Part 3 out of 11
he sat alone among his books, even as he pored over the volumes which
were always in his hand, he was ever mourning and moaning over his
desolation. His wife and daughters had been taken from him by the hand
of God;--but how had it come to pass that he had also lost his son, that
son who was all that was left to him? When he had first heard of those
dealings with Davis, while John was amusing himself with the frivolities
of Babington, he had been full of wrath, and had declared to himself
that the young man must be expelled, if not from all affection, yet from
all esteem. And he had gone on to tell himself that it would be
unprofitable for him to live with a son whom he did not esteem. Then it
had come to pass that, arguing it out in his own mind, rationally, as he
had thought, but still under the impulse of hot anger, he had determined
that it was better that they should part, even though the parting should
be for ever. But now he had almost forgotten Davis,--had turned the
matter over in his mind till he had taught himself to think that the
disruption had been altogether his son's work, and in no degree his own.
His son had not loved him. He had not been able to inspire his son with
love. He was solitary and wretched because he had been harsh and
unforgiving That was his own judgment as to himself. But he never said a
word of his feelings to any human being.
John had promised to write. The promise had not been very
enthusiastically given; but still, as the months went by it was
constantly remembered. The young man, after leaving Cambridgeshire, had
remained some weeks at the Shands' house before he had started;--and
from thence he had not written. The request had been that he should
write from Australia, and the correspondence between him and his father
had always been so slight, that it had not occurred to him to write from
Pollington. But Mr. Caldigate had,--not expected, but hoped that a
letter might come at the last moment. He knew to a day, to an hour, when
the vessel would sail from Plymouth. There might have been a letter from
Plymouth, but no letter came. And then the months went by slowly, The
son did not write from Melbourne, nor from Nobble,--nor from Ahalala
till gold had been found. So it came to pass that nearly eight months
had passed, and that the father had told himself again and again that
his son had torn himself altogether away from all remembrance of his
home, before the letter came.
It was not a long letter, but it was very satisfactory The finding of
the gold was in itself, of course, a great thing; but the manner in
which it was told, without triumph or exultation, but with an air of
sober, industrious determination, was much more; and then there was a
word or two at the end: 'Dear father,--I think of you every day, and am
already looking forward to the time when I may return and see you
again.' As he read it, the tears rolled down his cheeks, and unluckily
the old housekeeper came into the room at the same time.
'Is it from Mr. John, sir?'
He had to recover himself, and to get rid of his tears, and to answer
the old woman in an unconcerned tone, all in a moment, and it
'Yes,--yes;' he said. 'I'll tell you all about it another time.'
'Is he well, sir?'
'I daresay he is. He doesn't say. It's about business. Didn't you hear
me say that I'd tell you another time?' And so the old woman was turned
out of the room, having seen the tear and heard the little gurgle in the
'He seems to be doing well,' the Squire said to Mr. Holt. 'He has got a
couple of partners, and they have succeeded in finding gold. He may
probably come back some day; but I don't suppose it will be for the
next twenty years.'
After that he marked the posts, which he knew came from that part of the
world by San Francisco, and had resolved not to expect anything by that
of the next month,--when there came, a day before its time, a much
longer letter than the last. In this there was given a detailed
description of the 'claim' at Ahalala, which had already been named
Folking. Much was said of Mick, and much was said of Dick, both of whom
were working 'as steady as rocks.' The number of ounces extracted were
stated, with the amount of profits which had been divided. And something
was said as to the nature of their life at Ahalala. They were still
living under their original tent, but were meditating the erection of a
wooden shanty. Ahalala, the writer said, was not a place at which a
prosperous miner could expect to locate himself for many years; but the
prospects were good enough to justify some present attention to personal
comforts. All this was rational, pleasant, and straightforward. And in
the letter there was no tone or touch of the old quarrel. It was full
and cordial,--such as any son might write to any father. It need hardly
be said that there was no mention made in it of Mrs. Smith. It was
written after the return of John Caldigate from Sydney to Ahalala, but
contained no reference to any matrimonial projects.
Letters then came regularly, month by month, and were always regularly
answered,--till a chance reader would have thought that no father and no
son stood on better terms with each other. There had been misfortunes;
but the misfortunes did not seem to touch John Caldigate himself. After
three months of hard work and steady conduct Mick Maggott had broken out
and had again taken to drinking champagne out of buckets. Efforts were
made, with infinite trouble, to reclaim him, which would be successful
for a time,--and then again he would slip away into the mud. And then
Shand would sometimes go into the mud with him; and Shand, when drunk,
would be more unmanageable even than Mick. And this went on till Mick
had--killed himself, and Dick Shand had disappeared. 'I grieve for the
man as for a dear friend,' he said in one of his father's letters; 'for
he has been as true to me as steel in all things, save drink; and I feel
that I have learned under him the practical work of a gold-miner as it
cannot be learned except by the unwearied attention of the teacher.
Could he have kept from spirits, this man would have made a large
fortune and would have deserved it; for he was indefatigable and
never-ending in resources.' Such was the history of poor Mick Maggott.
And Shand's history was told also. Shand strayed away to Queensland, and
then returning was again admitted to a certain degree of partnership,
and then again fell into drink, and at last, deserting the trade of a
miner, tried his hand at various kinds of work, till at last he became a
simple shepherd. From time to time Caldigate sent him money when he was
in want of it, but they had not again come together as associates in
All this was told in his monthly letters which came to be expected at
Folking, till each letter was regarded as the rising of a new sun. There
is a style of letter-writing which seems to indicate strength of purpose
and a general healthy condition on the part of the writer. In all his
letters, the son spoke of himself and his doings with confidence and
serenity, somewhat surprising his father after a while by always
desiring to be remembered to Mr., Mrs., and Miss Bolton. This went on
not only from month to month, but from year to year, till at the end of
three years from the date at which the son had left Folking, there had
come to be a complete confidence between him and his father. John
Caldigate had gone into partnership with Crinkett,--who had indeed
tried to cheat him wretchedly but had failed,--and at that time was the
manager of the Polyeuka mine. The claim at Ahalala had been sold, and he
had deserted the flashy insecurity of alluvial searchings for the
fundamental security of rock-gold. He was deep in the crushing of
quartz, and understood well the meaning of two ounces to the ton,--that
glittering boast by which Crinkett had at first thought to allure him.
From time to time he sent money home, paying back to his father and to
Bolton's bank what had been borrowed on the estate. For there had passed
between them many communications respecting Folking. The extravagances
of the son became almost the delight of the father, when the father had
become certain of the son's reform. There had been even jocular
reference to Davis, and a complete understanding as to the amount of
money to be given to the nephew in compensation for the blighted hopes
as to the reversion of the property.
Why it should have been that these years of absence should have endeared
to John Caldigate a place which, while it was his home, had always been
distasteful to him, I cannot perhaps explain to those readers who have
never strayed far from their original nests;--and to those who have been
wanderers I certainly need not explain it. As soon as he felt that he
could base the expression of his desires as to Folking on the foundation
of substantial remittances, he was not slow to say that he should like
to keep the place. He knew that he had no right to the reversion, but
perhaps his father would sympathise with his desire to buy back his
right. His father, with all his political tenets as to land, with his
often-expressed admiration as to the French system, with his loud
denunciations of the absurdity of binding a special family to a special
fraction of the earth's surface, did sympathise with him so strongly,
that he at once accepted the arrangement. 'I think that his conduct has
given him a right to demand it,' he said to Mr. Bolton.
'I don't quite see that. Money certainly gives a man great powers. If he
has money enough he can buy the succession to Folking if you choose to
sell it to him.'
'I mean as my son,' said the father somewhat proudly. 'He was the heir.'
'But he ceased to be so,--by his own doing. I advised you to think
longer over it before you allowed him to dispossess himself.'
'It certainly has been all for the best.'
'I hope so. But when you talk of his right, I am bound to say that he
has none. Folking is now yours, without encumbrance, and you can give it
to whom you please.'
'It was he who paid off the mortgage.'
'You have told me that he sent you part of the money;--but that's
between you and him. I am very glad, Caldigate, that your son has done
so well;--and the more so perhaps because the early promise was not
good. But it may be doubted whether a successful gold-digger will settle
down quietly as an English country gentleman.'
There can be no doubt that old Mr. Bolton was a little jealous, and,
perhaps, in some degree incredulous as to the success of John Caldigate.
His sons had worked hard from the very beginning of their lives. With
them there had been no period of Newmarket Davis, and disreputation. On
the basis of capital, combined with conduct, they had gradually risen to
high success. But here was a young man, who, having by his
self-indulgence thrown away all the prospects of his youth, had
rehabilitated himself by the luck of finding gold in a gully. To Mr.
Bolton it was no better than had he found a box of treasure at the
bottom of a well. Mr. Bolton had himself been a seeker of money all his
life, but he had his prejudices as to the way in which money was to be
sought. It should be done in a gradual, industrious manner, and in
accordance with recognised forms. A digger who might by chance find a
lump of gold as big as his head, or might work for three months without
finding any, was to him only one degree better than Davis, and therefore
he did not receive his old friend's statements as to the young man's
success with all the encouragement which his old friend would have
But his father was very enthusiastic in his return letter to the miner.
The matter as to the estate had been arranged. The nephew, who, after
all, had not shown himself to be very praiseworthy, had already
been--compensated. His own will had already been made,--of course in his
son's favour. As there had been so much success,--and as continued
success must always be doubtful,--would it not be well that he should
come back as soon as possible? There would be enough now for them all.
Then he expressed an opinion that such a place as Nobble could not be
very nice for a permanent residence.
Nobble was not very nice. Over and beside his professional success,
there was not much in his present life which endeared itself to John
Caldigate But the acquisition of gold is a difficult thing to leave.
There is a curse about it, or a blessing,--it is hard to decide
which,--that makes it almost impossible for a man to tear himself away
from its pursuit when it is coming in freely. And the absolute
gold,--not the money, not the balance at one's banker's, not the
plentiful so much per annum,--but the absolute metal clinging about the
palm of one's hands like small gravel, or welded together in a lump too
heavy to be lifted, has a peculiar charm of its own. I have heard of a
man who, having his pocket full of diamonds, declared, as he let them
run through his fingers, that human bliss could not go beyond that
sensation. John Caldigate did not shoe his horse with gold; but he liked
to feel that he had enough gold by him to shoe a whole team. He could
not return home quite as yet. His affairs were too complicated to be
left quite at a moment's notice. If, as he hoped, he should find himself
able to leave the colony within four years of the day on which he had
begun work, and could then do so with an adequate fortune, he believed
that he should have done better than any other Englishman who had set
himself to the task of gold-finding. In none of his letters did he say
anything special about Hester Bolton; but his inquiries about the family
generally were so frequent as to make his father wonder why such
questions should be asked. The squire himself, who was living hardly a
dozen miles from Mr. Bolton's house, did not see the old banker above
once a quarter perhaps and the ladies of the family certainly not
oftener than once a year. Very little was said in answer to any of
John's inquiries. 'Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Bolton are, I believe, quite
well.' So much was declared in one of the old squire's letters; and even
that little served to make known that at any rate, so far, no tidings as
to marriage on the part of Hester had reached the ear of her father's
old friend. Perhaps this was all that John Caldigate wanted to learn.
At last there came word that John intended to come home with the next
month's mail. This letter arrived about midsummer, when the miner had
been absent three years and a half. He had not settled all his affairs
so completely but that it might be necessary that he should return; but
he thought that he would be able to remain at least twelve months in
England. And in England he intended to make his home. Gold, he said, was
certainly very attractive; but he did not like New South Wales as a
country in which to live. He had now contracted his ventures to the one
enterprise of the Polyeuka mine, from which he was receiving large
monthly dividends. If that went on prosperously, perhaps he need not
return to the colony at all. 'Poor Dick Shand!' he said. 'He is a
shepherd far away in the west, hardly earning better wages than an
English ploughman, and I am coming home with a pocket full of money! A
few glasses of whisky have made all the difference!'
The squire when he received this felt more of exultation than he had
ever known in his life. It seemed as though something of those
throbbings of delight which are common to most of us when we are young,
had come to him for the first time in his old age. He could not bring
himself to care in the least for Dick Shand. At last,--at last,--he was
going to have near him a companion that he could love.
'Well, yes; I suppose he has put together a little money,' he said to
Farmer Holt, when that worthy tenant asked enthusiastically as to the
truth of the rumours which were spread about as to the young squire's
success. 'I rather think he'll settle down and live in the old place
'That's what he ought to do, squoire--that's what he ought to do,' said
Mr. Holt, almost choked by the energy of his own utterances.
Again at Home
On his arrival in England John Caldigate went instantly down to Folking.
He had come back quite fortified in his resolution of making Hester
Bolton his wife, if he should find Hester Bolton willing and if she
should have grown at all into that form and manner, into those ways of
look, of speech, and of gait, which he had pictured to himself when
thinking of her. Away at Nobble the females by whom he had been
surrounded had not been attractive to him. In all our colonies the women
are beautiful and in the large towns a society is soon created, of which
the fastidious traveller has very little ground to complain; but in the
small distant bush-towns, as they are called, the rougher elements must
predominate Our hero, though he had worn moleskin trousers and jersey
shirts, and had worked down a pit twelve hours a-day with a pickaxe, had
never reconciled himself to female roughnesses. He had condescended to
do so occasionally,--telling himself that it was his destiny to pass his
life among such surroundings; but his imagination had ever been at work
with him, and he possessed a certain aptitude for romance which told him
continually that Hester Bolton was the dream of his life, and ought to
become, if possible, the reality; and now he came back resolved to
attempt the reality,--unless he should find that the Hester Bolton of
Chesterton was altogether different from the Hester Bolton of his
The fatted calf was killed for him in a very simple but full-hearted
way. There was no other guest to witness the meeting. 'And here you
are,' said the father.
'Yes, sir, here I am;--all that's left of me.'
'There is quite plenty,' said the father, looking at the large
proportions of his son. 'It seems but a day or two since you went;--and
yet they have been long days. I hardly expected to see you again,
John,--certainly not so soon as this; certainly not in such
circumstances. If ever a man was welcome to a house, you are welcome to
this. And now,--what do you mean to do with yourself?'
'By nine o'clock to-morrow morning you will probably find a pit opened
on the lawn, and I shall be down to the middle, looking for gold. Ah,
sir, I wish you could have known poor Mick Maggott.'
'If he would have made holes in my lawn I am glad he did not come home
with you.' This was the first conversation, but both the father and son
felt that there was a tone about it which had never before been heard
John Caldigate at this time was so altered in appearance, that they who
had not known him well might possibly have mistaken him. He was now
nearly thirty, but looked older than his age. The squareness of his brow
was squarer, and here and there through his dark brown hair there was to
be seen an early tinge of coming grey; and about his mouth was all the
decision of purpose which comes to a man when he is called upon to act
quickly on his own judgment in matters of importance; and there was that
look of self-confidence which success gives. He had thriven in all that
he had undertaken. In that gold-finding business of his he had made no
mistakes. Men who had been at it when a boy had tried to cheat him, but
had failed. He had seen into such mysteries as the business possessed
with quick glances, and had soon learned to know his way. And he had
neither gambled nor drank,--which are the two rocks on which gold-miners
are apt to wreck their vessels. All this gave him an air of power and
self-assertion which might, perhaps, have been distasteful to an
indifferent acquaintance, but which at this first meeting was very
pleasing to the father. His son was somebody,--had done something, that
son of whom he had been so thoroughly ashamed when the dealings with
Davis had first been brought to light. He had kept up his reading too;
had strong opinions of his own respecting politics; regarded the
colonies generally from a politico-economical point of view; had ideas
on social, religious, and literary subjects sufficiently alike to his
father's not to be made disagreeable by the obstinacy with which he
maintained them. He had become much darker in colour, having been, as it
seemed, bronzed through and through by colonial suns and colonial
labour. Altogether he was a son of whom any father might be proud, as
long as the father managed not to quarrel with him. Mr. Caldigate, who
during the last four years had thought very much on the subject, was
determined not to quarrel with his son.
'You asked, sir, the other day what I meant to do?'
'What are we to find to amuse you?'
'As for amusement, I could kill rats as I used to do; or slaughter a
hecatomb of pheasants at Babington,'--here the old man winced, though
the word hecatomb reconciled him a little to the disagreeable allusion
'But it has come to me now that I want so much more than amusement. What
do you say to a farm?'
'On the estate?'--and the landlord at once began to think whether there
was any tenant who could be induced to go without injustice.
'About three times as big as the estate if I could find it. A man can
farm five thousand acres as well as fifty, I take it, if he have the
capital. I should like to cut a broad sward, or, better still, to roam
among many herds. I suppose a man should have ten pounds an acre to
begin with. The difficulty would be in getting the land.' But all this
was said half in joke; for he was still of opinion that he would, after
his year's holiday, be forced to return for a time to New South Wales.
He had fixed a price for which, up to a certain date, he would sell his
interest in the Polyeuka mine. But the price was high, and he doubted
whether he would get it; and, if not, then he must return.
He had not been long at Folking,--not as yet long enough to have made
his way into the house at Chesterton,--before annoyance arose. Mrs.
Shand was most anxious that he should go to Pollington and 'tell them
anything about poor Dick.' They did, in truth, know everything about
poor Dick; that poor Dick's money was all gone, and that poor Dick was
earning his bread, or rather his damper, mutton, and tea, wretchedly, in
the wilderness of a sheep-run in Queensland. The mother's letter was not
very piteous, did not contain much of complaint,--alluded to poor Dick
as one whose poverty was almost natural, but still it was very pressing.
The girls were so anxious to hear all the details,--particularly Maria!
The details of the life of a drunken sot are not pleasant tidings to be
poured into a mother's ear, or a sister's. And then, as they two had
gone away equal, and as he, John Caldigate, had returned rich, whereas
poor Dick was a wretched menial creature, he felt that his very presence
in England would carry with it some reproach against himself. He had in
truth been both loyal and generous to Dick; but still,--there was the
truth. He had come back as a rich man to his own country, while Dick was
a miserable Queensland shepherd. It was very well for him to tell his
father that a few glasses of whisky had made the difference; but it
would be difficult to explain this to the large circle at Pollington and
very disagreeable even to him to allude to it. And he did not feel
disposed to discuss the subject with Maria, with that closer confidence
of which full sympathy is capable. And yet he did not know how to refuse
to pay the visit. He wrote a line to say that as soon as he was at
liberty he would run up to Pollington but that at present business
incidental to his return made such a journey impossible.
But the letter, or letters, which he received from Babington were more
difficult to answer even than the Shand despatch. There were three of
them,--from his uncle, from Aunt Polly, and from--not Julia--but Julia's
second sister; whereby it was signified that Julia's heart was much too
heavily laden to allow her to write a simple, cousinly note. The
Babington girls were still Babington girls,--would still romp, row
boats, and play cricket; but their condition was becoming a care to
their parents. Here was this cousin come back, unmarried, with gold at
command,--not only once again his father's heir, but with means at
command which were not at all diminished by the Babington imagination.
After all that had passed in the linen-closet, what escape would there
be for him? That he should come to Babington would be a matter of
course. The real kindness which had been shown to him there as a child
would make it impossible that he should refuse.
Caldigate did feel it to be impossible to refuse. Though Aunt Polly had
on that last occasion been somewhat hard upon him, had laid snares for
him, and endeavoured to catch him as a fowler catches a bird, still
there had been the fact that she had been as a mother to him when he had
no other mother. His uncle, too, had supplied him with hunting and
shooting and fishing, when hunting and shooting and fishing were the
great joys of his life. It was incumbent on him to go to Babington,---
probably would be incumbent on him to pay a prolonged visit there. But
he certainly would not marry Julia. As to that his mind was so fixed
that even though he should have to declare his purpose with some
rudeness, still he would declare it. 'My aunt wants me to go over to
Babington,' he said to his father.
'Of course she does.'
'And I must go?'
'You know best what your own feelings are as to that. After you went,
they made all manner of absurd accusations against me. But I don't wish
to force a quarrel upon you on that account.'
'I should be sorry to quarrel with them, because they were kind to me
when I was a boy. They are not very wise.'
'I don't think I ever knew such a houseful of fools.' There was no
relationship by blood between the Squire of Folking and the Squire of
Babington; but they had married two sisters, and therefore Mrs.
Babington was Aunt Polly to John Caldigate.
'But fools may be very worthy, sir. I should say that a great many
people are fools to you.'
'Not to me especially,' said the squire, almost angrily.
'People who read no books are always fools to those who do read.'
'I deny it. Our neighbour over the water'--the middle wash was always
called the water at Folking--'never looks at a book, as far as I know,
and he is not a fool. He thoroughly understands his own business But
your uncle Babington doesn't know how to manage his own property,--and
yet he knows nothing else. That's what I call being a fool.'
'Now, I'm going to tell you a secret, sir.'
'You must promise to keep it.'
'Of course I will keep it, if it ought to be kept.'
'They want me to marry Julia.'
'My cousin Julia. It's an old affair. Perhaps it was not Davis only that
made me run away five years ago.'
'Do you mean they asked you;--or did you ask her?'
'Well; I did not ask her. I do not know that I can be more explicit.
Nevertheless it is expected; and as I do not mean to do it, you can see
that there is a difficulty.'
'I would not go near the place, John.'
'Then you'll have to marry her.'
'Then there'll be a quarrel.'
'It may be so, but I will avoid it if possible. I must go. I could not
stay away without laying myself open to a charge of ingratitude. They
were very kind to me in the old days.' Then the subject was dropped; and
on the next morning, John wrote to his aunt saying that he would go over
to Babington after his return from London. He was going to London on
business, and would come back from London to Babington on a day which he
named. Then he resolved that he would take Pollington on his way down,
knowing that a disagreeable thing to be done is a lion in one's path
which should be encountered and conquered as soon as possible.
But there was one visit which he must pay before he went up to London.
'I think I shall ride over to-morrow and call on the Boltons,' he said
to his father.
'Of course; you can do that if you please.'
'He was a little rough to me, but he was kind. I stayed a night at his
house, and he advanced me the money.'
'As for the money, that was a matter of business. He had his security,
and, in truth, his interest. He is an honest man, and a very old friend
of mine. But perhaps I may as well tell you that he has always been a
little hard about you.'
'He didn't approve of Davis,' said the son, laughing.
'He is too prejudiced a man to forget Davis.'
'The more he thinks of Davis, the better he'll think of me if I can make
him believe that I am not likely to want a Davis again.'
'You'll find him probably at the bank about half-past two.'
'I shall go to the house. It wouldn't be civil if I didn't call on Mrs.
As the squire was never in the habit of going to the house at Chesterton
himself, and as Mrs. Bolton was a lady who kept up none of the outward
ceremonies of social life, he did not quite understand this; but he made
no further objection.
On the following day, about five in the afternoon, he rode through the
iron gates, which he with difficulty caused to be opened for him, and
asked for Mrs. Bolton. When he had been here before, the winter had
commenced, and everything around had been dull and ugly; but now it was
July, and the patch before the house was bright with flowers. The roses
were in full bloom, and every morsel of available soil was bedded out
with geraniums. As he stood holding his horse by the rein while he rang
the bell, a side-door leading through the high brick wall from the
garden, which stretched away behind the house, was suddenly opened, and
a lady came through with a garden hat on, and garden gloves, and a
basket full of rose leaves in her hand. It was the lady of whom he had
never ceased to think from the day on which he had been allowed just to
touch her fingers, now five years ago.
It was she, of course, whom he had come to see, and there she was to be
seen. It was of her that he had come to form a judgment,--to tell
himself whether she was or was not such as he had dreamed her to be. He
had not been so foolishly romantic as to have been unaware that in all
probability she might have grown up to be something very different from
that which his fancy had depicted. It might or it might not come to pass
that that promise of loveliness,--of loveliness combined with innocence
and full intelligence,--should be kept. How often it is that Nature is
unkind to a girl as she grows into womanhood, and robs the attractive
child of her charms! How often will the sparkle of early youth get
itself quenched utterly by the dampness and clouds of the opening world.
He knew all that,--and knew too that he had only just seen her, had
barely heard the voice which had sounded so silvery sweet in his ears.
But there she was,--to be seen again, to be heard, if possible, and to
receive his judgment. 'Miss Bolton,' he said, coming down the stone
steps which he had ascended, that he might ring the bell, and offering
her his hand.
'You remember me, then?'
'Oh yes, I remember you very well. I do not see people often enough to
forget them. And papa said that you were coming home.'
'I have come at once to call upon your mother and your father,--and upon
you. I have to thank him for great kindness to me before I went.'
'Poor mamma is not quite well,' said the daughter. 'She has headaches so
often, and she has one now. And papa has not come back from the bank. I
have been gardening and am all----.' Then she stopped and blushed, as
though ashamed of herself for saying so much.
'I am sorry Mrs. Bolton is unwell. I will not go the ceremony of leaving
a card, as I hope to able to come again to thank her for her kindness
before I went on my travels. Will you tell your father that I called?'
Then he mounted his horse, feeling, as he did so, that he was throwing
away an opportunity which kind fortune had given him. There they were
together, he and this girl of whom he had dreamed;--and now he was
leaving her, because he did not know how to hold her in conversation for
ten minutes! But it was true, and he had to leave her. He could not
instantly tell her how he admired her, how he loved her, how he had
thought of her, and how completely she had realised all his fondest
dreams. When on his horse, he turned round, and, lifting his hat to her,
took a last glance. It could not have been otherwise, he said to
himself. He had been sure that she would grow up to be exactly that
which he had found her. To have supposed that Nature could have been
untrue to such promises as had been made then, would have been to
suppose Nature a liar.
Just outside the gate he met the old banker, who, according to his daily
custom, had walked back from the town. 'Yes,' said Mr. Bolton, 'I
remember you,--I remember you very well. So you found a lot of gold?'
'I got some.'
'You have been one of the few fortunate, I hear. I hope you will be able
to keep it, and to make a good use of it. My compliments to your father.
'I shall take an early opportunity of paying my respects again to Mrs.
Bolton, who, I am sorry to hear, is not well enough to see me,' said
Caldigate, preventing the old curmudgeon from escaping with his intended
'She is unfortunately often an invalid, sir,--and feels therefore that
she has no right to exact from any one the ceremony of morning visits.
Good evening sir.'
But he cared not much for this coldness. Having found where the gold lay
at this second Ahalala,--that the gold was real gold,--he did not doubt
but that he would be able to make good his mining operations.
Again At Pollington
On his arrival at Pollington, all the Shands welcomed him as though he
had been the successful son or successful brother who had gone out from
among them; and spoke of 'Poor Dick' as being the unsuccessful son or
unsuccessful brother,--as indeed he was. There did not seem to be the
slightest anger against him, in that he had thriven and had left Dick
behind him in such wretched poverty. There was no just ground for anger,
indeed. He was well aware of that. He had done his duty by Dick to the
best of his ability. But fathers and mothers are sometimes apt to think
that more should be done for their own children than a friend's best
ability can afford. These people, however, were reasonable. 'Poor Dick!'
'Isn't it sad?' 'I suppose when he's quite far away in the bush like
that he can't get it,'--by which last miserable shred of security the
poor mother allowed herself to be in some degree comforted.
'Now I want you to tell me,' said the father, when they were alone
together on the first evening, 'what is really his condition?'
'He was a shepherd when I last heard about him.'
'He wrote to his mother by the last mail, asking whether something
cannot be done for him. He was a shepherd then. What is a shepherd?'
'A man who goes about with the sheep all day, and brings them up to a
camp at night. He may probably be a week without seeing a human being,
That is the worst of it.'
'How is he fed?'
'Food is brought out to his hut,--perhaps once a week, perhaps once a
fortnight,--so much meat, so much flour, so much tea, and so much sugar.
And he has thirty or thirty-five pounds a-year besides.'
'No;--perhaps quarterly, perhaps half-yearly. He can do nothing with his
money as long as he is there. If he wants a pair of boots or a new
shirt, they send it out to him from the store, and his employer charges
him with the price. It is a poor life, sir.'
'Very poor. Now tell me, what can we do for him?'
'It is an affair of money.'
'But is it an affair of money, Mr. Caldigate? Is it not rather an affair
of drink? He has had his money,--more than his share; more than he ought
to have had. But even though I were able to send him more, what good
would it do him?'
This was a question very difficult to answer. Caldigate had been forced
to answer it to himself in reference to his own conduct. He had sent
money to his former friend, and could without much damage to himself
have sent more. Latterly he had been in that condition as to money in
which a man thinks nothing of fifty pounds,--that condition which
induces one man to shoe his horse with gold, and another to chuck his
bank-notes about like half-crowns. The condition is altogether opposed
to the regulated prudence of confirmed wealth. Caldigate had stayed his
hand in regard to Dick Shand simply because the affair had been one not
of money but of drink. 'I suppose a man may be cured by the absence of
'By the enforced absence?'
'No doubt they often break out again. I hardly know what to say, sir. If
you think that money will do good,--money, that is, in moderation,--I
will advance it. He and I started together, and I am sometimes aghast
with myself when I think of the small matter which, like the point on a
railway, sent me running rapidly on to prosperity,--while the same
point, turned wrong, hurried him to ruin. I have taken my glass of grog,
too, my two glasses,--or perhaps more. But that which would elate him
into some fury of action would not move me. It was something nature did
for me rather than virtue. I am a rich man, and he is a shepherd,
because something was put into my stomach capable of digesting bad
brandy, which was not put into his.'
'A man has more than one chance. When he found how it was with him, he
should have abstained. A man must pay the fine of his own weakness.'
'Oh, yes. It is all understood somewhere, I suppose, though we don't
understand it. I tell you what it is, Dr. Shand. If you think that five
hundred pounds left with you can be of any assistance, you can have it.'
But the doctor seemed to doubt whether the money would do any good, and
refused to take it, at any rate for the present. What could he do with
it, if he did take it? 'I fear that he must lie upon his bed as he has
made it,' said the doctor sorrowfully. 'It is a complaint which money
cannot cure, but can always exaggerate If, without costing myself or my
family a shilling, I could put a thousand pounds into his hands
to-morrow, I do not know whether I ought to do it.'
'You will remember my offer.'
The doctor thanked him, and said that he would remember. So the
conversation was ended, and the doctor went about the ordinary
occupation of his life, apparently without any settled grief at his
heart. He had done his duty by his son, and that sufficed,--or almost
sufficed, for him.
Then came the mother's turn. Could anything be sent to the poor lost
one,--to poor Dick? Clothes ran chiefly in her mind. If among them they
could make up a dozen of shirts, would there be any assured means of
getting them conveyed safely to Dick's shepherd-hut out in the
Queensland bush? In answer to this Caldigate would fain have explained,
had it been possible, that Dick would not care much for a dozen new
shirts,--that they would be to him, even if received, almost as little a
source of comfort as would be a ton of Newcastle coals. He had sunk
below shirts by the dozen; almost below single shirts, such as Mrs.
Shand and her daughters would be able to fabricate. Some upper flannel
garment, and something in the nature of trousers, with a belt round his
middle, and an old straw-hat would be all the wardrobe required by him.
Men by dint of misery rise above the need of superfluities. The poor
wretch whom you see rolling himself, as it were, at the corner of the
street within his old tattered filthy coat, trying to extract something
more of life and warmth out of the last glass of gin which he has
swallowed, is by no means discomposed because he has no clean linen for
the morrow. All this Caldigate understood thoroughly;--but there was a
difficulty in explaining it to Dick Shand's mother. 'I think there would
be some trouble about the address,' he said.
'But you must know so many people out there.'
'I have never been in Queensland myself, and have no acquaintance with
squatters. But that is not all, Mrs. Shand.'
'What else? You can tell me. Of course I know what it is that he has
come to. I don't blind myself to it, Mr. Caldigate, even though I am his
mother. But I am his mother; and if I could comfort him, just a
'Clothes are not what he wants;--of clothes he can get what is
necessary, poor as he is.'
'What is it he wants most?'
'Somebody to speak to;--some one to be kind to him.'
'My poor boy!'
'As he has fallen to what he is now, so can he rise again if he can find
courage to give his mind to it. I think that if you write to him and
tell him so, that will be better than sending him shirts. The doctor has
been talking to me about money for him.'
'But, Mr. Caldigate, he couldn't drink the shirts out there in the bush.
Here, where there is a pawn-broker at all the corners, they drink
He had promised to stay two days at Pollington and was of course aware
of the dangers among which he walked. Maria had been by no means the
first to welcome him. All the other girls had presented themselves
before her. And when at last she did come forward she was very shy. The
eldest daughter had married her clergyman though he was still only a
curate; and the second had been equally successful with Lieutenant
Postlethwaite though the lieutenant had been obliged in consequence to
leave the army and to earn his bread by becoming agent to a soap-making
company. Maria Shand was still Maria Shand, and was it not too probable
that she had remained so for the sake of that companion who had gone
away with her darling brother Dick? 'Maria has been thinking so much
about your coming,' said the youngest,--not the girl who had been
impertinent and ill-behaved before, for she had since become a grown-up
Miss Shand, and had a young attorney of her own on hand, and was
supposed to be the one of the family most likely to carry her pigs to a
good market,--but the youngest of them all who had been no more than a
child when he had been at Pollington before. 'I hope she is at home,'
said Caldigate 'At home! Of course she's at home. She wouldn't be away
when you're coming!'
The Shands were demonstrative, always;--and never hypocritical. Here it
was; told at once,--the whole story. He was to atone for having left
Dick in the lurch by marrying Maria. There did seem to him to be a
certain amount of justice in the idea; but then, unfortunately, it could
not be carried out. If there were nothing else against it but the
existence of the young lady at Chesterton, that alone would have been
sufficient. And then, though Maria Shand was very well, though, no
doubt, she would make a true and loving wife to any husband, though
there had been a pretty touch of feeling about the Thomson's
'Seasons,'--still, still, she was not all that he fancied that a wife
should be. He was quite willing to give L500 for Dick; but after that he
thought that he would have had almost enough of the Shands. He could not
marry Maria, and so he must say plainly if called upon to declare
himself in the matter. There was an easiness about the family generally
which enabled him to hope that the difficulty would be light. It would
be as nothing compared with that coming scene between himself and aunt
Polly, perhaps between himself and his uncle Babington, or
perhaps,--worse again,--between himself and Julia!
When he found himself alone with Maria in the drawing-room on the
following morning, he almost thought that it must have been arranged by
the family. 'Doesn't it seem almost no time since you went away,' said
the young lady.
'It has gone quickly;--but a great deal has been done.'
'I suppose so. Poor Dick!'
'Yes, indeed! Poor fellow! We can only hope about Dick. I have been
speaking to your father about him.'
'Of course we all know that you did your very best for him. He has said
so himself when he has written. But you;--you have been fortunate.'
'Yes, I have done very well. There is so much chance at it that there is
nothing to be proud of.'
'I am sure there is a great deal;--cleverness, and steadiness, and
courage, and all that. We were delighted to hear it, though poor Dick
could not share it with you. You have made an immense fortune.'
'Oh dear no,--not that. I have been able to get over the little
difficulties which I left behind me when I went away, and have got
something in hand to live upon.'
'I suppose I shall go back again,' said Caldigate, with an air of
'Go back again!' said Maria, who had not imagined this. But still a man
going back to Australia might take a wife with him. She would not object
to the voyage. Her remembrance of the evening on which she had crept
down and put the little book into his valise was so strong that she felt
herself to be justified in being in love with him. 'But not for always?'
'Certainly not;--but just to wind up affairs.'
It would be no more than a pleasant wedding-tour,--and, perhaps, she
could do something for poor Dick. She could take the shirts so far on
'Oh, Mr. Caldigate, how well I remember that last night!'
'So indeed, do I,--and the book.' The hardship upon the moth is that
though he has already scorched himself terribly in the flame, and burned
up all the tender fibre of his wings, yet he can't help returning to the
seductions of the tallow-candle till his whole body has become a
wretched cinder. Why should he have been the first to speak of the book?
Of course she blushed, and of course she stammered But in spite of her
stammering she could say a word. 'I dare say you never looked at it.'
'Indeed I did,--very often. Once when Dick saw it in my hands, he wanted
to take it away from me.'
'But I have never parted with it for an hour!'
'Where is it now?' she asked.
'Here,' said Caldigate, pulling it out of the breast-pocket of his
coat. If he had had the presence of mind to say that he had lent the
book to another young lady, and that she had never returned it, there
might probably have been an end of this little trouble at once. But when
the little volume appeared, just as though it had been kept close to his
heart during all these four years, of course she was entitled to hope.
He had never opened the book since that morning in his cabin, not caring
for the academic beauties of Thomson's 'Seasons;'--had never looked at
it till it had occurred to him as proper that he should take it with him
to Pollington. Now he brought it out of his pocket, and she put out her
hand to receive it from him. 'You are not going to take it back again?'
'Certainly not if it be of any value to you?'
'Do you not value the presents which your friends make you?'
'If I care for the friends, I do.'
'As I care very much for this friend I shall keep the book.'
'I don't think that can be true, Mr. Caldigate?'
He was painfully near the blaze;--determined not to be burned, and yet
with no powers of flying away from the candle into the farthest corner
of the room. 'Why not true? I have kept it hitherto. It has been with me
in many very strange places.'
Then there was a pause,--while he thought of escaping, and she of
utilising the occasion. And yet it was not in her nature to be
unmaidenly or aggressive Only if he did like her it would be so very
nice, and it is so often the case that men want a little encouragement I
dare say you thought more of the book than the donor.'
'That is intended to be unkind.'
'No;--certainly not. I can never be unkind to a friend who has been so
very good as you were to poor Dick. Whatever else may happen, I
shall,--never,--forget--that.' By this time there was a faint sound of
sobbing to be heard, and then she turned away her face that she might
wipe a tear from her eyes. It was a real tear, and a real sob, and she
really thought that she was in love with him.
'I know I ought not to have come here,' he said.
'Why not?' she asked energetically.
'Because my coming would give rise to so much sadness about your
'I am so glad you have come,--so very glad. Of course we wanted to hear.
'Papa and mamma, and all of them, are so glad to see you. We never
forget old friends.' Then again there was silence. 'Never,' she
repeated, as she rose from her chair slowly and went out of the room.
Though he had fluttered flamewards now and again, though he had shown
some moth-like aptitudes, he had not shown himself to be a downright,
foolish, blind-eyed moth, determined to burn himself to a cinder as a
moth should do. And she;--she was weak. Having her opportunity at
command, she went away and left him, because she did not know what more
to say. She went away to her own bedroom, and cried, and had a headache,
during the remainder of the day. And yet there was no other day!
Late that evening, just at the hour when, on the previous night, he was
closeted with the father, he found himself closeted with the mother.
'She has never forgotten you for one moment since you left us,' said the
mother. Mrs. Shand had rushed into the subject so quickly that these
were almost the first words she said to him. He remained quite quiet,
looking out from the open window into the moonlight. When a distinct
proposition was made to him like this, he certainly would not be a moth.
'I don't know whether you have thought of her too, Mr. Caldigate.' He
only shook his head. 'That is so?'
'I hope you do not think that I have been to blame in any way,' he said,
with a conscience somewhat stricken;--for he remembered well that he
had kissed the young lady on that evening four years ago.
'Oh no. I have no complaint to make. My poor child! It is a pity. But I
have nothing more to say. It must be so then?'
'I am the least settled man in all the world, Mrs. Shand.'
'But at some future time?'
'I fear not. My mind is intent on other things.' So it was;--intent on
Hester Bolton! But the statement as he made it, was certainly false, for
it was intended to deceive. Mrs. Shand shook hands with him kindly,
however, as she sent him away to bed, telling him that breakfast should
be ready for him at eight the next morning.
His train left Pollington at nine, and at eight the doctor with all his
family were there to greet him at the breakfast-table,--with all the
family except Maria. The mother, in the most natural tone in the world,
said that poor Maria had a headache and could not come down. They filled
his plate with eggs and bacon and toast, and were as good to him as
though he had blighted no hopes and broken no heart. He whispered one
word at going to the doctor. 'Pray remember that whenever you think the
money can be of use, it is there. I consider that I owe him quite as
much as that.' The father grasped his hand, and all of them blessed him
as he went.
'If I can only get away from Babington as easily!' he said to himself,
as he took his place in the railway carriage.
Again at Babington
The affair of Julia Babington had been made to him in set terms, and
had, if not accepted, not been at once refused. No doubt this had
occurred four years ago, and, if either of them had married since, they
would have met each other without an unpleasant reminiscence. But they
had not done so, and there was no reason why the original proposition
should not hold good. After escaping from Babington he had, indeed,
given various reasons why such a marriage was impossible. He had sold
his inheritance. He was a ruined man. He was going out to Australia as a
simple miner. It was only necessary for him to state all this, and it
became at once evident that he was below the notice of Julia Babington.
But everything had been altered since that. He had regained his
inheritance, he had come back a rich man, and he was more than ever
indebted to the family because of the violent fight they had made on his
behalf, just as he was going. As he journeyed to Babington all this was
clear to him; and it was clear to him also that, from his first entrance
into the house, he must put on an air of settled purpose, he must gird
up his loins seriously, he must let it be understood that he was not as
he used to be, ready for worldly lectures from his aunt, or for romping
with his female cousins, or for rats, or rabbits, or partridges, with
the male members of the family. The cares of the world must be seen to
sit heavy on him, and at the very first mention of a British wife he
must declare himself to be wedded to Polyeuka.
At Babington he was received with many fatted calves. The whole family
were there to welcome him, springing out upon him and dragging him out
of the fly as soon as he had entered the park gates. Aunt Polly almost
fainted as she was embracing him under an oak tree; and tears, real
tears, ran down the squire's face as he shook both his nephew's hands at
once. 'By George,' said the Babington heir, 'you're the luckiest fellow
I ever heard of! We all thought Folking was gone for good.' As though
the possessions of Folking were the summit of human bliss! Caldigate
with all the girls around him could not remonstrate with words, but his
spirit did remonstrate. 'Oh, John, we are so very, very, very, very glad
to have you back again,' said Julia, sobbing and laughing at the same
time. He had kissed them all of course, and now Julia was close to his
elbow as he walked up to the house.
In the midst of all this there was hardly opportunity for that
deportment which he meant to exercise. When fatted calves are being
killed for you by the dozen, it is very difficult to repudiate the good
nature of the slaughterers. Little efforts he did make even before he
got to the house. 'I hardly know how I stand just yet,' he had said, in
answer to his uncle's congratulations as to his wealth. 'I must go out
again at any rate.'
'Back to Australia?' asked his aunt.
'I fear so. It is a kind of business,--gold-mining,--in which it is very
hard for a man to know what he's worth. A claim that has been giving you
a thousand pounds net every month for two years past, comes all of
sudden a great deal worse than valueless. You can't give it up, and you
have to throw back your thousands in profitless work.'
'I wouldn't do that,' said the squire.
'I'd stick to what I'd got,' said the Babington heir.
'It is a very difficult business,' said Caldigate, with a considerable
amount of deportment, and an assumed look of age,--as though the cares
of gold-seeking had made him indifferent to all the lighter joys of
'But you mean to live at Folking?' asked Aunt Polly.
'I should think probably not. But a man situated as I am, never can say
where he means to live.'
'But you are to have Folking?' whispered the squire,--whispered it so
that all the party heard the words;--whispering not from reticence but
'That's the idea at present,' said the Folking heir. 'But Polyeuka is so
much more to me than Folking. A gold mine with fifty or sixty thousand
pounds worth of plant about it, Aunt Polly, is an imperious mistress.'
In all this our hero was calumniating himself. Polyeuka and the plant he
was willing to abandon on very moderate terms, and had arranged to wipe
his hands of the whole concern if those moderate terms were accepted.
But cousin Julia and aunt Polly were enemies against whom it was
necessary to assume whatever weapons might come to his hand.
He had arranged to stay a week at Babington. He had considered it all
very deeply, and had felt that as two days was the least fraction of
time which he could with propriety devote to the Shands, so must he give
at least a week to Babington. There was, therefore, no necessity for any
immediate violence on the part of the ladies. The whole week might
probably have been allowed to pass without absolute violence, had he not
shown by various ways that he did not intend to make many visits to the
old haunts of his childhood before his return to Australia. When he said
that he should not hunt in the coming winter; that he feared his hand
was out for shooting; that he had an idea of travelling on the Continent
during the autumn; and that there was no knowing when he might be
summoned back to Polyeuka, of course there came across Aunt Polly's
mind,--and probably also across Julia's mind,--an idea that he meant to
give them the slip again. On the former occasion he had behaved badly.
This was their opinion. But, as it had turned out, his circumstances at
the moment were such as to make his conduct pardonable. He had been
harassed by the importunities both of his father and of Davis; and
that, under such circumstances, he should have run away from his
affianced bride, was almost excusable, But now----! It was very
different now. Something must be settled. It was very well to talk about
Polyeuka. A man who has engaged himself in business must, no doubt,
attend to it. But married men can attend to business quite as well as
they who are single. At any rate, there could be no reason why the
previous engagement should not be consolidated and made a family affair.
There was felt to be something almost approaching to resistance in what
he had said and done already. Therefore Aunt Polly flew to her weapons,
and summoned Julia also to take up arms. He must be bound at once with
chains, but the chains were made as soft as love and flattery could make
them. Aunt Polly was almost angry,--was prepared to be very angry;--but
not the less did she go on killing fatted calves.
There were archery meetings at this time through the country, the period
of the year being unfitted for other sports. It seemed to Caldigate as
though all the bows and all the arrows had been kept specially for
him,--as though he was the great toxophilite of the age,--whereas no man
could have cared less for the amusement than he. He was carried here and
was carried there; and then there was a great gathering in their own
park at home. But it always came to pass that he and Julia were shooting
together,--as though it were necessary that she should teach him,--that
she should make up by her dexterity for what was lost by his
awkwardness,--that she by her peculiar sweetness should reconcile him to
his new employment Before the week was over, there was a feeling among
all the dependants at Babington, and among many of the neighbours, that
everything was settled, and that Miss Julia was to be the new mistress
Caldigate knew that it was so. He perceived the growth of the feeling
from day to day. He could not say that he would not go to the meetings,
all of which had been arranged beforehand. Nor could he refuse to stand
up beside his cousin Julia and shoot his arrows directly after she had
shot hers. Nor could he refrain from acknowledging that though she was
awkward in a drawing-room, she was a buxom young woman dressed in green
with a feather in her hat and a bow in her hand; and then she could
always shoot her arrows straight into the bull's-eye. But he was well
aware that the new hat had been bought specially for him, and that the
sharpest arrow from her quiver was intended to be lodged in his heart.
He was quite determined that any such shooting as that should be
'Has he said anything?' the mother asked the daughter. 'Not a word.'
This occurred on the Sunday night. He had reached Babington on the
previous Tuesday, and was to go to Folking on next Tuesday. 'Not a
word.' The reply was made in a tone almost of anger. Julia did believe
that her cousin had been engaged to her, and that she actually had a
right to him, now that he had come back, no longer ruined.
'Some men never do,' said Aunt Polly, not wishing to encourage her
daughter's anger just at present. 'Some men are never left alone with a
girl for half a moment, but what they are talking stuff and nonsense.
Others never seem to think about it in the least. But whether it's the
one or whether it's the other, it makes no difference afterwards. He
never had much talk of that kind. I'll just say a word to him, Julia.'
The saying of the word was put off till late on Sunday evening. Sunday
was rather a trying day at Babington. If hunting, shooting, fishing,
croquet, lawn-billiards, bow and arrows, battledore and shuttle-cock,
with every other game, as games come up and go, constitute a worldly
kind of life, the Babingtons were worldly. There surely never was a
family in which any kind of work was so wholly out of the question, and
every amusement so much a matter of course. But if worldliness and
religion are terms opposed to each other, then they were not worldly.
There were always prayers for the whole household morning and evening.
There were two services on Sunday, at the first of which the males, and
at both of which the females, were expected to attend. But the great
struggle came after dinner at nine o'clock, when Aunt Polly always read
a sermon out loud to the assembled household. Aunt Polly had a certain
power of her own, and no one dared to be absent except the single
servant who was left in the kitchen to look after the fire.
The squire himself was always there, but a peculiar chair was placed for
him, supposed to be invisible to the reader, in which he slept during
the whole time, subject to correction from a neighbouring daughter in
the event of his snoring. An extra bottle of port after dinner was
another Sunday observance which added to the irritability of the
occasion,--so that the squire, when the reading and prayers were over,
would generally be very cross, and would take himself up to bed almost
without a word, and the brothers would rush away almost with indecent
haste to their smoking. As the novels had all been put away into a
cupboard, and the good books which were kept for the purpose strewed
about in place of them, and as knitting, and even music, were tabooed,
the girls, having nothing to do, would also go away at an early hour.
'John, would you mind staying a few moments with me?' said Aunt Polly,
in her softest voice when Caldigate was hurrying after his male cousins.
He knew that the hour had come, and he girded up his loins.
'Come nearer, John,' she said,--and he came nearer, so that she could
put her hand upon his. 'Do you remember, John, when you and I and Julia
were together in that little room up-stairs?' There was so much pathos
in her voice, she did her acting so well, that his respect for her was
greatly augmented,--as was also his fear. 'She remembers it very well.'
'Of course I remember it, Aunt Polly. It's one of those things that a
man doesn't forget.'
'A man ought not to forget such a scene as that,' she said, shaking her
head. 'A man would be very hard of heart if he could forget it.'
Now must be the moment for his exertion! She had spoken so plainly as to
leave no doubt of her meaning, and she was pausing for an answer; yet he
hesitated,--not in his purpose, but doubting as to his own manner of
declaring it. He must be very decided. Upon that he was resolved. He
would be decided, though they should drag him in pieces with wild horses
for it afterwards. But he would fain be gentle with his aunt if it were
possible. 'My dear Aunt Polly, it won't do; I'm not going to be caught,
and so you may as well give it over.' That was what he wished her to
understand;--but he would not say it in such language. Much was due to
her, though she was struggling to catch him in a trap. 'When I had made
such a fool of myself before I went--about money,' he said, 'I thought
that was all over.'
'But you have made anything but a fool of yourself since,' she replied
triumphantly; 'you have gone out into the world like a man, and have
made your fortune, and have so returned that everybody is proud of you.
Now you can take a wife to yourself and settle down, and be a happy
It was exactly his view of life;--only there was a difference about the
wife to be taken. He certainly had never said a word to his cousin which
could justify this attack upon him. The girl had been brought to him in
a cupboard, and he had been told that he was to marry her! And that when
he had been young and drowned with difficulties. How is a man ever to
escape if he must submit under such circumstances as these? 'My dear
Aunt Polly, I had better tell you at once that I cannot marry my cousin
Julia.' Those were the words which he did speak, and as he spoke there
was a look about his eyes and his mouth which ought to have made her
know that there was no hope.
'And why not? John Caldigate, is this you that I hear?'
'Why should I?'
'Because you promised it.'
'I never did, Aunt Polly.'
'And because she loves you.'
'Even if it were so, am I to be bound by that? But, indeed, indeed, I
never even suggested it,--never thought of it. I am very fond of my
cousin, very fond of all my cousins. But marriage is a different thing.
I am inclined to think that cousins had better not marry.'
'You should have said that before. But it is nonsense. Cousins marry
every day. There is nothing about it either in the Bible or the
Prayer-book. She will die.'
Aunt Polly said this in a tone of voice which made it a matter of regret
that she should not have been educated for Drury Lane. But as she said
it, he could not avoid thinking of Julia's large ankles, and red cheeks,
and of the new green hat and feather. A girl with large ankles is, one
may suppose, as liable to die for love as though she were as fine about
her feet as a thorough-bred filly; and there is surely no reason why a
true heart and a pair of cherry cheeks should not go together. But our
imagination has created ideas in such matters so fixed, that it is
useless to contend against them. In our endeavours to produce effects,
these ideas should be remembered and obeyed. 'I hope not on that
account,' said Caldigate, and as he uttered the words some slightest
suspicion of a smile crossed his face.
Then Aunt Polly blazed forth in wrath. 'And at such a moment as this
you can laugh!'
'Indeed, I did not laugh;--I am very far from laughing, Aunt Polly.'
'Because I am anxious for my child, my child whom you have deceived, you
make yourself merry with me!'
'I am not merry. I am miserably unhappy because of all this. But I
cannot admit that I have deceived my cousin. All that was settled, I
thought, when I went away. But coming back at the end of four years, of
four such long years, with very different ideas of life----'
'Well,--at any rate, with ideas of having my own way,--I cannot submit
myself to this plan of yours, which, though it would have given me so
'It would give you everything, sir.'
'Granted! But I cannot take everything. It is better that we should
understand each other, so that my cousin, for whom I have the most
sincere regard, should not be annoyed.'
'Much you care!'
'What shall I say?'
'It signifies nothing what you say. You are a false man. You have
inveigled your cousin's affections, and now you say that you can do
nothing for her. This comes from the sort of society you have kept out
at Botany Bay! I suppose a man's word there is worth nothing, and that
the women are of such a kind they don't mind it. It is not the way with
gentlemen here in England; let me tell you that!' Then she stalked out
of the room, leaving him either to go to bed, or join the smokers or to
sit still and repent at his leisure, as he might please. His mind,
however, was chiefly occupied for the next half-hour with thinking
whether it would be possible for him to escape from Babington on the
Before the morning he had resolved that, let the torment of the day be
what it might, he would bear it,--unless by chance he might be turned
out of the house. But no tragedy such as that came to relieve him. Aunt
Polly gave him his tea at breakfast with a sternly forbidding look,--and
Julia was as cherry-cheeked as ever, though very silent. The killing of
calves was over, and he was left to do what he pleased during the whole
day. One spark of comfort came to him. 'John, my boy,' said his uncle in
a whisper, 'what's the matter between you and Madame?' Mr. Babington
would sometimes call his wife Madame when he was half inclined to laugh
at her. Caldigate of course declared that there was nothing wrong. The
squire shook his head and went away. But from this it appeared to
Caldigate that the young lady's father was not one of the
conspirators,--by ascertaining which his mind was somewhat relieved.
On the next morning the fly came for him, and he went away without any
kisses. Upon the whole he was contented with both his visits, and was
inclined to assure himself that a man has only to look a difficulty in
the face, and that the difficulty will be difficult no longer.
Again at Puritan Grange
As Caldigate travelled home to Folking he turned many things in his
mind. In the first place he had escaped, and that to him was a matter of
self-congratulation. He had declared his purpose in reference to his
cousin Julia very clearly;--and though he had done so he had not
quarrelled utterly with the family. As far as the young lady's father
was concerned or her brothers, there had been no quarrel at all. The
ill-will against him was confined to the women. But as he thought of it
all, he was not proud of himself. He had received great kindness from
their hands, and certainly owed them much in return. When he had been a
boy he had been treated almost as one of the family;--but as he had not
been quite one of them, would it not have been natural that he should be
absorbed in the manner proposed? And then he could not but admit to
himself that he had been deficient in proper courage when he had been
first caught and taken into the cupboard. On that occasion he had
neither accepted nor rejected the young lady; and in such a matter as
this silence certainly may be supposed to give consent. Though he
rejoiced in his escape he was not altogether proud of his conduct in
reference to his friends at Babington.
Would it not have been better that he should have told his aunt frankly
that his heart was engaged elsewhere? The lady's name would have been
asked, and the lady's name could not have been given. But he might in
this way have prepared the way for the tidings which would have to be
communicated should he finally be successful with Hester Bolton. Now
such news would reach them as an aggravation of the injury. For that,
however, there could be no remedy. The task at present before him was
that of obtaining a footing in the house at Chesterton, and the more he
thought of it the more he was at a loss to know how to set about it.
They could not intend to shut such a girl up, through all her young
years, as in a convent. There must be present to the minds of both of
them an idea that marriage would be good for her, or, at any rate, that
she should herself have some choice in the matter. And if there were to
be any son-in-law why should not he have as good a chance as any other?
When they should learn how constantly the girl's image had been present
to his mind, so far away, during so many years, under such hard
circumstances would not that recommend him to them? Had he not proved
himself to be steady, industrious, and a good man of business? In regard
to position and fortune was he not such as a father would desire for
his daughter? Having lost his claim to Folking, had he not regained
it;--and in doing so had he not shown himself to be something much more
than merely the heir to Folking? An immediate income would, of course,
be necessary;--but there was money enough. He would ask the old man for
nothing. Reports said that though the old man had been generous to his
own sons, still he was fond of money. He should have the opportunity of
bestowing his daughter in marriage without being asked for a shilling.
And then John Caldigate bethought himself with some pride that he could
make a proper settlement on his wife without burdening the estate at
Folking with any dowers. But of what use would be all this if he could
not get at the girl to tell her that he loved her?
He might, indeed, get at the father and tell his purpose plainly and
honestly. But he thought that his chance of prevailing with the girl
might be better than with the father. In such cases it is so often the
daughter who prevails with her own parents after she has surrendered her
own heart. The old man had looked at him sternly, had seemed even in
that moment of time to disapprove of him. But the girl----. Well; in
such an interview as that there had not been much scope for approval.
Nor was he a man likely to flatter himself that any girl could fall in
love with him at first sight. But she had not looked sternly at him. In
the few words which she had spoken her voice had been very sweet. Both
of them had said they remembered him after the long interval that had
passed;--but the manner of saying so had been very different. He was
almost sure that the old man would be averse to him, though he could
tell himself personally that there was no just cause for such aversion
But if this were so, he could not forward his cause by making his offer
through the father.
'Well, John, how has it gone with you at Babington?' his father asked
almost as soon as they were together.
It had not been difficult to tell his father of the danger before he
made his visit, but now he hesitated before he could avow that the young
lady's hand had again been offered to him. 'Pretty well, sir. We had a
good deal of archery and that kind of thing. It was rather slow.'
'I should think so. Was there nothing besides the archery?'
'The young lady was not troublesome?'
'Perhaps the less we say about it the better, sir. They were very kind
to me when I was a boy.'
'I have nothing to say at all, unless I am to be called on to welcome
her as a daughter-in-law.'
'You will not have to do that, sir.'
'I suppose, John, you mean to marry some day,' said the father after a
pause. Then it occurred to the son that he must have some one whom he
could trust in this matter which now occupied his mind, and that no one
probably might be so able to assist him as his father. 'I wish I knew
what your idea of life is,' continued Mr. Caldigate. 'I fear you will be
growing tired of this place, and that when you get back to your
gold-mines you will stay there.'
'There is no fear of that. I do not love the place well enough.'
'If you were settled here, I should feel more comfortable I sometimes
think, John, that if you would fix yourself I would give the property up
to you altogether and go away with my books into some town. Cambridge,
perhaps, would do as well as any other.'
'You must never do that, sir. You must not leave Folking. But as for
myself,--I have ideas about my own life.'
'Are they such that you can tell them?'
'Yes;--you shall hear them all. But I shall expect you to help me;--or
at least not turn against me?'
'Turn against you, John! I hope I may never have to do that again. What
is that you mean?' This he said very seriously. There was usually in his
voice something of a tone of banter,--a subdued cynicism,--which had
caused everybody near him to be afraid of him, and which even yet was
habitual to him. But now that was all gone. Was there to be any new
source of trouble betwixt him and his son?
'I intend to ask Hester Bolton to be my wife,' said John Caldigate.
The father, who was standing in the library, slapped both his hands down
upon the table. 'Hester Bolton!'
'Is there any objection?'
'What do you know about her? Why;--she's a child.'
'She is nearly twenty, sir.'
'Have you ever seen her?'
'Yes, I have seen her,--twice. I daresay you'll think it very absurd,
but I have made up my mind about it. If I say that I was thinking about
it all the time I was in Australia, of course you will laugh at me.'
'I will not laugh at you at all, John.'
'If any one else were to say so to me, I should laugh at them. But yet
it was so. Have you ever seen her?'
'I suppose I have. I think I remember a little girl.'
'For beauty I have never seen anybody equal to her,' said the lover. 'I
wish you'd go over to Chesterton and judge for yourself.'
'They wouldn't know what such a thing meant. It is years since I have
been in the house. I believe that Mrs. Bolton devotes herself to
religious exercises and that she regards me as a pagan.'
'That's just the difficulty, sir. How am I to get at her? But you may be
sure of this, I mean to do it. If I were beat I do think that then I
should go back and bury myself in the gold-mines. You asked me what I
meant to do about my future life. That is my purpose. If she were my
wife I should consult her. We might travel part of the time, and I might
have a farm. I should always look upon Folking as home. But till that
is settled, when you ask me what I mean to do with my life, I can only
say that I mean to marry Hester Bolton.'
'Did you tell them at Babington?'
'I have told nobody but you. How am I to set about it?'
Then Mr. Caldigate sat down and began to scratch his head and to
consider. 'I don't suppose they ever go out anywhere.'
'I don't think they do;--except to church.'
'You can't very well ask her there. You can always knock at the
'I can call again once;--but what if I am refused then? It is of no use
knocking if a man does not get in.' After a little more conversation the
squire was so far persuaded that he assented to the proposed marriage as
far as his assent was required; but he did not see his way to give any
assistance. He could only suggest that his son should go direct to the
father and make his proposition in the old-fashioned legitimate fashion.
But when it was put to him whether Mr. Bolton would not certainly reject
the offer unless it were supported by some goodwill on the part of his
own daughter, he acknowledged that it might probably be so. 'You see,'
said the squire, 'he believes in gold, but he doesn't believe in
'It is that accursed Davis that stands against me,' said the son.
John Caldigate, no doubt, had many things to trouble him. Before he had
resolved on making his second visit to Chesterton, he received a most
heartrending epistle from Aunt Polly in which he was assured that he was
quite as dear to her as ever, quite as dear as her own children, and in
which he was implored to return to the haunts of his childhood where
everybody loved him and admired him. After what had passed, he was
determined not to revisit the haunts till he was married, or, at any
rate, engaged to be married. But there was a difficulty in explaining
this to Aunt Polly without an appearance of ingratitude. And then there
were affairs in Australia which annoyed him. Tom Crinkett was taking
advantage of his absence in reference to Polyeuka,--that his presence
would soon be required there;--and other things were not going quite
smoothly. He had much to trouble him;--but still he was determined to
carry out his purpose with Hester Bolton. Since the day on which he had
roused himself to the necessity of an active life he had ever called
upon himself 'not to let the grass grow under his feet.' And he had
taught himself to think that there were few things a man could not
achieve if he would only live up to that motto. Therefore, though he was
perplexed by letters from Australia, and though his Aunt Polly was a
great nuisance, he determined to persevere at once. If he allowed
himself to revisit Nobble before he had settled this matter with Hester
Bolton, would it not be natural that Hester Bolton should be the wife of
some other man before he returned?
With all this on his mind he started off one day on horseback to
Cambridge. When he left Folking he had not quite made up his mind
whether he would go direct to the bank and ask for old Mr. Bolton, or
make a first attempt at that fortified castle at Chesterton. But on
entering the town he put his horse up at an inn just where the road
turns off to Chesterton, and proceeded on foot to the house. This was
about a mile distant from the stable, and as he walked that mile he
resolved that if he could get into the house at all he would declare his
purpose to some one before he left it. What was the use of
shilly-shallying? 'Who ever did anything by letting the grass grow under
his feet?' So he knocked boldly at the door and asked for Mrs. Bolton.
After a considerable time, the maid came and told him, apparently with
much hesitation, that Mrs. Bolton was at home. He was quite determined
to ask for Miss Bolton if Mrs. Bolton were denied to him. But the girl
said that Mrs. Bolton was at home, seeming by her manner to say at the
same time, 'I cannot tell a lie about it, because of the sin; but I
don't know what business you can have here, and I'm sure that my
mistress does not want to see any such a one as you.' Nevertheless she
showed him into the big sitting-room on the left hand of the hall, and
as he entered he saw the skirts of a lady's dress vanishing through
another door. Had there been a moment allowed him he would boldly have
called the lady back, for he was sure that the lady was Hester;--but the
lady was gone and the door closed before he could open his mouth.
Then he waited for full ten minutes, which, of course, seemed to him to
be very much more than an hour. At last the door was opened and Mrs.
Bolton appeared. The reader is not to suppose that she was an ugly,
cross-looking old woman. She was neither ugly, nor old, nor cross. When
she had married Mr. Bolton, she had been quite young, and now she was
not much past forty. And she was handsome too, with a fine oval face
which suited well with the peculiar simplicity of her dress and the
sober seriousness of her gait and manner. It might, perhaps, be said of
her that she tried to look old and ugly,--and cross too, but that she
did not succeed. She now greeted her visitor very coldly, and having
asked after old Mr. Caldigate, sat silent looking at John Caldigate as
though there were nothing more possible for her to say.
'I could not but come to see you and thank you for your kindness before
I went,' said John.
'I remember your coming about some business. We have very few visitors
'I went out, you know, as a miner.'
'I think I heard Mr. Bolton say so.'
'And I have succeeded very well.'
'So well that I have been able to come back; and though I may perhaps
be obliged to revisit the colony to settle my affairs there, I am going
to live here at home.'
'I hope that will be comfortable to you.' At every word she spoke, her
voice took more and more plainly that tone of wonder which we are all of
us apt to express when called on to speak on matters which we are at the
moment astonished to have introduced to us.
'Yes; Mrs. Bolton, I hope it will. And now I have got something
particular to say.'
'Perhaps you had better see--Mr. Bolton--at the bank.'
'I hope I may be able to do so. I quite intend it. But as I am here, if
you will allow me, I will say a word to you first. In all matters there
is nothing so good as being explicit.' She looked at him as though she
was altogether afraid of him. And indeed she was. Her husband's opinion
of the young man had been very bad five years ago,--and she had not
heard that it had been altered since. Young men who went out to the
colonies because they were ruined, were, to her thinking, the worst
among the bad,--men who drank and gambled and indulged in strange lives,
mere castaways, the adopted of Satan. And, to her thinking, among men,
none were so rough as miners,--and among miners none were so godless, so
unrestrained so wild as the seekers after gold. She had read, perhaps,
something of the Spaniards in Central America, and regarded such
adventurers as she would pirates and freebooters generally. And then
with regard to the Caldigates generally,--the elder of whom she knew to
have been one of her husband's intimate friends in his less regenerated
days,--she believed them to be infidel freethinkers. She was not,
therefore, by any means predisposed in favour of this young man; and
when he spoke of his desire to be explicit, she thought that he had
better be explicit anywhere rather than in her drawing-room. 'You may
remember,' he said, 'that I had the pleasure of meeting your daughter
here before I left the country five years ago.' Then she listened with
all her ears. There were not many things in this empty, vain, hard
unattractive world which excited her. But the one thing in regard to
which she had hopes and fears, doubts and resolutions,--the one matter
as to which she knew that she must ever be on her guard, and yet as to
which she hardly knew how she was to exercise her care,--was her child.
'And once I have seen her since I have been back, though only for a
moment.' Then he paused as though expecting that she should say
something;--but what was it possible that she should say? She only
looked at him with all her eyes, and retreated a little from him with
her body, as anxious to get away from a man of his class who should dare
even to speak to her of her girl. 'The truth is, Mrs. Bolton, that her
image has been present to me through all my wanderings, and I am here to
ask her to be my wife.' She rose from her chair as though to fly from
him,--and then sitting down again stared at him with her mouth open and
her eyes fixed upon him. His wife! Her Hester to become the wife of such
a one as that! Her girl, as to whom, when thinking of the future life of
her darling, she had come to tell herself that there could be no man
good enough, pure enough, true enough, firm enough in his faith and
life, to have so tender, so inestimable a treasure committed to his
Caldigate felt at the moment that he had been very abrupt,--so abrupt as
to have caused infinite dismay. But then it had been necessary that he
should be abrupt in order that he might get the matter understood. The
ordinary approaches were not open to him, and unless he had taken a
more than usually rapid advantage of the occasion which he had made for
himself, he would have had to leave the house without having been able
to give any of its inmates the least idea of his purpose. And then,--as
he said to himself,--matrimony is honest. He was in all worldly respects
a fit match for the young lady. To his own thinking there was nothing
preposterous in the nature of his request, though it might have been
made with some precipitate informality. He did not regard himself
exactly as the lady regarded him, and therefore, though he saw her
surprise, he still hoped that he might be able to convince her that in
all that he was doing he was as anxious for the welfare of her child as
she could be herself.
She sat there so long without saying a word that he found himself
obliged to renew his suit. 'Of course, Mrs. Bolton, I am aware how very
little you know of me.'
'Nothing at all,' she answered, hurriedly;--'or rather too much.'
He blushed up to his eyes, perfectly understanding the meaning of her
words; and, knowing that he had not deserved them, he was almost angry.
'If you will make inquiry I think you will find that I have so far
succeeded as to justify you in hoping that I may be able to marry and
settle myself in my own country.'
'You don't know my daughter at all.'
'It is quite out of the question. She is very young, and such a thing
has never occurred to her. And we are not the same sort of people.'
'Why not, Mrs. Bolton? Your husband and my father have been intimate
friends for a great many years. It is not as though I had taken up the
idea only yesterday. It has been present with me, comforting me, during
all my work, for the last five years. I know all your daughter's
features as though she had been my constant companion.' The lady
shivered and almost trembled at this profanation of her child's name.
It was trouble to her that one so holy should ever have been thought
about by one so unholy. 'Of course I do not ask for anything at
present;--but will you not consult your husband as to the propriety of
allowing her to make my acquaintance?'
'I shall tell my husband, of course.'
'And will repeat to him what I say?'
'I shall tell him,--as I should any other most wild proposition that
might be made to me. But I am quite sure that he will be very angry.'
'Angry! why should he be angry?'
'Because----' Then she stopped.
'I do not think, Mrs. Bolton, that there can be any cause for anger. If
I were a beggar, if I were below her in position, if I had not means to
keep a wife,--even if I were a stranger to his name, he might be angry.
But I do not think he can be angry with me, now, because, in the most
straightforward way, I come to the young lady's parents and tell them
that I love their child. Is it a disgrace to me that of all whom I have
seen I think her to be the loveliest and best? Her father may reject me;
but he will be very unreasonable if he is angry with me.'
She could not tell him about the dove and the kite, or the lamb and the
wolf. She could not explain to him that he was a sinner, unregenerated,
a wild man in her estimation, a being of quite another kind than
herself, and therefore altogether unfitted to be the husband of her
girl! Her husband, no doubt, could do all this--if he would. But then
she too had her own skeleton in her own cupboard. She was not quite
assured of her own husband's regeneration. He went to church regularly,
and read his Bible, and said his prayers. But she feared,--she was
almost sure,--that he liked the bank-books better than his Bible. That
he would reject this offer from John Caldigate, she did not doubt. She
had always heard her husband speak of the man with disapprobation and
scorn. She had heard the whole story of Davis and the Newmarket debts.
She had heard, too, the man's subsequent prosperity spoken of as a thing
of chance,--as having come from gambling on an extensive scale. She
herself regarded money acquired in so unholy a way as likely to turn to
slate-stones, or to fly away and become worse than nothing. She knew
that Mr. Bolton, whether regenerate or not, regarded young Caldigate as
an adventurer, and that therefore, the idea of such a marriage would be
as unpalatable to him as to herself. But she did not dare to tell her
visitor that he was an unregenerate kite, lest her husband would not
'Whatever more you have got to say, you had better say it to him,' she
replied to the lover when he had come to the end of his defence. At that
moment the door opened, and a gentleman entered the room. This was Mr.
Robert Bolton, the attorney. Now of all her husband's sons,--who were,
of course, not her sons,--Mrs. Bolton saw this one the most frequently
and perhaps liked him the least. Or it might be juster to say that she
was more afraid of him than of the others. The two eldest, who were both
in the bank, were quiet, sober men, who lived affluently and were
married to religious wives, and brought up their children plentifully
and piously. She did not see very much of them, because her life was not
a social life. But among her friends they were the most intimate. But
Robert's wife was given to gaiety and dinner-parties and had been seen
even at balls. And Robert himself was much oftener at the Grange than
either of the other brothers. He managed his father's private affairs,
and was, perhaps, of all his sons the best liked by the father. He was
prosperous in his business and was reported to be the leading lawyer in
the town. In the old Cambridge days he had entertained John Caldigate at
his house; and though they had not met since the miner's return from
Australia, each at once knew the other, and their greeting was friendly
'Where's Hess?' said Robert, asking at once after his sister.
'She is engaged, Robert,' said Mrs. Bolton, very seriously, and very
'She gave me a commission about some silk, and Margaret says that it
can't be executed in Cambridge. She must write to Fanny.' Margaret was
Mrs. Robert Bolton, and Fanny was the wife of the barrister brother who
lived in London.
'I will tell her, Robert.'
'All the same I should have liked to have seen her.'
'She is engaged, Robert.' This was said almost more seriously and more
firmly than before.
'Well, Caldigate,' said the attorney, turning to the visitor, 'so you
are the one man who has not only gone to the gold country and found
gold, but has brought his gold home with him.'
'I have brought a little home;--but I hope others have done so before.'
'I have never heard of any. You seem to have been uncommonly lucky. Hard
work, wasn't it?'
'Hard enough at first.'
'And a good deal of chance?'
'If a man will work steadily, and has backbone enough to stand up
against reverses without consoling himself with drink; and if, when the
gold comes, he can refrain from throwing it about as though it were
endless, I think a man may be tolerably sure to earn something.' Then he
told the story of the horse with the golden shoes.
'Shoes of gold upon a horse!' said Mrs. Bolton, holding up both her
hands. The man who could even tell such a story must be an adventurer.
But, nevertheless the story had interested her so that she had been
enticed into taking some part in the conversation.
When Caldigate got up to take his leave, Robert Bolton offered to walk
back to the town with him. He had expected to find his father, but
would now look for him at the bank. They started together; and as they
went Caldigate told his story to the young lady's half-brother. It
occurred to him that of all the family Robert Bolton would be the most
reasonable in such a matter; and that of all the family he might perhaps
be the best able to give assistance. When Robert Bolton had heard it
all, at first he whistled. Then he asked the following question. 'What
did she say to you?'
'She did not give me much encouragement.'
'I should think not. Though I say it who shouldn't, Hester is the
sweetest girl in Cambridgeshire. But her mother thinks her much too good
to be given in marriage to any man. This kind of thing was bound to come
about some day.'
'But Mrs. Bolton seems to have some personal objection to me.'
'I don't know why she should.'
'She has got one treasure of her own, in enjoying which she is shut out
from all the rest of the world. Is it unnatural that she should be a
little suspicious about a man who proposes to take her treasure away
'She must surrender her treasure to some one,--some day.'
'If it be so, she will hope to do so to a man of whose antecedents she
may know more than she does of yours. What she does know of you is of a
nature to frighten her. You will excuse me.'
'Oh, of course.'
'She has heard that you went away under a cloud, having surrendered your
estate. That was against you. Well;--you have come back, and she hears
that you have brought some money with you. She does not care very much
about money; but she does care about regularity and fixed habits. If
Hess is to be married at all she would especially wish that her husband
should be a religious man. Perhaps you are.'
'I am neither the one thing nor the other,--especially.'
'And therefore peculiarly dangerous in her eyes It is natural that she
should oppose you.'
'What am I to do, then?'
'Ah! How am I to answer that? The whole story is very romantic, and I do
not know that we are a romantic family. My father is autocratic in his
This last assurance seemed to contain some comfort As Mrs. Bolton would
be his enemy in the matter, it was well that the power of deciding
should be in other hands. 'I do not mean to give it up,' said he.
'I suppose you must if they won't open their doors to you.'
'I think they ought to allow me to have the chance of seeing her.'
'I don't see why they should. Mind I am not saying anything of this for
myself. If I were my sister's guardian, I should take the trouble to
make many inquiries before I either asked you into my house or declined
to do so. I should not give access to you, or to any other gentleman
merely because he asked it.'
'Let them make inquiry.'
'Mrs. Bolton probably thinks that she already knows enough. What my
father may say I cannot even surmise.'
'Will you tell him?'
'If you wish it.'
'Tell him also that I will wait upon him at once if he desires it. He
shall know everything about my affairs,--which indeed require no
concealment. I can settle enough upon her for her comfort. If she is to
have anything of her own, that will be over and above. As far as I am
concerned myself, I ask no question about that. I think that a man ought
to earn enough for himself and for his wife too. As to religion----'
'If I were you, I would leave that alone,' said the lawyer.
'I will tell my father. That is all I can say. Good-bye.'
So they parted; and Caldigate, getting on his horse, rode back to
Folking. Looking back at what he had done that day, he was almost
disposed to be contented with it. The lady's too evident hostility was,
of course, to be deprecated;--but then he had expected it. As Robert
Bolton had explained to him very clearly, it was almost impossible that
he should, at the first, be regarded by her with favourable eyes. But he
thought that the brother had been quite as favourable to him as he could
have expected, and the ice was broken. The Bolton family generally would
know what he was about. Hester would not be told, of course;--at any
rate, not at once. But the first steps had been taken, and it must be
for him now so to press the matter that the ultimate decision should be
made to rest in her hands as soon as possible.
'What did Mr. Bolton say to you?' asked the squire.
'I did not see him.'
'And what did the young lady say?'
'I did not see her.'
'Or the mamma?'
'I did see her, and told her my project.'
'I should think she would be startled?'
'She was not very propitious, sir; but that was not to be expected.'
'She is a poor melancholy half-crazed creature, I take it,' said the
squire; 'at least, that is what I hear. The girl, I should think, would
be glad to get away from such a home. But I am afraid you will find a
good many obstacles.' After that nothing more was said about the matter
at Folking for some days.
But there was a great deal said upon the matter both in Cambridge and at
Chesterton. Robert Bolton found his father at the bank on the same
afternoon, and performed his promise. 'Did he see your step-mother?'
asked the old man.
'Oh yes; and as far as I can understand, did not receive very much
favour at her hands.'
'But he did not see Hester?'
'Certainly not to-day.'
Then the old man looked up into his son's face, as though seeking some
expression there from which he might take some counsel. His own nature
had ever been imperious; but he was old now, and, in certain
difficulties which environed him, he was apt to lean on his son Robert.
It was Robert who encouraged him still to keep in his hands some share
of the management of the bank; and it was to Robert that he could look
for counsel when the ceremonious strictness of his wife at home became
almost too hard even for him.
'It is natural to suppose that Hester should be married some day,' said
'Her mother will never wish it.'
'She will never wish it at any given moment, but she would probably
assent to the proposition generally. Why not Hester as well as another
girl? It is the happiest life for women.'
'I am not sure. I am not sure.'
'Women think so themselves, and Hester will probably be the same as
others. She will, of course, have an opinion of her own.'
'She will be guided by her mother.'
'Not altogether. It will only be fair that she should be consulted on a
matter of such importance to herself.'
'You would not tell her what this man has been saying?'
'Not necessarily. I say that she should be consulted generally as to her
future life. In regard to this man, I see no objection to him if he be a
'He was here at college. You know what he did then?'
'Yes; and I know, too, something of what he has done since. He went away
disinherited and almost degraded. He has come back, as I hear,
comparatively a rich man. He has got back his inheritance, which might
probably be settled on his children if he were to be married. And all
this he has done off his own bat. Where other men stumble so frequently,
he has stood on his legs. No doubt, he has lived with rough people, but
still he seems to be a gentleman. Hester will be well off, no doubt,
'She will have something,--something,' said the old man.
'But this suitor asks for nothing. It is not as though he were coming to
you to prop him up in the world. It does not look like that at least. Of
course, we ought to make inquiry as to his means.'
'The mortgage has been paid off.'
'So much we know, and the rest may be found out. I do not mean at all to
say that he should be allowed to have his own way. I think too much of
my sister for that. But, in this matter, we ought to regard simply her
happiness and her welfare;--and in considering that you ought to be
prepared for her coming marriage. You may take it for granted that she
will choose to give herself, sooner or later, to some man. Give a girl
good looks, and good sense, and good health, and she is sure to wish to
be some man's wife,--unless she be deterred by some conventual
If there were any words capable of conveying horror to the mind of the
old banker, they were convents, priests, and papacy,--of which the
lawyer was well aware when speaking thus of his sister. Mrs. Bolton was
certainly not addicted to papistical observances, nor was she at all