Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/80

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
44
DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS

their company if she could fire a pistol. A pistol was put into her hand, but when she pulled the trigger and it was discharged, she screamed and threw the weapon down. Thereupon the highwaymen turned her off, as a white-livered poltroon unfit for their service. She made her way back to Witheridge to her father, and then went into service at Crediton to a tanner, but left her place at the end of three months, unable further to endure the tedium. Then she passed through a succession of services, never staying in any situation longer than three months, and found her way back to London. There, according to her account, she married a foreign gentleman at a Roman Catholic chapel, where the priest officiated to tie the knot. She accompanied her husband to Brighton and thence to Dover, where he gave her the slip, and she had not seen him or heard from him since. She returned to London, was eventually confined, and placed her child in the Foundling Institution; then took a situation not far off and visited the child once a week till it died. After a while she again appeared at Witheridge, but her reception was so far from cordial that she left it and associated with gipsies, travelling about with them, telling fortunes.

It was now, according to her account, that the idea entered her head of playing the part of a distinguished stranger from the East, and when she quitted the gipsies, she assumed that part—with what success we have seen.

Mrs. Worall sent into Devon to ascertain what amount of truth was in this story. It turned out that her father was named Willcocks, and was a cobbler at Witheridge, and badly off. He confirmed Mary's tale as far as he knew it. She had had an illness when young, and had been odd, restless, and flighty ever since; especially in spring and autumn did she become