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Hard Cash by Charles Reade

Part 10 out of 15

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she; "for the like have often been stolen in this place. Put the money in
your shoes; it may be useful to you."

He thanked her somewhat sullenly; for his disappointment was so deep and
bitter that small kindnesses almost irritated him.

She sighed. "It is cruel to be angry with _me,_" she said: "I am not the
cause of this; it is a heavier blow to me than to you. Sooner or later
you will be free--and then you will not waste a thought on me, I
fear--but I must remain in this odious prison without your eyes and your
smile to lighten me, yet unable to forget you. Oh, Alfred, for mercy's
sake, whisper me one kind word at parting; give me one kind look to
remember and dote upon."

She put out both hands as eloquently as she spoke, and overpowered his
prudence so far that he took her offered hands--they were as cold now as
they were burning hot the last time--and pressed them, and said--

"I shall be grateful to you while I live."

The passionate woman snatched her hands away. "Gratitude is too cold for
me," she cried; "I scorn even yours. Love me or hate me."

He made no reply. And so they parted.

"Will you pledge your honour to make no attempt at escape on the road?"
asked the pawnbroker on his return.

"I'll see you d----d first," replied the prisoner.

On this he was handcuffed, and helped into the dog-cart.

They went up to town by the midnight train; but, to Alfred's astonishment
and delight did not take a carriage to themselves.

However, station after station was passed, and nobody came into their
carriage. At last they stopped at a larger station, and a good many
people were on the platform: Alfred took this opportunity and appealed in
gentle but moving terms to the first good and intelligent face he saw.
"Sir," said he, "I implore your assistance."

The gentleman turned courteously to him. The keepers, to Alfred's
surprise, did not interrupt.

"I am the victim of a conspiracy, sir; they pretend I am mad: and are
taking me by force to a madhouse, a living tomb."

"You certainly don't appear to be mad," said the gentleman.

The head keeper instantly showed him the order and a copy of the
certificates.

"Don't look at _them,_ sir," cried Alfred; "they are signed by men who
were bribed to sign them. For pity's sake, sir, judge for yourself. Test
my memory, my judgment, by any question you please. Use your own good
sense; don't let those venal rogues judge for you."

The gentleman turned cold directly.

"I could not take on me to interfere," said he. The unsworn affidavits
had overpowered his senses. He retired with a frigid inclination. Alfred
wrung his handcuffed hands, and the connecting chain rattled.

The men never complained: his conduct was natural; and they knew their
strength. At the next station he tested a snob's humanity instead of a
gentleman's. He had heard they were more tender-hearted. The answer was a
broad grin, repeated at intervals.

Being called mad was pretty much the same thing as being mad to a mind of
this class: and Alfred had admitted he was called mad.

At the next station he implored a silvery-haired old gentleman. Old age,
he had heard, has known griefs, and learned pity.

The keeper showed the certificates.

"Ah!" said Senex; "poor young man. Now don't agitate yourself. It is all
for your good. Pray go quietly. Very painful, very painful." And he
hobbled away as fast as he could. It is by shirking the painful some live
to be silvery old."

Next he tried a policeman. Bobby listened to him erect as a dart.

The certificates were shown him.

He eyed them and said sharply, "All right." Nor could Alfred's entreaties
and appeals to common sense attract a word or even a look from him.
Alfred cried "Help! murder! If you are Englishmen, if you are Christians,
help me."

This soon drew a crowd round him, listening to his fiery tale of wrong,
and crying "Shame, shame! Let him go." The keepers touched their heads,
winked, and got out and showed the certificates; the crowd melted away
like wax before those two suns of evidence (unsworn). The train moved on.

It was appalling. How could he ever get free? Between his mind and that
of his fellows there lay a spiritual barrier more impassible than the
walls of fortified cities.

Yet, at the very next station, with characteristic tenacity of purpose,
he tried again; for he saw a woman standing near, a buxom country woman
of forty. Then he remembered that the Naked Eye was not yet an extinct
institution among her sex. He told her his tale, and implored her to use
her own eyes. She seemed struck, and did eye him far more closely than
the men had: and told the keepers they ought to be ashamed of themselves;
he was no madman, for she had seen madmen. They showed her the
certificates.

"Oh, I am no scholar!" said she contemptuously; "ye can't write my two
eyes out of my head."

The keeper whipped off Alfred's cap and showed his shaven crown.

"La! so he is," said she, lowering her tone; "dear heart, what a pity.
And such a pretty young gentleman." And after that all he could say only
drew the dew of patient pity to her eyes.

The train went on, and left her standing there, a statue of negative
clemency. Alfred lost heart. He felt how impotent he was. "I shall die in
a madhouse," he said. He shivered in a corner, hating man, and doubting
God.

They reached Dr. Wycherley's early in the morning. Alfred was shown into
a nice clean bedroom, and asked whether he would like to bathe or sleep.
"Oh, a bath," he said; and was allowed to bathe himself. He had not been
long in the water when Dr. Wycherley's medical assistant tapped at the
door, and then entered without further ceremony--a young gentleman with a
longish down on his chin, which, initiated early in the secrets of
physiology, he was too knowing to shave off and so go to meet his
trouble. He came in looking like a machine, with a note-book in his hand,
and stood by the bath side dictating notes to himself and jotting them
down.

"Six contusions: two on the thorax, one on the abdomen, two on the
thighs, one near the patella; turn, please." Alfred turned in the water.
"A slight dorsal abrasion; also of the wrists; a severe excoriation of
the ankle. Leg-lock, eh?"

"Yes."

"Iron leg-lock. Head shaved. Large blister. Good! Any other injuries
external or internal under old system?"

"Yes, sir, confined as a madman though sane, as _you,_ I am sure, have
the sense to see."

"Oh, never mind that; we are all sane here--except the governor and I."

He whipped out, and entered the condition of the new patient's body with
jealous minuteness in the case-book. As for his mind, he made no inquiry
into that: indeed he was little qualified for researches of the kind.

At breakfast Alfred sat with a number of mad ladies and gentlemen, who by
firmness, kindness, and routine, had been led into excellent habits: the
linen was clean and the food good. He made an excellent meal, and set
about escaping: with this view he explored the place. Nobody interfered
with him; but plenty of eyes watched him. The house was on the
non-restraint system. He soon found this system was as bad for him as it
was good for the insane. Non-restraint implied a great many attendants,
and constant vigilance. Moreover, the doors were strong, the windows
opened only eight inches, and that from the top: their framework was
iron, painted like wood, &c. It was next to impossible to get into the
yard at night: and then it looked quite impossible to get any further,
for the house was encompassed by high walls.

He resigned all hope of escape without connivance. He sounded a keeper;
the man fired at the first word. "Come, none of that, sir; you should
know better than tempt a poor man."

Alfred coloured to the eyes and sighed deeply. To have honour thrown in
his face, and made the reason for not aiding him to baffle a
dishonourable conspiracy! But he took the reproof so sweetly, the man was
touched, and by-and-bye, seeing him deeply dejected, said good-naturedly,
"Don't be down on your luck, sir. If you are really better, which you
don't look to have much the matter now, why not write to the
Commissioners and ask to be let out?"

"Because my letters will be intercepted."

"Ay, to your friends; but not to the Commissioners of Lunacy. Not in this
house, any way."

"God bless you!" cried Alfred impetuously. "You are my benefactor; you
are an honest fellow; give me your hand."

"Well, why not? Only you mustn't excite yourself. Take it easy."
(Formula.)

"Oh, no cant among friends!" said Alfred: "wouldn't you be excited at the
hope of getting out of prison?"

"Well, I don't know but I might. Bound I am as sick of it as you are."

Alfred got paper and sketched the letter on which so much depended. It
took him six hours. He tore up two; he cooled down the third, and
condensed it severely: by this means, after much thought, he produced a
close and telling composition. He also weeded it of every trait and every
term he had observed in mad people's talk, or the letters they had shown
him. So there was no incoherency, no heat, no prolixity, no "spies," no
"conspiracy," no italics. A simple, honest, earnest story, with bitter
truth stamped on every line; a sober, strong appeal from a sore heart but
hard head to the arbiters of his fate.

To the best of my belief no madman, however slightly touched, or however
cunning, ever wrote a letter so gentle yet strong, so earnest yet calm,
so short yet full, and withal so lucid and cleanly jointed as this was.
And I am no contemptible judge; for I have accumulated during the last
few years a large collection of letters from persons deranged in various
degrees, and studied them minutely, more minutely than most
Psychologicals study anything but Pounds, Shillings, and Verbiage.

The letter went, and he hoped but scarcely expected an answer by return
of post. It did not come. He said to his heart, "Be still;" and waited.
Another day went by; and another: he gnawed his heart and waited: he
pined, and waited on. The Secret Tribunal, which was all a shallow
legislature had left him, "took it easy." Secret Tribunals always do.

But, while the victim-suitor longed and pined and languished for one
sound from the voice of Justice and Humanity, and while the Secret
Tribunal, not being in prison itself all this time, "took it easy,"
events occurred at Barkington that bade fair to throw open the prison
doors and bring father and son, bride and bridegroom, together again
under one roof.

But at what a price.

CHAPTER XXXV

AT sight of Sampson's placard Mr. Hardie was seized with a tremor that
suspended the razor in mid air: he opened the window, and glared at the
doctor's notice.

At this moment he himself was a picture: not unlike those half cleaned
portraits the picture restorers hang out as specimens of their art.

"Insolent interfering fool," he muttered, and began to walk the room in
agitation. After a while he made a strong effort, shaved the other half,
and dressed slowly, thinking hard all the time. The result was, he went
out before breakfast (which he had not done for years), and visited Mr.
Baker--for what purpose has been already shown.

On his return, Jane was waiting breakfast. The first word to him was:
"Papa, have you seen?"

"What, the Reward!" said he indifferently. "Yes, I noticed it at our door
as I came home."

Jane said it was a very improper and most indelicate interference in
their affairs, and went on to say with heightened colour: "I have just
told Peggy to take it down.

"Not for the world!" cried Mr. Hardie, losing all his calmness real or
feigned; and he rang the bell hastily. On Peggy's appearing, he said
anxiously, "I do not wish that Notice interfered with."

"I shouldn't think of touching it without your order, sir," said she
quietly, and shot him a feline glance from under her pale lashes.

Jane coloured, and looked a little mortified: but on Peggy's retiring,
Mr. Hardie explained that, whether judicious or not, it was a friendly
act of Dr. Sampson's; and to pull down his notice would look like siding
with the boy against those he had injured: "Besides," said he, "why
should you and I burk inquiry? Ill as he has used me, I am his father,
and not altogether without anxiety. Suppose those doctors should be right
about him, you know?"

Jane had for some time been longing to call at Albion Villa and
sympathise with her friend; and now curiosity was superadded: she burned
to know whether the Dodds knew of or approved this placard. She asked her
father whether he thought she could go there with propriety. "Why not?"
said he cheerfully, and with assumed carelessness.

In reality it was essential to him that Jane should visit the Dodds.
Surrounded by pitfalls, threatened with a new and mysterious assailant in
the eccentric, but keen and resolute Sampson, this artful man, who had
now become a very Machiavel--constant danger and deceit had so sharpened
and deepened his great natural abilities--was preparing amongst other
defences a shield; and that shield was a sieve; and that sieve was his
daughter. In fact, ever since his return, he had acted and spoken at the
Dodds through Jane, but with a masterly appearance of simplicity and mere
confidential intercourse. At least I think this is the true clue to all
his recent remarks.

Jane, a truthful, unsuspicious girl, was all the fitter instrument of the
cunning monster. She went and called at Albion Villa, and was received by
Edward, Mrs. Dodd being upstairs with Julia, and in five minutes she had
told him what her father, she owned, had said to her in confidence.
"But," said she, "the reason I repeat these things is to make peace, and
that you may not fancy there is any one in our house so cruel, so
unchristian, as to approve Alfred's perfidy. Oh, and papa said candidly
he disliked the match, but then he disliked this way of ending it far
more."

Mrs. Dodd came down in due course, and kissed her; but told her Julia
could not see even her at present. "I think, dear," said she, "in a day
or two she will see you; but no one else: and for her sake we shall now
hurry our departure from this place, where she was once so happy."

Mrs. Dodd did not like to begin about Alfred; but Jane had no such
scruples; she inveighed warmly against his conduct, and ere she left the
house, had quite done away with the faint suspicion Sampson had
engendered, and brought both Mrs. Dodd and Edward back to their original
opinion that the elder Hardie had nothing on earth to do with the perfidy
of the younger.

Just before dinner a gentleman called on Edward, and proved to be a
policeman in plain clothes. He had been sent from the office to sound the
ostler at the "White Lion," and, if necessary, to threaten him. The
police knew, though nobody else in Barkington did, that this ostler had
been in what rogues call trouble, twice, and, as the police can starve a
man of the kind by blowing on him, and can reward him by keeping dark, he
knows better than withhold information from them.

However, on looking for this ostler, he had left his place that very
morning; had decamped with mysterious suddenness.

Here was a puzzle.

Had the man gone without noticing the reward? Had somebody outbid the
reward? Or was it a strange coincidence, and did he after all know
nothing?

The police thought it was no coincidence, and he did know something; so
they had telegraphed to the London office to mark him down.

Edward thanked his visitor; but, on his retiring, told his mother he
could make neither head nor tail of it; and she only said, "We seem
surrounded by mystery."

Meantime, unknown to these bewildered ones, Greek was meeting Greek only
a few yards off.

Mr. Hardie was being undermined by a man of his own calibre, one too
cautious to communicate with the Dodds, or any one else, till his work
looked ripe.

The game began thus: a decent mechanic, who lodged hard by, lounging with
his pipe near the gate of Musgrove Cottage, offered to converse with old
Betty. She gave him a rough answer; but with a touch of ineradicable
vanity must ask Peggy if she wanted a sweetheart, because there was a
hungry one at the gate: "Why: he wanted to begin on an old woman like
me." Peggy inquired what he had said to her.

"Oh, he begun where most of them ends--if they get so far at all: axed me
was I comfortable here; if not, he knew a young man wanted a nice tidy
body to keep house for him."

Peggy pricked up her ears; and, in less than a quarter of an hour, went
for a box of lucifers in a new bonnet and clean collar. She tripped past
the able mechanic very accidentally, and he bestowed an admiring smile on
her, but said nothing--only smoked. However, on her return, he contrived
to detain her, and paid her a good many compliments, which she took
laughingly and with no great appearance of believing them. However, there
is no going by that: compliments sink: and within forty-eight hours the
able mechanic had become a hot wooer of Peggy Black, always on the
look-out for her day and night, and telling her all about the lump of
money he had saved, and how he could double his income, if he had but a
counter, and tidy wife behind it. Peggy gossiped in turn, and let out
amongst the rest that she had been turned off once, just for answering a
little sharply; and now it was the other way; her master was a trifle too
civil at times.

"Who could help it?" said the able mechanic rapturously; and offered a
pressing civility, which Peggy fought off.

"Not so free, young man," said she. "Kissing is the prologue to sin."

"How do you know that?" inquired the able mechanic, with the sly humour
of his class.

"It is a saying," replied Peggy demurely.

At last, one night, Mr. Green the detective, for he it was, put his arm
round his new sweetheart's waist, and approached the subject nearest his
heart. He told her he had just found out there was money enough to be
made in one day to set them up for life in a nice little shop; and she
could help in it.

After this inviting preamble, he crept towards the L. 14,000 by artful
questions; and soon elicited that there had been high words between
Master and Mr. Alfred about that very sum: she had listened at the door
and heard. Taking care to combine close courtship with cunning
interrogatories, he was soon enabled to write to Dr. Sampson, and say
that a servant of Mr. Hardie's was down on him, and reported that he
carried a large pocket-book in his breast-pocket by day; and she had
found the dent of it under his pillow at night--a stroke of observation
very creditable in an unprofessional female: on this he had made it his
business to meet Mr. Hardie in broad day, and sure enough the pocket-book
was always there. He added, that the said Hardie's face wore an
expression which he had seen more than once when respectable parties went
in for felony: and altogether thought they might now take out a warrant
and proceed in the regular way.

Sampson received this news with great satisfaction: but was crippled by
the interwoven relations of the parties.

To arrest Mr. Hardie on a warrant would entail a prosecution for felony,
and separate Jane and Edward for ever.

He telegraphed Green to meet him at the station; and reached Barkington
at eight that very evening. Green and he proceeded to Albion Villa, and
there they held a long and earnest consultation with Edward; and at last,
on certain conditions, Mr. Green and Edward consented to act on Sampson's
plan. Green, by this time, knew all Mr. Hardie's out-of-door habits; and
assured them that at ten o'clock he would walk up and down the road for
at least half an hour, the night being dry. It wanted about a quarter to
ten, when Mrs. Dodd came down, and proposed supper to the travellers.
Sampson declined it for the present; and said they had work to do at
eleven. Then, making the others a signal not to disclose anything at
present he drew her aside and asked after Julia.

Mrs. Dodd sighed--"She goes from one thing to another, but always returns
to one idea; that he is a victim, not a traitor."

"Well, tell her in one hour the money shall be in the house."

"The money! What does she care?"

"Well, say we shall know all about Alfred by eleven o'clock."

"My dear friend, be prudent," said Mrs. Dodd. "I feel alarmed: you were
speaking almost in a whisper when I came in."

"Y' are very obsairvant: but dawnt be uneasy; we are three to one. Just
go and comfort Miss Julee with my message."

"Ah, that I will," she said.

She was no sooner gone than they all stole out into the night, and a
pitch dark night it was; but Green had a powerful dark lantern to use if
necessary.

They waited, Green at the gate of Musgrove Cottage, the other two a
little way up the road.

Ten o'clock struck. Some minutes passed without the expected signal from
Green; and Edward and Sampson began to shiver. For it was very cold and
dark, and in the next place they were honest men going to take the law
into their own hands and the law sometimes calls that breaking the law.
"Confound him!" muttered Sampson; "if he does not soon come I shall run
away. It is bitterly cold."

Presently footsteps were heard approaching; but no signal: it proved to
be only a fellow in a smock-frock rolling home from the public-house.

Just as his footsteps died away a low hoot like a plaintive owl was
heard, and they knew their game was afoot.

Presently, tramp, tramp, came the slow and stately march of him they had
hunted down.

He came very slowly, like one lost in meditation: and these amateur
policemen's hearts beat louder and louder, as he drew nearer and nearer.

At last in the blackness of the night a shadowy outline was visible;
another tramp or two, it was upon them.

Now the cautious Mr. Green had stipulated that the pocketbook should
first be felt for, and, if not there, the matter should go no farther. So
Edward made a stumble and fell against Mr. Hardie and felt his left
breast: the pocket-book was there:--"Yes," he whispered: and Mr. Hardie,
in the act of remonstrating at his clumsiness, was pinned behind, and his
arms strapped with wonderful rapidity and dexterity. Then first he seemed
to awake to his hunger, and uttered a stentorian cry of terror, that rang
through the night and made two of his three captors tremble.

"Cut that" said Green sternly, "or you'll get into trouble."

Mr. Hardie lowered his voice directly: "Do not kill me, do not hurt me,"
he murmured; "I am but a poor man now. Take my little money; it is in my
waistcoat pocket; but spare my life. You see I don't resist."

"Come, stash your gab, my lad," said Green contemptuously, addressing him
just as he would any other of the birds he was accustomed to capture.
"It's not your stiff that is wanted, but Captain Dodd's."

"Captain Dodd's?" cried the prisoner with a wonderful assumption of
innocence.

"Ay, the pocket-book," said Green; "here, this! this!" He tapped on the
pocket-book, and instantly the prisoner uttered a cry of agony, and
sprang into the road with an agility no one would have thought possible
but Edward and Green soon caught him, and, the Doctor joining, they held
him, and Green tore his coat open.

The pocket-book was not there. He tore open his waistcoat; it was not in
the waistcoat: but it was sewed to his very shirt on the outside.

Green wrenched it away, and bidding the other two go behind the prisoner
and look over his shoulder, unseen themselves, slipped the shade of his
lantern.

Mr. Hardie had now ceased to struggle and to exclaim; he stood sullen,
mute, desperate; while an agitated face peered eagerly over each of his
shoulders at the open pocket-book in Green's hands, on which the lantern
now poured a narrow but vivid stream of light.

CHAPTER XXXVI

THERE was not a moment to lose, so Green emptied the pocketbook into his
hat, and sifted the contents in a turn of the hand, announcing each
discovery in a whisper to his excited and peering associates.

"A lot of receipts."

"Of no use to any one but me," said the prisoner earnestly.

"Two miniatures; gold rims, pinchbeck backs."

"They are portraits of my children when young: Heaven forgive me, I could
not give them up to my creditors: surely, surely, you will not rob me of
them."

"Stash your gab," said Mr. Green roughly. "Here's a guinea, Queen Anne's
reign."

"It belonged to my great-grandfather: take it, but you will let me redeem
it; I will give L. 5 for it poor as I am: you can leave it on my
door-step, and I'll leave the L. 5."

"Stow your gab. Letters; papers covered with figures. Stay, what is this?
a lot of memoranda."

"They are of the most private and delicate character. Pray do not expose
my family misfortunes." And Mr. Hardie, who of late had been gathering
composure, showed some signs of agitation; the two figures glaring over
his shoulder shared it, and his remonstrance only made Green examine the
papers keenly: they might contain some clue to the missing money. It
proved a miscellaneous record: the price of Stocks at various days; notes
of the official assignee's remarks in going over the books, &c. At last,
however, Green's quick eye fell upon a fainter entry in pencil; figures:
1, 4; yes, actually L. 14,000. "All right," he said: and took the paper
close to the lantern, and began to spell it out--

"'This day Alfred told me to my face I had L. 14,000 of Captain Dodd's.
We had an angry discussion. What can he mean? Drs. Wycherley and Osmond,
this same day, afflicted me with hints that he is deranged, or partly. I
saw no signs of it before. Wrote to my brother entreating him to give me
L. 200 to replace the sum which I really have wronged this respectable
and now most afflicted family of. I had better withdraw----'" Here Mr.
Hardie interrupted him with sorrowful dignity: "These are mere family
matters; if you are a man, respect them."

Green went reading on like Fate: "'Better withdraw my opposition to the
marriage, or else it seems my own flesh and blood will go about the place
blackening my reputation.'"

Mr. Hardie stamped on the ground. "I tell you, on my honour as a
gentleman, there's no money there but my grandfather's guinea. My money
is all in my waistcoat pocket, where you _will not_ look."

A flutter of uneasiness seemed to come over the detective: he darkened
his lantern, and replaced the pocket-book hurriedly in the prisoner's
breast, felt him all over in a minute, and to keep up the farce, robbed
him.

"Only eight yellow boys," said he contemptuously to his mates. He then
shipped the money back into Hardie's coat-pocket, and conducted him to
his own gate, tied him to it by the waist, and ordered him not to give
the alarm for ten minutes on pain of death.

"I consent," said Mr. Hardie, "and thank you for abstaining from
violence."

"All right, my tulip," said Mr. Green cheerfully, and drew his companions
quietly away. But the next moment he began to run, and making a sudden
turn, dived into a street then into a passage, and so winded and doubled
till he got to a small public-house: he used some flash word, and they
were shown a private room. "Wait here an hour for me," he whispered; "I
must see who liberates him, and whether he is really as innocent as he
reads, or we have been countermined by the devil's own tutor."

The unexpected turn the evidence had taken--evidence of their own
choosing, too--cleared Mr. Hardie with the unprofessionals. Edward
embraced this conclusion as a matter of course, and urged the character
of that gentleman's solitary traducer: Alfred was a traitor, and
therefore why not a slanderer?

Even Sampson, on the whole, inclined to a similar conclusion.

At this crisis of the discussion a red-haired pedlar, with very large
whiskers and the remains of a black eye, put his head in, and asked
whether Tom Green was there. "No," said the Doctor stoutly, not desiring
company of this stamp. "Don't know the lad."

The pedlar laughed: "There is not many that do know him at all hours;
however, he _is_ here, sir." And he whipped off the red hair, and wiped
off the black eye, and ho, Green _ipse._ He received their compliments on
his Protean powers, and told them he had been just a minute too late. Mr.
Hardie was gone, and so he had lost the chance of seeing who came to help
him, and of hearing the first words that passed between the two. This, he
said, was a very great pity; for it would have shown him in one moment
whether certain suspicions of his were correct. Pressed as to what these
suspicions were, he begged to be excused saying any more for the present.
The Doctor, however, would not let him off so, but insisted on his candid
opinion.

"Well, sir," said Green, "I never was more puzzled in my life, owing to
not being near hand when he was untied. It looks all square, however.
There's one little thing that don't fit somehow."

They both asked in a breath what that was.

"The sovs. were all marked."

They asked how he knew; and had he got them in his pocket to show?

Green uttered a low chuckling laugh: "What, me fake the beans, now I live
on this side of the hedge? Never knew a cove mix his liquors that way but
it hurt his health soon or late. No, I took them out of one pocket and
felt of them as I slipped them into the other. Ye see, gents, to do any
good on my lay, a man must train his senses as well as his mind: he must
have a hare's ear, and a hawk's eye, a bloodhound's nose, and a lady's
hand with steel fingers and a silk skin. Now look at that bunch of
fives," continued the master; and laid a hand white and soft as a
duchess's on the table: "it can put the bracelets on a giant, or find a
sharper's nail-mark on the back of the knave of clubs. The beans were
marked. Which it is a small thing, but it don't fit the rest. Here's an
unsuspicious gent took by surprise, in moonlight meditation fancy free,
and all his little private family matters found in his innocent bosom,
quite promiscuous; but his beans marked. That don't dovetail nohow.
Gents, did ever you hear of the man that went to the bottom of the
bottomless pit to ease his mind? Well, he was the head of my family. I
must go to the bottom whether there's one or not. And just now I see but
one way."

"And what is that?" inquired both his companions in some alarm.

"Oh, I mustn't threaten it," said Green, "or I shall never have the
stomach to do it. But dear me, this boozing ken is a very unfit place for
you,--you are champagne-gents, not dog's nose ones. Now you part and make
tracks for home, one on foot and one in a fly. You won't see me, nor hear
of me again, till I've something fresh."

And so the confederates parted, and Sampson and Edward met at Albion
Villa; and Edward told his mother what they had done, and his conviction
that Mr. Hardie was innocent, and Alfred a slanderer as well as a
traitor: "And indeed," said he, "if we had but stopped to reflect, we
should have seen how unlikely the money was not to be lost in the _Agra._
Why, the _'Tiser_ says she went to pieces almost directly she struck.
What we ought to have done was, not to listen to Alfred Hardie like
fools, but write to Lloyd's like people in their senses. I'll do it this
minute, and find out the surviving officers of the ship: they will be
able to give us information on that head." Mrs. Dodd approved; and said
she would write to her kind correspondent Mrs. Beresford, and she did sit
down to her desk at once. As for Sampson, he returned to town next
morning, not quite convinced, but thoroughly staggered; and determined
for once to resign his own judgment, and abide the result of Mrs. Dodd's
correspondence and Mr. Green's sagacity. All he insisted on was, that his
placard about Alfred should be continued: he left money for this, and
Edward, against the grain, consented to see it done. But placards are no
monopoly: in the afternoon only a section of Sampson's was visible in
most parts of the town by reason of a poster to this effect pasted half
over it:--

"FIFTY GUINEAS REWARD.

"Whereas, yesterday evening at ten o'clock Richard Hardie, Esq., of
Musgrove Cottage, Barkington, was assaulted at his own door by three
ruffians, who rifled his pockets, and read his private memoranda, and
committed other acts of violence, the shock of which has laid him on a
bed of sickness, the above reward shall be paid to any person, or
persons, who will give such information as shall lead to the detection of
all or any one of the miscreants concerned in this outrage.

"The above reward will be paid by Mr. Thomas Hardie of Clare Court,
Yorkshire."

On this the impartial police came to Mr. Hardie's and made inquiries. He
received them in bed, and told them particulars: and they gathered from
Peggy that she had heard a cry of distress, and opened the kitchen door,
and that Betty and she had ventured out together, and found poor master
tied to the gate with an old cord: this she produced, and the police
inspected and took it away with them.

At sight of that Notice, Edward felt cold and then hot and realised the
false and perilous position into which he had been betrayed: "So much for
being wiser than the law," he said: "what are we now but three footpads?"
This, and the insult his sister had received made the place poison to
him; and hastened their departure by a day or two. The very next day
(Thursday) an _affiche_ on the walls of Albion Villa announced that Mr.
Chippenham, auctioneer, would sell, next Wednesday, on the premises, the
greater part of the furniture, plate, china, glass, Oriental inlaid boxes
and screens, with several superb India shawls, scarfs, and dresses; also
a twenty-one years' lease of the villa, seventeen to run.

Edward took unfurnished apartments in London, near Russell Square: a
locality in which, as he learned from the _'Tiser,_ the rooms were large
and cheap. He packed just so much furniture as was essential; no
knick-knacks. It was to go by rail on Monday; Mrs. Dodd and Julia were to
follow on Tuesday: Edward to stay at Barkington and look after the sale.

Meantime their secret ally, Mr. Green, was preparing his threatened
_coup._ The more he reflected the more he suspected that he had been
outwitted by Peggy Black. She had led him on, and the pocket-book had
been planted for him. If so, why Peggy was a genius, and in his own line;
and he would marry her, and so kill two birds with one stone: make a
Detective of her (there was a sad lack of female detectives); and, once
his wife, she would split on her master, and he should defeat that old
soldier at last, and get a handsome slice of the L. 14,000.

He manoeuvred thus: first, he went back to London for a day or two to do
other jobs, and to let this matter cool; then he returned, and wrote from
a town near Barkington to Peggy Black, telling her he had been sent away
suddenly on a job, but his heart had remained behind with his Peggy:
would she meet him at the gate at nine that evening? he had something
very particular to say to her. As to the nature of the business, the
enclosed would give her a hint. She might name her own day, and the
sooner the better.

The enclosed was a wedding-ring.

At nine this extraordinary pair of lovers met at the gate; but Peggy
seemed hardly at her ease; said her master would be coming out and
catching her; perhaps they had better walk up the road a bit. "With all
my heart," said Green; but he could not help a little sneer: "Your
master?" said he: "why he is your servant, as I am. What, is he jealous?"

"I don't know what you mean, young man," said Peggy.

"I'll tell you when we are married."

"La, that is a long time to wait for my answer: why we ain't asked in
church yet."

"There's no need of that; I can afford a special licence."

"Lawk a daisy: why you be a gentleman, then."

"No, but I can keep my wife like a lady."

You sounds very tempting," murmured Peggy, throwing her skirt over her
head--for a drizzle was beginning--and walking slower and slower.

Then he made hot love to her, and pressed her hard to name the day.

She coquetted with the question till they came near the mouth of a dark
lane, called Lovers' Walk; then, as he insisted on an answer, she hung
her head bashfully, and coughed a little cough. At which preconcerted
signal a huge policeman sprang out of the lane and collared Mr. Green.

On this Peggy, who was all Lie from head to heel, uttered a little scream
of dismay and surprise.

Mr. Green laughed.

"Well, you _are_ a downy one," said he. "I'll marry you all the more for
thus."

The detective put his hands suddenly inside the policeman's, caught him
by the bosom with his right hand by way of fulcrum; and with his left by
the chin, which he forced violently back, and gave him a slight Cornish
trip at the same moment; down went the policeman on the back of his head
a fearful crack. Green then caught the astonished Peggy round the neck,
kissed her lips violently, and fled like the wind; removed all traces of
his personal identity, and up to London by the train in the character of
a young swell, with a self-fitting eyeglass and a long moustache the
colour of his tender mistress's eyebrow: tow.

From town he wrote to her, made her a formal offer of marriage; and gave
her an address to write to "should she at any time think more kindly of
him and of his sincere affection."

I suppose he specified sincere because it was no longer sincere: he
hurled the offer into Musgrove Cottage by way of an apple of discord--at
least so I infer from the memorandum, with which he retired at present
from the cash hunt.

"Mr. Hardie has the stiff, I think: but, if so, it is planted
somewhere--doesn't carry it about him; my Peggy is his mistress: nothing
to be done till they split."

Victorious so far, Mr. Hardie had still one pressing anxiety: Dr.
Sampson's placard: this had been renewed, and stared him everywhere in
the face. Every copy of it he encountered made him shiver. If he had been
a man of impulse, he would have torn it down wherever he saw it; but he
knew that would not do. However, learning from Jane, who had it from old
Betty, who had it from Sarah, that Mrs. and Miss Dodd would leave for
London the day before the sale, and Edward the day after it, he thought
he might venture in the busy intermediate time to take some liberties
with it. This he did with excellent tact and judgment. Peggy and a
billsticker were seen in conference, and, soon after, the huge bills of a
travelling circus were pasted right over both the rival advertisements in
which the name of Hardie figured. The consequence was, Edward raised no
objection: he was full of the sale for one thing; but I suspect he was
content to see his own false move pasted over on such easy terms.

One morning Peggy brought in the letters, and Jane saw one in Alfred's
handwriting. She snatched it up, and cried "Papa, from Alfred!" And she
left off making the tea, while her father opened it with comparative
composure.

This coolness, however, did not outlast the perusal: "The young ruffian!"
said he; "would you believe it Jenny, he accuses me of being the cause of
his last business."

"Let me see, papa."

He held her out the letter; but hesitated and drew it back. "My dear, it
would give you pain to see your poor father treated so. Here's a
specimen: 'What could they expect but that the son of a sharper would
prove a traitor? You stole her money; I her affections, of which I am
unworthy.' Now what do you think of that?"

"Unhappy Alfred!" said Jane. "No, papa, I would not read it, if you are
insulted in it. But where is he?"

"The letter is dated Paris. See! " And he showed her the date. "But he
says here he is coming back to London directly; and he orders me in the
most peremptory way to he ready with my accounts, and pay him over his
fortune. Well, he is alive, at all events: really my good, kind,
interfering, pragmatical friend Sampson, with his placards, made me feel
uneasy, more uneasy than I would own to you, Jenny."

"Unhappy Alfred!" cried Jane, with the tears in her eyes; "and poor
papa!"

"Oh, never mind me," said Mr. Hardie; "now that I know no harm has come
to him, I really don't care a straw: I have got one child that loves me,
and that I love."

"Ah yes, dear, dear papa, and that will always love you, and never, never
disobey you in small things or great." She rose from the table and sealed
this with a pious kiss; and, when she sat down with a pink flush on her
delicate cheek, his hard eye melted and dwelt on her with beaming
tenderness. His heart yearned over her, and a pang went through it: to
think that he must deceive even her, the one sweet soul that loved him!

It was a passing remorse: the successful plotter soon predominated, and
it was with unmixed satisfaction he saw her put on her bonnet directly
after breakfast and hurry off to Albion Villa to play the part of his
unconscious sieve.

He himself strolled in the opposite direction, not to seem to be watching
her.

He was in good spirits: felt like a general, who, after repulsing many
desperate attacks successfully, orders an advance, and sees the tide of
battle roll away from his bayonets. His very body seemed elastic,
indomitable; he walked lustily out into the country, sniffed the perfumed
hedges, and relished life. To be sure he could not walk away from all
traces of his misdeeds; he fell in with objects that to an ordinary
sinner might have spoiled the walk, and even marred the spring-time. He
found his creditor Maxley with grizzly beard and bloodshot eyes,
belabouring a milestone; and two small boys quizzing him, and pelting him
with mud: and soon after he met his creditor, old Dr. Phillips, in a
cart, coming back to Barkington to end his days there, at the almshouse.
But to our triumphant Bankrupt and Machiavel these things were literally
nothing: he paced complacently on, and cared no more for either of those
his wrecks than the smiling sea itself seems to care for the dead ships
and men it washed ashore a week ago.

He came home before luncheon for his gossip with Jane; but she had not
returned. All the better; her budget would be the larger.

To while the time he got his file of the _Times,_ and amused himself
noting down the fluctuations in Peruvian bonds,

While thus employed he heard a loud knock at his door, and soon after
Peggy's voice and a man's in swift collision. Hasty feet came along the
passage, the parlour door opened, and a young man rushed in pale as
ashes, and stared at him; he was breathless, and his lips moved, but no
sound came.

It was Edward Dodd.

Mr. Hardie rose like a tower and manned himself to repulse this fresh
assault.

The strange visitor gasped out, "You are wanted at our house."

CHAPTER XXXVII

JANE HARDIE had found Albion Villa in the miserable state that precedes
an auction: the house raw, its contents higgledy-piggledy. The stair
carpets, and drawing-room carpets, were up, and in rolls in the
dining-room; the bulk of the furniture was there too; the auction was to
be in that room. The hall was clogged with great packages, and littered
with small, all awaiting the railway carts; and Edward, dusty and
deliquescent, was cording, strapping, and nailing them at the gallop, in
his shirt sleeves.

Jane's heart sank at the visible signs of his departure. She sighed; and
then, partly to divert his attention, told him hastily there was a letter
from Alfred. On this he ran upstairs and told Mrs. Dodd; and she came
downstairs, and after a conversation took Jane up softly to her friend's
room.

They opened the door gently, and Jane saw the grief she was come to
console--or to embitter.

Such a change! instead of the bright, elastic, impetuous young beauty,
there sat a pale, languid girl, with "weary of the world" written on
every part of her eloquent body; her right hand dangled by her side, and
on the ground beneath it lay a piece of work she had been attempting; but
it had escaped from those listless fingers: her left arm was stretched at
full length on the table with an unspeakable abandon, and her brow laid
wearily on it above the elbow. So lies the wounded bird, so droops the
broken lily.

She did not move for Jane's light foot. She often sat thus, a drooping
statue, and let the people come and go unheeded.

Jane's heart yearned for her. She came softly and laid a little hand
lightly on her shoulder, and true to her creed that we must look upward
for consolation, said in her ear, and in solemn silvery tones, "Our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

Julia turned at this and flung her arms round Jane's neck, and panted
heavily.

Jane kissed her, and with tears in her eyes, proceeded to pour out, from
a memory richly stored with Scripture, those blessed words it is full of,
words that in our hours of ease or biblical criticism pass over the mind
like some drowsy chime but in the bitter day of anguish and bereavement,
when the body is racked, the soul darkened, shine out like stars to the
mariner; seem then first to swell to their real size and meaning, and
come to writhing mortals like pitying seraphim, divinity on their faces
and healing on their wings.

Julia sighed heavily: "Ah," she said, "these are sweet words. But I am
not ripe for them. You show me the true path of happiness: but I don't
_want_ to be happy; it's _him_ I want to be happy. If the angels came
for me and took me to heaven this moment, I should be miserable there, if
I thought _he_ was in eternal torment. Ay, I should be as miserable there
as I am here. Oh, Jane, when God means to comfort me, He will show me
_he_ is alive; till then words are wasted on me, even Bible words."

"Tell her your news, my dear," said Mrs. Dodd quietly. She was one of
those who take human nature as it is, and make the best of it.

"Julia dear," said Jane, "your fears are extravagant; indeed: Alfred is
alive, we know."

Julia trembled, but said nothing.

"He has written to-day."

"Ah! To you?"

"No, to papa."

"I don't believe it. Why to him?"

"But I saw the letter, dear; I had it my hand."

"Did you read it?" asked Julia, trembling now like an aspen, and
fluttering like a bird.

"No, but I read the address, and the date inside, and I saw the
handwriting; and I was offered the letter, but papa told me it was full
of abuse of him, so I declined* to read it; however, I will get it for
_you._"

* This was one of those involuntary inaccuracies which creep into mortal
statements.

Mrs. Dodd thanked her warmly; but asked her if she could not in the
meantime give some idea of the contents.

"Oh yes, Mrs. Dodd: papa read me out a great deal of it. He was in Paris,
but just starting for London: and he demanded his money and his accounts.
You know papa is one of his trustees."

"Well, but," said Mrs. Dodd, "there was nothing--nothing about----?"

"Oh yes, there was," said Jane, "only I--well then, for dear Julia's
sake--the letter said, 'What wonder the son of a sharper should prove a
traitor? _You_ have stolen her money and _I_ her affections, and'--oh, I
can't, I can't." And Jane Hardie began to cry.

Mrs. Dodd embraced her like a mother, and entered into her filial
feelings: Mrs. Dodd had never seen her so weak, and, therefore, never
thought her so amiable. Thus occupied they did not at first observe how
these tidings were changing Julia.

But presently looking up, they saw her standing at her full height on
fire with wrath and insulted pride.

"Ah, you have brought me comfort," she cried. " Mamma, I shall hate and
scorn this man some day, as much as I hate and scorn myself now for every
tear I have shed for him."

They tried to calm her, but in vain; a new gust of passion possessed the
ardent young creature and would have vent. She reddened from bosom to
brow, and the scalding tears ran down her flaming cheeks, and she
repeated between her clenched teeth, "My veins are not filled with
skim-milk, I can tell you: you have seen how I can love, you shall see
how I can hate." And with this she went haughtily out of the room, not to
expose the passion which overpowered her.

Mrs. Dodd took advantage of her absence to thank Jane for her kindness,
and told her she had also received some letters by this morning's post,
and thought it would be neither kind on her part nor just to conceal
their purport from her. She then read her a letter from Mrs. Beresford,
and another from Mr. Grey, in answer to queries about the L. 14,000.

Sharpe, I may as well observe, was at sea; Bayliss drowned.

Mrs. Beresford knew nothing about the matter.

Mr. Grey was positive Captain Dodd, when in command, had several thousand
pounds in his cabin; Mrs. Beresford's Indian servant had been detected
trying to steal it, and put in irons: believed the lady had not been told
the cause--out of delicacy! and Captain Roberts had liberated him. As to
whether the money had escaped the wreck--if on Captain Dodd's person, it
might have been saved; but if not, it was certainly lost: for Captain
Dodd to his knowledge had run on deck from the passenger's cabin the
moment the ship struck, and had remained there till she went to pieces;
and everything was washed out of her.

"Our own opinion," said Mrs. Dodd, "I mean Edward's and mine, is now,
that the money was lost in the ship; and you can tell your papa so if you
like."

Jane thanked her, and said she thought so too: and what a sad thing it
was.

Soon after this Julia returned, pale and calm as a statue, and sat down
humbly beside Jane. "Oh, pray with me," she said: "pray that I may not
hate, for to hate is to be wicked; and pray that I may not love, for to
love is to be miserable."

Mrs. Dodd retired, with her usual tact and self-denial.

Then Jane Hardie, being alone with her friend, and full of sorrow,
sympathy, and faith, found words of eloquence almost divine to raise her.

With these pious consolations Julia's pride and self-respect now
co-operated. Relieved of her great terror, she felt her insult to her
fingers' ends: "I'll never degrade myself so far as to pine for another
lady's lover," she said. "I'll resume my duties in another sphere, and
try to face the world by degrees. I am not quite alone in it; I have my
mother still--and my Redeemer."

Some tears forced their way at these brave, gentle words. Jane gave her
time.

Then she said: "Begin by putting on your bonnet, and visiting with me.
Come with one who is herself thwarted in the carnal affections; come with
her and see how sick some are, and we two in health; how racked with pain
some are, and we two at ease; how hungry some, and we have abundance;
and, above all, in what spiritual deserts some lie, while we walk in the
Gospel light."

"Oh that I had the strength," said Julia; "I'll try."

She put on her bonnet, and went down with her friend; but at the street
door the strange feeling of shame overpowered her; she blushed and
trembled, and begged to substitute the garden for the road. Jane
consented, and said everything must have a beginning.

The fresh air, the bursting buds, and all the face of nature, did Julia
good, and she felt it. "You little angel," said she, with something of
her old impetuosity, " you have saved me. I was making myself worse by
shutting myself up in that one miserable room."

They walked hand in hand for a good half hour, and then Jane said she
must go; papa would miss her. Julia was sorry to part with her, and
almost without thinking, accompanied her through the house to the front
gate; and that was another point gained. "I never was so sorry to part
with you, love," said she. "When will you come again? We leave to-morrow.
I am selfish to detain you; but it seems as if my guardian angel was
leaving me."

Jane smiled. "I must go," said she, "but I'll leave better angels than I
am behind me. I leave you this: 'Humble yourself under the mighty hand of
God!' When it seems most harsh, then it is most loving. Pray for faith to
say with me, 'Lead us by a way that we know not.'"

They kissed one another, and Julia stood at the gate and looked lovingly
after her, with the tears standing thick in her own violet eyes.

Now Maxley was coming down the road, all grizzly and bloodshot, baited by
the boys, who had gradually swelled in number as he drew nearer the town.

Jane was shocked at their heathenish cruelty, and went off the path to
remonstrate with them.

On this, Maxley fell upon her, and began beating her about the head and
shoulders with his heavy stick.

The miserable boys uttered yells of dismay, but did nothing.

Julia uttered a violent scream, but flew to her friend's aid, and crying,
"Oh you wretch! you wretch!" actually caught the man by the throat and
shook him violently. He took his hand off Jane Hardie, who instantly sank
moaning on the ground, and he cowered like a cur at the voice and the
purple gleaming eyes of the excited girl.

The air filled with cries, and Edward ran out of the house to see what
was the matter; but on the spot nobody was game enough to come between
the furious man and the fiery girl. The consequence was, her impetuous
courage began to flag and her eye to waver; the demented man found this
out by some half animal instinct, and instantly caught her by the
shoulder and whirled her down on her knees; then raised his staff high to
destroy her.

She screamed, and was just putting up her hands, womanlike, not to see
her death as well as feel it, when something dark came past her like a
rushing wind--a blow, that sounded exactly like that of a paving ram,
caught Maxley on the jaw: and there was Edward Dodd blowing like a
grampus with rage, and Maxley on his back in the road. But men under
cerebral excitement are not easily stunned, and know no pain: he bounded
off the ground, and came at Edward like a Spanish bull. Edward slipped
aside, and caught him another ponderous blow that sent him staggering,
and his bludgeon flew out of his hand, and Edward caught it. Lo! the
maniac flew at him again more fiercely than ever; but the young Hercules
had seen Jane bleeding on the ground: he dealt her assailant in full
career such a murderous stroke with the bludgeon, that the people, who
were running from all quarters, shrieked with dismay--not for Jane, but
for Maxley; and well they might; that awful stroke laid him senseless,
motionless and mute, in a pool of his own blood.

"Don't kill him, sir; don't kill the man," was the cry.

"Why not?" said Edward sternly. He then kneeled over his sweetheart and
lifted her in his arms like a child. Her bonnet was all broken, her eyes
were turned upwards and set, and a little blood trickled down her cheek;
and that cheek seemed streaked white and red.

He was terrified, agonised; yet he gasped out, "You are safe, dear; don't
be frightened."

She knew the voice.

"Oh, Edward!" she said piteously and tenderly, and then moaned a little
on his broad bosom. He carried her into the house out of the crowd.

Poor old doctor Phillips, coming in to end his days in the almshouse, had
seen it all: he got out of his cart and hobbled up. He had been in the
army, and had both experience and skill. He got her bonnet off, and at
sight of her head looked very grave.

In a minute a bed was laid in the drawing-room, and all the windows and
doors open: and Edward, trembling now in every limb, ran to Musgrove
Cottage, while Mrs. Dodd and Julia loosened the poor girl's dress, and
bathed her wounds with tepid water (the doctor would not allow cold), and
put wine carefully to her lips with a teaspoon.

"Wanted at your house, pray what for?" said Mr. Hardie superciliously.

"Oh, sir," said Edward, "such a calamity. Pray come directly. A ruffian
has struck her, has hurt her terribly, terribly."

"Her! Who?" asked Mr. Hardie, beginning to be uneasy.

"Who! why Jane, your daughter, man; and there you sit chattering, instead
of coming at once."

Mr. Hardie rose hurriedly and put on his hat, and accompanied him, half
confused.

Soon Edward's mute agitation communicated itself to him, and he went
striding and trembling by his side.

The crowd had gone with insensible Maxley to the hospital, but the traces
of the terrible combat were there. Where Maxley fell the last time, a
bullock seemed to have been slaughtered at the least.

The miserable father came on this, and gave a great scream like a woman,
and staggered back white as a sheet.

Edward laid his hand on him, for he seemed scarce able to stand.

"No, no, no," he cried, comprehending the mistake at last; that is not
hers--Heaven forbid! That is the madman's who did it; I knocked him down
with his own cudgel."

"God bless you! you've killed him, I hope."

"Oh, sir, be more merciful, and then perhaps He will be merciful to us,
and not take this angel from us."

"No! no! you are right; good young man. I little thought I had such a
friend in your house."

"Don't deceive yourself, sir," said Edward; "it's not you I care for:"
then, with a great cry of anguish, _"I love her._"

At this blunt declaration, so new and so offensive to him, Mr. Hardie
winced, and stopped bewildered.

But they were at the gate, and Edward hurried him on. At the house door
he drew back once more; for he felt a shiver of repugnance at entering
this hateful house, of whose happiness he was the destroyer.

But enter it he must; it was his fate.

The wife of the poor Captain he had driven mad met him in the passage,
her motherly eyes full of tears for him, and both hands held out to him
like a pitying angel. "Oh, Mr. Hardie," she said in a broken voice, and
took him, and led him, wonder-struck, stupefied, shivering with dark
fears, to the room where his crushed daughter lay.

CHAPTER XXXVIII

MR. HARDIE found his daughter lying ashy pale on a little bed in the
drawing-room of Albion Villa. She was now scarce conscious. The old
doctor sat at her head looking very grave; and Julia kneeled over her
beloved friend, pale as herself; with hands clasped convulsively, and
great eyes of terror and grief.

That vivid young face, full of foreboding and woe, struck Mr. Hardie the
moment he entered, and froze his very heart. The strong man quivered and
sank slowly like a felled tree by the bedside; and his face and the poor
girl's, whose earthly happiness he had coldly destroyed, nearly met over
his crushed daughter.

"Jane, my child," he gasped; "my poor little Jane!"

"Oh let me sleep," she moaned feebly.

"Darling, it's your own papa," said Julia softly.

"Poor papa!" said she, turning rather to Julia than to him. "Let me
sleep."

She was in a half lethargic state.

Mr. Hardie asked the doctor in an agitated whisper if he might move her
home. The doctor shook his head: "Not by my advice; her pulse is scarce
perceptible. We must not move her nor excite her, nor yet let her sink
into lethargy. She is in great danger, very great."

At these terrible words Mr. Hardie groaned: and they all began to speak
below the breath.

"Edward," murmured Mrs. Dodd hurriedly, "run and put off the auction: put
it off altogether; then go to the railway; nothing must come here to make
a noise, and get straw put down directly. Do that first, dear."

"You are kinder to me than I deserve," muttered Mr. Hardie humbly, quite
cowed by the blow that had fallen on him. The words agitated Mrs. Dodd
with many thoughts, but she whispered as calmly as she could, "Let us
think of nothing now but this precious life."

Mr. Hardie begged to see the extent of the injury.

Mrs. Dodd dissuaded him, but he persisted. Then the doctor showed her
poor head.

At that the father uttered a scream and sat quivering. Julia buried her
face in the bed-clothes directly, and sobbed vehemently. It passed
faintly across the benumbed and shuddering father, "How she loves my
child; they all love her," but the thought made little impression at the
time; the mind was too full of terror and woe. The doctor now asked for
brandy in a whisper. Mrs. Dodd left the room with stealthy foot, and
brought it. He asked for a quill. Julia went with swift, stealthy foot,
and brought it. With adroit and tender hands they aided the doctor, and
trickled stimulants down her throat. Then sat like statues of grief about
the bed; only every now and then eye sought eye, and endeavoured to read
what the other thought. Was there hope? Was there none? And by-and-bye,
so roving is the mind, especially when the body is still, these statues
began to thrill with thoughts of the past as well as the absorbing
present.

Ay, here were met a strange party; a stranger, for its size, methinks,
never yet met on earth, to mingle their hearts together in one grief.

Just think! Of him who sat there with his face hidden in his hands, and
his frame shuddering, all the others were the victims.

Yet the lady, whose husband he had robbed and driven mad, pitied and
sympathised with him, and he saw it; the lady, whom he had insulted at
the altar and blighted her young heart and life, pitied and sympathised
with him; the poor old doctor pitied and sympathised, and was more like
an anxious father than a physician.

Even Jane was one of his victims; for she fell by the hand of a man he
had dishonestly ruined and driven out of his senses.

Thinking of all he had done, and this the end of it, he was at once
crushed and melted.

He saw with awe that a mightier hand than man's was upon him; it had
tossed him and his daughter into the house and the arms of the injured
Dodds, in defiance of all human calculation; and he felt himself a straw
in that hand: so he was, and the great globe itself. Oh, if Jane should
die! the one creature he loved, the one creature, bereaved of whom he
could get no joy even from riches.

What would he not give to recall the past, since all his schemes had but
ended in this. Thus stricken by terror of the divine wrath, and touched
by the goodness and kindness of those he had cruelly wronged, all the man
was broken with remorse. Then he vowed to undo his own work as far as
possible: he would do anything, everything, if Heaven would spare him his
child.

Now it did so happen that these resolves, earnest and sincere but
somewhat vague, were soon put to the test; and, as often occurs, what he
was called on to do first was that which he would rather have done last.
Thus it was: about five o'clock in the afternoon Jane Hardie opened her
eyes and looked about her.

It was a moment of intense anxiety. They all made signals, but held their
breath. She smiled at sight of Mr. Hardie, and said, "Papa! dear papa!"

There was great joy: silent on the part of Mrs. Dodd and Julia; but Mr.
Hardie, who saw in this a good omen, Heaven recognising his penitence,
burst out: "She knows me; she speaks; she will live. How good God is!
Yes, my darling child, it is your own father. You will be brave and get
well, for my sake."

Jane did not seem to pay much heed to these words: she looked straight
before her like one occupied with her own thought, and said distinctly
and solemnly, "Papa--send for Alfred."

It fell on all three like a clap of thunder, those gentle but decided
tones, those simple natural words.

Julia's eyes flashed into her mother's, and then sought the ground
directly.

There was a dead silence.

Mr. Hardie was the one to speak "Why for him, dear? Those who love you
best are all here."

"For Heaven's sake, don't thwart her, sir," said the doctor, in alarm.
"This is no time to refuse her anything in your power. Sometimes the very
expectation of a beloved person coming keeps them alive; stimulates the
powers."

Mr. Hardie was sore perplexed. He recoiled from the sudden exposure that
might take place, if Alfred without any preparation or previous
conciliatory measures were allowed to burst in upon them. And while his
mind was whirling within him in doubt and perplexity, Jane spoke again;
but no longer calmly and connectedly; she was beginning to wander.
Presently in her wandering she spoke of Edward; called him dear Edward.
Mrs. Dodd rose hastily, and her first impulse was to ask both gentlemen
to retire: so instinctively does a good woman protect her own sex against
the other. But, reflecting that this was the father, she made an excuse
and retired herself instead, followed by Julia. The doctor divined, and
went to the window. The father sat by the bed, and soon gathered his
daughter loved Edward Dodd.

The time was gone by when this would have greatly pained him.

He sighed like one overmatched by fate; but said, "You shall have him, my
darling; he is a good young man, he shall be your husband, you shall be
happy. Only live for my sake, for all our sakes." She paid no attention
and wandered on a little; but her mind gradually cleared, and by-and-bye
she asked quietly for a glass of water. Mr. Hardie gave it her. She
sipped, and he took it from her. She looked at him close, and said
distinctly, "Have you sent for Alfred?"

"No, love, not yet."

"Not yet? There is no time to lose," she said gravely.

Mr. Hardie trembled. Then, being alone with her, the miserable man unable
to say no, unwilling to say yes, tried to persuade her not to ask for
Alfred. "My dear," he whispered, "I will not refuse you: but I have a
secret to confide to you. Will you keep it?"

"Yes, papa, faithfully."

"Poor Alfred is not himself. He has delusions: he is partly insane. My
brother Thomas has thought it best for us all to put him under gentle
restraint for a time. It would retard his cure to have him down here and
subject him to excitement."

"Papa," said Jane, "are you deceiving me, or are you imposed upon? Alfred
insane! It is a falsehood. He came to me the night before the wedding
that was to be. Oh, my brother, my darling brother, how dare they say you
are insane! That letter you showed me then was a falsehood? Oh, papa!"

"I feared to frighten you," said Mr. Hardie, and hung his head.

"I see it all," she cried "those wicked men with their dark words have
imposed on you. Bring him to me that I may reconcile you all, and end all
this misery ere I go hence and be no more seen."

"Oh, my child, don't talk so," cried Mr. Hardie, trembling. "Think of
your poor father."

"I do," she cried, "I do. Oh, papa, I lie here between two worlds, and
see them both so clear. Trust to me: and, if you love me----"

"If I love you, Jane? Better than all the world twice told."

"Then don't refuse me this one favour: the last, perhaps, I shall ever
ask you. I want my brother here before it is too late. Tell him he must
come to his little sister, who loves him dearly, and--is dying.

"Oh no! no! no!" cried the agonised father, casting everything to the
winds. "I will. He shall be here in twelve hours. Only promise me to bear
up. Have a strong will; have courage. You shall have Alfred, you shall
have anything you like on earth, anything that money can get you. What am
I saying? I have no money; it is all gone. But I have a father's heart.
Madam, Mrs. Dodd!" She came directly.

"Can you give me paper? No, I won't trust to a letter. I'll send off a
special messenger this moment. It is for my son, madam. He will be here
to-morrow morning. God knows how it will all end. But how can I refuse my
dying child? Oh, madam, you are good, kind, forgiving; keep my poor girl
alive for me: keep telling her Alfred is coming; she cares more for him
than for her poor heart-broken father."

And the miserable man rushed out, leaving Mrs. Dodd in tears for him.

He was no sooner gone than Julia came in; and clasped her mother, and
trembled on her bosom. Then Mrs. Dodd knew she had overheard Mr. Hardie's
last words.

Jane Hardie, too, though much exhausted by the scene with her father, put
out her hand to Julia, and took hers, and said feebly, but with a sweet
smile, "He is coming, love; all shall be well." Then to herself as it
were, and looking up with a gentle rapture in her pale face--

"Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of
God."

On this thought she seemed to feed with innocent joy; but for a long time
was too weak to speak again.

Mr. Hardie, rushing from the house, found Edward at work outside; he was
crying undisguisedly, and with his coat off, working harder at spreading
the straw than both the two men together he had got to help him. Mr.
Hardie took his hand and wrung it, but could not speak.

In half an hour a trusty agent he had often employed was at the station
waiting for the up train, nearly due.

He came back to Albion Villa. Julia met him on the stairs with her
fingers to her lips. "She is sleeping; the doctor has hopes. Oh, sir, let
us all pray for her day and night."

Mr. Hardie blessed her; it seemed the face of an angel, so earnest, so
lovely, so pious. He went home: and at the door of his own house Peggy
met him with anxious looks. He told her what he had done.

"Good Heavens!" said she; "have you forgotten? He says he will kill you
the first day he gets out. You told me so yourself."

"Yes, Baker said so. I can't help it. I don't care what becomes of me; I
care only for my child. Leave me, Peggy; there, go, go."

He was no sooner alone than he fell upon his knees, and offered the Great
Author of life and death--a bargain. "O God," he cried, "I own my sins,
and I repent them. Spare but my child, who never sinned against Thee, and
I will undo all I have done amiss in Thy sight. I will refund that money
on which Thy curse lies. I will throw myself on their mercy. I will set
my son free. I will live on a pittance. I will part with Peggy. I will
serve Mammon no more. I will attend Thine ordinances. I will live
soberly, honestly, and godly all the remainder of my days; only do Thou
spare my child. She is Thy servant, and does Thy work on earth, and there
is nothing on earth I love but her."

And now the whistle sounded, the train moved, and his messenger was
flying fast to London, with a note to Dr. Wycherley:

"DEAR SIR,--My poor daughter lies dangerously wounded, and perhaps at the
point of death. She cries for her brother. He must come down to us
instantly with the bearer of this. Send one of your people with him if
you like. But it is not necessary. I enclose a blank cheque, signed,
which please fill at your discretion.--I am, with thanks, yours in deep
distress,

"RICHARD HARDIE"

CHAPTER XXXIX

DR. SHORT arrived, approved Dr. Phillips's treatment, and said the case
was severe but not hopeless, and he would call again. A bed was prepared
in the house for Mr. Hardie: but neither he nor any of the Dodds closed
an eye that sorrowful night.

About midnight, after a short slumber, the sufferer became uneasy, and
begged to be left with Julia. Julia was sent for, and found her a good
deal excited. She inquired more than once if they were quite alone, and
then asked for paper and a pencil. She wrote a few lines, and made Julia
put them in a cover and seal them. "Now. dear friend," she said, "promise
me not to open this, nor even to let your mother; it is not for your
happiness that what I have written should be seen by her or you; no, no,
much better not. Come; dear friend, pledge me your honour." Julia pledged
her honour.

Then Jane wrote on the cover, "From a dying sister." Julia saw that; and
wept sore.

Jane comforted her. "Do not weep for me, love: I am content to go, or
stay. This is not my doing; so I know it must be for the best. He is
leading me by a way that I know not. Oh, my beloved friend, how sweet it
is to lie in His hands, and know no will but His. Ay, I thank Him for
crossing my will, and leading me to Himself by His own good way, and not
by poor blind, foolish mine."

In this spirit of full resignation she abode constant, and consoled her
weeping friends from time to time, whenever she was quite herself.

About daybreak, being alone with her father, she shed a few tears at his
lonely condition. "I fear you will miss me," said she. "Take my advice,
dear; be reconciled with Alfred at once, and let Julia be your daughter,
since I am leaving you. She is all humility and heart. Dying, I prize her
and her affection more highly; I seem to see characters clearer, all
things clearer, than I did before my summons came."

The miserable father tried to be playful and scold her: "You must not
talk nor think of death," he said. "Your bridal-day is to come first; I
know all; Edward Dodd has told me he loves you. He is a fine noble
fellow; you shall marry him: I wish it. Now, for his sake, summon all
your resolution, and make up your mind to live. Why, at your age, it
needs but to say, 'I will live, I will, I will;' and when all the
prospect is so smiling, when love awaits you at the altar, and on every
side! If you could leave your poor doting father, do not leave your
lover: and here he is with his mother crying for you. Let me comfort him;
let me tell him you will live for his sake and mine."

Even this could not disturb the dying Christian. "Dear Edward," she said;
"it is sweet to know he loves me. Ah, well, he is young; he must live
without me till I become but a tender memory of his youth. And oh, I pray
for him that he may cherish the words I have spoken to him for his soul's
good far longer than he can remember these features that are hastening to
decay."

At ten in the morning Mr. Hardie's messenger returned without Alfred, and
with a note from Dr. Wycherley to this effect, that, the order for
Alfred's admission into his asylum being signed by Mr. Thomas Hardie, he
could not send him out even for a day except on Thomas Hardie's
authority; it would be a violation of the law. Under the circumstances,
however, he thought he might venture to receive that order by telegraph.
If, then, Mr. Hardie would telegraph Thomas Hardie in Yorkshire to
telegraph him (Wycherley), Alfred should be sent with two keepers
wherever Mr. T. Hardie should so direct,

Now Mr. Hardie had already repented of sending for Alfred at all. So,
instead of telegraphing Yorkshire, he remained passive, and said sullenly
to Mrs. Dodd, "Alfred can't come, it seems."

Thus Routine kept the brother from his dying sister.

They told Jane, with aching hearts, there was reason to fear Alfred could
not arrive that day.

She only gave a meaning look at Julia, about the paper; and then she said
with a little sigh, "God's will be done."

This was the last disappointment Heaven allowed Earth to inflict on her;
and the shield of Faith turned its edge.

One hour of pain, another of delirium, and now the clouds that darken
this mortal life seemed to part and pass, and Heaven to open full upon
her. She spoke of her coming change no longer with resignation; it was
with rapture. "Oh!" she cried, "to think that from this very day I shall
never sin again, shall never again offend Him by unholy temper, by
un-Christ-like behaviour!"

The strong and healthy wept and groaned aloud; but she they sorrowed for
was all celestial bliss. In her lifetime she had her ups and downs of
religious fervour; was not without feverish heats, and cold misgivings
and depression; but all these fled at that dread hour when the wicked are
a prey to dark misgivings, or escape into apathy. This timid girl that
would have screamed at a scratch, met the King of Terrors with smiles and
triumph. For her the grave was Jordan, and death was but the iron gate of
life everlasting. _Mors janua vitae._ Yet once or twice she took herself
to task: but only to show she knew what the All-Pure had forgiven her. "I
often was wanting in humility," she said; "I almost think that if I were
to be sent back again into this world of sin and sorrow I am leaving
behind, I should grow a little in humility; for I know the ripe Christian
is like the ripe corn, holds his head lower than when he was green; and
the grave it seems to be ripening me. But what does it matter? since He
who died for me is content to take me as I am. Come quickly, Lord Jesus,
oh, come quickly! Relieve Thy servant from the burden of the flesh, and
of the sins and foibles that cling to it and keep her these many years
from Thee."

This prayer was granted; the body failed more and more; she could not
swallow even a drop of wine; she could not even praise her Redeemer; that
is to say, she could not speak. Yet she lay and triumphed. With hands put
together in prayer, and eyes full of praise and joy unspeakable, she
climbed fast to God. While she so mounted in the spirit, her breath came
at intervals unusually long, and all were sent for to see Death conquer
the body and be conquered by the soul.

At last, after an unnaturally long interval, she drew a breath like a
sigh. They waited for another; waited, waited in vain.

She had calmly ceased to live.

The old doctor laid down her hand reverently, and said "She is with us no
more." Then with many tears, "Oh, may we all meet where she is now, and
may I go to her the first."

Richard Hardie was led from the room in a stupor.

Immediately after death all the disfiguring effect of pain retired, and
the happy soul seemed to have stamped its own celestial rapture on the
countenance at the moment of leaving it; a rapture so wonderful, so
divine, so more than mortal calm, irradiated the dead face. The good
Christians she left behind her looked on and feared to weep, lest they
should offend Him, who had taken her to Himself, and set a visible seal
upon the house of clay that had held her. "Oh, mamma," cried Julia with
fervour, "look! look! Can we, dare we, wish that angel back to this world
of misery and sin?" And it was some hours before she cooled, and began to
hang on Edward's neck and weep his loss and hers, as weep we mortals
must, though the angels of Heaven are rejoicing.

Thus died in the flower of her youth, and by what we call a violent
death, the one child Richard Hardie loved; member of a religious party
whose diction now and then offends one to the soul: but the root of the
matter is in them; allowance made for those passions, foibles, and
infirmities of the flesh, even you and I are not entirely free from, they
live fearing God, and die loving Him.

There was an inquest next day, followed in due course by a public trial
of James Maxley. But these are matters which, though rather curious and
interesting, must be omitted, or touched hereafter and briefly.

The effect of Jane's death on Richard Hardie was deplorable. He saw the
hand of Heaven; but did not bow to it: so it filled him with rage,
rebellion, and despair. He got his daughter away and hid himself in the
room with her; scarce stirring out by night or day. He spoke to no one;
he shunned the Dodds: he hated them. He said it was through visiting
their house she had met her death, and at their door. He would not let
himself see it was he who had sent her there with his lie. He loathed
Alfred, calling him the cause of all.

He asked nobody to the funeral: and, when Edward begged permission to
come, he gave a snarl like a wild beast and went raging from him. But
Edward would go: and at the graveside pitying Heaven relieved the young
fellow's choking heart with tears. But no such dew came to that parched
old man, who stood on its other side like the withered Archangel, his
eyes gloomy and wild, his white cheek ploughed deep with care and crime
and anguish, his lofty figure bowed by his long warfare, his soul burning
and sickening by turns, with hatred and rebellion, with desolation and
despair.

He went home and made his will; for he felt life hang on him like lead,
and that any moment he might kill himself to be rid of it. Strange to
say, he left a sum of money to Edward Dodd. A moment before, he didn't
know he was going to do it: a moment after, he was half surprised he had
done it, and minded to undo it; but would not take the trouble. He went
up to London, and dashed into speculation as some in their despair take
to drink. For this man had but two passions; avarice, and his love for
his daughter. Bereaved of her, he must either die, or live for gain. He
sought the very cave of Mammon; he plunged into the Stock Exchange.

When Mr. Hardie said, "Alfred can't come, it seems," Mrs. Dodd
misunderstood him, naturally enough. She thought the heartless young man
had sent some excuse: had chosen to let his sister die neglected rather
than face Julia: "As if she would leave her own room while _he_ was in my
house," said Mrs. Dodd, with sovereign contempt. From this moment she
conceived a horror of the young man. Edward shared it fully, and the pair
always spoke of him under the title of "the Wretch:" this was when Julia
was not by. In her presence he was never mentioned. By this means she
would in time forget him, or else see him as they saw him.

And as, after all, they knew little to Mr. Hardie's disadvantage, except
what had come out of "the Wretch's" mouth, and as moreover their hearts
were softened towards the father by his bereavement, and their sight of
his misery, and also by his grateful words, they quite acquitted him of
having robbed them, and felt sure the fourteen thousand pounds was at the
bottom of the sea.

They were a little surprised that Mr. Hardie never spoke nor wrote to
them again; but being high-minded and sweet tempered, they set it down to
all-absorbing grief, and would not feel sore about it.

And now they must leave the little villa where they had been so happy and
so unhappy.

The scanty furniture went first; Mrs. Dodd followed, and arranged it in
their apartments. Julia would stay behind to comfort Edward, inconsolable
herself. The auction came off. Most of the things went for cruelly little
money compared to their value: and with the balance the sad young pair
came up to London, and were clasped in their mother's arms. The tears
were in her tender eyes. "It is a poor place to receive my treasures,"
she said: Edward looked round astonished: "It was a poor place," said he,
"but you have made a little palace of it, somehow or another."

"My children's love can alone do that," replied Mrs. Dodd, kissing them
both again.

Next day they consulted together how they were to live. Edward wished to
try and get his father into a public asylum; then his mother would have a
balance to live upon out of her income. But Mrs. Dodd rejected this
proposal with astonishment. In vain Edward cited the _'Tiser_ that public
asylums are patterns of comfort, and cure twice as many patients as the
private ones do. She was deaf alike to the _'Tiser_ and to statistics.
"Do not argue me out of my common sense," said she. "My husband, your
father, in a public asylum, where anybody can go and stare at my
darling!"

She then informed them she had written to her Aunt Bazalgette and her
Uncle Fountain, and invited them to contribute something towards David's
maintenance.

Edward was almost angry at this. "Fancy asking favours of _them,_" said
he.

"Oh, I must not sacrifice my family to false pride," said Mrs. Dodd;
"besides they are entitled to know."

While waiting for their answers, a word about the parties and their
niece.

Our Mrs. Dodd, born Lucy Fountain, was left at nineteen to the care of
two guardians: 1, her Uncle Fountain, an old bachelor, who loved comfort,
pedigree, and his own way; 2, her Aunt Bazalgette, who loved flirting,
dressing, and her own way; both charming people, when they got their own
way; verjuice, when they didn't: and, to conclude, egotists deep as
ocean. From guardians they grew match-makers and rivals by proxy: uncle
schemed to graft Lucy on to a stick called Talboys, that came in with the
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, known in pedigrees as "the Norman
Conquest." Aunt, wife of a merchant of no Descent, except from a high
stool, devoted her to Richard Hardie. An unlooked-for obstacle
encountered both: Lucy was not amorous. She loved these two egotists and
their quadrupeds; but there she stopped dead short. They persisted; and,
while they pulled her to and fro and ruffled her native calm, David Dodd,
first mate of the Something or other East Indiaman--brown cheek, honest
speech, heart of gold--fell deep in love and worshipped her at a
distance. His timidity and social insignificance made him harmless; so
egotist Fountain had him in to dessert to spin yarns; egotist Bazalgette
invited him to her house to flirt with. At this latter place he found
Hardie and Talboys both courting Lucy; this drove him mad, and in his
fury he popped. Lucy declined him _secundum artem:_ he went away blessing
her, with a manly sob or two. Lucy cried a little and took a feminine
spite against his rivals, who remained to pester her. Now Talboys,
spurred by uncle, had often all but popped; only some let, hindrance, or
just impediment had still interposed: once her pony kept prancing at each
effort he made towards Hymen; they do say the subtle virgin kept probing
the brute with a hair pin, and made him caracole and spill the treacle as
fast as it came her way. However, now Talboys elected to pop by sea. It
was the element his ancestors had invaded fair England by; and on its
tranquil bosom a lover is safe from prancing steeds, and the myriad
anti-pops of _terra firma._ Miss Lucy consented to the water excursion
demurely, designing to bring her sickly wooer to the point and so get rid
of him for ever and ever. Plot and counter-plot were baffled by the
elements: there came an anti-pop out of the south-west called a gale.
Talboys boated so skilfully that he and his intended would have been
united without ceremony by Father Nep, at the bottom of the British
Channel, but for David Dodd, who was hovering near in jealous anguish and
a cutter. He saved them both, but in the doing of it missed his ship, and
professional ruin faced him. Then good-hearted Lucy was miserable, and
appealed to Mr. Bazalgette, and he managed somehow to get David made
captain of the _Rajah._ The poor girl thought she had squared the account
with David; but he refused the ship unless she would go halves, and while
her egotists bullied and vexed her, he wrought so upon her pity, and
teased her so, that to get rid of his importunity she married him. In
time she learned to love him ten times better than if she had begun all
flames. Uncle and aunt cut her tolerably dead for some years. Uncle came
round the first; some antiquarian showed him that Dodd was a much more
ancient family than Talboys. "Why, sir, they were lords of sixteen manors
under the Heptarchy, and hold some of them to this day." Mrs. Bazalgette,
too, had long corresponded with her periodically, and on friendly terms.

The answers came on the same day, curiously enough. Uncle Fountain,
ruined by railway speculation, was living on an allowance from creditors;
but his house was at their service, if they liked to live with him--and
board themselves.

Mrs. Bazalgette's was the letter of a smooth woman, who has hoarded
imperishable spite. She reminded her niece after all these years, that
her marriage with David was an act of disobedience and ingratitude. She
then enumerated her own heavy expenses, all but the L. 400 a year she
spent in bedizening her carcass, and finally, amidst a multitude of petty
insults, she offered to relieve Mrs. Dodd of--Julia. Now Poetry has
reconciled us to an asp in a basket of figs; but here was a scorpion in a
bundle of nettles. Poor Mrs. Dodd could not speak after reading it. She
handed it to Edward, and laid her white forehead wearily in her hand.
Edward put the letter in an envelope and sent it back with a line in his
own hand declining all further correspondence with the writer.

"Now then, ladies," said he, "don't you be cast down. Let this be a
warning to us, never to ask favours of anybody. Let us look the thing in
the face; we must work or starve: and all the better for us. Hard work
suits heavy hearts. Come, have you any plan?"

"To be sure we have," said Julia eagerly. "I mean to go for a governess,
and then I shall cost mamma nothing, and besides I can send her the money
the people give me."

"A pretty plan!" said Edward sadly; "what! we three part company? Don't
you feel lonely enough without that? I do then. How can we bear our
burdens at all, if we are not to be all together to cheer one another
along the weary road? What! are we to break up? Is it not enough to be
bereaved?"

He could say no more for the emotion his own words caused him; thinking
of Jane, he broke down altogether, and ran out of the room.

However, he came back in an hour with his eyes red, but his heart
indomitable; determined to play a man's part for all their sakes. "You
ladies," said he, with something of his old genial way, that sounded so
strange to one looking at his red eyes, and inspired a desire to hug him,
"are full of talent, but empty of invention. The moment you are ruined or
that sort of thing, it is, _go_ for a governess, _go_ for a companion,
_go_ here, _go_ there, in search of what? Independence? No; dependence.
Besides all this _going_ is bosh. Families are strong if they stick
together, and if they go to pieces they are weak. I learned one bit of
sense out of that mass of folly they call antiquity; and that was the
story of the old bloke with his twelve sons, and fagot to match. 'Break
'em apart,' he said, and each son broke his stick as easy as shelling
peas. 'Now break the twelve all tied together:' devil a bit could the
duffers break it then. Now we are not twelve, we are but three: easy to
break one or two of us apart, but not the lot together. No; nothing but
death shall break this fagot, for nothing less shall part us three."

He stood like a colossus, and held out his hand to them; they clung round
his neck in a moment, as if to illustrate his words; clung tight, and
blessed him for standing so firm and forbidding them to part.

Mrs. Dodd sighed, after the first burst of enthusiastic affection, and
said: "If he would only go a step further and tell us what to do in
company."

"Ay, there it is," said Julia. "Begin with me. What can I do?"

"Why, paint."

"What, to sell? Oh dear, my daubs are not good enough for that."

"Stuff! Nothing is too bad to _sell._"

"I really think you might," said Mrs. Dodd, "and I will help you."

"No, no, mamma, I want you for something better than the fine arts. You
must go in one of the great grooves: Female vanity: you must be a
dressmaker; you are a genius at it."

"My mamma a dressmaker," cried Julia; "oh Edward, how can you. How dare
you. Poor, poor mamma!"

"Do not be so impetuous, dear. I think he is right: yes, it is all I am
fit for. If ever there was a Heaven-born dressmaker, it's me."

"As for myself," said Edward, "I shall look out for some business in
which physical strength goes further than intellectual attainments.
Luckily there are plenty such. Breaking stones is one. But I shall try a
few others first."

It is easy to settle on a business, hard to get a footing in one. Edward
convinced that the dressmaking was their best card, searched that mine of
various knowledge, the _'Tiser,_ for an opening: but none came. At last
one of those great miscellaneous houses in the City advertised for a lady
to cut cloaks. He proposed to his mother to go with him. She shrank from
encountering strangers. No, she would go to a fashionable dressmaker she
had employed some years, and ask her advice. Perhaps Madame Blanch would
find her something to do. "I have more faith in the _'Tiser,_" said
Edward, clinging to his idol.

Mrs. Dodd found Madame Blanch occupied in trying to suit one of those
heart-breaking idiots, to whom dress is the one great thing, and all
things else, sin included, the little ones. She had tried on a scarf
three times; and it discontented her when on, and spoilt all else when
off. Mrs. Dodd saw, and said obligingly, "Perhaps were I to put it on,
you could better judge." Mrs. Dodd, you must know, had an admirable art
of putting on a shawl or scarf. With apparent _nonchalance_ she settled
the scarf on her shapely shoulders so happily that the fish bit, and the
scarf went into its carriage; forty guineas, or so. Madame cast a rapid
but ardent glance of gratitude Dodd-wards. The customer began to go, and
after fidgeting to the door and back for twenty minutes actually went
somehow. Then madame turned round, and said, "I'm sure, ma'am, I am much
obliged to you; you sold me the scarf: and it is a pity we couldn't put
her on your bust and shoulders, ma'am, then perhaps a scarf might please
her. What can I do for you, ma'am?"

Mrs. Dodd blushed, and with subdued agitation told Madame Blanch that
this time she was come not to purchase but to ask a favour. Misfortune
was heavy on her; and, though not penniless, she was so reduced by her
husband's illness and the loss of L. 14,000 by shipwreck, that she must
employ what little talents she had to support her family.

The woman explored her from head to foot to find the change of fortune in
some corner of her raiment: but her customer was as well, though plainly
dressed as ever, and still looked an easy-going duchess.

"Could Madame Blanch find her employment in her own line? What talent I
have," said Mrs. Dodd humbly, "lies in that way. I could not cut as well
as yourself, of course; but I think I can as well as some of your
people."

"That I'll be bound you can," said Madame Blanch drily. "But dear, dear,
to think of your having come down so. Have a glass of wine to cheer you a
bit; do now, that is a good soul."

"Oh no, madam. I thank you; but wine cannot cheer me: a little bit of
good news to take back to my anxious children, that would cheer me,
madam. _Will_ you be so good?"

The dressmaker coloured and hesitated; she felt the fascination of
Dignity donning Humility, and speaking Music: but she resisted. "It won't
do, at least here. I shouldn't be mistress in my own place. I couldn't
drive you like I am forced to do the rest; and, then, I should be sure to
favour you, being a real lady, which is my taste, and you always will be,
rich or poor; and then all my ladies would be on the bile with jealousy."

"Ah, madam," sighed Mrs. Dodd, "you treat me like a child; you give me
sweetmeats, and refuse me food for my family."

"No, no," said the woman hastily, "I don't say I mightn't send you out
some work to do at home."

"Oh, thank you, madam." _N.B._ The dressmaker had dropped the Madam, so
the lady used it now at every word.

"Now stop a bit," said Madame Blanch. "I know a firm that's in want.
Theirs is easy work by mine, and they cut up a piece of stuff every two
or three days." She then wrote on one of her own cards, Messrs. Cross,
Fitchett, Copland, and Tylee, 11, 12, 13, and 14, Primrose Lane, City.
"Say, I recommend you. To tell the truth, an old hand of my own was to
come here this very morning about it, but she hasn't kept her time; so
this will learn her business doesn't stand still for lie-a-beds to catch
it."

Mrs. Dodd put the card in her bosom and pressed the hand extended to her
by Madame Zaire Blanch; whose name was Sally White, spinster. She went
back to her children and showed them the card, and sank gracefully into a
chair, exhausted as much by the agitation of asking favours as by the
walk. "Cross, Fitchett, Copland? Why they were in the _'Tiser_
yesterday," said Edward: "look at this; a day lost by being wiser than
the _'Tiser._"

"I'll waste no more then," said Mrs. Dodd, rising quietly from the chair.
They begged her to rest herself first. No, she would not. "I saw this
lost by half an hour," said she. "Succeed or fail, I will have no
remissness to reproach myself with." And she glided off in her quiet way,
to encounter Cross, Fitchett, Copland and Tylee, in the lane where a
primrose was caught growing--six hundred years ago. She declined Edward's
company rather peremptorily. "Stay and comfort your sister," said she.
But that was a blind; the truth was, she could not bear her children to
mingle in what she was doing. No, her ambition was to ply the scissors
and thimble vigorously, and so enable them to be ladies and gentlemen at
large. She being gone, Julia made a parcel of water-colour drawings, and
sallied forth all on fire to sell them. But, while she was dressing,
Edward started on a cruise in search of employment. He failed entirely.
They met in the evening, Mrs. Dodd resigned, Edward dogged, Julia rather
excited. "Now, let us tell our adventures, she said. "As for me, shop
after shop declined my poor sketches. They all wanted something about as
good, only a little different: nobody complained of the grand fault, and
that is, their utter badness. At last, one old gentleman examined them,
and oh! he was so fat; there, round. And he twisted his mouth so"
(imitating him) "and squinted into them so. Then I was full of hope; and
said to myself; 'Dear mamma and Edward!' And so, when he ended by saying,
'No,' like all the rest, I burst out crying like a goose.

"My poor girl," cried Mrs. Dodd, with tears in her own eyes, "why expose
yourself to these cruel rebuffs?"

"Oh, don't waste your pity, mamma; those great babyish tears were a happy
thought of mine. He bought two directly to pacify me; and there's the
money. Thirty shillings!" And she laid it proudly on the table.

"The old cheat," said Edward; "they were worth two guineas apiece, I
know."

"Not they; or why would not anybody else give twopence for them?"

"Because pictures are a drug."

He added that even talent was not saleable unless it got into the Great
Grooves; and then looked at Mrs. Dodd, she replied that unfortunately
those Grooves were not always accessible. The City firm had received her
stiffly, and inquired for whom she had worked. "Children, my heart fell
at that question. I was obliged to own myself an amateur and beg a trial.
However, I gave Madame Blanch's card: but Mr.--I don't know which partner
it was--said he was not acquainted with her: then he looked a little
embarrassed, I thought, and said the Firm did not care to send its stuff
to ladies not in the business. I might cut it to waste, or--he said no
more; but I do really think he meant I might purloin it."

"Why wasn't I there to look him into the earth? Oh, mamma, that you
should be subjected to all this!"

"Be quiet, child; I had only to put on my armour; and do you know what my
armour is? Thinking of my children. So I put on my armour, and said
quietly, we were not so poor but we could pay for a piece of cloth should
I be so unfortunate as to spoil it; and I offered in plain terms to
deposit the price as security. But he turned as stiff at that as his yard
measure; 'that was not Cross and Co.'s way of doing business,' he said.
But it is unreasonable to be dejected at a repulse or two; and I am not
out of spirits; not much:" with this her gentle mouth smiled; and her
patient eyes were moist.

The next day, just after breakfast, was announced a gentleman from the
City. He made his bow and produced a parcel, which proved to be a pattern

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