Mary's conscience is smitten as she wonders whether two wrongs can ever make a right.
Berkeley sanded his handiwork, blew upon the paper and laid it down carefully to dry. Meanwhile, the Banns were secreted in a long redundant Book of Banns. They were placed between two blank pages whose edges were finely pasted together and at a quick glance looked like a single page. The records began immediately after Lord Hardwicke’s Act and had been abandoned around the year 1780, leaving a quantity of unused folios, when a new book had been brought into commission, perhaps under the auspices of a new curate.
On the upper part of the same page as the forged Berkeley marriage, the Earl had copied the record of a marriage between William Varnham of Berkeley and Mary Chapman King which had been solemnised on March 20th, 1785. It would have been the wedding preceding their own and was numbered 73. It was logical therefore that he should number theirs, 74, notwithstanding that another couple had been entered under that number on the correct page in the corresponding Marriage Book. The Book was then turned upside down and the counterfeit record secured, face downwards, to the binding inside the pasteboard cover, after which the last (or first!) real page was fastened to the cover with wafers with the intention of making the cover appear intact. Nothing except the slight ridge of the wafers would be remarked.
“What a serpentine mind Hupsman’s was,” laughed the Earl, anticipating that the stunt would be quickly forgotten. “He contrived most cunningly to hide the proof, did he not?”
“You could not have done it better yourself, my lord,” said William dully, humouring him, though only a little!
“Well, sir, shall we see you at dinner?”
“Thank you, I shall not partake. I must make haste to return to London. Tomorrow, I leave for the Low Countries.”
Briskly, Mary set about tidying the room, burned the unwanted papers in the grate, snuffed out the candle and drew up the blinds. A disc of silver sun, no shinier than a seed-head of honesty, hung in the mist-wreathed sky. William left the room first and Berkeley a few minutes later. Mary lagged behind, deliberating upon the wisdom of what they had plotted. The irreconcilable facts on the first and second certificates haunted her. Too late! She could only hope that no scrutiny would be occasioned. The deception was in the cause of truth. Well, they would all sink or swim together!
His lordship had enlisted Carrington to return the volumes to the Muniment Room at the hour of the children’s supper, when staff would be well-occupied. The keys were to be delivered into the hands of James Simmonds.
Two days later, on February 19th, the Earl and Countess left the Castle for Spring Gardens and instructed Boodle, the family’s London solicitor, to institute a thorough search of the Records.
read preview excerpts from THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, Book Two of the Berkeley Trilogy
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...