Part 9 out of 11
feeling at Pollington among the Shands--who had no doubt allowed
themselves to think that Maria had been ill-treated by John Caldigate.
He ought to have married Maria,--at least such was the opinion of the
ladies of the family, who were greatly impressed with the importance of
the little book which had been carried away. But in regard to the
Australian marriage, they had differed among themselves. That Maria
should have escaped the terrible doom which had befallen Mrs. Bolton's
daughter, was, of course, a source of comfort. But Maria herself would
never believe the evil story. John Caldigate had not been--well, perhaps
not quite true to her. So much she acknowledged gently with the germ of
a tear in her eye. But she was quite sure that he would not have married
Hester Bolton while another wife was living in Australia. She arose
almost to enthusiasm as she vindicated his character from so base a
stain. He had been, perhaps, a little unstable in his affections,--as
men are so commonly. But not even when the jury found their verdict,
could she be got to believe that the John Caldigate whom she had known
would have betrayed a girl whom he loved as he was supposed to have
betrayed Hester Bolton. The mother and sisters, who knew the softness of
Maria's disposition,--and who had been more angry than their sister with
the man who had been wicked enough to carry away Thomson's 'Seasons' in
his portmanteau without marrying the girl who had put it there,--would
not agree to this. The verdict, at any rate, was a verdict. John
Caldigate was in prison. The poor young woman with her infant was a
nameless, unfortunate creature. All this might have happened to their
Maria. 'I should always have believed him innocent,' said Maria, wiping
away the germ of the tear with her knuckle.
The matter was very often discussed in the doctor's house at
Pollington,--as it was, indeed, by the public generally, and especially
in the eastern counties. But in this house there a double interest
attached to it. In the first place, there was Maria's escape,--which the
younger girls were accustomed to talk of as having been 'almost
miraculous;' and then there was Dick's absolute disappearance. It had
been declared at the trial, on behalf of Caldigate, that if Dick could
have been put into the witness-box, he would have been able to swear
that there had been no such marriage ceremony as that which the four
witnesses had elaborately described. On the other hand, the woman and
Crinkett had sworn boldly that Dick Shand, though not present at the
marriage, had been well aware that it had taken place, and that Dick,
could his evidence have been secured, would certainly have been a
witness on their side. He had been outside the tent,--so said the
woman,--when the marriage was being performed, and had refused to enter,
by way of showing his continued hostility to an arrangement which he had
always opposed. But when the woman said this, it was known that Dick
Shand would not appear, and the opinion was general that Dick had died
in his poverty and distress. Men who sink to be shepherds in Australia
because they are noted drunkards, generally do die. The constrained
abstinence of perhaps six months in the wilderness is agonising at
first, and nearly fatal. Then the poor wretch rushes to the joys of an
orgy with ten or fifteen pounds in his pocket; and the stuff which is
given to him as brandy soon puts an end to his sufferings. There was but
little doubt that such had been the fate of Dick,--unless, perhaps, in
the bosom of Maria and of his mother.
It was known too at Pollington, as well as elsewhere in the month of
August, that efforts were still to be made with the view of upsetting
the verdict. Something had crept out to the public as to the researches
made by Bagwax, and allusions had been frequent as to the unfortunate
absence of Dick Shand. The betting, had there been betting, would no
doubt have been in favour of the verdict. The four witnesses had told
their tale in a straightforward way; and though they were, from their
characters, not entitled to perfect credit, still their evidence had in
no wise been shaken. They were mean, dishonest folk, no doubt. They had
taken Caldigate's money, and had still gone on with the prosecution.
Even if there had been some sort of a marriage, the woman should have
taken herself off when she had received her money, and left poor Hester
to enjoy her happiness, her husband, and her home at Bolton. That was
the general feeling. But it was hardly thought that Bagwax, with his
envelope, would prevail over Judge Bramber in the mind of the Secretary
of State. Probably there had been a marriage. But it was singular that
the two men who could have given unimpeachable evidence on the matter
should both have vanished out of the world; Allan, the minister,--and
Dick Shand, the miner and shepherd.
'What will she do when he comes out?' Maria asked. Mrs.
Rewble,--Harriet,--the curate's wife, was there. Mr. Rewble, as curate,
found it convenient to make frequent visits to his father-in-law's
house. And Mrs. Posttlethwaite,--Matilda,--was with them, as Mr.
Posttlethwaite's business in the soap line caused him to live at
Pollington. And there were two unmarried sisters, Fanny and Jane. Mrs.
Rewble was by this time quite the matron, and Mrs. Posttlethwaite was
also the happy mother of children. But Maria was still Maria. Fanny
already had a string to her bow,--and Jane was expectant of many
'She ought to go back to her father and mother, of course,' said Mrs.
'I know I wouldn't,' said Jane.
'You know nothing about it, miss, and you ought not to speak of such a
thing,' said the curate's wife. Jane at this made a grimace which was
intended to be seen only by her sister Fanny.
'It is very hard that two loving hearts should be divided,' said Maria.
'I never thought so much of John Caldigate as you did,' said Mrs.
Posttlethwaite. 'He seems to have been able to love a good many young
women all at the same time.'
'It's like tasting a lot of cheeses, till you get the one that suits
you,' said Jane. This offended the elder sister so grievously that she
declared she did not know what their mother was about, to allow such
liberty to the girls, and then suggested that the conversation should be
'I'm sure I did not say anything wrong,' said Jane, 'and I suppose it
is like that. A gentleman has to find out whom he likes best. And as he
liked Miss Bolton best, I think it's a thousand pities they should be
'Ten thousand pities!' said Maria enthusiastically.
'Particularly as there is a baby,' said Jane,--upon which Mrs. Rewble
was again very angry.
'If Dick were to come home, he'd clear it all up at once,' said Mrs.
'Dick will never come home,' said Matilda mournfully.
'Never!' said Mrs. Rewble. 'I am afraid that he has expiated all his
indiscretions. It should make us who were born girls thankful that we
have not been subjected to the same temptations.'
'I should like to be a man all the same,' said Jane.
'You do not at all know what you are saying,' replied the monitor. 'How
little have you realized what poor Dick must have suffered! I wonder
when they are going to let us have tea. I'm almost famished.' Mrs.
Rewble was known in the family for having a good appetite. They were
sitting at this moment round a table on the lawn, at which they intended
to partake of their evening meal. The doctor might or might not join
them. Mrs. Shand, who did not like the open air, would have hers sent to
her in the drawing-room. Mr. Rewble would certainly be there. Mr.
Posttlethwaite, who had been home to his dinner, had gone back to the
soap-works. 'Don't you think, Jane, if you were to go in, you could
hurry them?' Then Jane went in and hurried the servant.
'There's a strange man with papa,' said Jane, as she returned.
'There are always strange men with papa,' said Fanny. 'I daresay he has
come to have his tooth out.' For the doctor's practice was altogether
general. From a baby to a back-tooth, he attended to everything now, as
he had done forty years ago.
'But this man isn't like a patient. The door was half open, and I saw
papa holding him by both hands.'
'A lunatic!' exclaimed Mrs. Rewble, thinking that Mr. Rewble ought to be
sent at once to her father's assistance.
'He was quite quiet, and just for a moment I could see papa's face. It
wasn't a patient at all. Oh, Maria!'
'What is it, child?' asked Mrs. Rewble.
'I do believe that Dick has come back.'
They all jumped up from their seats suddenly. Then Mrs. Rewble reseated
herself. 'Jane is such a fool!' she said.
'I do believe it,' said Jane. 'He had yellow trousers on, as if he had
come from a long way off. And I'm sure papa was very glad,--why should
he take both his hands?'
'I feel as though my legs were sinking under me,' said Maria.
'I don't think it possible for a moment,' said Mrs. Rewble. 'Maria, you
are so romantic! You would believe anything.'
'It is possible,' said Mrs. Posttlethwaite.
'If you will remain here, I will go into the house and inquire,' said
Mrs. Rewble. But it did not suit the others to remain there. For a
moment the suggestion had been so awful that they had not dared to stir;
but when the elder sister slowly moved towards the door which led into
the house from the garden, they all followed her. Then suddenly they
heard a scream, which they knew to come from their mother. 'I believe it
is Dick,' said Mrs. Rewble, standing in the doorway so as to detain the
others. 'What ought we to do?'
'Let me go in,' said Jane, impetuously. 'He is my brother.'
Maria was already dissolved in tears. Mrs. Posttlethwaite was struck
dumb by the awfulness of the occasion, and clung fast to her sister
'It will be like one from the grave,' said Mrs. Rewble, solemnly.
'Let me go in,' repeated Jane, impetuously. Then she pushed by her
sisters, and was the first to enter the house. They all followed her
into the hall, and there they found their mother supported in the arms
of the man who wore the yellow trousers. Dick Shand had in truth
returned to his father's house.
The first thing to do with a returned prodigal is to kiss him, and the
next to feed him; and therefore Dick was led away at once to the table
on the lawn. But he gave no sign of requiring the immediate slaughter of
a fatted calf. Though he had not exactly the appearance of a well-to-do
English gentleman, he did not seem to be in want. The yellow trousers
were of strong material, and in good order, made of that colour for
colonial use, probably with the idea of expressing some contempt for the
dingy hues which prevail among the legs of men at home. He wore a very
large checked waistcoat, and a stout square coat of the same material.
There was no look of poverty, and no doubt he had that day eaten a
substantial dinner; but the anxious mother was desirous of feeding him
immediately, and whispered to Jane some instructions as to cold beef,
which was to be added to the tea and toast.
As they examined him, holding him by the arms and hands, and gazing up
into his face, the same idea occurred to all of them. Though they knew
him very well now, they would hardly have known him had they met him
suddenly in the streets. He seemed to have grown fifteen years older
during the seven years of his absence. His face had become thin and long
and almost hollow. His beard went all round under his chin, and was
clipped into the appearance of a stiff thick hedge--equally thick, and
equally broad, and equally protrusive at all parts. And within this
enclosure it was shorn. But his mouth had sunk in, and his eyes. In
colour he was almost darker than brown. You would have said that his
skin had been tanned black, but for the infusion of red across it here
and there. He seemed to be in good present health, but certainly bore
the traces of many hardships 'And here you are all just as I left you,'
he said, counting up his sisters.
'Not exactly,' said Mrs. Rewble, remembering her family. 'And Matilda
has got two.'
'Not husbands, I hope,' said Dick.
'Oh, Dick! that is so like you,' said Jane, getting up and kissing him
again in her delight. Then Mr. Rewble came forward, and the
brothers-in-law renewed their old acquaintance.
'It seems just like the other day,' said Dick, looking round upon the
'Oh my boy! my darling, darling boy!' said the mother, who had hurried
up-stairs for her shawl, conscious of her rheumatism even amidst the
excitement of her son's return. 'Oh, Dick! This is the happiest day of
all my life. Wouldn't you like something better than tea?' This she said
with many memories and many thoughts; but still, with a mother's love,
unable to refrain from offering what she thought her son would wish to
'There ain't anything better,' said Dick very solemnly.
'Nothing half so good to my thinking,' said Mrs. Rewble, imagining that
by a word in season she might help the good work.
The mother's eyes were filled with tears, but she did not dare to speak
a word. Then there was a silence for a few moments. 'Tell us all about
it, Dick,' said the father. 'There's whisky inside if you like it.' Dick
shook his head solemnly,--but, as they all thought, with a certain air
of regret. Tell us what you have to say,' repeated the doctor.
'I'm sworn off these two years.'
'Touched nothing for two years?' said the mother exultingly, with her
arms and shawl again round her son's neck.
'A teetotaller?' said Maria.
'Anything you like to call it. Only, what a gentleman's habits are in
that respect needn't be made the subject of general remark.' It was
evident he was a little sore, and Jane, therefore, offered him a dish
full of gooseberries. He took the plate in his hand and ate them
assiduously for a while in silence, as though unconscious of what he was
doing. 'You know all about it now, don't you?'
'Oh my dearest boy!' ejaculated the mother.
'You didn't get better gooseberries than those on your travels,' said
the doctor, calling him back to the condition of the world around him.
Then he told them of his adventures. For two terrible years he had been
a shepherd on different sheep-runs up in Queensland. Then he had found
employment on a sugar plantation, and had superintended the work of a
gang of South Sea Islanders,--Canakers they are called,--men who are
brought into the colony from the islands of the Pacific,--and who return
thence to their homes generally every three years, much to the regret of
their employers. In the transit of these men agents are employed, and to
this service Dick had, after a term, found himself promoted. Then it had
come to pass that he had remained for a period on one of these islands,
with the view of persuading the men to emigrate and reemigrate and had
thus been resident among them for more than a couple of years. They had
used him well, and he had liked the islands,--having lived in one of
them without seeing another European for many months. Then the payments
which had from time to time been made to him by the Queensland planters
were stopped, and his business, such as it had been, came to an end. He
had found himself with just sufficient money to bring him home; and here
'My boy, my darling boy!' exclaimed his mother again, as though all
their joint troubles were now over.
The doctor remembered the adage of the rolling stone, and felt that the
return of a son at the age of thirty, without any means of maintaining
himself, was hardly an unalloyed blessing. He was not the man to turn a
son out of doors. He had always broadened his back to bear the full
burden of his large family. But even at this moment he was a little
melancholy as he thought of the difficulty of finding employment for the
wearer of those yellow trousers. How was it possible that a man should
continue to live an altogether idle life at Pollington and still remain
a teetotaller? 'Have you any plans I can help you in now?' he asked.
'Of course he'll remain at home for a while before he thinks of
anything,' said the mother.
'I suppose I must look about me,' said Dick. By-the-by, what has become
of John Caldigate?'
They all at once gazed at each other. It could hardly be that he did not
in truth know what had become of John Caldigate.
'Haven't you heard?' asked Maria.
'Of course he has heard,' said Mrs. Rewble.
'You must have heard,' said the mother.
'I don't in the least know what you are talking about. I have heard
nothing at all.'
In very truth he had heard nothing of his old friend,--not even that he
had returned to England. Then by degrees the whole story was told to
him. 'I know that he was putting a lot of money together,' said Dick
enviously. 'Married Hester Bolton? I thought he would! Bigamy! Euphemia
Smith! Married before! Certainly not at the diggings.'
'He wasn't married up at Ahalala?' asked the doctor.
'To Euphemia Smith? I was there when they quarrelled, and when she went
into partnership with Crinkett. I am sure there was no such marriage.
John Caldigate in prison for bigamy? And he paid them twenty thousand
pounds? The more fool he!'
'They all say that.'
'But it's an infernal plant. As sure as my name is Richard Shand, John
Caldigate never married that woman.'
Again at Sir John's Chambers
And this was the man as to whom it had been acknowledged that his
evidence, if it could be obtained, would be final. The return of Dick
himself was to the Shands an affair so much more momentous than the
release of John Caldigate from prison, that for some hours or so the
latter subject was allowed to pass out of sight. The mother got him
up-stairs and asked after his linen,--vain inquiry,--and arranged for
his bed, turning all the little Rewbles into one small room. In the long
run, grandmothers are more tender to their grand-children than their own
offspring. But at this moment Dick was predominant. How grand a thing to
have her son returned to her, and such a son,--a teetotaller of two
years' growth, who had seen all the world of the Pacific Ocean! As he
could not take whisky-and-water, would he like ginger-beer before he
went to bed,--or arrowroot? Dick decided in favour of ginger-beer, and
consented to be embraced again.
It was, I think, to Maria's credit that she was the first to bring back
the conversation to John Caldigate's marriage. 'Was she a very horrible
woman?' Maria asked, referring to Euphemia Smith.
'There were a good many of 'em out there, greedy after gold,' said Dick;
'but she beat 'em all; and she was awfully clever.'
'In what way, Dick?' asked Mrs. Rewble. Because she does not seem to me
to have done very well with herself.'
'She knew more about shares than any man of them all. But I think she
just drank a little. It was that which disgusted Caldigate.'
'He had been very fond of her?' suggested Maria.
'I never knew a man so taken with a woman.' Maria blushed, and Mrs.
Rewble looked round at her younger sisters as though desirous that they
should be sent to bed. 'All that began on board the ship. Then he was
fool enough to run after her down to Sydney; and of course she followed
him up to the mines.'
'I don't know why of course,' said Mrs. Posttlethwaite defending her sex
'Well, she did. And he was going to marry her. He did mean to marry
her;--there's no doubt of that. But it was a queer kind of life we lived
'I suppose so,' said the doctor. Mrs. Rewble again looked at the girls
and then at her mother; but Mrs. Shand was older and less timid than her
married daughter. Mrs. Rewble when a girl herself had never been sent
away, and was now a pattern of female discretion.
'And she,' continued Dick, 'as soon as she had begun to finger the
scrip, thought of nothing but gold. She did not care much for marriage
just then, because she fancied the stuff wouldn't belong to herself. She
became largely concerned in the "Old Stick-in-the-Mud." That was
Crinkett's concern, and there were times at which I thought she would
marry him. Then Caldigate got rid of her altogether. That was before I
'He never married her?' asked the doctor.
'He certainly hadn't married her when I left Nobble in June '73.'
'You can swear to that, Dick?'
'Certainly I can. I was with him every day. But there wasn't anyone
round there who didn't know how it was. Crinkett himself knew it.'
'Crinkett is one of the gang against him.'
'And there was a man named Adamson. Adamson knew.'
'He's another of the conspirators,' said the doctor.
'They won't dare to say before me,' declared Dick, stoutly, 'that Mrs.
Smith and John Caldigate had become man and wife before June '73. And
they hated one another so much then that it is impossible they should
have come together since. I can swear they were not married up to June
'You'll have to swear it,' said the doctor, 'and that with as little
delay as possible.'
All this took place towards the end of August, about five weeks after
the trial, and a day or two subsequent to the interview between Bagwax
and the Attorney-General. Bagwax was now vehemently prosecuting his
inquiries as to that other idea which had struck him, and was at this
very moment glowing with the anticipation of success, and at the same
time broken-hearted with the conviction that he never would see the
pleasant things of New South Wales.
On the next morning, under the auspices of his father, Dick Shand wrote
the following letter to Mr. Seely, the attorney.
'POLLINGTON, _30th August_, 187-.
Sir,--I think it right to tell you that I reached my father's house
in this town late yesterday evening. I have come direct from one of
the South Sea Islands _via_ Honolulu and San Francisco, and have not
yet been in England forty-eight hours. I am an old friend of Mr.
John Caldigate, and went with him from England to the gold diggings
in New South Wales. My name will be known to you, as I am now aware
that it was frequently mentioned in the course of the late trial. It
will probably seem odd to you that I had never even heard of the
trial till I reached my father's house last night. I did not know
that Caldigate had married Miss Bolton, nor that Euphemia Smith had
claimed him as her husband.
'I am able and willing to swear that they had not become man and
wife up to June 1873, and that no one at Ahalala or Nobble conceived
them to be man and wife. Of course, they had lived together. But
everybody knew all about it. Some time before June,--early, I should
say, in that autumn,--there had been a quarrel. I am sure they were
at daggers drawn with each other all that April and May in respect
to certain mining shares, as to which Euphemia Smith behaved very
badly. I don't think it possible that they should ever have come
together again; but in May '73,--which is the date I have heard
named,--they certainly were not man and wife.
'I have thought it right to inform you of this immediately on my
return, and am, your obedient servant,
Mr. Seely, when he received this letter, found it to be his duty to take
it at once to Sir John Joram, up in London. He did not believe Dick
Shand. But then he had put no trust in Bagwax, and had been from the
first convinced, in his own mind, that Caldigate had married the woman.
As soon as it was known to him that his client had paid twenty thousand
pounds to Crinkett and the woman, he was quite sure of the guilt of his
client. He had done the best for Caldigate at the trial, as he would
have done for any other client; but he had never felt any of that
enthusiasm which had instigated Sir John. Now that Caldigate was in
prison, Mr. Seely thought that he might as well be left there quietly,
trusting to the verdict, trusting to Judge Bramber, and trusting still
more strongly on his own early impressions. This letter from Dick,--whom
he knew to have been a ruined drunkard, a disgrace to his family, and
an outcast from society,--was to his thinking just such a letter as
would be got up in such a case, in the futile hope of securing the
succour of a Secretary of State. He was sure that no Secretary of State
would pay the slightest attention to such a letter. But still it would
be necessary that he should show it to Sir John, and as a trip to London
was not disagreeable to his professional mind, he started with it on the
very day of its receipt.
'Of course we must have his deposition on oath,' said Sir John.
'You think it will be worth while?'
'Certainly. I am more convinced than ever that there was no marriage.
That post-office clerk has been with me,--Bagwax,--and has altogether
'I didn't think so much of Bagwax, Sir John.'
'I dare say not, Mr. Seely;--an absurdly energetic man,--one of those
who destroy by their over-zeal all the credit which their truth and
energy ought to produce. But he has, I think, convinced me that that
letter could not have passed through the Sydney post-office in May '73.'
'If so, Sir John, even that is not much,--towards upsetting a verdict.'
'A good deal, I think, when the characters of the persons are
considered. Now comes this man, whom we all should have believed, had he
been present, and tells this story. You had better get hold of him and
bring him to me, Mr. Seely.'
Then Mr. Seely hung up his hat in London for three or four days, and
sent to Pollington for Dick Shand. Dick Shand obeyed the order, and both
of them waited together upon Sir John. 'You have come back at a very
critical point of time for your friend,' said the barrister.
Dick had laid aside the coat and waistcoat with the broad checks, and
the yellow trousers, and had made himself look as much like an English
gentleman as the assistance of a ready-made-clothes shop at Pollington
would permit. But still he did not quite look like a man who had spent
three years at Cambridge. His experiences among the gold diggings then
his period of maddening desolation as a Queensland shepherd, and after
that his life among the savages in a South Sea island, had done much to
change him. Sir John and Mr. Seely together almost oppressed him. But
still he was minded to speak up for his friend. Caldigate had, upon the
whole, been very good to him, and Dick was honest. 'He has been badly
used any way,' he said.
'You have had no intercourse with any of his friends since you have been
home, I think?' This question Sir John asked because Mr. Seely had
suggested that this appearance of the man at this special moment might
not improbably be what he called a 'plant.'
'I have had no intercourse with anybody, sir. I came here last Friday,
and I hadn't spoken a word to anybody before that. I didn't know that
Caldigate had been in trouble at all. My people at Pollington were the
first to tell me about it.'
'Then you wrote to Mr. Seely? You have heard of Mr. Seely?'
'The governor,--that's my father,--he had heard of Mr. Seely. I wrote
first as he told me. They knew all about it at Pollington as well as you
'You were surprised, then, when you heard the story?'
'Knocked off my pins, sir. I never was so much taken aback in my life.
To be told that John Caldigate had married Euphemia Smith after all that
I had seen,--and that he had been married to her in May '73! I knew of
course that it was all a got-up thing. And he's in prison?'
'He is in prison, certainly.'
'Indeed he is, Mr. Shand.'
'And how about his real wife?'
'His real wife, as you call her----'
'She is, as sure as my name is Richard Shand.'
'It is on behalf of that lady that we are almost more anxious than for
Mr. Caldigate himself. In this matter she has been perfectly innocent;
and whoever may have been the culprit,--or culprits,--she has been
'She'll have her husband back again, of course,' said Dick.
'That will depend in part upon what faith the judge who tried the case
may place in your story. Your deposition shall be taken, and it will be
my duty to submit it to the Secretary of State. He will probably be
actuated by the weight which this further evidence will have upon the
judge who heard the former evidence. You will understand, Mr. Shand,
that your word will be opposed to the words of four other persons.'
'Four perjured scoundrels,' said Dick, with energy.
'Just so,--if your story be true.'
'It is true, sir,' said Dick, with much anger in his tone.
'I hope so,--with all my heart. You are on the same side with us, you
know. I only want to make you understand how much ground there may be
for doubt. It is not easy to upset a verdict. And, I fear, many
righteous verdicts would be upset if the testimony of one man could do
it. Perhaps you will be able to prove that you only arrived at Liverpool
on Saturday night.'
'Certainly I can.'
'You cannot prove that you had not heard of the case before.'
'Certainly I can. I can swear it.' Sir John smiled. 'They all knew that
at Pollington. They told me of it. The governor told me about Mr. Seely,
and made me write the letter.'
'That would not be evidence,' said Sir John.
'Heavens on earth! I tell you I was struck all on a heap when I heard
it, just as much as if they had said he'd been hung for murder. You put
Crinkett and me together and then you'll know. I suppose you think
somebody's paying me for this,--that I've got a regular tip.'
'Not at all, Mr. Shand. And I quite understand that it should be
difficult for you to understand. When a man sees a thing clearly himself
he cannot always realise the fact that others do not see it also. I
think I perceive what you have to tell us, and we are very much obliged
to you for coming forward so immediately. Perhaps you would not mind
sitting in the other room for five minutes while I say a word to Mr.
'I can go away altogether.'
'Mr. Seely will be glad to see you again with reference to the
deposition you will have to make. You shall not be kept waiting long.'
Then Dick returned, with a sore heart, feeling half inclined to blaze
out in wrath against the great advocate. He had come forward to tell a
plain story, having nothing to gain, paying his railway fare and other
expenses out of his own--or rather out of his father's pocket, and was
told he would not be believed! It is always hard to make an honest
witness understand that it may be the duty of others to believe him to
be a liar, and Dick Shand did not understand it now.
'There was no Australian marriage,' Sir John said as soon as he was
alone with Mr. Seely.
'You think not?'
'My mind is clear about it. We must get that man out, if it be only for
the sake of the lady.'
'It is so very easy, Sir John, to have a story like that made up.'
'I have had to do with a good many made-up stories, Mr. Seely;--and with
a good many true stories.'
'Of course, Sir John;--no man with more.'
'He might be a party to making up a story. There is nothing that I have
seen in him to make me sure that he could not come forward with a
determined perjury. I shouldn't think it, but it would be possible. But
his father and mother and sisters wouldn't join him.' Dick had told the
story of the meeting on the lawn at great length. 'And had it been a
plot, he couldn't have imposed upon them. He wouldn't have brought them
into it. And who would have got at him to arrange the plot?'
Sir John shook his head. 'Neither old Caldigate nor young Caldigate knew
anything of that kind of work. And then his story tallies altogether
with my hero Bagwax. Of Bagwax I am quite sure. And as Shand
corroborates Bagwax, I am nearly sure of him also. You must take his
deposition, and let me have it. It should be rather full, as it may be
necessary to hear the depositions also of the doctor and his wife. We
shall have to get him out.'
'You know best, Sir John.'
'We shall have to get him out, Mr. Seely, I think,' said Sir John,
rising from his chair. Then Mr. Seely took his leave, as was intended.
Mr. Seely was not at all convinced. He was quite willing that John
Caldigate should be released from prison, and that the Australian
marriage should be so put out of general credit in England as to allow
the young people to live in comfort at Folking as man and wife. But he
liked to feel that he knew better himself. He would have been quite
content that Mrs. John Caldigate should be Mrs. John Caldigate to all
the world,--that all the world should be imposed on,--so that he was
made subject to no imposition. In this matter, Sir John appeared to him
to be no wider awake than a mere layman. It was clear to Mr. Seely that
Dick Shand's story was 'got up,'--and very well got up. He had no pang
of conscience as to using it. But when it came to believing it, that
was quite another thing. The man turning up exactly at the moment! And
such a man! And then his pretending never to have heard of a case so
famous! Never to have heard this story of his most intimate friend! And
then his notorious poverty! Old Caldigate would of course be able to buy
such a man. And then Sir John's fatuity as to Bagwax! He could hardly
bring himself to believe that Sir John was quite in earnest. But he was
well aware that Sir John would know,--no one better,--by what arguments
such a verdict as had been given might be practically set aside. The
verdict would remain. But a pardon, if a pardon could be got from the
Secretary of State, would make the condition of the husband and wife the
same as though there had been no verdict. The indignities which they had
already suffered would simply produce for them the affectionate
commendation of all England. Mr. Seely felt all that, and was not at all
averse to a pardon. He was not at all disposed to be severe on Caldigate
senior if, as he thought, Caldigate senior had bribed this convenient
new witness. But it was too much to expect that he should believe it all
'You must come with me, Mr. Shand,' he said, 'and we must take your
story down in writing. Then you must swear to it before a magistrate.'
'All right, Mr. Seely.'
'We must be very particular, you know.'
'I needn't be particular at all;--and as to what Sir John Joram said, I
felt half inclined to punch his head.'
'That wouldn't have helped us.'
'It was only that I thought of Caldigate in prison that I didn't do it.
Because I have been roaming about the world, not always quite as well
off as himself he tells me that he doesn't believe my word.'
'I don't think he said that.'
'He didn't quite dare; but what he said was as bad. He told me that
some one else wouldn't believe it. I don't quite understand what it is
they're not to believe. All I say is, that they two were not married in
'But about your never having heard of the case till you got home?'
'I never had heard a word about it. One would think that I had done
something wrong in coming forward to tell what I know.' The deposition,
however was drawn out in due form, at considerable length, and was
properly attested before one of the London magistrates.
Dick Shand Goes To Cambridgeshire
The news of Shand's return was soon common in Cambridge. The tidings, of
course, were told to Mr. Caldigate, and were then made known by him to
Hester. The old man, though he turned the matter much in his
mind,--doubting whether the hopes thus raised would not add to Hester's
sorrow should they not ultimately be realised,--decided that he could
not keep her in the dark. Her belief could not be changed by any
statement which Shand might make. Her faith was so strong that no
evidence could shake it,--or confirm it. But there would, no doubt,
arise in her mind a hope of liberation if any new evidence against the
Australian marriage were to reach her; which hope might so probably be
delusive! But he knew her to be strong to endure as well as strong to
hope, and therefore he told her at once. Then Mr. Seely returned to
Cambridge, and all the facts of Shand's deposition were made known at
Folking. 'That will get him out at once, of course,' said Hester,
triumphantly, as soon as she heard it. But the Squire was older and more
cautious, and still doubted. He explained that Dick Shand was not a man
who by his simple word would certainly convince a Secretary of
State;--that deceit might be suspected;--that a fraudulent plot would be
possible; and that very much care was necessary before a convicted
prisoner would be released.
'I am quite sure, from Mr. Seely's manner, that he thinks I have bribed
the young man,' said Caldigate.
'Yes;--I. These are the ideas which naturally come into people's heads.
I am not in the least angry with Mr. Seely, and feel that it is only too
likely that the Secretary of State and the judge will think the same. If
I were Secretary of State I should have to think so.'
'I couldn't suspect people like that.'
'And therefore, my dear, you are hardly fit to be Secretary of State. We
must not be too sanguine. That is all.'
But Hester was very sanguine. When it was fully known that Dick had
written to Mr. Seely immediately on his arrival at Pollington, and that
he had shown himself to be a warm partisan in the Caldigate interests,
she could not rest till she saw him herself, and persuaded Mr. Caldigate
to invite him down to Folking. To Folking therefore he went, with the
full intention of declaring John Caldigate's innocence, not only there,
but all through Cambridgeshire. The Boltons, of whom he had now heard
something, should be made to know what an honest man had to say on the
subject,--an honest man, and who was really on the spot at the time. To
Dick's mind it was marvellous that the Boltons should have been anxious
to secure a verdict against Caldigate,--which verdict was also against
their own daughter and their own sister. Being quite sure himself that
Caldigate was innocent, he could not understand the condition of feeling
which would be produced by an equally strong conviction of his guilt.
Nor was his mind, probably, imbued with much of that religious scruple
which made the idea of a feigned marriage so insupportable to all
Hester's relations. Nor was he aware that when a man has taken a
preconception home to himself and fastened it and fixed it, as it were,
into his bosom, he cannot easily expel it,--even though personal
interest should be on the side of such expulsion. It had become a
settled belief with the Boltons that John Caldigate was a bigamist,
which belief had certainly been strengthened by the pertinacious
hostility of Hester's mother. Dick had heard something of all this, and
thought that he would be able to open their eyes.
When he arrived at Folking he was received with open arms. Sir John
Joram had not quite liked him, because his manner had been rough. Mr.
Seely had regarded him from the first as a ruined man, and therefore a
willing perjurer. Even at Pollington his 'bush' manners had been a
little distasteful to all except his mother. Mr. Caldigate felt some
difficulty in making conversation with him. But to Hester he was as an
angel from heaven. She was never tired of hearing from him every detail
as to her husband's life at Ahalala and Nobble,--particularly as to his
life after Euphemia Smith had taken herself to those parts and had
quarrelled with him. The fact of the early infatuation had been
acknowledged on all sides. Hester was able to refer to that as a mother,
boasting of her child's health, may refer to the measles,--which have
been bad and are past and gone. Euphemia Smith had been her husband's
measles. Men generally have the measles. That was a thing so completely
acknowledged, that it was not now the source of discomfort. And the
disease had been very bad with him. So bad that he had talked of
marriage,--had promised marriage. Crafty women do get hold of innocent
men, and drive them sometimes into perdition,--often to the brink of
perdition. That was Hester's theory as to her husband. He had been on
the brink, but had been wise in time. That was her creed, and as it was
supported by Dick, she found no fault with Dick's manner,--not even with
the yellow trousers which were brought into use at Folking.
'You were with him on that very day,' she said. This referred to the day
in April on which it had been sworn that the marriage was solemnized.
'I was with him every day about that time. I can't say about particular
days. The truth is,--I don't mind telling you, Mrs. Caldigate,--I was
drinking a good deal just then.' His present state of abstinence had of
course become known at Folking, not without the expression of much
marvel on the part of the old Squire as to the quantity of tea which
their visitor was able to swallow. And as this abstinence had of course
been admired, Dick had fallen into a way of confessing his past
backslidings to a pretty, sympathetic friendly woman, who was willing to
believe all that he said, and to make much of him.
'But I suppose----' Then she hesitated; and Dick understood the
'I was never so bad,' said he, 'but what I knew very well what was going
on. I don't believe Caldigate and Mrs. Smith even so much as spoke to
each other all that month. She had had a wonderful turn of luck.'
'In getting gold?'
'She had bought and sold shares till she was supposed to have made a pot
of money. People up there got an idea that she was one of the lucky
ones,--and it did seem so. Then she got it into her head that she didn't
want Caldigate to know about her money, and he was downright sick of
her. She had been good-looking at one time, Mrs. Caldigate.'
'I daresay. Most of them are so, I suppose.'
'And clever. She'd talk the hind-legs off a dog, as we used to say out
'You had very odd sayings, Mr. Shand.'
'Indeed we had. But when she got in that way about her money, and then
took to drinking brandy, Caldigate was only too glad to be rid of her.
Crinkett believed in her because she had such a run of luck. She held a
lot of his shares,--shares that used to be his. So they got together,
and she left Ahalala and went to Polyeuka Hall. I remember it all as if
it were yesterday. When I broke away from Caldigate in June, and went to
Queensland, they hadn't seen each other for two months. And as for
having been married;--you might as well tell me that I had married her!'
If Mr. Caldigate had ever allowed a shade of doubt to cross his mind as
to his son's story, Dick Shand's further story removed it. The picture
of the life which was led at Ahalala and Nobble was painted for him
clearly, so that he could see, or fancy that he saw, what the condition
of things had been. And this increased faith trickled through to others.
Mr. Bromley who had always believed, believed more firmly than before,
and sent tidings of his belief to Plum-cum-Pippins and thence to
Babington. Mr. Holt, the farmer, became more than ever energetic, and in
a loud voice at a Cambridge market ordinary, declared the ill-usage done
to Caldigate and his young wife. It had been said over and over again at
the trial that Dick Shand's evidence was the one thing wanted, and here
was Dick Shand to give his evidence. Then the belief gained ground in
Cambridge and with the belief there arose a feeling as to the egregious
wrong which was being done.
But the Boltons were still assured. None of them had as yet given any
sign of yielding. Robert Bolton knew very well that Shand was at
Folking, but had not asked to see him. He and Mr. Seely were on
different sides, and could not discuss the matter; but their ideas were
the same. It was incredible to Robert that Dick Shand should appear just
at this moment, unless as part of an arranged plan. He could not read
the whole plot; but was sure that there was a plot. It was held in his
mind as a certain fact, that John Caldigate would not have paid away
that large sum of money had he not thought that by doing so he was
buying off Crinkett and the other witnesses. Of course there had been a
marriage in Australia, and therefore the arrival of Dick Shand was to
him only a lifting of the curtain for another act of the play. An
attempt was to be made to get Caldigate out of prison, which attempt it
was his duty to oppose. Caldigate had, he thought, deceived and
inflicted a terrible stain on his family; and therefore Caldigate was an
enemy upon whom it behoved him to be revenged. This feeling was the
stronger in his bosom, because Caldigate had been brought into the
family by him.
But when Dick Shand called upon him at his office, he would not deny
himself. 'I have been told by some people that, as I am here in the
neighbourhood, I ought to come and speak to you,' said Dick. The 'some
people' had been, in the first instance, Mr. Ralph Holt, the farmer. But
Dick had discussed the matter with Mr. Bromley, and Mr. Bromley had
thought that Shand's story should be told direct to Hester's brother.
'If you have anything to say, Mr. Shand, I am ready to hear it.'
'All this about a marriage at Ahalala between John Caldigate and Mrs.
Smith is a got-up plan, Mr. Bolton.'
'The jury did not seem to think so, Mr. Shand.'
'I wasn't here then to let them know the truth.' Robert Bolton raised
his eyebrows, marvelling at the simplicity of the man who could fancy
that his single word would be able to weigh down the weight of evidence
which had sufficed to persuade twelve men and such a judge as Judge
Bramber. 'I was with Caldigate all the time, and I'm sure of what I'm
saying The two weren't on speaking terms when they were said to be
'Of course, Mr. Shand, as you have come to me, I will hear what you may
have to say. But what is the use of it? The man has been tried and found
'They can let him out again if he's innocent.'
'The Queen can pardon him, no doubt;--but even the Queen cannot quash
the conviction. The evidence was as clear as noonday. The judge and the
jury and the public were all in one mind.'
'But I wasn't here, then,' said Dick Shand, with perfect confidence.
Robert Bolton could only look at him and raise his eyebrows. He could
not tell him to his face that no unprejudiced person would believe the
evidence of such a witness. 'He's your brother-in-law said Dick, 'and I
supposed you'd be glad to know that he was innocent.'
'I can't go into that question, Mr. Shand. As I believe him to have been
guilty of as wicked a crime as any man can well commit, I cannot concern
myself in asking for a pardon for him. My own impression is that he
should have been sent to penal servitude.'
'By George!' exclaimed Dick. 'I tell you that it is all a lie from
beginning to end.'
'I fear we cannot do any good by talking about it, Mr. Shand.'
'By George!' Dick hitched up his yellow trousers as though he were
preparing for a fight. He wore his yellow trousers without braces, and
in all moments of energy hitched them up.
'If you please I will say good morning to you.'
'By George! when I tell you that I was there all the time, and that
Caldigate never spoke to the woman, or so much as saw her all that
month, and that therefore your own sister is in honest truth Caldigate's
wife, you won't listen to me! Do you mean to say that I'm lying?'
'Mr. Shand, I must ask you to leave my office.'
'By George! I wish I had you, Mr. Bolton, out at Ahalala, where there
are not quite so many policemen as there are here at Cambridge.'
'I shall have to send for one of them if you don't go away, Mr. Shand.'
'Here's a man who, even for the sake of his own sister, won't hear the
truth, just because he hates his sister's husband! What have I got to
get by lying?'
'That I cannot tell.' Bolton, as he said this, prepared himself for a
sudden attack; but Shand had sense enough to know that he would injure
the cause in which he was interested, as well as himself, by any
exhibition of violence, and therefore left the office.
'No,' said Mr. Bromley, when all this was told him; 'he is not a cruel
man, nor dishonest, nor even untrue to his sister. But having quite made
up his mind that Caldigate had been married in Australia, he cannot
release himself from the idea. And, as he thinks so, he feels it to be
his duty to keep his sister and Caldigate apart.'
'But why does he not believe me?' demanded Dick.
'In answer to that, I can only say that I do believe you.'
Then there came a request from Babington that Dick Shand would go over
to them there for a day. At Babington opinion was divided. Aunt Polly
and her eldest daughter, and with them Mr. Smirkie, still thought that
John Caldigate was a wicked bigamist but the Squire and the rest of the
family had gradually gone over to the other side. The Squire had never
been hot against the offender, having been one of those who fancied that
a marriage at a very out-of-the-way place such as Ahalala did not
signify much. And now when he heard of Dick Shand's return and proffered
evidence, he declared that Dick Shand having been born a gentleman,
though he had been ever so much a sinner, and ever so much a drunkard,
was entitled to credence before a host of Crinketts. But with Aunt Polly
and Julia there remained the sense of the old injury, robbing Shand of
all his attributes of birth, and endowing even Crinkett with truth.
Then there had been a few words, and the Squire had asserted himself,
and insisted upon asking Shand to Babington.
'Did you ever see such trousers?' said Julia to her mother. 'I would not
believe him on his oath.'
'Certainly not,' said Mr. Smirkie, who of the three was by far the most
vehement in his adherence to the verdict. 'The man is a notorious
drunkard. And he has that look of wildness which bad characters always
bring with them from the colonies.'
'He didn't drink anything but water at lunch,' said one of the younger
'They never do when they're eating,' said Mr. Smirkie. For the great
teetotal triumph had not as yet been made known to the family at
Babington. 'These regular drunkards take it at all times by themselves
in their own rooms. He has delirium tremens in his face. I don't believe
a word that he says.'
'He certainly does wear the oddest trousers I ever saw,' said Aunt
At the same time Dick himself was closeted with the Squire, and was
convincing him that there had been no Australian marriage at all. 'They
didn't jump over a broomstick, or anything of that kind?' asked the
Squire, intending to be jocose.
'They did nothing at all,' said Dick, who had worked himself up to a
state of great earnestness. 'Caldigate wouldn't as much as look at her
at that time;--and then to come home here and find him in prison because
he had married her! How any one should have believed it!'
'They did believe it. The women here believe it now, as you perceive.'
'It's an awful shame, Mr. Babington. Think of her, Mr. Babington. It's
harder on her even than him, for he was,--well, fond of the woman once.'
'It is hard. But we must do what we can to get him out. I'll write to
our member. Sir George supports the Government, and I'll get him to see
the Secretary. It is hard upon a young fellow just when he has got
married and come into a nice property.'
'And her, Mr. Babington!'
'Very bad, indeed. I'll see Sir George myself. The odd part of it is,
the Boltons are all against him. Old Bolton never quite liked the
marriage, and his wife is a regular Tartar.'
Thus the Squire was gained, and the younger daughter. But Mr. Smirkie
was as obdurate as ever. Something of his ground was cut from under his
feet when Dick's new and peculiar habits were observed at dinner. Mr.
Smirkie did indeed cling to his doctrine that your real drunkard never
drinks at his meals; but when Dick, on being pressed in regard to wine,
apologised by saying that he had become so used to tea in the colonies
as not to be able to take anything else at dinner, the peculiarity was
discussed till he was driven to own that he had drank nothing stronger
for the last two years. Then it became plain that delirium tremens was
not written on his face quite so plainly as Mr. Smirkie had at first
thought, and there was nothing left but his trousers to condemn him. But
Mr. Smirkie was still confident. 'I don't think you can go beyond the
verdict,' he said. 'There may be a pardon, of course;--though I shall
never believe it till I see it. But though there were twenty pardons she
ought not to go back to him. The pardon does not alter the crime,--and
whether he was married in Australia, or whether he was not, she ought to
think that he was, because the jury has said so. If she had any feeling
of feminine propriety she would shut herself up and call herself Miss
'I don't agree with you in the least,' said the Squire; 'and I hope I
may live to see a dozen little Caldigates running about on that lawn.'
And there were a few words upstairs on the subject between Mr. Smirkie
and his wife--for even Mrs. Smirkie and Aunt Polly at last submitted
themselves to Dick's energy. 'Indeed, then, if he comes out,' said the
wife, 'I shall be very glad to see him at Plum-cum-Pippins.' This was
said in a voice which did not admit of contradiction, and was evidence
at any rate that Dick's visit to Babington had been successful in spite
of the yellow trousers.
The Fortunes of Bagwax
An altogether new idea had occurred to Bagwax as he sat in his office
after his interview with Sir John Joram;--and it was an idea of such a
nature that he thought that he saw his way quite plain to a complete
manifestation of the innocence of Caldigate, to a certainty of a pardon,
and to an immediate end of the whole complication. By a sudden glance at
the evidence his eye had caught an object which in all his glances he
had never before observed. Then at once he went to work, and finding
that certain little marks were distinctly legible, he became on a sudden
violently hot,--so that the sweat broke out on his forehead. Here was
the whole thing disclosed at once,--disclosed to all the world if he
chose to disclose it. But if he did so, then there could not be any need
for that journey to Sydney, which Sir John still thought to be
expedient. And this thing which he had now seen was not one within his
own branch of work,--was not a matter with which he was bound to be
conversant. Somebody else ought to have found it out. His own knowledge
was purely accidental. There would be no disgrace to him in not finding
it out. But he had found it out.
Bagwax was a man who, in his official zeal and official capacity, had
exercised his intellect far beyond the matters to which he was bound to
apply himself in the mere performance of his duties. Post-marks were
his business; and had he given all his mind to postmarks, he would have
sufficiently carried out that great doctrine of doing the duty which
England expects from every man. But he had travelled beyond postmarks,
and had looked into many things. Among other matters he had looked into
penny stamps, twopenny stamps, and other stamps. In post-office
phraseology there is sometimes a confusion because the affixed effigy of
her Majesty's head, which represents the postage paid, is called a
stamp, and the postmarks or impressions indicating the names of towns
are also called stamps. Those postmarks or impressions had been the work
of Bagwax's life; but his zeal, his joy in his office, and the general
energy of his disposition, had opened up to him also all the mysteries
of the queen's heads. That stamp, that effigy, that twopenny
queen's-head, which by its presence on the corner of the envelope
purported to have been the price of conveying the letter from Sydney to
Nobble, on 10th May, 1873, had certainly been manufactured and sent out
to the colony since that date!
There are signs invisible to ordinary eyes which are plain as the sun at
noonday to the initiated. It is so in all arts, in all sciences. Bagwax
was at once sure of his fact. To his instructed gaze the little receipt
for twopence was as clearly dated as though the figures were written on
it. And yet he had never looked at it before. In the absorbing interest
which the postmark had created,--that fraudulent postmark as it
certainly was,--he had never condescended to examine the postage-stamp.
But now he saw and was certain.
If it was so,--and he had no doubt,--then would Caldigate surely be
released. It is hoped that the reader will follow the mind of Bagwax,
which was in this matter very clear. This envelope had been brought up
at the trial as evidence that, on a certain day, Caldigate had written
to the woman as his wife, and had sent the letter through the
post-office. For such sending the postage-stamp was necessary. The
postage-stamp had certainly been put on when the envelope was prepared
for its intended purpose. But if it could be proved by the stamp itself
that it had not been in existence on the date impressed on the envelope,
then the fraud would be quite apparent. And if there had been such
fraud, then would the testimony of all those four witnesses be crushed
into arrant perjury. They had produced the fraudulent document, and by
it would be thoroughly condemned There could be no necessity for a
journey to Sydney.
As it all became clear to his mind, he thumped his table partly in
triumph,--partly in despair. 'What's the matter with you now?' said Mr.
Curlydown. It was a quarter past four, and Curlydown had not completed
his daily inspections. Had Bagwax been doing his proper share of work,
Curlydown would have already washed his hands and changed his coat, and
have been ready to start for the 4.30 train. As it was, he had an hour
of labour before him, and would be unable to count the plums upon his
wall, as was usual with him before dinner.
'It becomes more wonderful every day,' said Bagwax solemnly,--almost
'It is very wonderful to me that a man should be able to sit so many
hours looking at one dirty bit of paper.'
'Every moment that I pass with that envelope before my eyes I see the
innocent husband in jail, and the poor afflicted wife weeping in her
'You'll be going on to the stage, Bagwax, before this is done.'
'I have sometimes thought that it was the career for which I was best
adapted. But, as to the envelope, the facts are now certain.'
'Any new facts?' asked Curlydown. But he asked the question in a
jeering tone, not at all as though desiring confidence or offering
'Yes,' replied Bagwax, slowly. 'The facts are certainly new,--and most
convincing; but as you have not given attention to the particular branch
concerned there can be no good in my mentioning them. You would not
understand me.' It was thus that he revenged himself on Curlydown. Then
there was again silence between them for a quarter of an hour, during
which Curlydown was hurrying through his work, and Bagwax was meditating
whether it was certainly his duty to make known the facts as to the
postage-stamp. 'You are so unkind,' said Bagwax at last, in a tone of
injured friendship, burning to tell his new discovery.
'You have got it all your way,' said Curlydown, without lifting his
head. 'And then, as you said just now,--I don't understand.'
'I'd tell you everything if you'd only be a little less hard.'
Curlydown was envious. He had, of course, been told of the civil things
which Sir John Joram had said; and though he did not quite believe all,
he was convinced that Bagwax was supposed to have distinguished himself.
If there was anything to be known he would like to know it. Nor was he
naturally quarrelsome. Bagwax was his old friend. 'I don't mean to be
hard,' he said. 'Of course one does feel oneself fretted when one has
been obliged to miss two trains.'
'Can I lend a hand?' said Bagwax.
'It doesn't signify now. I can't catch anything before the 5.20. One
does expect to get away a little earlier than that on a Saturday. What
is it that you've found out?'
'Do you really care to know?'
'Of course I do,--if it's anything in earnest. I took quite as much
interest as you in the matter when we were down at Cambridge.'
'You see that postage-stamp?' Bagwax stretched out the envelope,--or
rather the photograph of the envelope, for it was no more. But the
Queen's head, with all its obliterating smudges, and all its marks and
peculiarities, were to be seen quite as plainly as on the original,
which was tied up carefully among the archives of the trial. 'You see
that postage-stamp Curlydown took his glass, and looked at the document,
and declared that he saw the postage-stamp very plainly.
'But it does not tell you anything particular?'
'Nothing very particular--at the first glance,' said Curlydown, gazing
through the glass with all his eyes.
'I see that they obliterate out there with a kind of star.'
'That has nothing to do with it.'
'The bunch of hair at the back of the head isn't quite like our bunch of
'Just the same;--taken from the same die,' said Bagwax.
'The little holes for dividing the stamps are bigger.'
'It isn't that.'
'Then what the d---- is it?'
'There are letters at every corner,' said Bagwax.
'That's of course,' said Curlydown.
'Can you read those letters?' Curlydown owned that he never had quite
understood what those letters meant. 'Those two P's in the two bottom
corners tell me that that stamp wasn't printed before '74. It was all
explained to me not long ago. Now the postmark is dated '73.' There was
an air of triumph about Bagwax as he said this which almost drove
Curlydown back to hostility. But he checked himself merely shaking his
head, and continued to look at the stamp. 'What do you think of that?'
'You'd have to prove it.'
'Of course I should. But the stamps are made here and are sent out to
the colony. I shall see Smithers at the stamp-office on Monday of
course.' Mr. Smithers was a gentleman concerned in the manufacture of
stamps. 'But I know my facts. I am as well aware of the meaning of those
letters as though I had made postage-stamps my own peculiar duty. Now
what ought I to do?'
'You wouldn't have to go, I suppose?'
'Not a foot.'
'And yet it ought to be found out how that date got there.' And
Curlydown put his finger upon the impression--10th May, 1873.
'Not a doubt about it. I should do a deal of good by going if they'd
give me proper authority to overhaul everything in the office out there.
They had the letter stamped fraudulently;--fraudulently, Mr. Curly down
I Perhaps if I stayed at home to give evidence, they'd send you to
Sydney to find all that out.'
There was a courtesy in this suggestion which induced Curlydown to ask
his junior to come down and take pot-luck at Apricot Villa. Bagwax was
delighted, for his heart had been sore at the coolness which had grown
up between him and the man under whose wing he had worked for so many
years. He had been devoted to Curlydown till growing ambition had taught
him to think himself able to strike out a line for himself. Mr.
Curlydown had two daughters, of whom the younger, Jemima, had found much
favour in the eyes of Bagwax. But since the jealousy had sprung up
between the two men he had never seen Jemima, nor tasted the fruits of
Curlydown's garden. Mrs. Curlydown, who approved of Bagwax, had been
angry, and Jemima herself had become sullen and unloving to her father.
On that very morning Mrs. Curlydown had declared that she hated quarrels
like poison. 'So do I, mamma,' said Jemima, breaking her silence
emphatically. 'Not that Mr. Bagwax is anything to anybody.'
'That does look like something,' said Curlydown, whispering to his
friend in the railway carriage. They were sitting opposite to each
other, with their knees together,--and were of course discussing the
'It is everything. When they were making up their case in Australia, and
when the woman brought out the cover with his writing upon it, with the
very name, Mrs. Caldigate, written by himself,--Crinkett wasn't
contented with that. So they put their heads together, and said that if
the letter could be got to look like a posted letter,--a letter sent
regularly by the post,--that would be real evidence. The idea wasn't
'Nothing has ever been considered better evidence than postmarks,' said
Curlydown, with authority.
'It was a good idea. Then they had to get a postage-stamp. They little
knew how they might put their foot into it there. And they got hold of
some young man at the post-office who knew how to fix a date-stamp with
a past date. How these things become clear when one looks at them long
'Only one has to have an eye in one's head.'
'Yes,' said Bagwax, as modestly as he could at such a moment. 'A fellow
has to have his wits about him before he can do anything out of the
common way in any line. You'd tell Sir John everything at
once;--wouldn't you?' Curlydown raised his hat and scratched his head.
'Duty first, you know. Duty first,' said Bagwax.
'In a man's own line,--yes,' said Curlydown. 'Somebody else ought to
have found that out. That's not post-office. It's stamps and taxes. It's
very hard that a man should have to cut the nose off his own face by
knowing more than he need know.'
'Duty! Duty!' said Bagwax as he opened the carriage-door and jumped out
on to the platform.
When he got up to the cottage, Mrs. Curlydovvn assured him that it was
quite a cure for sore eyes to see him. Sophia, the elder of the two
daughters at home, told him that he was a false truant; and Jemima
surmised that the great attractions of the London season had prevented
him from coming down to Enfield. 'It isn't that, indeed,' he said. 'I am
always delighted in running down. But the Caldigate affair has been so
'You mean the trial,' said Mrs. Curlydown. 'But the man has been in
prison ever so long.'
'Unjustly! Most unjustly!'
'Is it so, really?' asked Jemima. 'And the poor young bride?'
'Not so much of a bride,' said Sophia. 'She's got one, I know.'
'And papa says you're to go out to Botany Bay,' said Jemima. 'It'll be
years and years before you are back again.' Then he explained it was not
Botany Bay, and he would be back in six months. And, after all, he
wasn't going at all. 'Well, I declare, if papa isn't down the walk
already,' said Jemima, looking out of the window.
'I don't think I shall go at all,' said Bagwax in a melancholy tone as
he went up-stairs to wash his hands.
The dinner was very pleasant; and as Curlydown and his guest drank their
bottle of port together at the open window, it was definitely settled
that Bagwax should reveal the mystery of the postage-stamp to Sir John
Joram at once. 'I should have it like a lump of lead on my conscience
all the time I was on the deep,' said Bagwax, solemnly.
'Conscience is conscience, to be sure,' said Curlydown
'I don't think that I'm given to be afraid,' said Bagwax. 'The ocean, if
I know myself, would have no terrors for me;--not if I was doing my
duty. But I should hear the ship's sides cracking with every blast if
that secret were lodged within my 'breast.'
'Take another glass of port, old boy.'
Bagwax did take another glass, finishing the bottle, and continued.
'Farewell to those smiling shores. Farewell, Sydney, and all her charms.
Farewell to her orange groves, her blue mountains, and her rich
'Take a drop of whitewash to wind up, and then we'll join the ladies.'
Curlydown was a strictly hospitable man, and in his own house would not
appear to take amiss anything his guest might say. But when Bagwax
became too poetical over his wine, Curlydown waxed impatient. Bagwax
took his drop of whitewash, and then hurried on to the lawn to join
'And you really are no t going to those distant parts?'
'No,' said Bagwax, with all that melancholy which wine and love combined
with sorrow can produce. 'That dream is over.'
'I am so glad.'
'Why should you be glad? Why should a resolve which it almost breaks my
heart to make be a source of joy to you?'
'Of course you would have nothing to regret at leaving, Mr. Bagwax.'
'Very much,--if I were going for ever. No;--I could never do that,
unless I were to take some dear one with me. But, as I said, that dream
is over. It has ever been my desire to see foreign climes, and the
chance so seldom comes in a man's way.'
'You've been to Ostend, I know, Mr. Bagwax.'
'Oh yes, and to Boulogne,' said Bagwax, proudly. 'But the desire of
travel grows with the thing it feeds on. I long to overcome great
distances,--to feel that I have put illimitable space behind me. To set
my foot on shores divided from these by the thickness of all the earth
would give me a sense of grandeur which I--which,--which,--would be
'I suppose that is natural in a man.'
'In some men,' said Bagwax, not liking to be told that his heroic
instincts were shared by all his brethren.
'But women, of course, think of the dangers. Suppose you were to be cast
'What matter? With a father of a family of course it would be different.
But a lone man should never think of such things.' Jemima shook her head
and walked silently by his side. 'If I had some dear one who cared for
me I suppose it would be different with me.'
'I don't know,' said Jemima. 'Gentlemen like to amuse themselves
sometimes, but it doesn't often go very deep.'
'Things always go deep with me,' said Bagwax. 'I panted for that journey
to the Antipodes;--panted for it! Now that it is over, perhaps some day
I may tell you under what circumstances it has been relinquished In the
meantime my mind passes to other things; or perhaps I should say my
heart--Jemima!' Then Bagwax stopped on the path.
'Go on, Mr. Bagwax. Papa will be looking at you.'
'Jemima,' he said, 'will you recompense me by your love for what I have
lost on the other side of the globe?' She recompensed him, and he was
The future father and son-in-law sat and discussed their joint affairs
for an hour after the ladies had retired. As to Jemima and his love,
Bagwax was allowed to be altogether triumphant. Mrs. Curlydown kissed
him, and he kissed Sophia. That was in public. What passed between him
and Jemima no human eye saw. The old post-office clerk took the younger
one to his heart, and declared that he was perfectly satisfied with his
girl's choice. 'I've always known that you were steady,' he said, 'and
that's what I look to. She has had her admirers, and perhaps might have
looked higher; but what's rank or money if a man's fond of pleasure?'
But when that was settled they returned again to the Caldigate envelope.
Curlydown was not quite so sure as to that question of duty. The
proposed journey to Sydney, with a pound a-day allowed for expenses, and
the traveller's salary going on all the time, would put a nice sum of
ready-money into Bagwax's pocket. 'It wouldn't be less than two hundred
towards furnishing my boy,' said Curlydown. 'You'll want it. And as for
the delay, what's six months? Girls like to have a little time to boast
But Bagwax had made up his mind, and nothing would shake him. 'If
they'll let me go out all the same, to set matters right, of course I'd
take the job. I should think it a duty, and would bear the delay as well
as I could. If Jemima thought it right I'm sure she wouldn't complain.
But since I saw that letter on that stamp my conscience has told me that
I must reveal it all. It might be me as was in prison, and Jemima who
was told that I had a wife in Australia. Since I've looked at it in that
light I've been more determined than ever to go to Sir John Joram's
chambers on Monday. Good-night, Mr. Curlydown. I am very glad you asked
me down to the cottage to-day; more glad than anything.'
At half-past eleven, by the last train, Bagwax returned to town, and
spent the night with mingled dreams, in which Sydney, Jemima, and the
envelope were all in their turns eluding him, and all in their turns
within his grasp.
Sir John Backs His Opinion
Well, Mr. Bagwax, I'm glad that it's only one envelope this time.' This
was said by Sir John Joram to the honest and energetic post-office clerk
on the morning of Wednesday the 3d September, when the lawyer would
have been among the partridges down in Suffolk but for the vicissitudes
of John Caldigate's case. It was hard upon Sir John, and went something
against the grain with him. He was past the time of life at which men
are enthusiastic as to the wrongs of others,--as was Bagwax; and had, in
truth, much less to gain from the cause, or to expect, than Bagwax. He
thought that the pertinacity of Bagwax, and the coming of Dick Shand at
the moment of his holidays, were circumstances which justified the use
of a little internal strong language,--such as he had occasionally used
externally before he had become attorney-general. In fact he had--damned
Dick Shand and Bagwax, and in doing so had considered that Jones his
clerk was internal 'I wish he had gone to Sydney a month ago,' he said
to Jones, But when Jones suggested that Bagwax might be sent to Sydney
without further trouble, Sir John's conscience pricked him. Not to be
able to shoot a Suffolk partridge on the 1st of September was very
cruel, but to be detained wrongfully in Cambridge jail was worse; and he
was of opinion that such cruelty had been inflicted on Caldigate. On the
Saturday Dick Shand had been with him. He had remained in town on the
Monday and Tuesday by agreement with Mr. Seely. Early on the Tuesday
intimation was given to him that Bagwax would come on the Wednesday with
further evidence,--with evidence which should be positively conclusive.
Bagwax had, in the meantime, been with his friend Smithers at the
stamp-office, and was now fully prepared By the help of Smithers he had
arrived at the fact that the postage-stamp had certainly been fabricated
in 1874, some months after the date imprinted on the cover of the letter
to which it was affixed.
'No, Sir John;--only one this time. We needn't move anything.' All the
chaos had been restored to its normal place, and looked as though it had
never been moved since it was collected.
'And we can prove that this queen's-head did not exist before the 1st
'Here's the deposition,' said Bagwax, who, by his frequent intercourse
with Mr. Jones, had become almost as good as a lawyer himself,--'at
least, it isn't a deposition, of course,--because it's not sworn.'
'A statement of what can be proved on oath.'
'Just that, Sir John. It's Mr. Smithers! Mr. Smithers has been at the
work for the last twenty years. I knew it just as well as he from the
first, because I attend to these sort of things; but I thought it best
to go to the fountain-head.'
'Sir John will want to hear it from the fountain-head I said to myself;
and therefore I went to Smithers. Smithers is perhaps a little
conceited, but his word is--gospel. In a matter of postage-stamps
Smithers is gospel.'
Then Sir John read the statement; and though he may not have taken it
for gospel, still to him it was credible. 'It seems clear,' he said.
'Clear as the running stream,' said Bagwax.
'I should like to have all that gang up for perjury, Mr. Bagwax.'
'So should I, Sir John;--so should I. When I think of that poor dear
lady and her infant babe without a name, and that young father torn from
his paternal acres and cast into a vile prison, my blood boils within my
veins, and all my passion to see foreign climes fades into the
'No foreign climes now, Mr. Bagwax.'
'I suppose not, Sir John,' said the hero, mournfully
'Not if this be true.'
'It's gospel, Sir John;--gospel. They might send me out to set that
office to rights. Things must be very wrong when they could get hold of
a date-stamp and use it in that way. There must be one of the gang in
'A bribe did it, I should say.'
'I could find it out, Sir John. Let me alone for that. You could say
that you have found me--quick-like in this matter;--couldn't you, Sir
John?' Bagwax was truly happy in the love of Jemima Curlydown but the
idea of earning two hundred pounds for furniture, and of seeing distant
climes at the same time, had taken a strong hold of his imagination.
'I am afraid I should have no voice in the matter,--unless with the view
of getting evidence.'
'And we've got that;--haven't we, Sir John?'
'I think so.'
'Duty, Sir John, duty!' said Bagwax, almost sobbing through his triumph.
'That's it, Mr. Bagwax.' Sir John too had given up his partridges,--for
a day or two.
'And that gentleman will now be restored to his wife?'
'It isn't for me to say. As you and I have been engaged on the same
side----' To be told that he had been on the same side with the late
attorney-general was almost compensation to Bagwax for the loss of his
journey. 'As you and I have been on the same side, I don't mind telling
you that I think that he ought to be released. The matter remains with
the Secretary of State, who will probably be guided by the judge who
tried the case.'
'A stern man, Sir John.'
'Not soft-hearted, Mr. Bagwax,--but as conscientious a man as you'll be
able to put your hand upon. The young wife with her nameless baby won't
move him at all. But were he moved by such consideration he would be so
far unfit for his office.'
'Mercy is divine,' said Bagwax.
'And therefore unfit to be used by a merely human judge. You know, I
suppose, that Richard Shand has come home?'
'Indeed he has, and was with me a day or two since.'
'Can he say anything?' Bagwax was not rejoiced at Dick's opportune
return. He thoroughly wished that Caldigate should be liberated, but he
wished himself to monopolise the glory of the work.
'He says a great deal. He has sworn point-blank that there was no such
marriage at the time named. He and Caldigate were living together then,
and for some weeks afterwards, and the woman was never near them during
'To think of his coming just now!'
'It will be a great help, Mr. Bagwax; but it wouldn't be enough alone.
He might possibly--tell an untruth.'
'Perjury on the other side, as it were.'
'Just that. But this little queen's-head here can't be untrue.'
'No, Sir John, no; that can't be,' said Bagwax, comforted; 'and the
dated impression can't lie either. The envelope is what'll do it after
'I hope so. You and Mr. Jones will prepare the statement for the
Secretary of State, and I will send it myself.' With that Mr. Bagwax
took his leave, and remained closeted with Mr. Jones for much of the
remainder of the day.
The moment Sir John was alone he wrote an almost angry note to his
friend Honybun, in conjunction with whom and another Member of
Parliament he had the shooting in Suffolk. Honybun, who was also a
lawyer, though less successful than his friend, was a much better shot,
and was already taking the cream off the milk of the shooting. 'I cannot
conceive,' he said at the end of his letter, 'that, after all my
experience, I should have put myself so much out of my way to serve a
client. A man should do what he's paid to do, and what it is presumed
that he will do, and nothing more. But here I have been instigated by an
insane ambition to emulate the good-natured zeal of a fellow who is
absolutely willing to sacrifice himself for the good of a stranger.'
Then he went on to say that he could not leave London till the Friday.
On the Thursday morning he put all the details together, and himself
drew out a paper for the perusal of the Secretary of State. As he looked
at the matter all round, it seemed to him that the question was so clear
that even Judge Bramber could not hesitate. The evidence of Dick Shand
was quite conclusive,--if credible. It was open, of course, to strong
doubt, in that it could not be sifted by cross-examination. Alone, it
certainly would not have sufficed to extort a pardon from any Secretary
of State,--as any Secretary of State would have been alive to the fact
that Dick might have been suborned. Dick's life had not been such that
his single word would have been regarded as certainly true. But in
corroboration it was worth much. And then if the Secretary or the judge
could be got to go into that very complicated question of the dated
stamp, it would, Sir John thought, become evident to him that the
impression had not been made at the time indicated. This had gradually
been borne in upon Sir John's mind, till he was almost as confident in
his facts as Bagwax himself. But this operation had required much time
and much attention. Would the Secretary, or would the judge, clear his
table, and give himself time to inspect and to measure two or three
hundred postmarks? The date of the fabrication of the postage-stamp
would of course require to be verified by official report;--but if the
facts as stated by Bagwax were thus confirmed then the fraudulent nature
of the envelope would be put beyond doubt. It would be so manifest that
this morsel of evidence had been falsely concocted, that no clear-headed
man, let his prepossessions be what they might, could doubt it. Judge
Bramber would no doubt begin to sift the case with a strong bias in
favour of the jury. It was for a jury to ascertain the facts; and in
this case the jury had done so. In his opinion,--in Judge Bramber's
opinion, as the judge had often declared it,--a judge should not be
required to determine facts. A new trial, were that possible, would be
the proper remedy, if remedy were wanted; but as that was impossible, he
would be driven to investigate such new evidence as was brought before
him, and to pronounce what would, in truth, be another verdict. All this
was clear to Sir John; and he told himself that even Judge Bramber would
not be able to deny that false evidence had been submitted to the jury.
Sir John, as he occupied his mind with the matter on the Thursday
morning, did wake himself up to some generous energy on his client's
behalf,--so that in sending the written statements of the case to the
Home Secretary, he himself wrote a short but strongly-worded note. 'As
it is quite manifest,' he said, 'that a certain amount of false and
fraudulent circumstantial evidence has been brought into court by the
witnesses who proved the alleged marriage, and as direct evidence has
now come to hand on the other side which is very clear, and as far as we
know trustworthy, I feel myself justified in demanding her Majesty's
pardon for my client.'
On the next day he went down to Birdseye Lodge, near Ipswich, and was
quite enthusiastic on the matter with his friend Honybun. 'I never knew
Bramber go beyond a jury in my life,' said Honybun.
'He'll have to do it now. They can't keep him in prison when they find
that the chief witness was manifestly perjured. The woman swore on her
oath that the letter reached her by post in May, 1873. It certainly did
not do so. The cover, as we see it, has been fabricated since that
'I never thought the cover went for much,' said Honybun.
'For very little,--for nothing at all perhaps,--till proved to be
fraudulent. If they had left the letter alone their case would have
been strong enough for a conviction. As it was, they were fools enough
to go into a business of this sort; but they have done so, and as they
have been found out, the falsehood which has been detected covers every
word of their spoken evidence with suspicion. It will be like losing so
much of his heart's blood, but the old fellow will have to give way.'
'He never gave way in his life.'
'We'll make him begin.'
'I'll bet you a pony he don't.'
'I'll take the bet,' said the late Attorney-General. But as he did so he
looked round to see that not even a gamekeeper was near enough to hear
On that Friday Bagwax was in a very melancholy state of mind at his
office, in spite of the brilliancy of his prospects with Miss Curlydown.
'I'll just come back to my old work,' he said to his future
father-in-law. 'There's nothing else for me to do.'
This was all as it should be, and would have been regarded a day or two
ago by Curlydown as simple justice. There had been quite enough of that
pottering over an old envelope, to the manifest inconvenience of himself
and others. But now the matter was altered. His was a paternal and an
affectionate heart, and he saw very plainly the pecuniary advantage of a
journey to Sydney. And he knew too that, in official life as well as
elsewhere, to those who have much, more is given. Now that Bagwax was to
him in the light of a son, he wished Bagwax to rise in the world. 'I
wouldn't give it up,' said he.
'But what would you do?'
'I'd stick to it like wax till they did something for me.'
'There's nothing to stick to.'
'I'd take it for granted I was going at once to Sydney. I'd get my
outfit, and, by George! I'd take my place.'
'I've told Sir John I wasn't going; and he said it wasn't necessary.'
As Bagwax told his sad tale he almost wept.
'I wouldn't mind that. I'd have it out of them somehow. Why is he to
have all the pay? No doubt it's been hundreds to him; and you've done
the work and got nothing.'
'When I asked him to get me sent, he said he'd no power;--not now it's
all so plain.' He turned his face down towards the desk to hide the tear
that now was, in truth, running down his face. 'But duty!' he said,
looking up again. 'Duty! England expects----. D--n it, who's going to
whimper? When I lay my head on my pillow at night and think that I, I,
Thomas Bagwax, have restored that nameless one to her babe and her lord,
I shall sleep even though that pillow be no better than a hard bolster.'
'Jemima will look after that,' said the father, laughing. 'But still I
wouldn't give it up. Never give a chance up,--they come so seldom. I'll
tell you what I should do;--I should apply to the Secretary for leave to
go to Sydney at once.'
'At my own expense?' said Bagwax, horrified.
'Certainly not;--but that you might have an opportunity of investigating
all this for the public service. It'll get referred round in some way to
the Secretary of State, who can't but say all that you've done. When it
gets out of a man's own office he don't so much mind doing a little job.
It sounds good-natured. And then if they don't do anything for you,
you'll get a grievance. Next to a sum of money down, a grievance is the
best thing you can have. A man who can stick to a grievance year after
year will always make money of it at last.'
On the Saturday, Bagwax went down to Apricot Lodge, having been invited
to stay with his beloved till the Monday. In the smiles of his beloved
he did find much consolation, especially as it had already been assured
to him that sixty pounds a-year would be settled on Jemima on and from
her wedding-day. And then they made very much of him. 'You do love me,
Tom; don't you?' said Jemima. They were sitting on camp-stools behind
the grotto, and Bagwax answered by pressing the loved one's waist.
'Better than going to Sydney, Tom,--don't you?'
'It is so very different,' said Bagwax,--which was true.
'If you don't like me better than anything else in all the world,
however different, I will never stand at the altar with you.' And she
moved her camp-stool perhaps an inch away.
'In the way of loving, of course I do.'
'Then why do you grieve when you've got what you like best?'
'You don't understand, Jemima, what a spirit of adventure means.'
'I think I do, or I shouldn't be going to marry you. That's quite as
great an adventure as a journey to Sydney. You ought to be very glad to
get off, now you're going to settle down as a married man.'
'Think what two hundred pounds would be, Jemima;--in the way of
'That's papa's putting in, I know. I hate all that hankering after
filthy lucre. You ought to be ashamed of wanting to go so far away just
when you're engaged You wouldn't care about leaving me, I suppose the
'I should always be thinking of you.'
'Yes, you would! But suppose I wasn't thinking of you. Suppose I took to
thinking of somebody else. How would it be then?'
'You wouldn't do that, Jemima.'
'You ought to know when you're well off, Tom.' By this time he had
recovered the inch and perhaps a little more. 'You ought to feel that
you've plenty to console you.'
'So I do. Duty! duty! England expects that every man----'
'That's your idea of consolation, is it?' And away went the camp-stool
half a yard.
'You believe in duty, don't you, Jemima?'
'In a husband's duty to his wife, I do;--and in a young man's duty to
'And in a father's to his children.'
'That's as may be,' said she, getting up and walking away into the
kitchen-garden. He of course accompanied her, and before they got to the
house had promised her not to sigh for the delights of Sydney, nor for
the perils of adventure any more.
A secretary of State who has to look after the NA. police and the
magistrates, to answer questions in the House of Commons, and
occasionally to make a telling speech in defence of his colleagues, and,
in addition to this, is expected to perform the duties of a practical
court of appeal in criminal cases, must have something to do. To have to
decide whether or no some poor wretch shall be hanged, when, in spite of
the clearest evidence, humanitarian petitions by the dozen overwhelm him
with claims for mercy, must be a terrible responsibility. 'No, your
Majesty, I think we won't hang him. I think we'll send him to penal
servitude for life;--if your Majesty pleases.' That is so easy, and
would be so pleasant. Why should any one grumble at so right royal a
decision? But there are the newspapers, always so prone to
complain;--and the Secretary has to acknowledge that he must be strong
enough to hang his culprits in spite of petitions, or else he must give
up that office. But when the evidence is not clear, the case is twice
more difficult. The jury have found their verdict, and the law intends
that the verdict of a jury shall be conclusive. When a man has been
declared to be guilty by twelve of his countrymen,--he is guilty, let
the facts have been what they may, and let the twelve have been ever so
much in error. Majesty, however, can pardon guilt, and hence arises some
awkward remedy for the mistakes of jurymen. But an unassisted Majesty
cannot itself investigate all things,--is not, in fact, in this country
supposed to perform any duties of that sort,--a Secretary of State is
invested with the privilege of what is called mercy. It is justice
rather that is wanted. If Bagwax were in the right about that
envelope,--and the reader will by this time think that he was right; and
if Dick Shand had sworn truly, then certainly our friend John Caldigate
was not in want of mercy. It was instant justice that he required,--with
such compensation as might come to him from the indignant sympathy of
all good men.
I remember to have seen a man at Bermuda whose fate was peculiar. He was
sleek, fat, and apparently comfortable, mixing pills when I saw him, he
himself a convict and administering to the wants of his brother
convicts. He remonstrated with me on the hardness of his position.
'Either I did do it, or I didn't,' he said. 'It was because they thought
I didn't that they sent me here. And if I didn't, what right had they to
keep me here at all?' I passed on in silence, not daring to argue the
matter with the man in face of the warder. But the man was right. He had
murdered his wife;--so at least the jury had said,--and had been
sentenced to be hanged. He had taken the poor woman into a little
island, and while she was bathing had drowned her. Her screams had been
heard on the mainland, and the jury had found the evidence sufficient.
Some newspaper had thought the reverse, and had mooted the
question;--was not the distance too great for such screams to have been
heard, or, at any rate, understood? So the man was again brought to
trial in the Court of the Home Office, and was,--not pardoned, but sent
to grow fat and make pills at Bermuda. He had, or he had not, murdered
his wife. If he did the deed he should have been hanged;--and if not, he
should not have been forced to make extorted pills.
What was a Secretary of State to do in such a case? No doubt he believed
that the wretch had murdered his wife. No doubt the judge believed it.
All the world believed it. But the newspaper was probably right in
saying that the evidence was hardly conclusive,--probably right because
it produced its desired effect. If the argument had been successfully
used with the jury, the jury would have acquitted the man. Then surely
the Secretary of State should have sent him out as though acquitted;
and, not daring to hang him, should have treated him as innocent.
Another trial was, in truth, demanded.
And so it was in Caldigate's case. The Secretary of State, getting up
early in the morning after a remarkable speech, in which he vindicated
his Ministry from the attacks of all Europe, did read all the papers,
and took home to himself the great Bagwaxian theory. He mastered Dick's
evidence;--and managed to master something also as to Dick's character.
He quite understood the argument as to the postage-stamps,--which went
further with him than the other arguments. And he understood the
perplexity of his own position. If Bagwax was right, not a moment should
be lost in releasing the ill-used man. To think of pardon, to mention
pardon, would be an insult. Instant justice, with infinite regrets that
the injuries inflicted admitted of no compensation,--that and that only,
was impressively demanded. How grossly would that man have been
ill-used!--how cruelly would that woman have been injured! But then,
again,--if Bagwax was wrong;--if the cunning fraud had been concocted
over here and not in Sydney;--if the plot had been made, not to
incarcerate an innocent man, but to liberate a guilty man, then how
unfit would he show himself for his position were he to be taken in by
such guile! What crime could be worse than that committed by Caldigate
against the young lady he had betrayed, if Caldigate were guilty? Upon
the whole, he thought it would be safer to trust to the jury; but
comforted himself by the reflection that he could for a while transfer
the responsibility It would perhaps be expedient to transfer it
altogether. So he sent all the papers on to Judge Bramber.
Judge Bramber was a great man. Never popular, he had been wise enough to
disregard popularity. He had forced himself into practice, in opposition
to the attorneys, by industry and perspicuity. He had attended
exclusively to his profession, never having attempted to set his foot on
the quicker stepping-stones of political life. It was said of him that
no one knew whether he called himself Liberal or Conservative At
fifty-five he was put upon the bench, simply because he was supposed to
possess a judicial mind. Here he amply justified that opinion,--but not
without the sneer and ill-words of many. He was now seventy, and it was
declared that years had had no effect on him. He was supposed to be
absolutely merciless,--as hard as a nether millstone, a judge who could
put on the black cap without a feeling of inward disgust. But it may be
surmised that they who said so knew nothing of him,--for he was a man
not apt to betray the secrets of his inner life. He was noted for his
reverence for a jury, and for his silence on the bench. The older he
grew the shorter became his charges; nor were there wanting those who
declared that his conduct in this respect was intended as a reproach to
some who are desirous of adorning the bench by their eloquence. To sit
there listening to everything, and subordinating himself to others till
his interposition was necessary, was his idea of a judge's duty. But
when the law had declared itself, he was always strong in supporting the
law. A man condemned for murder ought to be hanged,--so thought Judge
Bramber,--and not released, in accordance with the phantasy of
philanthropists. Such were the requirements of the law. If the law were
cruel, let the legislators look to that. He was once heard to confess
that the position of a judge who had condemned an innocent man might be
hard to bear; but, he added, that a country would be unfortunate which
did not possess judges capable of bearing even that sorrow. In his heart
he disapproved of the attribute of mercy as belonging to the Crown. It
was opposed to his idea of English law, and apt to do harm rather than
He had been quite convinced of Caldigate's guilt,--not only by the
direct evidence, but by the concurrent circumstances. To his thinking,
it was not in human nature that a man should pay such a sum as twenty
thousand pounds to such people as Crinkett and Euphemia Smith,--a sum of
money which was not due either legally or morally,--except with an
improper object. I have said that he was a great man; but he did not
rise to any appreciation of the motives which had unquestionably
operated with Caldigate. Had Caldigate been quite assured, when he paid
the money, that his enemies would remain and bear witness against him,
still he would have paid it. In that matter he had endeavoured to act as
he would have acted had the circumstances of the mining transaction been
made known to him when no threat was hanging over his head. But all that
Judge Bramber did not understand. He understood, however, quite clearly,
that under no circumstances should money have been paid by an accused
person to witnesses while that person's guilt and innocence were in
question In his summing-up he had simply told the jury to consider the
matter;--but he had so spoken the word as to make the jury fully
perceive what had been the result of his own consideration.
And then Caldigate and the woman had lived together, and a distinct and
repeated promise of marriage had been acknowledged. It was acknowledged
that the man had given his name to the woman, so far as himself to write
it. Whatever might be the facts as to the postmark and postage-stamp,
the words 'Mrs. Caldigate' had been written by the man now in prison.
Four persons had given direct evidence; and in opposition to them there
had been nothing. Till Dick Shand had come, no voice had been brought
forward to throw even a doubt upon the marriage. That two false
witnesses should adhere well together in a story was uncommon; that
three should do so, most rare; with four it would be almost a miracle.
But these four had adhered. They were people, probably of bad
character,--whose lives had perhaps been lawless. But if so, it would
have been so much easier to prove them false if they were false. Thus
Judge Bramber, when he passed sentence on Caldigate had not in the least
doubted that the verdict was a true verdict.
And now the case was sent to him for reconsideration He hated such
reconsiderations. He first read Sir John Joram's letter, and declared to
himself that it was unfit to have come from any one calling himself a
lawyer. There was an enthusiasm about it altogether beneath a great