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The Dead Secret


The Secret of the title is the parentage of the heroine, Rosamond Treverton, who has been passed off as the daughter of the wealthy former actress Mrs Treverton of Porthgenna Tower, but is in fact the illegitimate child of her servant Sarah Leeson by a local miner (Mrs Treverton’s motive was to provide her husband with a child, being apparently unable to bear children herself). Sarah writes down the details of the Secret from the words of the dying Mrs Treverton, and hides the paper bearing the message in an unused room at Porthgenna.

The novel then jumps forward some twenty years. Rosamond has married the blind Leonard Frankland, who now owns Porthgenna Tower. Sarah, now living under her married name, acts as a nurse after Rosamond-s childbirth, and gives Rosamund a cryptic warning to avoid the room in which the Secret is hidden. On a visit to Porthgenna, Rosamond finds the paper detailing the Secret and reveals it to Leonard. Leonard, who originally believed that Rosamond was a wealthy heiress, accepts that his wife is illegitimate, but refuses to accept her inheritance as the presumed daughter of the Trevertons. In the course of things, this would now pass to Mrs Treverton’s miserly brother-in-law Andrew (whose introduction, together with his villainous servant, provides some comic relief in the novel). But Andrew Treverton, somewhat out of character, refuses to accept the windfall and Rosamond remains the heiress of the Trevertons in the expected happy ending.


Having previously tried my hand at short serial stories (collected and reprinted in After Dark, and The Queen of Hearts), I ventured on my first attempt, in this book, to produce a sustained work of fiction, intended for periodical publication during many successive weeks. The experiment proved successful both in this country and in America. Two of the characters which appear in these pages -- "Rosamond," and "Uncle Joseph" -- had the good fortune to find friends everywhere who took a hearty liking to them. A more elaborately drawn personage in the story -- "Sarah Leeson" -- was, I think, less generally understood. The idea of tracing, in this character, the influence of a heavy responsibility on a naturally timid woman, whose mind was neither strong enough to bear it, nor bold enough to drop it altogether, was a favorite idea with me, at the time, and is so much a favorite still, that I privately give "Sarah Leeson" the place of honor in the little portrait-gallery which my story contains. Perhaps, in saying this, I am only acknowledging, in other words, that the parents of literary families share the well-known inconsistencies of parents in general, and are sometimes unreasonably fond of the child who has always given them the most trouble.


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 2022-11-17  16h19m