Part 7 out of 9
a' might find some'at favoring of that tall fellow, I do believe.
Indeed, I do believe the more I look, the more I diskivers the
image of him."
The good and kind miller's perception of the likeness strengthened
almost too fast, as if the wish were father to the thought, until I
saw clearly how selfish I was in keeping him in that state so long;
for I knew, from what Mrs. Busk had told me, that in spite of all
his large and grand old English sentiments about his clothes, his
wife would make him change them all ere ever she gave him a bit of
dinner, and would force him then to take a glass of something hot.
So I gave him a thousand thanks, though not a thousandth part of
what he deserved, and saw him well on his homeward way before I
went back to consider things.
As soon as my landlady was at leisure to come in and talk with me,
and as soon as I had told her how things happened, and shown her
our discovery, we both of us did the very same thing, and said
almost the very same words. Our act was, with finger and nail and
eye, to rime into every jot of it; and our words were,
"I am sure there is something inside. If not, it would open
In the most senseless and obstinate manner it refused not only to
open, but to disclose any thing at all about itself. Whether it
ever had been meant to open, and if so, where, and by what means;
whether, without any gift of opening, it might have a hidden thing
inside; whether, when opened by force or skill, it might show
something we had no business with, or (which would be far worse)
nothing at all--good Mrs. Busk and myself tested, tapped, and felt,
and blew, and listened, and tried every possible overture, and
became at last quite put out with it.
"It is all of a piece with the villains that owned it," the
postmistress exclaimed at last. "There is no penetrating either it
or them. Most likely they have made away with this beautiful lady
on the cover. Kill one, kill fifty, I have heard say. I hope
Master Withypool will let out nothing, or evil it will be for you,
miss. If I was you, I would carry a pistol."
"Now please not to frighten me, Mrs. Busk. I am not very brave at
the best of times, and this has made me so nervous. If I carried a
pistol, I should shoot myself the very first hour of wearing it.
The mere thought of it makes me tremble. Oh, why was I ever born,
to do man's work?"
"Because, miss, a man would not have done it half so well. When
you saw that villain digging, a man would have rushed out and
spoiled all chance. And now what man could have ever found this?
Would Master Withypool ever have emptied the Moon River for a man,
do you think? Or could any man have been down among us all this
time, in this jealous place, without his business being long ago
sifted out and scattered over him? No, no, miss; you must not talk
like that--and with me as well to help you. The rogues will have
reason to wish, I do believe, that they had only got a man to deal
In this argument there were points which had occurred to me before;
but certainly it is a comfort to have one's own ideas in a doubtful
matter reproduced, and perhaps put better, by a mind to which one
may have lent them, perhaps, with a loan all unacknowledged.
However, trouble teaches care, and does it so well that the master
and the lesson in usage of words are now the same; therefore I
showed no sign of being suggested with my own suggestions, but only
asked, quietly, "What am I to do?"
"My dear young lady," Mrs. Busk replied, after stopping some time
to think of it, "my own opinion is, for my part, that you ought to
"But I am, Mrs. Busk. I am now consulting you."
"Then I think, miss, that this precious case should be taken at
once to a jeweler, who can open it without doing any damage, which
is more than we can do."
"To be sure; I have thought of that," I replied. "But how can that
be done without arousing curiosity?--without the jeweler seeing its
contents, if indeed it has any? And in that case the matter would
be no longer at our own disposal, as now it is. I have a great
mind to split it with a hammer. What are the diamonds to me?"
"It is not the diamonds, but the picture, miss, that may be most
important. And more than that, you might ruin the contents, so as
not to make head or tale of them. No, no; it is a risk that must
be run; we must have a jeweler, but not one of this neighborhood."
"Then I shall have to go to London again, and perhaps lose
something most important here. Can you think of no other way out
"No, miss, at present I see nothing else. Unless you will place it
all in the hands of the police."
"Constable Jobbins, to wit, or his son! No, thank you, Mrs. Busk,
not yet. Surely we are not quite reduced to such a hopeless pass
as that. My father knew what the police were worth, and so does
Betsy, and so does Major Hockin. 'Pompous noodles,' the Major
calls them, who lay hold of every thing by the wrong end."
"Then if he can lay hold of the right end, miss, what better could
you do than consult him?"
I had been thinking of this already, and pride alone debarred me.
That gentleman's active nature drove him to interfere with other
people's business, even though he had never heard of them; and yet
through some strange reasoning of his own, or blind adoption of
public unreason, he had made me dislike, or at any rate not like,
him, until he began to show signs at last of changing his opinion.
And now the question was, had he done that enough for me, without
loss of self-respect, to open my heart to him, and seek counsel?
In settling that point the necessity of the case overrode, perhaps,
some scruples; in sooth, I had nobody else to go to. What could I
do with Lord Castlewood? Nothing; all his desire was to do exactly
what my father would have done: and my father had never done any
thing more than rove and roam his life out. To my mind this was
dreadful now, when every new thing rising round me more and more
clearly to my mind established what I never had doubted--his
innocence. Again, what good could I do by seeking Betsy's opinion
about it, or that of Mrs. Price, or Stixon, or any other person
I could think of? None whatever--and perhaps much harm. Taking
all in all, as things turn up, I believed myself to be almost equal
to the cleverest of those three in sense, and in courage not
inferior. Moreover, a sort of pride--perhaps very small, but not
contemptible--put me against throwing my affairs so much into the
hands of servants.
For this idea Uncle Sam, no doubt the most liberal of men, would
perhaps condemn me. But still I was not of the grand New World,
whose pedigrees are arithmetic (at least with many of its items,
though the true Uncle Sam was the last for that); neither could I
come up to the largeness of universal brotherhood. That was not to
be expected of a female; and few things make a man more angry than
for his wife to aspire to it. No such ideas had ever troubled me;
I had more important things to think of, or, at any rate, something
to be better carried out. And of all these desultory thoughts it
came that I packed up that odious but very lovely locket, without
further attempt to unriddle it, and persuaded my very good and
clever Mrs. Busk to let me start right early. By so doing I could
have three hours with a good gentleman always in a hurry, and yet
return for the night to Shoxford, if he should advise me so.
Men and women seem alike to love to have their counsels taken; and
the equinox being now gone by, Mrs. Busk was ready to begin before
the tardy sun was up, who begins to give you short measure at once
when he finds the weights go against him. Mrs. Busk considered not
the sun, neither any of his doings. The time of day was more
momentous than any of the sun's proceedings. Railway time was what
she had to keep (unless a good customer dropped in), and as for the
sun--"clock slow, clock fast," in the almanacs, showed how he
managed things; and if that was not enough, who could trust him to
keep time after what he had done upon the dial of Ahaz? Reasoning
thus--if reason it was--she packed me off in a fly for the nearest
railway station, and by midday I found the Major laboring on his
After proper salutations, I could not help expressing wonder at the
rapid rise of things. Houses here and houses there, springing up
like children's teeth, three or four in a row together, and then a
long gap, and then some more. And down the slope a grand hotel,
open for refreshment, though as yet it had no roof on; for the
Major, in virtue of his charter, defied all the magistrates to stop
him from selling whatever was salable on or off the premises. But
noblest and grandest of all to look at was the "Bruntsea Athenaeum,
Lyceum, Assembly-Rooms, Institution for Mutual Instruction,
Christian Young Men's Congress, and Sanitary, Saline, Hydropathic
Hall, at nominal prices to be had gratis."
"How you do surprise me!" I said to Major Hockin, after reading all
that, which he kindly requested me to do with care; "but where are
the people to come from?"
"Erema," he replied, as if that question had been asked too often,
"you have not had time to study the laws of political economy--the
noblest of noble sciences. The first of incontrovertible facts is
that supply creates demand. Now ask yourself whether there could
even be a Yankee if ideas like yours had occurred to Columbus?"
This was beyond me; for I never could argue, and strove to the
utmost not to do so. "You understand those things, and I do not,"
said I, with a smile, which pleased him. "My dear aunt Mary always
says that you are the cleverest man in the world; and she must know
most about it."
"Partiality! partiality!" cried the Major, with a laugh, and
pulling his front hair up. "Such things pass by me like the idle
wind; or rather, perhaps, they sadden me, from my sense of my own
deficiencies. But, bless me! dinner must be waiting. Look at that
fellow's trowel--he knows: he turns up the point of it like a
spoon. They say that he can smell his dinner two miles off. We
all dine at one o'clock now, that I may rout up every man-Jack of
The Major sounded a steam-guard's whistle, and led me off in the
rapidly vanishing wake of his hungry workmen.
Sir Montague Hockin, to my great delight, was still away from
Bruntsea. If he had been there, it would have been a most awkward
thing for me to meet him, or to refuse to do so. The latter course
would probably have been the one forced upon me by self-respect and
affection toward my cousin; and yet if so, I could scarcely have
avoided an explanation with my host. From the nature of the
subject, and several other reasons, this would have been most
unpleasant; and even now I was haunted with doubts, as I had been
from the first, whether I ought not to have told Mrs. Hockin long
ago what had been said of him. At first sight that seemed the
honest thing to do; but three things made against it. It might
seem forward and meddlesome; it must be a grievous thing to my
cousin to have his sad story discussed again; and lastly, I had
promised Mrs. Price that her words should go no further. So that
on the whole perhaps I acted aright in keeping that infamous tale
to myself as long as ever it was possible.
But now ere ever I spoke of him--which I was always loath to do--
Mrs. Hockin told me that he very seldom came to see them now, and
when he did come he seemed to be uneasy and rather strange in his
manners. I thought to myself that the cause of this was clear.
Sir Montague, knowing that I went to Castlewood, was pricked in his
conscience, and afraid of having his vile behavior to my cousin
disclosed. However, that idea of mine was wrong, and a faulty
conception of simple youth. The wicked forgive themselves so
quickly, if even they find any need of it, that every body else is
supposed to do the same. With this I have no patience. A wrong
unrepented of and unatoned gathers interest, instead of getting
discount, from lost time. And so I hated that man tenfold.
Good Mrs. Hockin lamented his absence not only for the sake of her
darling fowls, but also because she considered him a check upon the
Major's enterprise. Great as her faith was in her husband's
ability and keenness, she was often visited with dark misgivings
about such heavy outlay. Of economy (as she often said) she
certainly ought to know something, having had to practice it as
strictly as any body in the kingdom, from an age she could hardly
remember. But as for what was now brought forward as a great
discovery--economy in politics--Mrs. Hockin had tried to follow
great opinions, but could only find, so far, downright extravagance.
Supply (as she had observed fifty times with her own butcher and
fishmonger), instead of creating demand, produced a lot of people
hankering round the corner, till the price came down to nothing.
And if it were so with their institutions--as her dear husband
called his new public-house--who was to find all the interest due
to the building and land societies? Truly she felt that Sir Rufus
Hockin, instead of doing any good to them, had behaved very badly
in leaving them land, and not even a shilling to work it with.
It relieved her much to tell me this, once for all and in strict
confidence; because her fine old-fashioned (and we now may say
quite obsolete) idea of duty toward her husband forbade her ever to
say to him, or about him, when it could be helped, any thing he
might not like, any thing which to an evil mind might convey a
desire on her part to meddle with--with--
"Political economy," I said; and she laughed, and said, Yes, that
was just it. The Major of course knew best, and she ought with all
her heart to trust him not to burden their old days with debt,
after all the children they had brought up and fairly educated upon
the professional income of a distinguished British officer, who is
not intended by his superiors to provide successors.
"Perhaps it is like the boiled eggs they send me," the old lady
said, with her soft sweet smile, "for my poor hens to sit upon.
Their race is too good to be made common. So now they get tinkers'
and tailors' boys, after much competition, and the crammed sons of
cooks. And in peace-time they do just as well."
Of such things I knew nothing; but she seemed to speak with
bitterness, the last thing to be found in all her nature, yet
discoverable--as all bad things (except its own) are--by the
British government. I do not speak from my own case, in which they
By the time these things had been discussed, my host (who was
always particular about his dress) came down to dinner, and not
until that was over could I speak of the subject which had brought
me there. No sooner had I begun my tale than they both perceived
that it must neither be flurried nor interrupted, least of all
should it be overheard.
"Come into my lock-up," cried the Major; "or, better still, let us
go out of doors. We can sit in my snuggery on the cliff, with only
gulls and jackdaws to listen, and mount my telescope and hoist my
flag, and the men know better than to skulk their work. I can see
every son of a gun of them as clearly as if I had them on parade.
You wish Mrs. Hockin to come, I suppose. Very well, let us be off
at once. I shall count my fellows coming back from dinner."
With a short quick step the Major led the way to a beautifully
situated outpost at a corner of the cliff, where land and sea for
many a fair league rolled below. A niche of the chalk had been
cleverly enlarged and scooped into a shell-shaped bower, not,
indeed, gloriously overhung, as in the far West might have been,
but broken of its white defiant glare by climbing and wandering
verdure. Seats and slabs of oak were fixed to check excess of
chalkiness, and a parapet of a pattern which the Major called
Egyptian saved fear of falling down the cliff, and served to spread
a paper on, or to rest a telescope.
"From this point," said the Major, crossing wiry yet substantial
legs, "the whole of my little domain may be comprised as in a
bird's-eye view. It is nothing, of course, much less than nothing,
compared with the Earl of Crowcombe's, or the estate of Viscount
Gamberley; still, such as it is, it carries my ideas, and it has an
extent of marine frontage such as they might envy. We are asked 5
pounds per foot for a thread of land fronting on a highway, open to
every kind of annoyance, overlooked, without any thing to look at.
How much, then, per fathom (or measure, if you please, by cable-
lengths) is land worth fronting the noble, silent, uncontaminating,
healthful sea? Whence can come no coster-mongers' cries, no
agitating skir of bagpipes or the maddening hurdy-gurdy, no German
band expecting half a crown for the creation of insanity; only
sweet murmur of the wavelets, and the melodious whistle of a
boatman catching your breakfast lobster. Where, again, if you love
"My dear," said Mrs. Hockin, gently, "you always were eloquent from
the first day I saw you; and if you reconstitute our borough, as
you hope, and enter Parliament for Bruntsea, what a sensation you
will create! But I wished to draw your attention to the fact that
Erema is waiting to tell her tale."
"To be sure. I will not stop her. Eloquence is waste of time, and
I never yet had half a second to spare. Fear no eloquence from me;
facts and logic are my strong points. And now, Erema, show what
At first this made me a little timid, for I had never thought that
any strong points would be needed for telling a simple tale. To my
mind the difficulty was, not to tell the story, but to know what to
make of it when told; and soon I forgot all about myself in telling
what I had seen, heard, and found.
The Major could not keep himself from stamping great holes through
his--something I forget the name of, but people sow it to make turf
of chalk--and dear "Aunt Mary's" soft pink cheeks, which her last
grandchild might envy, deepened to a tone of rose; while her eyes,
so full of heavenly faith when she got upon lofty subjects, took a
most human flash and sparkle of hatred not theological.
"Seven!" she cried; "oh, Nicholas, Nicholas, you never told me
there were seven!"
"There were not seven graves without the mother," the Major
answered, sternly. "And what odds whether seven or seventy? The
criminality is the point, not the accumulation of results. Still,
I never heard of so big a blackguard. And what did he do next, my
The way in which they took my story was a great surprise to me,
because, although they were so good, they had never paid any
attention to it until it became exciting. They listened with mere
politeness until the scent of a very wicked man began to taint my
narrative; but from that moment they drew nearer, and tightened
their lips, and held their breath, and let no word escape them. It
made me almost think that people even of pure excellence, weaned as
they are from wicked things by teaching and long practice, must
still retain a hankering for them done at other people's cost.
"And now," cried the Major, "let us see it"--even before I had time
to pull it out, though ready to be quick, from a knowledge of his
ways. "Show it, and you shall have my opinion. And Mary's is
certain to agree with mine. My dear, that makes yours so
"Then, Nicholas, if I retain my own, yours is of no value. Never
mind that. Now don't catch words, or neither opinion will be worth
a thought. My dear, let us see it and then judge."
"My own idea, but not so well expressed," Major Hockin answered, as
he danced about, while I with stupid haste was tugging at my
package of the hateful locket. For I had not allowed that
deceitful thing any quarters in my pocket, where dear little relics
of my father lay, but had fastened it under my dress in a manner
intended in no way for gentlemen to think about. Such little
things annoy one's comfort, and destroy one's power of being quite
high-minded. However, I got it out at last, and a flash of the sun
made the difference.
"Brilliants, Mary!" the Major cried; "brilliants of first water;
such as we saw, you know where; and any officer in the British army
except myself, I do believe, would have had them at once in his
camlet pouch--my dear, you know all about it. Bless my heart, how
slow you are! Is it possible you have forgotten it? There came
out a fellow, and I cut him down, as my duty was, without ceremony.
You know how I used to do it, out of regulation, with a slash like
"Oh, Nicholas, you will be over the cliff! You have shown me how
you used to do it, a thousand times--but you had no cricks in your
back then: and remember how brittle the chalk is."
"The chalk may be brittle, but I am tough. I insist upon doing
every thing as well as I did it forty years ago. Mary, you ought
not to speak to me like that. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty
brilliants, worth twenty pounds apiece upon an average, I do
believe. Four hundred pounds. That would finish our hotel."
"My dear, I was only in fun. Erema understands me. But who is
this beautiful lady?"
"The very point," I exclaimed, while he held it so that the pensive
beauty of the face gleamed in soft relief among bright blue enamel
and sparkling gems. "The very thing that I must know--that I would
give my life to know--that I have fifty thousand fancies--"
"Now don't be excited, Erema, if you please. What will you give me
to tell you who it is?"
"All those diamonds, which I hate the sight of, and three-quarters
of my half nugget; and if that is not enough--"
"It is a thousand times too much; I will tell you for just one
smile, and I know it, will be a smile of unbelief."
"No, no; I will believe it, whoever you say," with excitement
superior to grammar, I cried; "only tell me at once--don't be so
"But then you won't believe me when I do tell you," the Major
replied, in the most provoking way. "I shall tell you the last
person you would ever think of, and then you will only laugh at
"I won't laugh; how can I laugh in such a matter? I will believe
you if you say it is--Aunt Mary."
"My dear, you had better say at once that it is I, and have no more
mystery about it." Mrs. Hockin was almost as impatient as myself.
"Mrs. Hockin, you must indeed entertain an exalted idea of your own
charms. I knew that you were vain, but certainly did not--Well,
then, if you will allow me no peace, this is the lady that lives
down in the ruin, and stands like a pillar by my pillar-box."
"I never thought you would joke like that," I cried, with vexation
and anger. "Oh, is it a subject to be joked about?"
"I never was graver in my life; and you promised implicitly to
believe me. At any rate, believe that I speak in earnest."
"That I must believe, when you tell me so. But what makes you
think such a wonderful thing? I should have thought nothing more
impossible. I had made up my mind that it was Flittamore who lived
down here; but this can not be she. Flittamore was unheard of at
the time of my grandfather's death. Moreover, her character was
not like this; she was giddy and light and heartless. This lady
had a heart--good or bad, a deep one. Most certainly it is not
"Flittamore! I do not remember that name. You should either tell
us all or tell us nothing." The Major's tone was reproachful, and
his eyes from their angular roofs looked fierce.
"I have not told you," I said, "because it can have nothing to do
with it. The subject is a painful one, and belongs to my family
"Enough. I am not inquisitive--on the other hand, too forgetful.
I have an appointment at 3.25. It takes me seven minutes and a
quarter to get there. I must be two minutes and three-quarters
late. Mrs. Hockin, mount the big telescope and point it at the
ramparts; keep the flag up also. Those fellows will be certain
that I am up here, while I enfilade them from the western end with
this fine binocular. Surprises maintain discipline. Good-by, my
dear, and, Miss Castlewood, good-by. Tea at 6.30, and not too much
Leaving his telescope leveled at the men, the Major marched off
with his opera-glass in a consciously provoking style, and Mrs.
Hockin most heartily joined me in condemning such behavior. In a
minute or two, however, she would not have one word said against
him, and the tide of her mind (as befits a married woman) was
beyond all science; so that the drift of all words came back to her
husband's extraordinary merits. And certainly these, if at all
like her description, deserved to be dwelt upon at very precious
However, I had heard enough of them before; for the Major himself
was not mute upon this point, though comparatively modest, and
oftentimes deprecating praise ere ever he received it. And so I
brought Mrs. Hockin back at last to talk about the lady who was
living in the ruin.
"It is not quite a ruin," she said. "My dear husband is fond of
picturesque expressions. However, it is not in very good repair;
and being unable to get possession of it, through some legal
quibble, possibly he may look at it from a rather unfavorable point
of view. And for the same reason--though he is so purely just--he
may have formed a bad opinion of the strange individual who lives
there. What right has she to be living without his leave upon his
own manor? But there she is, and she does not care for us or any
body. She fetches all she wants, she speaks to none, and if any
body calls for rates or taxes, or any other public intrusion, they
may knock and knock, but never get in, and at last they go away
"But surely that can not go on forever. Bruntsea is such an
"Our part of it is, but the rest quite benighted. As the man says--
I forget his name, but the man that misunderstands us so--his
contention is that 'Desolate Hole,' as the Major calls it, although
in the middle of our land, is entirely distinct from it. My
husband never will put up with that--his love of justice is far too
strong--and he means to have a lawsuit. But still he has reasons
for not beginning yet; and he puts up with a great deal, I am sure.
It is too bad for them to tease him so."
"It does seem a very sad thing," I replied; "and the poor soul
living there all alone! Even in the summer it is bad enough; but
whatever will she do when the winter comes? Why, the sea in bad
weather must be almost in upon her. And the roar of the pebbles
all night! Major Hockin will never allow her to stay there."
"What can he do, when he can not get in, and they even deny his
title? I assure you, Erema, I have sent down cream, and even a
dozen of my precious eggs, with the lady of the manor's
compliments; but instead of being grateful, they were never taken
in; and my Polly--'Miss Polly Hopkins,' you know--very wisely took
it all to her grandmother."
"To her grandmother instead of mine, as the Major facetiously calls
her. And now he says this is her portrait; and instead of giving
his reasons, runs away! Really you must excuse me, Aunt Mary, for
thinking that your good husband has a little too much upon his mind
The old lady laughed, as I loved to see her do. "Well, my dear,
after that, I think you had better have it out with him. He comes
home to tea at 6.30, which used to be half past six in my days. He
is very tired then, though he never will allow it, and it would not
be fair to attack him. I give him a mutton-chop, or two poached
eggs, or some other trifle of nourishment. And then I make him
doze for an hour and a half, to soothe his agitated intellect. And
when he wakes he has just one glass of hot water and sugar, with a
little Lochnagar. And then he is equal to any thing--backgammon,
bezique, or even conversation."
Impatient as I was, I saw nothing better; and by this time I was
becoming used to what all of us must put up with--the long
postponement of our heavy cares to the light convenience of others.
Major Hockin might just as well have stopped, when he saw how
anxious I was. Uncle Sam would have stopped the mill itself, with
a dozen customers waiting; but no doubt he had spoiled me; and even
that should not make me bitter. Aunt Mary and I understood one
another. We gazed away over the breadth of the sea and the gleam
of its texture, and we held our peace.
Few things are more surprising than the calm way in which ripe age
looks on at things which ought to amaze it. And yet any little one
of its own concerns grows more important, perhaps, than ever as the
shadow of the future dwindles. Major Hockin had found on the beach
a pebble with a streak of agate in it. He took it as the harbinger
of countless agates, and resolved to set up a lapidary, with a
tent, or even a shop, perhaps--not to pay, but to be advertised,
and catch distinguished visitors.
"Erema, you are a mighty finder; you found the biggest nugget yet
discovered. You know about stones from the Rocky Mountains, or at
least the Sierra Nevada. You did not discover this beautiful
agate, but you saw and greatly admired it. We might say that a
'young lady, eminent for great skill in lithology, famed as the
discoverer,' etc. Hold it between your eyes and this candle, but
wet it in the slop-basin first; now you see the magnificent veins
"I see nothing of the kind," I said; for really it was too bad of
him. "It seems to me a dirty bit of the commonest flint you could
This vexed him more than I wished to have done, and I could not
help being sorry; for he went into a little fit of sulks, and Aunt
Mary almost frowned at me. But he could not stay long in that
condition, and after his doze and his glass he came forth as lively
and meddlesome as ever. And the first thing he did was to ask me
for the locket.
"Open it?" he cried; "why, of course I can; there is never any
difficulty about that. The finest workmanship in the world is that
of the Indian jewelers. I have been among them often; I know all
their devices and mechanism, of which the European are bad copies.
I have only to look round this thing twice, and then pronounce my
"My dear, then look round it as fast as you can," said his wife,
with a traitorous smile at me, "and we won't breathe a Sess till it
"Mary, Miss Castlewood makes you pert, although herself so well
conducted. However, I do not hesitate to say that I will open this
case in two minutes."
"Of course you will, dear," Mrs. Hockin replied, with provoking
acquiescence. "The Major never fails, Erema, in any thing he is so
sure about; and this is a mere child's toy to him. Well, dear,
have you done it? But I need not ask. Oh, let us see what is
inside of it!"
"I have not done it yet, Mrs. Hockin; and if you talk with such
rapidity, of course you throw me out. How can I command my
thoughts, or even recall my experience?"
"Hush! now hush, Erema! And I myself will hush most reverently."
"You have no reverence in you, and no patience. Do you expect me
to do such a job in one second? Do you take me for a common
jeweler? I beg you to remember--"
"Well, my dear, I remember only what you told us. You were to turn
it round twice, you know, and then cry Sesame. Erema, was it not
"I never said any thing of the sort. What I said was simply this--
However, to reason with ladies is rude; I shall just be off to my
"Where you keep your tools, my darling," Mrs. Hockin said, softly,
after him: "at least, I mean, when you know where they are."
I was astonished at Aunt Mary's power of being so highly provoking,
and still more at her having the heart to employ it. But she knew
best what her husband was; and to worship forever is not wise.
"Go and knock at his door in about five minutes," Mrs. Hockin said
to me, with some mischief in her eyes. "If he continues to fail,
he may possibly take a shorter way with it. And with his tools so
close at hand--"
"Oh," I exclaimed, "his geological hammer--that dreadful crusher!
May I go at once? I detest that thing, but I can not have it
"He will not break it up, my dear, without your leave. He never
would think of such a thing, of course. However, you may as well
go after him."
It was wrong of Mrs. Hockin to make me do this; and I felt quite
ashamed of myself when I saw the kind old Major sitting by his
lamp, and wrinkling his forehead into locks and keys of puzzle, but
using violence to his own mind alone. And I was the more ashamed
when, instead of resenting my intrusion, he came to meet me, and
led me to his chair, and placed the jeweled trinket in my hand, and
said, "My dear, I give it up. I was wrong in taking it away from
you. You must consult some one wiser."
"That odious thing!" I answered, being touched by this unusual
humility of his; "you shall not give it up; and I know no wiser
person. A lapidary's tricks are below your knowledge. But if you
are not tired of me and offended, may I leave it to you to get it
"I would like nothing better," he replied, recovering his natural
briskness and importance; "but you ought to be there, my dear; you
must be there. Are you sure that you ought not rather to take it
to your good cousin Lord Castlewood? Now think before you answer."
"I need not think twice of that, Major Hockin. Good and learned as
my father's cousin is, he has distinctly refused to help me, for
some mysterious reason of his own, in searching into this question.
Indeed, my great hope is to do it without him: for all that I know,
he might even wish to thwart me."
"Enough, my dear; it shall be just as you wish. I brought you to
England, and I will stand by you. My cousin, Colonel Gundry, has
committed you to me. I have no patience with malefactors. I never
took this matter up, for very many reasons; and among them not the
least was that Sampson, your beloved 'Uncle Sam,' thought it better
not to do so. But if you desire it, and now that I feel certain
that an infamous wrong has been done to you--which I heartily beg
your pardon for my doubt of--by the Lord of all justice, every
thing else may go to the devil, till I see it out. Do you desire
"I certainly do not wish that any of your great works should be
neglected. But if, without that, you can give me your strong help,
my only difficulty will be to thank you."
"I like plain speaking, and you always speak plainly; sometimes too
plainly," he said, recollecting little times when he had the worst
of it. "How far do you trust me now?"
"Major Hockin, I trust you altogether. You may make mistakes, as
all men do--"
"Yes, yes, yes. About my own affairs; but I never do that for
other people. I pay a bill for twopence, if it is my own. If I am
trustee of it, I pay three half-pence."
His meaning was a little beyond me now; but it seemed better not to
tell him so; for he loved to explain his own figures of speech,
even when he had no time to spare for it. And he clearly expected
me to ask him to begin; or at least it seemed so from his eyebrows.
But that only came home to me afterward.
"Please not to speak of my affairs like that," I said, as if I were
quite stupid; "I mean to pay fourpence for every twopence--both to
friends and enemies."
"You are a queer girl; I have always said so. You turn things to
your own ideas so. However, we must put up with that, though none
of my daughters have ever done it; for which I am truly thankful.
But now there is very little time to lose. The meaning of this
thing must be cleared up at once. And there is another thing to be
done as well, quite as important, in my opinion. I will go to
London with you to-morrow, if you like. My clever little
Cornishman will see to things here--the man that sets up all the
"But why should I hurry you to London so?" I asked. "Surely any
good country jeweler could manage it? Or let us break it open."
"On no account," he answered; "we might spoil it all; besides the
great risk to the diamonds, which are very brittle things. To
London we must take it, for this reason--the closure of this case
is no jeweler's work; of that I have quite convinced myself. It is
the work of a first-rate lapidary, and the same sort of man must
To this I agreed quite readily, because of such things I knew
nothing; whereas my host spoke just as if he had been brought up to
both those walks of art. And then I put a question which had long
been burning on my tongue.
"What made you imagine, Major Hockin, that this very beautiful face
could have ever been that of the old lady living in the ruin?"
"In Desolate Hole? I will tell you at once; and then call it, if
you like, an imagination. Of all the features of the human face
there is none more distinctive than the eyebrow. 'Distinctive' is
not exactly what I mean--I mean more permanently marked and clear.
The eyes change, the nose changes, so does the mouth, and even the
shape of the forehead sometimes; but the eyebrows change very
little, except in color. This I have noticed, because my own may
perhaps be a little peculiar; and they have always been so. At
school I received a nickname about it, for boys are much sharper
than men about such things; and that name after fifty years fits as
well as ever. You may smile, if you like; I shall not tell you
what it was, but leave you to re-invent it, if you can. Now look
at this first-rate miniature. Do you see an unusual but not
uncomely formation of the eyebrows?"
"Certainly I do; though I did not observe it until you drew my
attention. I had only regarded the face, as a whole."
"The face, as a whole, is undoubtedly fine. But the eyebrows have
a peculiar arch, and the least little turn at the lower end, as if
they designed to rise again. The lady of Desolate Hole has the
"But how can you tell? How very strange! I thought she let nobody
see her face."
"You are perfectly right about that, Erema; so far at least as she
has vouchsafed to exhibit her countenance to me. Other people may
be more fortunate. But when I met her for the second time, being
curious already about her, I ventured to offer my services, with my
inborn chivalry, at a place where the tide was running up, and
threatened to surround her. My politeness was not appreciated, as
too often is the case; for she made me a very stiff bow, and turned
away. Her face had been covered by the muffler of her cloak, as if
the sea-breeze were too much for her; and she did not even raise
her eyes. But before she turned away, I obtained a good glance at
her eyebrows--and they were formed like these."
"But her age, Major Hockin! Her age--what is it?"
"Upon that proverbially delicate point I can tell you but little,
Erema. Perhaps, however, I may safely say that she can not be much
"It is not right to provoke me so. You call her 'the old woman,'
and compare her to your letter-box. You must have some idea--is
"Certainly not, I should say; though she can not expect me to
defend her, when she will not show her face to me; and what is far
worse, at my time of life, she won't even pay me a half-penny of
rent. Now let us go back to Aunt Mary, my dear; she always insists
upon packing overnight."
Before two o'clock of the following day Major Hockin and myself
were in London, and ready to stay there for two or three days, if
it should prove needful. Before leaving Bruntsea I had written
briefly to Lord Castlewood, telling him that important matters had
taken me away from Shoxford, and as soon as I could explain them, I
would come and tell him all about it. This was done only through
fear of his being annoyed at my independence.
From London Bridge the Major took a cab direct to Clerkenwell; and
again I observed that of all his joys one of the keenest was to
match his wits against a cabman's. "A regular muff, this time," he
said, as he jerked up and down with his usual delight in displaying
great knowledge of London; "no sport to be had out of him. Why, he
stared at me when I said 'Rosamond Street,' and made me stick on
'Clerkenwell.' Now here he is taking us down Snow Hill, when he
should have been crossing Smithfield. Smithfield, cabby,
"Certain, Sir, Smiffle, if you gives the order;" and he turned the
poor horse again, and took us up the hill, and among a great number
of barriers. "No thoroughfare," "No thoroughfare," on all hands
stretched across us; but the cabman threaded his way between, till
he came to the brink of a precipice. The horse seemed quite ready,
like a Roman, to leap down it, seeing nothing less desirable than
his present mode of life, till a man with a pickaxe stopped him.
"What are you at?" cried the Major, with fury equalled by nothing
except his fright. "Erema, untie my big rattan. Quick--quick--"
"Captain," said the cabman, coolly, "I must have another shilling
for this job. A hextra mile and a quarter, to your orders. You
knows Lunnon so much better. Smiffle stopped--new railway--new
meat market--never heered of that now, did you?"
"You scoundrel, drive straight to the nearest police office."
"Must jump this little ditch, then, Captain. Five pun' fine for
you, when we gets there. Hold on inside, old gentleman. Kuck,
kuck, Bob, you was a hunter once. It ain't more than fifty feet
deep, my boy."
"Turn round! turn round, I tell you! turn round! If your neck is
forfeit, you rogue, mine is not. I never was so taken in in my
life!" Major Hockin continued to rave, and amid many jeers we
retreated humbly, and the driver looked in at us with a gentle
grin. "And I thought he was so soft, you know! Erema, may I swear
"On no account," I said. "Why, after all, it is only a shilling,
and the loss of time. And then, you can always reflect that you
have discharged, as you say, a public duty, by protesting against a
"Protesting is very well, when it pays," the Major answered,
gloomily; "but to pay for protesting is another pair of shoes."
This made him cross, and he grew quite fierce when the cabman smote
him for eight-pence more. "Four parcels on the roof, Captain," he
said, looking as only a cabman can look at his money, and spinning
his extra shilling. "Twopence each under new hact, you know.
Scarcely thought a hofficer would 'a tried evasion."
"You consummate scoundrel--and you dress yourself like a
countryman! I'll have your badge indorsed--I'll have your license
marked. Erema, pay the thief; it is more than I can do."
"Captain, your address, if you please; I shall summon you for
scurrilous language, as the hact directs. Ah, you do right to be
driven to a pawn shop."
Triumphantly he drove off, while the Major cried, "Never tie up my
rattan again. Oh, it was Mrs. Hockin, was it? What a fool I was
not to stop on my own manor!"
"I pray you to disdain such low impudence," I said, for I could not
bear to see him shake like that, and grieved to have brought him
into it. "You have beaten fifty of them--a hundred of them--I have
heard you say."
"Certainly I have, my dear; but I had no Bruntsea then, and could
not afford to pay the rogues. That makes me feel it so bitterly,
so loftily, and so righteously. To be treated like this, when I
think of all my labors for the benefit of the rascally human race!
my Institute, my Lyceum, my Mutual Improvement Association, and
Christian Young Men's something. There is no institution, after
all, to be compared to the tread-mill."
Recovering himself with this fine conclusion, he led me down a
little sloping alley, scarcely wide enough for a wheelbarrow, to an
old black door, where we set down our parcels; for he had taken
his, while I carried mine, and not knowing what might happen yet,
like a true peace-maker I stuck to the sheaf of umbrellas and the
rattan cane. And thankful I was, and so might be the cabman, to
have that weapon nicely sheathed with silk.
Major Hockin's breath was short, through too much talking without
action, and he waited for a minute at this door, to come back to
his equanimity. And I thought that our female breath falls short
for the very opposite reason--when we do too much and talk too
little; which happily seldom happens.
He was not long in coming back to his usual sprightliness and
decision. And it was no small relief to me, who was looking at him
miserably, and longing that his wife was there, through that very
sad one-and-eightpence, when he pulled out a key, which he always
carried as signer and lord of Bruntsea, the key of the town-hall,
which had survived lock, door, and walls by centuries, and
therewith struck a door which must have reminded that key of its
fine old youth.
Before he had knocked so very many times, the door was opened by a
young man wearing an apron and a brown paper cap, who knew Major
Hockin at once, and showed us up stairs to a long low workshop.
Here were many wheels and plates and cylinders revolving by energy
of a strap which came through the floor and went through the
ceiling. And the young man told us to be careful how we walked,
for fear of getting entangled. Several men, wearing paper caps and
aprons of leather or baize, were sitting doing dextrous work, no
doubt, and doing it very easily, and the master of them all was
hissing over some fine touch of jewel as a groom does at a horse.
Then seeing us, he dropped his holders, and threw a leather upon
his large lens, and came and took us to a little side room.
"Are you not afraid to leave them?" asked the Major. "They may
secrete some gems, Mr. Handkin."
"Never," said the lapidary, with some pride. "I could trust these
men with the Koh-i-noor; which we could have done better, I
believe, than it was done by the Hollanders. But we don't get the
chance to do much in diamonds, through the old superstition about
Amsterdam, and so on. No, no; the only thing I can't trust my men
about is to work as hard when I am away as when I am there. And
now, Sir, what can I do for you? Any more Bruntsea pebbles? The
last were not worth the cutting."
"So you said; but I did not think so. We have some agates as good
as any from Aberystwith or Perthshire. But what I want now is to
open this case. It must be done quite privately, for a most
particular reason. It does open, doesn't it? I am sure it does."
"Certainly it opens," Mr. Handkin answered, while I trembled with
anxiety as he lightly felt it round the edges with fingers
engrained with corundum. "I could open it in one instant, but the
enamel might fly. Will you risk it?"
The Major looked at me, and I said, "Oh no; please not to risk any
thing, if any slower process will do it without risk. We want it
done without injury."
"Then it will cost a good bit," he replied. "I can open it for
five shillings, if you run the risk; if that rests with me, I must
charge five pounds."
"Say three," cried the Major. "Well, then, say four guineas: I
have a lot of work in store for you."
"I never overcharge, and I never depart from my figures," the
lapidary answered. "There is only one other man in London who
knows the secret of this enamel, and he is my brother. They never
make such enamel now. The art is lost, like that of the French
paste of a hundred years ago, which almost puzzles even me until I
go behind it. I will give you my brother's address if you like;
but instead of five pounds, he will charge you ten guineas--if it
must be done in private. Without that condition, I can do it for
two pounds. You wish to know why that should make such a
difference. Well, for this simple reason: to make sure of the job,
it must be done by daylight; it can be done only in my chief work-
room; if no one is to see what I am about (and my men have sharp
eyes, I can tell you), all my hands must be sacked for the
afternoon, but not without their wages. That alone would go far
toward the difference, and then there is the dropping of the jobs
in hand, and waste of power, and so on. I have asked you too
little, Major Hockin, I assure you; but having said, I will stick
to it, although I would much rather you would let me off."
"I have known you for many years," the Major answered--"ever since
you were a boy, with a flat box, working at our Cornish opals. You
would have done a lot of work for five pounds then. But I never
knew you overcharge for any thing. We agree to your terms, and are
obliged to you. But you guarantee no damage?"
"I will open this locket, take out its contents, whatever they may
be, and reclose it so that the maker, if still alive--which is not
very probable--should not know that it had been meddled with."
"Very well; that is exactly what we want; for I have an idea about
it which I may try to go on with afterward. And for that it is
essential to have no symptom that it ever has been opened. What
are these brilliants worth, Mr. Handkin?"
"Well, Sir, in the trade, about a hundred and fifty, though I dare
say they cost three hundred. And the portrait is worth another
hundred, if I find on the back the marks I expect."
"You do not mean to say that you know the artist?" I could not help
exclaiming, though determined not to speak. "Oh, then, we shall
find out every thing!"
"Erema, you are a--well, you are a silly!" Major Hockin exclaimed,
and then colored with remembering that rather he should have let my
lapse pass. But the lapidary seemed to pay no attention, only to
be calling down to some one far below. "Now mind what you say,"
the Major whispered to me, just as if he were the essence of
"The work-room is clear now," Mr. Handkin said; "the fellows were
delighted to get their afternoon. Now you see that I have to take
off this hoop, and there lies the difficulty. I could have taken
out the gold back, as I said, with very little trouble, by simply
cutting it. But the locket would never have been quite the same,
though we put a new back; and, more than that, the pressure of the
tool might flaw the enamel, or even crack the portrait, for the
make of this thing is peculiar. Now first I submit the rim or
verge, without touching the brilliants, mind you, to the action of
a little preparation of my own--a gentle but penetrative solvent.
You are welcome to watch me; you will be none the wiser; you are
not in the trade, though the young lady looks as if she would make
a good polisher. Very well: if this were an ordinary closure, with
two flat surfaces meeting, the solvent would be absorbed into the
adhesion, expansion would take place, and there we have it. But
this is what we call a cyme-joint, a cohesion of two curved
surfaces, formed in a reflex curve which admits the solvent most
reluctantly, or, indeed, not at all, without too long application.
For that, then, another kind of process is needful, and we find it
in frictional heat applied most gradually and judiciously. For
that I must have a buff-leather wheel, whose revolutions are timed
to a nicety, and that wheel I only have in this room. Now you see
why I sent the men away."
Though I watched his work with great interest, it is out of my
power to describe it now, and, moreover, it is not needful. Major
Hockin, according to his nature, grew quite restless and impatient,
and even went out for a walk, with his cane unpacked and unsheathed
against cabmen. But I was content to wait and watch, having always
heard and thought that good work will not do itself, but must have
time and skill to second it. And Mr. Handkin, moving arms, palms,
and fingers beautifully, put the same thought into words.
"Good work takes a deal of time to do; but the man that does it all
the time knows well that it will take long to undo. Here it comes
undone at last!"
As he spoke, the excitable Major returned.
"Done it, eh? Well, you are a clever fellow. Now don't look
inside it; that is no part of your business, nor mine either,
unless this young lady desires it. Hand it to her first, my
"Wait half a minute," said the lapidary; "it is so far opened that
the hoop spins round, but it must not be taken off until it cools.
The lady may lift it then with care. I have done this job as a
piece of fine art; I have no wish to see any more of it."
"Handkin, don't you be so touchy to a brother Cornishman. I
thought that I was Cornish enough, but you go cliffs beyond me."
"Well, Major Hockin," the lapidary answered, "I beg your pardon, if
I said harm. But a man doing careful and skilled work--and skilled
work it is, at every turn of the hand, as miss can bear witness,
while you walked off--he don't care who it is, Major Hockin, he
would fight his own brother to maintain it."
"Very well, very well. Let us come away. I always enter into
every body's feelings. I see yours as clearly, Handkin, as if you
had laid them open on that blessed wheel. My insight has always
been remarkable. Every one, without exception, says that of me.
Now come away, come away--will you never see?"
Intent as I was upon what lay in my left palm relaxing itself, I
could not help being sorry for the way in which the man of art,
after all his care, was ground down by his brother Cornishman.
However, he had lived long enough in the world to feel no surprise
Now I went to one of the windows, as the light (which had been very
good) began to pale from its long and labored sufferance of London,
and then, with soft and steady touch, I lifted off the loosened
hoop. A smell of mustiness--for smells go through what nothing
else can--was the first thing to perceive, and then, having moved
the disk of gold, I found a piece of vellum. This was doubled, and
I opened it, and read, in small clear writing:
"May 7, 1809 A.D., George, Lord Castlewood, married Winifred, only
child of Thomas Hoyle, as this his signature witnesseth.
"(Witness) THOMAS HOYLE."
There was nothing more inside this locket, except two little wisps
of hair tied with gold thread, and the miniature upon ivory,
bearing on the back some anagram, probably that of the artist.
Already had I passed through a great many troubles, changes,
chances, and adventures which always seem strange (when I come to
look back), but never surprised me at the moment. Indeed, I might
almost make bold to pronounce that not many persons of my age and
sex have been visited, wholly against their own will, by such a
series of incidents, not to say marvelous, but at any rate fairly
to be called unusual. And throughout them perhaps it will be
acknowledged by all who have cared to consider them, that up to the
present time I did not fail more than themselves might have done in
patience. And in no description of what came to pass have I
colored things at all in my own favor--at least so far as intention
goes--neither laid myself out to get sympathy, though it often
would have done me a world of good.
But now I am free to confess that my patience broke down very
sadly. Why, if what was written on that vellum was true, and Major
Hockin correct as well, it came to no less than this, that my own
dear father was a base-born son, and I had no right to the name I
was so proud of! If, moreover, as I now began to dream, that
terrible and mysterious man did not resemble my father so closely
without some good reason, it seemed too likely that he might be his
elder brother and the proper heir.
This was bad enough to think of, but an idea a thousandfold worse
assailed me in the small hours of the night, as I lay on Mrs.
Strouss's best bed, which she kept for consuls, or foreign barons,
or others whom she loved to call "international notorieties."
Having none of these now, she assigned me that bed after hearing
all I had to say, and not making all that she might have done of
it, because of the praise that would fall to Mrs. Busk.
However, she acknowledged that she knew nothing of the history of
"the poor old lord." He might have carried on, for all she could
tell, with many wives before his true one--a thing she heard too
much of; but as for the Captain not being his true son and the
proper heir to the peerage, let any one see him walk twice, and
then have a shadow of a doubt about it! This logic pleased but
convinced me not, and I had to go to bed in a very unhappy,
restless, and comfortless state of mind.
I hope that, rather than myself, that bed, full of international
confusion, is to blame for the wicked ideas which assailed me while
I could not even try to sleep. One of them--and a loyal daughter
could scarcely have a worse one--was that my own dear father,
knowing Lord Castlewood's bad behavior, and his own sad plight in
consequence, and through that knowledge caring little to avenge his
death, for wife and children's sake preferred to foil inquiry
rather than confront the truth and challenge it. He might not have
meant to go so far, at first beginning with it; but, starting once,
might be driven on by grievous loss, and bitter sense of recreant
friends, and the bleak despair of a homeless world before him. And
serving as the scape-goat thus, he might have received from the
real culprit a pledge for concealment of the family disgrace.
A RETURN CALL
In the morning I labored to dismiss these thoughts, these shameful
suspicions, almost as injurious to my father's honor as it was to
suspect him of the crime itself. And calling back my memories of
him, and dwelling on what Mr. Shovelin said, and Uncle Sam and
others, I became quite happy in the firm conviction that I ought to
be put upon bread and water for having such vile visions. Then
suddenly a thing came to my mind which shattered happy penitence.
Major Hockin had spoken of another purpose which he had in store
while bringing me thus to London--another object, that is to say,
besides the opening of the trinket. And this his second intention
was to "have it out," as he expressed it, "with that league of curs
and serpents, Vypan, Goad, and Terryer." This was the partnership
whose card of business had been delivered at the sawmills under
circumstances which, to say the least, required explanation. And
the Major, with strong words and tugs of his head-crest, had vowed
to get that explanation, or else put the lot of them into a police
Moreover, when, at the opening of the locket, I did not think fit
to show the lapidary what I had found inside it, except the
painting on ivory (which proved to be as he expected), and when my
companion suppressed curiosity at the risk of constitution, and
while I could scarcely tell what I was about (through sudden shock
and stupidity), I must have been hurried on to tell Major Hockin
the whole of the private things I had discovered. For, in truth,
there was scarcely any time to think; and I was afraid of giving
way, which must have befallen me without relief of words; and being
so much disturbed I may, in the cab, have rushed off for comfort to
the Major, sitting so close to me. No doubt I did so, from what
happened afterward; but in the morning, after such a night, I
really could not be certain what I had said to Betsy, and what to
A large mind would have been steady throughout, and regarded the
question of birth as a thing to which we, who are not consulted
about it, should bear ourselves indifferently. And gladly would I
have done so, if I could, but the power was not in me. No doubt it
served me right for having been proud about such a trifle; but
though I could call it a trifle as long as it seemed to be in my
favor, my strength of mind was not enough to look at it so when
Betsy told me not to be like that, for I had a great deal to go
through yet, and must not be drawing on my spirit so, every atom of
which would be needful. For the General--as she called the Major--
was coming to fetch me at eleven o'clock to face some abominable
rascals, and without any breakfast how could I do it? Then I
remembered all about the appointment to go to Messrs. Vypan, Goad,
and Terryer, and beginning to think about them, I saw sad
confirmation of my bad ideas. My father's wicked elder brother by
another mother had left his own rights pending, as long as my
father lived, for good reason. For if the latter had turned
against him, through a breach of compact, things might go ill in a
criminal court; but having him silenced now by death, this man
might come forward boldly and claim estates and title. His first
point would be to make sure as sure could be of the death of my
father, to get hold of his private papers, and of me, who might
possess dangerous knowledge. And if this were so, one could
understand at once Mr. Goad's attempt upon Uncle Sam.
"Now none of this! none of this, I say, Erema!" Major Hockin
exclaimed, as he ran in and saw me scarcely even caring to hold my
own with the gentle Maximilian--to which name Mr. Strouss was
promoted from the too vernacular "Hans." "My dear, I never saw you
look ill before. Why, bless my heart, you will have crows'-feet!
Nurse, what are you doing with her? Look at her eyes, and be
ashamed of yourself. Give her goulard, tisane, tiffany--I never
know what the proper word is--something, any thing, volatile Sally,
hartshorn, ammonia, aromatic vinegar, saline draught, or something
strong. Why, I want her to look at her very, very best."
"As if she was a-going to a ball, poor dear!" Betsy Strouss
replied, with some irony. "A young lady full of high spirits by
nature, and have never had her first dance yet! The laws and
institutions of this kingdom is too bad for me, General. I shall
turn foreigner, like my poor husband."
"It is vere goot, vere goot always," said the placid Maximilian;
"foreigner dis way, foreigner dat way; according to de hills, or de
sea, or de fighting, or being born, or someting else."
"Hold your tongue, Hans," cried his Wilhelmina; "remember that you
are in England now, and must behave constitutionally. None of your
loose outlandish ideas will ever get your bread in England. Was I
born according to fighting, or hills, or sea, or any thing less
than the will of the Lord, that made the whole of them, and made
you too? General, I beg you to excuse him, if you can. When he
gets upon such things, he never can stop. His goodness is very
great; but he must have a firm hand put upon his 'philosophy.'
Maximilian, you may go and smoke your pipe for an hour and a
quarter, and see where the cheapest greens and oil are, for his
Excellence is coming in to-night; and mind you get plenty of stump
in them. His Excellence loves them, and they fill the dish,
besides coming cheaper. Now, Miss Erema, if you please, come here.
Trust you in me, miss, and soon I will make you a credit to the
I allowed her to manage my dress and all that according to her own
ideas; but when she entreated to finish me up with the "leastest
little touch of red, scarcely up to the usual color, by reason of
not sleeping," I stopped her at once, and she was quite content
with the color produced by the thought of it. Meanwhile Major
Hockin, of course, was becoming beyond all description impatient.
He had made the greatest point of my being adorned, and expected it
done in two minutes! And he hurried me so, when I did come down,
that I scarcely noticed either cab or horse, and put on my new
"My dear, you look very nice," he said at last, when thoroughly
tired of grumbling. "That scoundrel of a Goad will be quite amazed
at sight of the child he went to steal."
"Mr. Goad!" I replied, with a shudder, caused, perhaps, by dark
remembrance; "if we go to the office, you surely will not expect me
to see Mr. Goad himself?"
"That depends, as the Frenchmen say. It is too late now to shrink
back from any thing. If I can spare you, I will. If not, you must
not be ashamed to show yourself."
"I am never ashamed to show myself. But I would rather not go to
that place at all. If things should prove to be as I begin to
think, I had better withdraw from the whole of it, and only lament
that I ever began. My father was right; after all, my father was
wise; and I ought to have known it. And perhaps Uncle Sam knew the
truth, and would not tell me, for fear of my rushing to the
Yosemite. Cabman, please to turn the horse and go in the opposite
direction." But the Major pulled me back, and the driver lifted
his elbow and said, "All right."
"Erema," the Major began, quite sternly, "things are gone a little
too far for this. We are now embarked upon a most important
investigation"--even in my misery I could scarce help smiling at
his love of big official words--"an investigation of vast
importance. A crime of the blackest dye has been committed, and
calmly hushed up, for some petty family reason, for a period of
almost twenty years. I am not blaming your father, my dear; you
need not look so indignant. It is your own course of action,
remember, which has led to the present--the present--well, let us
say imbroglio. A man of honor and an officer of her Majesty's
service stands now committed at your request--mind, at your own
"Yes, yes, I know; but I only meant you to--to go as far as I
"Confidential instructions, let us say; but there are times when
duty to society overrides fine feeling. I have felt that already.
The die is cast. No half-and-half measures, no beating about the
bush, for me. After what I saw yesterday, and the light that burst
upon me, I did not act hastily--I never do, though slow coaches may
have said so. I put this and that together carefully, and had my
dinner, and made up my mind. And you see the result in that man on
"The cabman? Oh yes, you resolved to have a cab, and drive to
those wicked informers."
"Where are your eyes? You are generally so quick. This morning
you are quite unlike yourself--so weak, so tearful, and timorous.
Have you not seen that by side of the cabman there sits another man
altogether? One of the most remarkable men of the age, as your
dear Yankees say."
"Not a policeman in disguise, I hope. I saw a very common,
insignificant man. I thought he was the driver's groom, perhaps."
"Hush! he hears every thing, even on this granite. He is not a
policeman; if he were, a few things that disgrace the force never
would happen. If the policemen of England did their duty as our
soldiers do, at once I would have gone to them; my duty would have
been to do so. As it is, I go to our private police, who would not
exist if the force were worth a rap. Vypan, Goad, and Terryer, in
spite of Goad's clumsiness, rank second. I go to the first of all
these firms, and I get their very cleverest rascal."
Major Hockin, speaking in this hoarse whisper--for he could not
whisper gently--folded his arms, and then nodded his head, as much
as to say, "I have settled it now. You have nothing to do but
praise me." But I was vexed and perplexed too much to trust my
voice with an answer.
"The beauty of this arrangement is," he continued, with vast
complacency, "that the two firms hate one another as the devil
hates--no, that won't do; there is no holy water to be found among
them--well, as a snake hates a slow-worm, let us say. 'Set a thief
to catch a thief' is a fine old maxim; still better when the two
thieves have robbed one another."
As he spoke, the noble stranger slipped off the driving seat
without troubling the cabman to stop his jerking crawl, and he did
it so well that I had no chance of observing his nimble face or
form. "You are disappointed," said the Major, which was the last
thing I would have confessed. "You may see that man ten thousand
times, and never be able to swear to him. Ha! ha! he is a oner!"
"I disdain such mean tricks beyond all expression," I exclaimed, as
was only natural, "and every thing connected with them. It is so
low to talk of such things. But what in the world made him do it?
Where does he come from, and what is his name?"
"Like all noble persons, he has got so many names that he does not
know which is the right one; only his are short and theirs are
long. He likes 'Jack' better than any thing else, because it is
not distinctive. 'Cosmopolitan Jack,' some call him, from his
combining the manners and customs, features and figures, of nearly
all mankind. He gets on with every one, for every one is gratified
by seeing himself reflected in him. And he can jump from one frame
to another as freely as Proteus or the populace. And yet, with all
that, he is perfectly honest to any allegiance he undertakes. He
would not betray us to Vypan, Goad, and Terryer for your great
nugget and the Castlewood estates."
"I have heard that there are such people," I said; "but what can he
possibly know about me? And what is he coming to do for us now?"
"He knows all about you, for a very simple reason. That you do not
know him, is a proof of his ability. For you must have met him
times out of number. This is the fellow employed by your good but
incapable cousin, Lord Castlewood."
"He is not incapable; he is a man of great learning, and noble
"Well, never mind that; you must not be so hot. What I mean is
that he has done nothing for you beyond providing for your safety.
And that he certainly did right well, and at considerable expense,
for this man can't be had for nothing. You need have been under no
terror at all in any of the scenes you have been through. Your
safety was watched for continually."
"Then why did he not come and help me? Why did he not find out
that horrible man?"
"Because it was not in his orders, and Jack is the last man to go
beyond those. He is so clever that the stupid Moonites took him
for a stupid Moonite. You should have employed him yourself,
Erema; but you are so proud and independent."
"I should hope so, indeed. Should I put up with deceit? If the
truth is not to be had without falsehood, it is not worth having.
But what is this man to do here now?"
"That depends upon circumstances. He has better orders than I
could give, for I am no hand at scheming. Here we are; or here we
stop. Say nothing till I tell you. Pray allow me the honor. You
keep in the background, remember, with your veil, or whatever you
call it, down. Nobody stops at the very door. Of course that is
humbug--we conform to it."
With a stiff inclination, the gallant Major handed me out of the
cab in a quiet corner of a narrow street, then paid the driver with
less fuss than usual, and led me into a queer little place marked
in almost illegible letters, "Little England Polygon." "You have
the card, my dear?" he whispered; "keep it till I call you in. But
be ready to produce it in a moment. For the rest, I leave you to
your own wit. Jack is on the watch, mind."
There were two doors near together, one a brave door with a plate,
and swung on playing hinges, the other of too secluded a turn to
even pronounce itself "private." We passed through the public
door, and found only a lobby, with a boy on guard. "Mr. Goad?
Yes, Sir. This way, Sir," cried the boy. "Lady stay? Yes, Sir;
waiting-room for ladies. Chair, miss; here, if you please--first
right. Mr. Goad, second on the left. Knock twice. Paper, miss?
Poker chained at this time of year. Bell A, glass of water. Bell
B, cup of tea, if ladies grows impatient."
If I had been well, I might have reduced this boy to his proper
magnitude, for I never could endure young flippancy; but my spirits
were so low that the boy banged the door with a fine sense of
having vanquished me. And before there was any temptation to ring
Bell A, not to mention Bell B, the sound of a wrathful voice began
coming. Nearer and nearer it came, till the Major strode into the
"ladies' waiting-room," and used language no ladies should wait
"Oh, don't!" I said; "what would Mrs. Hockin say? And consider me
too, Major Hockin, if you please."
"I have considered you, and that makes me do it. Every body knows
what I am. Did I ever exaggerate in all my life? Did I ever say
any thing without just grounds? Did I ever take any distorted
views? Did I ever draw upon my imagination? Erema, answer me this
"I do not remember a single instance of your drawing upon your
imagination," I answered, gravely, and did not add, "because there
is none to draw upon."
"Very well. I was sure of your concurrence. Then just come with
me. Take my arm, if you please, and have the thief's card ready.
Now keep your temper and your self-command."
With this good advice, the Major, whose arm and whole body were
jerking with wrath, led me rapidly down the long passage and
through a door, and my eyes met the eyes of the very man who had
tried to bribe Uncle Sam of me. He never saw me then, and he did
not know me now; but his insolent eyes fell under mine. I looked
at him quietly, and said nothing.
"Now, Mr. Goad, you still assert that you never were in California--
never even crossed the Atlantic. This young lady under my
protection--don't you be afraid, my dear--is the Honorable Erema
Castlewood, whom you, in the pay of a murderer, went to fetch, and
perhaps to murder. Now, do you acknowledge it? You wrote her
description, and ought to know her. You double-dyed villain, out
"Major Hockin," said Mr. Goad, trying to look altogether at his
ease, but failing, and with his bull-dog forehead purple, "if
indeed you are an officer--which I doubt for the credit of her
Majesty's service--if the lady were not present, I should knock you
down." And the big man got up as if to do it.
"Never mind her," my companion answered, in a magnanimous manner;
"she has seen worse than that, poor thing. Here I am--just come
and do it."
The Major was scarcely more than half the size of Mr. Goad in mere
bodily bulk, and yet he defied him in this way. He carefully took
his blue lights off, then drew up the crest of his hair, like his
wife's most warlike cock a-crowing, and laid down his rattan upon a
desk, and doubled his fists, and waited. Then he gave a blink from
the corner of his gables, clearly meaning, "Please to stop and see
it out." It was a distressing thing to see, and the Major's
courage was so grand that I could not help smiling. Mr. Goad,
however, did not advance, but assumed a superior manner.
"Major," he said, "we are not young men; we must not be so hasty.
You carry things with too high a hand, as veteran officers are apt
to do. Sir, I make allowance for you; I retract my menace, and
apologize. We move in different spheres of life, Sir, or I would
offer you my hand."
"No, thank you!" the Major exclaimed, and then looked sorry for his
arrogance. "When a man has threatened me, and that man sees the
mistake of doing so, I am pacified, Sir, in a moment; but it takes
me some time to get over it. I have served his Gracious Majesty,
and now hers, in every quarter of the civilized globe, with
distinction, Sir--with distinction, and thanks, and no profit to
taint the transaction, Sir. In many battles I have been menaced
with personal violence, and have received it, as in such positions
is equitable. I am capable, Sir, of receiving it still, and
repaying it, not without interest."
"Hang it, Major, if a man is sorry, a soldier forgives him frankly.
You abused me, and I rashly threatened you. I beg your pardon, as
a man should do, and that should be an end to it."
"Very well, very well; say no more about it. But am I to
understand that you still deny in that barefaced manner, with my
witness here, the fact of your having been at Colonel Gundry's--my
cousin, Sir, and a man not to be denied, without an insult to
myself--a man who possesses ingots of gold, ingots of gold, enough
to break the Bank of England, and a man whose integrity doubles
them all. Have you not heard of the monster nugget, transcending
the whole of creation, discovered by this young lady looking at
you, in the bed of the saw-mill river, and valued at more than half
"You don't mean to say so? When was it? Sylvester never said a
word about it--the papers, I mean, never mentioned it."
"Try no more--well, I won't say lies, though they are confounded
lies--what I mean is, no further evasion, Mr. Goad. Sylvester's
name is enough, Sir. Here is the card of your firm, with your own
note of delivery on the back, handed by you to my cousin, the
Colonel. And here stands the lady who saw you do it."
"Major, I will do my very best to remember. I am here, there,
every where--China one day, Peru the next, Siberia the day after.
And this young lady found the nugget, did she? How wonderfully
lucky she must be!"
"I am lucky; I find out every thing; and I shall find out you, Mr.
Goad." Thus I spoke on the spur of the moment, and I could not
have spoken better after a month of consultation. Rogues are
generally superstitious. Mr. Goad glanced at me with a shudder, as
I had gazed at him some three years back; and then he dropped his
bad, oily-looking eyes.
"I make mistakes sometimes," he said, "as to where I have been and
where I have not. If this young lady saw me there, it stands to
reason that I may have been there. I have a brother extremely
similar. He goes about a good deal also. Probably you saw my
"I saw no brother of yours, but yourself. Yourself--your mean and
cowardly self--and I shall bring you to justice."
"Well, well," he replied, with a poor attempt to turn the matter
lightly; "I never contradict ladies; it is an honor to be so
observed by them. Now, Major, can you give me any good reason for
drawing upon a bad memory? My time is valuable. I can not refer
to such by-gone matters for nothing."
"We will not bribe you, if that is what you mean," Major Hockin
made answer, scornfully. "This is a criminal case, and we have
evidence you little dream of. Our only offer is--your own safety,
if you make a clean breast of it. We are on the track of a
murderer, and your connection with him will ruin you. Unless you
wish to stand in the dock at his side, you will tell us every
"Sir, this is violent language."
"And violent acts will follow it: if you do not give up your
principal, and every word you know about him, you will leave this
room in custody. I have Cosmopolitan Jack outside, and the police
at a sign from him will come."
"Is this job already in the hands of the police, then?"
"No, not yet. I resolved to try you first. If you refuse, it will
be taken up at once; and away goes your last chance, Sir."
Mr. Goad's large face became like a field of conflicting passions
and low calculations. Terror, fury, cupidity, and doggedness never
had a larger battle-field.
"Allow me at least to consult my partners," he said, in a low voice
and almost with a whine; "we may do things irregular sometimes, but
we never betray a client."
"Either betray your client or yourself," the Major answered, with a
downright stamp. "You shall consult no one. You have by this
watch forty-five seconds to consider it."
"You need not trouble yourself to time me," the other answered,
sulkily; "my duty to the firm overrides private feeling. Miss
Castlewood, I call you to witness, since Major Hockin is so
"Peppery, Sir, is the very last word that ever could be applied to
me. My wife, my friends, every one that knows me, even my
furthest-off correspondents, agree that I am pure patience."
"It may be so, Major; but you have not shown it. Miss Castlewood,
I have done you no harm. If you had been given up to me, you would
have been safer than where you were. My honor would have been
enlisted. I now learn things which I never dreamed of--or, at
least--at least only lately. I always believed the criminality to
be on the other side. We never ally ourselves with wrong. But
lately things have come to my knowledge which made me doubtful as
to facts. I may have been duped--I believe I have been: I am
justified, therefore, in turning the tables."
"If you turn tables," broke in the Major, who was grumbling to
himself at the very idea of having any pepper in his nature--"Goad,
if you turn tables, mind you, you must do it better than the
mesmerists. Out of this room you do not stir; no darkness--no
bamboozling! Show your papers, Sir, without sleight of hand.
Surrender, or you get no quarter."
To me it was quite terrifying to see my comrade thus push his
victory. Mr. Goad could have killed him at any moment, and but for
me perhaps would have done so. But even in his fury he kept on
casting glances of superstitious awe at me, while I stood quite
still and gazed at him. Then he crossed the room to a great case
of drawers, unlocked something above the Major's head, made a
sullen bow, and handed him a packet.
WANTED, A SAWYER
To judge Mr. Goad by his own scale of morality and honor, he
certainly had behaved very well through a trying and unexpected
scene. He fought for his honor a great deal harder than ever it
could have deserved of him; and then he strove well to appease it
with cash, the mere thought of which must have flattered it.
However, it was none the worse for a little disaster of this kind.
At the call of duty it coalesced with interest and fine sense of
law, and the contact of these must have strengthened it to face any
For the moment he laid it aside in a drawer--and the smallest he
possessed would hold it--and being compelled to explain his
instructions (partly in short-hand and partly in cipher), he
kindly, and for the main of it truly, interpreted them as follows:
"July 31, 1858.--Received directions from M. H. to attend without
fail, at whatever expense, to any matter laid before us by a tall,
dark gentleman bearing his card. M. H. considerably in our debt;
but his father can not last long. Understand what he means, having
dealt with this matter before, and managed well with it.
"August 2.--Said gentleman called, gave no name, and was very
close. Had experienced some great wrong. Said that he was true
heir to the C. estates now held by Lord C. Only required a little
further evidence to claim them; and some of this was to be got
through us. Important papers must be among the effects of the old
lord's son, lately dead in California, the same for whom a reward
had been offered, and we had been employed about it. Must get
possession of those papers, and of the girl, if possible. Yankees
to be bribed, at whatever figure, and always stand out for a high
one. Asked where funds were to come from; gave good reference, and
verified it. To be debited to the account of M. H. Said we would
have nothing to do with it without more knowledge of our principal.
Replied, with anger, that he himself was Lord C., ousted by
usurpers. Had not the necessary proofs as yet, but would get them,
and blast all his enemies. Had doubts about his sanity, and still
greater about his solvency. Resolved to inquire into both points.
"August 3.--M. H. himself, as cool as ever, but shammed to be
indignant. Said we were fools if we did not take it up. Not a
farthing would he pay of his old account, and fellows like us could
not bring actions. Also a hatful of money was to be made of this
job, managed snugly. Emigrants to California were the easiest of
all things to square up. A whole train of them disappeared this
very year, by Indians or Mormons, and no bones made. The best and
most active of us must go--too ticklish for an agent. We must
carry on all above-board out there, and as if sent by British
government. In the far West no one any wiser. Resolved to go
myself, upon having a certain sum in ready.
"August 5.--The money raised. Start for Liverpool to-morrow.
Require a change, or would not go. May hit upon a nugget, etc.,
Mr. Goad's memoranda of his adventures, and signal defeat by Uncle
Sam, have no claim to be copied here, though differing much from my
account. With their terse unfeeling strain, they might make people
laugh who had not sadder things to think of. And it matters very
little how that spy escaped, as such people almost always seem to
"Two questions, Goad, if you please," said Major Hockin, who had
smiled sometimes, through some of his own remembrances; "what has
happened since your return, and what is the name of the gentleman
whom you have called 'M.H.?'"
"Is it possible that you do not know, Sir? Why, he told us quite
lately that you were at his back! You must know Sir Montague
"Yes, yes; certainly I do," the old man said, shortly, with a quick
gleam in his eyes; "a highly respected gentleman now, though he may
have sown his wild oats like the rest. To be sure; of course I
know all about it. His meaning was good, but he was misled."
In all my little experience of life nothing yet astonished me more
than this. I scarcely knew whom to believe, or what. That the
Major, most upright of men, should take up his cousin's roguery--
all new to him--and speak of him thus! But he gave me a nudge; and
being all confusion, I said nothing, and tried to look at neither
of them, because my eyes must always tell the truth.
"As to the other point," Mr. Goad went on; "since my embassy
failed, we have not been trusted with the confidence we had the
right to expect. Ours is a peculiar business, Sir: 'Trust me in
all, or trust me not at all,' as one of our modern poets says, is
the very essence of it. And possibly, Major, if that had been
done, even your vigor and our sense of law might not have extorted
from me what you have heard. Being cashiered, as we are, we act
according to the strictest honor in divulging things no longer
confided to us."
"Goad, you have done yourself the utmost credit, legally,
intellectually, and--well, I will not quite say morally. If I ever
have a nasty job to do--at least I mean a stealthy one--which God,
who has ever kept me straight, forbid!--I will take care not to
lose your address. I have a very queer thing occurring on my
manor--I believe it is bound up with this affair--never mind; I
must think--I hate all underhanded work."
"Major, our charges are strictly moderate. We do in a week what
takes lawyers a twelvemonth. Allow me to hand you one of our new
"No, no. My pockets are all full. And I don't want to have it
found among my papers. No offense, Mr. Goad, no offense at all.
Society is not as it was when I was young. I condemn no modern
institutions, Sir, though the world gets worse every day of its
In terror of committing himself to any connection with such a firm,
the Major put on his dark lights again, took up his cane, and let
every body know, with a summary rap on the floor, that he might
have relaxed, but would not allow any further liberty about it.
And as he marched away, not proudly, yet with a very nice firmness,
I was almost afraid to say any thing to him to disturb his high
mental attitude. For Mrs. Hockin must have exclaimed that here was
a noble spectacle.
"But one thing," I forced myself to suggest; "do ask one thing
before we go. That strange man who called himself 'Lord
Castlewood' here, and 'Captain Brown' at Soberton--have they any
idea where to find him now? And why does he not come forward?"
My comrade turned back, and put these questions; and the private
inquirer answered that they had no idea of his whereabouts, but
could easily imagine many good reasons for his present reserve of
claim. For instance, he might be waiting for discovery of further
evidence; or (which was even more likely) for the death of the
present Lord Castlewood, which could not be very far distant, and
would remove the chief opponent. It grieved me deeply to find that
my cousin's condition was so notorious, and treated of in such a
cold-blooded way, like a mule fallen lame, or a Chinaman in Frisco.
"My dear, you must grow used to such things," Major Hockin
declared, when he saw that I was vexed, after leaving those selfish
premises. "If it were not for death, how could any body live?
Right feeling is shown by considering such points, and making for
the demise of others even more preparation than for our own.
Otherwise there is a selfishness about it by no means Christian-
minded. You look at things always from such an intense and even
irreligious point of view. But such things are out of my line
altogether. Your Aunt Mary understands them best."
"Would you be able," I said, "to account to Aunt Mary conscientiously
for that dreadful story which I heard you tell? I scarcely knew
where I stood, Major Hockin."
"You mean about Montague? Family honor must be defended at any
price. Child, I was greatly pained to go beyond the truth; but in
such a case it is imperative. I was shocked and amazed at my
cousin's conduct; but how could I let such a fellow know that? And
think what I owe to his father, Sir Rufus? No, no; there are times
when Bayard himself must stretch a point. Honor and religion alike
demand it; and Mrs. Hockin need never hear of it."
"Certainly I shall not speak of it," I answered, though a little
surprised at his arguments; "but you mean, of course, to find out
all about it. It seems to me such a suspicious thing. But I never
could bear Sir Montague."
The Major smiled grimly, and, perceiving that he wished to drop the
subject, I said no more. He had many engagements in London always,
and I must not attempt to engross his time. However, he would not
for a moment hear of leaving me any where but with Betsy, for
perhaps he saw how strange I was. And, being alone at last with
her, I could keep up my pride no longer.
Through all that had happened, there never had been such a dreadful
trial as I had borne this day without a word to any one. Danger
and loss and sad dreariness of mind, from want of young
companionship; mystery also, and obscurity of life, had always been
my fortune. With all of these I had striven, to the best of my
very small ability, having from nature no gift except the dull one
of persistence. And throughout that struggle I had felt quite sure
that a noble yearning for justice and a lofty power of devotion
were my two impelling principles. But now, when I saw myself
sprung of low birth, and the father of my worship base-born, down
fell all my arduous castles, and I craved to go under the earth and
For every word of Mr. Goad, and every crooked turn of little things
in twist against me--even the Major's last grim smile--all began to
work together, and make up a wretched tumult, sounding in my ears
like drums. Where was the use of going on, of proving any body's
guilt or any body's innocence, if the utmost issue of the whole
would be to show my father an impostor? Then, and only then, I
knew that love of abstract justice is to little minds impossible,
that sense of honor is too prone to hang on chance of birth, and
virtue's fountain, self-respect, springs but ill from parental
When I could no longer keep such bitter imaginings to myself, but
poured them forth to Betsy, she merely laughed, and asked me how I
could be such a simpleton. Only to think of my father in such a
light was beyond her patience! Where was my pride, she would like
to know, and my birth, and my family manners? However, she did
believe there was something in my ideas, if you turned them inside
out, and took hold of them by the other end. It was much more
likely, to her mind, that the villain, the unknown villain at the
bottom of all the misery, was really the son born out of wedlock,
if any such there were at all, and therefore a wild harum-scarum
fellow like Ishmael in the Book of Genesis. And it would be just
of a piece, she thought, with the old lord's character to drive
such a man to desperation by refusing to give him a farthing.
"All that might very well be," I answered; "but it would in no way
serve to explain my father's conduct, which was the great mystery
of all." Nevertheless, I was glad to accept almost any view of the
case rather than that which had forced itself upon me since the
opening of the locket. Any doubt of that most wretched conclusion
was a great relief while it lasted; and, after so long a time of
hope and self-reliance, should I cast away all courage through a
While I was thus re-assuring myself, and being re-assured by my
faithful nurse, sad news arrived, and drove my thoughts into
another crooked channel. Mrs. Hockin, to meet my anxiety for some
tidings from California, had promised that if any letter came, she
would not even wait for the post, but forward it by special
messenger. And thus, that very same evening, I received a grimy
epistle, in an unknown hand, with the postmark of Sacramento.
Tearing it open, I read as follows:
"MISS 'REMA,--No good luck ever came, since you, to this Blue River
Station, only to be washed away, and robbed by greasers, and shot
through the ribs, and got more work than can do, and find an
almighty nugget sent by Satan. And now the very worst luck of all
have come, wholly and out of all denial, by you and your faces and
graces and French goings on. Not that I do not like you, mind; for
you always was very polite to me, and done your best when you found
me trying to put up with the trials put on me. But now this trial
is the worst of all that ever come to my establishings; and to go
away now as I used to think of doing when tyrannized upon is out of
my way altogether, and only an action fit for a half-breed. Sawyer
Gundry hath cut and run, without a word behind him--no instructions
for orders in hand, and pouring in--no directions where to find
him, not even 'God bless you' to any one of the many hands that
looked up to him. Only a packet of dollars for me to pay the wages
for two months to come, and a power of lawyer to receive all debts,
and go on anyhow just the same. And to go on just the same is more
than the worst of us has the heart for, without the sight of his
old red face. He may have been pretty sharp, and too much the
master now and then, perhaps; but to do without him is a darned
sight worse, and the hands don't take to me like him. Many's the
time I have seen his faults, of having his own way, and such likes,
and paying a man beyond his time if his wife was out of order. And
many's the time I have said myself I was fitter to be at the head
"About that I was right enough, perhaps, if I had started upon my
own hook; but to stand in the tracks he has worn to his own foot is
to go into crooked compasses. There is never a day without some
hand threatening to strike and to better himself, as if they were
hogs to come and go according to the acorns; and such low words I
can never put up with, and packs them off immediate. No place can
be carried on if the master is to shut up his lips to impudence.
And now I have only got three hands left, with work enough for
thirty, and them three only stopped on, I do believe, to grumble of
me if the Sawyer do come home!
"But what we all want to know--and old Suan took a black stick to
make marks for you--is why the old man hath run away, and where.
Young Firm, who was getting a sight too uppish for me to have long
put up with him, he was going about here, there, and every where,
from the very first time of your going away, opening his mouth a
deal too much, and asking low questions how long I stopped to
dinner. Old Suan said he was troubled in his mind, as the pale-
faces do about young girls, instead of dragging them to their
wigwams; and she would give him a spell to get over it. But
nothing came of that; and when the war broke out, he had words with
his grandfather, and went off, so they said, to join the rebels.
"Sawyer let him go, as proud as could be, though he would sooner
have cut his own head off; and the very same night he sat down by
his fire and shammed to eat supper as usual. But I happened to go
in to get some orders, and, my heart, I would never wish to see
such things again!
"The old man would never waste a bit of victuals, as you know, Miss
'Rema; and, being acquaint with Suan's way of watching, he had
slipped all his supper aside from his plate, and put it on a clean
pocket-handkerchief to lock it in the press till his appetite
should serve; and I caught him in the act, and it vexed him.
'Ha'n't you the manners to knock at the door?' he said; and I said,
'Certainly,' and went back and done it; and, troubled as he was, he
grinned a bit. Then he bowed his great head, as he always did when
he knew he had gone perhaps a trifle too far with a man in my
position. I nodded to forgive him, and he stood across, and saw
that he could do no less than liquor me, after such behavior. But
he only brought out one glass; and I said, 'Come, Colonel, square
is square, you know.' 'Excuse of me, Martin,' he said; 'but no
drop of strong drink passes the brim of my mouth till this
gallivanting is done with. I might take too much, as the old men
do, to sink what they don't want to think on.' 'You mean about
bully-cock Firm,' says I; 'rebel Firm--nigger-driver Firm.'
'Hush!' he said; 'no bad words about it. He has gone by his
conscience and his heart. What do we know of what come inside of
"This was true enough, for I never did make that boy out to my
liking: and the old man now was as stiff as a rock, and pretty nigh
as peculiar. He made me a cocktail of his own patent, to show how
firm his hand was; but the lines of his face was like wainscot
mouldings, and the cords of his arm stood out like cogs. Then he
took his long pipe, as he may have done perhaps every blessed night
for the last fifty years; but that length of time ought to have
learned him better than to go for to fill it upside down. 'Ha,
ha!' he said; 'every thing is upside down since I was a man under
heaven--countries and nations and kindreds and duties; and why not
a old tobacco-pipe? That's the way babies blow bubbles with them.
We shall all have to smoke 'em that way if our noble republic is
busted up. Fill yours, and try it, Martin.'
"Instead of enjoying my cocktail, Miss 'Rema, I never was so down
at mouth; for, to my mind, his old heart was broken while he
carried on so. And let every body say what they will, one thing
there is no denying of. Never was seen on this side of the big
hills a man fit to walk in the tracks of Uncle Sam, so large and
good-hearted according to his lights, hard as a grizzly bear for a
man to milk him, but soft in the breastbone as a young prairie-hen
for all folk down upon their nine-pins.
"You may be surprised, miss, to find me write so long. Fact is,
the things won't go out of my mind without it. And it gives me a
comfort, after all I may have said, to put good opinions upon
paper. If he never should turn up again, my language will be to
his credit; whereas if he do come back, with the betting a horse to
a duck against it, to his pride he will read this testimonial of
yours, faithfully, MARTIN CLOGFAST.
"P.S.--Can't carry on like this much longer. Enough to rip one's
heart up. You never would know the old place, miss. The heads of
the horses is as long as their tails with the way they carry them;
the moss is as big as a Spaniard's beard upon the kitchen door-
sill; and the old dog howls all day and night, like fifty thousand
scalpers. Suan saith, if you was to come back, the lad might run
home after you. 'Tisn't the lad I cares about so much, but poor
old Sawyer, at his time of life, swallowed up in the wilderness."
As if my own trouble were not enough, so deeply was I grieved by
this sad news that I had a great mind to turn back on my own and
fly to far-off disasters. To do so appeared for the moment a noble
thing, and almost a duty; but now, looking back, I perceive that my
instinct was right when it told me to stay where I was, and see out
my own sad story first. And Betsy grew hot at the mere idea of my
hankering after a miller's affairs, as she very rudely expressed
it. To hear about lords and ladies, and their crimes and
adventures, was lovely; but to dwell upon people of common birth,
and in trade, was most unbeseeming. A man who mended his own mill,
and had hands like horn--well, even she was of better blood than
that, she hoped.
Before these large and liberal views had fairly been expounded,
Major Hockin arrived, with his mind in such a state that he opened
his watch every second.
"Erema, I must speak to you alone," he cried; "no, not even you,
Mrs. Strouss, if you please. If my ward likes to tell you, why, of
course she can; but nobody shall say that I did. There are things