Part 12 out of 15
ex-prizefighter brought him a thimbleful of brandy, but he would not take
it. "Ah no, my friends," he said, "that cannot cure me; it is not my
stomach; it is my heart. Broken, broken!"
The Robin retired muttering. Little Beverley kneeled down beside him, and
kissed his hand with a devotion that savoured of the canine. Yet it was
tender, and the sinking heart clung to it. "Oh, Frank!" he cried, "my
Julia believes me mad, or thinks me false, or something, and she will
marry another before I can get out to tell her all I have endured was for
loving her. What shall I do? God protect my reason! What will become of
He moaned, and young Frank sorrowed over him, till the harsh voice of
Rooke summoned him to some menial duty. This discharged, he came running
back; and sat on the bench beside his crushed benefactor without saying a
word. At last he delivered this sapient speech: "I see. You want to get
out of this place."
Alfred only sighed hopelessly.
"Then I must try and get you out," said Frank. Alfred shook his head.
"Just let me think," said Frank solemnly; and he sat silent looking like
a young owl: for thinking soon puzzled him, and elicited his intellectual
weakness, whereas in a groove of duties he could go as smoothly as half
the world, and but for his official, officious Protector, might just as
well have been Boots at the Swan, as Boots and Chambermaid at the Wolf.
So now force and cunning had declared war on Alfred, and feebleness in
person enlisted in his defence. His adversary lost no time; that
afternoon Rooke told him he was henceforth to occupy a double bedded room
with another patient.
"If he should be violent in the middle of the night, sing out, and we
will come--if we hear you," said the keeper with a malicious smile.
The patient turned out to be the able seaman. Here Mrs. Archbold aimed a
double stroke; to shake Alfred's nerves, and show him how very mad his
proposed father-in-law was. She thought that, if he could once be forced
to realise this, it might reconcile him to not marrying the daughter.
The first night David did get up and paraded an imaginary deck for four
mortal hours. Alfred's sleep was broken; but he said nothing, and David
turned in again, his watch completed.
Not a day passed now but a blow was struck. Nor was the victim passive;
debarred writing materials, he cut the rims off several copies of the
_Times,_ and secreted them: then catching sight of some ink-blots on the
back of Frank's clothes-brush, scraped them carefully off, melted them in
a very little water, and with a toothpick scrawled his wrongs to the
Commissioners; he rolled the slips round a half-crown, and wrote outside,
"Good Christian, keep this half-crown, and take the writing to the Lunacy
Commissioners at Whitehall, for pity's sake." This done, he watched, and
when nobody was looking, flung his letter, so weighted, over the gates;
he heard it fall on the public road.
Another day he secreted a spoonful of black currant preserve, diluted it
with a little water, and wrote a letter, and threw it into the road as
before: another day, hearing the Robin express disgust at the usage to
which he was now subjected, he drew him apart, and offered him a hundred
pounds to get him out. Now the ex-prizefighter was rather a
tender-hearted fellow, and a great detester of foul play. What he saw
made him now side heartily with Alfred; and all he wanted was to be
indemnified for his risk.
He looked down and said, "You see, sir, I have a wife and child to think
Alfred offered him two hundred pounds.
"That is more than enough, sir," said the Robin; "but you see I can't do
it alone. I must have a pal in it. Could you afford as much to Garrett?
He is the likeliest; I've heard him say as much as that he was sick of
Alfred jumped at the proposal: he would give them two hundred apiece.
"I'll sound him," said the Robin; "don't you speak to him, whatever. He
might blow the gaff. I must begin by making him drunk, then he'll tell me
his real mind."
One fine morning the house was made much cleaner than usual; the rotatory
chair, in which they used to spin a maniac like a teetotum, the restraint
chairs, and all the paraphernalia were sent into the stable, and so
disposed that, even if found, they would look like things scorned and
dismissed from service: for Wolf, mind you, professed the non-restraint
Alfred asked what was up, and found all this was in preparation for the
quarterly visit of the Commissioners: a visit intended to be a surprise;
but Drayton House always knew when they were coming, and the very names
of the two thunderbolts that thought to surprise them.
Mrs. Archbold communicated her knowledge in off-hand terms. "It is only
two old women: Bartlett and Terry."
The gentlemen thus flatteringly heralded arrived next day. One an aged,
infirm man, with a grand benevolent head, bald front and silver hair, and
the gold-headed cane of his youth, now a dignified crutch: the other an
ordinary looking little chap enough, with this merit--he was what he
looked. They had a long interview with Mrs. Archbold first, for fear they
should carry a naked eye into the asylum. Mr. Bartlett, acting on
instructions, very soon inquired about Alfred; Mrs. Archbold's face put
on friendly concern directly. "I am sorry to say he is not so well as he
was a fortnight ago--not nearly so well. We have given him walks in the
country, too; but I regret to say they did him no real good; he came back
much excited, and now he shuns the other patients, which he used not to
do." In short, she gave them the impression that Alfred was a moping
"Well, I had better see him," said Mr. Bartlett, "just to satisfy the
Alfred was accordingly sent for, and asked with an indifferent air how he
He said he was very well in health, but in sore distress of mind at his
letters to the Commissioners being intercepted by Mrs. Archbold or Dr.
Mrs. Archbold smiled pityingly. Mr. Bartlett caught her glance, and
concluded this was one of the patient's delusions. (Formula.)
Alfred surprised the glances, and said, "You can hardly believe this,
because the act is illegal. But a great many illegal acts, that you never
detect, are done in asylums. However, it is not a question of surmise; I
sent four letters in the regular way since I came. Here are their several
dates. Pray make a note to inquire whether they have reached Whitehall or
"Oh, certainly, to oblige you," said Mr. Bartlett, and made the note.
Mrs. Archbold looked rather discomposed at that.
"And now, gentlemen," said Alfred, "since Mrs. Archbold has had a private
interview, which I see she has abused to poison your mind against me, I
claim as simple justice a private interview to disabuse you."
"You are the first patient ever told me to walk out of my own
drawing-room," said Mrs. Archbold, rising white with ire and
apprehension, and sweeping out of the room.
By this piece of female petulance she gave the enemy a point in the game;
for, if she had insisted on staying, Mr. Bartlett was far too weak to
have dismissed her. As it was, he felt shocked at Alfred's rudeness: and
so small a thing as justice did not in his idea counterbalance so great a
thing as discourtesy; so he listened to Alfred's tale with the deadly
apathy of an unwilling hearer. "Pour on: I will endure," as poor Lear
As for Dr. Terry, he was pictorial, but null; effete; emptied of brains
by all-scooping-Time. If he had been detained that day at Drayton House,
and Frank Beverley sent back in his place to Whitehall, it would have
mattered little to him, less to the nation, and nothing to mankind.
At last Mr. Bartlett gave Alfred some hopes he was taking in the truth;
for he tore a leaf out of his memorandum-book, wrote on it, and passed it
to Dr. Terry. The ancient took it with a smile, and seemed to make an
effort to master it, but failed; it dropped simultaneously from his
finger and his mind.
Not a question was put to Alfred; so he was fain to come to an end; he
withdrew suddenly, and caught Mrs. Archbold at the keyhole. "Noble
adversary!" said he, and stalked away, and hid himself hard by: and no
sooner did the inspectors come out, and leave the coast clear, than he
darted in and looked for the paper Mr. Bartlett had passed to Dr. Terry.
He found it on the floor: and took it eagerly up; and full of hope, and
expectation, read these words:
WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE STUFF THE MATRON'S GOWN IS MADE OF? I SHOULD LIKE
TO BUY MRS. BARTLETT ONE LIKE IT.
Alfred stood and read this again, and again he searched for some hidden
symbolical meaning in the words. High-minded, and deeply impressed with
his own wrongs, he could not conceive a respectable man, paid fifteen
hundred a year to spy out wrongs, being so heartless hard as to write
this single comment during the earnest recital of a wrong so gigantic as
his. Poor Alfred learned this to his cost, that to put small men into
great places is to create monsters. When he had realised the bitter
truth, he put the stony-hearted paper in his pocket, crept into the yard,
and sat down, and, for all he could do, scalding tears ran down his
"Homunculi quanti sunt!" he sobbed; "homunculi quanti sunt!"
Presently he saw Dr. Terry come wandering towards him alone. The Archbold
had not deigned to make him safe; senectitude had done that. Alfred, all
heart--sick as he was, went to the old gentleman out of veneration for
the outside of his head--which was Shakespearian--and pity for his bodily
infirmity; and offered him an arm. The doctor thanked him sweetly, and
said, "Pray, young man, have you anything to communicate?"
Then Alfred saw that the ancient man had already forgotten his face, and
so looking at him with that rare instrument of official inspection, the
naked eye, had seen he was sane; and consequently taken him for a keeper.
How swiftly the mind can roam, and from what a distance gather the
materials of a thought! Flashed like lightning through Alfred's mind this
line from one of his pets, the Greek philosophers:
"And this is the greatest stroke of art, to turn an evil into a good."
Now the feebleness of this aged Inspector was an evil: the thing then was
to turn it into a good. Shade of Plato, behold how thy disciple worked
thee! "Sir," said he, sinking his voice mysteriously, "I have: but I am a
poor man: you won't say I told you: it's as much as my place is worth."
"Confidence, strict confidence," replied Nestor, going over beaten
tracks; for he had kept many a queer secret with the loyalty which does
his profession so much honour.
"Then, sir, there's a young gentleman confined here, who is no more mad
than you and I; and never was mad."
"You don't say so."
"That I do, sir: and they know they are doing wrong, sir, for they stop
all his letters to the Commissioners; and that is unlawful, you know.
Would you like to take a note of it all, sir?"
The old fogie said he thought he should, and groped vaguely for his
note-book: he extracted it at last like a loose tooth, fumbled with it,
and dropped it: Alfred picked it up fuming inwardly.
The ancient went to write, but his fingers were weak and hesitating, and
by this time he had half forgotten what he was going to say. Alfred's
voice quavered with impatience; but he fought it down, and offered as
coolly as he could to write it for him: the offer was accepted, and he
wrote down in a feigned hand, very clear--
"DRAYTON HOUSE, _Oct. 5._--A sane patient, Alfred Hardie, confined here
from interested motives. Has written four letters to the Commissioners,
all believed to be intercepted. Communicated to me in confidence by an
attendant in the house. Refer to the party himself, and his
correspondence with the Commissioners from Dr. Wycherley's: also to
Thomas Wales, another attendant; and to Dr. Wycherley: also to Dr. Eskell
and Mr. Abbott, Commissioners of Lunacy."
After this stroke of address Alfred took the first opportunity of leaving
him, and sent Frank Beverley to him.
Thus Alfred, alarmed by the hatred of Mrs. Archbold, and racked with
jealousy, exerted all his intelligence and played many cards for liberty.
One he kept in reserve; and a trump card too. Having now no ink nor
colouring matter, he did not hesitate, but out penknife, up sleeve, and
drew blood from his arm, and with it wrote once more to the
Commissioners, but kept this letter hidden for an ingenious purpose. What
that purpose was my reader shall divine.
WE left Julia Dodd a district visitor. Working in a dense parish she
learned the depths of human misery, bodily and mental.
She visited an honest widow, so poor that she could not afford a farthing
dip, but sat in the dark. When friends came to see her they sometimes
brought a candle to talk by.
She visited a cripple who often thanked God sincerely for leaving her the
use of one thumb.
She visited a poor creature who for sixteen years had been afflicted with
a tumour in the neck, and had lain all those years on her back with her
head in a plate; the heat of a pillow being intolerable. Julia found her
longing to go, and yet content to stay: and praising God in all the lulls
of that pain which was her companion day and night.
But were I to enumerate the ghastly sights, the stifling loathsome
odours, the vulgar horrors upon horrors this refined young lady faced,
few of my readers would endure on paper for love of truth what she
endured in reality for love of suffering humanity, and of Him whose
servant she aspired to be.
Probably such sacrifices of selfish ease and comfort are never quite in
vain; they tend in many ways to heal our own wounds: I won't say that
bodily suffering is worse than mental; but it is realised far more
vividly by a spectator. The grim heart-breaking sights she saw arrayed
Julia's conscience against her own grief; the more so when she found some
of her most afflicted ones resigned, and even grateful. "What," said she,
"can they, all rags, disease and suffering, bow so cheerfully to the will
of Heaven, and have I the wickedness, the impudence, to repine?"
And then, happier than most district visitors, she was not always obliged
to look on helpless, or to confine her consolations to good words. Mrs.
Dodd was getting on famously in her groove. She was high in the
confidence of Cross and Co., and was inspecting eighty ladies, as well as
working; her salary and profits together were not less than five hundred
pounds a year, and her one luxury was charity, and Julia its minister.
She carried a good honest basket, and there you might see her Bible
wedged in with wine and meat, and tea and sugar: and still, as these
melted in her round, a little spark of something warm would sometimes
come in her own sick heart. Thus by degrees she was attaining not earthly
happiness, but a grave and pensive composure.
Yet across it gusts of earthly grief came sweeping often; but these she
hid till she was herself again.
To her mother and brother she was kinder, sweeter, and dearer, if
possible, than ever. They looked on her as a saint; but she knew better;
and used to blush with honest shame when they called her so. "Oh don't,
pray don't, she would say with unaffected pain. "Love me as if I was an
angel; but do not praise me; that turns my eyes inward and makes me see
myself. I am not a Christian yet, nor anything like one."
Returning one day from her duties very tired, she sat down to take off
her bonnet in her own room, and presently heard snatches of an argument
that made her prick those wonderful little ears of hers which could
almost hear through a wall. The two concluding sentences were a key to
the whole dialogue.
"Why disturb her?" said Mrs. Dodd. "She is getting better of 'the
Wretch;' and my advice is, say nothing: what harm can that do?"
"But then it is so unfair, so ungenerous, to keep anything from the poor
girl that may concern her."
At this moment Julia came softly into the room with her curiosity hidden
under an air of angelic composure.
Her mother asked after Mrs. Beecher, to draw her into conversation. She
replied quietly that Mrs. Beecher was no better, but very thankful for
the wine Mrs. Dodd had sent her. This answer given, she went without any
apparent hurry and sat by Edward, and fixed two loving imploring eyes on
him in silence. Oh, subtle sex! This feather was to turn the scale, and
make him talk unquestioned. It told. She was close to him too, and mamma
at the end of the room.
"Look here, Ju," said he, putting his hands in his pockets, "we two have
always been friends as well as brother and sister; and somehow it does
not seem like a friend to keep things dark;" then to Mrs. Dodd: "She is
not a child, mother, after all; and how can it be wrong to tell her the
truth, or right to suppress the truth? Well then, Ju, there's an
advertisement in the _'Tiser,_ and it's a regular riddle. Now mind, I
don't really think there is anything in it; but it is a droll
coincidence, very droll; if it wasn't there are ladies present, and one
of them a district visitor, I would say, d--d droll. So droll," continued
he, getting warm, "that I should like to punch the advertiser's head."
"Let me see it, dear," said Julia. "I dare say it is nothing worth
"There," said Edward. "I've marked it."
Julia took the paper, and her eye fell on this short advertisement:
AILEEN AROON.--DISTRUST APPEARANCES.
Looking at her with some anxiety, they saw the paper give one sharp
rustle in her hands, and then quiver a little. She bowed her head over
it, and everything seemed to swim. But she never moved: they could
neither of them see her face, she defended herself with the paper. The
letters cleared again, and, still hiding her face, she studied and
studied the advertisement.
"Come, tell us what you think of it," said Edward. "Is it anything? or a
"It is a pure coincidence," said Mrs. Dodd, with an admirable imitation
of cool confidence.
Julia said nothing; but she now rose and put both arms round Edward's
neck, and kissed him fervidly again and again, holding the newspaper
tight all the time.
"There," said Mrs. Dodd: "see what you have done."
"Oh, it is all right," said Edward cheerfully. "The British fireman is
getting hugged no end. Why, what is the matter? have you got the
"No; no! You are a true brother. I knew all along that he would explain
all if he was alive: and he is alive." So saying she kissed the _'Tiser_
violently more than once; then fluttered away with it to her own room
ashamed to show her joy, and yet not able to hide it.
Mrs. Dodd shook her head sorrowfully: and Edward began to look rueful,
and doubt whether he had done wisely. I omit the discussion that
followed. But the next time his duties permitted him to visit them Mrs.
Dodd showed him the _'Tiser_ in her turn, and with her pretty white taper
finger, and such a look, pointed to the following advertisement:
AILEEN AROON.--I _do_ DISTRUST
APPEARANCES. But if you ever loved me
explain them at once. I have something for
you from your dear sister.
"Poor simple girl," said Mrs. Dodd, "not to see that, if he could explain
at all, he _would_ explain, not go advertising an enigma after acting a
mystification. And to think of my innocent dove putting in that she had
something for him from his sister; a mighty temptation for such a
"It was wonderfully silly," said Edward; "and such a clever girl, too;
but you ladies can't stick to one thing at a time; begging your pardon,
Mrs. Dodd took no notice of this remark.
"To see her lower herself so!" she said. "Oh, my son, I am mortified."
And Mrs. Dodd leaned her cheek against Edward's, and sighed.
"Now don't you cry, mammy," said he sorrowfully. "I'll break every bone
in his skin for your comfort."
"Heaven forbid!" cried Mrs. Dodd anxiously; "what, are you not aware she
would hate you?"
"Hate me: her brother!"
"She would hate us all if we laid a finger on that wretch. Pray interfere
no more, love; foolish child, talking to me about women, and it is plain
you know nothing of their hearts: and a good thing _for_ you." She then
put on maternal authority (nobody could do it more easily) and solemnly
forbade all violence.
He did not venture to contradict her now; but cherished his resolution
all the more, and longed for the hour when he might take "the Wretch" by
the throat, and chastise him, the more publicly the better.
Now, the above incident that revealed Julia's real heart, which she had
been hiding more or less all this time from those who could not
sympathise with her, took eventually a turn unfavourable to "the Wretch."
So he might well be called. Her great and settled fear had always been
that Alfred was dead. Under the immediate influence of his father's
cunning, she had for a moment believed he was false; but so true and
loving a heart could not rest in that opinion. In true love so long as
there is one grain of uncertainty, there is a world of faith and
credulous ingenuity. So, as Alfred had never been seen since, as nobody
could say he was married to another, there was a grain of uncertainty as
to his unfaithfulness, and this her true heart magnified to a mountain.
But now matters wore another face. She was sure he had written the
advertisement. Who but he, out of the few that take the words of any song
to heart, admired Aileen Aroon? Who but he out of the three or four
people who might possibly care for that old song, had appearances to
explain away? And who but he knew they took in the _Morning Advertiser?_
She waited then for the explanation she had invited. She read the
advertising column every day over and over.
Not a word more.
Then her womanly pride was deeply wounded. What, had she courted an
explanation where most ladies would have listened to none; and courted it
Her high spirit revolted. Her heart swelled against the repeated insults
she had received: this last one filled the bitter cup too high.
And then her mother came in and assured her he had only inserted that
advertisement to keep her in his power. He has heard you are recovering,
and are admired by others more worthy of your esteem.
Julia cried bitterly at these arguments, for she could no longer combat
And Mr. Hurd was very attentive and kind. And when he spoke to Julia, and
Julia turned away, her eye was sure to meet Mrs. Dodd's eye imploring her
secretly not to discourage the young man too much. And so she was gently
pulled by one, and gently thrust by another, away from her first lover
and towards his successor.
It is an old, old story. Fate seems to exhaust its malice on our first
love. For the second the road is smoother. Matters went on so some weeks,
and it was perfectly true that Mr. Hurd escorted both ladies one day to
Drayton House, at Julia's request, and not Mrs. Dodd's. Indeed, the
latter lady was secretly hurt at his being allowed to come with them.
One Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Dodd went alone to Drayton House by
appointment. David was like a lamb, but, as usual, had no knowledge of
her. Mrs. Archbold told her a quiet, intelligent, patient had taken a
great fancy to him, and she thought this was adding much to his
happiness. "May I see him to thank him?" asked Mrs. Dodd. "Oh,
certainly," said Mrs. Archbold; "I'll inquire for him." She went out but
soon returned, saying, "He is gone out for a walk with the head keeper:
we give him as much air and amusement as we can; we hope soon to send him
out altogether cured." "Truly kind and thoughtful," said Mrs. Dodd. Soon
after, she kissed Mrs. Archbold, and pressed a valuable brooch upon her:
and then took leave. However, at the gate she remembered her parasol.
Mrs. Archbold said she would go back for it. Mrs. Dodd would not hear of
that: Mrs. Archbold insisted, and settled the question by going. She was
no sooner in the house, than young Frank Beverley came running to Mrs.
Dodd, and put the missing parasol officiously into her hand. "Oh, thank
you, sir," said she; "will you be so kind as to tell Mrs. Archbold I have
it." And with this they parted, and the porter opened the gate to her,
and she got into her hired cab. She leaned her head back, and, as usual
was lost in the sorrowful thoughts of what had been, and what now was.
Poor wife, each visit to Drayton House opened her wound afresh. On
reaching the stones, there was a turnpike This roused her up; she took
out her purse and paid it. As she drew back to her seat, she saw out of
the tail of her feminine eye the edge of something white under her
parasol. She took up the parasol, and found a written paper pinned on to
it: she detached this paper, and examined it all over with considerable
curiosity. It consisted of a long slip about an inch and a quarter broad,
rolled like tape, and tied with packthread. She could not see the inside,
of course, but she read the superscription: it was firmly but clearly
written, in red ink apparently.
Of the words I shall only say at present that they were strong and
simple, and that their effect on the swift intelligence and tender heart
of Mrs. Dodd was overpowering. They knocked at her heart; they drew from
her an audible cry of pity more eloquent than a thousand speeches: and
the next moment she felt a little faint; for she knew now the appeal was
not in red ink, but in something very fit to pass between the heart of
woe and the heart of pity. She smelt at her salts, and soon recovered
that weakness: and next her womanly bosom swelled so with the milk of
human kindness that her breath came short. After a little struggle she
gushed out aloud, "Ah, that I will, poor soul; this very moment."
Now, by this time she was close to her own house.
She stopped the cab at her door, and asked the driver if his horse was
fresh enough to carry her to the Board of Lunacy: "It is at Whitehall,
sir," said she. "Lord bless you, ma'am," said the cabman, "Whitehall?
Why, my mare would take you to Whitechapel and back in an hour, let alone
Reassured on that point Mrs. Dodd went in just to give the servant an
order: but as she stood in the passage, she heard her children's voices
and also a friend's; the genial, angry tones of Alexander Sampson, M. D.
She thought, "Oh, I _must_ just show them all the paper, before I go with
it;" and so after a little buzz about dinner and things with Sarah,
mounted the stairs, and arrived among them singularly _apropos,_ as it
Men like Sampson, who make many foes, do also make stauncher friends than
ever the Hare does, and are faithful friends themselves. The boisterous
doctor had stuck to the Dodds in all their distresses; and if they were
ever short of money, it certainly was not his fault: for almost his first
word, when he found them in a lodging, was, "Now, ye'll be wanting a
Chick. Gimme pen and ink, and I'll just draw ye one; for a hundre." This
being declined politely by Mrs. Dodd, he expostulated. "Mai--dear--Madam,
how on airth can ye go on in such a place as London without a Chick?"
He returned to the charge at his next visit and scolded her well for her
pride. "Who iver hard of refusing a Chick? a small inoffensive chick,
from an old friend like me? Come now, behave! Just a wee chick, I'll let
y' off for fifty."
"Give us your company and your friendship," said Mrs. Dodd; "we value
them above gold: we will not rob your dear children, while we have as
many fingers on our hands as other people."
On the present occasion Dr. Sampson, whose affectionate respect for the
leading London physicians has already displayed itself, was inveighing
specially against certain specialists, whom, in the rapidity of his lusty
eloquence, he called the Mad Ox. He favoured Julia and Edward with a full
account of the maniform enormities he had detected them in during thirty
years' practice; and so descended to his present grievance. A lady, an
old friend of his, was being kept in a certain asylum month after month
because she had got money and relations, and had once been delirious.
"And why was she delirious? because she had a brain fever, she got well
in a fortnight." This lady had thrown a letter over the wall addressed to
him; somebody had posted it: he had asked the Commissioners to let him
visit her; they had declined for the present. "Yon Board always sides
with the strong against the weak," said he. So now he had bribed the
gardener, and made a midnight assignation with the patient; and was going
to it with six stout fellows to carry her off by force. "That is my
recipe for alleged Insanity," said he. "The business will be more like a
mejaeval knight carrying off a namorous nun out of a convint, than a good
physician saving a pashint from the Mad Ox. However, Mrs. Saampson's in
the secret; I daunt say sh' approves it; for she doesn't. She says, 'Go
quietly to the Board o' Commissioners.' Sis I, 'My dear, Boards are a
sort of cattle that go too slow for Saampson, and no match at all for the
At this conjuncture, or soon after, Mrs. Dodd came in with her paper in
her hand, a little flurried for once, and after a hasty curtsey, said--
"Oh, Doctor Sampson, oh, my dears, what wickedness there is in the world!
I'm going to Whitehall this moment; only look at what was pinned on my
parasol at Drayton House."
The writing passed from hand to hand, and left the readers looking very
gravely at one another. Julia was quite pale and horror-stricken. All
were too deeply moved, and even shocked, to make any commonplace comment;
for it looked and read like a cry from heart to hearts.
_"If you are a Christian, if
you are human, pity a sane
man here confined in, fraud,
and take this to the Board of
Lunacy at Whitehall. Torn
by treachery from her I love,
my letters all intercepted, pens
and paper kept from me, I
write this with a toothpick
and my blood on a rim of
'The Times.' Oh God, direct
it to some one who has suf-
fered, and can feel for an-
Dr. Sampson was the first to speak. "There," said he, under his breath:
"didn't I tell you? This man is sane. There's sanity in every line."
"Well, but," said Edward, "do you mean to say that in the present day--"
"Mai--dearr--sirr. Mankind niver changes. Whativer the muscles of man
_can_ do in the light, the mind and conscience of man will consent to do
in the dark."
Julia said never a word.
Mrs. Dodd, too, was for action not for talk. She bade them all a hasty
adieu, and went on her good work.
Ere she got to the street door, she heard a swift rustle behind her; and
it was Julia flying down to her, all glowing and sparkling with her old
impetuosity, that had seemed dead for ever. "No, no," she cried, panting
with generous emotion; "it is to me it was sent. _I_ am torn from him I
love, and by some treachery I dare say: and _I_ have suffered--oh you
shall never know what I have suffered. Give it _me,_ oh pray, pray, pray
give it _me. I'll_ take it to Whitehall"
IF we could always know at the time what we are doing.
Two ladies carried a paper to Whitehall out of charity to a stranger.
Therein the elder was a benefactress to a man she had never spoken of but
as "the Wretch;" the younger held her truant bridegroom's heart, I may
say, in her hand all the road and was his protectress. Neither recognised
the hand-writing; for no man can write his own hand with a toothpick.
They reached Whitehall, and were conducted upstairs to a gentleman of
pleasant aspect but powerful brow, seated in a wilderness of letters.
He waved his hand, and a clerk set them chairs: he soon after laid down
his pen, and leaned gravely forward to hear their business. They saw they
must waste no time; Julia looked at her mother, rose, and took Alfred's
missive to his desk, and handed it him with one of her eloquent looks,
grave and pitiful. He seemed struck by her beauty and her manner.
"It was pinned on my parasol, sir, by a poor prisoner at Drayton House,"
said Mrs. Dodd.
"Oh, indeed," said the gentleman, and began to read the superscription
with a cold and wary look. But thawed visibly as he read. He opened the
missive and ran his eye over it. The perusal moved him not a little: a
generous flush mounted to his brow; he rang the bell sharply. A clerk
answered it; the gentleman wrote on a slip of paper, and said earnestly,
"Bring me every letter that is signed with that name, and all our
correspondence about him."
He then turned to Mrs. Dodd, and put to her a few questions, which drew
out the main facts I have just related. The papers were now brought in.
"Excuse me a moment," said he, and ran over them. "I believe the man is
sane," said he, "and that you will have enabled us to baffle a
conspiracy, a heartless conspiracy."
"We do hope he will be set free, sir," said Mrs. Dodd piteously.
He shall, madam, if it is as I suspect. I will stay here all night but I
will master this case; and lay it before the Board myself without delay."
Julia looked at her mother, and then asked if it would be wrong to
inquire "the poor gentleman's name?"
"Humph!" said the official; "I ought not to reveal that without his
consent. But stay! he will owe you much, and it really seems a pity he
should not have an opportunity of expressing his gratitude. Perhaps you
will favour me with your address: and trust to my discretion. Of course,
if he does not turn out as sane as he seems, I shall never let him know
Mrs. Dodd then gave her address; and she and Julia went home with a glow
about the heart selfish people, thank Heaven, never know.
Unconsciously these two had dealt their enemy and Alfred's a heavy blow;
had set the train to a mine. Their friend at the office was a man of
another stamp than Alfred had fallen in with.
Meantime Alfred was subjected to hourly mortifications and irritations.
He guessed the motive, and tried to baffle it by calm self-possession:
but this was far more difficult than heretofore, because his temper was
now exacerbated and his fibre irritated by broken sleep (of this poor
David was a great cause), and his heart inflamed and poisoned by that
cruel, that corroding passion jealousy.
To think, that while he was in prison, a rival was ever at his Julia's
ear, making more and more progress in her heart! This corroder was his
bitter companion day and night; and perhaps of all the maddeners human
cunning could have invented this was the worst. It made his temples beat
and his blood run boiling poison. Indeed, there were times when he was so
distempered by passion that homicide seemed but an act of justice, and
suicide a legitimate relief. For who could go on for ever carrying Hell
in his bosom up and down a prison yard? He began to go alone! to turn
impatiently from the petty troubles and fathomless egotism of those
afflicted persons he had hitherto forced his sore heart to pity. Pale,
thin, and wo-begone, he walked the weary gravel, like the lost ones in
that Hall of Eblis whose hearts were a devouring fire. Even an inspector
with a naked eye would no longer have distinguished him at first sight
from a lunatic of the unhappiest class, the melancholiac.
"Ipse suum cor edens hominum vestigia vitans."
Mrs. Archbold looked on and saw this sad sight, not with the pity it
would once have caused, but with a sort of bitter triumph lightened by no
pleasure, and darkened by the shadow of coming remorse. Yet up to this
time she had shown none of that inconstancy of purpose which marks her
sex; while she did go far to justify the poet's charge:
"Nor Hell a fury like a woman scorned."
Rooke had a hint to provoke Alfred to violence such as would justify them
in subjecting so popular a patient to bodily restraint, composing
draughts, and other quick maddeners. Rooke entered into the game
zealously from two motives; he was devoted to Mrs. Archbold, and he hated
Alfred, who had openly defied him, and mortified his vanity about Frank
One Saturday Alfred was ordered out to walk with Rooke and Hayes and
Vulcan. He raised no objection: suspected, felt homicidal, suppressed the
impulse, and by this self-command he got time to give that letter to
Beverley with instructions.
But, all the walk, he was saying to himself that Julia was in the house,
and he was kept away from her, and a rival with her; this made him sicken
and rage by turns. He came back in a state verging on fury.
On entering the yard poor Beverley, who had done his bit of cunning, and
by reaction now relapsed into extra simplicity, came running, and said,
"I've done it; she has got it."
"What have you done? Who has got what?" cried Rooke.
"Don't tell, Frank."
"If you don't I'll shake your life out, ye young blackguard," cried
Rooke, seizing him and throttling him till he was black in the face.
Alfred's long-pent fury broke out: he gnashed his teeth and dashed his
fist in Rooke's face.
Rooke staggered back and bellowed with pain and anger, then rushing at
him incautiously, received a stinger that staggered him, and nearly
closed his right eye. He took the hint, and put himself in a posture that
showed he was skilled in the art of self-defence. He stopped two blows
neatly, and returned a heavy one upon the ribs. Alfred staggered back
some steps, but steadied himself, and, as Rooke rushed in too hastily to
improve his advantage, caught him heavily on the other eye, but lost his
own balance a little, which enabled Rooke to close; then came a sharp
short rally of re-echoing blows, and Rooke, not to be denied, got hold of
his man, and a wrestling bout ensued, in which Alfred being somewhat
weakened by misery and broken rest, Rooke's great weight and strength
enabled him, after a severe struggle, to fall with his antagonist under
him, and knock the breath out of his body for the moment. Then Hayes, who
had stood prudently aloof, came in and helped handcuff him. They could
not walk up and down him for the Robin, who stood by with a professional
air to see fair play.
"Ah, cold iron is your best chance," he said satirically. "Never you
mind, sir: you hit quick and well: I'd back _you_ at long odds in the
ring: both his peepers are in deep mourning." He added, "A cow can beat a
When Alfred was handcuffed they turned him loose. It soon transpired,
however, that he was now a dangerous maniac (Formula) and to be confined
in the noisy ward.
On hearing this he saw the trap he had fallen into; saw and trembled. He
asked himself what on earth he should do; and presently the saying came
back to him, "And this is the highest stroke of art, to turn evil into
good." He argued thus: Wolf's love of money is my great evil; he will
destroy me for money, do anything for money. Then suppose I offer him
money to be honest. He begged an interview with Dr. Wolf on business.
This was accorded at once. He asked the doctor plump whether he received
a large sum to detain him under pretence of insanity.
"Not very, considering the trouble you sometimes give, Mr. Hardie," was
the dry reply.
"Well, then, Justice shall outbid rascality for once. I am a sane man,
and you know it; a man of my word, and you know it. I'll give you a
thousand pounds to let me out of this place."
Dr. Wolf's eyes sparkled.
"You shall have any bond or security you like; and the money within a
week of my deliverance."
Dr. Wolf said he should be delighted to do it, if he could
At this piece of hypocrisy Alfred's cheek reddened, and he could not
"Well, well, I do see a great change in you for the better," said Dr.
Wolf. "If, as I suspect, you are convalescent, I will part with you
without a thousand pounds or a thousand pence.
Alfred stared. Had he mistaken his man?
"I'll tell you what, though," said the smooth doctor. "I have got two
pictures, one by Raphael, one by Correggio."
"I know them," said the quick-witted Alfred; "they are worth more than a
"Of course they are, but I would take a thousand pounds from you."
"Throw me in my liberty, and I'll make it guineas."
"We will see about that." And with this understanding the men of business
parted. Dr. Wolf consulted Mrs. Archbold then and there.
"Impossible," said she; "the law would dissolve such a bargain, and you
would be exposed and ruined."
"But a thousand pounds!" said the poor doctor.
"Oh, he offered me more than that," said Mrs. Archbold.
"You don't mean to say so; when was that?"
"Do you remember one Sunday that I walked him out, to keep clear of Mrs.
Dodd? Have you not observed that I have not repeated the experiment?"
"Yes. But I really don't know why."
"Will you promise me faithfully not to take any notice if I tell you?"
The doctor promised.
Then she owned to him with manifest reluctance that Alfred had taken
advantage of her kindness, her indiscretion, in walking alone with him,
and made passionate love to her. "He offered me not a thousand pounds,"
said she, "but his whole fortune, and his heart, if I would fly with him
from _these odious walls;_ that was his expression."
Then seeing out of a corner of her eye that the doctor was turning almost
green with jealousy, this artist proceeded to describe the love scene
between her and Alfred, with feigned hesitation, yet minute detail. Only
she inverted the parts: Alfred in her glowing page made the hot love; she
listened abashed, confused, and tried all she could think of to bring him
to better sentiments. She concluded this chapter of history inverted with
a sigh, and said, "So now he hates me, I believe, poor fellow."
"Do you regret your refusal?" asked Dr. Wolf uneasily.
"Oh no, my dear friend. Of course, my judgment says that few women at my
age and in my position would have refused. But we poor women seldom go by
our judgments." And she cast a tender look down at the doctor's feet.
In short, she worked on him so, that he left Alfred at her disposition,
and was no sooner gone to his other asylum six miles off; than the
calumniated was conducted by Hayes and Rooke through passage after
passage, and door after door, to a wing of the building connected with
the main part only by a covered way. As they neared it, strange noises
became audible. Faint at first, they got louder and louder. Singing,
roaring, howling like wolves. Alfred's flesh began to creep. He stopped
at the covered way: he would have fought to his last gasp sooner than go
further, but he was handcuffed. He appealed to the keepers; but he had
used them both too roughly: they snarled and forced him on, and shut him
into a common flagged cell, with a filthy truckle-bed in it, and all the
vessels of gutta-percha. Here he was surrounded by the desperate order of
maniacs he at present scarcely knew but by report. Throughout that awful
night he could never close his eyes for the horrible unearthly sounds
that assailed him. Singing, swearing, howling like wild beasts! His
right-hand neighbour reasoned high of faith and works, ending each pious
argument with a sudden rhapsody of oaths and never slept a wink. His
left-hand neighbour alternately sang, and shouted, "Cain was a murderer,
Cain was a murderer;" and howled like a wolf, making night hideous. His
opposite neighbour had an audience, and every now and then delivered in a
high nasal key, "Let us curse and pray;" varying it sometimes thus:
"Brethren, let us work double tides." And then he would deliver a long
fervent prayer, and follow it up immediately with a torrent of
blasphemies so terrific, that coming in such a contrast they made
Alfred's body wet with perspiration to hear a poor creature so defy his
Creator. No rest, no peace. When it was still, the place was like the
grave; and ever and anon, loud, sharp, tremendous, burst a thunderclap of
curses, and set those poor demented creatures all yelling again for
half-an-hour, making the tombs ring. And at clock-like intervals a
harmless but dirty idiot, who was allowed to roam the ward, came and
chanted through the keyhole, "Everything is nothing, and nothing is
This was the only observation he had made for many years.
His ears assailed with horrors, of which you have literally no
conception, or shadow of a conception, his nose poisoned with ammoniacal
vapours, and the peculiar wild-beast smell that marks the true maniac,
Alfred ran wildly about his cell trying to stop his ears, and trembling
for his own reason. When the fearful night rolled away, and morning
broke, and he could stand on his truckle-bed and see the sweet hoar-frost
on a square yard of grass level with his prison bars, it refreshed his
very soul, and affected him almost to tears. He was then, to his
surprise, taken out, and allowed to have a warm bath and to breakfast
with David and the rest; but I suspect it was done to watch the effect of
the trial he had been submitted to. After breakfast, having now no place
to go, he lay on a bench, and there exhausted nature overpowered him, and
he fell fast asleep.
Mrs. Archbold came by on purpose, and saw him. He looked very pale and
peaceful. There was a cut on his forehead due to Rooke's knuckles. Mrs.
Archbold looked down, and the young figure and haughty face seemed so
unresisting and peaceful sad, she half relented, and shed some bitter
tears. That did not, however, prevent her setting her female spies to
watch him more closely than ever.
He awoke cold but refreshed, and found little Beverley standing by him
with wet eyes. Alfred smiled and held out his hand like a captive monarch
to his faithful vassal. "They shan't put you in the noisy ward again,"
sobbed Frank. "This is your last night here."
"Hy, Frank, you rascal, my boots!" roared Rooke from an open window.
Alfred's next visitor was the Robin. He came whispering, "It is all right
with Garrett, sir, and he has got a key of the back gate; but you must
get back to your old room, or we can't work."
"Would to Heaven I could, Robin; another night or two in the noisy ward
will drive me mad, I think."
"Well, sir, I'll tell you what you do: which we all have to do it at odd
times: hold a candle to the devil: here she comes: I think she is
everywhere all at one time." The Robin then sauntered away, affecting
nonchalance: and Alfred proceeded to hold the candle as directed. "Mrs.
Archbold," said he timidly rising from his seat at her approach.
"Sir," said she haughtily, and affecting surprise.
"I have a favour to ask you, madam. Would you be so kind as to let me go
back to my room?"
"What, you have found I am not so powerless as you thought!"
"I find myself so weak, and you so powerful that--you can afford to be
"I have no more power over you than you have over me."
"I wish it was so."
"I'll prove it," said she. "Who has got the key of your room? Hayes?" She
whistled, and sent for him; and gave him the requisite order before
Alfred. Alfred thanked her warmly.
She smiled, and went away disposed to change her tactics, and, having
shown him how she could torment, try soothing means, and open his heart
But presently looking out of her window she saw the Robin and him
together; and somehow they seemed to her subtle, observant eyes, to be
plotting. The very suspicion was fatal to that officer. His discharge was
determined on. Meantime she set her spies to watch him, and tell her if
they saw or heard anything.
Now Mrs. Archbold was going out to tea that evening, and, as soon as ever
this transpired, the keepers secretly invited the keeperesses to a party
in the first-class patients drawing-room. This was a rare opportunity,
and the Robin and Garrett put their heads together accordingly.
In the dusk of the evening the Robin took an opportunity and slipped a
new key of the back gate into Alfred's hand, and told him "the trick was
to be done that very night:" he was to get Thompson to go to bed early;
and, instead of taking off his clothes, was to wait in readiness. "We
have been plying Hayes already, " said the Robin, "and, as soon as _she_
is off, we shall hocuss him, and get the key; and, while they are all
larking in the drawing-room, off you go to Merrimashee."
"Oh, you dear Robin! You have taken my breath away. But how about
"Oh, we know how to make him amiable: a dog-fancier, a friend of mine,
has provided the ondeniable where dogs is concerned: whereby Garrett
draws the varmint into the scullery, and shuts him in, while I get the
key from the other. _It's_ all right."
"Ah, Robin," said Alfred, "it sounds too good to be true. What? this my
last day here!"
The minutes seemed to creep very slowly till eight o'clock came. Then he
easily persuaded David to go to bed; Hayes went up and unlocked the door
for them: it closed with a catch-lock. Hayes was drunk, but full of
discipline, and insisted on the patients putting out their clothes; so
Alfred made up a bundle from his portmanteau, and threw it out. Hayes
eyed it suspiciously, but was afraid to stoop and inspect it closer: for
his drunken instinct told him he would pitch on his head that moment: so
he retired grumbling and dangling his key.
At the end of the corridor he met Mrs. Archbold full dressed, and with a
candle in her hand. She held the candle up and inspected him; and a
little conversation followed that sobered Mr. Hayes for a minute or two.
Mrs. Archbold was no sooner gone to her little tea-party than all the
first-class ladies and gentlemen were sent to bed to get a good sleep for
the good of their health, and the keepers and keeperesses took their
place and romped, and made such a row, sleep was not easy within hearing
of them. They sat on the piano, they sang songs to a drum accompaniment
played on the table, they danced, drank, flirted, and enjoyed themselves
like schoolboys. Hayes alone was gloomy and morose: so the Robin and
Garrett consoled him, drank with him, and soothed him with the balm of
insensibility: in which condition they removed him under charitable
pretences, and searched his pockets in the passage for the key of
To their infinite surprise and disappointment it was not upon him.
The fact is, Mrs. Archbold had snatched it from him in her wrath, and put
it in her own pocket. How far her suspicions went, how much her spies had
discovered, I really don't know; but somehow or other she was uneasy in
her mind, and, seeing Hayes in such a state, she would not trust him
during her absence, but took the key away with her.
The Robin and Garrett knew nothing of this, and were all abroad, but they
thought Rooke must have the key; so they proceeded to drink with him, and
were just about to administer a really effective soporific in his grog,
when they and all the merry party were suddenly startled by violent
ringing at the bell, and thundering and halloaing at the hall door. The
men jumped to their feet and balanced themselves, and looked half wild,
half stupid. The women sat, and began to scream: for they had heard a
word that has terrors for us all: peculiar terrors for them.
This alarm was due to a personage hitherto undervalued in the
Mr. Francis Beverley had been THINKING. So now, finding all the patients
boxed up, and their attendants romping in the drawing-room, he lighted
seven fires, skilfully on the whole, for practice makes perfect; but,
singular oversight, he omitted one essential ingredient in the fire, and
that was the grate.
To be plain, Mr. Francis made seven bonfires of bed-curtains, chairs, and
other combustibles in the servants' garrets, lighted them
contemporaneously, and retired to the basement, convinced he had taken
the surest means to deliver his friend out of Drayton House: and with a
certain want of candour that characterises the weak, proceeded to black
his other bad master's shoes with singular assiduity.
There was no wind to blow the flame; but it was a clear frost; and soon
fiery tongues shot out of three garret-windows into the night, and lurid
gleams burnished four more, and the old house was burning merrily
overhead, and ringing with hilarity on the first floor.
But the neighbours saw, pointed, wondered, comprehended, shouted, rang,
knocked, and surged round the iron gate. "Fire! fire! fire!" and "Fire!"
went down the road, and men on horseback galloped for engines; and the
terror-stricken porter opened and the people rushed in and hammered at
the hall doors, and when Rooke ran down and opened, "Fire!" was the word
that met him from a score of eager throats and glittering eyes.
"Fire! Where?" he cried.
"Where! Why, _you_ are on fire. Blazing!"
He ran out and looked up at the tongues of flame and volleys of smoke.
"Shut the gate," he roared. "Call the police. Fire! fire!" And he dashed
back, and calling to the other keepers to unlock all the doors they had
keys of, ran up to the garrets to see what could be done. He came out
awe-stricken at what he saw. He descended hastily to the third floor. Now
the third floor of that wing was occupied principally by servants. In
fact, the only patients at that time were Dodd and Alfred. Rooke called
to the men below to send Hayes up to No. 75 with his key directly; he
then ran down to the next floor--of which he had keys--and opened all the
doors, and said to the inmates with a ghastly attempt at cheerfulness,
belied by his shaking voice, "Get up, gentlemen; there is a ball and
supper going on below." He was afraid to utter the word "fire" to them.
The other keepers were as rapid, each on his beat, and soon the more
rational patients took the alarm and were persuaded or driven out
half-dressed into the yard, where they cowered together in extremity of
fear; for the fire began to roar overhead like a lion, and lighted up the
whole interior red and bright. All was screaming and confusion; and then
came a struggle to get the incurable out from the basement story. There
was no time to handcuff them. The keepers trusted to the terror of the
scene to cow them, and so opened the doors and got them out anyhow. Wild,
weird forms, with glaring eyes and matted hair, leaped out and ran into
the hall, and laughed, and danced, and cursed in the lurid reflection of
the fires above. Hell seemed discharging demons. Men recoiled from them.
And well they did; for now the skylight exploded, and the pieces fell
tinkling on the marble hall fast as hail. The crowd recoiled and ran; but
those awful figures continued their gambols. One picked up the burning
glass and ground it in his hands that bled directly: but he felt neither
burn nor cut. The keepers rushed in to withdraw them from so dangerous a
place: all but one obeyed with sudden tameness: that one struggled and
yelled like a demon. In the midst. of which fearful contest came a sudden
thundering at a door on the third floor.
"What is that?" cried Rooke.
"It is Mr. Hardie," screamed the Robin. "You have left him locked in."
"I told Hayes to let him out long ago."
"But Hayes hasn't got the key. You've got it."
"No, no. I tell you Hayes has got it."
"No, no! Murder! murder! They are dead men. Run for Mrs. Archbold,
somebody. Run! Here, hammers, hammers! for God's sake, come and help me,
break the door. Oh, Rooke, Rooke!"
"As I'm a man Hayes has got the key," cried Rooke, stamping on the
ground, and white with terror.
By this time Garrett had got a hammer, and he and Wales rushed wildly up
the stairs to batter in the strong door if they could. They got to the
third floor, but with difficulty; the smoke began to blind them and choke
them, and fiery showers fell on them, and drove them back smarting and
choking. Garrett sank down gasping at the stair-foot. Wales ran into the
yard uttering pitiful cries, and pointing wildly upwards; but before he
got there, a hand had broken through the glass of a window up in the
third floor, the poor white hand of a perishing prisoner, and clutched
the framework and tore at it.
At this hand a thousand white faces were now upturned amid groans of pity
and terror, such as only multitudes can utter. Suddenly those anxious
faces and glistening eyes turned like one, for an attempt, wild and
unintelligible, but still an attempt, was about to be made to save that
hand and its owner out of the very jaws of death.
Now amongst the spectators was one whose life and reason were at stake on
Mrs. Dodd was hurrying homeward from this very neighbourhood when the
fire broke out. Her son Edward was coming at nine o'clock to tea, and,
better still, to sleep. He was leaving the fire brigade. It had
disappointed him; he found the fire-escape men saved the lives, the
firemen only the property. He had gone into the business earnestly too;
he had invented a thing like a treble pouch hook, which could he fastened
in a moment to the end of a rope, and thrown into the window, and would
cling to the bare wall, if there was nothing better, and enable him to go
up and bring life down. But he had never got a chance to try it; and,
_per contra,_ he was on the engine when they went tearing over a woman
and broke her arm and collar-bone in the Blackfriars Road; and also when
they went tearing over their own fire-dog, and crippled him. All this
seemed out of character, and shocked Edward; and then his mother could
not get over the jacket.
In a quarter of an hour he was to take off the obnoxious jacket for ever,
and was now lounging at the station smoking a short pipe, when a man
galloped up crying "Fire!"
"All right!" said Edward, giving a whiff. "Where?"
"Lunatic Asylum. Drayton House."
Guess how long before the horses were to, and the engine tearing at a
gallop down the road, and the firemen shouting "Fire! fire!" to clear the
way, and Edward's voice the loudest.
When the report of fire swept townward past Mrs. Dodd, she turned, and
saw the glow.
"Oh dear," said she, "that must be somewhere near Drayton House." And
full of the tender fears that fill such bosoms as hers for those they
love, she could not go home till she had ascertained that it was not
Drayton House. Moreover, Edward's was the nearest station; she had little
hope now of seeing him to tea. She sighed, and retraced her steps, and
made timid inquiries, but could gain no clear information. Presently she
heard galloping behind her, and the fireman's wild sharp cry of fire. An
engine drawn by two powerful brown horses came furiously, all on fire
itself with red paint and polished steel gleaming in the lights; helmeted
men clustered on it, and out of one of these helmets looked a face like a
fighting lion's, the eyes so dilated, the countenance in such towering
excitement, the figure half rising from his seat as though galloping was
too slow and he wanted to fly. It was Edward. Mother and son caught sight
of one another as the engine thundered by, and he gave her a solemn
ardent look, and pointed towards the fire; by that burning look and
eloquent gesture she knew it was something more than a common fire. She
trembled and could not move. But this temporary weakness was followed by
an influx of wild vigour; she forgot her forty-two years, and flew to
hover round the fire as the hen round water. Unfortunately she was too
late to get any nearer than the road outside the gates, the crowd was so
dense. And, while her pale face and anxious eyes, the eyes of a wife and
a mother, were bent on that awful fire, the human tide flowed swiftly up
behind her, and there she was wedged in. She was allowed her foot of
ground to stand and look like the rest--no more. Mere unit in that mass
of panting humanity, hers was one of the thousands of upturned faces
lurid in the light of the now blazing roof. She saw with thousands the
hand break the window and clutch the frame; she gasped with the crowd at
that terrible and piteous sight, and her bosom panted for her
fellow-creature in sore peril. But what is this? The mob inside utter a
great roar of hope; the crowd outside strain every eye.
A gleaming helmet overtops the outer wall. It is a fireman mounting the
great elm-tree in the madhouse yard. The crowd inside burst in a cheer.
He had a rope round his loins; his face was to the tree. He mounted and
mounted like a cat; higher, and higher, and higher, till he reached a
branch about twelve feet above the window and as many distant from it
laterally; the crowd cheered him lustily. But Mrs. Dodd, half distracted
with terror, implored them not to encourage him. "It is my child!" she
cried despairingly; "my poor reckless darling! Come down, Edward; for
your poor mother's sake, come down."
"Dear heart," said a woman, "it is the lady's son. Poor thing!"
"Stand on my knee, ma'am," said a coal-heaver.
"Oh no, sir, no. I could not look at him for the world. I can only pray
for him. Good people, pray for us!" And she covered her face, and prayed
and trembled and sobbed hysterically. A few yards behind was another
woman, who had arrived later, yet like her was wedged immovable. This
woman was more terror-stricken than Mrs. Dodd; and well she might; for
_she_ knew who was behind that fatal window: the woman's name was Edith
Archbold. The flames were now leaping through the roof, and surging up
towards heaven in waves of fire six feet high. Edward, scorched and half
blinded, managed to fasten his rope to the bough, and, calculating the
distances vertical and lateral he had to deal with, took up rope
accordingly, and launched himself into the air.
The crowd drew their breath so hard it sounded like a murmur. To their
horror he missed the window, and went swinging back.
There was a cry of dismay. But Edward had never hoped to leap into the
window; he went swinging by the rope back to the main stem of the tree,
gave it a fierce spang with his feet, and by this means and a powerful
gesture of his herculean loins got an inch nearer the window: back again,
and then the same game; and so he went swinging to and fro over a wider
and wider space; and, by letting out an inch of cord each swing, his
flying feet came above the window-ledge, then a little higher, then
higher still; and now, oh sight strange and glorious--as this helmeted
hero, with lips clenched and great eyes that stared unflinchingly at the
surging flames, and gleamed supernaturally with inward and outward fire,
swang to and fro on his frail support still making for the window-- the
heads of all the hoping, fearing, admiring, panting crowd went surging
and waving to and fro beneath; so did not their hearts only but their
agitated bodies follow the course of his body, as it rushed to and fro
faster and faster through the hot air starred with snow-flakes, and hail,
of fire. And those his fellow-men for whom the brave fireman made this
supernatural effort, did they know their desperate condition? Were they
still alive? One little hour ago Alfred sat on the bed, full of hope.
Every minute he expected to hear the Robin put a key into the door. He
was all ready, and his money in his pocket. Alas! his liberator came not;
some screw loose again. Presently he was conscious of a great commotion
in the house. Feet ran up and down. Then came a smell of burning. The
elm-tree outside was illuminated. He was glad at first; he had a spite
against the place. But soon he became alarmed, and hammered at the door
and tried to force it. Impossible. "Fire!" rang from men's voices. Fire
crackled above his head; he ran about the room like a wild creature; he
sprang up at the window and dashed his hand through, but fell back. He
sprang again and got his hand on some of the lighter woodwork; he drew
himself up nearly to the window, and then the wood gave way and he fell
to the ground, and striking the back of his head, nearly stunned himself;
the flames roared fearfully now; and at this David, who had hitherto sat
unconcerned, started up, and in a stentorian voice issued order upon
order to furl every rag of sail and bring the ship to the wind. He
thought it was a tempest. "Oh hush! hush!" cried Alfred in vain.. A beam
fell from the roof to the floor, precursor of the rest. On this David
thought the ship was ashore, and shouted a fresh set of orders proper to
the occasion, so terribly alike are the angry voices of the
sister-elements. But Alfred implored him, and got him to kneel down with
him, and held his hand, and prayed.
And, even while they kneeled and Alfred prayed, Death and Life met and
fought for them. Under the door, tight as it was, and through the
keyhole, struggled a hot stifling smoke, merciful destroyer running
before fire; and the shadow of a gigantic figure began to flicker in from
the outside, and to come and go upon the wall. Alfred did not know what
that was, but it gave him a vague hope: he prayed aloud as men pray only
for their bodies. (The crowd heard him and hushed itself breathless.)
The smoke penetrated faster, blinding and stifling; the giant shadow came
and went. But now the greater part of the roof fell in with an awful
report; the blazing timbers thundered down to the basement with endless
clatter of red-hot tiles; the walls quivered, and the building belched
skyward a thousand jets of fire like a bouquet of rockets: and then a
cloud of smoke. Alfred gave up all hope, and prepared to die. Crash! as
if discharged from a cannon, came bursting through the window, with the
roar of an applauding multitude and a mother's unheeded scream, a
helmeted figure, rope in hand, and alighted erect and commanding on the
floor amidst a shower of splinters and tinkling glass. "Up, men, for your
lives," roared this fire-warrior, clutching them hard, and dragged them
both up to their feet by one prodigious gesture: all three faces came
together and shone in the lurid light; and he knew his father and "the
Wretch," and "the Wretch" knew him. "Oh!" "Ah!" passed like pistol shots;
but not a word: even this strange meeting went for little, so awful was
the moment, so great are Death and Fire. Edward clawed his rope to the
bed; up to the window by it, dropped his line to fireman Jackson planted
express below, and in another moment was hauling up a rope ladder: this
he attached, and getting on it and holding his own rope by way of
banister, cried, "Now, men, quick, for your lives." But poor David called
that deserting the ship, and demurred, till Alfred assured him the
captain had ordered it. He then submitted directly, touched his forelock
to Edward, whom he took for that officer, and went down the ladder;
Now the moment those two figures emerged from the burning pile, Mrs.
Dodd, already half dead with terror for her son, saw and knew her
husband: for all about him it was as light as day.
What terror! what joy! what gratitude! what pride! what a tempest of
But her fears were not ended: Edward, not to overweight the ladder, went
dangling by his hands along the rope towards the tree. And his mother's
eyes stared fearfully from him to the other, and her heart hung trembling
on her husband descending cautiously, and then on his preserver, her son,
who was dangling along by the hands on that frail support. The mob
cheered him royally, but she screamed and hid her face again. At last
both her darlings were safe, and then the lusty cheers made her thrill
with pride and joy, till all of a sudden they seemed to die away, and the
terrible fire to go out; and the sore-tried wife and mother drooped her
head and swooned away, wedged in and kept from falling by the crowd.
Inside, the mob parted and made two rushes, one at the rescued men, one
at the gallant fireman. Alfred and David were overpowered with curiosity
and sympathy. They had to shake a hundred honest hands, and others still
pressing on hurried them nearly off their feet.
"Gently, good friends; don't part us," said Alfred.
"He is the keeper," said one of the crowd.
"Yes, I'm his keeper: and I want to get him quietly away. This excitement
will do him harm else; good friends, help me out by that door."
"All right," was the cry, and they rushed with him to the back door.
Rooke, who was about twenty yards off saw and suspected this movement. He
fought his way and struggled after Alfred in silence. Presently, to his
surprise, Alfred unlocked the door and whipped out with David, leaving
the door open. Rooke shouted and halloaed: "Stop him! he is escaping,"
and struggled madly to the door. Now another crowd had been waiting in
the meadows; seeing the door open they rushed in and the doorway was
jammed directly. In the confusion Alfred drew David along the side of the
wall; told him to stay quiet, bolted behind an outhouse, and then ran
across country for the bare life.
To his horror David followed him, and with a madman's agility soon caught
He snorted like a spirited horse, and shouted cheerily, "Go ahead,
messmate; I smell blue water."
"Come on, then," cried Alfred, half mad himself with excitement, and the
pair ran furiously, and dashed through hedges and ditches, torn,
bleeding, splashed, triumphant; behind them the burning madhouse, above
them the spangled sky, the fresh free air of liberty blowing in their
nostrils, and rushing past their ears.
Alfred's chest expanded, he laughed for joy, he sang for joy, he leaped
as he went; nor did he care where he went. David took the command, and
kept snuffing the air, and shaping his course for blue water. And so they
rushed along the livelong night.
A REPORT came round that the asylum was open in the rear. A rush was made
thither from the front: and this thinned the crowd considerably; so then
Mrs. Dodd was got out by the help of some humane persons, and carried
into the nearest house, more dead than alive. There she found Mrs.
Archbold in a pitiable state. That lady had been looking on the fire,
with the key in her pocket, by taking which she was like to be a
murderess: her terror and remorse were distracting, and the revulsion had
thrown her into violent hysterics. Mrs. Dodd plucked up a little
strength, and characteristically enough tottered to her assistance, and
called for the best remedies, and then took her hand and pressed it, and
whispered soothingly that both were now safe, meaning David and Edward.
Mrs. Archbold thought she meant Alfred and David: this new shock was as
good for her as cold water: she became quieter, and presently gulped out,
"You saw them? You knew them (ump) all that way off?"
"Knew them?" said Mrs. Dodd; "why one was my husband, and the other my
son." Mrs. Archbold gave a sigh of relief. "Yes, madam," continued Mrs.
Dodd, "the young fireman, who went and saved my husband, was my own son,
my Edward; my hero; oh, I am a happy wife, a proud mother." She could say
no more for tears of joy, and while she wept deliciously, Mrs. Archbold
cried too, and so invigorated and refreshed her cunning, and presently
she perked up and told Mrs. Dodd boldly that Edward had been seeking her,
and was gone home; she had better follow him, or he would be anxious.
"But my poor husband!" objected Mrs. Dodd.
"He is safe," said the other; "I saw him (ump) with an attendant."
"Ah," said Mrs. Dodd, with meaning, "that other my son rescued was an
attendant, was he?"
She then promised to take David under her especial care, and Mrs. Dodd
consented, though reluctantly, to go home.
To her surprise Edward had not yet arrived, and Julia was sitting up,
very anxious; and flew at her with a gurgle, and kissed her eagerly, and
then, drawing back her head, searched the maternal eyes for what was the
matter. "Ah, you may well look," said Mrs. Dodd. "Oh, my child! what a
night this has been;" and she sank into a chair, and held up her arms.
Julia settled down in them directly, and in that position Mrs. Dodd told
all the night's work, told it under a running accompaniment of sighs and
kisses, and ejaculations, and "dear mammas and "poor mammas," and bursts
of sympathy, astonishment, pity and wonder. Thus embellished and
interrupted, the strange tale was hardly ended, when a manly step came up
the stairs, and both ladies pinched each other, and were still as mice,
and in walked a fireman with a wet livery, and a face smirched with
smoke. Julia flew at him with a gurgle of the first degree, and threw her
arms round his neck, and kissed both his blackened cheeks again and
again, crying, "Oh my own, my precious, my sweet, brave darling, kiss me,
kiss me, kiss me, you are a hero, a Christian hero, that saves life, not
takes it--" Mrs. Dodd checked her impetuous career by asking piteously if
his mother was not to have him. On this, Julia drew him along by the
hand, and sank with him at Mrs. Dodd's knees, and she held him at arm's
length and gazed at him, and then drew him close and enfolded him, and
thanked God for him; and then they both embraced him at once, and
interwove him Heaven knows how, and poured the wealth of their womanly
hearts out on him in a torrent, and nearly made him snivel. But presently
something in his face struck Mrs. Dodd accustomed to read her children.
"Is there anything the matter, love?" she inquired anxiously. He looked
down and said, "I am dead sleepy, mamma, for one thing."
"Of course he is, poor child," said Julia, doing the submaternal; "wait
till I see everything is comfortable," and she flew off, turned suddenly
at the door with "Oh, you darling!" and up to his bedroom and put more
coals on his fire, and took a swift housewifely look all round.
Mrs. Dodd seized the opportunity. "Edward, there is something amiss."
"And no mistake," said he drily. "But I thought if I told you before her
you might scold me."
"Scold you, love? Never. Hush! I'll come to your room by-and-by."
Soon after this they all bade each other good night; and presently Mrs.
Dodd came and tapped softly at her son's door, and found him with his
vest and coat off, and his helmet standing on the table reflecting a red
coal; he was seated by the fire in a brown study, smoking. He apologised,
and offered to throw the weed away. "No, no," said she, suppressing a
cough, "not if it does you good."
"Well, mother, when you are in a fix, smoke is a soother, you know, and
I'm in a regular fix."
"A fix," sighed Mrs. Dodd resignedly, and waited patiently all ears.
"Mamma," said the fire-warrior, becoming speculative under the dreamy
influence of the weed, "I wonder whether such a muddle ever was before.
When a man is fighting with fire, what with the heat and what with the
excitement, his pulse is at a hundred and sixty, and his brain all in a
whirl, and he scarce knows what he is doing till after it is done. But
I've been thinking of it all since. (Puff.) There was my poor little
mamma in the mob; I double myself up for my spring, and I go at the
window, and through it; now, on this side of it I hear my mother cry,
'Edward come down;' on the other side I fall on two men perishing in an
oven; one is my own father, and the other is, who do you think? 'The
Mrs. Dodd held up her hands in mute amazement.
"I had promised to break every bone in his skin at our first meeting; and
I kept my promise by saving his skin and bones, and life and all."
Mrs. Dodd groaned aloud. "I thought it was he," she said faintly. "That
tall figure, that haughty grace! But Mrs. Archbold told me positively it
was an attendant."
"Then she told you a cracker. It was not an attendant, but a madman, and
that madman was Alfred Hardie, upon my soul! Our Julia's missing
He smoked on in profound silence waiting for her to speak. But she lay
back in her chair mute and all relaxed, as if the news had knocked her
"Come, now," said Edward at last; "what is to be done? May I tell Julia?
that is the question."
"Not for the world," said Mrs. Dodd, shocked into energy. "Would you
blight her young life for ever, as mine is blighted?" She then assured
him that, if Alfred's sad state came to Julia's ears, all her love for
him would revive, and she would break with Mr. Hurd, and indeed never
marry all her life. "I see no end to her misery," continued Mrs. Dodd,
with a deep sigh; "for she is full of courage; she would not shrink from
a madhouse (why she visits lazar-houses every day); she would be always
going to see her Alfred, and so nurse her pity and her unhappy love. No,
no; let _me_ be a widow with a living husband, if it is God's will: I
have had my happy days. But my child she shall not be so withered in the
flower of her days for any man that ever breathed; she shall not, I say."
The mother could utter no more for emotion.
"Well," said Edward, "you know best. I generally make a mess of it when I
disobey you. But concealments are bad things too. We used to go with our
bosoms open. Ah!" (Puff.)
"Edward," said Mrs. Dodd, after some consideration, "the best thing is to
marry her to Mr. Hurd at once. He has spoken to me for her, and I sounded
"Has he? Well, and what did she say?"
"She said she would rather not marry at all, but live and die with me.
Then I pressed her a little, you know. Then she did say she could never
marry any but a clergyman, now she had lost her poor Alfred. And then I
told her I thought Mr. Hurd could make her happy, and she would make me
happy if she could esteem him; and marry him."
"Well, mamma, and what then?"
"Why then, my poor child gave me a look that haunts me still--a look of
unutterable love, and reproach, and resignation, and despair, and burst
out crying so piteously I could say no more. Oh! oh! oh! oh!"
"Don't you cry, mammy dear," said Edward. "Ah, I remember when a tear was
a wonder in our house." And the fire-warrior sucked at his cigar, to stop
"And n--now n--ot a d--day without them," sighed Mrs. Dodd "But _you_
have cost me none, my precious boy."
"I'm waiting my time. (Puff.) Mamma, take my advice; don't you fidget so.
Let things alone. Why hurry her into marrying Mr. Hurd or anybody? Look
here; I'll keep dark to please you, if you'll keep quiet to please me."
At breakfast time came a messenger with a line from Mrs. Archbold, to say
that David had escaped from Drayton House, in company with another
Mrs. Dodd received the blow with a kind of desperate resignation. She
rose quietly from the table without a word, and went to put on her
bonnet, leaving her breakfast and the note; for she did not at once see
all that was implied in the communication. She took Edward with her to
Drayton House. The firemen had saved one half of that building; the rest
was a black shell. Mrs. Archbold came to them, looking haggard, and told
them two keepers were already scouring the country, and an advertisement
sent to all the journals.
"Oh, madam!" said Mrs. Dodd, "if the other should hurt him, or lead him
somewhere to his death?"
Mrs. Archbold said she might dismiss this fear; the patient in question
had but one illusion, and, though terribly dangerous when thwarted in
that, was most intelligent in a general way, and much attached to Mr.
Dodd; they were always together."
A strange expression shot into Mrs. Dodd's eye: she pinched Edward's arm
to keep him quiet, and said with feigned indifference--
"Then it was the one who was in such danger with my husband last night?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Archbold off her guard. It had not occurred to her that
this handsome, fashionably-dressed young gentleman, was the fireman of
last night. She saw her mistake, though, the moment he said bluntly,
"Why, you told my mother it was an attendant."
"Did I, madam?" asked Mrs. Archbold, mighty innocently: "I suppose I
thought so. Well, I was mistaken, unfortunately."
Mrs. Dodd was silent a moment, then, somewhat hastily bade Mrs. Archbold
good-bye. She told the cabman to drive to an old acquaintance of ours,
Mr. Green. He had set up detective on his own account. He was not at his
office, but expected. She sat patiently down till he came in. They put
their heads together, and Green dashed down to the asylum with a
myrmidon, while Mrs. Dodd went into the City to obtain leave of absence
from Cross and Co. This was politely declined at first, but on Mrs. Dodd
showing symptoms of leaving them altogether, it was conceded. She
returned home with Edward, and there was Mr. Green: he had actually
traced the fugitives by broken fences, and occasional footsteps in the
side clay of ditches, so far as to leave no doubt they had got upon the
great south-eastern road. Then Mrs. Dodd had a female inspiration. "The
Dover road! Ah! my husband will make for the sea."
"I shouldn't wonder, being a sailor," said Green. "It is a pleasure to
work with a lady like you, that puts in a good hint. Know anything about
the other one, ma'am?"
Mrs. Dodd almost started at this off-hand question. But it was a natural
one for Green to ask.
She said gravely, "I do. To my cost."
Green's eye sparkled, and he took out his note-book. "Now where is _he_
like to make for?"
Mrs. Dodd seemed to wince at the question, and then turned her eyes
inward to divine. The result was she gave a downright shudder, and said
evasively, "Being with David, I hope and pray he will go towards the
"No, no," said Green, "it won't do to count on that altogether. How do we
know which of the two will lead the other? You must please to put Mr.
Dodd out of the question, ma'am, for a moment. Now we'll say No. 2 had
escaped alone: where would he be like to run to?"
Mrs. Dodd thus pressed, turned her eyes more and more inward, and said at
last in a very low voice, and with a sort of concentrated horror-- "He
will come to my house."
Mr. Green booked this eagerly. The lady's emotion was nothing to him; the
hint was invaluable, the combination interesting. "Well, ma'am," said he,
"I'll plant a good man in sight of your door: and I'll take the Dover
road directly with my drag. My teeth weren't strong enough for the last
nut you gave me to crack: let us try this one. Tom Green isn't often beat
"I will go with you, Mr. Green."
"Honoured and proud, ma'am. But a lady like you in my dog-cart along o'
me and my mate!"
Mrs. Dodd waived this objection almost contemptuously; she was all wife
It was agreed that Green should drive round for her in an hour. He
departed for the present, and Edward proposed to go in the dog-cart too,
but she told him no; she wanted him at home to guard his sister against
"the Wretch." Then seeing him look puzzled, "Consider, Edward," said she,
"he is not like your poor father: he has not forgotten. That
advertisement, Aileen Aroon, it was from him, you know. And then why does
he attach himself so to poor papa? Do you not see it is because he is
Julia's father? 'The Wretch' loves her still."
Edward from puzzled looked very grave. "What a head you have got, mamma!"
he said. "I should never have seen all this: yet it's plain enough now,
as you put it."
"Yes, it is plain. Our darling is betrothed to a maniac; that maniac
loves her, and much I fear she loves him. Some new calamity is impending.
Oh, my son, I feel it already heavy on my heart. What is it to be? Is
your father to be led to destruction, or will that furious wretch burst
in upon your sister, and kill her, or perhaps kill Mr. Hard, if he
catches them together? What may not happen now? The very air seems to me
swarming with calamities."
"Oh, I'll take care of all that," said Edward. And he comforted her a
little by promising faithfully not to let Julia go out of his sight till
She put on a plain travelling-dress. The dog-cart came. She slipped fifty
sovereigns into Mr. Green's hands for expenses, and off they went at a
slapping pace. The horse was a great bony hunter of rare speed and
endurance, and his long stride and powerful action raised poor Mrs.
Dodd's hopes, and the rushing air did her good. Green, to her surprise,
made few inquiries for some miles on the Dover road; but he explained to
her that the parties they were after had probably walked all night. "They
don't tire, that sort," said Mr. Green.
At Dartford they got a doubtful intimation, on the strength of which he
rattled on to Rochester. There he pulled up, deposited Mrs. Dodd at the
principal inn till morning, and scoured the town for intelligence.
He inquired of all the policemen; described his men, and shrewdly added
out of his intelligence, "Both splashed and dirty."
No, the Bobbies had not seen them.
Then he walked out to the side of the town nearest London, and examined
all the dealers in food. At last he found a baker who, early that
morning, had sold a quartern loaf to two tall men without hats, "and
splashed fearful; " he added, "thought they had broken prison; but 'twas
no business of mine: they paid for the bread right enough."
On hearing they had entered Rochester hatless, the shrewd Mr. Green made
direct to the very nearest slop-shop; and his sagacity was rewarded: the
shopkeeper was a chatterbox, and told him yes, two gents out on a frolic
had bought a couple of hats of him, and a whole set of sailor's clothes.
"I think they were respectable, too; but nothing else would satisfy him.
So the young one he humoured him, and bought them. I took his old ones in
At that Green offered a sovereign for the old clothes blindfold. The
trader instantly asked two pounds, and took thirty shillings.
Green now set the police to scour the town for a gentleman and a common
sailor in company, offered a handsome reward, and went to bed in a small
inn, with David's clothes by the kitchen fire. Early in the morning he
went to Mrs. Dodd's hotel with David's clothes, nicely dried, and told
her his tale. She knew the clothes directly, kissed them, and cried over
them: then gave him her hand with a world of dignity and grace: "What an
able man! Sir, you inspire me with great confidence."
"And you me with zeal, ma'am," said the delighted Green. "Why I'd go
through fire and water for a lady like you, that pays well, and doesn't
grudge a fellow a bit of praise. Now you must eat a bit, ma'am, if it's
ever so little, and then we'll take the road; for the police think the
parties have left the town, and by their night's work they must be good
The dog-cart took the road, and the ex-hunter stepped out thirteen miles
Now at this moment Alfred and David were bowling along ahead with a
perfect sense of security. All that first night, the grandest of his
life, Alfred walked on air, and drank the glorious exhilarating breath of
Freedom. But, when the sun dawned on them, his intoxicating joy began to
be dashed with apprehension: hatless and bemired, might they not be
suspected and detained by some officious authority?
But the slop-shop set that all right. He took a double-bedded room in The
Bear, locked the door, put the key under his pillow, and slept till
eleven. At noon they were on the road again, and as they swung lustily
along in the frosty but kindly air, Alfred's chest expanded, his spirits
rose, and he felt a man all over. Exhilarated by freedom, youth, and
motion, and a little inflated by reviving vanity, his heart, buoyant as
his foot, now began to nurse aspiring projects: he would indict his own
father, and the doctors, and immolate them on the altar of justice and
publicly wipe off the stigma they had cast on him, and meantime he would
cure David and restore him to his family.
He loved this harmless companion of his cell, his danger, and his flight;
loved him for Julia's sake, loved him for his own. Youth and vanity
whispered, "I know more about madness than the doctors; I have seen it
closer." It struck him David's longing for blue water was one of those
unerring instincts that sometimes guide the sick to their cure. And then
as the law permits the forcible recapture of a patient--without a fresh
order or certificates--within fourteen days of his escape from an asylum,
he did not think it prudent to show himself in London till that time
should have elapsed. So, all things considered, why not hide a few days
with David in some insignificant seaport, and revel in liberty and blue
water with him all day long, and so by associations touch the spring of
memory, and begin the cure? As for David, he seemed driven seaward by
some unseen spur; he fidgeted at all delay; even dinner fretted him; he
panted so for his natural element. Alfred humoured him, and an hour after
sunset they reached the town of Canterbury. Here Alfred took the same
precautions as before, and slept till nine o'clock.
When he awoke, he found David walking to and fro impatiently. "All right,
messmate," said Alfred, "we shall soon be in blue water." He made all
haste, and they were on the road again by ten, walking at a gallant pace.
But the dog-cart was already rattling along about thirty miles behind
them. Green inquired at all the turnpikes and vehicles; the scent was
cold at first, but warmer by degrees, and hot at Canterbury. Green just
baited his gallant horse, and came foaming on, and just as the pair
entered the town of Folkestone, their pursuers came up to the
cross-roads, not five miles behind them.
Alfred went to a good inn in Folkestone and ordered a steak, then
strolled with David by the beach, and gloried in the water with him.
"After dinner we will take a boat, and have a sail," said he. "See,
there's a nice boat, riding at anchor there."
David snuffed the breeze and his eye sparkled, and he said, "Wind due
east, messmate." And this remark, slight as it was was practical, and
gave Alfred great delight: strengthened his growing conviction that not
for nothing had this charge been thrown on him. He should be the one to
cure his own father; for Julia's father was his: he had no father now.
"All right," said he gaily, "we'll soon be on blue water: but first we'll
have our dinner, old boy, for I am starving." David said nothing and went
rather doggedly back to the inn with him.
The steak was on the table. Alfred told the waiter to uncover and David
to fall to, while he just ran upstairs to wash his hands. He came down in
less than two minutes; but David was gone, and the waiter standing there
erect and apathetic like a wooden sentinel.
"Why, where is he?" said Alfred.
"Gent's gone out," was the reply.
"And you stood there and let him? you born idiot. Which way is he gone?"
"I don't know," said the waiter angrily, "I ain't a p'liceman. None but
respectable gents comes here, as don't want watching." Alfred darted out
and scoured the town; he asked everybody if they had seen a tall
gentleman dressed like a common sailor. Nobody could tell him: there were
so many sailors about the port; that which in an inland town would have
betrayed the truant concealed him here. A cold perspiration began to
gather on Alfred's brow, as he ran wildly all over the place.
He could not find him, nor any trace of him. At last it struck him that
he had originally proposed to go to Dover, and had spoken of that town to
David, though he had now glanced aside, making for the smaller ports on
the south coast: he hired a horse directly, and galloped furiously to
Dover. He rode down to the pier, gave his horse to a boy to hold, and ran
about inquiring far David. He could not find him: but at last he found a
policeman, who told him he thought there was another party on the same
lay as himself: "No," said the man correcting himself, "it was two they
were after, a gentleman and a sailor. Perhaps you are his mate."
Alfred's blood ran cold. Pursued! and so hotly: "No, no," he stammered;
"I suspect I am on the same business." Then he said cunningly (for
asylums teach the frankest natures cunning), "Come and have a glass of
grog and tell me all about it." Bobby consented, and under its influence
described Mrs. Dodd and her companions to him.
But not everybody can describe minutely. In the bare outlines, which were
all this artist could furnish him, Alfred recognised at once, whom do you
think? Mrs. Archbold, Dr. Wolf, and his arch enemy Rooke, the keeper.
Doubtless his own mind, seizing on so vague a description, adapted it
rather hastily to what seemed probable. Mrs. Dodd never occurred to him,
nor that David was the sole, or even the main object of the pursuit. He
was thoroughly puzzled what to do. However, as his pursuers had clearly
scoured Dover, and would have found David if there, he made use of their
labours and galloped back towards Folkestone. But he took the precaution
to inquire at the first turnpike, and there he learned a lady and two men
had passed through about an hour before in a dog-cart; it was a wonder he
had missed them. Alfred gnashed his teeth; "Curse you," he muttered.
"Well, do my work in Folkestone, I'll find him yet, and baffle you." He
turned his horse's head westward and rode after David. Convinced that his
lost friend would not go inland, he took care to keep near the cliffs,
and had ever an eye on the beach when the road came near enough.
About eight miles west of Folkestone he saw a dog-cart going down a hill
before him: but there was only a single person in it. However, he
increased his pace and got close behind it as it mounted the succeeding
hill which was a high one. Walking leisurely behind it his quick eye
caught sight of a lady's veil wrapped round the iron of the seat.
That made him instantly suspect this might be the dog-cart after all.
But, if so, how came a stranger in it? He despised a single foe, and
resolved to pump this one and learn where the others were.
While he was thinking how he should begin, the dog-cart stopped at the
top of the hill, and the driver looked seaward at some object that
appeared to interest him.
It was a glorious scene. Viewed from so great a height the sea expanded
like ocean, and its light-blue waters sparkled and laughed innumerable in
the breeze. "A beautiful sight, sir," said the escaped prisoner, "you may
well stop to look at it." The man touched his hat and chuckled. "I don't
think you know what I am looking at, sir," he said politely.
"I thought it was the lovely sea view; so bright, so broad, so _free._
"No, sir; not but what I can enjoy that a bit, too: but what I'm looking
at is an 'unt. Do you see that little boat? Sailing right down the coast
about eight miles off. Well, sir, what do you think there is in that
boat? But you'll never guess. A madman."
"Curious, sir, isn't it: a respectable gentleman too he is, and sails
well; only stark staring mad. There was two of 'em in company: but it
seems they can't keep together long. _Our_ one steals a fisherman's boat,
and there he goes down channel. And now look here, sir; see this
steam-tug smoking along right in front of us: she's after him, and see
there's my governor aboard standing by the wheel with a Bobby and a lady:
and if ever there was a lady she's one;" here he lowered his voice.
"She's that mad gentleman's wife, sir, as I am a living sinner."
They both looked down on the strange chase in silence. "Will they catch
her?" asked Alfred at last, under his breath.
"How can we be off it? steam against sails. And if he runs ashore, I
shall be there to nab him." Alfred looked, and looked: the water came
into his eyes. "It's the best thing that can befall him now," he
murmured. He gave the man half-a-crown, and then turned his horse's head
and walked him down the hill towards Folkestone. On his arrival there he
paid for his horse, and his untasted dinner, and took the first train to
London, a little dispirited; and a good deal mortified; for he hated to
be beat. But David was in good hands, that was one comfort; and he had
glorious work on hand, love and justice. He went to an out of the way inn
in the suburbs, and, when he had bought a carpet-bag and some linen and
other necessaries, he had but one sovereign left.
His heart urged him vehemently to go at once and find his Julia: but
alas! he did not even know where she lived; and he dared not at present
make public inquiries: that would draw attention to himself, and be his
destruction; for Wolf stood well with the police, and nearly always
recaptured his truant patients by their aid before the fourteen days had
elapsed. He determined to go first to a solicitor: and launch him against
his enemies, while compelled to shirk them in his own person. Curious
position! Now, amongst his father's creditors was Mr. Compton, a
solicitor, known for an eccentric, but honourable man, and for success in
litigation. Mr. Compton used to do his own business in Barkington, and
employ an agent in London: but Alfred remembered to have heard just
before his incarceration that he had reversed the parts, and now lived in
London. Alfred found him out by the Directory, and called at his chambers
in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He had to wait some time in the outer office
listening to a fluent earnest client preaching within: but presently a
sharp voice broke in upon the drone, and, after a few sentences, Mr.
Compton ushered out a client with these remarkable words: "And as for
your invention, it has been invented four times before you invented it,
and never was worth inventing at all. And you have borrowed two hundred
pounds of me in ninety loans, each of which cost me an hour's invaluable
time: I hold ninety acknowledgments in your handwriting; and I'll put
them all in force for my protection;" with this he turned to his head
clerk: "Mr. Colls, take out a writ against this client; what is your
Christian name, sir? I forget."
"Simon," said the gaping client, off his guard.
"Thank you, sir," said Mr. Compton with sudden politeness: then resuming
hostilities--"A writ in the Common Pleas against Simon Macfarlane: keep
it in your drawer, Colls, and if ever the said Macfarlane does me the
honour to call on me again serve him with it on the spot; and, if not,
not; good morning, sir." And with this he bolted into his own room and
slammed its door. 'The clerks opened the outer door to Mr. Macfarlane
with significant grins, and he went out bewildered sorely, yea even like
one that walketh abroad in his sleep. "Now, sir," said Mr. Colls
cheerfully to Alfred. But the new client naturally hesitated now: he put
on his most fascinating smile, and said: "Well, Mr. Colls, what do you
advise? Is this a moment to beard the lion in his den?"
At Alfred's smile and address Colls fell in love with him directly, and
assured him _sotto voce,_ and with friendly familiarity, that now was his
time. "Why, he'll be as sweet as honey now he has got rid of a client."
With this he took Alfred's name, and ushered him into a room piled with
japanned tin boxes, where Mr. Compton sat, looking all complacency, at a
large desk table, on which briefs, and drafts, and letters lay in seeming
confusion. He rose, and with a benignant courtesy invited Alfred to sit
down and explain his business.
The reader is aware our Oxonian could make a close and luminous
statement. He began at the beginning, but soon disposed of preliminaries
and came to his capture at Silverton. Then Mr. Compton quietly rang the
bell, and with a slight apology to Alfred requested Colls to search for
the draft of Mrs. Holloway's will. Alfred continued. Mr. Compton listened
keenly, noted the salient points on a sheet of brief-paper, and demanded
the exact dates of every important event related.
The story finished, the attorney turned to Colls, and said mighty coolly,
"You may go. The will is in my pocket: but I made sure he was a madman.
They generally are, these ill-used clients." (Exit Colls) "Got a copy of
the settlement, sir, under which you take this ten thousand pounds?"
"Any lawyer seen it?"
"Oh yes; Mr. Crauford, down at Barkington."
"Good. Friend of mine. I'll write to him. Names and addresses of your
Alfred gave them.
"You have brought the order on which you were confined, and the two
"Not I," said Alfred. "I have begged and prayed for a sight of them, and
never could get one. That is one of the galling iniquities of the system;
I call it 'THE DOUBLE SHUFFLE.' Just bring your mind to bear on this,
sir: The prisoner whose wits and liberty have been signed away behind his
back is not allowed to see the order and certificate on which he is
confined--until _after_ his release: that release he is to obtain by
combating the statements in the order and certificates. So to get out he
must first see and contradict the lies that put him in; but to see the
lies that put him in, he must first get out. So runs the circle of
Iniquity. Now, is that the injustice of Earth, or the injustice of Hell?"
Mr. Compton asked a moment to consider: "Well, I think is of the earth,
earthy. There's a mixture of idiocy in it the Devil might fairly
repudiate. Young gentleman, the English Statutes of Lunacy are famous
monuments of legislatorial incapacity: and indeed, as a general rule, if
you want justice and wisdom, don't you go to Acts of Parliament, but to
the Common Law of England."
Alfred did not appreciate this observation: he made no reply to it, but
inquired, with some heat, "what he could do to punish the whole gang; his
father, the certifying doctors, and the madhouse keepers?"
"Humph! You might indict them all for a conspiracy," said Mr. Compton;
"but you would be defeated. As a rule, avoid criminal proceedings where
you have a civil remedy. A jury will give a verdict and damages where
they would not convict on the same evidence. Yours is just one of those
cases where Temper says, 'indict!' but Prudence says, 'sue!' and Law,
through John Compton, its oracle in this square, says, sue the defendant
and no other. Now, who is the true defendant here, or party liable in
"The keeper of the asylum, for one."
"No. If I remember right, all proceedings against him are expressly
barred by a provision in the last statute. Let us see."
He took down the statutes of the realm, and showed Alfred the clause
which raises the proprietor of a madhouse above the civic level of Prince
Royal. "Curse the law," said Alfred bitterly.
"No, don't curse the Law. Curse the Act if you like; but we can't get on
without the Law, neither of us. Try again."
"The certifying doctor, sir?"
"Humph!" said Mr. Compton, knitting his brows: "a jury might give you a
verdict. But it would probably be set aside by the full court, or else by
a court of error. For, unless you could prove informality, barefaced
negligence, or _mala fides,_ what does it come to? A professional man,
bound to give medical opinions to all comers, is consulted about you, and
says he thinks you are insane: you turn out sane. Well, then, he was
mistaken: but not more than he is in most of his professional opinions.
We lawyers know what guesswork Medicine is: we see it in the witness-box.
I hate suing opinions: it is like firing bullets at snipes in a wind. Try
Alfred groaned. "Why there is nobody left but the rogue who signed the
"And if you were a lawyer, that alone would tell you he is the defendant.
Where a legal wrong has been committed by A. B. and C., and there is no
remedy against A. or B., there must either be one against C., or none at
all: but this Law abhors as Nature does a vacuum. Besides, this defendant
has _done_ the wrong complained of. In his person you sue an act, not an