The Lady of the Shroud HTML version

Book I. The Will Of Roger Melton
The Reading Of The Will Of Roger Melton And All That Followed
Record made by Ernest Roger Halbard Melton, law-student of the Inner Temple, eldest
son of Ernest Halbard Melton, eldest son of Ernest Melton, elder brother of the said
Roger Melton and his next of kin.
I consider it at least useful--perhaps necessary--to have a complete and accurate record of
all pertaining to the Will of my late grand- uncle Roger Melton.
To which end let me put down the various members of his family, and explain some of
their occupations and idiosyncrasies. My father, Ernest Halbard Melton, was the only son
of Ernest Melton, eldest son of Sir Geoffrey Halbard Melton of Humcroft, in the shire of
Salop, a Justice of the Peace, and at one time Sheriff. My great-grandfather, Sir Geoffrey,
had inherited a small estate from his father, Roger Melton. In his time, by the way, the
name was spelled Milton; but my great-great-grandfather changed the spelling to the later
form, as he was a practical man not given to sentiment, and feared lest he should in the
public eye be confused with others belonging to the family of a Radical person called
Milton, who wrote poetry and was some sort of official in the time of Cromwell, whilst
we are Conservatives. The same practical spirit which originated the change in the
spelling of the family name inclined him to go into business. So he became, whilst still
young, a tanner and leather-dresser. He utilized for the purpose the ponds and streams,
and also the oak-woods on his estate--Torraby in Suffolk. He made a fine business, and
accumulated a considerable fortune, with a part of which he purchased the Shropshire
estate, which he entailed, and to which I am therefore heir-apparent.
Sir Geoffrey had, in addition to my grandfather, three sons and a daughter, the latter
being born twenty years after her youngest brother. These sons were: Geoffrey, who died
without issue, having been killed in the Indian Mutiny at Meerut in 1857, at which he
took up a sword, though a civilian, to fight for his life; Roger (to whom I shall refer
presently); and John--the latter, like Geoffrey, dying unmarried. Out of Sir Geoffrey's
family of five, therefore, only three have to be considered: My grandfather, who had
three children, two of whom, a son and a daughter, died young, leaving only my father,
Roger and Patience. Patience, who was born in 1858, married an Irishman of the name of
Sellenger--which was the usual way of pronouncing the name of St. Leger, or, as they
spelled it, Sent Leger--restored by later generations to the still older form. He was a
reckless, dare-devil sort of fellow, then a Captain in the Lancers, a man not without the
quality of bravery--he won the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Amoaful in the Ashantee
Campaign. But I fear he lacked the seriousness and steadfast strenuous purpose which my
father always says marks the character of our own family. He ran through nearly all of his
patrimony--never a very large one; and had it not been for my grand-aunt's little fortune,
his days, had he lived, must have ended in comparative poverty. Comparative, not actual;