From Mr. Loscombe to Mrs. Noel Vanstone.
"Lincoln's Inn Fields, May 6th.
"DEAR MADAM -- I have unexpectedly received some information which is of the most vital importance to your interests. The news of Admiral Bartram's death has reached me this morning. He expired at his own house, on the fourth of the present month.
"This event at once disposes of the considerations which I had previously endeavored to impress on you, in relation to your discovery at St. Crux. The wisest course we can now follow is to open communications at once with the executors of the deceased gentleman; addressing them through the medium of the admiral's legal adviser, in the first instance.
"I have dispatched a letter this day to the solicitor in question. It simply warns him that we have lately become aware of the existence of a private Document, controlling the deceased gentleman in his use of the legacy devised to him by Mr. Noel Vanstone's will. My letter assumes that the document will be easily found among the admiral's papers; and it mentions that I am the solicitor appointed by Mrs. Noel Vanstone to receive communications on her behalf. My object in taking this step is to cause a search to be instituted for the Trust -- in the very probable event of the executors not having met with it yet -before the usual measures are adopted for the administration of the admiral's estate. We will threaten legal proceedings, if we find that the object does not succeed. But I anticipate no such necessity. Admiral Bartram's executors must be men of high standing and position; and they will do justice to you and to themselves in this matter by looking for the Trust.
"Under these circumstances, you will naturally ask, 'What are our prospects when the document is found?' Our prospects have a bright side and a dark side. Let us take the bright side to begin with.
"What do we actually know?
"We know, first, that the Trust does really exist. Secondly, that there is a provision in it relating to the marriage of Mr. George Bartram in a given time. Thirdly, that the time (six months from the date of your husband's death) expired on the third of this month. Fourthly, that Mr. George Bartram (as I have found out by inquiry, in the absence of any positive information on the subject possessed by yourself) is, at the present moment, a single man. The conclusion naturally follows, that the object contemplated by the Trust, in this case, is an object that has failed.
"If no other provisions have been inserted in the document -- or if, being inserted, those other provisions should be discovered to have failed also -- I believe it to be impossible (especially if evidence can be found that the admiral himself considered the Trust binding on him) for the executors to deal with your husband's fortune as legally forming part of Admiral Bartram's estate. The legacy is expressly declared to have been left to him, on the understanding that he applies it to certain stated objects -- and those objects have failed. What is to be done with the money? It was not left to the admiral himself, on the testator's own showing; and the purposes for which it was left have not been, and cannot be, carried out. I believe (if the case here supposed really happens) that the money must revert to the testator's estate. In that event the Law, dealing with it as a matter of necessity, divides it into two equal portions. One half goes to Mr. Noel Vans tone's childless widow, and the other half is divided among Mr. Noel Vanstone's next of kin.
"You will no doubt discover the obvious objection to the case in our favor, as I have here put it. You will see that it depends for its practical realization not on one contingency, but on a series of contingencies, which must all happen exactly as we wish them to happen. I admit the force of the objection; but I can tell you, at the same time, that these said contingencies are by no means so improbable as they may look on the face of them.
"We have every reason to believe that the Trust, like the Will, was not drawn by a lawyer. That is one circumstance in our favor that is enough of itself to cast a doubt on the soundness of all, or any, of the remaining provisions which we may not be acquainted with. Another chance which we may count on is to be found, as I think, in that strange handwriting, placed under the signature on the third page of the Letter, which you saw, but which you, unhappily, omitted to read. All the probabilities point to those lines as written by Admiral Bartram: and the position which they occupy is certainly consistent with the theory that they touch the important subject of his own sense of obligation under the Trust.
"I wish to raise no false hopes in your mind. I only desire to satisfy you that we have a case worth trying.
"As for the dark side of the prospect, I need not enlarge on it. After what I have already written, you will understand that the existence of a sound provision, unknown to us, in the Trust, which has been properly carried out by the admiral -- or which can be properly carried out by his representatives -would be necessarily fatal to our hopes. The legacy would be, in this case, devoted to the purpose or purposes contemplated by your husband -- and, from that moment, you would have no claim.
"I have only to add, that as soon as I hear from the late admiral's man of business, you shall know the result.
"Believe me, dear madam, faithfully yours,