were crushing and crippling it. Mary knew that a
marriage between herself and Dick could only result in bringing
troubles upon bothand yetand yetlove and prudence do not often go
hand-in-handand although no word of actual wooing had ever passed
between the young folk, both had, unfortunately, learned to love each
other but too well. Wistfully did she think of that hidden treasure,
now but a forlorn hope, yet all the hope she had.
And had the poor child but a dowry there is none to whom I would
sooner see our Dick wedded, Madam Trevern once remarked to her
husband; for Molly is a good girl, and like a daughter to us already.
But, Roger, 'tis but sheer midsummer madness to dream of such a
marriage now; truly 'twould be but 'hunger marrying thirst.' Dick must
seek for a bride who at least brings some small fortune with her; and
is there not Mistress Cynthia at the Hall, young and comely, and well
dowered, casting eyes of favour upon him already?
Roger Trevern sighed a little; he honestly liked Mary, and would
have welcomed her heartily as a daughter-in-law, though prudent
considerations told him that his wife spoke truly regarding the
hopelessness of such a marriage for his son.
And then Madam Trevern went on to discuss with her husband the
scheme she had now much at heart, viz., the separation of the young
folks by the transference of Mary to the family of a distant kinsman in
You do but lose your youth buried here with us, child, said Madam
Trevern to Mary, with kindly hypocrisy one day, while with our cousin
Martin, who would be glad enough to take a bright young maid like thee
to be companion to his ailing wife, thou mayst see the world, and
perchance make a great marriage, which will cause thee to look down
upon us poor Devon rustics. But Mary wept silently, though she was
ready, even willing, to go to London as desired.
It was the girl's last day in the old home; her modest outfit had
been prepared and packed, and the old waggoner was to call on the
morrow to convey Mary and her uncle (who was to be her escort to the
wonderful, far-off London town") to Exeter; whence, by slow and
tedious stages, the travellers would reach the metropolis at last.
Dick, who had been astutely sent away from home for a few weeks,
knew nothing of his cousin's intended departureMadam Trevern had
purposely schemed thus to escape any farewells between the young
people, arranging Mary's London visit very suddenly; and perhaps 'twas
the wisest, the girl sighed to herself as she wandered for the last
time round the old, familiar garden, and seated herself, alone!
on the mossy well curb, where she and Dick had so often sat and talked
together on sweet summer evenings in the past.
Mary's heart was indeed sad within her, and visions of what might
have been would keep welling up before her. Oh! if only some good
fairy had been keeping back the secret of the hidden treasure to reveal
it now, how happy it would be.
Her solitary musings were, however, put to flight by the appearance
of the younger children, with whom she was a great favourite, and who
had gained an hour's respite from their usual bed-time upon this,
their cousin's last night at home. Tom, and Will, and Sally, and Ben,
had indeed received the tidings of their beloved Molly's impending
departure with great dismay; and their vociferous lamentations were
hardly to be checked by their mother's assurances that one day Cousin
Molly might come back to see them, when she was a great lady, riding
in her coach and six, and would bring them picture-books and gilt
It was with a strange pang at her heart that Mary now submitted to
the loving, if rather boisterous, caresses of the urchins who climbed
her lap and clung around her neck.
But Mary had not chosen her quiet seat with a view to childhood's
romps or she had chosen a safer one. As it was the shout of merriment
was quickly followed by a sudden cry, a splash, and a simultaneous
exclamation of dismay from Mary and the children. Will, the youngest,
most troublesome, and therefore best beloved of the family, the
four-years-old baby, had slipped on the curb of the well,
overbalanced himself, and fallen in; dropping a toy into the water as
he did so. In a moment Mary was on her feet. Seizing the bucket, she
called the elder boys to work the windlass, and, with firm, but quiet
instructions and a face as white as death, consigned herself to the
Near the bottom of the well, which was not very deep, she came upon
her little cousin suspended by his clothes to a hook fastened in the
well side. She was not long in disengaging the little fellow's clothes
from the friendly hook, and was about to signal to be drawn up, when
beneath the hook, and explanatory of itnear the water, by the
fernwhat was it? A large hole in the side of the well, and in
itthe Trevern treasure, found at last!
Though the lapse of many years had rotted some of the leather
covering of the jewel casket, the gems themselves, when lifted out,
flashed forth in undimmed beauty; the silver cups and flagons, if
discoloured, were still intact, and the papers in the metal case were
These last proved of great importance to Roger Trevern, enabling him
to substantiate his claim to some disputed property, which was quite
sufficient to relieve his estate of all its embarrassments.
And as for Mary, she restored her youngest cousin to his mother's
arms, and took the eldest to her own.