Murder in Lethe House

Hillary got a history…

The gentleman in question was Mr Hillary Belsingham, the grandson of the late deceased John Belsingham who as a humble clerk was one of a very few who had made his fortune on the infamous South Sea company. While everyone was throwing what they had at the venture, the bubble growing ever bigger, its skin ever more taut and thinly stretched, John Todd  (soon to be known as John Belsingham ) acting on information not altogether intuitive waited with the nonchalant composure of a true betting man before selling up just two months before the whole lot went up in cries of anguish and despair as the gilt framed mammon was replaced with penury, hardship and a godless universe. Not so Mr John Todd who left his desk and ledgers, his quill and ink pot for the last time embarking on a life of financial investment and quickly appreciating the aid of a princely sum and the proverb ‘money begets money’. With a change of name to something more pretty and altogether more suitable to his new station in life and a change of address – Southwark to Chelsea  – John soon forgot his humble beginnings and enjoyed the company of the emerging social elite of the early 19th century.

 Son, William, carried on the legacy of fortune, good fortune and cunning making a particularly and rather spectacularly shrewd move in 1815, as Wellington squared up to Napoleon, except in contradistinction to his father while everyone was selling, fearing Wellington had lost, he waited tapping his fingers excitedly and then bought what he could at rock bottom price. He took his lead from Nathan Rothschild himself who he guessed had tricked everyone to sell, but not William. He increased his pot substantially, but unfortunately was unable to enjoy it dying, as he did, by the end of the year of syphilis: a complaint of which he had been suffering from for some time. He left behind a wife and son.

 Said son, Hillary was fifteen years old at the time of his father’s death and already suffering from an overly sensitive and somewhat passionate disposition which had infuriated his father. He had been sent up North to the public school Sedbergh in the hope of toughening him up, but in Cumbria he had found a fellow man of feeling in the great Wordsworth. He felt the same affinity with nature as he too wandered like a cloud through the hills pausing for a moment here and there filled with sublime awe and the mysticism of the natural world. But even this paled to insignificance to the feeling aroused when he read Goethe’s Sorrows of the Young Werther. The tragedy filled him with such pain he could barely stand it and would have to walk rigorously until he could feel beads of exertion gathering about his brow and then with beating heart would look out at some fine landscape and sigh gratefully as the gentle balm of nature would take effect. By the time he was twenty-three his mother had died leaving him an extraordinarily vast fortune and he had fallen in love at least 17 times the last one of which had been consummated. Unfortunately for him in 1825  a good deal of his lovers had been men. And it was in fact a man, a young man, a waiter whom Hillary had met at his club in London and fallen in love with that was the cause of his presence at  Figbod.

Very little of which made it into the final draft. Neither did the tone – the rather snooty and sardonic voice of the narrator was deemed by a number of publishers to be inappropriate for a ‘modern’ audience…

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