Part 3 out of 12
the evening hymn roll up, and die in pleasant echoes among the lofty
arches overhead. As of old, she could see through the rich traceried
windows the moor sloping far away, calm and peaceful, bathed in a misty
halo of afternoon sunshine. All these familiar sights and sounds were
the same, but she herself was different. She was about to break rudely
through from the old world of simple routine and homely pleasure, and
to cast herself unthinking into a new world of passion and chance, and
take the consequences of such a step, let them be what they might. She
felt as if she was the possessor of some guilty secret, and felt
sometimes as if some one would rise in church and denounce her. How
would all these quiet folks talk of her to-morrow morning? That was not
to be thought of. She must harden her heart and think of nothing. Only
that tomorrow she would be far away with her lover.
Poor Mary! many a woman, and many a man, who sat so quiet and calm in
the old church that afternoon, had far guiltier secrets than any you
ever had, to trouble them, and yet they all drank, slept, and died, as
quietly as many honest and good men. Poor girl! let us judge as kindly
of her as we can, for she paid a fearful penalty for her self-will. She
did but break through the prejudices of her education, we may say; and
if she was undutiful, what girls are not, under the influence of
passion? If such poor excuses as these will cause us to think more
kindly of her, let us make them, and leave the rest to God. Perhaps,
brother, you and I may stand in a position to have excuses made for us,
one day; therefore, we will be charitable.
My Lord was at church that afternoon, a very rare circumstance, for he
was mostly at his great property in the north, and had lately been much
abroad for his health. So when Miss Thornton and Mary joined the Vicar
in the main aisle, and the three went forth into the churchyard, they
found the villagers drawn respectfully back upon the graves, and his
lordship waiting in close confabulation with farmer Wreford, to receive
the Vicar as he came out.
A tall, courtly, grizzled-looking man he was, with clear grey eyes, and
a modulated harmonious voice. Well did their lordships of the upper-house
know that voice, when after a long sleepy debate it aroused them
from ambrosial slumbers, with biting sarcasm, and most disagreeably
told truths. And most heartily did a certain proportion of their
lordships curse the owner of that voice, for a talented, eloquent,
meddlesome innovator. But on all his great estates he was adored by
the labourers and town's-folk, though hated by the farmers and country
'squires; for he was the earliest and fiercest of the reform and
He came up to the Vicar with a pleasant smile. "I have to thank you,
Mr. Thornton, for a most charming sermon, though having the fault
common to all good things, of being too short. Miss Thornton, I hope
you are quite well; I saw Lady D---- the other day, and she begged that
when I came down here, I would convey her kindest love to you. I think
she mentioned that she was about to write to you."
"I received a letter from her ladyship last week," said Miss Thornton;
"informing me that dear Lady Fanny had got a son and heir."
"Happy boy," said my Lord; "fifty thousand a-year, and nothing to do
for it, unless he likes. Besides a minority of at least ten years for
L---- is getting very shaky, Miss Thornton, and is still devotedly given
to stewed mushrooms. Nay, my dear lady, don't look distressed, she will
make a noble young dowager. This must be your daughter, Mr. Thornton--
pray introduce me."
Mary was introduced, and his Lordship addressed a few kindly
commonplaces to her, to which she replied with graceful modesty. Then
he demanded of the Vicar, "where is Dr. Mulhaus, has he been at church
At that moment the Doctor, attended by the old clerk, was head and
shoulders into the old oak chest that contained the parish registers,
looking for the book of burials for sixteen hundred and something. Not
being able to get to the bottom, he got bodily in, as into a bath, and
after several dives succeeded in fishing it up from the bottom, and
standing there absorbed for a few minutes, up to his middle in dusty
parchments and angry moths, he got his finger on a particular date, and
dashed out of church, book in hand, and hatless, crying, "Vicar,
Vicar!" just as the villagers had cleared off, and my lord was moving
away with the Vicar to the parsonage, to take tea.
When his Lordship saw the wild dusty figure come running out of the
church porch with the parish register in his hand, and no hat on his
head, he understood the position immediately. He sat down on a
tombstone, and laughed till he could laugh no longer.
"No need to tell me," he said through his laughter, "that he is
unchanged; just as mad and energetic as ever, at whatever he takes in
hand, whether getting together impossible ministries, or searching the
parishregister of an English village. How do you do, my dear old
"And how do you do, old democrat?" answered the Doctor. "Politics seem
to agree with you; I believe you would die without vexation--just
excuse me a moment. Look you here, you infidel," to the Vicar, showing
him the register; "there's his name plain--'Burrows, Curate of this
parish, 1698.'--Now what do you say?"
The Vicar acquiesced with a sleepy laugh, and proposed moving
homewards. Miss Thornton hoped that the Doctor would join them at
dinner as usual. The Doctor said of course, and went back to fetch his
hat, my Lord following him into the church. When the others had gone
down the hill, and were waiting for the nobleman and the Doctor at the
gate, Miss Thornton watched the two coming down the hill. My Lord
stopped the Doctor, and eagerly demonstrated something to him with
his forefinger on the palm of his hand; but the Doctor only shook his
head, and then the pair moved on.
My Lord made himself thoroughly agreeable at dinner, as did also the
Doctor. Mary was surprised too at the calm highbred bearing of her
aunt, the way she understood and spoke of every subject of
conversation, and the deference with which they listened to her. It was
a side of her aunt's character she had never seen before, and she felt
it hard to believe that that intellectual dignified lady, referred to
on all subjects, was the old maid she had been used to laugh at, and
began to feel that she was in an atmosphere far above what she was
"All this is above me," she said to herself; "let them live in this
sphere who are accustomed to it, I have chosen wiser, out of the rank
in which I have been brought up. I would sooner be George Hawker's wife
than sit there, crushed and bored by their highflown talk."
Soon after dinner she retired with her aunt; they did not talk much
when they were alone, so Mary soon retired to her room, and having made
a few very slight preparations, sat down at the window. The time was
soon to come, but it was very cold; the maids were out, as they always
were on Sunday evening, and there was a fire in the kitchen,--she
would go and sit there--so down she went.
She wished to be alone, so when she saw a candle burning in the kitchen
she was disappointed, but went in nevertheless. My Lord's groom, who
had been sitting before the fire, rose up and saluted her. A handsome
young man, rather square and prominent about the jaws, but
nevertheless foolish and amiable looking. The sort of man one would
suppose, who, if his lord were to tell him to jump into the pit Tophet,
would pursue one of two courses, either jump in himself, without
further to do, or throw his own brother in with profuse apologies. From
the top of his sleek round head to the sole of his perfect top-boot,
the model and living exponent of what a servant should be--fit to be
put into a case and ticketed as such.
He saluted her as she came in, and drawing a letter from his hat, put
it into her astonished hands. "My orders were, Miss, that I was not to
give it to you unless I saw you personally."
She thanked him and withdrew to read it. It was a scrawl from George
Hawker, the first letter she had ever received from him, and ran as
"MY HEART'S DARLING,
"I SHALL be in the croft to-night, according to promise, ready to make
you the happiest woman in England, so I know you won't fail. My Lord is
coming to church this afternoon, and will be sure to dine with you. So
I send this present by his groom, Sam; a good young chap, which I have
known since he was so high, and like well, only that he is soft, which
is not to his disadvantage.
She was standing under the lamp reading this when she heard the
dining-room door open, and the men coming out from their wine. She slipped
into the room opposite, and stood listening in the dark. She could see
them as they came out. There was my Lord and the Doctor first, and
behind came Major Buckley, who had dropped in, as his custom was, on
Sunday evening, and who must have arrived while she was up-stairs. As
they passed the door, inside which she stood, his Lordship turned round
"I tell you what, my dear Major, if that old Hawker was a tenant of
mine, I'd take away his lease, and, if I could, force him to leave the
parish. One man of that kind does incalculable harm in a village, by
lowering the tone of the morality of the place. That's the use of a
great landlord if he does his duty. He can punish evildoers whom the
law does not reach."
"Don't say anything more about him," said the Doctor in a low voice.
"It's a tender subject in this house."
"It is, eh!" said my Lord; "thanks for the hint, good--bah!--Mulhaus.
Let us go up and have half an hour with Miss Thornton before I go!"
They went up, and then her father followed. He seemed flushed, and she
thought he must have been drinking too much wine. After they were in
the drawing-room, she crept up-stairs and listened. They were all
talking except her father. It was half-past nine, and she wished they
would go. So she went into her bedroom and waited. The maids had come
home, and she heard them talking to the groom in the kitchen. At ten
o'clock the bell was rung, and my Lord's horse ordered. Soon he went,
and not long afterwards the Major and the Doctor followed. Then she saw
Miss Thornton go to her room, and her father walk slowly to his; and
all was still throughout the house.
She took her hat and shawl and slipped down stairs shoeless into her
father's study. She laid a note on his chimney-piece, which she had
written in the morning, and opening the back-door fled swiftly forth,
not daring to look behind her. Quickly, under the blinking stars, under
the blooming apple-trees, out to the croft-gate, and there was George
waiting impatiently for her, according to promise.
"I began to fear you were not coming, my dear. Quick, jump!"
She scrambled over the gate, and jumped into his arms; he hurried her
down the lane about a hundred yards, and then became aware of a dark
object in the middle of the road.
"That's my gig, my dear. Once in that, and we are soon in Exeter. All
"All right!" replied a strange voice in the dark, and she was lifted
into the gig quickly; in another moment George was beside her, and they
were flying through the dark steep lanes at a dangerous speed.
The horse was a noble beast--the finest in the country side--and,
like his driver, knew every stock and stone on the road; so that ere
poor Mary had recovered her first flurry, they had crossed the red
ford, and were four miles on the road towards the capital, and began to
feel a little more cheerful, for she had been crying bitterly.
"Don't give way, Polly," said George.
"No fear of my giving way now, George. If I had been going to do that,
I'd have done it before. Now tell us what you are going to do? I have
left everything to you."
"I think we had better go straight on to London, my dear," he replied,
"and get married by licence. We could never stop in Exeter; and if you
feel up to it, I should like to get off by early coach to-morrow
morning. What do you say?"
"By all means! Shall we be there in time?"
"Yes; two hours before the coach starts."
"Have you money enough, George?" she asked.
"Plenty!" he replied.
"If you go short, you must come to me, you know," she said.
They rattled through the broad streets of a small country town just as
the moon rose. The noble minster, which had for many years been used as
the parish church, slept quietly among the yews and gravestones; all
the town was still; only they two were awake, flying, she thought, from
the fellowship of all quiet men. Was her father asleep now? she
wondered. What would Miss Thornton say in the morning? and many other
things she was asking herself, when she was interrupted by George
saying, "Only eight miles to Exeter; we shall be in by daybreak."
So they left Crediton Minster behind them, and rolled away along the
broad road by the river, beneath the whispering poplars.
* * * * *
As Miss Thornton was dressing herself next morning she heard the Vicar
go down into his study as usual. She congratulated herself that he was
better, from being up thus early, but determined, nevertheless, that he
should see a doctor that day, who might meet and consult with Dr.
Then she wondered why Mary had not been in. She generally came into her
aunt's room to hook-and-eye her, as she called it; but not having come
this morning, Miss Thornton determined to go to her, and accordingly
went and rapped at her door.
No answer. "Could the girl have been fool enough?" thought Miss
Thornton. "Nonsense! no! She must be asleep!"
She opened the door and went in. Everything tidy. The bed had not been
slept in. Miss Thornton had been in at an elopement, and a famous one,
before; so she knew the symptoms in a moment. Well she remembered the
dreadful morning when Lady Kate went off with Captain Brentwood, of the
Artillery. Well she remembered the Countess going into hysterics. But
this was worse than that; this touched her nearer home.
"Oh you naughty girl! Oh you wicked, ungrateful girl; to go and do such
a thing at a time like this, when I've been watching the paralysis
creeping over him day by day! How shall I tell him? How shall I ever
tell him? He will have a stroke as sure as fate. He was going to have
one without this. I dare not tell him till breakfast, and yet I ought
to tell him at once. I was brought into the world to be driven mad by
girls. Oh dear, I wish they were all boys, and we might send them to
Eton and wash our hands of them. Well, I must leave crying, and prepare
for telling him."
She went into his study, and at first could not see him; but he was
there--a heap of black clothes lay on the hearthrug, and Miss Thornton
running up, saw that it was her brother, speechless, senseless,
clasping a letter in his hand.
She saw that the worst was come, and nerved herself for work, like a
valiant soul as she was. She got him carried to his bed by the two
sturdy maids, and sent an express for Dr. Mulhaus, and another for the
professional surgeon. Then she took from her pocket the letter which
she had found in the poor Vicar's hand, and, going to the window, read
"When you get this, father, I shall be many miles away. I have started
to London with George Hawker, and God only knows whether you will see
me again. Try to forgive me, father, and if not, forget that you ever
had a daughter who was only born to give you trouble.--Your erring but
It will be seen by the reader that this unlucky letter, written in
agitation and hurry, contained no allusion whatever to marriage, but
rather left one to infer that she was gone with Hawker as his mistress.
So the Vicar read it again and again, each time more mistily, till
sense and feeling departed, and he lay before his hearth a hopeless
At that moment Mary, beside George, was rolling through the fresh
morning air, up the beautiful Exe valley. Her fears were gone with
daylight and sunshine, and as he put his arm about her waist, she said,
"I am glad we came outside."
"Are you quite happy now?" he asked.
IN WHICH A VERY MUSCULAR CHRISTIAN INDEED, COMES ON THE STAGE.
For the first four weeks that the Vicar lay paralyzed, the neighbouring
clergymen had done his duty; but now arose a new difficulty at
Drumston. Who was to do the duty while the poor Vicar lay there on his
"How," asked Miss Thornton of Tom Troubridge, "are we to make head
against the dissenters now? Let the duty lapse but one single week, my
dear friend, and you will see the chapels overflowing once more. My
brother has always had a hard fight to keep them to church, for they
have a natural tendency to dissent here. And a great number don't care
what the denominations are, so long as there is noise enough."
"If that is the case," answered Tom, "old Mark Hook's place of worship
should pay best. I'd back them against Bedlam any day."
"They certainly make the loudest noise at a Revival," said Miss
Thornton. "But what are we to do?"
"That I am sure I don't know, my dearest auntie," said Troubridge, "but
I am here, and my horse too, ready to go any amount of errands."
"I see no way," said Miss Thornton, "but to write to the Bishop."
"And I see no way else," said Tom, "unless you like to dress me up as a
parson, and see if I would do."
Miss Thornton wrote to the Bishop, with whom she had some acquaintance,
and told him how her brother had been struck down with paralysis, and
that the parish was unprovided for; that if he would send any gentleman
he approved of, she would gladly receive him at Drumston.
Armed with this letter, Tom found himself, for the first time in his
life, in an episcopal palace. A sleek servant in black opened the door
with cat-like tread, and admitted him into a dark, warm hall; and on
Tom's saying, in a hoarse whisper, as if he was in church, that he had
brought a note of importance, and would wait for an answer, the man
glided away, and disappeared through a spring-door, which swung to
behind him. Tom thought it would have banged, but it didn't. Bishops'
doors never bang.
Tom had a great awe for your peers spiritual. He could get on well
enough with a peer temporal, particularly if that proud aristocrat
happened to be in want of a horse; but a bishop was quite another
So he sat rather uncomfortable in the dark, warm hall, listening to
such dull sounds as could be heard in the gloomy mansion. A broad oak
staircase led up from the hall into lighter regions, and there stood,
on a landing above, a lean, wheezy old clock, all over brass knobs,
which, as he looked on it, choked, and sneezed four.
But now there was a new sound in the house. An indecent, secular sound.
A door near the top of the house was burst violently open, and there
was a scuffle. A loud voice shouted twice unmistakeably and distinctly,
"So--o, good bitch!" And then the astounded Tom heard the worrying of a
terrier, and the squeak of a dying rat. There was no mistake about it;
he heard the bones crack. Then he made out that a dog was induced to go
into a room on false pretences, and deftly shut up there, and then he
heard a heavy step descending the stairs towards him.
But, before there was time for the perpetrator of these sacrileges to
come in sight, a side door opened, and the Bishop himself came forth
with a letter in his hand (a mild, clever, gentlemanly-looking man he
was too, Tom remarked) and said,--
"Pray is there not a messenger from Drumston here?"
Tom replied that he had brought a letter from his cousin the Vicar. He
had rather expected to hear it demanded, "Where is the audacious man
who has dared to penetrate these sacred shades?" and was agreeably
relieved to find that the Bishop wasn't angry with him.
"Dear me," said the Bishop; "I beg a thousand pardons for keeping you
in the hall; pray walk into my study."
So in he went and sat down. The Bishop resumed,--
"You are Mr. Thornton's cousin, sir?"
Tom bowed. "I am about the nearest relation he has besides his sister,
"Indeed," said the Bishop. "I have written to Miss Thornton to say that
there is a gentleman, a relation of my own, now living in the house
with me, who will undertake Mr. Thornton's duties, and I dare say,
also, without remuneration. He has nothing to do at present.--Oh, here
is the gentleman I spoke of!"
Here was the gentleman he spoke of, holding a dead rat by the tail, and
"Look here, uncle; what did I tell you? I might have been devoured
alive, had it not been for my faithful Fly, your enemy."
He was about six feet or nearly so in height, with a highly
intellectual though not a handsome face. His brown hair, carelessly
brushed, fell over a forehead both broad and lofty, beneath which shone
a pair of bold, clear grey eyes. The moment Troubridge saw him he set
him down in his own mind as a "goer," by which he meant a man who had
go, or energy, in him. A man, he thought, who is thrown away as a
The Bishop, ringing the bell, began again, "This is my nephew, Mr.
The sleek servant entered.
"My dear Frank, pray give that rat to Sanders, and let him take it
away. I don't like such things in the study."
"I only brought it to convince you, uncle," said the other. "Here you
But Sanders would have as soon shaken hands with the Pope. He rather
thought the rat was alive; and, taking the tongs, he received the beast
at a safe distance, while Tom saw a smile of contempt pass over the
young curate's features.
"You'd make a good missionary, Sanders," said he; and, turning to
Troubridge, continued, "Pray excuse this interlude, sir. You don't look
as if you would refuse to shake me by my ratty hand."
Tom thought he would sooner shake hands with him than fight him, and
was so won by Maberly's manner, that he was just going to say so, when
he recollected the presence he was in, and blushed scarlet.
"My dear Frank," resumed his uncle, "Mr. Thornton of Drumston is taken
suddenly ill, and I want you to go over and do his duties for him till
he is better."
"Most certainly, my dear lord; and when shall I go?"
"Say to-morrow; will that suit your household, sir?" said the Bishop.
Tom replied, "Yes, certainly," and took his leave. Then the Bishop,
turning to Frank, said,--
"The living of Drumston, nephew, is in my gift; and if Mr. Thornton
does not recover, as is very possible, I shall give it to you. I wish
you, therefore, to go to Drumston, and become acquainted with your
future parishioners. You will find Miss Thornton a most charming old
Frank Maberly was the second son of a country gentleman of good
property, and was a very remarkable character. His uncle had always
said of him, that whatever he chose to take up he would be first in;
and his uncle was right. At Eton he was not only the best cricketer and
runner, but decidedly the best scholar of his time. At Cambridge, for
the first year, he was probably the noisiest man in his college, though
he never lived what is called "hard;" but in the second year he took up
his books once more, and came forth third wrangler and first class, and
the second day after the class-list came out, made a very long score in
the match with Oxford. Few men were more popular, though the fast men
used to call him crotchety; and on some subjects, indeed, he was very
impatient of contradiction. And most of his friends were a little
disappointed when they heard of his intention of going into the Church.
His father went so far as to say,--
"My dear Frank, I always thought you would have been a lawyer."
"I'd sooner be a--well, never mind what."
"But you might have gone into the army, Frank," said his father.
"I am going into the army, sir," he said; "into the army of Christ."
Old Mr. Maberly was at first shocked by this last expression from a son
who rarely or never talked on religious matters, and told his wife so
"But," he added, "since I've been thinking of it, I'm sure Frank meant
neither BLAGUE nor irreverence. He is in earnest. I never knew him tell
a lie; and since he was six years old he has known how to call a spade
"He'll make a good parson," said the mother.
"He'll be first in that, as he is in everything else," said the father.
"But he'll never be a bishop," said Mrs. Maberly.
"Why not?" said the husband, indignantly.
"Because, as you say yourself, husband, he will call a spade a spade."
"Bah! you are a radical," said the father. "Go to sleep."
At the time of John Thornton's illness, he had been ordained about a
year and a-half. He had got a title for orders, as a curate, in a
remote part of Devon, but had left it in consequence of a violent
disagreement with his rector, in which he had been most fully borne out
by his uncle, who, by the bye, was not the sort of man who would have
supported his own brother, had he been in the wrong. Since then Frank
Maberly had been staying with his uncle, and, as he expressed it,
"working the slums" at Exeter.
Miss Thornton sat in the drawing-room at Drumston the day after Tom's
visit to the Bishop, waiting dinner for the new Curate. Tom and she had
been wondering how he would come. Miss Thornton said, probably in the
Bishop's carriage; but Tom was inclined to think he would ride over.
The dinner time was past some ten minutes, when they saw a man in black
put his hand on the garden-gate, vault over, and run breathless up to
the hall-door. Tom had recognised him and dashed out to receive him,
but ere he had time to say "good day" even, the new comer pulled out
his watch, and, having looked at it, said in a tone of vexation:--
"Twenty-one minutes, as near as possible; nay, a little over. By Jove!
how pursy a fellow gets mewed up in town! How far do you call it, now,
from the Buller Arms?"
"It is close upon four miles," said Tom, highly amused.
"So they told me," replied Frank Maberly. "I left my portmanteau there,
and the landlord-fellow had the audacity to say in conversation that I
couldn't run the four miles in twenty minutes. It's lucky a parson
can't bet, or I should have lost my money. But the last mile is very
much up-hill, as you must allow."
"I'll tell you what, sir," said Tom; "there isn't a man in this parish
would go that four mile under twenty minutes. If any man could, I ought
to know of it."
Miss Thornton had listened to this conversation with wonder not unmixed
with amusement. At first she had concluded that the Bishop's carriage
was upset, and that Frank was the breathless messenger sent forward
to chronicle the mishap. But her tact soon showed the sort of person
she had to deal with, for she was not unacquainted with the
performances of public schoolboys. She laughed when she called to
mind the BOULEVERSEMENT that used to take place when Lord Charles and
Lord Frederick came home from Harrow, and invaded her quiet school-room.
So she advanced into the passage to meet the new-comer with one
of her pleasantest smiles.
"I must claim an old woman's privilege of introducing myself, Mr.
Maberly," she said. "Your uncle was tutor to the B----s, when I was
governess to the D----s; so we are old acquaintances."
"Can you forgive me, Miss Thornton?" he said, "for running up to the
house in this lunatic sort of way? I am still half a school-boy, you
know. What an old jewel she is!" he added to himself.
Tom said: "May I show you your room, Mr. Maberly?"
"If you please, do," said Frank; and added, "Get out, Fly; what are you
But Miss Thornton interceded for the dog, a beautiful little black
and tan terrier, whose points Tom was examining with profound
"That's a brave little thing, Mr. Maberly," said he, as he showed him
to his room. "I should like to put in my name for a pup."
They stood face to face in the bed-room as he said this, and Frank, not
answering him, said abruptly:--
"By Jove! what a splendid man you are! What do you weigh, now?"
"Close upon eighteen stone, just now, I should think;" said Tom.
"Ah, but you are carrying a little flesh," said Frank.
"Why, yes;" said Tom. "I've been to London for a fortnight."
"That accounts for it," said Frank. "Many dissenters in this parish?"
"A sight of all sorts," said Tom. "They want attracting to church here;
they don't go naturally, as they do in some parts."
"I see," said Frank; "I suppose they'll come next Sunday though, to see
the new parson; my best plan will be to give them a stinger, so that
they'll come again."
"Why, you see," said Tom, "it's got about that there'll be no service
next Sunday, so they'll make an excuse for going to Meeting. Our best
plan will be, for you and I to go about and let them know that there's
a new minister. Then you'll get them together, and after that I leave
it to you to keep them. Shall we go down to dinner?"
They came together going out of the door, and Frank turned and said:--
"Will you shake hands with me? I think we shall suit one another."
"Aye! that we shall," said Tom heartily; "you're a man's parson; that's
about what you are. But," he added, seriously; "you wouldn't do among
the old women, you know."
At dinner, Miss Thornton said, "I hope, Mr. Maberly, you are none the
worse after your run? Are you not afraid of such violent exercise
bringing on palpitation of the heart?"
"Not I, my dear madam," he said. "Let me make my defence for what,
otherwise, you might consider mere boyish folly. I am passionately fond
of athletic sports of all kinds, and indulge in them as a pleasure. No
real man is without some sort of pleasure, more or less harmless. Nay,
even your fanatic is a man who makes a pleasure and an excitement of
religion. My pleasures are very harmless; what can be more harmless
than keeping this shell of ours in the highest state of capacity for
noble deeds? I know," he said, turning to Tom, "what the great
temptation is that such men as you or I have to contend against. It is
'the pride of life;' but if we know that and fight against it, how can
it prevail against us? It is easier conquered than the lust of the
flesh, or the lust of the eye, though some will tell you that I can't
construe my Greek Testament, and that the 'pride of life' means
something very different. I hold my opinion however, in spite of them.
Then, again, although I have taken a good degree (not so good as I
might, though), I consider that I have only just begun to study.
Consequently, I read hard still, and shall continue to do so the next
twenty years, please God. I find my head the clearer, and my intellect
more powerful in consequence of the good digestion produced by
exercise; so I mean to use it till I get too fat, which will be a long
"Ain't you afraid," said Tom, laughing, "of offending some of your
weaker brothers' consciences, by running four miles, because a publican
said you couldn't?"
"Disputing with a publican might be an error of judgment," said Frank.
"Bah! MIGHT be--it WAS; but with regard to running four miles--no. It
is natural and right that a man at five-and-twenty should be both able
and willing to run four miles, a parson above all others, as a protest
against effeminacy. With regard to consciences, those very tender
conscienced men oughtn't to want a parson at all."
Miss Thornton had barely left the room, to go up to the Vicar, leaving
Tom and Frank Maberly over their wine, when the hall-door was thrown
open, and the well-known voice of the Doctor was heard exclaiming in
"If! sir, if! always at if's. If Blucher had destroyed the bridge,
say you, as if he ever meant to be such a Vandal. And if he had meant
to do it, do you think that fifty Wellesleys in one would have stayed
him? No, sir; and if he had destroyed every bridge on the Seine, sir,
he would have done better than to be overruled by the counsels of
Wellington (glory go with him, however! He was a good man). And why,
forsooth?--because the English bore the brunt at Waterloo, in
consequence of the Prussians being delayed by muddy roads."
"And Ligny," said the laughing voice of Major Buckley. "Oh, Doctor,
dear! I like to make you angry, because then your logic is so very
outrageous. You are like the man who pleaded not guilty of murder:
first, because he hadn't done it; secondly, that he was drunk when he
did it; and thirdly, that it was a case of mistaken identity."
"Ha, ha!" laughed the Doctor, merrily, recovering his good humour in a
moment. "That's an Irish story for a thousand pounds. There's nothing
English about that. Ha! ha!"
They were presented to Frank as the new curate. The Doctor, after a
courteous salutation, put on his spectacles, and examined him
carefully. Frank looked at him all the time with a quiet smile, and in
the end the Doctor said--
"Allow me the privilege of shaking hands with you, sir." "Shall I be
considered rude if I say that I seldom or never saw a finer head than
yours on a man's shoulders? And, judging by the face, it is well
"Like a buck-basket," said Frank, "full of dirty linen. Plenty of it,
and of some quality, but not in a state fit for use yet. I will have it
washed up, and wear such of it as is worth soon."
The Doctor saw he had found a man after his own heart, and it was not
long before Frank and he were in the seventh heaven of discussion.
Meanwhile, the Major had drawn up alongside of Tom, and said--
"Any news of the poor little dove that has left the nest, old friend?"
"Yes," said Tom, eagerly; "we have got a letter. Good news, too."
"Thank God for that," said the Major. "And where are they?"
"They are now at Brighton."
"What's that?" said the Doctor, turning round. "Any news?"
They told him, and then it became necessary to tell Frank Maberly what
he had not known before, that the Vicar had a daughter who had "gone
"One of the prettiest, sweetest creatures, Mr. Maberly," said the
Major, "that you ever saw in your life. None of us, I believe, knew how
well we loved her till she was gone."
"And a very remarkable character, besides," said the Doctor. "Such a
force of will as you see in few women of her age. Obscured by passion
and girlish folly, it seemed more like obstinacy to us. But she has a
noble heart, and, when she has outlived her youthful fancies, I should
not be surprised if she turned out a very remarkable woman."
THE DISCOVERY OF THE FORGERIES.
One morning the man who went once a-week from old Hawker's, at the
Woodlands, down to the post, brought back a letter, which he delivered
to Madge at the door. She turned it over and examined it more carefully
than she generally did the old man's letters, for it was directed in a
clerk-like hand, and was sealed with a big and important-looking seal,
and when she came to examine this seal, she saw that it bore the words
"B. and F. Bank." "So, they are at it again, are they?" she said. "The
deuce take 'em, I say: though for that matter I can't exactly blame the
folks for looking after their own. Well, there's no mistake about one
thing, he must see this letter, else some of 'em will be coming over
and blowing the whole thing. He will ask me to read it for him, and
I'll do so, right an end. Lord, what a breeze there'll be! I hope I
shall be able to pull my lad through, though it very much depends on
the old 'uns temper. However, I shall soon know."
Old Hawker was nearly blind, and, although an avaricious, suspicious
old man, as a general rule, trusted implicitly on ordinary occasions to
George and Madge in the management of his accounts, reflecting, with
some reason, that it could not be their interest to cheat him. Of late,
however, he had been uneasy in his mind. Madge, there was no denying,
had got through a great deal more money than usual, and he was not
satisfied with her account of where it had gone. She, we know, was in
the habit of supplying George's extravagances in a way which tried all
her ingenuity to hide from him, and he, mistrusting her statements, had
determined as far as he could to watch her.
On this occasion she laid the letter on the breakfast table, and waited
his coming down, hoping that he might be in a good humour, so that
there might be some chance of averting the storm from George. Madge was
much terrified for the consequences, but was quite calm and firm.
Not long before she heard his heavy step coming down the stairs, and
soon he came into the room, evidently in no favourable state of mind.
"If you don't kill or poison that black tom-cat," was his first speech,
"by the Lord I will. I suppose you keep him for some of your witchwork.
But, if he's the devil himself, as I believe he is, I'll shoot him. I
won't be kept out of my natural sleep by such a devil's brat as that.
He's been keeping up such a growling and a scrowling on the hen-house
roof all night, that I thought it was Old Scratch come for you, and
getting impatient. If you must keep an imp of Satan in the house, get a
mole, or a rat, or some quiet beast of that sort, and not such a
vicious toad as him."
"Shoot him after breakfast if you like," she said. "He's no friend of
mine. Get your breakfast, and don't be a fool. There's a letter for
you; take and read it."
"Yah! Read it, she says, and knows I'm blind," said Hawker. "You artful
minx, you want to read it yourself."
He took the letter up, and turned it over and over. He knew the seal,
and shot a suspicious glance at her. Then, looking at her fixedly, he
put it in his breastpocket, and buttoned up his coat.
"There!" he said. "I'll read it. Oh yes, believe me, I'll read it. You
"You'd better eat your meat like a Christian man," she answered, "and
not make such faces as them."
"Where's the man?" he asked.
"Outside, I suppose."
"Tell him I want the gig. I'm going out for a drive. A pleasure drive,
you know. All down the lane, and back again. Cut along and tell him
before I do you a mischief."
She saw he was in one of his evil humours, when nothing was to be done
with him, and felt very uneasy. She went and ordered the gig, and when
he had finished breakfast, he came out to the door.
"You'd best take your big coat," she said, "else you'll be getting
cold, and be in a worse temper than you are,--and that's bad enough,
Lord knows, for a poor woman to put up with."
"How careful she is!" said Hawker. "What care she takes of the old man!
I've left you ten thousand pounds in my will, ducky. Good-bye."
He drove off, and left her standing in the porch. What a wild, tall
figure she was, standing so stern and steadfast there in the morning
sun!--a woman one would rather have for a friend than an enemy.
Hawker was full of other thoughts than these. Coupling his other
suspicions of Madge with the receipt of this letter from the bank, he
was growing very apprehensive of something being wrong. He wanted this
letter read to him, but whom could he trust? Who better than his old
companion Burrows, who lived in the valley below the Vicarage? So,
whipping up his horse, he drove there, but found he was out. He turned
back again, puzzled, going slowly, and as he came to the bottom of the
hill, below the Vicarage, he saw a tall man leaning against the gate,
"He'll do for want of a better," he said to himself. "He's an honest-going
fellow, and we've always been good friends, and done good
business together, though he is one of that cursed Vicarage lot."
So he drew up when he came to the gate. "I beg your pardon, Mr.
Troubridge," he said, with a very different tone and manner to what we
have been accustomed to hear him use, "but could you do a kindness
for a blind old man? I have no one about me that I can trust since my
son is gone away. I have reason to believe that this letter is of
importance; could you be so good as to read it to me?"
"I shall be happy to oblige you, Mr. Hawker," said Tom. "I am sorry to
hear that your sight is so bad."
"Yes; I'm breaking fast," said Hawker. "However, I shan't be much
missed. I don't inquire how the Vicar is, because I know already, and
because I don't think he would care much for my inquiries, after the
injury my son has done him. I will break the seal. Now, may I trouble
Tom Troubridge read aloud:--
"B. and F. Bank. [Such a date.]
"SIR,--May I request that you will favour me personally with a call,
at the earliest possible opportunity, at my private office, 166,
Broad Street? I have reason to fear that two forged cheques, bearing
your signature, have been inadvertently cashed by us. The amount, I am
sorry to inform you, is considerable. I need not further urge your
immediate attention. This is the third communication we have made to
you on the subject, and are much surprised at receiving no answer. I
hope that you will be so good as to call at once.
Yours, sir, &c., P. ROLLOX, Manager."
"I thank you, Mr. Troubridge," said the old man, quietly and politely.
"You see I was not wrong when I thought that this letter was of
importance. May I beg as a favour that you would not mention this to
"Certainly, Mr. Hawker. I will respect your wish. I hope your loss may
not be heavy."
"The loss will not be mine though, will it?" said old Hawker. "I
anticipate that it will fall on the bank. It is surely at their risk to
cash cheques. Why, a man might sign for all the money I have in their
hands, and surely they would be answerable for it?"
"I am not aware how the law stands, Mr. Hawker," said Troubridge.
"Fortunately, no one has ever thought it worth while to forge my name."
"Well, I wish you a good day, sir, with many thanks," said Hawker. "Can
I do anything for you in Exeter?"
Old Hawker drove away rapidly in the direction of Exeter; his horse, a
fine black, clearing the ground in splendid style. Although a cunning
man, he was not quick in following a train of reasoning, and he was
half-way to Exeter before he had thoroughly comprehended his
situation. And then, all he saw was that somebody had forged his name,
and he believed that Madge knew something about it.
"I wish my boy George was at home," he said. "He'd save me getting a
lawyer now. I am altogether in the hands of those Bank folks if they
like to cheat me, though it's not likely they'd do that. At all events
I will take Dickson with me."
Dickson was an attorney of good enough repute. A very clever, quiet
man, and a good deal employed by old Hawker, when his business was not
too disreputable. Some years before, Hawker had brought some such
excessively dirty work to his office, that the lawyer politely declined
having anything to do with it, but recommended him to an attorney who
he thought would undertake it. And from that time the old fellow
treated him with marked respect, and spoke everywhere of him as a man
to be trusted: such an effect had the fact of a lawyer refusing
business made on him!
He reached Exeter by two o'clock, so rapidly had he driven. He went at
once to Dickson's, and found him at home, busy swinging the poker, in
deep thought, before the fireplace in his inner office. He was a small
man, with an impenetrable, expressionless face, who never was known to
unbend himself to a human being. Only two facts were known about him.
One was that he was the best swimmer in Exeter, and had saved several
lives from drowning, and the other was, that he gave away (for him)
large sums in private charity.
Such was the man who now received old Hawker, with quiet politeness;
and having sent his horse round to the inn stable by a clerk, sat down
once more by the fire, and began swinging the poker, and waiting for
the other to begin the conversation.
"If you are not engaged, Mr. Dickson," said Hawker, "I would be much
obliged to you if you could step round to the B. and F. Bank with me. I
want you to witness what passes, and to read any letters or papers for
me that I shall require."
The attorney put down the poker, got his hat, and stood waiting, all
without a word.
"You won't find it necessary to remark on anything that occurs, Mr.
Dickson, unless I ask your opinion."
The attorney nodded, and whistled a tune. And then they started
together through the crowded street.
The bank was not far, and Hawker pushed his way in among the crowd of
customers. It was some time before he could get hold of a clerk, there
was so much business going on. When, at last, he did so, he said--"I
want to see Mr. Rollox; he told me to call on him at once."
"He is engaged at present," said the clerk. "It is quite impossible you
can see him."
"You don't know what you are talking about, man," said Hawker. "Send in
and tell him Mr. Hawker, of Drumston, is here."
"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Hawker. I have only just come here, and did
not know you. Porter, show Mr. Hawker in."
They went into the formal bank parlour. There was the leather writing
table, the sheet almanac, the iron safe, and all the weapons by which
bankers war against mankind, as in all other sanctuaries of the kind.
Moreover, there was the commander-in-chief himself, sitting at the
table. A bald, clever, gentlemanly-looking man, who bowed when they
came in. "Good day, Mr. Hawker. I am obliged to you for calling at
last. We thought something was wrong. Mr. Dickson, I hope you are well.
Are you attending with Mr. Hawker, or are you come on private
The attorney said--"I'm come at his request," and relapsed into silence.
"Ah!" said the manager. "I am, on the whole, glad that Mr. Hawker has
brought a professional adviser with him. Though," he added, laughing,
"it is putting me rather at a disadvantage, you know. Two to one,--eh?"
"Now, gentlemen, if you will be so good as to close the door carefully,
and be seated, I will proceed to business, hoping that you will give me
your best attention. About six or eight months ago,--let me be
particular, though," said he, referring to some papers,--"that is
rather a loose way of beginning. Here it is. The fourth of September,
last year--yes. On that day, Mr. Hawker, a cheque was presented at
this bank, drawn 'in favour of bearer,' and signed in your name, for
two hundred pounds, and cashed, the person who presented it being well
"Who?" interrupted Hawker.
"Excuse me, sir," said the manager; "allow me to come to that
hereafter. You were about to say, I anticipate, that you never drew a
cheque 'on bearer' in your life? Quite true. That ought to have excited
attention, but it did not till, a very few weeks ago, our head-clerk,
casting his eye down your account, remarked on the peculiarity, and, on
examining the cheque, was inclined to believe that it was not in your
usual handwriting. He intended communicating with me, but was prevented
for some days by my absence; and, in the meantime, another cheque,
similar, but better imitated, was presented by the same person, and
cashed, without the knowledge of the head-clerk. On the cheque coming
into his hands, he reprimanded the cashier, and he and I, having more
closely examined them, came to the conclusion that they were both
forgeries. We immediately communicated with you, and, to our great
surprise, received no answer either to our first or second application.
We, however, were not idle. We ascertained that we could lay our
hands on the utterer of the cheques at any moment, and tried a third
letter to you, which has been successful."
"The two letters you speak of have never reached me, Mr. Rollox," said
Hawker. "I started off on the receipt of yours this morning--the first
I saw. I am sorry, sir, that the bank should lose money through me;
but, by your own showing, sir, the fault lay with your own clerks."
"I have never attempted to deny it, Mr. Hawker," said the manager. "But
there are other matters to be considered. Before I go on, I wish to
give you an opportunity of sending away your professional adviser, and
continuing this conversation with me alone."
They both turned and looked at the lawyer. He was sitting with his
hands in his pockets, and one would have thought he was whistling, only
no sound came. His face showed no signs of intelligence in any feature
save his eyes, and they were expressive of the wildest and most
"I have nothing to do in this matter, sir," said Hawker, "that I should
not wish Mr. Dickson to hear. He is an honourable man, and I confide in
"So be it, then, Mr. Hawker," said the manager. "I have as high an
opinion of my friend Mr. Dickson as you have; but I warn you, that some
part of what will follow will touch you very unpleasantly."
"I don't see how," said Hawker; "go on, if you please."
"Will you be good enough to examine these two cheques, and say whether
they are genuine or not?"
"I have only to look at the amount of this large one, to pronounce it
an impudent forgery," said Hawker. "I have not signed so large a cheque
for many years. There was one last January twelvemonth of 400 pounds, for
the land at Highcot, and that is the largest, I believe, I ever gave in my
"There can be no doubt they are forgeries. Your sight, I believe, is
too bad to swear easily to your own signature; but that is quite
enough. Now, I have laid this case before our governor, Lord C----, and
he went so far as to say that, under the painful circumstances of the
case, if you were to refund the money, the bank might let the matter
drop; but that, otherwise, it would be their most painful duty to
"I refund the money!" laughed Hawker; "you are playing with me, sir.
Prosecute the dog; I will come and see him hung! Ha! ha!"
"It will be a terrible thing if we prosecute the utterer of these
cheques," said the manager.
"Why?" said Hawker. "By-the-bye, you know who he is, don't you? Tell me
who it is?"
"Your own son, Mr. Hawker," said the manager, almost in a whisper.
Hawker rose and glared at them with such a look of deadly rage that
they shrank from him appalled. Then, he tottered to the mantelpiece and
leant against it, trying to untie his neckcloth with feeble, trembling
"Open your confounded window there, Rollox," cried the lawyer, starting
up. "Where's the wine? Look sharp, man!"
Hawker waved to him impatiently to sit down, and then said, at first
gasping for breath, but afterwards more quietly:
"Are you sure it was he that brought those cheques?"
"Certainly, sir," said the manager. "You may be sure it was he. Had it
been any one else, they would not have been cashed without more
examination; and on the last occasion he accounted rather elaborately
for your drawing such a large sum."
Hawker recovered himself and sat down.
"Don't be frightened, gentlemen," he said. "Not this time. I've
something to do before that comes. It won't be long, the doctor says,
but I must transact some business first. O Lord! I see it all now. That
cursed, cursed woman and her boy have been hoodwinking me and playing
with me all this time, have they? Oh, but I'll have my vengeance on 'em
one to the stocks, and another to the gallows. I, unfortunately,
can't give you any information where that man is that has the audacity
to bear my name, sir," said he to the manager. "His mother at one time
persuaded me that he was a child of mine; but such infernal gipsy drabs
as that can't be depended on, you know. I have the honour to wish you a
very good afternoon, sir, thanking you for your information, and hoping
your counsel will secure a speedy conviction. I shall probably
trouble you to meet me at a magistrate's tomorrow morning, where I
will take my oath in his presence that those cheques are forgeries. You
will find alterations in my banker's book, too, I expect. We'll look
into it all to-morrow. Come along, Dickson, my sly little weasel; I've
a gay night's work for you; I'm going to leave all my property to my
cousin Nick, my bitterest enemy, and a lawsuit with it that'll break
his heart. There's fun for the lawyers,--eh, my boy!"
So talking, the old man strode firmly forth, with a bitter, malignant
scowl on his flushed face. The lawyer followed him, and, when they were
in the street, Hawker again asked him to come to the inn and make his
will for him.
"I'll stay by you, Hawker, and see that you don't make a fool of
yourself. I wish you would not be so vindictive. It's indecent; you'll
be ashamed of it tomorrow; but, in the meantime, it's indecent."
"Ha, ha!" laughed Hawker; "how quietly he talks! One can see that he
hasn't had a bastard child fathered on him by a gipsy hag. Come along,
old fellow; there's fifty pounds' worth of work for you this week, if I
only live through it!"
He took the lawyer to the inn, and they got dinner. Hawker ate but
little, for him, but drank a good deal. Dickson thought he was getting
drunk; but when dinner was over, and Hawker had ordered in
spirits-and-water, he seemed sober enough again.
"Now, Mr. Dickson," said he, "I am going to make a fresh will to-morrow
morning, and I shall want you to draw it up for me. After that I want
you to come home with me and transact business. You will do a good
day's work, I promise you. You seem to me now to be the only man in the
world I can trust. I pray you don't desert me."
"As I said before," replied the lawyer, "I won't desert you; but listen
to me. I don't half like the sudden way you have turned against your
own son. Why don't you pay this money, and save the disgrace of that
unhappy young man? I don't say anything about your disinheriting him--
that's no business of mine--but don't be witness against him. The
bank, or rather my Lord C----, has been very kind about it. Take
advantage of their kindness and hush the matter up."
"I know you ain't in the pay of the bank," said Hawker, "so I won't
charge you with it. I know you better than to think you'd lend yourself
to anything so mean; but your conduct looks suspicious. If you hadn't
done me a few disinterested kindnesses lately, I should say that they'd
paid you to persuade me to stop this, so as they might get their money
back, and save the cost of a prosecution. But I ain't so far gone as to
believe that; and so I tell you, as one man to another, that if you'd
come suddenly on such a mine of treason and conspiracy as I have this
afternoon, and found a lad that you have treated as, and tried to
believe was, your own son, you'd be as bad as me. Every moment I think
of it, it comes out clearer. That woman that lives with me has palmed
that brat of hers on me as my child; and he and she have been
plundering me these years past. The money that woman has made away with
would build a ship, sir. What she's done with it, her master, the
devil, only knows; and I've said nought about it, because she's a
witch, and I was afraid of her. But now I've found her out. She has
stopped the letters that they wrote to me about this boy's forgery, and
that shows she was in it. She shall pack. I won't prosecute her; no.
I've reasons against that; but I'll turn her out in the world without a
sixpence. You see I'm quiet enough now!"
"You're quiet enough," said the lawyer, "and you've stated your case
very well. But are you sure this lad is not your son?"
"If I was sure that he was," said Hawker, "it wouldn't make any
difference, as I know on. Ah, man, you don't know what a rage I'm in.
If I chose, I could put myself into such an infernal passion at this
moment as would bring on a 'plectic fit, and lay me dead on the floor.
But I won't do it, not yet. I'll have another drop of brandy, and sing
you a song. Shall I give 'ee 'Roger a-Maying,' or what'll ye have?"
"I'll have you go to bed, and not take any more brandy," said the
lawyer. "If you sing, get in one of the waiters, and sing to him; he'd
enjoy it. I'm going home, but I shall come to breakfast to-morrow
morning, and find you in a different humour."
"Good night, old mole," said Hawker; "good night, old bat, old
parchment skin, old sixty per cent. Ha, ha! If a wench brings a brat to
thee, old lad, chuck it out o' window, and her after it. Thou can only
get hung for it, man. They can only hang thee once, and that is better
than to keep it and foster it, and have it turn against thee when it
grows up. Good night."
Dickson came to him in the morning, and found him in the same mind.
They settled down to business, and Hawker made a new will. He left all
his property to his cousin (a man he had had a bitter quarrel with for
years), except 100 pounds to his groom, and 200 pounds to Tom Troubridge,
"for an act of civility" (so the words ran), "in reading a letter for a
man who ought to have been his enemy." And when the will (a very short
one) was finished, and the lawyer proposed getting two of his clerks as
witnesses, Hawker told him to fold it up and keep it; that he would get
it witnessed by-and-by.
"You're coming home with me," he said, "and we'll get it witnessed
there. You'll see why, when it's done."
Then they went to the manager of the bank, and got him to go before a
magistrate with him, whilst he deposed on oath that the two cheques,
before mentioned, were forgeries, alleging that his life was so
uncertain that the criminal might escape justice by his sudden death.
Then he and Dickson went back to the inn, and after dinner started
together to drive to Drumston.
They had been so engaged with business that they had taken no notice of
the weather. But when they were clear of the northern suburbs of the
town, and were flying rapidly along the noble turnpike-road that
turning eastward skirts the broad Exe for a couple of miles before
turning north again, they remarked that a dense black cloud hung before
them, and that everything foreboded a violent thunder-storm.
"We shall get a drowning before we reach your place, Hawker," said the
lawyer. "I'm glad I brought my coat."
"Lawyers never get drowned," said Hawker, "though I believe you have
tried it often enough."
When they crossed the bridge, and turned to the north, along the pretty
banks of the Creedy, they began to hope that they would leave it on the
right; but ere they reached Newton St. Cyres they saw that it was
creeping up overhead, and, stopping a few minutes in that village,
perceived that the folks were all out at their doors talking to one
another, as people do for company's sake when a storm is coming on.
Before they got to Crediton they could distinguish, above the sound of
the wheels, the thunder groaning and muttering perpetually, and as they
rattled quickly past the grand old minster a few drops of rain began to
The boys were coming out of the Grammar School in shoals, laughing,
running, whooping, as the manner of boys is. Hawker drove slowly as he
passed through the crowd, and the lawyer took that opportunity to put
on his great-coat.
"We've been lucky so far," he said, "and now we are going to pay for
our good luck. Before it is too late, Hawker, pull up and stay here. If
we have to stop all night, I'll pay expenses; I will indeed. It will be
dark before we are home. Do stop."
"Not for a thousand pound," said Hawker. "I wouldn't baulk myself now
for a thousand pound. Hey! fancy turning her out such a night as this
without sixpence in her pocket. Why, a man like you, that all the
county knows, a man who has got two gold medals for bravery, ain't
surely afraid of a thunderstorm?"
"I ain't afraid of the thunderstorm, but I am of the rheumatism," said
the other. "As for a thunderstorm, you're as safe out of doors as in;
some say safer. But you're mistaken if you suppose I don't fear death,
Hawker. I fear it as much as any man."
"It didn't look like it that time you soused in over the weir after the
groom lad," said Hawker.
"Bah! man," said the lawyer; "I'm the best swimmer in Devon. That was
proved by my living at that weir in flood time. So I have less to fear
than any one else. Why, if that boy hadn't been as quiet and plucky as
he was, I knew I could kick him off any minute, and get ashore. Hallo!
The storm burst on them in full fury, and soon after it grew dark. The
good horse, however, stepped out gallantly, though they made but little
way; for, having left the high road and taken to the narrow lanes,
their course was always either up hill or down, and every bottom they
passed grew more angry with the flooding waters as they proceeded.
Still, through darkness, rain, and storm, they held their way till they
saw the lights of Drumston below them.
"How far is it to your house, Hawker?" said the lawyer. "This storm
seems to hang about still. It is as bad as ever. You must be very wet."
"It's three miles to my place, but a level road, at least all up-hill,
gently rising. Cheer up! We won't be long."
They passed through the village rapidly, lighted by the lightning. The
last three miles were done as quickly as any part of the journey, and
the lawyer rejoiced to find himself before the white gate that led up
to Hawker's house.
It was not long before they drew up to the door. The storm seemed worse
than ever. There was a light in the kitchen, and when Hawker had
halloed once or twice, a young man ran out to take the horse.
"Is that you, my boy?" said Hawker. "Rub the horse down, and come in to
get something. This ain't a night fit for a dog to be out in; is it?"
"No, indeed, sir," said the man. "I hope none's out in it but what
likes to be."
They went in. Madge looked up from arranging the table for supper, and
stared at Hawker keenly. He laughed aloud, and said,--
"So you didn't expect me to-night, deary, eh?"
"You've chose a bad night to come home in, old man," she answered.
"A terrible night, ain't it? Wouldn't she have been anxious if she'd a'
known I'd been out?"
"Don't know as I should," she said. "That gentleman had better get
dried, and have his supper."
"I've got a bit of business first, deary. Where's the girl?"
"In the other kitchen."
"Call her.--Lord! listen to that."
A crash of thunder shook the house, heard loud above the rain, which
beat furiously against the windows. Madge immediately returned with the
servant girl, a modest, quiet-looking creature, evidently in terror at
"Get out that paper, Dickson, and we'll get it signed."
The lawyer produced the will, and Madge and the servant girl were made
to witness it. Dickson, having dried the signatures, took charge of it
again; and then Hawker turned round fiercely to Madge.
"That's my new will," he said; "my new will, old woman. Oh, you cat!
I've found you out."
Madge saw a storm was coming, worse than the one which raged and
rattled outside, and she braced her nerves to meet it.
"What have you found out, old man?" she said quietly.
"I've found out that you and that young scoundrel have been robbing and
cheating me in a way that would bring me to the workhouse in another
year. I have found out that he has forged my name for nearly a thousand
pounds, and that you've helped him. I find that you yourself have
robbed me of hundreds of pounds, and that I have been blinded, and
cozened, and hoodwinked by two that I kept from the workhouse, and
treated as well as I treated myself. That's what I have found out, gipsy."
"Well?" was all Madge said, standing before him with her arms folded.
"So I say," said Hawker; "it is very well. The mother to the streets,
and the boy to the gallows."
"You wouldn't prosecute him, William; your own son?"
"No, I shan't," he replied;--"but the Bank will."
"And couldn't you stop it?"
"I could. But if holding up my little finger would save him, I wouldn't
"Oh, William," she cried, throwing herself on her knees; "don't look
like that. I confess everything; visit it on me, but spare that boy."
"You confess, do you?" he said. "Get up. Get out of my house; you
shan't stay here."
But she would not go, but, hanging round him, kept saying, "Spare the
boy, William, spare the boy!" over and again, till he struck her in his
fury, and pulled her towards the door.
"Get out and herd with the gipsies you belong to," he said. "You witch,
you can't cry now."
"But," she moaned, "oh, not such a night as this, William; not to-night.
I am frightened of the storm. Let me stay to-night. I am frightened of the
lightning. Oh, I wouldn't turn out your dog such a night as this."
"Out, out, you devil!"
"Oh, William, only one--"
"Out, you Jezebel, before I do you a mischief."
He had got the heavy door open, and she passed out, moaning low to
herself. Out into the fierce rain and the black darkness; and the old
man held open the door for a minute, to see if she were gone.
No. A broad, flickering riband of light ineffable wavered for an
instant of time before his eyes, lighting up the country far and wide;
but plainly visible between him and the blaze was a tall, dark,
bare-headed woman, wildly raising her hands above her head, as if
imploring vengeance upon him, and, ere the terrible explosion which
followed had ceased to shake the old house to its foundations, he shut the
door, and went muttering alone up to his solitary chamber.
The next morning the groom came into the lawyer's room, and informed
him that when he went to call his master in the morning, he had found
the bed untouched, and Hawker sitting half undressed in his arm-chair,
dead and cold.
THE MAJOR'S VISIT TO THE "NAG'S-HEAD."
Major Buckley and his wife stood together in the verandah of their
cottage, watching the storm. All the afternoon they had seen it
creeping higher and higher, blacker and more threatening up the eastern
heavens, until it grew painful to wait any longer for its approach. But
now that it had burst on them, and night had come on dark as pitch,
they felt the pleasant change in the atmosphere, and, in spite of the
continuous gleam of the lightning, and the eternal roll and crackle of
the thunder, they had come out to see the beauty and majesty of the
They stood with their arms entwined for some time, in silence; but
after a crash louder than any of those which had preceded it, Major
"My dearest Agnes, you are very courageous in a thunderstorm."
"Why not, James?" she said; "you cannot avoid the lightning, and the
thunder won't harm you. Most women fear the sound of the thunder more
than anything, but I suspect that Ciudad Rodrigo made more noise than
"It did indeed, my dear. More noise than I ever heard in any storm yet.
It is coming nearer."
"I am afraid it will shake the poor Vicar very much," said Mrs.
Buckley. "Ah, there is Sam, crying."
They both went into the sitting-room; little Sam had petitioned to go
to bed on the sofa till the storm was over, and now, awakened by the
thunder, was sitting up in his bed, crying out for his mother.
The Major went in and lay down by the child on the sofa, to quiet him.
"What!" said he, "Sammy, you're not afraid of thunder, are you?"
"Yes! I am," said the child; "very much indeed. I am glad you are come,
"Lightning never strikes good boys, Sam," said the Major.
"Are you sure of that, father?" said the little one.
That was a poser; so the Major thought it best to counterfeit sleep;
but he overdid it, and snored so loud, that the boy began to laugh, and
his father had to practise his deception with less noise. And by
degrees, the little hand that held his moustache dropped feebly on the
bedclothes, and the Major, ascertaining by the child's regular
breathing that his son was asleep, gently raised his vast length, and
proposed to his wife to come into the verandah again.
"The storm is breaking, my love," said he; "and the air is deliciously
cool out there. Put your shawl on and come out."
They went out again; the lightning was still vivid, but the thunder
less loud. Straight down the garden from them stretched a broad gravel
walk, which now, cut up by the rain into a hundred water channels,
showed at each flash like rivers of glittering silver. Looking down
this path toward the black wood during one of the longest continued
illuminations of the lightning, they saw for an instant a dark, tall
figure, apparently advancing towards them. Then all the prospect was
wrapped again in tenfold gloom.
Mrs. Buckley uttered an exclamation, and held tighter to her husband's
arm. Every time the garden was lit up, they saw the figure, nearer and
nearer, till they knew that it was standing before them in the
darkness; the Major was about to speak, when a hoarse voice, heard
indistinctly above the rushing of the rain, demanded:
"Is that Major Buckley?"
At the same minute the storm-light blazed up once more, and fell upon
an object so fearful and startling that they both fell back amazed. A
woman was standing before them, tall, upright, and bareheaded; her
long black hair falling over a face as white and ghastly as a three
days' corpse; her wild countenance rendered more terrible by the blue
glare of the lightning shining on the rain that streamed from every
lock of her hair and every shred of her garments. She looked like some
wild daughter of the storm, who had lost her way, and came wandering to
them for shelter.
"I am Major Buckley," was the answer. "What do you want? But in God's
name come in out of the rain."
"Come in and get your things dried, my good woman," said Mrs. Buckley.
"What do you want with my husband such a night as this?"
"Before I dry my things, or come in, I will state my business," said
the woman, coming under the verandah. "After that I will accept your
hospitality. This is a night when polecats and rabbits would shelter
together in peace; and yet such a night as this, a man turns out of his
house the woman who has lain beside him twenty years."
"Who are you, my good soul?" said the Major.
"They call me Madge the Witch," she said; "I lived with old Hawker, at
the Woodlands, till to-night, and he has turned me out. I want to put
you in possession of some intelligence that may save much misery to
some that you love."
"I can readily believe that you can do it," said the Major, "but pray
don't stand there; come in with my wife, and get your things dried."
"Wait till you hear what I have to say: George Hawker, my son--"
"Your son--good God!"
"I thought you would have known that. The Vicar does. Well, this son of
mine has run off with the Vicar's daughter."
"Well, he has committed forgery. It'll be known all over the country
to-morrow, and even now I fear the runners are after him. If he is
taken before he marries that girl, things will be only worse than they
are. But never mind whether he does or not, perhaps you differ with me;
perhaps you think that, if you could find the girl now, you could stop
her and bring her home; but you don't know where she is. I do, and if
you will give me your solemn word of honour as a gentleman to give him
warning that his forgery for five hundred pounds is discovered, I will
give you his direction."
The Major hesitated for a moment, thinking.
"If you reflect a moment, you must see how straightforward my story
is. What possible cause can I have to mislead you? I know which way you
will decide, so I wait patiently."
"I think I ought to say yes, my love," said the Major to his wife; "if
it turned out afterwards that I neglected any opportunity of saving
this poor girl (particularly if this tale of the forgery be true), I
should never forgive myself."
"I agree with you, my dear," said Mrs. Buckley. "Give your promise, and
go to seek her."
"Well, then," said the Major; "I give you my word of honour that I will
give Hawker due warning of his forgery being discovered, if you will
give me his direction. I anticipate that they are in London, and I
shall start to-night, to be in time for the morning coach. Now, will
you give me the address?"
"Yes!" said Madge. "They are at the Nag's Head, Buckingham Street,
Strand, London; can you remember that?"
"I know where the street is," said the Major; "now will you go into the
kitchen, and make yourself comfortable? My dear, you will see my
valise packed? Ellen, get this person's clothes dried, and get her some
hot wine. By-the-bye," said he, following her into the kitchen, "you
must have had a terrible quarrel with Hawker, for him to send you out
such a night as this?"
"It was about this matter," she said: "the boy forged on his father,
and I knew it, and tried to screen him. My own son, you know."
"It was natural enough," said the Major. "You are not deceiving me, are
you? I don't see why you should, though."
"Before God, I am not. I only want the boy to get warning."
"You must sleep here to-night," said the Major; "and to-morrow you can
go on your way, though, if you cannot conveniently get away in the
morning, don't hurry, you know. My house is never shut against
unfortunate people. I have heard a great deal of you, but I never saw
you before; you must be aware, however, that the character you have
held in the place is not such as warrants me in asking you to stay here
for any time."
The Major left the kitchen, and crossed the yard. In a bedroom above
the stable slept his groom, a man who had been through his campaigns
with him from first to last. It was to waken him that the Major took
his way up the narrow stairs towards the loft.
"Jim," he said, "I want my horse in an hour."
The man was out of bed in a moment, and while he was dressing, the
"You know Buckingham Street, Strand, Jim, don't you? When you were
recruiting you used to hang out at a public-house there, unless I am
"Exactly so, sir! We did; and a many good chaps we picked up there,
gents and all sorts. Why, it was in that werry place, Major, as we
'listed Lundon; him as was afterwards made sergeant for being the first
man into Sebastian, and arterwards married Skettles; her as fell out of
eighteen stories at Brussels looking after the Duke, and she swore at
them as came to pick her up, she did; and walked in at the front door
as bold as brass."
"There, my good lad," said the Major; "what's the good of telling such
stories as that? Nobody believes them, you know. Do you know the Nag's
Head there? It's a terribly low place, is it not?"
"It's a much changed if it ain't, sir," said Jim, putting on his
breeches. "I was in there not eighteen months since. It's a
fighting-house; and there used to be a dog show there, and a reunion of
vocal talent, and all sorts of villanies."
"Well, see to the horse, Jim, and I'll sing out when I'm ready," said
the Major, and went back into the house.
He came back through the kitchen, and saw that Madge was being treated
by the maids with that respect that a reputed witch never fails to
command; then, having sat for some time talking to his wife, and
finding that the storm was cleared off, he kissed his sleeping child
and its mother, and, mounting his horse in the stable-yard, rode off
In the morning, when Mrs. Buckley came down stairs, she inquired for
Madge. They told her she had been up some time, and, having got some
breakfast, was walking up and down in front of the house. Going there,
Mrs. Buckley found her. Her dress was rearranged with picturesque
neatness, and a red handkerchief pinned over her rich dark hair, that
last night had streamed wild and wet in the tempest. Altogether, she
looked an utterly different being from the strange, storm-beaten
creature who had craved their hospitality the night before. Mrs.
Buckley admired the bold, upright, handsome figure before her, and gave
her a cheery "good morning."
"I only stayed," said Madge, "to wish you goodbye, and thank you for
your kindness. When they who should have had some pity on me turned me
out, you took me in!"
"You are heartily welcome," said Mrs. Buckley. "Cannot I do more for
you? Do you want money? I fear you must!"
"None, I thank you kindly," she replied; "that would break the spell.
"Good-bye!" said Mrs. Buckley.
Madge stood in front of the door and raised her hand.
"The blessing of God," she said, "shall be upon the house of the
Buckleys, and more especially upon you and your husband, and the boy
that is sleeping inside. He shall be a brave and a good man, and his
wife shall be the fairest and best in the country side. Your kine shall
cover the plains until no man can number them, and your sheep shall be
like the sands of the sea. When misfortune and death and murder fall
upon your neighbours, you shall stand between the dead and the living,
and the troubles that pass over your heads shall be like the shadow of
the light clouds that fly across the moor on a sunny day. And when in
your ripe and honoured old age you shall sit with your husband, in a
garden of your own planting, in the lands far away, and see your
grandchildren playing around you, you shall think of the words of the
wild, lost gipsy woman, who gave you her best blessing before she went
away and was seen no more."
Mrs. Buckley tried to say "Amen," but found herself crying. Something
there was in that poor creature, homeless, penniless, friendless, that
made her heart like wax. She watched her as she strode down the path,
and afterwards looked for her re-appearing on a high exposed part of
the road, a quarter of a mile off, thinking she would take that way.
But she waited long, and never again saw that stern, tall figure, save
in her dreams.
She turned at last, and one of the maids stood beside her.
"Oh, missis," she said, "you're a lucky woman today. There's some in
this parish would have paid a hundred pounds for such a fortune as that
from her. It'll come true,--you will see!"
"I hope it may, you silly girl," said Mrs. Buckley; and then she went
in and knelt beside her sleeping boy, and prayed that the blessing of
the gipsy woman might be fulfilled.
* * * * *
It was quite late on the evening of his second day's journey that the
Major, occupying the box-seat of the "Exterminator," dashed with
comet-like speed through so much of the pomps and vanities of this wicked
world as showed itself in Piccadilly at half-past seven on a spring
"Hah!" he soliloquized, passing Hyde-park Corner, "these should be the
folks going out to dinner. They dine later and later every year. At
this rate they'll dine at half-past one in twenty years' time. That's
the Duke's new house; eh, coachman? By George, there's his Grace
himself, on his brown cob; God bless him! There are a pair of
good-stepping horses, and old Lady E---- behind 'em, by Jove!--in her
war-paint and feathers--pinker than ever. She hasn't got tired of it yet.
She'd dance at her own funeral if she could. And there's Charley
Bridgenorth in the club balcony--I wonder what he finds to do in peace
time?--and old B---- talking to him. What does Charley mean by letting
himself be seen in the same balcony with that disreputable old fellow?
I hope he won't get his morals corrupted! Ah! So here we are! eh?"
He dismounted at the White Horse Cellar, and took a hasty dinner. His
great object was speed; and so he hardly allowed himself ten minutes to
finish his pint of port before he started into the street, to pursue
the errand on which he had come.
It was nearly nine o'clock, and he thought he would be able to reach
his destination in ten minutes. But it was otherwise ordered. His evil
genius took him down St. James Street. He tried to persuade himself
that it was the shortest way, though he knew all the time that it
wasn't. And so he was punished in this way: he had got no further than
Crockford's, when, in the glare of light opposite the door of that
establishment, he saw three men standing, one of whom was talking and
laughing in a tone perhaps a little louder than it is customary to use
in the streets nowadays. Buckley knew that voice well (better, perhaps,
among the crackle of musketry than in the streets of London), and, as
the broad-shouldered owner of it turned his jolly, handsome face
towards him, he could not suppress a low laugh of satisfaction. At the
same moment the before-mentioned man recognised him, and shouted out
"Busaco Buckley, by the Lord," he said, "revisiting once more the
glimpses of the gas-lamps! My dear old fellow, how are you, and where
do you come from?"
The Major found himself quickly placed under a lamp for inspection, and
surrounded by three old and well-beloved fellow-campaigners. What could
a man do under the circumstances? Nothing, if human and fallible, I
should say, but what the Major did--stay there, laughing and joking,
and talking of old times, and freshen up his honest heart, and shake
his honest sides with many an old half-forgotten tale of fun and
"Now," he said at last, "you must let me go. You Barton (to the first
man he had recognised), you are a married man; what are you doing at
"The same as you are," said the other,--"standing outside the door.
The pavement's free, I suppose. I haven't been in such a place these
five years. Where are you staying, old boy?"
The Major told them, and they agreed to meet at breakfast next morning.
Then, after many farewells, and callings back, he pursued his way
towards the Strand, finding to his disgust that it was nearly ten
He, nevertheless, held on his way undiscouraged, and turning by degrees
into narrower and narrower streets, came at last on one quieter than
the others, which ended abruptly at the river.
It was a quiet street, save at one point, and that was where a blaze of
gas (then recently introduced, and a great object of curiosity to the
Major) was thrown across the street, from the broad ornamented windows
of a flash public-house. Here there was noise enough. Two men fighting,
and three or four more encouraging, while a half-drunken woman tried to
separate them. >From the inside, too, came a noise of singing,
quarrelling, and swearing, such as made the Major cross the road, and take
his way on the darker side of the street.
But when he got opposite the aforesaid public-house, he saw that it was
called the "Nag's Head," and that it was kept by one J. Trotter. "What
an awful place to take that girl to!" said the Major. "But there may be
some private entrance, and a quiet part of the house set by for a
hotel." Nevertheless, having looked well about him, he could see
nothing of the sort, and perceived that he must storm the bar.
But he stood irresolute for a moment. It looked such a very low place,
clean and handsome enough, but still the company about the door looked
so very disreputable. "J. Trotter!" he reflected. "Why, that must be
Trotter the fighting-man. I hope it may be; he will remember me."
So he crossed. When he came within the sphere of the gas lamps, those
who were assisting at the fight grew silent, and gazed upon him with
open eyes. As he reached the door one of them remarked, with a little
flourish of oaths as a margin or garland round his remark, that "of
all the swells he'd ever seen, that 'un was the biggest, at all
Similarly, when they in the bar saw that giant form, the blue coat and
brass buttons, and, above all, the moustache (sure sign of a military
man in those days), conversation ceased, and the Major then and there
became the event of the evening. He looked round as he came in, and,
through a door leading inwards, he saw George Hawker himself, standing
talking to a man with a dog under each arm.
The Major was not deceived as to the identity of J. Trotter. J.
Trotter, the hero of a hundred fights, stood himself behind his own
bar, a spectacle for the gods. A chest like a bull, a red neck,
straight up and down with the back of his head, and a fist like a
seal's flipper, proclaimed him the prize-fighter; and his bright grey
eye, and ugly laughing face, proclaimed him the merry, good-humoured
varlet that he was.
What a wild state of amazement he was in when he realized the fact that
Major Buckley of the --th was actually towering aloft under the
chandelier, and looking round for some one to address! With what
elephantine politeness and respect did he show the Major into a private
parlour, sweeping off at one round nearly a dozen pint-pots that
covered the table, and then, shutting the door, stand bowing and
smiling before his old pupil!
"And so you are gone into business, John, are you?" said the Major.
"I'm glad to see it. I hope you are doing as well as you deserve."
"Much better than that," said the prize-fighter. "Much better than
THAT, sir, I assure you."
"Well, I'm going to get you to do something for me," said the Major.
"Do you know, John, that you are terribly fat?"
"The business allus does make flesh, sir. More especially to coves as
has trained much."
"Yes, yes, John, I am going from the point. There is a young man of the
name of Hawker here?"
The prize-fighter remained silent, but a grin gathered on his face. "I
never contradicts a gentleman," he said. "And if you say he's here,
why, in course, he is here. But I don't say he's here; you mind that,
"My good fellow, I saw him as I came in," said the Major.
"Oh, indeed," said the other; "then that absolves me from any
responsibility. He told me to deny him to anybody but one, and you
ain't she. He spends a deal of money with me, sir; so, in course, I
don't want to offend him. By-the-bye, sir, excuse me a moment."
The Major saw that he had got hold of the right man, and waited
willingly. The fighting-man went to the door, and called out, "My
dear." A tall, goodlooking woman came to the bar, who made a low
curtsey on being presented to the Major. "My dear," repeated Trotter,
"the south side." "The particular, I suppose," she said. "In course,"
said he. So she soon appeared with a bottle of Madeira, which was of
such quality that the Major, having tasted it, winked at the
prize-fighter, and the latter laughed, and rubbed his hands.
"Now," said the Major, "do you mind telling me whether this Hawker is
"He don't live here. He only comes here of a day, and sometimes stays
till late. This evening a pretty young lady--yes, a LADY--come and
inquired for him in my bar, and I was struck all of a heap to see such
a creature in such a place, all frightened out of her wits. So I showed
her through in a minute, and up stairs to where my wife sits, and she
waited there till he come in. And she hadn't been gone ten minutes when
The Major swore aloud, without equivocation or disguise. "Ah," he said,
"if I had not met Barton! Pray, Trotter, have you any idea where Hawker
"Not the least in the world, further than it's somewhere Hampstead
way. That's a thing he evidently don't want known."
"Do you think it likely that he and that young lady live in the same
house? I need not disguise from you that I am come after her, to
endeavour to get her back to her family."
"I know they don't live in the same house," said Trotter, "because I
heard her say, to-night, before she went away, 'Do look round, George,'
she says, 'at my house, for ten minutes, before you go home.'"
"You have done me a great kindness," said the Major, "in what you have
told me. I don't know how to thank you."
"It's only one," said the prize-fighter, "in return for a many you done
me; and you are welcome to it, sir. Now, I expect you'd like to see
this young gent; so follow me, if you please."
Through many passages, past many doors, he followed him, until they
left the noise of the revelry behind, and at last, at the end of a long
dark passage, the prizefighter suddenly threw open a door, and
There were four men playing at cards, and the one opposite to him was
George Hawker. The Major saw at a glance, almost before anyone had time
to speak, that George was losing money, and that the other three were
The prize-fighter went up to the table and seized the cards; then,
after a momentary examination, threw both packs in the fire.
"When gents play cards in my house, I expect them to use the cards I
provides at the bar, and not private packs, whether marked or not. Mr.
Hawker, I warned you before about this; you'll lose every sixpence
you're worth, and then you will say it was done at my house, quite
forgetting to mention that I warned you of it repeatedly."
But George took no notice of him. "Really, Major Buckley," he began,
"this is rather--"
"Rather an intrusion, you would say--eh, Mr. Hawker?" said the Major;
"so it is, but the urgency of my business must be my apology. Can you
give me a few words alone?"
George rose and came out with them. The prizefighter showed them into
another room, and the Major asked him to stand in the passage, and see
that no one was listening; "you see, John," he added, "we are very
anxious not to be overheard."
"I am not at all particular myself," said George Hawker. "I have
nothing to conceal."
"You will alter your mind before I have done, sir," said the Major.
George didn't like the look of affairs.--How came it that the Major
and the prize-fighter knew one another so well? What did the former
mean by all this secrecy? He determined to put a bold face on the
"Miss Thornton is living with you, sir, I believe?" began the Major.
"Not at all, sir; Miss Thornton is in lodgings of her own. I have the
privilege of seeing her for a few hours every day. In fact, I may go as
far as to say that I am engaged to be married to her, and that that
auspicious event is to come off on Thursday week."
"May I ask you to favour me with her direction?" said the Major.
"I am sorry to disoblige you, Major Buckley, but I must really
decline;" answered George. "I am not unaware how disinclined her family
are to the connexion; and, as I cannot but believe that you come on
their behalf, I cannot think that an interview would be anything but
prejudicial to my interest. I must remind you, too, that Miss Thornton
is of age, and her own mistress in every way."
While George had been speaking, it passed through the Major's mind:
"What a checkmate it would be, if I were to withhold the information I
have, and set the runners on him, here! I might save the girl, and
further the ends of justice; but my hands are tied by the promise I
gave that woman,--how unfortunate!"
"Then, Mr. Hawker," he said aloud, "I am to understand that you
refuse me this address?"
"I am necessitated to refuse it most positively, sir."
"I am sorry for it. I leave it to your conscience. Now, I have got a
piece of intelligence to give you, which I fear will be somewhat
unpalatable--I got your address at this place from a woman of the name
"You did!" exclaimed George.
"Who was turned out of doors by your father, the night before last, in
consequence, I understood, of some misdeeds of hers having come to
light. She came immediately to my house, and offered to give me your
direction, on condition of my passing my word of honour to deliver you
this message: 'that the forgery (500 pounds was the sum mentioned, I
think) was discovered, and that the Bank was going to prosecute.' I of
course form no judgment as to the truth or falsehood of this: I leave you
to take your own measures about it--only I once again ask you whether you
will give me an interview with Miss Thornton?"
George had courage enough left to say hoarsely and firmly, "No!"
"Then," replied the Major, "I must call you to witness that I have
performed my errand to you faithfully. I beg, also, that you will carry
all our kindest remembrances to Miss Thornton, and tell her that her
poor father was struck with paralysis when he missed her, and that he
is not expected to live many weeks. And I wish you good night."
He passed out, and down the stairs; as he passed the public parlour-door,
he heard a man bawling out a song, two or three lines of which he
heard, and which made him blush to the tips of his ears, old soldier as
As he walked up the street, he soliloquised: "A pretty mess I've made
of it--done him all the service I could, and not helped her a bit--I
see there is no chance of seeing her, though I shall try. I will go
round Hampstead to-morrow, though that is a poor chance. In Paris, now,
or Vienna, one could find her directly. What a pity we have no police!"
THE BRIGHTON RACES, AND WHAT HAPPENED THEREAT.
George Hawker just waited till he heard the retiring footsteps of the
Major, and then, leaving the house, held his way rapidly towards Mary's
lodgings, which were in Hampstead; but finding he would be too late to
gain admittance, altered his course when he was close to the house, and
went to his own house, which was not more than a few hundred yards
distant. In the morning he went to her, and she ran down the garden to
meet him before the servant had time to open the door, looking so
pretty and bright. "Ah, George!" said she, "you never came last night,
after all your promises. I shall be glad when it's all over, George,
and we are together for good."
"It won't be long first, my dear," he answered; "we must manage to get
through that time as well as we can, and then we'll begin to sound the
old folks. You see I am come to breakfast."
"I expected you," she said; "come in and we will have such a pleasant
chat, and after that you must take me down the town, George, and we
will see the carriages."
"Now, my love," said George; "I've got to tell you something that will
vex you; but you must not be down-hearted about it, you know. The fact
is, that your friends, as they call themselves, moving heaven and earth
to get you back, by getting me out of the way, have hit on the
expedient of spreading false reports about me, and issuing scandals
against me. They found out my address at the Nag's Head, and came there
after me not half an hour after you were gone, and I only got out of
their way by good luck. You ought to give me credit for not giving any
living soul the secret of our whereabouts, so that all I have got to do
is to keep quiet here until our little business is settled, and then I
shall be able to face them boldly again, and set everything straight."
"How cruel!" she said; "how unjust! I will never believe anything
against you, George."
"I am sure of that, my darling;" he said, kissing her. "But now, there
is another matter I must speak about, though I don't like to,--I am
getting short of money, love."
"I have got nearly a hundred pounds, George," she said; "and, as I told
you, I have five thousand pounds in the funds, which I can sell out at
any time I like."
"We shall do well, then, my Polly. Now let us go for a walk."
All that week George stayed with her quietly, till the time of
residence necessary before they could be married was expired. He knew
that he was treading on a mine, which at any time might burst and blow
his clumsy schemes to the wind. But circumstances were in his favour,
and the time came to an end at last. He drank hard all the time without
letting Mary suspect it, but afterwards, when it was all over, wondered
at his nerve and self-possession through all those trying days, when he
was forced eternally to have a smile or a laugh ready, and could not
hear a step behind him without thinking of an officer, or look over his
head without thinking he saw a gallows in the air.
It was during this time that he nursed in his heart a feeling of
desperate hatred and revenge against William Lee, which almost became