Part 5 out of 11
'Is there anything wrong between you and Robert?' Hester asked this
question of her husband, one morning in January, as he was sitting by
the side of her sofa in their bedroom. The baby was in her arms, and at
that moment there was a question as to the godfathers and godmother for
The letter from Mrs. Smith had arrived on the last day of October,
nearly two months before the birth of the baby, and the telegrams
refusing to send the money demanded had been despatched on the 1st
November,--so that, at this time, Caldigate's mind was accustomed to the
burden of the idea. From that day to this he had not often spoken of the
matter to Robert Bolton,--nor indeed had there been much conversation
between them on other matters. Robert had asked him two or three times
whether he had received any reply by the wires. No such message had
come; and of course he answered his brother-in-law's questions
accordingly;--but he had answered them almost with a look of offence.
The attorney's manner and tone seemed to him to convey reproach; and he
was determined that none of the Boltons should have the liberty to find
fault with him. It had been suggested, some weeks since, before the baby
was born, that an effort should be made to induce Mrs. Bolton to act as
godmother. And, since that, among the names of many other relatives and
friends, those of uncle Babington and Robert Bolton had been proposed.
Hester had been particularly anxious that her brother should be asked,
because,--as she so often said to her husband,--he had always been her
firm friend in the matter of her marriage. But now, when the question
was to be settled, John Caldigate shook his head.
'I was afraid there was something even before baby was born,' said the
'There is something, my pet.'
'What is it, John? You do not mean to keep it secret from me?'
'I have not the slightest objection to your asking him to stand;--but I
think it possible that he may refuse.'
'Why should he refuse?'
'Because, as you say, there is something wrong between us. There have
been applications for money about the Polyeuka mine. I would not trouble
you about it while you were ill.'
'Does he think you ought to give back the money?'
'No,--not that. We are quite agreed about the money. But another
question has come up;--and though we are, I believe, agreed about that
too, still there has been something a little uncomfortable.'
'Would not baby make that all right?'
'I think if you were to ask your brother William it would be better.'
'May I not know what it is now, John?'
'I have meant you to know always,--from the moment when it
occurred,--when you should be well enough.'
'I am well now.'
'I hardly know; and yet I cannot bear to keep it secret from you.'
There was something in his manner which made her feel at once that the
subject to which he alluded was of the greatest importance. Whether weak
or strong, of course she must be told now. Let the shock of the tidings
be what it might, the doubt would be worse. She felt all that, and she
knew that he could feel it. 'I am quite strong,' she said; 'you must
tell me now.'
'Is baby asleep? Put him in the cradle.'
'Is it so bad as that?'
'I do not say that it is bad at all. There is nothing bad in it,--except
a lie. Let me put him in the cradle.'
Then he took the child very gently and deposited him, fast asleep, among
the blankets. He had already assumed for himself the character of being
a good male nurse; and she was always delighted when she saw the baby in
his arms. Then he came and seated himself close to her on the sofa, and
put his arm round her waist. 'There is nothing bad--but a lie.'
'A lie may be so very bad!'
'Yes, indeed; and this lie is very bad. Do you remember my telling
you--about a woman?'
'That Mrs. Smith;--the dancing woman?'
'Of course I remember.'
'She was one of those, it seems, who bought the Polyeuka mine.'
'She, with Crinkett and others. Now they want their money back again.'
'But can they make you send it? And would it be very bad--to lose it?'
'They cannot make me send it. They have no claim to a single shilling.
And if they could make me pay it, that would not be very bad.'
'What is it, then? You are afraid to tell me?'
'Yes, my darling,--afraid to speak to you of what is so wicked;--afraid
to shock you, to disgust you; but not afraid of any injury that can be
done to you. No harm will come to you.'
'But to you?'
'Nor to me;--none to you, or to me, or to baby there.' As he said this
she clutched his hand with hers. 'No harm, dearest; and yet the thing is
so abominable that I can hardly bring myself to wound your ears with
'You must tell now, John.'
'Yes, I must tell you. I have thought about it much, and I know that it
is better that you should be told.' He had thought much about it, and
had so resolved. But he had not quite known how difficult the telling
would be. And now he was aware that he was adding to the horror she
would feel by pausing and making much of the thing. And yet he could not
tell it as though it were a light matter. If he could have declared it
all at once,--at first, with a smile on his face, then expressing his
disgust at the woman's falsehood,--it would have been better. 'That
woman has written me a letter in which she declares herself to be--my
'Your wife! John! Your wife?' These exclamations came from her almost
with a shriek as she jumped up from his arms and for a moment stood
'Come back to me,' he said. Then again she seated herself. 'You did not
leave me then because you doubted me?'
'Oh no,' she cried, throwing herself upon him and smothering him with
kisses--'No, no! It was surprise at such horrid words,--not doubt, not
doubt of you. I will never doubt you.'
'It was because I was sure of you that I have ventured to tell you
'You may be sure of me,' she said, sobbing violently the while. 'You are
sure of me; are you not? And now tell it me all. How did she say so? why
did she say so? Is she coming to claim you? Tell me all. Oh, John, tell
'The why is soon told. Because she wants money. She had heard no doubt
of my marriage and thought to frighten me out of money. I do not think
she would do it herself. The man Crinkett has put her up to it.'
'What does she say?'
'Just that,--and then she signs herself,--Euphemia Caldigate.'
'Now you know it all.'
'May I not see the letter?'
'For what good? But you shall see it if you wish it. I have determined
that nothing shall be kept back from you. In all that there may ever be
to trouble us the best comfort will be in perfect confidence.' He had
already learned enough of her nature to be sure that in this way would
he best comfort her, and most certainly ensure her trust in himself.
'Oh yes,' she cried. 'If you will tell me all, I will never doubt you.'
Then she took the letter from his hand, and attempted to read it. But
her excitement was so great that though the words were written very
clearly, she could not bring her mind to understand them. 'Treachery!
Ruin! Married to you! What is it all? Do you read it to me;--every word
of it.' Then he did read it; every word of it. 'She says that she will
marry the other man. How can she marry him when she says that she
'Just so, my pet. But you see what she says. It does not matter much to
her whether it be true or false, so that she can get my money from me.
But, Hester, I would fain be just even to her. No doubt she wrote the
'Who else would have written it?'
'She wrote it. I know her hand. And these are her words,--because they
are properly expressed, gut it is all his doing,--the man's doing. He
has got her in his power, and he is using her in this way.'
'If you sent her money--?'
'Not a shilling;--not though she were starving; not now. A man who gives
money under a threat is gone. If I were to send her money, everyone
would believe this tale that she tells. Your brother Robert would
'He knows it?'
'I took the letter to him instantly, but I made up my mind that I would
not show it you till baby was born. You can understand that?' She only
pressed closer to him as he said this. 'I showed it to Robert, and,
altogether we are not quite such friends since as we were before.'
'You do not mean that he believes it?'
'No; not that. He does not believe it. If he did, I do not see how he
and I could ever speak to each other again. I don't think he believes it
at all. But I had to tell him the whole story, and that, perhaps,
offended him.' The 'whole story' had not been told to Hester, nor did he
think it necessary that it should be told. There was no reason why these
details which Robert had elicited by his questions should be repeated to
her,--the promise of marriage, the interference of the Wesleyan
minister, the use made of his name,--of all this he said nothing. But
she had now been told that which to her had been very dreadful, and she
was not surprised that her brother should have been offended when he
heard the same sad story. She, of course, had at once pardoned the old
offence. A young wife when she is sure of her husband, will readily
forgive all offences committed before marriage, and will almost be
thankful for the confidence placed in her when offences are confessed.
But she could understand that a brother could not be thankful, and she
would naturally exaggerate in her own mind the horror which he would
feel at such a revelation. Then the husband endeavoured to lighten the
effect of what he had said. 'Offence, perhaps, is the wrong word. But he
was stiff and masterful, if you know what I mean.'
'You would not bear that, certainly, John?'
'No. I have to own that I do not love the assumption of
authority,--except from you.'
'You do not like it from anybody, John.'
'You would not wish me to submit myself to your brother?'
'No; but I think I might ask him to be baby's godfather.'
'As you please; only you would be unhappy if he refused.'
Then there came a little wail from the cradle and the baby was taken up,
and for some minutes his little necessities occupied the mother to the
exclusion even of that terrible letter. But when Caldigate was about to
leave the room, she asked him another question. 'Will she do anything
'I can hardly say. I should think not.'
'What does Robert think?'
'He has not told me. I sent an immediate refusal by the telegraph wires,
and have heard nothing since.'
'Is he--nervous about it?'
'I hardly know. It dwells in his mind, no doubt.'
'Are you nervous?'
'It dwells in my mind. That is all.'
'May I speak to him about it?'
'Why should you? What good would it do? I would rather you did not.
Nevertheless, if you feel frightened, if you think that there is
anything wrong, it will be natural that you should go to him for
assistance. I will not forbid it.' As he said this he stood back away
from her. It was but by a foot or two, but still there was a sign of
separation which instantly made itself palpable to her.
'Wrong, how wrong?' she said, following him and clinging to him. 'You do
not suppose that I would go to him because I think you wrong? Do you not
know that whatever might come I should cling to you? What is he to me
compared to you? No; I will never speak to him about it.'
He returned her caress with fervour, and stroked her hair, and kissed
her forehead. 'My dearest! my own! my darling! But what I mean is that
if some other man's opinion on this subject is necessary to your
comfort, you may go to him.'
'No other man's opinion shall be necessary to me about anything. I will
not speak about it to Robert, or to any one. But if more should come of
it, you will tell me?'
'You shall know everything that comes. I have never for a moment had the
idea of keeping it back from you. But because of baby, and because baby
had to be born, I delayed it.' This was an excuse which, as the mother
of her child, she could not but accept with thankfulness.
'I think I will ask him,' she said that night, referring again to the
vexed question of godfathers. Uncle Babington had some weeks since very
generously offered his services, and, of course, they had been
generously accepted. Among the baby's relations he was the man of
highest standing in the world; and then this was a mark of absolute
forgiveness in reference to the wrongs of poor Julia. And a long letter
had been prepared to Mrs. Bolton, written by Hester's own hand, not
without much trouble, in which the baby's grandmother was urged to take
upon herself the duties of godmother. All this had been discussed in the
family, so that the nature of the petition was well known to Mrs.
Bolton for some time before she received it. Mrs. Daniel, who had
consented to act in the event of a refusal from Puritan Grange, had more
than once used her influence with her step-mother-in-law. But no hint
had as yet come to Folking as to what the answer might be. It had also
been suggested that Robert should be the other godfather,--the proposal
having been made to Mrs. Robert. But there had come upon all the Boltons
a feeling that Robert was indifferent perhaps, even unwilling to
undertake the task. And yet no one knew why. Mrs. Robert herself did not
The reader, however, will know why, and will understand how it was that
Mrs. Robert was in the dark. The attorney, though he was suspicious,
though he was frightened, though he was, in truth, very angry with this
new brother-in-law, through whose ante-nuptial delinquencies so much
sorrow was threatened to the Bolton family, nevertheless kept the secret
from all the Cambridge Boltons. It had been necessary to him to seek
counsel with some one, but he had mentioned the matter only to his
brother William. But he did not wish to add to the bond which now tied
him to Folking. If this horror, this possible horror, should fall upon
them,--if it should turn out that he had insisted on giving his sister
in marriage to a man already married,--then,--then,--then----! Such
possible future incidents were too terrible to be considered closely,
but with such a possibility he would not add to the bonds. At Puritan
Grange they would throw all the responsibility of what had been done
upon him. This feeling was mingled with his love for his sister,--with
the indignation he would not only feel but show if it should turn out
that she had been wronged. 'I will destroy him,--I will destroy him
utterly,' he would sometimes say to himself as he thought of it.
And now the godfather question had to be decided, 'No,' he said to his
wife, 'I don't care about such things. I won't do it. You write and tell
her that I have prejudices, or scruples, or whatever you choose to call
'There is to be a little tarradiddle told, and I am to tell it?'
'I have prejudices and scruples.'
'About the religion of the thing?' She knew,--as of course, she was
bound to know,'--that he had at any rate a round dozen of god-children
somewhere about the country. There were the young Williams, and the
young Daniels, and her own nephews and nieces, with the parents of all
of whom uncle Robert had been regarded as the very man for a godfather.
The silversmith in Trumpington Street knew exactly the weight of the
silver cup that was to be given to the boy or to a girl. The Bible and
prayer-books were equally well regulated. Mrs. Robert could not but
smile at the idea of religious scruples. 'I wish I knew what it was that
has come over you of late. I fancy you have quarrelled with John
'If you think that, then you can understand the reason.'
'What is it about?'
'I have not quarrelled with him. It is possible that I may have to do
so. But I do not mean to say what it is about.' Then he smiled. 'I don't
want you to ask any more questions, but just to write to Hester as
kindly as you can, saying I don't mean to be godfather any more. It will
be a good excuse in regard to all future babies.' Mrs. Robert was a good
wife and did as she was bid. She worded her refusal as cautiously as she
could, and,--on that occasion,--asked her husband no further question.
The prayer that was addressed to the lady of Puritan Grange became the
subject of much debate of great consideration, and I may say also of
lengthened prayer. To Mrs. Bolton this position of godmother implied
much of the old sacred responsibility which was formerly attached to it,
and which Robert Bolton, like other godfathers and godmothers of the
day, had altogether ignored. She had been already partly brought round,
nearly persuaded, in regard to the acceptance of John Caldigate as her
son-in-law. It did not occur to her to do other than hate him. How was
it possible that such a woman should do other than hate the man who had
altogether got the better of her as to the very marrow of her life, the
very apple of her eye? But she was alive to her duty towards her
daughter; and when she was told that the man was honest in his dealings,
well-to-do in the world, a professing Christian who was constant in his
parish church, she did not know how to maintain her opinion, that in
spite of all this, he was an unregenerate castaway. Therefore, although
she was determined still to hate him, she had almost made up her mind to
enter his house. With these ideas she wrote a long letter to Hester, in
which she promised to have herself taken out to Folking in order that
she might be present as godmother at the baby's baptism. She would lunch
at Folking, but must return to Chesterton before dinner. Even this was a
great thing gained.
Then it was arranged that Daniel Bolton should stand as second godfather
in place of his brother Robert.
A Stranger in Cambridge
'I am sorry you will not come out to us to-morrow.' On the day before
the christening, which was at last fixed for a certain Tuesday in the
middle of February, John Caldigate went into Cambridge, and at once
called upon the attorney at his office. This he did partly instigated
by his own feelings, and partly in compliance with his wife's wishes.
Before that letter had come he and his brother-in-law had been fast
friends; and now, though for a day or two he had been angry with what he
had thought to be unjustifiable interference, he regretted the loss of
such a friend. More than three months had now passed since the letter
had come, but his mind was far from being at ease, and he felt that if
trouble should come it would be very well for him to have Robert Bolton
on his side.
'Margaret is going,' said the attorney.
'Why do you not bring her?'
'Days are days with me, my boy. I can't afford to give up a morning for
every baby that is born.'
'That of course may be true, and if that is the reason, I have nothing
more to say.' As he spoke he looked in his brother-in-law's face, so as
almost to prevent the possibility of continued pretence.
'Well, Caldigate, it isn't the reason altogether,' said the other. 'If
you would have allowed it to pass without further explanation so would
I. But if the truth must be spoken in so many words, I will confess that
I would rather not go out to Folking till I am sure we shall be no more
troubled by your friends in Australia.'
'Why not? Why should you not go out to Folking?'
'Simply because I may have to take an active part against you. I do not
suppose it will come to that, but it is possible. I need not say that I
trust there may be nothing of the kind, but I cannot be sure. It is on
'I think that is a hard judgment. Do you mean to say that you believe
that woman's statement not only against mine, but against the whole
tenor of my life and character?'
'No; I do not believe the woman's statement. If I did, I should not be
talking to you now. The woman has probably lied, and is probably a tool
in the hands of others for raising money, as you have already suggested.
But, according to your own showing there has been much in your life to
authorise the statement. I do not know what does or does not constitute
a marriage there.'
'The laws are the same as ours.'
'There at any rate you are wrong. Their marriage laws are not the same
as ours, though how they may differ you and I probably do not accurately
know. And they may be altered at any time as they may please. Let the
laws be what they will, it is quite possible, after what you have told
me, that they may bring up evidence which you would find it very
difficult to refute. I don't think it will be so. If I did I should use
all my influence to remove my sister at once.'
'You couldn't do it,' said Caldigate, very angrily.
'I tell you what I should endeavour to do. You must excuse me if I stand
aloof just at present. I don't suppose you can defend such a condition
of things as you described to me the other day.'
'I do not mean to be put upon my defence,--at any rate by you,' said
Caldigate, very angrily. And then he left the office.
He had come into Cambridge with the intention of calling at Puritan
Grange after he had left the attorney, and when he found himself in the
street he walked on in the direction of Chesterton. He had wished to
thank his wife's mother for her concession and had been told by Hester
that if he would call, Mrs. Bolton would certainly see him now. Had
there been no letter from the woman in Australia, he would probably not
have obeyed his wife's behest in this matter. His heart and spirit would
then have been without a flaw, and, proud in his own strength and his
own rectitude, he would have declared to himself that the absurd
prejudices of a fanatic woman were beneath his notice. But that letter
had been a blow, and the blow, though it had not quelled him, had
weakened his forces. He could conceal the injury done him even from his
wife, but there was an injury. He was not quite the man that he had been
before. From day to day, and from hour to hour, he was always
remonstrating with himself because it was so. He was conscious that in
some degree he had been cowed, and was ever fighting against the
feeling. His tenderness to his wife was perhaps increased, because he
knew that she still suffered from the letter; but he was almost ashamed
of his own tenderness, as being a sign of weakness. He made himself very
busy in these days,--busy among his brother magistrates, busy among his
farming operations, busy with his tenants, busy among his books, so as
to show to those around him that he was one who could perform all the
duties of life, and enjoy all the pleasures, with an open brow and a
clear conscience. He had been ever bold and self-asserting; but now he
was perhaps a little over-bold. But through it all the Australian letter
and the Australian woman were present to him day and night.
It was this resolution not to be quelled that had made him call upon the
attorney at his office; and when he found himself back in the street he
was very angry with the man. 'If it pleases him, let it be so,' he said
to himself. 'I can do in the world without him.' And then he thought of
that threat,--when the attorney had said that he would remove his
sister. 'Remove her! By heavens!' He had a stick in his hand, and as he
went he struck it angrily against a post. Remove his wife! All the
Boltons in Cambridgeshire could not put a hand upon her, unless by his
leave! For some moments his anger supported him; but after a while that
gave way to the old feeling of discomfort which pervaded him always. She
was his wife, and nobody should touch her. Nevertheless he might find it
difficult, as Robert Bolton had said, to prove that that other woman
was not his wife.
Robert Bolton's office was in a small street close to Pembroke College,
and when he came out of it he had intended to walk direct through
Trumpington Street and Trinity Street to Chesterton. But he found it
necessary to compose himself and so to arrange his thoughts that he
might be able to answer such foolish questions as Mrs. Bolton would
probably ask him without being flurried. He was almost sure that she had
heard nothing of the woman. He did not suspect Robert Bolton of
treachery in that respect; but she would probably talk to him about the
iniquity of his past life generally, and he must be prepared to answer
her. It was incumbent upon him to shake off, before he reached
Chesterton, that mixture of alarm and anger which at present dominated
him; and with this object, instead of going straight along the street,
he turned into the quadrangle of King's College, and passing through the
gardens and over the bridge, wandered for a while slowly under the trees
at the back of the college. He accused himself of a lack of manliness in
that he allowed himself to be thus cowed. Did he not know that such
threats as these were common? Was it not just what might have been
expected from such a one as Crinkett, when Crinkett was driven to
desperation by failing speculations? As he thought of the woman, he
shook his head, looking down upon the ground. The woman had at one time
been very dear to him. But it was clearly now his duty to go on as
though there were no such woman as Euphemia Smith, and no such man as
Thomas Crinkett. And as for Robert Bolton, he would henceforth treat him
as though his anger and his suspicions were unworthy of notice. If the
man should choose of his own accord to reassume the old friendly
relations,--well and good. No overtures should come from him--Caldigate.
And if the anger and the suspicions endured, why then, he, Caldigate,
could do very well without Robert Bolton.
As he made these resolutions he turned in at a little gate opening into
a corner of St. John's Gardens, with the object of passing through the
college back into the streets of the town. It was not quite his nearest
way, but he loved the old buildings, and the trees, and the river, even
in winter. It still was winter, being now the middle of February; but,
as it happened, the air was dry and mild, and the sun was shining.
Still, he was surprised at such a time of the year to see an elderly man
apparently asleep on one of the benches which are placed close to the
path. But there he was, asleep, with his two hands on a stick, and his
head bent forward over his stick. It was impossible not to look at the
man sleeping there in that way; but Caldigate would hardly have looked,
would hardly have dared to look, could he have anticipated what he would
see. The elderly man was Thomas Crinkett. As he passed he was quite sure
that the man was Thomas Crinkett. When he had gone on a dozen yards, he
paused for a moment to consider what he would do. A dozen different
thoughts passed through his mind in that moment of time. Why was the man
there? Why, indeed, could he have come to England except with the view
of prosecuting the demand which he and the woman had made? His presence
even in England was sufficient to declare that this battle would have to
be fought. But to Cambridge he could have come with no other object than
that of beginning the attack at once. And then, had he already commenced
his work? He had not at any rate been to Robert Bolton, to whom any one
knowing the family would have first referred him. And why was he
sleeping there? Why was he not now at work upon his project? Again,
would it be better at the present moment that he should pass by the man
as though he had not seen him; or should he go back and ask him his
purpose? As the thought passed through his mind, he stayed his step for
a moment on the pathway and looked round. The man had moved his
position, and was now sitting with his head turned away but evidently
not asleep. Then it occurred to Caldigate that Crinkett's slumbers had
been only a pretence, that the man had seen and recognised him, and at
the moment had not chosen to make himself known. And it occurred to him
also that in a matter of such importance as this he should do nothing on
the spur of the moment,--nothing without consideration. A word spoken to
Crinkett, a word without consideration, might be fatal to him. So he
passed on, having stood upon the path hardly more than a second or two.
Before he had got up to the new buildings of St. John's a cold sweat had
come out all over him. He was conscious of this, and conscious also that
for a time he was so confounded by the apparition of his enemy as to be
unable to bring his mind to work properly on the subject. 'Let him do
his worst,' he kept on saying to himself; 'let him do his worst.' But he
knew that the brave words, though spoken only to himself, were mere
braggadocio No doubt the man would do his worst, and very bad it would
be to him. At the moment he was so cowed by fear that he would have
given half his fortune to have secured the woman's silence,--and the
man's. How much better would it have been had he acceded to the man's
first demand as to restitution of a portion of the sum paid for
Polyeuka, before the woman's name had been brought into the matter at
But reflections such as these were now useless and he must do something.
It was for his wife's sake,--he assured himself,--for his wife's sake
that he allowed himself to be made thus miserable by the presence of
this wretched creature. What would she not be called upon to suffer?
The woman no doubt would be brought before magistrates and judges, and
would be made to swear that she was his wife. The whole story of his
life in Australia would be made public,--and there was so much that
could not be made public without overwhelming her with sorrow! His own
father, too, who had surrendered the estate to him, must know it all.
His father hitherto had not heard the name of Mrs. Smith, and had been
told only of Crinkett's dishonest successes and dishonest failures. When
Caldigate had spoken of Crinkett to his father, he had done so with a
triumph as of a man whom he had weighed and measured and made use
of,--whose frauds and cunning he had conquered by his own honesty and
better knowledge. Now he could no longer weigh and measure and make use
of Crinkett. Crinkett had been a joke to him in talking with his father.
But Crinkett was no joke now.
While walking through the College quad, he was half stupefied by his
confusion, and was aware that such was his condition. But going out
under the gate he paused for a moment and shook himself. He must at any
rate summon his own powers to his aid at the moment and resolve what he
would do. However bad all this might be, there was a better course and a
worse. If he allowed this confusion to master him he would probably be
betrayed into the worse course. Now, at this moment, in what way would
it become him to act? He drew himself together, shaking his head and
shoulders,--so as to shake off his weakness,--pressing his foot for a
moment on the earth so as to convince himself of his own firmness, and
then he resolved.
He was on the way out to see his mother-in-law, but he thought that
nothing now could be gained by going to Chesterton. It was not
impossible that Crinkett might have been there. If so the man would have
told something of his story; and his wife's mother was the last person
in the world whom, under such circumstances, he could hope to satisfy.
He must tell no lie to any one; he must at least conceal nothing of the
things as they occurred now. He must not allow it to be first told by
Crinkett that they two had seen each other in the Gardens. But he could
not declare this to Mrs. Bolton. For the present, the less he saw of
Mrs. Bolton the better. She would come to the christening
to-morrow,--unless indeed Crinkett had already told enough to induce her
to change her mind,--but after that any intimacy with the house at
Chesterton had better be postponed till this had all been settled.
But how much would have to be endured before that! Robert Bolton had
almost threatened to take his wife away from him. No one could take his
wife away from him,--unless, indeed, the law were to say that she was
not his wife. But how would it be with him if she herself, under the
influence of her family, were to wish to leave him! The law no doubt
would give him the custody of his own wife, till the law had said that
she was not his wife. But could he keep her if she asked him to let her
go? And should she be made to doubt,--should her mind be so troubled as
it would be should she once be taught to think it possible that she had
been betrayed she not then want to go from him? Would it not be probable
that she would doubt when she should be told that this woman had been
called by her husband's name in Australia, and when he should be unable
to deny that he had admitted, or at least had not contradicted, the
On a sudden, when he turned away from the street leading to Chesterton
as he came out of the College, he resolved that he would at once go back
to Robert Bolton. The man was offensive, suspicious and self-willed;
but, nevertheless, his good services, if they could be secured, would be
all-important. For his wife's sake, as Caldigate said to himself,--for
his wife's sake he must bear much. 'I have come to tell you something
that has occurred since I was here just now,' said Caldigate, meeting
his brother-in-law at the door of the office. 'Would you mind coming
'I am rather in a hurry.'
'It is of importance, and you had better hear it,' said Caldigate,
leading the way imperiously to the inner room. 'It is for your sister's
sake. That man Crinkett is in Cambridge.'
'I saw him just now.'
'And spoke to him?' the attorney asked.
'No. I passed him; and I do not know even whether he recognised me. But
he is here, in Cambridge.'
'And the woman?'
'I have told you all that I know. He has not come here for nothing.'
'Probably not,' said the attorney, with a scornful smile. 'You will hear
of him before long.'
'Of course I shall. I have come to you now to ask a question. I must put
my case at once into a lawyer's hands. Crinkett, no doubt, will commit
perjury and I must undergo the annoyance and expense of proving him to
be a perjurer. She probably is here also, and will be ready to commit
perjury. Of course I must have a lawyer. Will you act for me?'
'I will act for my sister.'
'Your sister and I are one; and I am obliged, therefore, to ask again
whether you will act for me? Of course I should prefer it. Though you
are, I think, hard to me in this matter, I can trust you implicitly. It
will be infinitely better for Hester that it should be so. But I must
have some lawyer.'
'And so must she.'
'Hers and mine must be the same. As to that I will not admit any
question. Can you undertake to fight this matter on my behalf,--and on
hers? If you feel absolutely hostile to me you had better decline. For
myself, I cannot understand why there should be such hostility.'
Caldigate had so far conquered his own feelings of abasement as to be
able to say this with a determined face, looking straight into the
attorney's eyes, at any rate without sign of fear.
'It wants thinking about,' said Robert Bolton.
'To-morrow the baby is to be christened, and for Hester's sake I will
endeavour to put this matter aside;--but on Wednesday I must know.'
'On Wednesday morning I will answer your question. But what if this man
comes to me in the meantime?'
'Listen to him or speak to him, just as seems good to you. You know
everything that there is to tell, and may therefore know whether he lies
or speaks the truth.'
Then Caldigate went to the inn, got his horse, and rode back to Folking.
The next day was the day of the christening. Caldigate, on his return
home from Cambridge, had felt himself doomed to silence. He could not
now at this moment tell his wife that the man had come,--the man who
would doubtless work her such terrible misery. She was very strong. She
had gone through the whole little event of her baby's birth quite as
well as could be expected, and had been just what all her friends might
have wished her to be. But that this blow had fallen upon her,--but that
these ill news had wounded her,--she would now have been triumphant.
Her mother was at last coming to her. Her husband was all that a husband
should be. Her baby was, to her thinking, sweeter, brighter, more
satisfactory than any other baby ever had been. But the first tidings
had been told to her. She had seen the letter signed 'Euphemia
Caldigate'; and of course she was ill at ease. Knowing how vexatious the
matter was to her husband, she had spoken of it but seldom,--having
asked but a question now and again when the matter pressed itself too
severely on her mind. He understood it all, both her reticence and her
sufferings. Her sufferings must of course be increased. She must know
before long that Crinkett, and probably the woman also, were in her
neighbourhood. But he could not tell her now when she was preparing her
baby for his ceremony in the church.
The bells were rung, and the baby was prepared, and Mrs. Bolton came out
to Folking according to her promise. Though Robert was not there, many
of the Boltons were present, as was also Uncle Babington. He had come
over on the preceding evening, making on this occasion his first journey
to Folking since his wife's sister had died; and the old squire was
there in very good humour, though he excused himself from going to the
church by explaining that as he had no duty to perform he would only be
in the way amongst them all. Daniel and Mrs. Bolton had also been at
Folking that night, and had then for the first time been brought into
contact with the Babington grandeur. The party had been almost gay, the
old squire having taken some delight in what he thought to be the
absurdities of his brother-in-law. Mr. Babington himself was a man who
was joyous on most occasions and always gay on such an occasion as this.
He had praised the mother, and praised the baby, and praised the house
of Folking generally, graciously declaring that his wife looked forward
to the pleasure of making acquaintance with her new niece, till old Mr.
Caldigate had been delighted with these manifestations of condescension.
'Folking is a poor place,' said he, 'but Babington is really a
'Yes,' replied the other squire, much gratified, 'Babington is what you
may call really a good country-house.'
You had to laugh very hard at him before you could offend Uncle
Babington. In all this John Caldigate was obliged to assist, knowing all
the time, feeling all the time, that Crinkett was in Cambridge; and
through all this the young mother had to appear happy, knowing the
existence of that letter signed 'Euphemia Caldigate,'--feeling it at
every moment. And they both acted their parts well. Caldigate
himself,--though when he was alone the thought of what was coming would
almost crush him,--could always bear himself bravely when others were
On the morning before they went to church, when the bells were ringing,
old Mr. Bolton came in a carriage with his wife from Cambridge. She, of
course, condescended to give her hand to her son-in-law but she did it
with a look which was full of bitterness. She did not probably intend to
be specially bitter, but bitterness of expression was common to her. She
was taken, however, at once up to the baby, and then in the presence of
her daughter and grandchild it may be presumed that she relaxed a
little. At any rate, her presence in the house made her daughter happy
for the time.
Then they all went to the church, except the squire, who, as he himself
pleaded, had no duty to perform there. Mrs. Bolton, as she was taken
through the hall, saw him and recognised him, but would not condescend
even to bow her head to him, though she knew how intimate he had been
with her husband. She still felt,--though she had yielded for this day,
this day which was to make her grandchild a Christian,--that there must
be, and should be, a severance between people such as the Boltons and
people such as the Caldigates.
As the service went on, and as the water was sprinkled, and as the
prayers were said, Caldigate felt thankful that so much had been allowed
to be done before the great trouble had disclosed itself. The doubt
whether even the ceremony could be performed before the clap of thunder
had been heard through all Cambridge had been in itself a distinct
sorrow to him. Had Crinkett showed himself at Chesterton, neither Mrs.
Bolton nor Daniel Bolton would have been standing then at the font. Had
Crinkett been heard of at Babington, Uncle Babington would not now have
been at Folking. All this was passing through his mind as he was
standing by the font. When the ceremony of making the young Daniel
Humphrey Caldigate a Christian was all but completed, he fancied that he
saw old Mr. Bolton's eyes fixed on something in the church, and he
turned his head suddenly, with no special purpose, but simply looking,
as one is apt to look, when another looks. There he saw, on a seat
divided from himself by the breadth of the little nave, Thomas Crinkett
sitting with another man.
There was not a shadow of a doubt on his mind as to the identity of the
Australian--nor as to that of Crinkett's companion. At the moment he did
not remember the man's name, but he knew him as a miner with whom he had
been familiar at Ahalala, and who had been in partnership both with
himself and Crinkett at Nobble,--as one who had, alas! been in his
society when Euphemia Smith had been there also. At that instant he
remembered the fact that the man had called Euphemia Smith Mrs.
Caldigate in his presence, and that he had let the name pass without
remonstrance. The memory of that moment flashed across him now as he
quickly turned back his face towards his child who was still uttering
his little wail in the arms of the clergyman.
Utterden church is not a large building. The seat on which Crinkett had
placed himself was one usually occupied by parish boys at the end of the
row of appropriated seats and near to the door. Less than half-a-dozen
yards from it, at the other side of the way leading up the church, stood
the font, so that the stranger was almost close to Caldigate when he
turned. They were so near that others there could not but have observed
them. Even the clergyman, however absorbed he might have been in his
sacred work, could not but have observed them. It was not there as it
might have been in a town. Any stranger, even on a Sunday, would be
observed by all in Utterden church,--how much then at a ceremony which,
as a rule, none but friends attend! And Crinkett was looking on with all
his eyes, leaning forward over his stick and watching closely. Caldigate
had taken it all in, even in that moment. The other man was sitting
back, gazing at nothing as though the matter to him were indifferent.
Caldigate could understand it all. The man was there simply to act or to
speak when he might be wanted.
As the ceremony was completed John Caldigate stood by and played with
all proper words and actions the part of the young father. No one
standing there could see by his face that he had been struck violently;
that he had for a few moments been almost unable to stand. But he
himself was aware that a cold sweat had broken out all over him as
before. Though he leaned over the baby lying in his mother's arms and
kissed it, and smiled on the young mother, he did so as some great actor
will carry out his part before the public when nearly sinking to the
ground from sudden suffering. What would it be right that he should do
now,--now,--now? No one there had heard of Crinkett except his wife. And
even she herself had no idea that the man of whom she had heard was in
England. Should he speak to the man, or should he endeavour to pass out
of the church as though he had not recognised him? Could he trust
himself even to make the endeavour when he should have turned round and
when he would find himself face to face with the man?
And then what should he say, and how should he act, if the man addressed
him in the church? The man had not come out there to Utterden for
nothing, and probably would so address him. He had determined on telling
no lie,--no lie, at any rate, as to present circumstances. That life of
his in Australia had been necessarily rough; and though successful, had
not been quite as it should have been. As to that, he thought that it
ought to be permitted to him to be reticent. But as to nothing since his
marriage would he lie. If Crinkett spoke to him he must acknowledge the
man,--but if Crinkett told his story about Euphemia Smith in the church
before them all, how should he then answer? There was but a moment for
him to decide it all. The decision had to be made while he was handing
back his babe to its mother with his sweetest smile.
As the party at the font was broken up, the eyes of them all were fixed
upon the two strangers. A christening in a public church is a public
service, and open to the world at large. There was no question to be
asked them, but each person as he looked at them would of course think
that somebody else would recognise them. They were decently
dressed,--dressed probably in such garments as gentlemen generally wear
on winter mornings,--but any one would know at a glance that they were
not English gentlemen. And they were of an appearance unfamiliar to any
one there but Caldigate himself,--clean, but rough, not quite at home in
their clothes, which had probably been bought ready-made; with rough,
ignoble faces,--faces which you would suspect, but faces, nevertheless,
which had in them something of courage. As the little crowd prepared to
move from the font, the two men got up and stood in their places.
Caldigate took the opportunity to say a word to Mr. Bromley before he
turned round, so that he might yet pause before he decided. At that
moment he resolved that he would recognise his enemy, and treat him with
the courtesy of old friendship. It would be bad to do at the moment, but
he thought that in this way he might best prepare himself for the
future. Crinkett had appealed to him for money, but Crinkett himself had
said nothing to him about Euphemia Smith. The man had not as yet accused
him of bigamy. The accusation had come from her, and it still might be
that she had used Crinkett's name wrongfully. At any rate, he thought
that when the clap of thunder should have come, it would be better for
him not to have repudiated a man with whom it would then be known that
his relations had once been so intimate.
He addressed himself therefore at once to his old associate. 'I am
surprised to see you here, Mr. Crinkett.' This he said with a smile and
a pleasant voice, putting out his hand to him. How hard it was to summon
up that smile! How hard to get that tone of voice! Even those
commonplace words had been so difficult of selection! 'Was it you I saw
yesterday in the College gardens?'
'Yes, it was me, no doubt.'
'I turned round, and then thought that it was impossible We have just
been christening my child. Will you come up to our breakfast?'
'You remember Jack Adamson,--eh?'
'Of course I do,' said Caldigate, giving his hand to the second man, who
was rougher even than Crinkett. 'I hope he will come up also. This is my
uncle, Mr. Babington; and this is my father-in-law, Mr. Bolton.' 'These
were two of my partners at Nobble,' he said, turning to the two old
gentlemen, who were looking on with astonished eyes. 'They have come
over here, I suppose, with reference to the sale I made to them lately
of my interests at polyeuka.'
'That's about it,' said Adamson.
'We won't talk business just at this moment, because we have to eat our
breakfast and drink our boy's health. But when that is done, I'll hear
what you have to say;--or come into Cambridge to-morrow just as you
please. You'll walk up to the house now, and I'll introduce you to my
'We don't mind if we do eat a bit,--do we, Jack?' said Crinkett. Jack
bobbed his head, and so they walked back to Folking, the three of them
together, while the two Mr. Boltons and Uncle Babington followed behind.
The ladies and the baby had been taken in a carriage.
The distance from the church to the house at Folking was less than half
a mile, but Caldigate thought that he would never reach his hall door.
How was he to talk to the men,--with what words and after what fashion?
And what should he say about them to his wife when he reached home? She
had seen him speak to them, had known that he had been obliged to stay
behind with them when it would have been so natural that he should have
been at her side as she got into the carriage. Of that he was aware, but
he could not know how far their presence would have frightened her.
'Yes,' he said, in answer to some question from Crinkett; 'the property
round here is not exactly mine, but my father's.'
'They tell me as it's yours now?' said Crinkett.
'You haven't to learn to-day that in regard to other people's concerns
men talk more than they know. The land is my father's estate, but I live
'And him?' asked Adamson.
'He lives in Cambridge.'
'That's what we mean,--ain't it, Crinkett?' said Adamson. 'You're boss
'Yes, I'm boss.'
'And a deuced good time you seem to have of it,' said Crinkett.
'I've nothing to complain of,' replied Caldigate, feeling himself at the
moment to be the most miserable creature in existence.
It was fearful work,--work so cruel that his physical strength hardly
enabled him to support it. He already repented his present conduct,
telling himself that it would have been better to have treated the men
from the first as spies and enemies;--though in truth his conduct had
probably been the wisest he could have adopted. At last he had the men
inside the hall door, and, introducing them hurriedly to his father, he
left them that he might rush up to his wife's bedroom. The nurse was
there and her mother; and, at the moment, she only looked at him. She
was too wise to speak to him before them. But at last she succeeded in
making an opportunity of being alone with her husband. 'You stay here,
nurse; I'll be back directly, mamma,' and then she took him across the
passage into his own dressing-room 'Who are they, John? who are they?'
'They are men from the mines. As they were my partners, I have asked
them to come in to breakfast.'
'And the woman?' As she spoke she held on to the back of a chair by
which she stood, and only whispered her question.
'No woman is with them.'
'Is it the man,--Crinkett?'
'Yes, it is Crinkett.'
'In this house! And I am to sit at table with him?'
'It will be best so. Listen, dearest; all that I know, all that we know
of Crinkett is, that he is asking money of me because the purchase he
made of me has turned out badly for him.'
'But he is to marry that woman, who says that she is--' Then she
stopped, looking into his face with agony. She could not bring herself
to utter the words which would signify that another woman claimed to be
her husband's wife.
'You are going too fast, Hester. I cannot condemn the man for what the
woman has written until I know that he says the same himself. He was my
partner, and I have had his money;--I fear, all his money. He as yet has
said nothing about the woman. As it is so, it behoves me to be courteous
to him. That I am suffering much, you must be well aware. I am sure you
will not make it worse for me.'
'No, no,' she said, embracing him; 'I will not. I will be brave. I will
do all that I can. But you will tell me everything?'
'Everything,' he said. Then he kissed her, and went back again to his
unwelcome guests. She was not long before she followed him, bringing her
baby in her arms. Then she took the child round to be kissed by all its
relatives, and afterwards bowed politely to the two men, and told them
that she was glad to see her husband's old friends and fellow-workmen.
'Yes, mum,' said Jack Adamson; 'we've been fellow-workmen when the work
was hard enough. 'T young squire seems to have got over his difficulties
pretty tidy!' Then she smiled again, and nodded to them, and retreated
back to her mother.
Mrs. Bolton scowled at them, feeling certain that they were godless
persons;--in which she was right. The old banker, drawing his son Daniel
out of the room, whispered an inquiry; but Daniel Bolton knew nothing.
'There's been something wrong as to the sale of that mine,' said the
banker. Daniel Bolton thought it probable that there had been something
The breakfast was eaten, and the child's health was drunk, and the hour
was passed. It was a bad time for them all, but for Caldigate it was a
very bitter hour. To him the effort made was even more difficult than to
her;--as was right;--for she at any rate had been blameless. Then the
Boltons went away, as had been arranged, and also Uncle Babington while
the men still remained.
'If you don't mind, squire, I'll take a turn with you,' said Crinkett at
last; 'while Jack can sit anywhere about the place.'
'Certainly,' said Caldigate. And so they took their hats and went off,
and Jack Adamson was left 'sitting anywhere' about the place.
Tom Crinkett at Folking
Caldigate thought that he had better take his companion where there
would be the least chance of encountering many eyes. He went therefore
through the garden into the farmyard and along the road leading back to
the dike, and then he walked backwards and forwards between the ferry,
over the Wash, and the termination of the private way by which they had
come. The spot was not attractive, as far as rural prettiness was
concerned. They had, on one hand or the other as they turned, the long,
straight, deep dike which had been cut at right angles to the Middle
Wash; and around, the fields were flat, plashy, and heavy-looking with
the mud of February. But Crinkett for a while did not cease to admire
everything. 'And them are all yourn?' he said, pointing to a crowd of
corn-stacks standing in the haggard.
'Yes, they're mine. I wish they were not.'
'What do you mean by that?'
'As prices are at present, a man doesn't make pinch by growing corn and
keeping it to this time of the year.'
'And where them chimneys is,--is that yourn?' This he said pointing
along the straight line of the road to Farmer Holt's homestead, which
showed itself on the other side of the Wash.
'It belongs to the estate,' said Caldigate.
'By jingo! And how I remember your a-coming and talking to me across the
gate at Polyeuka Hall!'
'I remember it very well.'
'I didn't know as you were an estated gent in those days.'
'I had spent a lot of money when I was young, and the estate, as you
call it, was not large enough to bear the loss. So I had to go out and
work, and get back what I had squandered.'
'And you did it?'
'Yes, I did it.'
'My word, yes! What a lot of money you took out of the colony,
'I'm not going to praise myself, but I worked hard for it, and when I
got it I didn't run riot.'
'Not with drink.'
'Nor in any other way. I kept my money.'
'Well;--I don't know as you was very much more of a Joseph than anybody
else.' Then Crinkett laughed most disagreeably; and Caldigate, turning
over various ideas rapidly in his mind, thought that a good deed would
be done if a man so void of feeling could be drowned beneath the waters
of the black deep dike which was slowly creeping along by their side.
'Any way you was lucky,--infernally lucky.'
'You did not do badly yourself. When I first reached Nobble you had the
name of more money than I ever made.'
'Who's got it now? Eh, Caldigate! who's got my money now?'
'It would take a clever man to tell that.'
'It don't take much cleverness for me to tell who has got more of it nor
anybody else, and it don't take much cleverness for me to tell that I
ain't got none of it left myself;--none of it, Caldigate. Not a d-----
hundred pounds!' This he said with terrible energy.
'I'm sorry it's so bad as that with you, Crinkett.'
'Yes;--you is sorry, I daresay. You've acted sorry in all you said and
done since I got taken in last by that ---- mine;--haven't you? Well;--I
have got just a few hundreds; what I could scrape together to bring me
and a few others as might be wanted over to England. There's Jack
Adamson with me and ---- just two more. They may be wanted, squire.'
The attack now was being commenced, and how was he to repel it, or to
answer it? Only on one ground had he received from Robert Bolton a
decided opinion. Under no circumstances was he to give money to these
persons. Were he to be guilty of that weakness he would have delivered
himself over into their hands. And not only did he put implicit trust in
the sagacity of Robert Bolton, but he himself knew enough of the world's
opinion on such a matter to be aware that a man who has allowed himself
to be frightened out of money is supposed to have acknowledged some
terrible delinquency. He had been very clear in his mind when that
letter came from Euphemia Smith that he would not now make any rebate.
Till that attack had come, it might have been open to him to be
generous;--but not now. And yet when this man spoke of his own loss,
and reminded him of his wealth;--when Crinkett threw it in his teeth
that by a happy chance he had feathered his nest with the spoils taken
from the wretched man himself,--then he wished that it was in his power
to give back something.
'Is that said as a threat?' he asked, looking round on his companion,
and resolving that he would be brave.
'That's as you take it, squire. We don't want to threaten nothing.'
'Because if you do, you'd better go, and do what you have to do away
'Don't you be so rough now with an old pal. You won't do no good by
being rough. I wasn't rough to you when you came to Polyeuka Hall
without very much in your pocket.' This was untrue, for Crinkett had
been rough, and Caldigate's pockets had been full of money; but there
could be no good got by contradicting him on small trifles. 'I was a
good mate to you then. You wouldn't even have got your finger into the
"Old Stick-in-the-Mud," nor yet into Polyeuka, but for me. I was the
making of your fortin, Caldigate. I was.'
'My fortune, such as it is, was made by my own industry.'
'Industry be blowed! I don't know that you were so much better than
anybody else. Wasn't I industrious? Wasn't I thinking of it morning,
noon, and night, and nothing else? You was smart. I do allow that,
Caldigate. You was very smart.'
'Did you ever know me dishonest?'
'Pooh! what's honesty? There's nothing so smart as honesty. Whatever you
got, you got a sure hold of. That's what you mean by honesty. You was
clever enough to take care as you had really got it. Now about this
Polyeuka business, I'll tell you how it is. I and Jack Adamson and
another,'--as he alluded to the 'other' he winked,--'we believed in
Polyeuka; we did. D----- the cussed hole! Well;--when you was gone we
thought we'd try it. It was not easy to get the money as you wanted, but
we got it. One of the banks down at Sydney went shares, but took all the
plant as security. Then the cussed place ran out the moment the money
was paid. It was just as though fortin had done it a purpose. If you
don't believe what I'm a-saying, I've got the documents to show you.'
Caldigate did believe what the man said. It was a matter as to which he
had, in the way of business, received intelligence of his own from the
colony, and he was aware that he had been singularly lucky as to the
circumstances and time of the sale. But there had been nothing 'smart'
about it. Those in the colony who understood the matter thought at the
time that he was making a sacrifice of his own interests by the terms
proposed. He had thought so himself, but had been willing to make it in
order that he might rid himself of further trouble. He had believed that
the machinery and plant attached to the mine had been nearly worth the
money, and he had been quite certain that Crinkett himself, when making
the bargain, had considered himself to be in luck's way. But such
property, as he well knew, was, by its nature, precarious and liable to
sudden changes. He had been fortunate, and the purchasers had been the
reverse Of that he had no doubt, though probably the man had exaggerated
his own misfortune. When he had been given to understand how bad had
been the fate of these old companions of his in the matter, with the
feelings of a liberal gentleman he was anxious to share with them the
loss. Had Crinkett come to him, explaining all that he now explained,
without any interference from Euphemia Smith, he would have been anxious
to do much. But now;--how could he do anything now? 'I do not at all
disbelieve what you tell me about the mine,' he said.
'And yet you won't do anything for us? You ain't above taking all our
money and seeing us starve; and that when you have got everything round
you here like an estated gentleman, as you are?'
There was a touch of eloquence in this, a soundness of expostulation
which moved him much. He could afford to give back half the price he had
received for the mine and yet be a well-to-do man.
He paid over to his father the rents from Folking, but he had the house
and home-farm for nothing. And the sum which he had received for
Polyeuka by no means represented all his savings. He did not like to
think that he had denuded this man who had been his partner of
everything in order that he himself might be unnecessarily rich. It was
not pleasant to him to think that the fatness of his opulence had been
extracted from Jack Adamson and from--Euphemia Smith. When the
application for return of the money had been first made to him from
Australia, he hadn't known what he knew now. There had been no eloquence
then,--no expostulation. Now he thoroughly wished that he was able to
make restitution. 'A threat has been used to me,' he muttered almost
anxious to explain to the man his exact position.
'A threat! I ain't threatened nothing. But I tell you there will be
threats and worse than threats. Fair means first and foul means
afterwards! That's about it, Caldigate.'
If he could have got this man to say that there was no threat, to be
simply piteous, he thought that he might even yet have suggested some
compromise. But that was impossible when he was told that worse than
threats was in store for him. He was silent for some moments, thinking
whether it would not be better for him to rush into that matter of
Euphemia Smith himself. But up to this time he had no absolute knowledge
that Crinkett was aware of the letter which had been written. No doubt
that in speaking of 'another' as being joined with himself and Adamson
he had intended that Euphemia Smith should be understood. But till her
name had been mentioned, he could not bring himself to mention it. He
could not bring himself to betray the fear which would become evident if
he spoke of the woman.
'I think you had better go to my lawyer,' he said.
'We don't want no lawyering. The plunder is yours, no doubt. Whether
you'll have so much law on your side in other matters,--that's the
question.' Crinkett did not in the least understand the state of his
companion's mind. To Crinkett it appeared that Caldigate was simply
anxious to save his money.
'I do not know that I can say anything else to you just at present. The
bargain was a fair bargain, and you have no ground for any claim. You
come to me with some mysterious threat------'
'You understand,' said Crinkett.
'I care nothing for your threats. I can only bid you go and do your
'That's what we intend.'
'That you should have lost money by me is a great sorrow to me.'
'You look sorry, squire.'
'But after what you have said, I can make you no offer. If you will go
to my brother-in-law, Mr. Robert Bolton--'
'That's the lady's brother?'
'My wife's brother.'
'I know all about it, Caldigate. I won't go to him at all. What's he to
us? It ain't likely that I am going to ask him for money to hold our
tongues. Not a bit of it. You've had sixty thousand pounds out of that
mine. The bank found twenty and took all the plant. There's forty gone.
Will you share the loss? Give us twenty and we'll be off back to
Australia by the first ship. And I'll take a wife back with me. You
understand? I'll take a wife back with me. Then we shall be all square
With what delight would he have given the twenty thousand pounds, had he
dared! Had there been no question about the woman, he would have given
the money to satisfy his own conscience as to the injury he had
involuntarily done to his old partners. But he could not do it now. He
could make no suggestion towards doing it. To do so would be to own to
all the Boltons that Mrs. Euphemia Smith was his wife. And were he to
do so, how could he make himself secure that the man and the woman would
go back to Australia and trouble him no more? All experience forbade him
to hope for such a result. And then the payment of the money would be
one of many damning pieces of evidence against him. They had now got
back for the second time to the spot at which the way up to the house at
Folking turned off from the dike. Here he paused and spoke what were
intended to be his last words. 'I have nothing more to say, Crinkett. I
will not promise anything myself. A threatened man should never give
way. You know that yourself. But if you will go to my brother-in-law I
will get him to see you.'
'D---- your brother-in-law. He ain't your brother-in-law, no more than I
Now the sword had been drawn and the battle had been declared. 'After
that,' said Caldigate, walking on in front, 'I shall decline to speak to
you any further.' He went back through the farmyard at a quick pace,
while Crinkett kept up with him, but still a few steps behind. In the
front of the house they found Jack Adamson, who, in obedience to his
friend's suggestion had been sitting anywhere about the place.
'I'm blowed if he don't mean to stick to every lump he's robbed us of!'
said Crinkett, in a loud voice.
'He do, do he? Then we know what we've got to be after.'
'I've come across some of 'em precious mean,' continued Crinkett; 'but a
meaner skunk nor this estated gent, who is a justice of the peace and a
squire and all that, I never did come across, and I don't suppose I
never shall.' And then they stood looking at him, jeering at him. And
the gardener, who was then in the front of the house, heard it all.
'Darvell,' said the squire, 'open the gate for these gentlemen.' Darvell
of course knew that they had been brought from the church to the house,
and had been invited in to the christening breakfast.
'If I were Darvell I wouldn't take wages from such a skunk as you,' said
Crinkett. 'A man as has robbed his partners of every shilling, and has
married a young lady when he has got another wife living out in the
colony. At least she was out in the colony. She ain't there now,
Darvell. She's somewhere else now. That's what your master is, Darvell.
You'll have to look out for a place, because your master'll be in quod
before long. How much is it they gets for bigamy, Jack? Three years at
the treadmill;--that's about it. But I pities the young lady and the
poor little bastard.'
What was he to do? A sense of what was fitting for his wife rather than
for himself forbade him to fly at the man and take him by the throat.
And now, of course, the wretched story would be told through all
Cambridgeshire. Nothing could prevent that now. 'Darvell,' he said, as
he turned towards the hall steps, 'you must see these men off the
premises. The less you say to them the better.'
'We'll only just tell him all about it as we goes along comfortable,'
said Adamson. Darvell, who was a good sort of man in his way,--slow
rather than stupid, weighted with the ordinary respect which a servant
has for his master,--had heard it all, but showed no particular anxiety
to hear more. He accompanied the men down to the Causeway, hardly
opening his mouth to them, while they were loud in denouncing the
meanness of the man who had deserted a wife in Australia, and had then
betrayed a young lady here in England.
'What were they talking about?' said his wife to him when they were
alone. 'I heard their voices even here.'
'They were threatening me;--threatening me and you.'
'About that woman?'
'Yes; about that woman. Not that they have dared yet to mention her
name,--but it was about that woman.'
'I've heard nothing from her since that letter. I do not know that she
is in England, but I suppose that she is with them.'
'Does it make you unhappy, John?'
'Does it frighten you?'
'Yes. It makes me fear that you for a while will be made miserable,--you
whom I had thought that I could protect from all sorrow and from all
care! O my darling! of course it frightens me; but it is for you.'
'What will they do first, John?'
'They have already said words before the man there which will of course
be spread about the country.'
Then he paused, but after pausing he spoke very plainly. 'They said that
you were not my wife.'
'But I am.'
'Indeed you are.'
'Tell me all truly. Though I were not, I would still be true to you.'
'But, Hester,--Hester, you are. Do not speak as though that were
'I know that you love me. I am sure of that. Nothing should ever make me
leave you;--nothing. You are all the world to me now. Whatever you may
have done I will be true to you. Only tell me everything.'
'I think I have,' he said, hoarsely. Then he remembered that he had told
much to Robert Bolton which she had not heard. 'I did tell her that I
would marry her.'
'Yes, I did.'
'Is not that a marriage in some countries?'
'I think nowhere,--certainly not there. And the people, hearing of it
all, used to call her by my name.'
'O John!--will not that be against us?'
'It will be against me,--in the minds of persons like your mother.'
'I will care nothing for that. I know that you have repented, and are
sorry. I know that you love me now.'
'I have always loved you since the first moment that I saw you.'
'Never for a moment believe that I will believe them. Let them do what
they will, I will be your wife. Nothing shall take me away from you. But
it is sad, is it not; on that the very day that poor baby has been
christened?' Then they sat and wept together and tried to comfort each
other. But nothing could comfort him. He was almost prostrated at the
prospect of his coming misery,--and of hers.
'Just by Telling Me that I Am'
The thunderbolt had fallen now. Caldigate, when he left his wife that he
might stroll about the place after the dusk had fallen, told himself
again and again that the thunderbolt had certainly fallen now. There
could be no longer a doubt but that this woman would claim him as her
husband. A whole world of remorse and regrets oppressed his conscience
and his heart. He looked back and remembered the wise counsels which had
been given him on board the ship, when the captain and Mrs. Callender
and poor Dick Shand had remonstrated with him, and called to mind his
own annoyance when he had bidden them mind their own affairs. And then
he remembered how he had determined to break away from the woman at
Sydney, and to explain to her, as he might then have done without
injustice, that they two could be of no service the one to the other,
and that they had better part. It seemed now, as he looked back, to have
been so easy for him then to have avoided danger, so easy to have kept a
straight course! But now,--now, surely he would be overwhelmed.
And then how easy it would have been, had he been more careful at the
beginning of these troubles, to have bought these wretches off! He had
been, he now acknowledged, too peremptory in his first refusal to refund
a portion of the money to Crinkett. The application had, indeed, been
made without those proofs as to the condition of the mine which had
since reached him, and he had distrusted Crinkett. Crinkett he had known
to be a man not to be trusted. But yet, even after receiving the letter
from Euphemia Smith, the matter might have been arranged. When he had
first become assured that the new Polyeuka Company had failed, he should
have made an offer, even though Euphemia Smith had then commenced her
threats. With skill, might he not have done it on this very day? Might
he not have made the man understand that if he would base his claim
simply on his losses, and make it openly on that ground, then his claim
should be considered? But now it was too late, and the thunderbolt had
What must he do first? Robert Bolton had promised to tell him on the
morrow whether he would act for him as his lawyer. He felt sure now that
his brother-in-law would not do so; but it would be necessary that he
should have an answer, and that necessity would give him an excuse for
going into Cambridge and showing himself among the Boltons. Let his
sufferings or his fears be what they might, he would never confess to
the world that he suffered or that he was frightened, by shutting
himself up. He would be seen about Cambridge, walking openly, as though
no reports, no rumours, had been spread about concerning him. He would
go to the houses of his wife's relations until he should be told that he
was not welcome.
'John,' his wife said to him that night, 'bear it like a man.'
'Am I not bearing it like a man?'
'It is crushing your very heart. I see it in your eyes.'
'Can you bear it?' He asked his question with a stern voice; but as he
asked it he turned to her and kissed her.
'Yes,' she said, 'yes. While I have you with me, and baby, I can bear
anything. While you will tell me everything that happens, I will bear
everything. And, John, when you were out just now, and when I am alone
and trying to pray, I told myself that I ought not to be unhappy; for I
would sooner have you and baby and all these troubles, than be back at
'I wish you were back there. I wish you had never seen me.'
'If you say that, then I shall be crushed.'
'For your sake, my darling; for your sake,--for your sake! How shall I
comfort you when all those around you are saying that you are not my
'By telling me that I am,' she said, coming and kneeling at his feet,
and looking up into his face. 'If you say so, you may be sure that I
shall believe no one who says the contrary.'
It was thus, and only now, that he began to know the real nature of the
woman whom he had succeeded in making his own, and of whom he found now
that even her own friends would attempt to rob him. 'I will bear it,' he
said, as he embraced her. 'I will bear it, if I can, like a man.'
'Oh, ma'am! those men were saying horrid things,' her nurse said to her
'Yes; very horrid things. I know it all. It is part of a wicked plot to
rob Mr. Caldigate of his money. It is astonishing the wickedness that
people will contrive. It is very very sad. I don't know how long it may
be before Mr. Caldigate can prove it all.'
'But he can prove it all, ma'am?'
'Of course he can. The truth can always be proved at last. I trust there
will be no one about the place to doubt him. If there were such a one, I
would not speak to him,--though it were my own father; though it were my
own mother.' Then she took the baby in her arms, as though fearing that
the nurse herself might not be loyal.
'I don't think there will be any as knows master, will be wrong enough
for that,' said the nurse, understanding what was expected of her. After
that, but not quite readily, the baby was once more trusted to her.
On the following morning Caldigate rode into the town, and as he put his
horse up at the inn, he felt that the very ostler had heard the story.
As he walked along the street, it seemed to him that everyone he met
knew all about it. Robert Bolton would, of course, have heard it; but
nevertheless he walked boldly into the attorney's office. His fault at
the time was in being too bold in manner, in carrying himself somewhat
too erect, in assuming too much confidence in his eye and mouth. To act
a part perfectly requires a consummate actor; and there are phases in
life in which acting is absolutely demanded. A man cannot always be at
his ease, but he should never seem to be discomfited. For petty troubles
the amount of acting necessary is so common that habit has made it
almost natural. But when great sorrows come it is hard not to show
them,--and harder still not to seem to hide them.
When he entered the private room he found that the old man was there
with his son. He shook hands, of course, with both of them, and then he
stood a moment silent to hear how they would address him. But as they
also were silent he was compelled to speak. 'I hope you got home all
right, sir, yesterday; and Mrs. Bolton.'
The old man did not answer, but he turned his face round to his son. 'I
hear that you had that man Crinkett out at Folking yesterday,' said
'He was there, certainly, to my sorrow.'
'And another with him?'
'Yes; and another with him, whom I had also known at Nobble.'
'And they were brought in to breakfast?'
'And they afterwards declared that you had married a wife out there in
'That also is true.'
'They have been with my father this morning.'
'I am very, very sorry, sir,' said Caldigate, turning to the old man,
'that you should have been troubled in so disagreeable a business.'
'Now, Caldigate, I will tell you what we propose.' It was still the
attorney who was speaking, for the old man had not as yet opened his
mouth since his son-in-law had entered the room. 'There can, I think, be
no doubt that this woman intends to bring an accusation of bigamy
'She is threatening to do it. I think it very improbable that she will
be fool enough to make the attempt.'
'From what I have heard I feel sure that the attempt will be made.
Depositions, in fact, will be made before the magistrates some day this
week. Crinkett and the woman have been with the mayor this morning, and
have been told the way in which they should proceed.' Caldigate, when he
heard this, felt that he was trembling, but he looked into the speaker's
face without allowing his eyes to turn to the right or left. 'I am not
going to say anything now about the case itself. Indeed, as I know
nothing, I can say nothing. You must provide yourself with a lawyer.'
'You will not act for me?'
'Certainly not. I must act for my sister. Now what I propose, and what
her father proposes, is this,--that she shall return to her home at
Puritan Grange while this question is being decided.'
'Certainly not,' said the husband.
'She must,' said the old man, speaking for the first time.
'We shall compel it,' said the attorney.
'Compel! How will you compel it? She is my wife.'
'That has to be proved. Public opinion will compel it, if nothing else.
You cannot make a prisoner of her.'
'Oh, she shall go if she wishes it. You shall have free access to her.
Bring her mother. Bring your carriage. She shall dispose of herself as
she pleases. God forbid that I should keep her, though she be my wife,
against her will.'
'I am sure she will do as her friends shall advise her when she hears
the story,' said the attorney.
'She has heard the story. She knows it all. And I am sure that she will
not stir a foot,' said the husband 'You know nothing about her.' This he
said turning to his wife's half-brother; and then again he turned to the
old man. 'You, sir, no doubt, are well aware that she can be firm to her
purpose. Nothing but death could take her away from me. If you were to
carry her by force to Chesterton she would return to Folking on foot
before the day was over. She knows what it is to be a wife. I am not a
bit afraid of her leaving me.' This he was able to say with a high
spirit and an assured voice.
'It is quite out of the question that she should stay with you while
this is going on.'
'Of course she must come away,' said the banker, not looking at the man
whom he now hated as thoroughly as did his wife.
'Consult your own friends, and let her consult hers They will all tell
you so. Ask Mrs. Babington. Ask your own father.'
'I shall ask no one--but her.'
'Think what her position will be! All the world will at least doubt
whether she be your wife or not.'
'There is one person who will not doubt,--and that is herself.'
'Very good. If it be so, that will be a comfort to you, no doubt. But,
for her sake, while other people doubt, will it not be better that she
should be with her father and mother? Look at it all round.'
'I think it would be better that she should be with me,' replied
'Even though your former marriage with that other woman were proved?'
'I will not presume that to be possible. Though a jury should so decide,
their decision would be wrong. Such an error could not effect us. I will
not think of such a thing.'
'And you do not perceive that her troubles will be lighter in her
father's house than in yours?'
'Certainly not. To be away from her own house would be such a trouble to
her that she would not endure it unless restrained by force.'
'If you press her, she would go. Cannot you see that it would be better
for her name?'
'Her name is my name,' he said, clenching his fist in his violence, 'and
my name is hers. She can have no good name distinct from me,--no name at
all. She is part and parcel of my very self, and under no circumstances
will I consent that she shall be torn away from me. No word from any
human being shall persuade me to it,--unless it should come from
'We can make her,' said the old man.
'No doubt we could get an order from the Court,' said the attorney,
thinking that anything might be fairly said in such an emergency as
this; 'but it will be better that she should come of her own accord, or
by his direction. Are you aware how probable it is that you may be in
prison within a day or two?'
To this Caldigate made no answer, but turned round to leave the room. He
paused a moment at the doorway to think whether another word or two
might not be said in behalf of his wife. It seemed hard to him, or hard
rather upon her, that all the wide-stretching solid support of her
family should be taken away from her at such a crisis as the present. He
knew their enmity to himself. He could understand both the old enmity
and that which had now been newly engendered. Both the one and the other
were natural. He had succeeded in getting the girl away from her parents
in opposition to both father and mother. And now, almost within the
first year of his marriage, she had been brought to this terrible misery
by means of disreputable people with whom he had been closely connected!
Was it not natural that Robert Bolton should turn against him? If Hester
had been his sister and there had come such an interloper what would he
have felt? Was it not his duty to be gentle and to give way, if by any
giving way he could lessen the evil which he had occasioned. 'I am sorry
to have to leave your presence like this,' he said, turning back to Mr.
'Why did you ever come into my presence?'
'What has been done is done. Even if I would give her back, I cannot.
For better or for worse she is mine. We cannot make it otherwise now.
But understand this, when you ask that she shall come back to you, I do
not refuse it on my own account. Though I should be miserable indeed
were she to leave me, I will not even ask her to stay. But I know she
will stay. Though I should try to drive her out, she would not go.
Good-bye, sir.' The old man only shook his head. 'Good-bye, Robert.'
'Good-bye. You had better get some lawyer as soon as you can. If you
know any one in London you should send for him. If not, Mr. Seely here
is as good a man as you can have. He is no friend of mine, but he is a
careful attorney who understands his business.' Then Caldigate left the
room with the intention of going at once to Mr. Seely.
But standing patiently at the door, just within the doorway of the
house, he met a tall man in dark plain clothes; whom he at once knew to
be a policeman. The man, who was aware that Caldigate was a county
magistrate, civilly touched his hat, and then, with a few whispered
words, expressed his opinion that our hero had better go with him to the
mayor's office. Had he a warrant? Yes, he had a warrant, but he thought
that probably it might not be necessary for him to show it. 'I will go
with you, of course,' said Caldigate. 'I suppose it is on the allegation
of a man named Crinkett.'
'A lady, sir, I think,' said the policeman.
'One Mrs. Smith.'
'She called herself--Caldigate, sir,' said the policeman. Then they went
together without any further words to the mayor's court, and from
thence, before he heard the accusation made against him, he sent both
for his father and for Mr. Seely.
He was taken through to a private room, and thither came at once the
mayor and another magistrate of the town with whom he was acquainted.
'This is a very sad business, Mr. Caldigate,' said the mayor.
'Very sad, indeed. I suppose I know all about it. Two men were with me
yesterday threatening to indict me for bigamy if I did not give them a
considerable sum of money. I can quite understand that they should have
been here, as I know the nature of the evidence they can use. The
policeman tells me the woman is here too.'
'Oh yes;--she is here, and has made her deposition Indeed, there are two
men and another woman who all declare that they were present at her
marriage.' Then, after some further conversation, the accusers were
brought into the room before him, so that their depositions might be
read to him. The woman was closely veiled, so that he could not see a
feature of her face; but he knew her figure well, and he remembered the
other woman who had been half-companion half-servant to Euphemia Smith
when she had come up to the diggings, and who had been with her both at
Ahalala and at Nobble. The woman's name, as he now brought to mind, was
Anna Young. Crinkett also and Adamson followed them into the room, each
of whom had made a deposition on the matter. 'Is this the Mr.
Caldigate,' said the mayor, 'whom you claim as your husband?'
'He is my husband,' said the woman. 'He and I were married at Ahalala in
New South Wales.' 'It is false,' said Caldigate.
'Would you wish to see her face?' asked the mayor.
'No; I know her voice well. She is the woman in whose company I went out
to the Colony, and whom I knew while I was there. It is not necessary
that I should see her. What does she say?'
'That I am your wife, John Caldigate.'
Then the deposition was read to him, which stated on the part of the
woman, that on a certain day she was married to him by the Rev. Mr.
Allan, a Wesleyan minister, at Ahalala, that the marriage took place in
a tent belonging, as she believed, to Mr. Crinkett, and that Crinkett,
Adamson, and Anna Young were all present at the marriage. Then the three
persons thus named had taken their oaths and made their depositions to
the same effect. And a document was produced, purporting to be a copy of
the marriage certificate as made out by Mr. Allan,--copy which she, the
woman, stated that she obtained at the time, the register itself, which
consisted simply of an entry in a small book, having been carried away
by Mr. Allan in his pocket. Crinkett, when asked what had become of Mr.
Allan, stated that he knew nothing but that he had left Ahalala. From
that day to this none of them had heard of Mr Allan.
Then the mayor gave Caldigate to understand that he must hold himself as
committed to stand his trial for bigamy at the next Assizes for the
The Conclave at Puritan Grange
John Caldigate was committed, and liberated on bail. This occurred in
Cambridge on the Wednesday after the christening; and before the
Saturday night following, all the Boltons were thoroughly convinced that
this wretched man, who had taken from them their daughter and their
sister, was a bigamist, and that poor Hester, though a mother, was not a
wife. The evidence against him, already named, was very strong, but they
had been put in possession of other, and as they thought more damning
evidence than any to which he had alluded in telling his version of the
story to Robert Bolton. The woman had produced, and had shown to Robert
Bolton, the envelope of a letter addressed in John Caldigate's
handwriting to 'Mrs. Caldigate, Ahalala, Nobble,' which letter had been
dated inside from Sydney, and which envelope bore the Sydney postmark
Caldigate's handwriting was peculiar, and the attorney declared that he
could himself swear to it. The letter itself she also produced, but it
told less than the envelope. It began as such a letter might begin,
'Dearest Feemy,' and ended 'Yours, ever and always, J.C.' As she herself
had pointed out, a man such as Caldigate does not usually call his wife
by that most cherished name in writing to her. The letter itself
referred almost altogether to money matters, though perhaps hardly to
such as a man generally discusses with his wife. Certain phrases seemed
to imply a distinct action. She had better sell these shares or those,
if she could, for a certain price,--and suchlike. But she explained,
that they both when they married had been possessed of mining shares,
represented by scrip which passed from hand to hand readily, and that
each still retained his or her own property. But among the various small
documents which she had treasured up for use, should they be needed for
some possible occasion such as this, was a note, which had not, indeed,
been posted, but which purported to have been written by the minister,
Allan, to Caldigate himself, offering to perform the marriage at
Ahalala, but advising him to have the ceremony performed at some more
settled place, where an established church community with a permanent
church or chapel admitted the proper custody of registers. Nothing could
be more sensible, or written in a better spirit than this letter, though
the language was not that of an educated man. This letter, Caldigate
had, she said, showed to her, and she had retained it. Then she brought
forward two handkerchiefs which she herself had marked with her new
name, Euphemia Caldigate, and the date of the year. This had been done,
she declared, immediately after her marriage, and the handkerchiefs
seemed by their appearance to justify the assertion. Caldigate had
admitted a promise, admitted that he had lived with the woman, admitted
that she had passed by his name, admitted that there had been a
conversation with the clergyman in regard to his marriage. And now there
were three others, besides the woman herself, who were ready to
swear,--who had sworn,--that they had witnessed the ceremony!
A clerk had been sent out early in November by Robert and William Bolton
to make inquiry in the colony, and he could not well return before the
end of March. And, if the accused man should ask for delay, it would
hardly be possible to refuse the request as it might be necessary for
his defence that he, too, should get evidence from the colony. The next
assizes would be in April, and it would hardly be possible that the
trial should take place so soon. And if not there would be a delay of
three or four months more. Even that might hardly suffice should a plea
be made on Caldigate's behalf that prolonged inquiry was indispensable.
A thousand allegations might be made, as to the characters of these
witnesses which doubtless were open to criticism; as to the probability
of forgery; as to the necessity of producing Allan, the clergyman; as to
Mrs. Smith's former position,--whether or no she was in truth a widow
when she was living at Ahalala. Richard Shand had been at Ahalala, and
must have known the truth. Caldigate might well declare that Richard
Shand's presence was essential to his defence. There would and must be
But what, in the meantime, would be the condition of Hester,--Hester
Bolton, as they feared that they would be bound in duty to call her,--of
Hester and her infant? The thing was so full of real tragedy true human
nature of them all was so strongly affected, that for a time family
jealousies and hatred had to give way. To father and mother and to the
brothers, and to the brother's wife, it was equally a catastrophe,
terrible, limitless, like an earthquake or the falling upon them of some
ruined tower. One thing was clear to them all,--that she and her child
must be taken away from Folking. Her continued residence there would be
a continuation of the horror. The man was not her husband. Not one of
them was inspired by a feeling of mercy to allege that, in spite of all
that they had heard, he still might be her husband. Even Mrs. Robert,
who had been most in favour of the Caldigate marriage, did not doubt for
an instant. The man had been a gambler at home on racecourses, and then
had become a gambler at the gold-mines in the colony. His life then, by
his own admission, had been disreputable. Who does not know that vices
which may be treated with tenderness, almost with complaisance, while
they are kept in the background, became monstrous, prodigious,
awe-inspiring when they are made public? A gentleman shall casually let
slip some profane word, and even some friendly parson standing by will
think but little of it; but let the profane word, through some
unfortunate accident, find its way into the newspapers and the gentleman
will be held to have disgraced himself almost for ever. Had nothing been
said of a marriage between Caldigate and Mrs. Smith, little would have
been thought by Robert Bolton, little perhaps by Robert Bolton's father,
little even by Robert Bolton's wife, of the unfortunate alliance which
he had admitted. But now, everything was added to make a pile of
wickedness as big as a mountain.
From the conclave which was held on Saturday at Puritan Grange to decide
what should be done, it was impossible to exclude Mrs. Bolton. She was
the young mother's mother, and how should she be excluded? From the
first moment in which something of the truth had reached her ears, it
had become impossible to silence her or to exclude her. To her all those
former faults would have been black as vice itself, even though there
had been no question of a former marriage. Outside active sins, to which
it may be presumed no temptation allured herself, were abominable to
her. Evil thoughts, hardness of heart, suspicions, unforgivingness,
hatred, being too impalpable for denunciation in the Decalogue but lying
nearer to the hearts of most men than murder, theft, adultery, and
perjury, were not equally abhorrent to her. She had therefore allowed
herself to believe all evil of this man, and from the very first had set
him down in her heart as a hopeless sinner. The others had opposed
her,--because the man had money. In the midst of her shipwreck, in the
midst of her misery, through all her maternal agony, there was a certain
triumph to her in this. She had been right,--right from first to last,
right in everything. Her poor old husband was crushed by the feeling
that they had, among them, allowed this miscreant to take their darling
away from them,--that he himself had assented; but she had not assented;
she was not crushed. Before Monday night all Cambridge had heard
something of the story, and then it had been impossible to keep her in
the dark. And now, when the conclave met, of course she was one. The old
man was there, and Robert Bolton, and William the barrister, who had
come down from London to give his advice, and both Mr. and Mrs. Daniel.
Mrs. Daniel, of all the females of the family, was the readiest to
endure the severity of the step-mother, and she was now giving what
comfort she could by her attendance at the Grange.
'Of course she should come home,' said the barrister Up to this moment
no one had seen Hester since the evil tidings had been made known; but a
messenger had been sent out to Folking with a long letter from her
mother, in which the poor nameless one had been implored to come back
with her baby to her old home till this matter had been settled. The
writer had endeavoured to avoid the saying of hard things against the
sinner; but her feelings had been made very clear. 'Your father and
brothers and all of us think that you should come away from him while
this is pending. Nay; we do not hesitate to say that it is your bounden
duty to leave him.'
'I will never, never leave my dearest, dearest husband If they were to
put my husband into gaol I would sit at the door till they had let him
out.' That, repeated over and over again, had been the purport of her
reply. And that word 'husband,' she used in almost every line, having
only too clearly observed that her mother had not used it at all.
'Dearest mother,' she said, ending her letter, 'I love you as I have
always done. But when I became his wife, I swore to love him best. I did
not know then how strong my love could be. I have hardly known till now,
when he is troubled, of what devotion I was capable. I will not leave
him for a moment,--unless I have to do so at his telling.'
Such being her determination, and so great her obstinacy, it was quite
clear that they could not by soft words or persuasive letters bring her
to their way of thinking. She would not submit to their authority, but
would claim that as a married woman she owed obedience only to her
husband. And it would certainly not be within their power to make her
believe that she was not Caldigate's wife. They believed it. They felt
that they knew the facts. To them any continuation of the alliance
between their poor girl and the false traitor was abominable. They would
have hung the man without a moment's thought of mercy had it been
possible. There was nothing they would not have done to rescue their
Hester from his power. But how was she to be rescued till the dilatory
law should have claimed its victim? 'Can't she be made to come away by
the police?' asked the mother.
The barrister shook his head. 'Couldn't the magistrates give an order?'
asked the father. Mr. Bolton had been a magistrate himself,--was one
still indeed, although for some years he had not sat upon the
bench,--but he had no very clear idea of a magistrate's power. The
barrister again shook his head. 'You seemed to think that something of
the kind could be done,' he said, turning to Robert. When he wanted
advice he would always turn to Robert, especially in the presence of the
barrister, intending to show that he thought the lower branch of the
profession to be at any rate more accurate than the higher.
'I said something about an order from the Vice-Chancellor. But I fear
we should not succeed in getting it.' The barrister again shook his
'Do you mean to say that nothing can be done?' exclaimed Mrs. Bolton,
rising up from her seat; 'that no steps can be taken?'
'If she were once here, perhaps you could--prevent her return,'
whispered the barrister.
'Persuade her not to go back,' suggested Mrs. Daniel.
'Well;--that might come after a time. But I think you would have the
feeling of the community with you if you succeeded;--well, not violence,
'No; not violence,' said the father.
'I could be violent with him,' said Mrs. Bolton.
'Just do not let her leave the house,' continued the barrister. 'Of
course it would be disagreeable.'
'I should not mind that,' said Mrs. Bolton. 'In doing my duty I could
bear anything. To separate her from him I could undergo any trouble.'
'But he would have the power to fetch her?' asked the father,
'No doubt;--by law he would have such power. But the magistrates would
be very loath to assist him. The feeling of the community, as I said,
would be in your favour. She would be cowed, and when once she was away
from him he would probably feel averse to increase our enmity by taking
strong measures for her recovery.' Mrs. Bolton seemed to declare by her
face that it would be quite impossible for him to increase her enmity.
'But we can't lock her up,' said the old man.