Part 4 out of 8
been raised against it, but his own conscience warns him that they are
worthless. Mr. Whymper will tell you the same."
"Never you mind Mr. Whymper," said the landlord, gruffly, but at the
same time relaxing his grasp upon the young man's shoulder; "the parson
needs all his cleverness to take care of himself in this matter, and
will have no helping hand to spare for you. The Squire is in a pretty
temper with you both, I promise you. Here's his letter, if you'd like to
see what he says of you in black and white; not that there's much white
in it, egad!"
It was a custom of the Squire of Crompton, unconsciously plagiarized
from the Great Napoleon, to let all letters addressed to him in an
unfamiliar hand answer themselves. They were not destroyed, but lay for
weeks or months unopened, until the fancy seized him to examine their
contents. He made, it was true, a gallant exception in the case of those
whose superscription seemed to promise a lady correspondent; but that
had not been the case with the communication from Trevethick, and hence
the long interval that had elapsed before it was attended to.
Trevethick's business letters had hitherto, as was the case with all
tenants of Crompton estate, been addressed to the chaplain only, so that
he was unaware of this peculiarity of Carew, and had naturally construed
his silence into a tacit admission of the truth of Richard's statement.
If force of language and bitterness of tone could have made up for his
previous neglect, the Squire's letter was an apology in itself. It was
short, but sharp and decisive. "The grain of truth," he wrote, "among
the bushel of lies that this young gentleman has told you is, that he
was once a guest under my roof--I forget whether for two nights or
three. He will never be there again--neither now nor after I am in my
box" (this was the Squire's playful way of alluding to the rites of
sepulture). "He has no more claim upon me than any other of my
bastards--of whom I have more than I know of--and in fact less, for I
may have deceived their mothers, whereas his played a trick on me. As to
his expectations from me, I can only tell you this much, that I expect
he will come to be hanged; as for interest, whatever he may have with my
son of a she-dog of a chaplain, he has none with me; and as for money,
so far as I know, he is a pauper, and likely to remain so as long as he
lives." There were other sentences spurted from the volcano of the
Squire's wrath, but to the same effect.
"A nice letter of recommendation, truly, and from his own father, of the
young gentleman who asked me for my daughter's hand!" growled
Trevethick. "You ought to be thankful to get out of Gethin with whole
bones. If 'Sol' was to come to know of what you asked of me, I would not
answer for even so much as that, I promise you."
"'Sol' might have known of it had you not chosen to keep it from him,
for reasons best known to yourself," said Richard, quietly. "You have
taken some time to make up your mind between us."
Trevethick winced; for the promise of the young man's interest with
respect to Wheal Danes had, in fact, been the bait which had tempted him
to temporize so long. He had never meant to give his daughter to
Richard; but he had hoped to reap an advantage, present or future, out
of the implied intention; nor did he know even yet in what relation
Richard stood with Parson Whymper.
"At all events, it's made up now," answered the landlord, curtly.
"This letter has caused you to decide against me, then?"
"That letter? Well, of course it has. Not that there ain't a heap of
other reasons; but that one's enough, I should think, even for you."
"It is just such a letter as I should have expected Carew to pen,"
observed Richard, coolly, "and does not alter the facts of the case as I
stated them to you one whit. That my father is furious with me is clear
enough; that is, because he is in the wrong, and feels it. He is angry,
you see, even with Mr. Whymper, because he knows that his view of my
case is such as I described to you. I confessed from the first that my
interest at Crompton was a contingent one. You are treating me with
great injustice, Mr. Trevethick."
"What! Have you so much brass left as to say that? You, that have asked
my permission to pay court to my daughter, under the pretense that you
were a fine gentleman, independent at present, and the heir-presumptive
to one of the richest commoners in the kingdom! How durst you do it? You
vagabond! you scoundrel!"
"You will be sorry for having said those words some day," said Richard,
hoarsely; he was choking with rage, and yet it was necessary to restrain
himself. He felt that this man would presently forbid him his
house--would separate him from his Harry forever; and that would be like
tearing out his heart-strings. Always audacious, there was nothing that
he was not now prepared to say or do to avert this. "I tell you, Mr.
Trevethick, this letter is full of lies, or rather it is written by a
madman. I am not a bastard; I am not a pauper. I have an independence of
my own, though, indeed, it is small compared with my expectations. My
mother makes me a good allowance. I am a gentleman, and I have a right
to be listened to by any man, when I ask leave to be his daughter's
"Let us leave alone your gentility, Sir, and your mother's allowances,"
sneered the landlord, "since there is no means of gauging either the one
or the other. As for your independent property--I don't believe you have
a hundred pounds in the world; but it is easy enough to prove that I am
mistaken there. Let me see the money down. Show me your three or four
thousand pounds in gold, or notes that I know, for I must needs be
particular with so clever a young gentleman; notes of the Bank of
England, or of the Miners' Bank at Plymouth. Let me hold them in my
hand, and then I shall feel that you are speaking the truth. At present,
I tell you fairly, that if I saw a check of yours, I should look upon it
as so much waste paper until I also saw it honored."
"Three thousand pounds is a large sum, Mr. Trevethick," said Richard,
"Let us say two, then," returned the landlord, mockingly. "Sell out two
thousand pounds of this independent fortune of yours, that has been
invested in the Deep Sea Cockle Mine, or in debentures of the Railway in
the Air. Let me see but two thousand pounds, Mr. Richard Yorke, and
then--and not before--may you open your lips to me again respecting my
daughter Harry." He turned upon his heel with a bitter laugh; while
Richard, as white as the sketch-book he still held in his hand, remained
speechless. A perilous thought had taken possession of his mind--a
thought that it would have been better for him to have dropped down
there dead than to have entertained, but it grew and grew apace within
him like a foul weed. Had his life of selfish pleasure angered the
long-suffering gods, and, having resolved upon his ruin, were they
already making him mad? He ran after the old man, who did not so much as
turn to look behind him, though he could not but have heard his rapid
steps. "Mr. Trevethick, I will do it," he gasped out.
"Do what?" said the other, contemptuously, striding on. "Go hang
yourself, or jump off Gethin rock into the sea?"
"I will get you the money that you speak of--the two thousand pounds.
You shall have it in your hand, and keep it for that matter, if you
"What?" Unutterable astonishment stared out from the landlord's face.
For the first time since the receipt of Carew's letter he began to
discredit its contents. If this young fellow had really the immediate
command of so large a sum, there was probably much more "behind him." He
must either have a fortune in his own right, or if Carew had settled
such a sum of money on him, he must have had a reason for it--the very
reason Richard had assigned. And if so, Wheal Danes might be his to
dispose of even yet. But Trevethick was not the man to hint a doubt of
his foregone conclusions. "You have not got this money in your pocket,
have you?" said he, with a short dry laugh.
"No, Sir; but I can get a check for it from my mother, in course of
"A check!" cried the other, contemptuously, all his suspicions returning
with tenfold force. "I would not give one penny for such a check."
"I will get it changed myself, Mr. Trevethick, at Plymouth. The post has
gone, but I will write to-morrow, and within the week--"
"You shall not stay here a week, nor another twenty-four hours," roared
Trevethick. "I have been made a fool of long enough. I will not listen
to another word."
But he did listen, nevertheless. No longer hampered by vague fears and
difficulties, with which he knew not how to grapple, but with a distinct
plan of operations before him, Richard's eloquence was irresistible.
Deceit, if not habitual with him, had been practiced too often to lack
the gloss of truth from his ready tongue. He actually had a scheme for
procuring the sum in question, and when he possessed confidence himself,
it was rarely, indeed, that he failed to inspire it in others. For the
second time, the landlord of the _Gethin Castle_ found himself in doubt;
he was staggered by the positiveness of the young man's assertions, and
by the force and flow of his glowing words. In spite of himself, he
began once more to think that he might have been mistaken in condemning
him as an impostor, after all; as Richard had said, Carew _was_ scarcely
sane, and when excited by wrath, a downright madman. His resolves, too,
were as untrustworthy and fickle as the winds. Trevethick felt tolerably
convinced that the money would, at all events, be forthcoming; and the
sum--large in itself--seemed the earnest of much more. Last, but not
least, there were the possibilities in connection with the mine. If he
broke altogether with Richard, and turned him out of his house outright,
might not his first act be to reveal to Parson Whymper, in revenge, all
that he knew about Wheal Danes!
"Well, well, you shall stay at Gethin, then, till your check comes,
young gentleman," said he, in a tone that was meant to be conciliatory.
"I don't wish to be uncivil to any man, and certainly not to one who has
been my guest so long. But you will keep yourself _to_ yourself,
if you please, in the mean time. The bar parlor will no longer be open
to you, until you have proved your right to be there. And I don't mean
to promise any thing certain by that, neither; but what with your fast
talking and fine speaking I'm all in a buzz."
Honest John Trevethick did not, indeed, know What to think, what to
believe, or what to propose to himself for the future. His brain,
unaccustomed to much reflection, and dulled by pretty frequent
potations, was fairly muddled. Most heartily did he wish that this young
landscape-painter had never set foot in Gethin; but yet he could not
make up his mind to summarily eject him. Upon the whole, he was almost
as glad to temporize in the matter as Richard was himself.
In point of fact, Richard Yorke had won the battle, and was for the
present master of the field; but what a struggle it had been, and at
what a loss he had obtained the victory, you might have read in his
white face and haggard eyes. As to whether it would be possible to hold
the advantage he had gained was a problem he had yet to solve. He had
committed himself to a policy which might--nay, very probably
would--succeed; but if it should fail, there would be no escape from
utter ruin. He had burned his boats, and broken down the bridge behind
ON THE BRINK.
For four more days, Richard Yorke continued at the _Gethin Castle_--to
outward appearance, in the same relation with the landlord and his
family as before, but in reality on a totally different footing.
Trevethick had not found it practicable to exclude his late guest from
the bar parlor; he could not do so without entering into an explanation
with its other tenants, which he was not prepared for, or without
devising some excuse far beyond his powers. Notwithstanding his bluff
ways, he could tell a lie without moving a muscle; but he was incapable
of any such ambitious flight of deceit as the present state of affairs
demanded. He had, indeed, no aptitude for social diplomacy of any kind,
and suffered his change of feeling toward the young landscape-painter to
appear so plainly that even the phlegmatic Solomon observed it. He was
rather pleased than otherwise to do so. He had acquiesced in the
hospitality with which Richard had been treated, but without the
slightest sympathy with it; and, in fact, he had no sympathies save
those which were connected with his personal interests. It was evident
enough that his father-in-law elect had had some reasons of his
own--probably in relation to the property he held under Carew--for
conciliating this young gentleman; and "Sol" had taken it for granted
they were good, that is, substantial, ones. If these reasons no longer
existed, the sooner this young gentleman was got rid of the better. It
was true he had behaved himself very civilly; but his presence among
them had been, on the whole, oppressive. "Sol" rather chafed at
Richard's social superiority, though it was certainly never intruded,
and, at all events, he preferred the society of his own class, among
whom he felt himself qualified to take the lead. But the idea of
jealousy had never entered into his mind. In his eyes Richard was a mere
boy, whose years, as well as his position in life, precluded him from
any serious intentions with respect to Harry, whom, moreover, Solomon
regarded as his betrothed. If he had been married to her, he would
certainly have forbidden her "gadding about" so much with this young
fellow; but at present she was under her father's rule, and the old man
knew very well what he was about. He was glad that there now seemed a
prospect, to judge from the latter's manner, that the lad's intimacy
with Harry, and the family generally, was about to end; but it might
have lasted six months longer without "Sol's" opening his mouth about
it, so prudently had Richard played his cards--so irreproachably behaved
Solomon went, as usual, daily to look after affairs at Dunloppel, but
Trevethick remained within doors, under pretense that the influx of
guests, which was in fact considerable, demanded his presence. He took
care that Richard and Harry should have no opportunity of meeting alone
throughout the day; while in the evening he sat in almost total silence,
sucking his pipe, and frowning gloomily--a wet blanket upon the little
company, and the source of well-grounded terror to his daughter Harry.
Richard had told her how the matter stood; protested that he could get
the money; and argued that when that was done, her father could have no
excuse for forbidding his suit. But she knew the old man better than he,
On the fifth day Richard received a letter, inclosing a check for two
thousand pounds upon a London bank, from his mother, and, with an air of
quiet triumph, showed it to his host.
"That is worth nothing here," observed Trevethick, coldly; "for all I
know, the bank may not exist, or she may have no account there." But it
was plain he was surprised, and disappointed.
"Notice has been sent to Plymouth, as I am here informed," said Richard;
"so that I can get the check changed there, if you are still
dissatisfied; which, you must pardon me for saying, I do not think you
really are. Come, take my hand, and allow that you have behaved
ungenerously. You're a man of your word, I know. This proves to you I am
at least no pauper. I claim the right which you agreed to grant on that
condition, to ask your daughter's hand, and demand of you to leave her,
at all events, to grant it if she pleases. I affirm, once more, the
truth of all that I have told you as regards myself. I am Carew's only
son, begotten in lawful wedlock. He will acknowledge as much himself
some day, even though he should delay it to his dying hour. If ever I
come to possess it (and I think I shall), Wheal Danes shall be yours,
without the payment of a shilling. Even now, I do not offer myself
empty-handed. This is the sum that you yourself agreed I should show
myself possessed of; but there is more where this comes from. I ask
again, then, give me my fair chance with Harry: let her choose between
me and this man Coe."
This was a wily speech; for Richard was recapitulating the very
arguments which were presenting themselves to the old man's mind. True,
he had promised his daughter to Solomon, and would much rather have had
him for a son-in-law; but there were unquestionably great advantages in
the position of this other claimant. Trevethick was not quite the slave
to gratitude which he had professed himself to be, with respect to Coe's
father. He did feel sincerely grateful; but he had himself exaggerated
the feeling, with the very intention of making Harry understand that her
fate was fixed. He had not been blind to the fact, that from the first
she had never regarded "Sol" with favor as a suitor, and it was still
possible to break off the match without disgrace, upon the ground of her
disinclination to it. Above all, perhaps, he was actuated by the
apprehension that Richard, if refused a hearing, would disclose the
secret of Wheal Danes, and wreck the scheme upon which his heart had
been set for near half a century. One word from him would divert the
unsuspected wealth, over which he had so long gloated in anticipation,
into another's hand. But he did not like the young man better for the
precious knowledge which he alone shared with him; far otherwise; he
hated him for it, and, without being a murderer in his heart, would have
gladly welcomed the news that his mouth was closed forever by death.
"I wish such or such a one was in heaven," is a common expression, the
meaning of which is of still more general acceptation. The idea, in
fact, has doubtless flitted across the minds of most of us, though few,
let us hope, would help to realize it; for, notwithstanding its
agreeable form, it is not a benevolent aspiration. The reception of the
individual in question into the realms of bliss has less interest with
us than his removal from the earth's surface, and, consequently, from
our path upon it. We may be very civil toward this person, and we often
are; but we seldom desire him for a son-in-law. John Trevethick did not.
But still less did he desire his open enmity; the longer, at all events,
the declaration of war could be deferred the better.
"Come," urged Richard; "I am only demanding the redemption of your
promise--one," added he, precipitately, "that it lies in your own power
"The conditions, Mr. Yorke, have not yet been fulfilled," said
Trevethick, pointing to the check. "I must see that money in
He had not the least doubt of the genuineness of the document; but his
objection would at least give him the respite of another day or two, and
a respite seemed almost a reprieve.
"As you will," answered Richard, with a faint smile. "It is a matter of
perfect indifference to me, and only costs me a journey to Plymouth. If
you will be so good as to let me have some vehicle to take me as far as
Turlock, I will pack my carpet-bag and start at once."
The landlord nodded, and withdrew without a word.
Left to himself, the smile faded from Richard's face, and was succeeded
by a look of the utmost dejection and disappointment. All had been going
so well up to that very last moment, and now all remained to be done,
just as though nothing had been done at all. The dangerous path that he
had marked out for himself had to be trodden from first to last, at the
very moment when he had seemed to have reached his journey's end by a
safe short-cut. He knew that it was the smallest grain of suspicion, if
not the mere desire to procrastinate, that had turned the scale in
Trevethick's mind, and imposed this task upon him. The genuineness of
the check had been _almost_ taken for granted--entire success had been
missed, as it were, by a hair's-breadth. And now he was as far from it
as ever. Had he been but a little more earnest, or a little more
careless in his own manner, all might have been well. The obstacle that
intervened between him and his desire still stood there, though only by
an accident, as though, after he had fairly blown it into the air, it
had resettled itself precisely in the same spot.
Richard felt like some offender against the law who had been foiled in
an ingenious scheme by the stupidity rather than the sagacity of him he
would have defrauded; or, rather, like one who has been brought to
justice by misadventure--through some blunder which Fate itself had
suggested to his prosecutor. He was filled with bitterness and
mortification, and also with fear. This miscarriage now imposed a
necessity upon him, which he had contemplated, indeed, but never looked
fairly in the face; he had always hoped it might be evaded. The only
alternative that presented itself was to give up his Harry; this swept
across his mind for a single instant--a black shadow that seemed to
plunge his whole being in night--then left it firmly set upon its
He did not seek to see her before he left; he could not trust himself so
far even as to turn his head and wave her a good-by, as he started from
the inn door, although he felt that she was watching him from an upper
window. He was afraid of the anxiety that consumed him being visible to
those loving eyes. She knew upon what errand he was going, but not the
dangers of it. But he spoke cheerfully to Trevethick, who stood beneath
the porch with moody brow, and testily found fault with horse and
"The master's in a queer temper to-day, Sir," was the driver's remark,
as they slowly climbed the hill out of the village.
"So it seems," answered Richard, absently.
The road they traveled was the same on which he had pursued Harry on
that eventful night, now months ago; every object recalled her to
him--the ruined tower on the promontory, the Fairies' Bower in the glen;
but they suggested less of love than of the peril that, for love's sake,
he was about to undergo. When they reached the point where he had met
her first, on the margin of the moor, now bright with gorse and heather,
and with its gray rocks sparkling in the sun, an overwhelming melancholy
seized him. Was it possible that the omen which had alarmed her simple
mind was really in the course of fulfillment? Was he, indeed, fated to
be the cause of misfortune to her he loved so well? If evil should
befall him, it was only too certain that it would include her in its
"You seem a cup too low, Mr. Yorke," said the driver, wondering at the
young man's unusual silence; for his habit was to be brisk and lively
with every body.
"We'll remedy that when we get to Turlock," answered Richard,
good-naturedly, "by taking a glass of what you will together."
Accordingly, when they reached the little town, and while the
post-horses were getting ready which were to take him on the next stage
of his journey, Richard called for some liquor.
"Here's your good health, Sir," said the man, and added, in a roguish
whisper, "and our young missus's too, Sir."
"By all means," said Richard, coolly. "But why couple hers with mine?"
"Well, Sir, it do come natural like, somehow," said the man, becoming
suddenly stolid, on perceiving that his remark was by no means relished.
"I suppose it's seeing you so much about together; but I meant no
"I am sure of that," said Richard. It was on the tip of his tongue to
pursue the subject, but he restrained himself. If he had already given
occasion for gossip, he did not wish to provide fresh fuel for it in his
absence from Gethin.
When a mile or two away from Turlock he produced the check which was the
apparent cause of his irksome journey, and tearing it into minute
fragments, scattered them out of the window.
Upon the second day he arrived at Plymouth, but too late for
banking-hours, and drove to an hotel. He had had little to eat upon his
journey, yet he now sent his dinner away almost untasted; on the other
hand, though it was unusual with him to take much wine, he drank a
bottle of Champagne and some sherry, then lit a cigar, and strolled out
of doors. It was a beautiful evening; and he sauntered on the Hoe,
gazing upon that glorious prospect of sea and shore which it affords,
without paying regard to any thing, although all was as new as fair. His
mind, however, took in every object mechanically, and often presented
them to him again in after-years, just as it did that summer scene upon
the ruined tower. Was it laying in provision for itself against the
time, now drawing so nigh, when his physical eyes should have no more of
such fair sights to feed upon? Or was the circumstance only such as
attends all great changes and crises of our lives; for is not every
feature of the face of Nature, upon the eve of any vital event, thus
engraven on our recollection? Do we not note the daisies on the lawn
forever, when for one instant we look out upon it from the darkened room
wherein our loved one lies a-dying?
It presently grew too late for the ordinary signs and tokens of life;
but Richard still paced to and fro, and gazed upon the darkening waters;
he saw the light leap out upon them from the distant Eddystone, and from
the craft in harbor, and from the houses that were built upon its
margin: blue and red, and white and yellow.
There was one large vessel a great way off that he had not hitherto
observed, but which now became conspicuous by its green light. Richard,
vaguely interested in this exceptional beacon, inquired of a
miserable-looking man, who had in vain been offering his services as
cicerone, what it signified.
"Well, Sir, them colors as the ships show all mean something different;
the red is from the floating powder-magazine, and the yellow is--"
"I said the _green_ light," broke in Richard, with his usual impatience
of prolixity. "What is that vessel _there_, I say?"
"Oh, that's the convict ship, Sir; they say she is waiting until after
the 'sizes, to take the drab-jackets to Portland."
Richard nodded, and threw the man a shilling; then walked hastily away
into the town. The night was mild, but his teeth chattered, and he shook
in every limb.
THE MINERS' BANK.
As, though Richard had fasted long, he could not eat, so, though he was
fatigued with the travel of the last two days, he could not sleep. He
turned from side to side upon his pillow throughout the weary night, and
strove to lose himself, and shut out thought, in vain, even for an
instant. He got up and paced the room; and, when the streaks of dawn
began to show themselves, drew up the blind, and looked forth. It was a
very different scene from that he had been accustomed to contemplate at
Gethin. In place of the waste of ocean, specked by a sail or two, whose
presence only served to intensify its solitary grandeur, the
thick-peopled city lay before him. But as yet there were no tokens of
waking life; the streets were empty, the windows shrouded, and a steady
drizzle of rain was falling, which gave promise of a wretched day. Even
when the morning advanced, it was difficult to make out the individual
buildings; but he had had the Miners' Bank pointed out to him on the
previous day, and he thought he recognized it now. It was there that the
business which he had proposed to himself was to be effected, and he
gazed at it with interest. The wisest of us are simple in some things,
and though so knowing in the ways of the world--that is, of _his_
world--Richard knew nothing of banks whatever, and wondered whether he
would have any difficulty in carrying out his object. He could not
foresee any; it seemed to him that the banking folks would be glad to
oblige him in the matter in question, since, if there was any advantage,
it would be on their side. But there were six hours yet before he could
perform this business, and since sleep was denied him, how was he to
pass the time? There was a large book upon the drawers, which he had not
hitherto observed, with the royal arms stamped upon it, and the name of
the hotel inscribed beneath them. It did not look like a devotional
work, but it was the New Testament--a work that was very literally new
to Richard Yorke. He had seen it, of course, often; was acquainted by
hearsay with its contents, and had joked about them. It is the easiest
book in the world to make jokes upon, which, perhaps, accounts for its
being so favorite a subject of ridicule with foolish persons. Shakspeare
is also easy to make fun of, but the _soupcon_ of blasphemy is in that
case wanting, which, to many, forms the chief charm of witty converse.
Richard looked at it as a dog looks at a stick; but he took it up, and
opened it at random. "Having no hope, and without God in the world."
He was not a believer in sortilege. If the text he had chanced upon had
been ever so applicable to his own condition, it would have made but
little impression upon him, and this was not very pertinent in its
application. He was by no means without hope. He had come to Plymouth
full of hope, though disappointed at its not having been already
exchanged for certainty. He had good hope of inspiring John Trevethick
with confidence in his social position, and consequently of obtaining
his consent to marry the woman who had now become indispensable to his
happiness. He had even some hope of yet inheriting a portion of his
father's great estate. He could not be accused of spiritual ambition.
Any other sort of hope than that of being in a position to enjoy himself
thoroughly had never entered into his mind. Just now, however, he was
far from enjoying himself; he was a prey to anxiety, and any opportunity
of forgetting it was welcome to him. Not without an effort to be
interested, therefore, he reflected upon these words, which seemed
rather to have been spoken in his ear aloud than merely to have caught
his eye. He had already shut the book with contemptuous impatience, but
he found himself, nevertheless, repeating: "Having no hope, and without
God in the world," and pondering upon their meaning. He wondered at
himself for taking the trouble to do so; but if he didn't do that, his
thoughts would, he knew, be even less pleasantly occupied; so he let
them slip into this novel channel. How _could_ a man be without God in
the world, if God was every where? as he had somewhere seen or heard
stated, and which he believed to be the fact. It was one of the
objections against the Bible, was his peevish reflection, that it was
self-contradictory in its assertions, and unmistakably distinct only in
its denunciations of wrath. Here was a case in point, and one which
might justly be "taken up" by a fellow, if it was worth while. As for
himself, he was no skeptic. Exeter Hall might have clasped him to her
breast (and would) upon that ground. He was accustomed to use the name
of the Creator whenever he wished to be particularly decisive; but for
any other purpose he had never named it with his lips. Even as a child,
his mother had never taught him to do so. She had never spoken to him on
religious subjects except in humorous connection with the Heads of the
two Churches to which her first husband had belonged--Emanuel Swedenborg
and Joanna Southcott. If the expression "without God in the world" meant
the living in it without the practice of religion, it certainly did have
an application to himself, but also to every one else with whom he was
acquainted. Of course he had known people who went to church--young men
of his own age, whom their parents compelled to do so, and who envied
him the liberty he enjoyed in that respect; and the poor folks at Gethin
went to chapel. But, even, there, shrewd fellows like Trevethick and
Solomon did not trouble themselves to do so. True, Harry went! But then
women, unless they were uncommonly clever, like his own mother, always
did go to hear the parsons. Parsons, as a rule, were hypocrites. He had
met one or two of them in town under circumstances that showed they had
really no more "nonsense about them" than other people, but in the
pulpit they were bound to cant. Look at Mr. Whymper, for instance--the
best specimen of them, by-the-by, he had ever known--who could doubt
that his mind was wholly set upon the main chance? To what slights and
insolences did he submit himself for the sake of feathering his own
nest; and how he had counted upon that fat living, of which the Squire
had so cruelly disappointed him! Talk of religion! why, there was Carew
himself, with thirty thousand a year, and did not spend a shilling of it
on religion! True, he kept a chaplain, but only as a check upon his
steward, to manage his estate for him. If there was really any thing in
it, would not a rich man like him have put aside a portion of his
wealth, by way of insurance--insurance against fire?--and here Richard
chuckled to himself.
It was all rubbish, these texts and things. He would dress himself, and
go out and take a walk, although it was so early. He had already heard
sounds in the house, as though somebody was astir; so he rang the bell.
It was answered by a sleepy and disheveled personage, whom he scarcely
recognized for the sleek "night chamberlain," whose duty it was to watch
while others slept, and who had given him a bed-candle not many hours
"What! still up, my man?" said Richard, gayly.
"Yes, Sir. The morning mail has but just come in; we had a passenger by
it. I put him in the room under you; but he seemed a quiet one, and I
didn't think he'd 'a disturbed you."
"He did not," said Richard. "I have been awake all night, and never so
much as heard him. Can I have some hot water?"
"Not yet, Sir, I'm afraid; there's no fire alight at present. I can get
you some brandy-and-soda, Sir."
"No, no," answered Richard, smiling; "I sha'n't want that; and as for
the hot water, I can do without it; but, now you're here, just tell me,
for I am quite a stranger to your town, isn't that high roof yonder,"
and he pointed to the object in question, "the Miners' Bank?"
"Yessir, that's it. Ah, if the morning was but a little finer, you would
have a lovely view from this here window--half the town and a good slice
of the harbor! There's a splendid building out to the left there, if the
clouds would but lift a little. That's the County Jail, Sir."
"Indeed," said Richard, carelessly, and turned away. "Just take my boots
down with you, as I shall want them as soon as you can get them
The man did as he was bid. Directly he had left the room, Richard pulled
down the window-blind, and staggered to a chair. Perhaps want of food
and sleep had weakened him; but he sat down, looking very pale and
haggard, like one who has received a sudden shock. Why should one man
have answered him last night, "the convict ship," and now this fellow
have pointed out the jail? It was only a coincidence, of course; but if
there was ever such a thing as an evil augury, he had surely experienced
it on those two occasions. "This is what comes of burying one's self at
Gethin," thought he, smiling faintly at his own folly. "If I staid there
much longer, I should begin to believe in mermaids and the Flying
Dutchman." Jail! Why, if the very worst should happen, the matter would
only require to be explained; he was in no real peril from the law,
after all. Indeed, the very revelation which he most dreaded would only,
by exposing the true state of affairs, precipitate his happiness.
Trevethick would then be as eager as himself to hasten Harry's marriage.
Thus he reasoned until something of equanimity returned to him. Then he
attired himself, buttoning his frock-coat carefully over his chest, and
went down stairs. As he reached the next landing, a gentleman emerged
from the room immediately beneath his own, like himself, fully dressed,
and carrying his hat and great-coat. He was a small stout man, with
bushy red whiskers, a good-natured face, and little twinkling black
eyes. With a civil bow he made way for Richard to pass him, and then
followed him down stairs into the coffee-room. It was a huge apartment,
and quite empty except for their two selves. Most persons meeting in
such a Sahara would have exchanged a salutation; and Richard, gregarious
by nature besides, being eager to divert his thoughts, at once entered
"You are the gentleman who arrived by the mail this morning, I
conclude," said he, "otherwise you would scarcely keep such early
"Just so, Sir," answered the other, smiling. "I thought it was not worth
while to go to bed, but just gave myself a wash and brush up; and here I
am, sharp-set for breakfast."
It was plain this man was not a gentleman, but Richard cared very little
about that. He would have talked to the waiter, in default of any other
"Well, I have been to bed," said Richard, smiling, "though something I
took at dinner disagreed with me, and kept me awake all night. Do you
mean to say you are not going to take any horizontal refreshment at
"Well, no; I had some sleep in the coach, and a very little of that
article does for me. If you eat and drink enough, as I do, it is
astonishing how well you can get on without rest."
"Indeed," said Richard. "I should like to see the substitutes you take
for what I have always found an indispensable necessity. Suppose we have
breakfast together, and you shall order it."
"But not pay for it," stipulated the stout gentleman, in a tone that you
might take as either jest or earnest. "We'll go shares in that, eh?"
"Unless you will allow me to be your host, we will certainly go shares,"
said Richard, wondering to himself whether in all Gethin so great a boor
as this could be found above-ground or beneath it, or making his
business on the waters, but rather amused nevertheless.
"I don't like misunderstandings," explained the little man, "nor yet
obligations. It's not that I grudge my money, or have not as much of it
as I want, thank Heaven!"
"Then you've got more than any body else I know," said Richard,
laughing; "and I am acquainted with some rich men too."
"I dare say, Sir; you are a rich man yourself, I hope. You look like a
young gentleman with plenty of money in your pocket."
At any other time Richard would not have been displeased by such an
observation, which was, moreover, a perfectly just one. He looked from
head to heel like a young man of fortune, and had been brought up as
idly and uselessly as any such; but now he blushed and felt
uncomfortable; and his fingers, in spite of himself, sought that
breast-pocket which he had so carefully buttoned up, as though his
companion's observation had had a literal and material meaning.
"Do you know Plymouth?" asked he of the stranger, by way of turning the
"Perfectly. Indeed, I live here; but I did not wish to arrive at home at
such an unseasonable hour as the coach comes in. If, as a resident, I
can be of any service to you, pray command me. But you don't eat, Sir."
Richard, indeed, was only playing with a piece of toast, while eggs and
ham and marmalade were disappearing with marvelous rapidity down the
throat of his companion.
"I am not like you," he answered. "Want of sleep produces want of
appetite with me. With respect to Plymouth, you are very good to offer
me your hospitality, but--"
"Services, Sir--services while in the town, I said," observed the little
man. "Let us have no misunderstanding, nor yet obligation; that's my
motto. Now, what can I do for you, short of that?"
"Well, I shall not greatly tax your prudence," rejoined Richard, this
time laughing heartily, "though you must certainly be either a Scotchman
or a lawyer, to be so anxious to act 'without prejudice.' The only
information I have to ask of you is, at what time the bank opens; for I
have got some business to do there, which I want to effect as soon as
possible, and then be off."
"The bank! Well, there's more than one bank in Plymouth," observed the
little man, scraping up the last shreds of marmalade on his plate. "They
open at different hours."
"The Miners' Company is the one I want to go to."
"That opens at nine, Sir. It's on my way home, and I shall be glad to
show it you."
"Thank you; but it was pointed out to me last night," said Richard,
stiffly; for he preferred to effect the business which he had on hand
alone. "It is still raining. What do you say to a cigar in the
"With pleasure, when I have just written three words to tell my people
of my arrival," answered the stranger; "however, I can do that as well
there as here."
And so eager did he seem for Richard's society that he had pen and paper
brought into the hotel divan, and from thence dispatched his note.
"Take one of my cigars," said Richard, good-naturedly, offering his
"No, no," replied the little man, shaking his head, and looking very
grave; "you know my motto, Sir."
"A cigar," urged Richard, "is one of those things that one can accept
even from a stranger without that sense of obligation from which you
shrink so sensitively. Seriously, my good Sir, I shall feel offended if
you refuse me this small favor."
"Sooner than that shall be, Sir, I'll take your cigar," said the little
man. He held it up to the light, and sniffed at it with great zest.
"This is no common brand, I reckon."
"Well, it is better than you will get out of the waiter's box, I dare
say," answered Richard, smiling; for his cigars, like every thing else
he had about him, were of the best.
"Now I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll put this in my pocket, if you'll
allow me, young gentleman, for a treat when I get home. After an early
morning breakfast, I generally prefer a pipe;" and he produced one
accordingly from his pocket.
The room was melancholy to the last degree, being lit only from a
sky-light; relics of the last night's dissipation, in the shape of empty
glasses and ends of cigars, were still upon the small round tables;
while a two-days-old newspaper was the only literature of which the
apartment could boast.
"This place and hour would be dull enough, Sir, without your society,"
observed Richard, genially. "I don't think I was ever up so early in my
life before, nor in such a den of a place."
"It's reckoned a good inn, too, is the _George and Vulture_; but the
life of a hotel, you see, don't begin till later on in the day."
"That's a pity," said Richard, laughing, "as I sha'n't have the
opportunity of seeing it at its best. I hope to be away by 9.30, or 10
"Ah," said the little man, "indeed!" His words were meaningless enough,
but there was really a genuine air of interest in his tone. He was a
vulgar fellow, no doubt; but Richard rather liked him, mainly because it
was evident that the other was captivated by him. He had laid himself
out to please John Trevethick and his friend Solomon for the last six
months, without success, yet here was a man who had evidently
appreciated him at once. If he was but a bagman, or something of that
sort, it was only the more creditable to his own powers of pleasing; and
his vanity--and Richard was as vain of his social attractions as a
girl--was flattered accordingly. In his solitude and wretchedness, too,
the society of this stranger had been very welcome.
"I am sorry," said Richard, when they had passed some hours together,
and it was getting near nine o'clock, "that I am obliged to leave
Plymouth so soon. It would have given me great pleasure if you could
have come and dined with me; though, indeed, I fear I have already
detained you from your family. It was the act of a good Samaritan to
keep me company so long, and I thank you heartily."
"Don't mention it, Sir--don't mention it," said the little man, quite
huskily. "I have only done my duty."
This courteous sentiment made Richard laugh. "Your duty to your
neighbor, eh?" said he. "Well, I must now wish you good-by;" and he held
out his hand with a frank smile. "Perhaps we may meet again some day."
"Perhaps so, Sir," said the other, knocking the ashes out of his pipe,
and accompanying him into the hall.
At the hotel door Richard called a fly, as it was now raining heavily.
"Shall I take you as far as the bank," said he, "since your road home
lies that way? or is even that little service contrary to your motto?"
"I have got to see to my luggage," answered the other, evasively.
"Well, good-by, then."
The vehicle rattled down a street or two, then stopped before a building
of some pretension, with a tall portico and a flight of stone steps
before it. Another fly drove up at the same moment, but it did not
attract Richard's attention, which was concentrated upon the business he
had in hand, and made his heart beat very fast. He pushed his way
through the huge swinging door, and found himself in a vast room, with a
large circular counter, at which clerks were standing, each behind a
little rail. He had never been inside a bank before, and he looked
around him curiously. On the left was an opaque glass door, with
"Manager's Room" painted on it; on the right was an elevated desk, from
which every part of the apartment could be commanded; the clerk who sat
there looked down at him for an instant as he entered, but at once
resumed his occupation. Every body was busy with pen and ledger; men
were thronging in and out like bees, giving or receiving sheaves of
bank-notes, or heaps of gold and silver. Richard waited until there was
a vacant place at the counter, then stepped up with: "I want to
exchange some Bank of England notes, please, for your own notes."
"Next desk, Sir," said the man, not even looking up, but pointing with
the feather of his quill pen, then scratching away again as though he
would have overtaken the lost time.
There was a singing in Richard's ear as he repeated his request, and
fumbled in his breast-pocket for the notes; then a silence seemed to
fall upon the place, which a moment before had been so alive and noisy.
Every pen seemed to stop; the ring of the gold, the rustle of paper,
ceased; only the tick of the great clock over the centre door was heard.
"Thief, thief! thief, thief!" were the words it said.
"How much is there?" inquired the clerk, taking the bundle of notes from
Richard's hand; and his voice sounded as though it was uttered in an
"Two thousand pounds," said Richard. "Is there any difficulty about it?
If so, I can take them elsewhere."
But the clerk had got them already, and was beginning to put down the
number of each in a great ledger. Richard had not calculated upon this
course of procedure, and had his reasons for objecting to it.
"80,431, 80,432, 80,433," read out the clerk aloud, and every soul in
the room seemed listening to him.
"That will do," said another voice close to Richard's ear, and a light
touch was laid upon his arm. Scarlet to the very temples, he looked up,
and there stood the little red-whiskered man from whom he had parted not
ten minutes before. A very grave expression was now in those twinkling
black eyes. "I have a warrant for your apprehension, young man, upon a
charge of theft," said he.
"Of theft!" said Richard, angrily. "What nonsense is this?"
"Those notes are stolen," said the little man. "Your name is Richard
Yorke, is it not?"
"What's that to you?" said Richard. "I decline--"
Here the door of the manager's room was opened, and out strode Solomon
Coe, with a look of cruel triumph on his harsh features. "That's your
man, right enough," said he. "He'd wheedle the devil, if once you let
him talk. Be off with him!"
The next moment Richard's wrists were seized, and he was hurried out
between two men--his late acquaintance of the hotel and a
policeman--down the bank steps, and into a fly that stood there in
"To the County Jail!" cried Solomon, as he entered the vehicle after
them. Then he turned to the red-whiskered man, and inquired fiercely,
why he hadn't put the darbies on the scoundrel.
"Never you mind that," was the sharp reply. "I'm responsible for the
young gentleman's safe-keeping, and that's enough."
"Young gentleman! I am sure the young gentleman ought to be much obliged
to you," replied Solomon, contemptuously. "Young felon, you mean."
"Nobody's a felon until after trial and conviction," observed the little
man, decisively. "Let's have no misunderstanding and no obligation, Mr.
Coe; that's my motto."
Here the wheels began to rumble, and a shadow fell over the vehicle and
those it held: they were passing under the archway of the jail.
LEAVING THE WORLD.
What wondrous and surpassing change may be in store for us when the soul
and body have parted company none can guess; but of all the changes of
which man has experience in this world, there is probably none so great
and overwhelming as that which he undergoes when, for the first time, he
passes the material barrier that separates guilt from innocence, and
finds himself in the clutches of the criminal law. To be no longer a
free man is a position which only one who has lost his freedom is able
to realize; the shock, of course, is greater or less according to his
antecedents. The habitual breaker of the law is aware that sooner or
later to the "stone jug" he must come; his friends have been there, and
laughed and joked about it, as Eton boys who have been "swished" make
merry with the block and rod, and affect to despise them; the situation
is, in idea at least, familiar to him; yet even he, perhaps, feels a
sinking of the heart when the door of the prison-cell clangs upon him
for the first time, and shuts him from the world. The common liberty to
go where we will is estimated, while we have it, at nothing; but, once
denied, it becomes the most precious boon in life. How infinitely more
poignant, then, must be the feelings of one thus unhappily
circumstanced, to whom the idea of such a catastrophe has never
occurred; who has always looked upon the law from the vantage-ground of
a good social position, and acquiesced in its working with complacence,
as in something which could have no personal relation to himself!
Thus it was with Richard Yorke when, for the first time, he found
himself a prisoner in the hands of Mr. Dodge, the detective, and his
blue-coated assistant. For the time he felt utterly unmanned, and might
have even fainted, or burst into tears, but for the consciousness that
Solomon Coe was sitting opposite to him. The presence of that gentleman
acted as a cordial upon him; the idea that he owed his miserable
position to that despised boor wounded him to the quick, but at the same
time gave him an outward show of calmness: he could not have broken down
before that man, though he had been standing beneath the gallows-tree.
Despondency would have utterly possessed him but for hate and rage--hate
of his rival and all who might be concerned in this catastrophe, and
rage at the arrest itself. For, though he had not the consciousness of
innocence to support him, he had no sense of guilt. He had had no
intention of absolutely stealing Trevethick's money; and yet he foresaw
how difficult it would be to clear himself of that grave charge. He also
looked back, and perceived for the first time the magnitude of the folly
which he had committed. He felt no shame for it as a crime--he had not
principle enough for that; but he recognized the extent of the
imprudence, and its mad audacity; yet he was mad and audacious still. He
had been brought up as much his own master as any youth in England, no
matter how rich or nobly born; he had never known control, nor even
(except during those few days at Crompton) what it was to control
himself; and he could not realize the fact that he might actually come
to share the fate of common thieves; to wear a prison garb; to be shut
up within stone walls for months or even years; no longer a man, but a
convict, known only by his number from other jail-birds. He did not
think it could even come to his standing in the felon's dock, subject to
the curious gaze of a hundred eyes, the indifferent regard of the stern
judge, the--In the midst of these bitter thoughts, which were indeed
disputations with his fears, the fly had stopped at the jail gate, and
Mr. Dodge, with a cheerful air, observed: "We must get out here, if you
please, Mr. Yorke."
Richard hesitated; he was mistrustful of his very limbs, so severely had
the sight of those stone walls shaken him.
"Your young friend does not seem much to like the idea of lodging here,"
said Solomon, with a brutal laugh.
"That is fortunate," answered the detective, dryly, "since he will not
have to do so. In my profession, Mr. Coe, we hold it a mean trick to
kick a man when he is down.--This way, Sir, if you please." For, at the
sound of Solomon's voice, Richard was up and out in a moment. "It is
merely a form that you have to go through before we go before the beak."
"A form?" asked Richard, hoarsely; "what form?"
"We shall have to search you, Sir; that's all."
"That's all," echoed Solomon, with a grin.
Richard's face changed from white to red, from red to white, by turns.
"Mr. Coe will stay where he is," said Dodge, peremptorily, as he led the
way into a little room that opened from the gate-keeper's parlor.
"I thank you for that, Mr. Dodge," said Richard, gratefully.
"Not at all, Sir. If you have any thing of a compromising nature about
you--revolvers or such like--that's my business and the beak's, not
his.--Officer do your duty."
Richard was searched accordingly. He had no revolver; but what
astonished himself more than it did the searcher was that a cigar was
found loose in his breast-pocket.
"Why, this must be the one that I gave to you this morning, Mr. Dodge."
"Just so, Sir. I put it back again as we came along. You know my motto.
When you come to be your own master again--which I hope'll be soon--then
I'll smoke it with you with pleasure; they'll keep it for you very
careful, you may depend upon it, and baccar is a thing as don't spoil.
That's a pretty bit of jewelry now--_that_ is." Mr. Dodge's remark
referred to a gold locket, with the word "Harry" outside it, written in
diamonds; and within a portrait of her, which he had executed himself.
"That's a token of some favorite brother, I dare say?"
"Yes," said Richard. "Might I keep that, if you please; or, at all
events, might I ask that it should not be shown to the man in yonder
room? It's my own, Mr. Dodge," added he, earnestly, "upon my word and
"No doubt, Sir; no doubt. There's no charge against you except as to
these notes. I must put it down on the list, because that's the law; but
you can keep it, and welcome, so far as I am concerned; though I am
afraid the Cross Key folks will not be so very easy with you."
"The Cross Key folks?"
"Well, Mr. Yorke, it's no use to hide from you that you will be sent to
Cross Key; that's the nearest jail to Gethin, I believe. I am afraid the
beak will be for committing you; the sum is so large, and the case so
clear, that I doubt whether he'll entertain the question of bail. You
have no friends in Plymouth, either, you told me."
"None," said Richard, sadly; "unless," he added, in a whisper, "I can
count you as one."
"Officer, just fetch a glass of water," said Dodge; "the prisoner says
he feels faint.--Look here, young gentleman," continued he, earnestly,
as soon as they were alone, "this is no use; I can do nothing for you
whatever, except wish you luck, which I do most heartily. I am as
helpless as a baby in this matter. I can only give you one piece of good
advice: when the beak asks if you've any thing to say, unless you have
something that will clear you, and can be proved--you know best about
that--say, 'I reserve my defense;' then, as soon as you're committed,
ask to see your solicitor; send for Weasel of Plymouth; your friends
have money, I conclude. Hush! Here's the water, young man; just sip a
little, and you'll soon come round."
Not another word, either then or afterward, did Mr. Dodge exchange with
his prisoner. Perhaps he began to think he had acted contrary to the
motto which was his guide in life in the good-will he had already shown
him. Perhaps he resented the favorable impression that the attractions
and geniality of his acquaintance at the hotel had made upon him as
unprofessional. At all events, during their drive from the jail to the
office where the magistrate was sitting--it was not open at the hour
when Richard had been arrested, or he would have been searched
there--Mr. Dodge seemed to have lost all sympathy for his "young
gentleman," chatting with the officer quite carelessly upon matters
connected with their common calling, and even offering Mr. Coe a pinch
from his snuff-box, without extending that courtesy to Yorke. Nay, when
they were just at their journey's end, he had the want of feeling to
look his prisoner straight in the face, and whistle an enlivening air.
The melody was not so popular as it has since become, or perhaps Mr.
Dodge had doubts of his ability to render it with accuracy, but, as if
to inform all whom it might concern what it was that he was executing,
he hummed aloud the fag-end of the tune, keeping time with his fist upon
his knee, "Pop goes the weasel, pop goes the weasel."
Richard understood, and thanked him with his eyes. He had no need,
however, to be reminded of the good-natured detective's word of advice.
The ignominy which he had just undergone had had the effect of revealing
to him the imminence as well as the full extent of the peril in which he
stood. Henceforward he could think of nothing--not even revenge--save
the means of extricating himself from the toils which every moment
seemed to multiply about him. The time for action was, indeed, but
short; if he was ever (for it already seemed "ever") to be free again,
the means must be taken to deliver him at once. The assizes would be
held at Cross Key--he had heard the Gethin gossips talk of them, little
thinking that they would have any interest for him--in three weeks.
Until then, at all events, he must be a prisoner; beyond that time he
would not, dared not, look.
Within ten minutes Richard Yorke stood committed to Cross Key Jail.
He followed his friend's counsel in all respects. But the messenger
dispatched for Mr. Weasel returned with the news that that gentleman was
out of town; he was very busy at that season--there were other folks in
difficulties besides our hero, urgent for his consolation and advice as
to their course of conduct before my Lord the Judge. Mr. Dodge, however,
assured Richard, upon taking leave, that he would dispatch the attorney
after him that very night.
The road to Cross Key was, for many miles, the same which he had lately
traveled in the reverse direction; yet how different it looked! He had
been in far from good spirits on that occasion, but how infinitely more
miserable was he now! The hills, the rocks, the streams were far more
beautiful than he had ever thought them, but they mocked him with their
beauty. He longed to get out of the vehicle, and feel the springy turf,
the yielding heather, beneath his feet; to lave his hands in the
sparkling brook, to lie on the moss-grown rock, and bask in the blessed
sun. Perhaps he should never see them any more--these simple everyday
beauties, of which he had scarcely taken any account when they were
freely offered for his enjoyment. He looked back on even the day before,
wherein he had certainly been wretched enough, with yearning regret. He
had at least been a free man, and when should he be free again? Ah,
when! He was, as it were, in a prison on wheels, guarded by two jailers.
Escape would have been hopeless, even had it been judicious to make the
attempt. His only consolation was, that Solomon Coe was no longer with
him to jeer at his dejected looks. He had started for Gethin with the
news, doubtless as welcome to Trevethick as to himself, of the
prisoner's committal. What would Harry say when she came to hear of it?
What would she not suffer? Richard cast himself back in his seat, and
groaned aloud. The man at his side exchanged a glance with his
companion. "He is guilty, this young fellow." "Without doubt, he's
booked." They had their little code of signals for such occasions.
The day drew on, and the soft sweet air of evening began to rise. They
had stopped here and there for refreshments, but Richard had taken
nothing; he had, however, always accompanied his custodians within doors
at the various halting-places. He was afraid of the crowd that might
gather about the vehicle to look at the man that was being taken to
prison. There was nothing to mark him as such, but it seemed to him that
nobody could fail to know it. He welcomed the approach of night. They
still traveled on for hours, since there was no House of Detention at
which he could be placed in safety on the road; at last the wheels
rumbled over the uneven stones of a little country town; they stopped
before a building similar, so far as he could see by the moonlight, to
that to which he had been taken at Plymouth: all jails are alike,
especially to the eyes of the prisoner. A great bell was rung; there was
a parley with the keeper of the gate. The whole scene resembled
something which Richard remembered to have read in a book; he knew not
what, nor where. A door in the wall was opened; they led him up some
stone steps; the door closed behind him with a clang; and its locks
seemed to bite into the stone.
"This way, prisoner," said a gruff voice.
Door after door, passage after passage; a labyrinth of stone and iron.
At last he was ushered into a small chamber, unlike any thing he had
ever seen in his life. His sleeping-room at the keeper's lodge at
Crompton was palatial compared with it. The walls were stone; the floor
of a shining brown, so that it looked wet, though it was not so. His
jailer-chamberlain pointed to a low-lying hammock, stretched upon two
straps between the walls. "There, tumble in," he said; "you will have
your bath in the morning. Look alive!"
Richard obeyed him at once. "Good-night, warder," said he.
"Night!" grumbled the other; "it's morn-in'. A pretty time to be
knockin' up people at a respectable establishment. If you want any
thin'--broiled bones, or deviled kidneys"--for the man was a wag in his
quaint way--"ring this 'ere bell. As for the other rules and regulations
of her Majesty's jail, you'll learn them at breakfast-time."
The door slammed behind him.
How the doors _did_ slam in that place! And Richard was left alone. If,
instead of the metal ewer of water that stood by his bed-head, there had
been a glass of deadliest poison, he would have seized it greedily, and
emptied it to the dregs.
THE LETTER LOOK.
On the day that Richard left Gethin, which was itself an incident to
keep the tongues of its gossips wagging for a good week, another
occurrence took place in that favored neighborhood, and one of even more
absorbing interest--the workings of Dunloppel were suspended. This, of
course, was not a wholly unexpected catastrophe. The new vein, after
giving an exceedingly rich yield for some months, had of late, it was
whispered, evinced signs of exhaustion, although the fact was not known
that for several weeks the undertaking had been carried on at a loss.
Neither Trevethick nor Solomon, who were the principal proprietors, was
the sort of man to play long at a losing game, or to send good money
after bad; so, for the present, the pit was closed. But Solomon believed
in Dunloppel; contrary to his custom, he had not disposed of a single
share when the mine was at a premium, and his stake in it was very
Only a few minutes after Richard had departed for Plymouth with his
check, Solomon returned to the inn with thoughtful brow.
Trevethick was moodily smoking his pipe in the porch, still balancing
the rival claims of his sons-in-law elect, and dissatisfied with both of
them. He did not share Solomon's hopes, and he detested losing his money
above every thing. "Well, you've packed off all those fellows, I hope,
that have been eating me out of house and home for these three weeks?"
"I've closed the mine, if that's what you mean," said Solomon. "But" (he
looked cautiously up at the windows of the inn, which were all open--the
guests were out in search of the picturesque, and Harry was on the
tower, straining her eyes after Richard) "I want to have a word with you
in private, Trevethick."
"Come into the bar parlor, then," grunted the landlord, for he did not
much relish the idea of a confidential talk with Solomon just then,
since it might have relation to a matter about which he had not fully
made up his mind to give him an answer.
"Is that young painter fellow out of the way, then?" asked Solomon. "We
have never had a place to ourselves, it seems to me, since _he_ came to
"Yes, yes, he's far enough off," answered Trevethick, more peevishly
than before, for Sol's remark seemed to foreshadow the very subject he
would fain have avoided talking about. "He's gone to Plymouth, he is,
and won't be back these five days."
"Umph!" said Sol. If he had said, "I wish he would never come back at
all," he could not have expressed his feelings more clearly.
"Well," growled Trevethick, when they were in his sanctum, and had shut
the door, "what is it now? Bad news, of course, of some sort."
It was a habit with Trevethick, as it is with many men of his stamp, to
have a perpetual grievance against Providence--to profess themselves as
never astonished at any bad turn that _It_ may do them--and, besides, he
was on the present occasion desirous of taking up a position of
discontent beforehand, so that the expected topic might not appear to
have produced it.
"No; it's good news, Trevethick," said Solomon, quietly--"the best of
news, as it seems to me; and I hope to bring you over to the same
"He's got some scheme for marrying Harry out of hand," thought the
harassed landlord. "How the deuce shall I put him off?"
There was not the slightest excuse for doing so; if Solomon had been of
a less phlegmatic disposition, he might have married her a year ago,
young as she was. "Read this," said he, producing a letter from his
pocket, "and tell me what you think of it. It's old Stratum's report
upon the mine."
"Ay, ay," said Trevethick, diving into his capacious pocket for his
silver spectacles. As a general rule, he was wont to receive all such
reports with discredit, and to throw cold water upon Sol's more sanguine
views; but it was several minutes before he could get himself into his
normal state of dissatisfied depression, so much relieved was he to find
that his daughter was not to be the topic of the conversation.
"Here's the plan," continued Solomon, "which accompanied the letter. I
got it just after I dismissed the men; and, upon my life, I'd half a
mind to set them on again. But I thought I'd just have a talk with you
"Ay," said Trevethick--"well?" He was quite himself again now--crafty,
prudent, reticent; about as unpromising a gentleman to "get on with,"
far less get the better of in a bargain, as a Greek Jew. But Solomon was
quite accustomed to him.
"Stratum feels confident about the continuation of the lode, you see;
and also that the fault is not considerable. We shall not have to sink
fifty feet, he thinks, before we come on the vein again."
"He _thinks_" said Trevethick, contemptuously. "Is he ready to sink his
own money in it?"
"It's no good asking him that," said Solomon, coolly, "because he's got
none. But I have always found Stratum pretty correct in his judgment;
and, as for me, I believe in Dunloppel. The question is, shall I go on
with it single-handed, or will you go shares?"
"If it's so good a thing, why not keep it yourself, Sol?"
"Because my money is particularly well laid out at present, and I don't
want to shift it."
"That's just the case with mine," said Trevethick, from behind the plan.
"I thought you might have five hundred pounds or so lying idle, that's
all," returned the other. "I'd give six per cent. for it just now."
"Oh, that's another thing. Perhaps I have. I'll see about it."
"If you could get it me at once, that would be half the battle," urged
Solomon. "There are some good men at the mine whom I should not like to
lose. If I could send round to-night to tell them not to engage,
themselves elsewhere, since they're opening so many new pits just now,
that would be a relief to my mind."
"Very good; you may do that, then. I'll write for the money to-morrow."
So blunt, straightforward, and exceedingly unpleasant a man as John
Trevethick was, ought to have been the very incarnation of Truth,
whereas that last observation of his was, to say the least of it,
Jesuitical. There was no occasion to write to any body for what he had
got above stairs, locked up in his private strong-box. But he did not
wish all the world to know that, nor even his _alter ego_, Solomon Coe.
Trevethick, although a close-fisted fellow, was no miser in the vulgar
sense. He kept this vast sum at hand, partly because he had no
confidence in ordinary securities, and partly because he wished to be in
a position, at a moment's notice, to accomplish his darling scheme. If
Carew should happen to change his mind, it would be because he was in
want of ready money, and he would be in mad haste to get it. His
impatience on such occasions brooked no delay on the score of advantage;
and the man that could offer him what he wanted, as it were, in his open
hand, would be the financier he would favor in preference to a much less
grasping accommodator, who might keep him waiting for a week. It was not
so much the tempting bait of ready money that caught the Squire as the
fact of his wishes being obeyed upon the instant. He had not been used
to wait, and his pride revolted against it; and many a time had a usurer
missed his mark by not understanding with how great a bashaw he had to
deal in the person of Carew of Crompton. Trevethick was aware of this,
and indeed the chaplain had given him a hint to keep the proposed
purchase-money within easy reach, in case the Squire's mood might alter,
or his necessities demand his consent to what Mr. Whymper honestly
believed to be a very advantageous offer. Otherwise, Trevethick was not
one to keep a hoard in his house for the mere pleasure of gloating over
it. He had not looked into his strong-box for months, nor would he have
done so now, but for this unexpected demand upon it. It was safe enough,
he knew, in his daughter's room; and as for its having been opened, that
was an impossibility; the padlock hung in front of it as usual, and it
would have taken a man half a lifetime to have hit upon its open sesame
by trial. He was justly proud of that letter lock, which was his own
contrivance, invented when he was quite a young man, and had been
perforce compelled to turn his attention to mechanics, and he considered
it a marvel of skill. It was characteristic in him that he had never
revealed its secret even to his daughter. Indeed, with the exception of
Harry, nobody at Gethin--save, perhaps, Hannah, when she dusted her
young mistress's room--had ever set eyes upon it, nor, if they had,
would they have understood its meaning.
It was therefore without the slightest suspicion of its having been
tampered with, that, an hour or two after the conversation just
narrated, Trevethick repaired to his strong-box, with the intention of
taking from it the sum of money required by Solomon. The padlock was
like a little clock, except that it had the letters of the alphabet
round its face instead of figures, and three hands instead of two; this
latter circumstance insured, by its complication, the safety of the
treasure, but at the same time rendered it useless--unless he broke the
box open--to the possessor himself if by any accident he should forget
the letter time at which he had set it; and accordingly Trevethick was
accustomed to carry a memorandum of this about with him; even if he lost
it, it would be no great matter, for what meaning would it convey to any
human being to find a bit of paper with the letters B, N, Z upon it?
Harry, as we have said, was out of the house, so his daughter's room was
untenanted. He went to a cupboard, and took down the box from its usual
shelf, with the same feeling of satisfaction that an old poet recurs to
his first volume of verse; he may have written better things, and things
that have brought him more money, but those spring leaves are dearest to
him of all. So it was with Trevethick's spring lock. He adjusted the
hands, and the padlock sprang open; he lifted the lid, and the box was
empty; the two thousand pounds in Bank of England notes were gone.
He was a big bull-necked man, of what is called (in the reports of
inquests) "a full habit of body," and the discovery was almost fatal to
him. His face grew purple, the veins in his forehead stood out, and his
well-seasoned head, which liquor could so little affect, went round and
round with him, and sang like a humming-top. He was on the very brink of
a fit, which might have "annihilated space and time" (as far as he was
concerned), "and made two lovers happy." But the star of Richard Yorke
was not in the ascendant. The old man held on by the shelf of the
cupboard, and gradually came to himself. He did not even then comprehend
the whole gravity of the position; the sense of his great loss--not only
of so much wealth, but of that which he had secured with such toil, and
laid by unproductively so long for the accomplishment of his darling
purpose--monopolized his mind. Who _could_ have been the thief? was the
one question with which he concerned himself, and the answer was not
long delayed. It was the coincidence of amount in the sum stolen with
that which Richard had gone to Plymouth to realize, that turned his
suspicions upon the young artist. Why, the scoundrel had fixed upon that
very sum as the test of his possessing an independence for a reason that
was now clear enough: it was the exact limit of what he knew he could
lay his hand upon. But how _did_ he know?--or, rather (for the old man's
thoughts were still fixed upon the mechanical mystery of his loss), how
did he open the padlock? Then there flashed upon his mind that incident
of his having dropped the memorandum out of his watch-case in the bar
parlor in Richard's presence, and the whole affair seemed as clear as
day. It was Richard's intention to change the notes at Plymouth for the
paper of the Miners' Bank, or for gold, and then to exhibit it to him in
its new form as his own property. He did not believe that the young
artist intended to steal it; but he was by no means less furious with
him upon that account--quite otherwise. He piqued himself upon his
caution and long-headedness, and resented every deception practiced upon
him even more than an injury. Moreover, he felt that but for Solomon's
unexpected request for the loan the plan would have succeeded. In all
probability, he would not have discovered his loss until it had been too
late--he would not have known how to refuse the young man leave to
become his daughter's suitor; and once his son-in-law, he could scarcely
have prosecuted him for replacing two thousand pounds' worth of
bank-notes in his strong-box by notes of another kind. Exasperated
beyond all measure as Trevethick was, it did credit to his sagacity that
even at such a moment he did not conceive of Richard Yorke as being a
common thief. But he concluded him to be much worse, and deserving of
far heavier punishment, as a man that would have obtained his daughter
under false pretenses. He went down stairs, taking the box with him, to
seek his friend. Solomon had just returned from the cottage over the
way, where he had been giving orders to one of the best miners to still
hold himself engaged at Dunloppel, and had bidden him tell others the
same. He was in high spirits, and was twirling about in his large hands
Mr. Stratum's diagnosis of the mine.
"You may put that away and have done with it," said Trevethick,
hoarsely; "I have no money to lend you for that, nor nothing else. This
box held two thousand pounds of mine, but it's all gone now."
"Two thousand pounds!" exclaimed Solomon, too amazed at the magnitude of
the sum to realize what had happened to it. "Two thousand pounds in a
box!" He had always suspected that the old man kept something in a
stocking-foot, and had often rallied him upon his unnecessary caution
with respect to investments; but this statement of his appeared
"What does it matter if it was twenty thousand, when I tell you it's
gone," said Trevethick, sullenly. "That limb of the devil, Yorke, is off
with every shilling of it."
"Do you mean to say _he's_ stolen it?" inquired the other, even more
astonished than before.
"He's taken it to Plymouth with him, that's all."
Solomon Coe was a man of action, and prompt in emergencies, but for the
moment he was fairly staggered. He had no liking for Richard, but such a
charge as this appeared incredible; it seemed more likely that the old
man had repented of his late offer of the loan of five hundred pounds,
and had invented this monstrous fiction to excuse himself.
"Where was the box kept?" asked Solomon, dryly.
For a moment or two Trevethick was silent.
"It is as I suspected," thought the other; "the old man is making up the
story as he goes on."
But the fact was that this question had gone to the very root of the
matter, and opened Trevethick's dull eyes wide. In his chagrin at his
loss (though he did believe it would be temporary), and irritation at
his sagacity having been set at naught, he had overlooked the most
serious feature of the whole catastrophe. How had Yorke come to the
knowledge that the strong-box was kept in Harry's room? and under what
circumstances had he obtained access to it?
"Where's Harry?" exclaimed Trevethick, starting up with a great oath;
for it flashed upon him that she had fled with Richard. "Where's my
"I saw her in the village just now," said Solomon, "talking to old
Madge. She had been for a stroll out Turlock way, she said. But what's
the use of vexing _her_ about the matter? Women are much best kept in
the dark when one don't want things to be talked about. The more quiet
you keep this story, the more chance you'll have of getting your money
back, you may depend upon it. It was in notes, of course?"
"Yes, in notes," answered the other, with a vacant look, and drumming on
the table with his right hand.
"Come, come, Trevethick, you must keep your head," remonstrated Solomon.
"I'll act for you quick enough, if you'll only supply me with the means.
It's a great loss, but it should not paralyze a man. You've got a
memorandum of the numbers of the notes?"
"Yes, yes; I have somewhere."
"Well; go and fetch it, while I order out a horse. I can get to Plymouth
before wheels can do it, and shall catch this scoundrel yet. He'll be
going there to change the notes, I reckon?"
"Yes, yes," said Trevethick; "he'll be at the _George and Vulture_; so
"Good," replied Solomon. "I'll get a warrant from old Justice Smallgood
on my way. Rouse up, man, rouse up; you shall have your money back, I
tell you, and see this rascal lagged for life into the bargain."
"If I could only get him hanged!" answered the old man, fiercely--"if I
could only get _him_ hanged, Sol, I'd let the money go, and welcome!"
Solomon stared after him, as he left the room and tramped up stairs in
search of the list of notes, with a ludicrous expression of wonder. In
_his_ eyes, no revenge at present seemed worth so extravagant a price.
But Trevethick had his reasons, or thought he had, for this excess of
hate; his slow-moving yet powerful nature resembled the python--it was
exceedingly tenacious when its object was once grasped, and it was apt
to glut itself.
A HARD ALTERNATIVE.
Solomon had ridden off, and was half-way to Turlock before Trevethick
felt himself sufficiently collected to summon Hannah, and bid her send
for her young mistress. He could not go in search of her himself and
speak what he had to ask: no bird of the air must carry her reply, no
wind of heaven breathe it, if it was such as he feared. There must be no
"scene" in public to let loose the gossips' tongues. He sat in the bar
parlor, with his huge head leaning on his hands, brooding over his
wrongs, and waiting for her--for the daughter by whose wicked
connivance, as he thought, he had been despoiled of his hard-earned
gains. He did not reproach himself for having thrown her so much with
Richard, in order that the latter might be kept in good-humor, and apt
to forward his plans as to Wheal Danes. He "wondered at their vice, and
not his folly." As to there being any thing beyond a flirtation between
the young people, he did not suspect it; but even as matters were, he
was bitterly enraged against Harry, and would have strangled Richard out
of hand if he could have got near him. It was evident to him that this
fellow had been courting his daughter, though he knew she was plighted
to another, and had wormed out of her the secret of his hoarded wealth.
Six months ago she would not for her life have dared to tell what she
knew he wished to hide; and now this young villain had wound himself so
cunningly about her that she had no will but his, and had even helped
him to rob her own flesh and blood. His heel was on that serpent's head,
however, or would be in a day or two, and _then_--The old man ground his
teeth as though his enemy were between them.
"Well, father, here I am; Hannah said you wanted me."
Harry's voice was as calm as she could make it, but her young limbs
trembled, and her face was very pale.
[Illustration: "SHE DRAGGED UPON HIS ARM."]
"Come here--nearer!" cried Trevethick, hoarsely, seizing her by the
wrist. "Do you know that you are the only creature but two--but one, I
may say, for gratitude ain't love--that I have ever loved in this
world--that I have worked for you, planned for you, and for you only,
all my life?"
"Yes, father; and I am very grateful for it," answered she,
"No doubt," sneered the old man; "and the way you show how much you feel
it, the way you show your duty and your love to your father in return,
is to put a thief--a lying, cheating thief--in the road to rob him!"
"You must be mad, father!" exclaimed Harry, in blank amazement. "I know
"You know Richard Yorke, you wicked, wanton wench!" interrupted
Trevethick, passionately. "And how could _he_ have heard of yonder box
except through you? Of course you'll lie; a lie or two is nothing to one
like you. But here's the proof. The padlock has been opened, the money
taken. Who did it? Who could have done it, except him, or you?"
"As I am a living woman, father, as I hope for heaven," answered Harry,
earnestly, "I did not do it, and I do not know who did."
"You didn't, and you don't! The thing's incredible. Reach here that
Bible." He still held her by the wrist. "You shall swear that, and be
damned forever! What! you never told that villain where my money lay?"
"I did tell Mr. Yorke that, father. Pray, pray, be patient. It was long
ago; we were talking together about I know not what, and it slipped from
me that you kept money in a strong-box. That was all."
"All," said the old man, bitterly, and flinging her arm away from him,
the wrist all black and bruised with his angry clutch. "What more, or
worse, could you have told than the one secret I had bid you keep? You
told him the exact sum, too, I'll warrant? Two thousand pounds!"
"Yes, father, I did. It was very wrong, and I was very sorry directly I
had done it. But I knew the secret would be safe with a gentleman like
"A gentleman! A cheat, an impostor, a common rogue!"
"Oh no, oh no, father!"
"But I say 'yes.' To-morrow he will have the handcuffs on him! What!
Have you tears for him, and none for me, you slut! Perhaps you _showed_
him where the box was kept, as well as told him! Did you, _did_ you?"
There was something in Harry's frightened face that made her father rise
and lock the door.
"Speak low!" said he, in an awful voice; "you have something to tell me.
"Only that I love him, father--oh, so much!" pleaded Harry,
passionately. "Indeed, indeed, I could not help it! I tried to love Sol,
because you wished it, but it was no use; I felt that even before
Richard came. We walked every day together for weeks and weeks, and he
was so different from Sol, so bright and pleasant, and he loved me from
the first, he said. He told me, too, that you had listened with favor to
his suit, or, at all events, had not refused to listen--that there was
good hope of your consenting to it, and without that hope he knew he
could not win me. I only promised to be his on that condition. Speak to
me, father; pardon me, father! Don't look at me so. He never meant to
thieve, I am sure of that. You asked of him some warrant of his wealth,
some proof that he could afford to marry me. You would not have done
that had you set your face utterly against him. And I think--I
fear--though Heaven is my witness that I knew nothing of it until now,
that he took this money only to bring it back to you again, and win your
favor. It was an ill deed, if he has really done it, which even yet I do
not credit; but it was done for my sake; then for _my_ sake, father,
pity him, pardon him!" She had thrown herself upon her knees beside the
old man's chair; her long hair had come unfastened, and trailed upon the
sanded floor; her hands were clasped in an agony of supplication. No
pictured Magdalen ever looked more wretched or more beautiful.
"You have more to tell?" said the old man, harshly.
She shook her head, and uttered a plaintive moan.
"Then _I_ have," continued he. "You say you love this man; now _I_ hate
him! I do not regret that he has robbed me, since, by that act, he has
placed himself in my power, and I mean to use it to the uttermost; but
for his cozening me to my face, as he has done so long, and for his
smooth, false ways, and for his impudent tales, which I had half
believed, and for his audacious attempt to pluck you from the hand for
which I had designed you, I _hate_ him. I tell you," cried out the old
man, fiercely, "if this villain had fifty lives, and the law would help
me to them, I would exact them all! If he stood here, I would brain him
with yonder staff; and if my curse could follow him beyond the grave--as
my vengeance shall to the grave's brink--he should perish in eternal
fire! _Hate_ him? I almost hate you for having loved him; and if I
thought you would dare to cross me further by holding to him now, I'd
drive you from my door this very hour. You will never see him more; but
I shall, once. This mouth shall witness against him to the uttermost;
these ears shall hear the judge pronounce on him his righteous doom."
"No, no," gasped the young girl, faintly. "If you do not hate me yet, I
pray you to unsay those words. When you curse Richard, father, you are
cursing you know not whom." She dragged upon his arm, and brought his
ear down to the level of her mouth, and whispered in it.
The old man started to his feet, and pushed her from him with a hideous
oath; then made as though he would have unlocked the door and thrown it
wide, to drive her, as he had so lately threatened, from his roof. But
there was a noise of many feet and chattering and laughter in the
passage without, which showed that some of the tourist guests had just
come in. Only a plank intervened between that little knot of giddy
pleasure-seekers, with their jokes and small-talk, and the father and
daughter in their agony.
"Mercy! mercy!" cried the wretched girl.
Trevethick clapped his hand upon her little mouth, with, "Hush, fool!
hush!" and she felt thankful that he called her by no worse name.
"Forgive me--pity--pardon," murmured she.
"Listen!" said he, in a stem whisper. "Obey me now, you wicked, wanton
slut, or I proclaim your shame before them all; one minute will decide
your fate! Be stubborn, and you shall go forth through yonder door,
discarded, friendless, infamous, to beg your bread, or win it how you
will; be tractable, and even yet you shall have a father and a home.
Make choice, and quickly; and having made it, be you sure of this, that
it shall hold. Do you hear me, trollop?"
"I hear! I hear!" she murmured, shuddering. "I will obey you now, and
"Then marry Solomon Coe--at once--within the month."
"Oh, father, mercy!"
His fingers were on the door, and the key grated in the lock.
"The sea-air makes one famish," said a gay voice outside.
"It's lucky," laughed another, "for there is sure to be nothing for
dinner but the inevitable ham and eggs."
In another instant the final barrier between herself and public shame
would have been withdrawn by that relentless hand.
"I promise--I promise--spare me!" cried the unhappy girl, and fell
fainting on the floor.
The old man drew a long, deep breath, and wiped his forehead. His
victory had not been lightly won. He lifted his daughter up and carried
her to the sofa; then raised the little clumsy window, rarely opened,
and propped it with a stick, so that the breeze might blow upon her
tear-stained cheek. How white and worn and emptied of all joy it looked!
As he gazed upon her, a touch of pity stole into her father's face. He
poured out a little spirits in a glass, and put it to her lips. "Take a
sup of this, and you'll be better, child."
She opened her heavy eyes, and shook her head.
"You said you would have mercy, father, if I promised?"
"Yes, yes; all shall be forgotten. We will not even speak of it to one
"And you will pardon _him_? You will not hurt my Richard?"
"Yes, for he was mine once. You will not bear witness against him before
the judge? Is he not punished enough in losing me? Am _I_ not punished?"
"Silence!" exclaimed the old man, in a terrible voice. His hand,
trembling with passion, had struck against the strong-box, and at its
touch his wrath broke out in flame. "That man is dead to you henceforth!
You gave your promise without conditions. Moreover, his fate is in the
hands of the law, and not in mine."
AN UNEXPECTED GUEST.
Six days had come and gone since her lover's departure from Gethin, but
no tidings of him had reached Harry's ears. Solomon had returned on the
second day, and been closeted with her father for some hours, doubtless
in consultation about Richard; but not a word had been spoken of him, in
her presence, by either. She dared not mention him to her father, and
still less could she apply for information to his rival, her now
affianced bridegroom. How much, or how little, her father had disclosed
concerning him to Sol she did not know; but the latter had evidently
closed with the terms which she had in her late strait accepted on her
own part. The bans had been put up in the church upon the hill, and in a
month she would be this man's wife. She had been congratulated upon the
coming event by all the neighbors. Some had slyly hinted--little
guessing the pain they gave to that sore heart--at her late "goings-on"
with that young gentleman-painter; they had almost suspected at one time
that he would have supplanted her old flame; but they were glad to see
matters as they were. Solomon was a steady, sagacious man, as every body
knew, and would get on in the world; and what he gained he would not
waste in foolish ways. Such an old friend of her father's, too. Nothing
could be more fitting and satisfactory in all respects. Solomon,
notoriously a laggard in love, was likened to the tortoise, who had won
the race against the hare.
To have to listen to all this well-meant twaddle was misery indeed.
Perhaps, upon the whole, good honest dullness does unknowingly inflict
more grievous wounds than the barbed satiric tongue.
To think, to picture to herself the condition of her lover--deplorable,
she was convinced, from the grim satisfaction upon Solomon's face when
he first came back--was torture. She could not read, for her mind fled
from the page, like breath from a mirror; there was nothing for it but
occupation. She busied herself as she had never done before with the
affairs of the house, which afforded some excuse for escaping from Sol's
attentions, naturally grown somewhat pressing, now that his wedded
happiness was drawing so near. The _Gethin Castle_ was not, however,
very full of guests. It had been wet for a few days, and rain spoils the
harvest of the inn-keeper even more than that of the farmer. One night,
when it was pouring heavily, and such a windfall as a new tourist was
not to have been expected by the most sanguine Boniface, a lady arrived,
alone, and took up her quarters in the very room that Richard had
vacated. Trevethick himself was at the door when she had driven up and
asked with some apparent anxiety whether she could be accommodated. She
was wrapped up, and thickly veiled, but he had observed to his daughter
what a well-spoken woman she was, and an uncommon fine one too, though
her hair was gray. She had inquired whether there were any letters
waiting for her, addressed to Mrs. Gilbert; but there was no letter.
Harry took in the new arrival's supper with her own hands. It was the
time when she would otherwise have been expected in the bar parlor, to
sit by Solomon's side, and feel his arm creep round her waist, more
hateful than a serpent's fold. A fire had been lit in the sitting-room,
on account of the inclement weather, and Mrs. Gilbert was standing
beside it with her elbow on the mantel-piece. She watched Harry come in
and out, without a word, but the expression of her face was so
searching and attentive that it embarrassed her. Under other
circumstances she would certainly have delegated her duties to Hannah,
but to evade Solomon's society she would have waited on the Sphinx. She
brought in each article one at a time, and when there was nothing more
to bring inquired deferentially whether there was any thing else that
she could do for the lady.
"Yes," said Mrs. Gilbert, gravely; the voice was soft, but the manner
most earnest and impressive. "I want five minutes' talk with you; can I
have it secure from interruption?"
"Certainly, madam," answered Harry, trembling, she knew not why.
"Close the door, girl. Come nearer, and away from the window; we must
not be overheard."
Harry was constitutionally timid, and it struck her that this poor lady
was not in her right mind. She hesitated. The other seemed to read her
"I am not mad, child," said she, sorrowfully, "though I have trouble
enough to make me so. You are the daughter of the landlord of this inn,
"And I am the mother of Richard Yorke."
She was standing in the same position, and had spoken coldly and as
sternly as such a voice as hers could speak, when something in the young
girl's face caused her whole manner to change. With a sudden impulse she
turned toward her, and held out both her arms; and Harry threw herself
into them with a passionate cry, and sobbed as though her heart would
"Hush! hush!" whispered the other, tenderly; "we must not weep now, but
But the girl still sobbed on, without lifting up her face. Tears had
been strangers to her heated eyes for days, and she had longed in vain
for one sympathizing breast on which to lay her head. "I have been his
ruin," she murmured; "but for me he would never have done wrong. How
you, who are his mother, must hate me!"
"No, Harry, no!" answered the other, putting aside those rich brown
locks, and gazing upon the fair shut face attentively. "I do not wonder
at his loving you; for such beauty as yours many a man would lose his
soul! I did hate you until now. But you love my Richard truly, as I see;
and we two can not afford to be enemies. We must work together for his
good to avert the ruin of which you speak, for it is imminent. He has
sent me to you, for he can not come himself. He is in prison, Harry!"
"In prison! O Heaven, have mercy!"
She sank down on her knees, and covered her face with her hands.
"Yes, Harry, think of it. Our Richard, so bright, so dear, within prison
walls! He may pass his life there for what he has done for your sake,
unless you help him."
"Help him? I would die for him!"
"Calm yourself. Sit down. To grieve is selfish where one can do better;
when all is lost it is time enough for that. All _will_ be lost a
fortnight hence, unless we bestir ourselves. Hush! I hear a step in the
passage. Who is that?"
"It is Sol, madam--Solomon Coe."
"The man you are to marry, is it not?"
A stifled groan was the girl's reply.
"I can not speak what I have to say here," said the other, thoughtfully.
"Is there no other place? Stay. I can be ill--overfatigued with my
journey--and you will come and tend me in my own room presently. That
can be managed, can't it?"
"Yes, madam, yes."
"Then wipe your eyes--be a brave girl. Think of Richard, and not of
yourself--think of him, when yonder boor is clasping the hand that once
rested in his--think of him, when those alien lips press yours at
parting, and be strong! If I were in your place, he would find that I
had not deserted him in his trouble."
"Desert him, madam? I? Oh, never!"
"To be weak is to desert him, girl--to let yonder man and your father
suspect that any friend of Richard's is beneath this roof is to desert
him--to weep when there is need to work is to desert him. Did I not tell
you I was his own mother; and yet _I_ shed no tears! Look up, and learn
your lesson from me."
The faces of the two women were indeed in strong contrast--the younger,
yielding, feeble, despairing; the elder, calm, patient of purpose, and
inflexible. Her cheeks were plump, and radiant with health; her form
erect and composed; her eyes, indeed, betrayed anxiety, but it was from
want of confidence in the person she addressed, not in herself; the
white hair seemed to fitly crown that figure, so full of earnestness and
"I will do my best," cried the young girl, "though I know I am but weak
and foolish. Pity me, and pray for me. I am going to the torture, but I
will be resolute. Tell Hannah--the servant-maid--that you wish me to
attend you in your room. Send for me soon, for mercy's sake! How I long
to know how I can help our Richard!"
As she left the room Mrs. Gilbert's face grew dark. "A fool! a dolt!"
she muttered, angrily. "How could he risk so much for such a stake! Oh,
Richard! Richard!"--her voice began to falter at that well-loved
name--"was this to have been the end of all my hopes? What fatal issue,
then, may not my fears have end in! my beautiful, bright boy! The only
light my lonely life possessed! to think of you as like yourself, and
then to think of you as you are now!" She looked around her on the
sordid walls, the vulgar ornaments upon the mantel-piece, the wretched
ill-chosen books; then listened to the splash of the rain in the unpaved
street. "And this was Paradise, was it, my poor boy, because this girl
dwelt in it! I ought to have known that there was danger here. His
letters few and short and far between, his patient tarrying in so wild a
place, should have been enough to warn me. But not of this; in no
nightmare dream could I have conceived this unimaginable peril. Ah, me!
ah, me!" She sat down at the untasted meal, and strove to eat. "I must
be strong, for Richard's sake," she murmured. But she soon laid down her
knife and fork to muse again. "This Trevethick is a hard, stern man, I
see. There is no hope in his mercy. The only path of safety is that
which the lawyer pointed out; but will this puling girl have the heart
and head to tread it? Will she not faint, as she nearly did just now,
and lose her wits when my Richard most requires them? And then, and
then?" As if unable to continue such reflections, she rose and rang the
bell, which Hannah answered.
"Bring me a bed-candle, girl; I will seek my room at once; and please
ask Miss Trevethick to look in upon me before she retires herself, for I
feel far from well."
"Yes, ma'am." Hannah thought within herself that the new arrival looked
uncommon fresh and well considering her years, and that her young
mistress had far more need of rest and "looking to" than she; but,
nevertheless, she gave the message; and Harry, at her usual time for
going to rest, repaired to the new-comer's room accordingly.
"Are they gone to bed, those men?" inquired Mrs. Gilbert, anxiously, as
soon as the door was closed.
"No, madam; my father and Solomon always sit up together now till late."
"Ay; plotting against my boy, I doubt not. Well, let us, then,
counterplot. Who sleeps on either side of this room?"
"No one, madam. Both rooms are empty at present; the last visitor,
except yourself, left us this evening."
"And the servants?"
"They have retired long ago up stairs."
"That's well. Sit here, then, close to me, and listen. You know that
Richard is in prison, placed there by your father and that other man on
a false charge. They know as well as I or you that he had no intention
of committing the crime of which he stands accused, and yet they both
mean to swear the contrary."
"Oh, madam, they will surely not do that!"
"But I say 'Yes;' they want revenge upon him. I know them better than
you, who have known them all your life; or perhaps you say they will
not, because you hope so. Is it possible," she broke forth, impatiently,
"that in such a strait as this, girl, you can encourage such delusions!
You are like the fool in the Scripture, of whom it is written, that
though thou shouldst bray him among wheat with a pestle, yet will not
his foolishness depart from him."
"I know I am not like you, madam," answered Harry, piteously. "Richard
has often told me how wise and brave you are; but yet my love for him is
as great as yours can be. Whatever you think fit that I should do to
help him, that shall be done. Trust me; it shall, indeed."
"That's well said, girl. Be you the hand, and I the head, then, of this
enterprise, and we shall conquer yet. I say again, that if they could,
these men would swear my Richard's life away. They might as well do that
as what they mean to do, and deprive him of his liberty; cast him for
years into prison, and herd with the worst and basest of mankind; to
work under a task-master with irons on. Do you understand, girl, what it
is to which, unless we can hinder them, these wretches would doom him?"
"Yes, yes, I do," she murmured, shuddering. "It is horrible, most
horrible! God help us!"
"We must help ourselves," answered Mrs. Gilbert, sternly.
"Yet God is surely on our side, and for the truth, madam. If they swear
"You must swear also," interrupted the other, angrily; "you must meet
them with their own weapons, if you would defend the innocent against
them. As it is, the law is with them, and will prove the instrument of
their vengeance. The notes were found upon his person; he strove to
change them, that he might pass their substitutes more easily. He
counted upon your father not missing them from his strong-box until it
was too late. The case is clear against him that he stole them."
"Great Heaven!" cried Harry, clasping her hands in agony; "and yet he
did not mean to steal them."
"Of course not; nay more, he did _not_ steal them, for _you gave them to
"_I_ gave them to him? Nay, I never did."
"You did--you did, girl; you acquiesced in his plan for obtaining your
father's consent to your engagement; you undertook to supply him
temporarily with the money requisite to establish his pretensions as a
man of fortune. Or, if you did _not_"--and here her voice assumed an
intense earnestness--"your Richard, the man you pretend to love, will be
a convicted felon--a prisoner for all the summer of his life, and for
the rest an outcast!"
Harry was silent; her hands were pressed to her forehead, as though to
compel her fevered brain to think without distraction. "I see, I see,"
she murmured, presently; "his fate hangs upon my word. 'So help me,
God,' is what I have first to say, and then say _that_!"
"Why not?" rejoined the other, stoutly. "Will not these men, too, call
God to witness what they know to be a lie? Will not _He_ discern the
motive that prompts _you_--desire to see a wronged man righted, the
innocent set free--and the motive that prompts _them_--malicious hate?
Or do you deem the all-seeing eye of Heaven is purblind? I tell you
this, girl, if I were in _your_ place, and the man I loved stood
_justly_ in such peril, I would swear a score such oaths to set him
free! Yet here, with justice on your side and truth, and Heaven itself,
you hesitate; you shrink from uttering a mere form of words, the spirit
of which is contrary to the letter, and for conscience sake, forsooth,
will let your lover perish! _Your_ lover! yes, but you were never _his_,
although he thinks so. I will go hence, and tell him that you refuse to
speak the thing that alone can save him from life-long wretchedness; I
will go and tell him that the girl for whose sake he has brought this
load of ruin on himself will not so much as lift it with her little
finger! You fair, foul devil, how I hate you!" She drew herself up to
her full height, and regarded the wretched girl with such contemptuous
scorn that even in her abject misery she felt its barb.
"I have not earned your hate," said Harry, with some degree of firmness,
"if I have earned your scorn; nor is it meet that you should so despise