The Moon Rock
The Moon Rock
WITH PARCHMENTS AND PAPERS DEEP on the table before him, Robert Turold plunged into the history of his life's task. The long hand of the mantelpiece clock slipped with a stealthy movement past the twelve as he commenced, as though determined not to be taken by surprise, but to keep abreast of him.
An hour passed, but Robert Turold kept steadily on. His hearers displayed symptoms of boredom like people detained in church beyond the usual time. Humanity is interested in achievement, but not in the manner of its accomplishment. And Robert's brother and sister knew much of his story by heart. It had formed the sole theme of his letters to them for many years past. Mrs. Pendleton's thoughts wandered to afternoon tea. Her husband nodded with closed eyes, and recovered himself with convulsive starts. Austin Turold fixed his glance on the ceiling, where a solitary fly was cleaning its wings with its legs. From the window Charles Turold presented an immobile profile. Only Dr. Ravenshaw seemed to listen with an interest which never flagged.
Yet it was a story well worth hearing, that record of indomitable pertinacity which had refused to be baulked by years or rebuffs. Men have acquired titles more easily. That was apparent as Robert Turold related the history of his long and patient investigation; of scents which had led nowhere; of threads which had broken in his hand; of fruitless burrowings into the graves of past generations. These disappointments had lengthened the search, but they had never baffled the searcher nor broken his faith.
The story began in the fourteenth century, when the second Edward had summoned his trusty retainer Robert Turrald from his quiet home in leafy Buckinghamshire to sit in Parliament as a baron, and by that act of kingly grace ennobled him and his heirs forever. Successive holders of the title were summoned to Parliament in their turn until the reign of the seventh Henry, when one succeeded whose wife brought him three daughters, but no sons. At his death the title went into abeyance among this plurality of girls. In peerage law they were his coheirs, and the inheritance could not descend because not one of them had an exclusive right to it. The daughters entered a convent and followed their parents to the grave within a few years, the Crown resumed the estate, and the title had remained in abeyance ever since.
But the last Lord Turrald had a brother Simon, a roystering blade and lawless adventurer, who disappeared some years before his elder brother's death. Little was known of him except that he was supposed to have closed a brawling career on the field of Bosworth, when Richard the Crookback was killed and the short-lived dynasty of York ended.
The Turolds' family deed-box told a different story. There was a manuscript in monkish hand, setting forth, "in the name of God, Amen," the secret history of Simon, as divulged by him on his deathbed for the information of his two sons. In this confession he claimed kinship with the last Lord Turrald of Great Missenden. But he had not dared to claim the title and rich estates on his brother's death, because he was a proscribed man. He had been a Yorkist, and had fought for Richard. That might have been forgiven him if he had not unhorsed his future king at Bosworth and almost succeeded in slaughtering him with his own reckless hands. So he had fled, and had remained in obscurity and a safe hiding-place after his brother's death, preferring his head without a title to a title without a head.
On this document, unsigned and undated, with nothing to indicate the place of its origin, the Turold family based its claim of descent from the baronial Turralds of Great Missenden. But the Turold history was a chequered one. Their branch was nomadic, without territorial ties or wealth, without continuance of chronology. They could not trace their own geneal