Part 7 out of 15
Three elderly sisters, the Misses Lunley, well born and bred, lived
together on their funds, which, small singly, united made a decent
competence. Two of them had refused marriage in early life for fear the
third should fall into less tender hands than theirs. For Miss Blanche
Lunley was a cripple: disorder of the spine had robbed her, in youth's
very bloom, of the power not only to dance, as you girls do, but to walk
or even stand upright, leaving her two active little hands, and a heart
as nearly angelic as we are likely to see here on earth.
She lay all day long on a little iron bedstead at the window of their
back-parlour, that looked on a sunny little lawn, working eagerly for the
poor; teaching the poor, young and old, to read, chiefly those of her own
sex; hearing the sorrows of the poor, composing the quarrels of the poor,
relieving their genuine necessities with a little money and much
ingenuity and labour.
Some poor woman, in a moment of inspiration, called Miss Blanche "The
sunshine of the poor." The word was instantly caught up in the parish,
and had now this many years gently displaced "Lunley," and settled on her
here below, and its echo gone before her up to Heaven.
The poor "sunshine of the poor" was happy: life was sweet to her. To know
whether this is so, it is useless to inquire of the backbone or the
limbs: look at the face! She lay at her window in the kindred sunshine,
and in a world of sturdy, able, agile cursers, grumblers, and yawners,
her face, pale its ashes, wore the eternal sunshine of a happy, holy
But there came one to her bedside and told her the bank was broken, and
all the money gone she and her sisters had lent Mr. Hardie.
The saint clasped her hands and said, "Oh, my poor people! What will
become of them?" And the tears ran down her pale and now sorrowful
At this time she did not know the full extent of their losses. But they
had given Mr. Hardie a power of attorney to draw out all their consols.
That remorseless man had abused the discretion this gave him, and
beggared them--they were his personal friends, too--to swell his secret
When "the sunshine of the poor" heard this, and knew that she was now the
poorest of the poor, she clasped her hands and cried, "Oh, my poor
sisters! my poor sisters!" and she could work no more for sighing.
The next morning found "the sunshine of the poor" extinct in her little
bed: ay, died of grief with no grain of egotism in it; gone straight to
heaven without one angry word against Richard Hardie or any other.
Old Betty had a horror of the workhouse. To save her old age from it she
had deposited her wages in the bank for the last twenty years, and also a
little legacy from Mr. Hardie's father. She now went about the house of
her master and debtor, declaring she was sure he would not rob _her,_
and, if he did, she would never go into the poorhouse. "I'll go out on
the common and die there. Nobody will miss _me._"
The next instance led to consequences upon consequences: and that is my
excuse for telling it the reader somewhat more fully than Alfred heard
Mrs. Maxley one night found something rough at her feet in bed. "What on
earth is this?" said she.
"Never you mind," said Maxley: "say it's my breeches; what then?"
"Why, what on earth does the man put his breeches to bed for?"
"That is my business," roared Maxley, and whispered drily, "'tain't for
you to wear 'em, howsever."
This little spar led to his telling her he had drawn out all their money,
but, when she asked the reason, he snubbed her again indirectly,
recommending her to sleep.
The fact is, the small-clothes were full of bank-notes; and Maxley always
followed them into bed now, for fear of robbers.
The bank broke on a Tuesday: Maxley dug on impassive; and when curious
people came about him to ask whether he was a loser, he used to inquire
very gravely, and dwelling on every syllable,
"Do--you--see--anything--green--in this ere eye."
Friday was club day; the clubsmen met at the "Greyhound" and talked over
their losses. Maxley sat smoking complacently; and when his turn came to
groan, he said drily: "I draad all mine a week afore. (Exclamations.) I
had a hinkling: my boy Jack he wrote to me from Canada as how Hardie's
was rotten out there; now these here bankers they be like an oak tree;
they do go at the limbs first and then at the heart."
The club was wroth. "What, you went and made yourself safe and never gave
any of us a chance? Was that neighbourly? was that--clubbable?"
To a hailstorm of similar reproaches, Maxley made but one reply,
"'Twarn't _my_ business to take care o' _you._" He added, however, a
little sulkily, "I was laad for slander once: scalded dog fears lue-warm
"Oh," said one, "I don't believe him. He puts a good face on it but his
nine hundred is gone along with ourn."
"'Taiu't gone far, then." With this he put his hand in his pocket, and,
after some delay, pulled out a nice new crisp note and held it up. "What
is that? I ask the company."
"Looks like a ten-pun note, James."
"Welt the bulk 'grees with the sample; I knows where to find eightscore
and nine to match this here."
The note was handed round: and on inspection each countenance in turn
wore a malicious smile; till at last Maxley, surrounded by grinning
faces, felt uneasy.
"What be 'e all grinning at like a litter o' Chessy cats? Warn't ye ugly
enough without showing of your rotten teeth ?"
"Better say 'tain't money at all, but only a wench's curl paper:" and he
got up and snatched it fiercely out of the last inspector's hand. "Ye
can't run your rigs on me," said he. "What an if I can't read words, I
can figures; and I spelt the ten out on every one of them, afore I'd take
A loud and general laugh greeted this boast.
Then Maxley snatched up his hat in great wrath and some anxiety, and went
out followed by a peal.
In five minutes he was at home; and tossed the note into his wife's lap.
She was knitting by a farthing dip. "Dame," said he, controlling all
appearance of anxiety, "what d'ye call that?"
She took up the note and held it close to the candle.
"Why, Jem, it is a ten-pound note, one of Hardie's--_as was._"
"Then what were those fools laughing at?" And he told her all that had
Mrs. Maxley dropped her knitting and stood up trembling. "Why, you told
me you had got our money all safe out!"
"Well, and so I have, ye foolish woman; and he drew the whole packet out
of his pocket and flung them fiercely on the table. Mrs. Maxley ran her
finger and eye over them, and uttered a scream of anger and despair.
"These! these be all Hardie's notes," she cried; "and what vally be
Hardie's notes when Hardie's be broke?"
Maxley staggered as if he had been shot.
The woman's eyes flashed fury at him. "This is your work, ye born idiot:
'mind your own business,' says you: you _must_ despise your wedded wife,
that has more brains in her finger than you have in all your great long
useless carease: you _must_ have your secrets: one day poison, another
day beggary: you have ruined me, you have murdered me: get out of my
sight! for if I find a knife I'll put it in you, I will." And in her
ungovernable passion, she actually ran to the dresser for a knife: at
which Maxley caught up a chair and lifted it furiously, above his head to
fling at her.
Luckily the man had more self-command than the woman; he dashed the chair
furiously on the floor, and ran out of the house.
He wandered about half stupid, and presently his feet took him
mechanically round to his garden. He pottered about among his plants,
looking at them, inspecting them closely, and scarce seeing them.
However, he covered up one or two, and muttered, "I think there will be a
frost to-night: I think there will be a frost" Then his legs seemed to
give way. He sat down and thought of his wedding-day: he began to talk to
himself out loud, as some people do in trouble. "Bless her comely face,"
said he, "and to think I had my arm lifted to strike her, after wearing
her so low?, and finding her good stuff upon the whole. Well, thank my
stars I didn't We must make the best on't: money's gone; but here's the
garden and our hands still; and 'tain't as if we were single to gnaw our
hearts alone: wedded life cuts grief a two. Let's make it up and begin
again. Sixty come Martinmas, and Susan forty-eight: and I be a'most weary
of turning moulds."
He went round to his front door.
There was a crowd round it; a buzzing crowd with all their faces turned
towards his door.
He came at their backs, and asked peevishly what was to do now. Some of
the women shrieked at his voice. The crowd turned about; and a score of
faces peered at him: some filled with curiosity, some with pity.
"Lord help us!" said the poor man, "is there any more trouble a foot
to-day? Stand aside, please, and let me know."
"No! no!" cried a woman, "don't let him."
"Not let me go into my own house, young woman?" said Maxley with dignity:
"be these your manners?"
"Oh, James: I meant you no ill. Poor man!"
"Poor soul!" said another.
"Stand aloof!" said a strange man. "Who has as good a right to be there
as he have?"
A lane was made directly, and Maxley rushed down between two rows of
peering faces, with his knees knocking together, and burst into his own
house. A scream from the women inside as he entered, and a deep groan
from the strong man bereaved of his mate, told the tragedy. Poor Susan
Maxley was gone.
She had died of breast-pang within a minute of his leaving her; and the
last words of two faithful spouses were words of anger.
All these things, and many more less tragic, but very deplorable, came to
Alfred Hardie's knowledge, and galled and afflicted him deeply. And
several of these revelations heaped discredit high upon Richard Hardie,
till the young man, born with a keen sense of justice, and bred amongst
honourable minds, began to shudder at his own father.
Herein he was alone; Jane, with the affectionate blindness of her sex,
could throw her arms round her father's neck, and pity him for his
losses--by his own dishonesty--and pity him most when some victim of his
unprincipled conduct died or despaired. "Poor papa will feel this so
deeply," was her only comment on such occasions.
Alfred was not sorry she could take this view, and left her unmolested to
confound black with white, and wrong with right, at affection's dictates;
but his own trained understanding was not to be duped in matters of plain
morality. And so, unable to cure the wrongs he deplored, unable to put
his conscience into his pocket like Richard Hardie, or into his heart
like Jane, he wandered alone, or sat brooding and dejected: and the
attentive reader, if I am so fortunate as to possess one, will not be
surprised to learn that he was troubled, too, with dark mysterious
surmises he half dreaded, yet felt it his duty to fathom. These and Mrs.
Dodd's loss by the bank combined to keep him out of Albion Villa. He
often called to ask after Captain Dodd, but was ashamed to enter the
Now Richard Hardie's anxiety to know whether David was to die or live had
not declined, but rather increased. If the latter, he was now resolved to
fly to the United States with his booty, and cheat his alienated son
along with the rest: he had come by degrees down to this. It was on
Alfred he had counted to keep him informed of David's state; but, on his
putting a smooth inquiry, the young man's face flushed with shame, or
anger, or something, and he gave a very short, sharp, and obscure reply.
In reality, he did not know much, nor did Sarah, his informant; for of
late the servants had never been allowed to enter David's room.
Mr. Hardie, after this rebuff, never asked Alfred again; but having heard
Sampson's name mentioned as Dodd's medical attendant, wrote and asked him
to come and dine next time he should visit Barkington.
"You will find me a fallen man," said he; "to-morrow we resign our house
and premises and furniture to the assignees, and go to live at a little
furnished cottage not very far from your friends the Dodds. It is called
'Musgrove Cottage.' There, where we have so little to offer besides a
welcome, none but true friends will come near us; indeed, there are very
few I should venture to ask for such a proof of fidelity to your broken
The good-hearted Sampson sent a cordial reply, and came to dinner at
Now all Hardie wanted of him in reality was to know about David; so when
Jane had retired and the decanter circulated, he began to pump him by his
vanity. "I understand," said he, "you have wrought one of your surprising
cures in this neighbourhood. Albion Villa!"
Sampson shook his head sorrowfully: Mr. Hardie's eyes sparkled. Alfred
watched him keenly and bitterly.
"How can I work a great cure after these ass-ass-ins Short and Osmond?
Look, see! the man had been wounded in the hid, and lost blood: thin
stabbed in the shoulder, and lost more blood."--Both the Hardies uttered
an ejaculation of unfeigned surprise.--"So, instid of recruiting the
buddy thus exhausted of the great liquid material of all repair, the
profissional ass-ass-in came and exhausted him worse: stabbed him while
he slept; stabbed him unconscious, stabbed him in a vein: and stole more
blood from him. Wasn't that enough? No! the routine of profissional
ass-ass-ination had but begun; nixt they stabbed him with
cupping-needles, and so stole more of his life-blood. And they were goen
from their stabs to their bites, goen to leech his temples, and so hand
him over to the sixton."
"But you came in and saved him," cried Alfred.
"I saved his life," said Sampson sorrowfully; "but life is not the only
good thing a man may be robbed of by those who steal his life-blood, and
so impoverish and water the contints of the vessels of the brain."
"Doctor Sampson," said Alfred, "what do you mean by these mysterious
words? You alarm me."
"What, don't you know? Haven't they told you?"
"No, I have not had the courage to enter the house since the bank----" he
stopped in confusion.
"Ay, I understand," said Sampson: "however, it can't be hidden now:--
"He is a maniac."
Sampson made this awful announcement soberly and sorrowfully.
Alfred groaned aloud, and even his father experienced a momentary
remorse; but so steady had been the progress of Corruption, that he felt
almost unmixed joy the next instant; and his keen-witted son surprised
the latter sentiment in his face, and shuddered with disgust.
Sampson went on to say that he believed the poor man had gone flourishing
a razor; and Mrs. Dodd had said, "Yes, kill me, David: kill the mother of
your children," and never moved: which feminine, or in other words
irrational, behaviour had somehow disarmed him. But it would not happen
again: his sister had come; a sensible, resolute woman. She had signed
the order, and Osmond and he the certificates, and he was gone to a
private asylum. "Talking of that," said Sampson, rising suddenly, "I must
go and give them a word of comfort; for they are just breaking their
hearts at parting with him, poor things. I'll be back in an hour."
On his departure, Jane returned and made the tea in the dining-room: they
lived like that now.
Mr. Hardie took it from his favourite's lithe white hand, and smiled on
her: he should not have to go to a foreign land after all: who would
believe a madman if he should rave about his thousands ? He sipped his
tea luxuriously, and presently delivered himself thus, with bland
"My dear Alfred, some time ago you wished to marry a young lady without
fortune. You thought that I had a large one; and you expected me to
supply all deficiencies. You did not overrate my parental feeling, but
you did my means. I would have done this for you, and with pleasure, but
for my own coming misfortunes. As it was, I said 'No,' and when you
demanded, somewhat peremptorily, my reasons, I said 'Trust me.' Well, you
see I was right: such a marriage would have been your utter ruin.
However, I conclude, after what Dr. Sampson has told us, you have
resigned it on other grounds. Jane, my dear, Captain Dodd, I am sorry to
say, is afflicted. He has gone mad."
"Gone mad?! Oh, how shocking! What will become of his poor children?" She
thought of Edward first.
"We have just heard it from Sampson. And I presume, Alfred, you are not
so far gone as to insist on propagating insanity by a marriage with his
At this conclusion, which struck her obliquely, though aimed at Alfred,
Jane sighed gently, and her dream of earthly happiness seemed to melt
But Alfred ground his teeth, and replied with great bitterness and
emotion: "I think, sir, you are the last man who ought to congratulate
yourself on the affliction that has fallen on that unhappy family I
aspire to enter, all the more that now they have calamities for me to
"More fool you," put in Mr. Hardie calmly.
"--For I much fear you are one of the causes of that calamity."
Mr. Hardie assumed a puzzled air. "I don't see how that can be: do you,
Jenny? Sampson told us the causes: a wound on the head, a wound in the
arm, bleeding, cupping, &c."
"There may be other causes Dr. Sampson has not been told of--yet"
"Possibly. I really don't know what you allude to."
The son fixed his eyes on the father, and leaned across the table to him,
till their faces nearly met.
"The fourteen thousand pounds, sir."
MR. HARDIE was taken by surprise for once, and had not a word to say, but
looked in his son's face, mute and gasping as a fish.
During this painful silence his children eyed him inquiringly, but not
with the same result; for one face is often read differently by two
persons. To Jane, whose intelligence had no aids, he seemed unaffectedly
puzzled; but Alfred discerned beneath his wonder the terror of detection
rising, and then thrust back by the strong will: that stoical face shut
again like an iron door, but not quickly enough: the right words, the
"open sesame," had been spoken, and one unguarded look had confirmed
Alfred's vague suspicions of foul play. He turned his own face away: he
was alienated by the occurrences of the last few months, but Nature and
tender reminiscences still held him by some fibres of the heart--in a
moment of natural indignation he had applied the touchstone, but its
success grieved him. He could not bear to go on exposing his father; so
he left the room with a deep sigh, in which pity mingled with shame and
regret. He wandered out into the silent night, and soon was leaning on
the gate of Albion Villa, gazing wistfully at the windows, and sore
perplexed and nobly wretched.
As he was going out, Mr. Hardie raised his eyebrows with a look of
disinterested wonder and curiosity; and touched his forehead to Jane, as
much as to say, "Is he disordered in his mind?"
As soon as they were alone, he asked her coolly what Alfred meant. She
said she had no idea. Then he examined her keenly about this fourteen
thousand pounds, and found, to his relief, Alfred had never even
mentioned it to her.
And now Richard Hardie, like his son, wanted to be alone, and think over
this new peril that had risen in the bosom of his own family, and, for
once, the company of his favourite child was irksome: he made an excuse
and strolled out in his turn into the silent night. It was calm and
clear: the thousand holy eyes, under which men prefer to do their
crimes--except when they are in too great a hurry to wait--looked down
and seemed to wonder anything can be so silly as to sin; and beneath
their pure gaze the man of the world pondered with all his soul. He
tormented himself with conjectures: through what channel did Alfred
suspect him? Through the Dodds? Were they aware of their loss? Had the
pocket-book spoken? If so, why had not Mrs. Dodd or her son attacked him?
But then perhaps Alfred was their agent: they wished to try a friendly
remonstrance through a mutual friend before proceeding to extremities;
this accorded with Mrs. Dodd's character as he remembered her.
The solution was reasonable; but he was relieved of it by recollecting
what Alfred had said, that he had not entered the house since the bank
On this he began to hope Alfred's might be a mere suspicion he could not
establish by any proof; and at all events, he would lock it in his own
breast like a good son: his never having given a hint even to his sister
favoured this supposition.
Thus meditating, Mr. Hardie found himself at the gate of Albion Villa.
Yet he had strolled out with no particular intention of going there. Had
his mind, apprehensive of danger from that quarter, driven his body
He took a look at the house, and the first thing he saw was a young lady
leaning over the balcony, and murmuring softly to a male figure below,
whose outline Mr. Hardie could hardly discern, for it stood in the
shadow. Mr. Hardie was delighted.
"Aha, Miss Juliet," said he, "if Alfred does not visit you, some one else
does. You have soon supplied your peevish lover's place." He then
withdrew softly from the gate, not to disturb the intrigue, and watched a
few yards off; determined to see who Julia's nightly visitor was, and
give Alfred surprise for surprise.
He had not long to wait: the man came away directly, and walked, head
erect, past Mr. Hardie, and glanced full in his face, but did not
vouchsafe him a word. It was Alfred himself.
Mr. Hardie was profoundly alarmed and indignant. "The young traitor!
Never enter the house? no; but he comes and tells her everything directly
under her window on the sly; and, when he is caught--defies me to my
face." And now he suspected female cunning and malice in the way that
thunderbolt had been quietly prepared for him and launched, without
warning, in his very daughter's presence, and the result just
communicated to Julia Dodd.
In a very gloomy mood he followed his son, and heard his firm though
elastic tread on the frosty ground, and saw how loftily he carried his
head; and from that moment feared, and very, very nearly hated him.
The next day he feigned sick and sent for Osmond. That worthy prescribed
a pill and a draught, the former laxative, the latter astringent. This
ceremony performed, Mr. Hardie gossipped with him; and, after a detour or
two, glided to his real anxiety. "Sampson tells me you know more about
Captain Dodd's case than he does: he is not very clear as to the cause of
the poor man's going mad."
"The cause? Why, apoplexy."
"Yes, but I mean what caused the apoplexy?"
Mr. Osmond replied that apoplexy was often idiopathic.* Captain Dodd, as
he understood, had fallen down in the street in a sudden fit: "but as for
the mania, that is to be attributed to an insufficient evacuation of
blood while under the apoplectic coma."
--- *"Arising of itself." A term rather hastily applied to disorders the
coming signs of which have not been detected by the medical attendant.
The birth of Topsy was idiopathic--in that learned lady's opinion. ---
"Not bled enough! Why, Sampson says it is because he was bled too much."
Osmond was amused at this, and repeated that the mania came of not being
The discussion was turned into an unexpected quarter by the entrance of
Jane Hardie, who came timidly in and said, "Oh, Mr. Osmond, I cannot let
you go without telling you how anxious I am about Alfred. He is so thin,
and pale, and depressed."
"Nonsense, Jane," said Mr. Hardie; "have we not all cause to be dejected
in this house?" But she persisted gently that there was more in it than
that; and his headaches were worse, and she could not be easy any longer
"Ah! those headaches," said Mr. Osmond, "they always made me uneasy. To
tell the truth, Miss Hardie, I have noticed a remarkable change in him,
but I did not like to excite apprehensions. And so he mopes, does he?
seeks solitude, and is taciturn, and dejected?"
"Yes. But I do not mind that so much as his turning so pale and thin."
"Oh, it is all part of one malady."
"Then you know what is the matter?"
"I think I do; and yours is a wise and timely anxiety. Your brother's is
a very delicate case of hyperaesthetic character; and I should like to
have the advice of a profound physician. Let me see, Dr. Wycherley will
be with me to-morrow: may I bring him over as a friend?"
This proposal did not at all suit Mr. Hardie. He put his own construction
on Alfred's pallor and dejection, and was uneasy at the idea of his being
cross-questioned by a couple of doctors:
"No, no," said he; "Taff has fancies enough already. I cannot have you
gentlemen coming here to fill his head with many more."
"Oh, he has fancies, has he?" said Osmond keenly. "My dear sir, we shall
not say one word to _him:_ that might irritate him: but I should like
_you_ to hear a truly learned opinion."
Jane looked so imploringly that Mr. Hardie yielded a reluctant assent, on
So the next day, by appointment, Mr. Osmond introduced his friend Dr.
Wycherley: bland and bald with a fine bead, and a face naturally
intelligent, but crossed every now and then by gleams of vacancy; a man
of large reading, and of tact to make it subserve his interests. A
voluminous writer on certain medical subjects, he had so saturated
himself with circumlocution, that it distilled from his very tongue: he
talked like an Article, a Quarterly one; and so gained two advantages:
1st, he rarely irritated a fellow-creature; for if he began a sentence
hot, what with its length, and what with its windiness, he ended it cool:
item, stabs by polysyllables are pricks by sponges. 2ndly, this foible
earned him the admiration of fools; and that is as invaluable as they are
Yet was there in the mother-tongue he despised one gem of a word he
vastly admired: like most Quarterly writers. That charming word, the pet
of the polysyllabic, was "OF."
He opened the matter in a subdued and sympathising tone well calculated
to win a loving father, such as Richard Hardie--was not.
"My good friend here informs me, sir, you are so fortunate as to possess
a son of distinguished abilities, and who is at present labouring under
some of those precursory indications of incipient disease of the
cerebro-psychical organs, of which I have been, I may say, somewhat
successful in diagnosing the symptoms. Unless I have been misinformed, he
has, for a considerable time, experienced persistent headache of a
kephalalgic or true cerebral type, and has now advanced to the succeeding
stage of taciturnity and depression, not* unaccompanied with isolation,
and probably constipation: but as yet without hallucination, though
possibly, and, as my experience of the great majority of these cases
would induce me to say, probably he is not** undisturbed by one or more
of those latent, and, at first, trifling aberrations, either of the
intelligence or the senses, which in their preliminary stages escape the
observation of all but the expert nosologist."
*Anglice, "accompanied." **Anglice, "disturbed."
"There, you see," said Osmond, "Dr. Wycherley agrees with me: yet I
assure you I have only detailed the symptoms, and not the conclusion I
had formed from them."
Jane inquired timidly what that conclusion was.
"Miss Hardie, we think it one of those obscure tendencies which are very
curable if taken in time----" Dr. Wycherley ended the sentence: "But no
longer remediable if the fleeting opportunity is allowed to escape, and
diseased action to pass into diseased organisation."
Jane looked awestruck at their solemnity; but Mr. Hardie, who was taking
advice against the grain, turned satirical. "Gentleman," said he, "be
pleased to begin by moderating your own obscurity; and then perhaps I
shall see better how to cure my son's disorder. What the deuce are you
The two doctors looked at one another inquiringly, and so settled how to
proceed. Dr. Wycherley explained to Mr. Hardie that there was a sort of
general unreasonable and superstitious feeling abroad, a kind of terror
of the complaint with which his son was threatened; _"and which,_ instead
of the most remediable of disorders, is looked at as the most incurable
of maladies:" it was on this account he had learned to approach the
subject with singular caution, and even with a timidity which was kinder
in appearance than in reality; that he must admit.
"Well, you may speak out, as far as I am concerned," said Mr. Hardie,
with consummate indifference.
"Oh, yes!" said Jane, in a fever of anxiety; "pray conceal nothing from
"Well, then, sir, I have not as yet had the advantage of examining your
son personally, but, from the diagnostics, I have no doubt whatever he is
labouring under the first fore-shadowings of cerebro-psychical
perturbation. To speak plainly, the symptoms are characteristic of the
initiatory stage of the germination of a morbid state of the phenomena of
His unprofessional hearers only stared.
"In one word, then," said Dr. Wycherley, waxing impatient at their
abominable obtuseness, "it is the premonitory stage of the precursory
condition of an organic affection of the brain."
"Oh!" said Mr. Hardie, "the brain!* I see; the boy is going mad."
* What a blessing there are a few English words left in all our dialects.
The doctors stared in their turn at the prodigious coolness of a tender
parent. "Not exactly," said Dr. Wycherley; "I am habitually averse to
exaggeration of symptoms. Your son's suggest to me 'the Incubation of
Insanity,' nothing more."
Jane uttered an exclamation of horror; the doctor soothed her with an
assurance that there was no cause for alarm. "Incipient aberration" was
of easy cure: the mischief lay in delay. "Miss Hardie," said he
paternally, "during a long and busy professional career, it has been my
painful province to witness the deplorable consequences of the
non-recognition, by friends and relatives, of the precedent symptoms of
those organic affections of the brain, the relief of which was within the
reach of well-known therapeutic agents if exhibited seasonably."
He went on to deplore the blind prejudice of unprofessional persons, who
choose to fancy that other diseases creep, but Insanity pounces, on a
man; which he expressed thus neatly: "that other deviations from organic
conditions of health are the subject of clearly defined though delicate
gradations, but that the worst and most climacteric forms of
cerebro-psychical disorder are suddenly developed affections presenting
no evidence of any antecedent cephalic organic change, and unaccompanied
by a premonitory stage, or by incipient symptoms."
This chimera he proceeded to confute by experience: he had repeatedly
been called in to cases of mania described as sudden, and almost
invariably found the patient had been cranky for years; which he
condensed thus: "His conduct and behaviour for many years previously to
any symptom of mental aberration being noticed, had been characterised by
actions quite irreconcilable with the supposition of the existence of
perfect sanity of intellect."
He instanced a parson, whom he had lately attended, and found him as
constipated and as convinced he was John the Baptist engaged to the
Princess Mary as could be. "But," continued the learned doctor, "upon
investigation of this afflicted ecclesiastic's antecedent history, I
discovered that, for years before this, he had exhibited conduct
incompatible with the hypothesis of a mind whose equilibrium had been
undisturbed. He had caused a number of valuable trees to be cut down on
his estate, without being able to offer a sane justification for such an
outrageous proceeding; and had actually disposed of a quantity of his
patrimonial acres, _'and which'_ clearly he never would have parted with
had he been in anything resembling a condition of sanity."
"Did he sell the land and timber below the market price?" inquired Mr.
Hardie, perking up, and exhibiting his first symptoms of interest in the
"On that head, sir, my informant, his heir-at-law, gave me no
information: nor did I enter into that class of detail. You naturally
look at morbid phenomena in a commercial spirit, but we regard them
medically--and all this time most assiduously visiting the sick of his
parish and preaching admirable serious.
The next instance he gave was of a stockbroker suffering under general
paralysis and a rooted idea that all the _specie_ in the Bank of England
was his, and ministers in league with foreign governments to keep him out
of it. "Him," said the doctor, "I discovered to have been for years
guilty of conduct entirely incompatible with the hypothesis of
undisordered mental functions. He had accused his domestics of
peculation, and had initiated legal proceedings with a view of
prosecuting in a court of law one of his oldest friends."
"Whence you infer that, if my son has not for years been doing cranky
acts, he is not likely to be deranged at present."
This adroit twist of the argument rather surprised Dr. Wycherley.
However, he was at no loss for a reply. "it is not Insanity, but the
Incubation of Insanity, which is suspected in your intelligent son's
case: and the best course will be for me to enumerate in general terms
the several symptoms of 'the Incubation of Insanity:'" he concluded with
some severity. "After that, sir, I shall cease to intrude what I fear is
an unwelcome conviction."
The parent, whose levity and cold reception of good tidings he had thus
mildly, yet with due dignity, rebuked, was a man of the world, and liked
to make friends, not enemies: so he took the hint, and made a very civil
speech, assuring Dr. Wycherley that, if he ventured to differ from him,
he was none the less obliged by the kind interest he took in a
comparative stranger: and would be very glad to hear all about the
"Incubation of Insanity."
Dr. Wycherley bowed slightly and complied:
"One diagnostic preliminary sign of abnormal cerebral action is
Kephalalgia, or true cerebral headache; I mean persistent headache not
accompanied by a furred tongue, or other indicia significant of abdominal
or renal disorder as its origin."
Jane sighed. "He has sad headaches."
"The succeeding symptom is a morbid affection of sleep. Either the
patient suffers from Insomnia, or else from Hypersomnia, which we
subdivide into sopor, carus, and lethargus; or thirdly from Kakosomnia,
or a propensity to mere dozing, and to all the morbid phenomena of
"Papa," said Jane, "poor Alfred sleeps very badly: I hear him walking at
all hours of the night."
"I thought as much," said Dr. Wycherley; "Insomnia is the commonest
feature. To resume; the insidious advance of morbid thought is next
marked by high spirits, or else by low spirits; generally the latter. The
patient begins by moping, then shows great lassitude and ennui, then
becomes abstracted, moody, and occupied with a solitary idea."
Jane clasped her hands and the tears stood in her eyes; so well did this
description tally with poor Alfred's case.
"And at this period," continued Dr. Wycherley, "my experience leads me to
believe that some latent delusion is generally germinating in the mind,
though often concealed with consummate craft by the patient: the open
development of this delusion is the next stage, and, with this last
morbid phenomenon, Incubation ceases and Insanity begins. Sometimes,
however, the illusion is physical rather than psychical, of the sense
rather than of the intelligence. It commences at night: the incubator
begins by seeing nocturnal visions, often of a photopsic* character, or
hearing nocturnal sounds, neither of which have any material existence,
being conveyed to his optic or auricular nerves not from without, but
from within, by the agency of a disordered brain. These the reason,
hitherto unimpaired, combats at first, especially when they are nocturnal
only; but being reproduced, and becoming diurnal, the judgment succumbs
under the morbid impression produced so repeatedly. These are the
ordinary antecedent symptoms characteristic of the incubation of
insanity; to which are frequently added somatic exaltation, or, in
popular language, physical excitability--a disposition to knit the
brows--great activity of the mental faculties--or else a well-marked
decline of the powers of the understanding--an exaggeration of the normal
conditions of thought--or a reversal of the mental habits and sentiments,
such as a sudden aversion to some person hitherto beloved, or some study
long relished and pursued."
Jane asked leave to note these all down in her note-book.
Mr. Hardie assented adroitly; for he was thinking whether he could not
sift some grain out of all this chaff. Should Alfred blab his suspicions,
here were two gentlemen who would at all events help him to throw
ridicule on them.
Dr. Wycherley having politely aided Jane Hardie to note down the
"preliminary process of the Incubation of disorders of the Intellect,"
resumed: "Now, sir, your son appears to be in a very inchoate stage of
the malady: he has cerebral Kephalalgia and Insomnia----"
"And, oh, doctor," said Jane, "he knits his brows often and has given up
his studies; won't go back to Oxford this term."
"Exactly; and seeks isolation, and is a prey to morbid distraction and
reverie: but has no palpable illusions, has he?"
"Not that I know of," said Mr. Hardie.
"Well, but," objected Jane, "did not he say something to you very curious
the other night about Captain Dodd and fourteen thousand pounds?"
Mr. Hardie's blood ran cold. "No," he stammered, "not that I remember."
"Oh, yes, he did, papa: you have forgotten it: but at the time you were
quite puzzled what he could meant: and you did _so._" She put her finger
to her forehead, and the doctors interchanged a meaning glance.
"I believe you are right, Jenny," said Mr. Hardie, taking the cue so
unexpectedly offered him: "he did say some nonsense I could not make head
nor tail of; but we all have our crotchets. There, run away, like a good
girl, and let me explain all this to our good friends here: and mind, not
a word about it to Alfred."
When she was gone, he said, "Gentlemen, my son is over head and ears in
love; that is all."
"Ay, Erotic monomania is a very ordinary phase of insanity," said Dr.
"His unreasonable passion for a girl he knows he can never marry makes
him somewhat crotchety and cranky: that, and over-study, may have
unhinged his mind a little. Suppose I send him abroad? My good brother
will find the means; or we could advance it him, I and the other
trustees; he comes into ten thousand pounds in a month or two."
The doctors exchanged a meaning look. They then dissuaded him earnestly
from the idea of Continental travel.
"Coelum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt," said Wycherley, and
Osmond explained that Alfred would brood abroad as well as at home, if he
went alone; and Dr. Wycherley summed up thus: "The most advisable course
is to give him the benefit of the personal superintendence of some
skilful physician possessed of means and appliances of every sort for
soothing and restraining the specific malady.
Mr. Hardie did not at first see the exact purport of this oleaginous
periphrasis. Presently he caught a glimpse; but said he thought
confinement was hardly the thing to drive away melancholy.
"Not in all respects," replied Dr. Wycherley; "but, on the other hand, a
little gentle restraint is the safest way of effecting a disruption of
the fatal associations that have engendered and tend to perpetuate the
disorder. Besides, the medicinal appliances are invaluable, including, as
they do, the nocturnal and diurnal attendance of a Psycho-physical
physician, who knows the Psychosomatic relation of body and mind, and can
apply physical remedies, of the effect of which on the physical
instrument of intelligence, the grey matter of the brain, we have seen so
The good doctor then feelingly deplored the inhumanity of parents and
guardians in declining to subject their incubators to opportune and
salutary restraint under the more than parental care of a Psychosomatic
physician. On this head he got quite warm, and inveighed against the
abominable _cruelty_ of the thing. "It is contrary," said he, "to every
principle of justice and humanity, that a fellow-creature, deranged
perhaps only on one point, should, for the want of the early attention of
those whose duty it is to watch over him, linger out his existence
separated from all who are dear to him, and condemned without any crime
to be a prisoner for life."
Mr. Hardie was puzzled by this sentence, in which the speaker's usual
method was reversed, and the thought was bigger than the words.
"Oh," said he at last, "I see. We ought to incarcerate our children to
keep them from being incarcerated."
"That is one way of putting it with a vengence," said Mr. Osmond staring.
"No; what my good friend means----"
"Is this; where the patient is possessor of an income of such a character
as to enable his friends to show a sincere affection by anticipating the
consequences of neglected morbid phenomena of the brain, there a
lamentable want of humanity is exhibited by the persistent refusal to the
patient, on the part of his relatives, of the incalculable advantage of
the authoritative advice of a competent physician accompanied with the
safeguards and preventives of----"
But ere the mellifluous pleonast had done oiling his paradox with fresh
polysyllables, to make it slip into the banker's narrow understanding, he
met with a curious interruption. Jane Hardie fluttered in to say a man
was at the door accusing himself of being deranged.
"How often this sort of coincidence occurs," said Osmond philosophically.
"Do not refuse him, dear papa; it is not for money: he only wants you to
give him an order to go into a lunatic asylum."
_"Now, there is a sensible man,_" said Dr. Wycherley.
"Well, but," objected Mr. Hardie, "if he is a sensible man, why does he
want to go to an asylum?"
"Oh, they are all sensible at times," observed Mr. Osmond.
_"Singularly so,_" said Dr. Wycherley, warmly. And he showed a desire to
examine this paragon, who had the sense to know he was out of his senses.
"It would be but kind of you, sir," said Jane; "poor, poor man!" She
added, he did not like to come in, and would they mind just going out to
"Oh no, not in the least: especially as you seem interested in him."
And they all three rose and went out together, and found the petitioner
at the front door. Who should it be but James Maxley!
His beard was unshaven, his face haggard, and everything about him showed
a man broken in spirit as well as fortune: even his voice had lost half
its vigour, and, whenever he had uttered a consecutive sentence or two,
his head dropped on his breast pitiably: indeed, this sometimes occurred
in the middle of a sentence, and then the rest of it died on his lips.
Mr. Richard Hardie was not prepared to encounter one of his unhappy
creditors thus publicly, and, to shorten the annoyance, would have
dismissed him roughly: but he dared not; for Maxley was no longer alone
nor unfriended. When Jane left him to intercede for him, a young man
joined him, and was now comforting him with kind words, and trying to get
him to smoke a cigar; and this good-hearted young gentleman was the
banker's son in the flesh, and his opposite in spirit, Mr. Alfred Hardie.
Finding these two in contact, the Doctors interchanged demurest glances.
Mr. Hardie asked Maxley sullenly what he wanted of them.
"Well, sir," said Maxley despondingly, "I have been to all the other
magistrates in the borough; for what with losing my money, and what with
losing my missus, I think I bain't quite right in my head; I do see such
curious things, enough to make a body's skin creep at times." And down
went his head on his chest
"Well?" said Mr. Hardie, peevishly: "go on: you went to the magistrates,
and what then?"
Maxley looked up, and seemed to recover the thread: "Why they said 'no,'
they couldn't send me to the 'sylum, not from home: I must be a pauper
first. So then my neighbours they said I had better come to you." And
down went his head again.
"Well, but," said Mr. Hardie, "you cannot expect me to go against the
"Why not, sir? You have had a hatful o' money of me: the other gentlemen
han't had a farthing. They owes me no service, but you does: nine hundred
pounds' worth, if ye come to that."
There was no malice in this; it was a plain broken-hearted man's notion
of give and take; but it was a home-thrust all the same; and Mr. Hardie
was visibly discountenanced, and Alfred more so.
Mr. Osmond, to relieve a situation so painful, asked Maxley rather
hastily what were the curious things he saw.
Maxley shuddered. "The unreasonablest beasts, sir, you ever saw or heard
tell on: mostly snakes and dragons. Can't stoop my head to do no work for
them, sir. Bless your heart, if I was to leave you gentlemen now, and go
and dig for five minutes in my garden, they would come about me as thick
as slugs on cabbage. Why 'twas but yester'en I tried to hoe a bit, and up
come the fearfullest great fiery sarpint: scared me so I heaved my hoe
and laid on un' properly: presently I seemed to come out of a sort of a
kind of a red mist into the clear: and there laid my poor missus's
favourite hen; I had been and killed her for a sarpint!" He sighed, then,
after a moment's pause, lowered his voice to a whisper: "Now suppose I
was to go and take some poor Christian for one of these gre-at bloody
dragons I do see at odd times, I might do him a mischief, you know, and
not mean him no harm neither. Oh, dooee take and have me locked up,
gentlemen, dooee now: tellee I ain't fit to be about, my poor head is so
"Well, well," said Mr. Hardie, "I'll give you an order for the Union."
"What, make a pauper of me?"
"I cannot help it," said the magistrate: "it is the routine; and it was
settled at a meeting of the bench last month that we must adhere to the
rule as strictly as possible; the asylum is so full: and you know,
Maxley, it is not as if you were dangerous."
"That I be, sir: I don't know what I'm a looking at or a doing. Would I
ha' gone and killed my poor Susan's hen if I hadn't a been beside myself?
and she in her grave, poor dear: no, not for untold gold: and I be fond
of that too--used to be, however: but now I don't seem to care for money
nor nothing else." And his head dropped.
Look here, Maxley, old fellow," said Alfred sarcastically, "you must go
to the workhouse, and stay there till you hoe a pauper; take him for a
crocodile and kill him; then you will get into an asylum whether the
Barkington magistrates like it or not: that is the _routine,_ I believe;
and as reasonable as most routine."
Dr. Wycherley admired Alfred for this, and whispered Mr. Osmond, "How
subtly they reason."
Mr. Hardie did not deign to answer his son, who indeed had spoken at him,
and not to him.
As for poor Maxley, he was in sad and sober earnest, and could not relish
nor even take in Alfred's irony. He lifted his head and looked Mr. Hardie
in the face.
"You be a hard man," said he, trembling with emotion. "You robbed me and
my missus of our all; you ha' broke her heart, and turned my head, and if
I was to come and kill _you,_ 'twould only be clearing scores. 'Stead of
that, I comes to you like a lamb, and says give me your name on a bit of
paper, and put me out of harm's way. 'No,' says you, 'go to the
workhouse!' Be _you_ in the workhouse--you that owes me nine hundred
pounds and my dead missus?" With this he went into a rage, took a packet
out of his pocket, and flung L. 900 of Mr. Hardie's paper at Mr. Hardie's
head before any one could stop him.
But Alfred saw his game, stepped forward, and caught it with one hand,
and with the dexterity of a wicket-keeper, within a foot of his father's
nose. "How's that, Umpire?" said he: then, a little sternly, "Don't do
that again, Mr. Maxley, or I shall have to give you a hiding--to keep up
appearances. He then put the notes in his pocket, and said quietly, _"I_
shall give you your money for these before the year ends."
"You won't be quite so mad as that, I hope," remonstrated his father. But
he made no reply: they very seldom answered one another now.
"Oh," said Dr. Wycherley, inspecting him like a human curiosity, "nullum
magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae."
"Nec parvum sine mixtura stultitiae," retorted Alfred in a moment and met
his offensive gaze with a point-blank look of supercilious disdain.
Then having shut him up, he turned to Osmond: "Come," said he, "prescribe
for this poor fellow, who asks for a hospital, so Routine gives him a
workhouse. Come, you know there is no limit to your skill and good
nature: you cured Spot of the worms, cure poor old Maxley of his snakes:
"That I will, Mr. Alfred," said Osmond heartily: and wrote a prescription
on a leaf of his memorandum-book, remarking that though a simple
purgative, it had made short work of a great many serpents and dragons,
and not a few spectres and hobgoblins into the bargain.
The young gentleman thanked him graciously, and said kindly to Maxley,
"Get that made up--here's a guinea--and I'll send somebody to see how you
The poor man took the guinea, and the prescription, and his head drooped
again, and he slouched away.
Dr. Wycherley remarked significantly that his conduct was worth imitating
by _all persons similarly situated:_ and concluded oracularly:
"Prophylaxis is preferable to therapeusis."
"Or, as _Porson_ would say, 'Prevention is better than cure.'"
With this parting blow the Oxonian suddenly sauntered away, unconscious,
it seemed, of the existence of his companions.
"I never saw a plainer case of Incubation," remarked Dr. Wycherley with
vast benevolence of manner.
"Oh, no; that is parochial. It is your profoundly interesting son I
alluded to. Did you notice his supercilious departure? _And his morbid
celerity of repartee?_"
Mr. Hardie replied with some little hesitation, "Yes; and, excuse me, I
thought he had rather the best of the battle with you."
"Indubitably so," replied Dr. Wycherley: "they always do: at least such
is my experience. If ever I break a lance of wit with an incubator! I
calculate with confidence on being unhorsed with abnormal rapidity, and
rare, indeed, are the instances in which my anticipations are not
promptly and fully realised. By a similar rule of progression the
incubator is seldom a match for the confirmed maniac, either in the light
play of sarcasm, the coruscations of wit or the severer encounters of
"Dear, dear, dear! Then how is one to know a genius from a madman?"
_"By sending for a psychological physician._"
"If I understand the doctor right, the two things are not opposed,"
remarked Mr. Hardie.
Dr. Wycherley assented, and made a remarkable statement in confirmation:
"One half of the aggregate of the genius of the country is at present
under restraint; fortunately for the community; and still more
fortunately for itself."
He then put on his gloves, and, with much kindness but solemnity, warned
Mr. Hardie not to neglect his son's case, nor to suppose that matters
could go on like this without "disintegrating or disorganising the grey
matter of the brain. I admit" said he, "that in some recorded cases of
insanity the brain on dissection has revealed no signs of structural or
functional derangement, and, that, on the other hand, considerable
encephalic disorganisation has been shown to have existed in other cases
without aberration or impairment of the reason: but such phenomena are to
be considered as pathological curiosities, with which the empiric would
fain endeavour to disturb the sound general conclusions of science. The
only safe mode of reasoning on matters so delicate and profound is _a
priori:_ and, as it may safely be assumed as a self-evident proposition,
that disturbed intelligence bears the same relation to the brain as
disordered respiration does to the lungs, it is not logical, reasoning _a
priori,_ to assume the possibility that the studious or other mental
habits of a Kephalalgic, and gifted youth, can be reversed, and erotic
monomania germinate, with all the morbid phenomena of isolation,
dejection of the spirits, and abnormal exaltation of the powers of wit
and ratiocination, without some considerable impairment, derangement,
disturbance, or modification, of the psychical, motorial, and sensorial
functions of the great cerebral ganglion. But it would be equally absurd
to presuppose that these several functions can be disarranged for months,
without more or less disorganisation of the medullary, or even of the
cineritious, matter of the encephialon. _Therefore_--dissection of your
talented son would doubtless reveal at this moment either steatonatous or
atheromatous deposits in the cerebral blood-vessels, or an encysted
abscess, probably of no very recent origin, or, at the least,
considerable inspissation, and opacity, of the membranes of the
encephalon, or more or less pulpy disorganisation of one or other of the
hemispheres of the brain: _good_ morning!!"
"Good morning, sir: and a thousand thanks for your friemidly interest in
my unhappy boy."
The Psycho-cerebrals "took their departure" (Psycho-cerebral for "went
away"), and left Jane Hardie brimful of anxiety. Alfred was not there to
dispose of the tirade in two words "Petitio principii," and so smoke on;
and, not being an university woman, she could not keep her eye on the
original assumption while following the series of inferences the learned
doctor built so neatly, story by story, on the foundation _of_ the
quicksand _of_ a loose conjecture.*
---- * So novices sitting at a conjuror see him take a wedding-ring, and
put it in a little box before a lady; then cross the theatre with another
little box, and put that before another lady: "Hey! presto! pass!" in box
2 is discovered a wedding-ring, which is instantly _assumed_ to be _the_
ring: on this the green minds are fixed, and with this is sham business
done: Box 1, containing the real ring all the time, is overlooked: and
the confederate, in livery or not, does what he likes with it; imprisons
it in an orange--for the good of its health.
So poor Argan, when Fleurant enumerates the consequences of his omitting
a single--dose shall I say?--is terrified by the threatened disorders,
which succeed to each other logically enough: all the absurdity being in
the first link of the chain; and from that his mind is diverted. ----
"Now not a word of this to Alfred," said Mr. Hardie. "I shall propose him
a little foreign tour, to amuse his mind."
"Yes, but papa, if some serious change is really going on inside his poor
Mr. Hardie smiled sarcastically. "Don't you see that if the mind can
wound the brain, the mind can cure it?" Then, after a while, he said
parentally, "My child, I must give you a lesson: men of the world use
enthusiasts--like those two I have just been drawing out--for their
tools; we don't let them make tools of us. Osmond, you know, is jackal to
an asylum in London; Dr. Wycherley, I have heard, keeps two or three such
establishments by himself or his agents: blinded by self-interest and
that of their clique--what an egotistical world it is, to be sure!--they
would confine a melancholy youth in a gloomy house, among afflicted
persons, and give him nothing to do but brood; and so turn the scale
against his reason. But I have my children's interest at heart more than
my own: I shall send him abroad, and so amuse his mind with fresh
objects, break off sad associations, and restore him to a brilliant
career. I count on you to second me in my little scheme for his good."
"That I will, papa."
"Somehow, I don't know why, he is coolish to me."
"He does not understand you as I do, my own papa."
"But he is affectionate with you, I think."
"Oh yes, more than ever: trouble has drawn us closer. Papa, in the midst
of our sorrow, how much we have to be thankful for to the Giver of all
"Yes, little angel: and you must improve Heaven's goodness by working on
your brother's affection, and persuading him to this continental tour."
Thus appealed to, Jane promised warmly: and the man of the world, finding
he had a blind and willing instrument in the one creature he loved,
kissed her on the forehead, and told her to run away, for here was Mr.
Skinner, who no doubt wanted to speak on business.
Skinner, who had in fact been holding respectfully aloof for some time,
came forward on Jane's retiring, and in a very obsequious tone requested
a private interview. Mr. Hardie led the way into the little dining-room.
They were no sooner alone than Skinner left off fawning, very abruptly;
and put on a rugged resolute manner that was new to him: "I am come for
my commission," said he sturdily.
Mr. Hardie looked an inquiry.
"Oh, you don't know what I mean, of course," said the little clerk almost
brutally: "I've waited, and waited, to see if you would have the decency,
and the gratitude, and the honesty, to offer me a trifle out of It; but I
see I might wait till dooms-day before you would ever think of thinking
of anybody but yourself. So now shell out without more words or I'll blow
the gaff" The little wretch raised his voice louder and louder at every
"Hush! hush! Skinner," said Mr. Hardie anxiously, "you are under some
delusion. When did ever I decline to recognise your services? I always
intended to make you a present, a handsome present."
"Then why didn't ye _do_ it without being forced? Come, sir, you can't
draw the wool over Noah Skinner's eyes. I have had you watched, and you
are looking towards the U. S., and that is too big a country for me to
hunt you in. I'm not to be trifled with: I'm not to be palavered: give me
a thousand pounds of It this moment or I'll blow the whole concern and
you along with it."
"A thousand pounds!"
"Now look at that!" shrieked Skinner. "Serves me right for not saying
seven thousand. What right have you to a shilling of it more than I have?
If I had the luck to be a burglar's pal instead of a banker's, I should
have half. Give it me this moment, or I'll go to Albion Villa and have
you took up for a thief; as you are."
"But I haven't got it on me."
"That's a lie: you carry it where _he_ did; close to your heart: I can
see it bulge: there, Job was a patient man, but his patience went at
last." With this he ran to the window and threw it open.
Hardie entreated him to be calm. "I'll give it you, Skinner," said he,
"and with pleasure, if you will give me some security that you will not
turn round, as soon as you have got it, and be my enemy."
"Enemy of a gent that pays me a thousand pounds? Nonsense! Why should I?
We are in the same boat: behave like a man, and you know you have nothing
to fear from me: but I will--not--go halves in a theft for nothing: would
_you?_ Come, how is it to be, peace or war? Will you be content with
thirteen thousand pounds that don't belong to you, not a shilling of it,
or will you go to jail a felon, and lose it every penny?"
Mr. Hardie groaned aloud, but there was no help for it. Skinner was on
sale: and _must_ be bought.
He took out two notes for five hundred pounds each, and laid them on the
table, after taking their numbers.
Skinner's eyes glistened: "Thank you, sir," said he. He put them in his
pocket. Then he said quietly, "Now you have taken the numbers, sir; so
I'll trouble you for a line to make me safe against the criminal law. You
are a deep one; you might say I robbed you."
"That is a very unworthy suspicion, Skinner, and a childish one."
"Oh, it is diamond cut diamond. A single line, sir, just to say that in
return for his faithful services, you have given Noah Skinner two notes
for L. 500, Nos. 1084 and 85."
"With all my heart--on your giving me a receipt for them."
It was Skinner's turn to hesitate. After reflecting, however, on all the
possible consequences, he saw nothing to fear; so he consented.
The business completed, a magic change took place in the little clerk.
"Now we are friends again, sir: and I'll give you a piece of advice. Mind
your eye with Mr. Alfred: he is down on us."
"What do you mean?" inquired Mr. Hardie with ill-disguised anxiety.
"I'll tell you, sir. He met me this morning: and says he to me, 'Skinner,
old boy, I want to speak a word to you.' He puts his hands on my
shoulder, and turns me round, and says he all at one time, 'The fourteen
thousand pounds!' You might have knocked me down with a feather. And he
looked me through like a gimlet mind ye. 'Come now,' says he, 'you see I
know all; make a clean breast of it.' So then I saw he didn't know _all,_
and I brazened up a bit: told him I hadn't a notion what he meant. 'Oh
yes, I did,' he said, 'Captain Dodd's fourteen thousand pounds! It had
passed through my hands.' Then I began to funk again at his knowing that:
perhaps he only guessed it after all: but at the time I thought he knew
it; I was flustered, ye see. But I said, 'I'd look at the books; but I
didn't think his deposit was anything like that.' 'You little
equivocating humbug,' says he: 'and which was better, to tell the truths
at once and let Captain Dodd, who never did me any harm, have his own, or
to hear it told me in the felon's dock?' Those were his words, sir: and
they made my blood run cold; and if he had gone on at me like that, I
should have split, I know I should: but he just said, 'There, your face
has given your tongue the lie: you haven't brains enough to play the
rogue.' Oh, and another thing--he said he wouldn't talk to the
sparrow-hawk any more, when there was the kite hard by: so by that I
guess your turn is coming, sir; so mind your eye. And then he turned his
back on me with a look as if I was so much dirt. But I didn't mind that;
I was glad to be shut of him at any price."
This intelligence discomposed Mr. Hardie terribly; it did away with all
hope that Alfred meant to keep his suspicions to himself. "Why did you
not tell me this before?" said he reproachfully.
Skinner's sharp visage seemed to sharpen as he replied, "Because I wanted
a thousand pounds first."
"Curse your low cunning!"
Skinner laughed. "Good-bye, sir: take care of yourself and I'll take care
of mine. I'm afraid of Mr. Alfred and the stone jug, so I'm off to
London, and there I'll un-Skinner myself into Mr. Something or other, and
make my thousand pounds breed ten." And he whipped out, leaving his
master filled with rage and dismay.
"Outwitted even by this little wretch!"
He was now accountable for fourteen thousand pounds, and had only
thirteen thousand left, if forced to reimburse; so that it was quite on
the cards for him to lose a thousand pounds by robbing his neighbour and
risking his own immortal jewel. This galled him to the quick; and
altogether his equable temper began to give way; it had already survived
half the iron of his nerves. He walked up and down the parlour chafing
like an irritated lion. In which state of his mind the one enemy he now
feared and hated walked quietly into the room, and begged for a little
serious conversation with him.
"It is like your effrontery," said Mr. Hardie: "I wonder you are not
ashamed to look your father in the face."
"Having wronged nobody I can look anybody in the face," replied Alfred,
looking him in the face point-blank.
At this swift rejoinder, Mr. Hardie felt like a too confident swordsman,
who, attacking in a passion suddenly receives a prick that shows him his
antagonist is not one to be trifled with. He was on his guard directly,
and said coldly, "You have been belying me to my very clerk."
"No, sir: you are mistaken; I have never mentioned your name to your
Mr. Hardie reflected on what Skinner had told him, and found he had made
another false move. He tried again: "Nor to the Dodds?" with an
"Nor to the Dodds," replied Alfred calmly.
"What, not to Miss Julia Dodd?"
"No, sir, I have seen her but once, since--I discovered about the
fourteen thousand pounds."
"What fourteen thousand pounds?" inquired Mr. Hardie innocently.
"What fourteen thousand pounds!" repeated the young man disdainfully.
Then suddenly turning on his father, with red brow and flashing eyes:
"The fourteen thousand pounds Captain Dodd brought home from India: the
fourteen thousand pounds I heard him claim of you with curses: ay,
miserable son, and miserable man, that I am, I heard my own father called
a villain; and what did my father reply? Did you hurl the words back into
your accuser's throat? No: you whispered, 'Hush! hush! I'll bring it you
down.' Oh, what a hell Shame is!"
Mr. Hardie turned pale, and almost sick: with these words of Alfred's
fled all hope of ever deceiving him.
"There, there," said the young man, lowering his voice from rage to
profound sorrow: "I don't come here to quarrel with my father, nor to
insult him, God knows: and I entreat you for both our sakes not to try my
temper too hard by these childish attempts to blind me: and, sir, pray
dismiss from your mind the notion that I have disclosed to any living
soul my knowledge of this horrible secret: on the contrary, I have kept
it gnawing my heart and almost maddening me at times. For my own personal
satisfaction I have applied a test both to you and Skinner; but that is
all I have done: I have not told dear Julia, nor any of her family; and
now, if you will only listen to me, and do what I entreat you to do, she
shall never know; oh, never."
"Oho!" thought Mr. Hardie, "he comes with a proposal: I'll hear it,
He then took a line well known to artful men: he encouraged Alfred to
show his hand; maintaining a complete reserve as to his own; "You say you
did not communicate your illusion about this fourteen thousand pounds to
Julia Dodd that night: May I ask then (without indiscretion) what did
pass between you two?"
"I will tell you, sir. She saw me standing there, and asked me in her own
soft angel voice if I was unhappy. I told her I must be a poor creature
if I could be happy. Then she asked me, with some hesitation I thought,
why I was unhappy. I said, because I could not see the path of honour and
duty clear: that at least was the purport. Then she told me that in all
difficulties she had found the best way was to pray to God to guide her;
and she begged me to lay my care before Him and ask His counsel. And then
I thanked her; and bade her good-night, and she me; and that was all that
passed between us two unhappy lovers, whom you have made miserable; and
even cool to one another; but not hostile to you. And you played the spy
on us, sir; and misunderstood us, as spies generally do. Ah, sir! a few
months ago you would not have condescended to that."
Mr. Hardie coloured, but did not reply. He had passed from the irritable
into the quietly vindictive stage.
Alfred then deprecated further discussion of what was past, and said
abruptly, "I have an offer to make you: in a very short time I shall have
ten thousand pounds; I will not resign my whole fortune; that would be
unjust to myself, and my wife; and I loathe and despise Injustice in all
its forms, however romantic or plausible. But, if you will give the Dodds
their L. 14,000, I will share my little fortune equally with you: and
thank you, and bless you. Consider, sir, with your abilities and
experience five thousand pounds may yet be the nucleus of a fortune; a
fortune built on an honourable foundation. I know you will thrive with my
five thousand pounds ten times more than with their fourteen thousand;
and enjoy the blessing of blessings, a clear conscience."
Now this offer was no sooner made than Mr. Hardie shut his face, and went
to mental arithmetic, like one doing a sum behind a thick door. He would
have taken ten thousand: but five thousand did not much tempt him:
besides, would it be five thousand clear? He already owed Alfred two
thousand five hundred. It flashed through him that a young man who
loathed and despised Injustice--even to himself--would not consent to be
diddled by him out of one sum while making him a present of another: and
then there was Skinner's thousand to be reimbursed. He therefore declined
in these terms:
"This offer shows me you are sincere in these strange notions you have
taken up. I am sorry for it: it looks like insanity. These nocturnal
illusions, these imaginary sights and sounds, come of brooding on a
single idea, and often usher in a calamity one trembles to think of. You
have made me a proposal: I make you one: take a couple of hundred pounds
(I'll get it from your trustees) and travel the Continent for four
months; enlarge and amuse your mind with the contemplation of nature and
manners and customs; and if that does not clear this phantom L. 14,000
out of your head, I am much mistaken."
Alfred replied that foreign travel was his dream: but he could not leave
Barkington while there was an act of justice to be done.
"Then do me justice, boy," said Mr. Hardie, with wonderful dignity, all
things considered. "Instead of brooding on your one fantastical idea, and
shutting out all rational evidence to the contrary, take the trouble to
look through my books: and they will reveal to you a fortune, not of
fourteen thousand, but of eighty thousand pounds, honourably sacrificed
in the vain struggle to fulfil my engagements: who, do you think, will
believe, against such evidence, the preposterous tale you have concocted
against your poor father? Already the tide is turning, and all who have
seen the accounts of the Bank pity me; they will pity me still more if
ever they hear my own flesh and blood insults me in the moment of my
fall; sees me ruined by my honesty and living in a hovel, yet comes into
that poor but honest abode, and stabs me to the heart by accusing me of
stealing fourteen thousand pounds: a sum that would have saved me, if I
could only have laid my hands on it."
He hid his face, to conceal its incongruous expression: and heaved a deep
Alfred turned his head away and groaned.
After a while he rose from his seat and went to the door; but seemed
reluctant to go: he cast a longing, lingering look on his father, and
said beseechingly: "Oh think! you are not my flesh and blood more than I
am yours; is all the love to be on my side? Have I no influence even when
right is on my side?" Then he suddenly turned and threw himself
impetuously on his knees: "Your father was the soul of honour; your son
loathed fraud and injustice from his cradle; you stand between two
generations of Hardies, and belong to neither; do but reflect one moment
how bright a thing honour is, how short and uncertain a thing life is,
how sure a thing retribution is, in this world or the next: it is your
guardian angel that kneels before you now, and not your son: oh, for
Christ's sake, for my mother's sake, listen to my last appeal. You don't
know me: I cannot compound with injustice. Pity me, pity her I love, pity
"You young viper!" cried the father, stung with remorse, but not touched
with penitence. "Get away, you amorous young hypocrite; get out of my
house, get out of my sight, or I shall spurn you and curse you at my
"Enough!" said Alfred, rising and turning suddenly calm as a statue: "let
us be gentlemen, if you please, even though we must be enemies. Good-bye,
my father that _was._"
And he walked gently out of the room, and, as he passed the window Mr.
Hardie heard his great heart sob.
He wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. "A hard tussle," thought he,
"and with my own unnatural, ungrateful flesh and blood, but I have won
it: he hasn't told the Dodds; he never will; and, if he did, who would
believe him, or them?"
At dinner there was no Alfred; but after dinner a note to Jane informing
her he had taken lodgings in the town, and requesting her to send his
books and clothes in the evening. Jane handed the note to her father: and
sighed deeply. Watching his face as he read it, she saw him turn rather
pale, and look more furrowed than ever.
"Papa!" said she, "what _does_ it all mean!"
"I am thinking."
Then, after a long pause, he ground his teeth and said, "It means--War:
War between my own son and me."
LONG before this open rupture Jane Hardie had asked her father
sorrowfully, whether she was to discontinue her intimacy with the Dodds:
she thought of course he would say "Yes;" and it cost her a hard struggle
between inclination and filial duty to raise the question. But Mr. Hardie
was anxious her friendship with that family should continue; it furnished
a channel of news, and in case of detection might be useful to avert or
soften hostilities; so he answered rather sharply, "On no account: the
Dodds are an estimable family: pray be as friendly with them as ever you
can." Jane coloured with pleasure at this most unexpected reply; but her
wakeful conscience reminded her, this answer was given in ignorance of
her attachment to Edward Dodd, and urged her to confession. But at that
Nature recoiled: Edward had not openly declared his love to her; so
modest pride, as well as modest shame, combined with female cowardice to
hold back the avowal.
So then Miss Tender Conscience tormented herself; and recorded the
struggle in her diary; but briefly, and in terms vague and typical; not a
word about "a young man"--or "crossed in love"--but one obscure and hasty
slap at the carnal affections, and a good deal about "the saints in
prison," and "the battle of Armageddon."
Yet, to do her justice, laxity of expression did not act upon her conduct
and warp that as it does most mystical speakers.
To obey her father to the letter, she maintained a friendly
correspondence with Julia Dodd, exchanging letters daily; but, not to
disobey him in the spirit, she ceased to visit Albion Villa. Thus she
avoided Edward, and extracted from the situation the utmost self-denial,
and the least possible amount of "carnal pleasure," as she naively
denominated an interchange of worldly affection, however distant and
One day she happened to mention her diary, and say it was a present
comfort to her, and instructive to review. Julia, catching at every straw
of consolation, said she would keep one too, and asked a sight of Jane's
for a model. "No, dear friend," said Jane: "a diary should be one's self
This was fortunate: it precluded that servile imitation, in which her sex
excels even mine; and consequently the two records reflect two good
girls, instead of one in two skins; and may be trusted to conduct this
narrative forward, and relieve its monotony a little: only, of course,
the reader must not expect to see the plot of a story carried minutely
out in two crude compositions written with an object so distinct: he must
watch for glimpses and make the most of indications. Nor is this an
excessive demand upon his intelligence; for, if he cannot do this with a
book, how will he do it in real life, where male and female characters
reveal their true selves by glimpses only, and the gravest and most
dramatic events give the diviner so few and faint signs of their coming?
_Extracts from Julia Dodd's Diary._
_"Dec. 5th._--It is all over; they have taken papa away to an asylum: and
the house is like a grave, but for our outbursts of sorrow. Just before
he went away the medal came--oh no, I cannot. Poor, poor mamma!
"8 P. M. In the midst of our affliction Heaven sent us a ray of comfort:
the kindest letter from a lady, a perfect stranger. It came yesterday;
but now I have got it to copy: oh, bless it; and the good, kind writer.
"'DEAR MADAM,--I scarcely know whether to hope or to fear that your good
husband may have mentioned my name to you: however, he is just the man to
pass over both my misbehaviour and his own gallantry; so I beg permission
to introduce myself. I and my little boy were passengers by the _Agra;_ I
was spoiled by a long residence in India, and gave your husband sore
trouble by resisting discipline, refusing to put out my light at nine
o'clock, and in short by being an unreasonable woman, or rather a spoiled
child. Well, all my little attempts at a feud failed; Captain Dodd did
his duty, and kept his temper provokingly; the only revenge he took was a
noble one; he jumped into the sea after my darling Freddy, and saved him
from a watery grave, and his mother from madness or death; yet he was
himself hardly recovered from a wound he had received in defending us all
against pirates. Need I say more to one who is herself a mother? You will
know how our little misunderstanding ended after that. As soon as we were
friends I made him talk of his family; yourself, Edward, Julia, I seem to
know you all.
"'When the ruffian, who succeeded our good captain, had wrecked poor us,
and then deserted us, your husband resumed the command, and saved Freddy
and me once more by his courage, his wonderful coolness, and his skill.
Since then the mouse has been at work for the lion: I despair of
conveying any pleasure by it to a character so elevated as Captain Dodd;
his reward must be his own conscience; but we poor little women like
external shows, do we not? and so I thought a medal of the Humane Society
might give some pleasure to you and Miss Dodd. Never did medal nor order
repose on a nobler heart. The case was so strong, and so well supported,
that the society did not hesitate: and you will receive it very soon
"'You will be surprised, dear madam, at all this from a stranger to
yourself, and will perhaps set it down to a wish to intrude on your
acquaintance. Well, then, dear madam, you will not be far wrong. I
_should_ like much to know one, whose character I already seem acquainted
with; and to convey personally my gratitude and admiration of your
husband: I could pour it out more freely to you, you know, than to
him.--I am, dear Madam, Yours very faithfully,
"And the medal came about an hour before the fly to take him away. His
dear name was on it and his brave courageous acts.
"Oh, shall I ever be old enough and hard enough to speak of this without
stopping to cry?
"We fastened it round his dear neck with a ribbon. Mamma would put it
inside his clothes for fear the silver should tempt some wretch; I should
never have thought of that: is there a creature so base? And we told the
men how he had gained it (they were servants of the asylum), and we
showed them how brave and good he was, and would be again if they would
be kind to him and cure him. And mamma bribed them with money to use him
kindly: I thought they would be offended and refuse it: but they took it,
and their faces showed she was wiser than I am. _He_ keeps away from us
too. It is nearly a fortnight now."
_"Dec. 7th._--Aunt Eve left to-day. Mamma kept her room and could not
speak to her; cannot forgive her interfering between papa and her. It
does seem strange that any one but mamma should be able to send papa out
of the house, and to such a place; but it is the law: and Edward, who is
all good sense, says it was necessary. He says mamma is unjust; grief
makes her unreasonable. I don't know who is in the right: and I don't
much care; but I know I am sorry for Aunt Eve, and very, very sorry for
_"Dec. 8th._--I am an egotist: found myself out this morning; and it is a
good thing to keep a diary. It* was overpowered at first by grief for
mamma: but now the house is sad and quiet I am always thinking of _him;_
and that is egotism.
* Egotism. The abstract quality evolved from the concrete term egotist by
feminine art, without the aid of grammar.
"Why _does_ he stay away so? I almost wish I could think it was coldness
or diminished affection; for I fear something worse; something to make
_him_ wretched. Those dreadful words papa spoke before he was afflicted!
words I will never put on paper; but they ring in my ears still; they
appal me: and then found at their very door! Ah! and I knew I _should_
find him near that house. And now _he_ keeps away."
_"Dec. 9th._--All day trying to comfort mamma. She made a great effort
and wrote to Mrs. Beresford."
POOR MAMMA'S LETTER
"DEAR MADAM,--Your kind and valued letter reached us in deep affliction;
and I am little able to reply to you as you deserve. My poor husband is
very ill; so ill that he no longer remembers the past, neither the brave
acts that have won him your esteem, nor even the face of his loving and
unhappy wife, who now thanks you with many tears for your sweet letter.
Heart-broken as my children and I are, we yet derive some consolation
from it. We have tied the medal round his neck, madam, and thank you far
more than we can find words to express.
"In conclusion, I pray Heaven that, in your bitterest hour, you may find
the consolation you have administered to us: no, no, I pray you may
never, never stand in such need of comfort--I am dear madam, yours
gratefully and sincerely,
_"Dec. 10th, Sunday._--At St. Anne's in the morning. Tried hard to apply
the sermon. He spoke of griefs, but _so_ coldly; surely he never felt
one; _he_ was not there. Mem.: always pray against wandering thoughts on
_"Dec. 11th._--A diary is a dreadful thing. Everything must go down now,
and, amongst the rest that the poor are selfish. I could not interest one
of mine in mamma's sorrows; no, they must run back to their own little
sordid troubles, about money and things. I was so provoked with Mrs.
Jackson (she owes mamma so much) that I left her hastily; and that was
Impatience. I had a mind to go back to her; but would not; and that was
Pride. Where is my Christianity?
"A kind letter from Jane Hardie. But no word of _him._"
_"Dec. 12th._--To-day Edward told me plump I must not go on taking things
out of the house for the poor: mamma gave me the reason. 'We are poor
ourselves, thanks to----' And then she stopped. Does she suspect? How can
she? She did hear not those two dreadful words of papa's? They are like
two arrows in my heart. And so we are poor: she says we have scarcely
anything to live upon after paying the two hundred and fifty pounds a
year for papa.
_"Dec. 13th._--A comforting letter from Jane. She sends me Hebrews xii.
11, and says, 'Let us take a part of the Bible, and read two chapters
prayerfully at the same hour of the day: will ten o'clock in the morning
suit you? and, if so, will you choose where to begin?' I will, sweet
friend, I will; and then, though some cruel mystery keeps us apart, our
souls will be together over the sacred page, as I hope they will one day
be together in heaven; yours will, at any rate. Wrote back, yes, and a
thousand thanks, and should like to begin with the Psalms; they are
sorrowful, and so are we. And I must pray not to think too much of _him._
"If everything is to be put down one does, I cried long and bitterly to
find I had written that I must pray to God against _him._"
_"Dec. 14th._--It is plain he never means to come again. Mamma says
nothing, but that is out of pity for me: I have not read her dear face
all these years for nothing. She is beginning to think him unworthy, when
she thinks of him at all.
There is a mystery; a dreadful mystery; may he not be as mystified, too,
and perhaps tortured like me with doubts and suspicions? They say he is
pale and dejected. Poor thing!
But then, oh why not come to me and say so? Shall I write to him? No, I
will cut my hand off sooner."
_"Dec. 16th._--A blessed letter from Jane. She says, 'Letter writing on
ordinary subjects is a sad waste of time and very unpardonable among His
people.' And so it is; and my weak hope, daily disappointed, that there
may be something in her letter, only shows how inferior I am to my
beloved friend. She says, 'I should like to fix another hour for us two
to meet at the Throne together: will five o'clock suit you? We dine at
six; but I am never more than half an hour dressing.'
"The friendship of this saint, and her bright example, is what Heaven
sends me in infinite mercy and goodness to sooth my aching heart a
little: for _him_ I shall never see again.
"I have seen him this very evening."
"It was a beautiful night: I went to look at--the world to come I call
it--for I believe the redeemed are to inhabit those very stars hereafter,
and visit them all in turn--and this world I now find is a world of
sorrow and disappointment--so I went on the balcony to look at a better
one: and oh it seemed so holy, so calm, so pure, that heavenly world I
gazed and stretched my hands towards it for ever so little of its
holiness and purity; and, that moment I heard a sigh. I looked, and there
stood a gentleman just outside our gate, and it was _him._ I nearly
screamed, and my heart beat so. He did not see me: for I had come out
softly, and his poor head was down, down upon his breast; and he used to
carry it so high, a little, little, while ago--too high some said; but
not I. I looked, and my misgivings melted away, it flashed on me as if
one of those stars had written it with its own light in my heart--'There
stands Grief; not Guilt.' And before I knew what I was about I had
whispered 'Alfred!' The poor boy started and ran towards me: but stopped
short and sighed again. My heart yearned; but it was not for me to make
advances to him, after his unkindness: so I spoke to him as coldly as
ever I could, and I said, 'You are unhappy.'
"He looked up to me, and then I saw even by that light that he is
enduring a bitter, bitter struggle: _so_ pale, _so_ worn, _so_
dragged!--Now how many times have I cried, this last month? more than in
all the rest of my life a great deal.--'Unhappy!' he said; 'I must be a
contemptible thing if I was not unhappy.' And then he asked me should not
I despise him if he was happy. I did not answer that: but I asked him why
he was unhappy. And when I had, I was half frightened; for he never
evades a question the least bit.
"He held his head higher still, and said, 'I am unhappy because I cannot
see the path of honour.'
"Then I babbled something, I forget what: then he went on like this--ah,
I never forget what _he_ says--he said Cicero says 'AEquitas ipsa lucet
per se; something significat* something else:' and he repeated it slowly
for me--he knows I know a little Latin; and told me that was as much as
to say 'Justice is so clear a thing, that whoever hesitates must be on
the road of wrong. And yet,' he said bitterly, '_I_ hesitate and doubt,
in a matter of right and wrong, like an Academic philosopher weighing and
balancing mere speculative straws.' Those were his very words. 'And so,'
said he, 'I am miserable; deserving to be miserable.'
*Dubitatio cogitationem significat injuriae.
"Then I ventured to remind him that he, and I, and all Christian souls,
had a resource not known to heathen philosophers, however able. And I
said, 'Dear Alfred, when I am in doubt and difficulty, I go and pray to
Him to guide me aright: have you done so?' No, that had never occurred to
him: but he would, if I made a point of it; and at any rate he could not
go on in this way. I should soon see him again, and, once his mind was
made up, no shrinking from mere consequences, he promised me. Then we
bade one another good night and he went off holding his head as proudly
as he used: and poor silly me fluttered, and nearly hysterical, as soon
as I quite lost sight of him."
_"Dec. 17th._--At church in the morning: a good sermon. Notes and
analysis. In the evening Jane's clergyman preached. She came. Going out I
asked her a question about what we had heard; but she did not answer me.
At parting she told me she made it a rule not to speak coming from
church, not even about the sermon. This seemed austere to poor me. But of
course she is right. Oh, that I was like her."
_"Dec. 18th._--Edward is coming out. This boy, that one has taught all
the French, all the dancing, and nearly all the Latin he knows, turns out
to be one's superior, infinitely: I mean in practical good sense. Mamma
had taken her pearls to the jeweller and borrowed two hundred pounds. He
found this out and objected. She told him a part of it was required to
keep him at Oxford. 'Oh indeed,' said he: and we thought of course there
was an end: but next morning he was off before breakfast and the day
after he returned from Oxford with his caution money, forty pounds, and
gave it mamma; she had forgotten all about it. And he had taken his name
off the college books and left the university for ever. The poor, gentle
tears of mortification ran down his mother's cheeks, and I hung round her
neck, and scolded him like a vixen--as I am. We might have spared tears
and fury both, for he is neither to be melted nor irritated by poor
little us. He kissed us and coaxed us like a superior being, and set to
work in his quiet, sober, ponderous way, and proved us a couple of fools
to our entire satisfaction, and that without an unkind word! for he is as
gentle as a lamb, and as strong as ten thousand elephants. He took the
money back and brought the pearls home again, and he has written 'SOYEZ
DE VOTRE SIECLE' in great large letters, and has pasted it on all our
three bed-room doors, inside. And he has been all these years quietly
cutting up the _Morning Advertiser,_ and arranging the slips with
wonderful skill and method. He calls it 'digesting the _Tiser!'_ and you
can't ask for any _modern_ information, great or small, but he'll find
you something about it in this digest. Such a folio! It takes a man to
open and shut it. And he means to be a sort of little papa in this house,
and mamma means to let him. And indeed it is so sweet to be commanded;
besides, it saves thinking for oneself, and that is such a worry.
_"Dec. 19th._--Yes, they have settled it: we are to leave here, and live
in lodgings to save servants. How we are to exist even so, mamma cannot
see; but Edward can: he says we two have got popular talents, and _he
knows the markets_ (what does that mean, I wonder), and the world in
general. I asked him wherever he picked it up, his knowledge: he said,
'In the _'Tiser.'_ I asked him would he leave the place where _she_
lives. He looked sad, but said, 'Yes: for the good of us all.' So he is
better than I am; but who is not? I wasted an imploring look on him; but
not on mamma: she looked back to me, and then said sadly, 'Wait a few
days, Edward, for--_my_ sake.' That meant for poor credulous Julia's, who
still believes in him. My sweet mother!"
_"Dec. 21st._--Told Mamma to-day I would go for a governess, to help her,
since we are all ruined. She kissed me and trembled; but she did not say
'No;' so it will come to that. He will be sorry. When I do go, I think I
shall find courage to send him a line: just to say I am sure _he_ is not
to blame for withdrawing. Indeed how could I ever marry a man whose
father I have heard my father call----" (the pen was drawn through the
_"Dec. 22nd._--A miserable day: low spirited and hysterical. We are
really going away. Edward has begun to make packing-cases: I stood over
him and sighed, and asked him questions: he said he was going to take
unfurnished rooms in London, send up what furniture is absolutely
necessary, and sell the rest by auction, with the lease of our dear, dear
house, where we were all so happy once. So, what with his 'knowledge of
the markets, and the world,' and his sense, and his strong will, we have
only to submit. And then he is so kind, too: 'Don't cry, little girl,' he
said. 'Not but what I could turn on the waters myself if there was
anything to be gained by it. _Shall_ I cry, Ju,' said he, 'or shall I
whistle? I think I'll whistle.' And he whistled a tune right through
while he worked with a heart as sick as my own, perhaps. Poor Edward!"
_"Dec. 23rd._--My Christian friend has her griefs, too. But then _she_
puts them to profit: she says today, 'We are both tasting the same
flesh-crucifying but soul-profiting experience.' Her every word is a
rebuke to me: torn at this solemn season of the year with earthly
passions. Went down after reading her letter, and played and sang the
_Gloria in Excelsis_ of Pergolesi, with all my soul. So then I repeated
it, and burst out crying in the middle. Oh shame! shame!"
_"Dec. 24th._--Edward started for London at five in the morning to take a
place for us. The servants were next told, and received warning; the one
we had the poorest opinion of, she is such a flirt, cried, and begged
mamma to let her share our fallen fortunes, and said she could cook a
little and would do her best. I kissed her violently, and quite forgot I
was a young lady till she herself reminded me; and she looked frightened
at mamma. But mamma only smiled through her tears and said, 'Think of it
quietly, Sarah, before you commit yourself.'"
"I am now sitting in my old room, cold as a stone: for I have packed up
some things: so the first step is actually taken. Oh, if I but knew that
he was happy! Then I could endure anything. But how can I think so? Well,
I will go, and never tell a soul what I suspect, and he cannot tell, even
if he knows: for it is his father. Jane, too, avoids all mention of her
own father and brother more than is natural. Oh, if I could only be a
"Regrets are vain; I will cease even to record them; these diaries feed
one's selfishness, and the unfortunate passion, that will make me a bad
daughter and an ungrateful soldier of Him who was born as to-morrow: to
your knees, false Christian! to your knees!"
"I am calmer now; and feel resigned to the will of Heaven; or benumbed;
or something. I will pack this box and then go down and comfort my
mother; and visit my poor people, perhaps for the last time: ah me!
"A knock at the street door! his knock! I know every echo of his hand,
and his foot. Where is my composure now? I flutter like a bird. I will
not go down. He will think I love him so.
"At least I will wait till he has nearly gone.
"Elizabeth has come to say I am wanted in the drawing-room.
"So I _must_ go down whether I like or no.
"Bedtime. Oh that I had the pen of a writer to record the scene I have
witnessed, worthily. When I came in, I found mamma and him both seated in
dead silence. He rose and looked at me and I at him: and years seemed to
have rolled over his face since last I saw it. I was obliged to turn my
head away; I curtseyed to him distantly, and may Heaven forgive me for
that: and we sat down, and presently turned round and all looked at one
another like the ghosts of the happy creatures we once were altogether.
"Then Alfred began, not in his old imperative voice, but scarce above a
whisper; and oh the words such as none but himself in the wide world
would have spoken--I love him better than ever; I pity him; I adore him;
he is a scholar; he is a chevalier; he is the soul of honour; he is the
most unfortunate and proudest gentleman beneath the sun; oh, my darling!
"He said, 'Mrs. Dodd, and you Miss Dodd, whom I loved before I lost the
right to ask you to be mine, and whom I shall love to the last hour of my
miserable existence, I am come to explain my own conduct to you, and to
do you an act of simple justice, too long delayed. To begin with myself,
you must know that my understanding is of the Academic School: I incline
to weigh proofs before I make up my mind. But then I differ from that
school in this, that I cannot think myself to an eternal standstill;
(such an expression! but what does that matter, it was _his;)_ I am a man
of action: in Hamlet's place I should have either turned my ghost into
ridicule, or my uncle into a ghost; so I kept away from you while in
doubt, but now I doubt no longer. I take my line: ladies, you have been
swindled out of a large sum of money.
"My blood ran cold at these words. Surely nothing on earth but a man
could say this right out like that.
"Mamma and I looked at one another; and what did I see in her face, for
the first time ? Why that she had her suspicions too, and had been
keeping them from me. Pitying angel!
"He went on: 'Captain Dodd brought home several thousand pounds?'
"Mamma said 'Yes.' And I think she was going to say how much, but he
stopped her and made her write the amount in an envelope, while he took
another and wrote in it with his pencil. He took both envelopes to me,
and asked me to read them out in turn: I did, and mamma's said fourteen
thousand pounds: and his said fourteen thousand pounds. Mamma looked such
a look at me.
"Then he turned to me: 'Miss Dodd, do you remember that night you and I
met at Richard Hardie's door? Well, scarce five minutes before that, your
father was standing on our lawn and called to the man, who was my father,
in a loud voice--it rings in my ears now--"Hardie, Villain! give me back
my money, my fourteen thousand pounds! give me my children's money, or
may your children die before your eyes." Ah, you wince to hear me whisper
these dreadful words: what if you had been where I was and heard them
spoken, and in a terrible voice; the voice of Despair; the voice of
Truth! Soon a window opened cautiously, and a voice whispered, "Hush!
I'll bring it you down." And _this_ voice was the voice of fear, of
dishonesty, and of Richard Hardie.'
"He turned deadly white when he said this, and I cried to mamma, 'Oh,
stop him! stop him!' And she said, 'Alfred, think what you are saying.
Why do you tell us what we had better never know?' He answered directly.
"'Because it is the truth: and because I loathe injustice. Some time
afterwards I taxed Mr. Richard Hardie with this fourteen thousand pounds:
and his face betrayed him. I taxed his clerk, Skinner: and Skinner's face
betrayed him: and he fled the town that very night.
"My mother looked much distressed and said, 'To what end do you raise
this pitiable subject? Your father is a bankrupt, and we but suffer with
"'No, no,' said he, 'I have looked through the bankrupt's books, and
there is no mention of the sum. And then who brought Captain Dodd here?
Skinner? and Skinner is his detected confederate. It is clear to me poor
Captain Dodd trusted that sum to _us_ before he had the fit; beyond this
all is conjecture.'
"Mamma looked at me again, and said, 'What am I to do; or say?'
'I screamed, 'Do nothing, say nothing: oh pray, pray make him hold his
tongue, and let the vile money go. It is not _his_ fault.'
"'Do?' said the obstinate creature: 'why tell Edward, and let him employ
a sharp attorney: you have a supple antagonist and a daring one. Need I
say I have tried persuasion, and even bribes: but he defies me. Set an
attorney on him, or the police. Fiat Justitia, ruat coelum.' I put both
hands out to him and burst out 'Oh, Alfred, why did you tell? A son
expose his own father? For shame; for shame! I have suspected it all long
ago: but _I_ would never have told.'
"He started a little; but said, 'Miss Dodd, you were very generous to me:
but that is not exactly a reason why I should be a cur to you; and an
accomplice in a theft by which you suffer. I have no pretensions to
religion like my sister: so I can't afford to tamper with plain right and
wrong. What, look calmly on and see one man defraud another? I can't do
it. See _you_ defrauded? you, Mrs. Dodd, for whom I profess affection and
friendship? You, Miss Dodd, for whom I profess love and constancy? Stand
and see you swindled into poverty? Of what do you think I am made? My
stomach rises against it, my blood boils against it, my flesh creeps at
it, my soul loathes it:' then after this great burst he seemed to turn
_so_ feeble: 'Oh,' said he, faltering, 'I know what I have done; I have
signed the death warrant of our love, dear to me as life. But I can't
help it. Oh, Julia, Julia, my lost love, you can never look on me again;
you must not love a man you cannot marry. Cheat Hardie's wretched son.
But what could I do? Fate offers me but the miserable choice of
desolation or cowardly rascality. I choose desolation and I mean to stand
by my choice like a man. So good-bye, ladies.'
"The poor proud creature rose from his seat, and bowed stiffly and
haughtily to us both, and was going away without another word, and I do
believe for ever. But his soul had been too great for his body; his poor
lips turned pale and he staggered; and would have fallen, but mamma
screamed to me, and she he loves so dearly, and abandons so cruelly, woke
from a stupor of despair, and flew and caught him fainting in these
"WE laid the poor proud creature on the sofa, and bathed his face with
eau de Cologne. He spoke directly, and said that was nice, and 'His head!
his head!' And I don't think he was ever quite insensible, but he did not
know what was going on, for presently he opened his eyes wide, and stared
at us so, and then closed them with, oh such a sigh; it swelled my heart
almost to bursting. And to think I could say nothing: but mamma soothed
him and insisted on his keeping quiet; for he wanted to run away from us.
She was never so good to him before: she said, 'My dear child, you have
my pity and my esteem; alas! that at your age you should be tried like
this. How few in this sorry world would have acted like you: I should
have sided with my own flesh and blood, for one.'
"'What, right or wrong?' he asked.