The Leicester Inheritance
The plot is based on the inheritance of Sir Charles Leicester and the murder of Isaac Rodriguez of Plymouth.
Sir Charles Leicester is a wealthy bachelor of 80 with two deceased younger brothers, Archibald and Randall. Archibald had a daughter who was set to inherit the Leicester fortune. She ran away with and married Captain Arthur Plinlimmon. Sir Charles disinherited her in favour of George Leicester, the only son of Randall. George entered the navy, where his scandalous behaviour led to his desertion. Sir Charles believed him to be dead.
The Plinlimmons had one son, called Archibald after his grandfather. Sir Charles refused to make Archibald Plinlimmon an inheritor. However, he decided that if Plinlimmon married and had a legitimate heir, the Leicester fortune would fall to the heir.
George Leicester returned from abroad, assuming the name George Letcher. He joined the North Wilts Regiment, becoming superior officer to Archibald Plinlimmon. So as to enhance his own claim to the Leicester fortune, he arranged for Archibald Plinlimmon to marry under the auspices of the (Rev) John Whitmore, a layman posing as a clergyman, thus ensuring the illegitimacy of the children. On the eventual death of Sir Charles, George Letcher proposed to reveal himself as George Leicester. As Mrs Arthur Plinlimmon, the daughter of Archibald Leicester, was already dead, George Leicester would have the only legitimate claim on the fortune of Sir Charles.
The conclusion of the novel leaves the inheritance undecided. Sir Charles is still alive, but George Leicester and the wife and child of Archibald Plinlimmon are all dead.
The Murder of Isaac Rodriguez
Isaac Rodriguez of Southside Street, Plymouth, is a Jewish dealer who has been buying up guineas, at twenty-four and six pence, for re-sale to the government. Jack Rogers had pointed him out to the (Rev) John Whitmore, a fraudulent clergyman, in Looe. Whitmore decides to break into Rodgriguez' house and steal the guineas. George Letcher and Arthur Plinlimmon, members of the North Wilts Regiment who lodge in Southside Street, also hear of the cache and decide to steal it. Both parties choose the early hours of 19 June, the morning Harry Revel is to sweep Isaac's chimney. Whitmore arrives in Southside Street, at about 4 am, from the Royal Hotel, effecting an entry through the front door. By accident or design he murders Rodriguez. Harry Revel and Archibald Plinlimmon arrive at about 5 am, observe the body of Rodriguez and escape across the roof. Letcher, in the street below, has already departed. However, before escaping, Harry Revel observes enough of Whitmore to identify him later on.
Whitmore returns to the Royal Hotel and pays his bill with the stolen guineas. Quite by chance, Whitmore and Revel meet in the coach of Ben Jope outside of Symonds' boarding-house, and in the evening at the house of Lydia Belcher on the River Lyner in Cornwall. Lydia Belcher and John Whitmore are planning to elope – Whitmore with Lydia's money rather than her person. Jack Rogers, a local Justice of the Peace, establishes Whitmore as a suspect in the murder of Rodriguez by identifying a marked guinea, but Lydia effects Whitmore's escape. Whitmore is then exposed as a fraudulent cleric through information provided by Revel.
George Letcher, who has been blackmailing Whitmore, is questioned by Rogers and provides information regarding Whitmore and Plinlimmon. Whitmore escapes to Lisbon, where he is later seen by Letcher and made to join the North Wilts Regiment. Whitmore quickly deserts to the French. At the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812, Whitmore and Letcher are killed. Plinlimmon learns that his wife and child are dead back home in Cornwall. Harry Revel, a bugler with the Light Division, returns to Plymouth.
Leicester and Plinlimmon
Sir Charles Leicester, the eldest son, is a bachelor. His broters Archibald and Randall Leicester requested to marry. Archibald marries, has a daughter and dies shortly afterwards with his daughter reared by Sir Charles. Randall Leicester marries and has a son, George Leicester (Letcher).
Archibald's daughter elopes with Captain Arthur Plinlimmon and is disinherited. George Leicester becomes heir. He joins the navy and elopes with a planter's wife on St Vincent to obtain her jewels. He amasses gambling debts in Naples and is disinherited by Sir Charles. He disappears and is presumed dead, then joins the North Wilts Regiment under the name Letcher, becoming a sergeant.
Archibald Plinlimmon joins the North Wilts unaware of his relationship to George Letcher. George arranges the marriage of Archibald and Isabel Brooks by the imposter Whitmore, so disinheriting the children in the hope of finally inheriting the Leicester estate. He blackmails Whitmore and forces him to join the North Wilts. He ensures the death of Whitmore in Ciudad Rodrigo and is knifed by Whitmore's Spanish mistress and dies.
The legalisation of the marriage of Archibald Plinlimmon and Isabel Brooks by Parson Doidge ensures the failure of Letcher's plan. Isabel Plinlimmon dies at Minden Cottage, together with the child she is giving birth to. However, if Plinlimmon marries again the Leicester fortune should fall to him.