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Hard Cash by Charles Reade

Part 8 out of 15

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"'Yes,' said she, 'right or wrong.' Then she turned to me: 'Julia, shall
all the generosity be on his side?'

"I kissed her and clung to her, but dared not speak; but I was mad enough
to hope, I scarcely know what, till she said in the same kind, sorrowful
voice, 'I agree with you; you can never be my son; nor Julia's husband.
But as for that money, it revolts me to proceed to extremes against one,
who after all is your father, my poor, poor, chivalrous boy.' But she
would decide nothing without Edward; he had taken his father's place in
this house. So then I gave all up, for Edward is made of iron. Alfred was
clearer sighted than I, and never had a hope: he put his arm round mamma
and kissed her, and she kissed him: and he kissed my hand, and crept
away, and I heard his step on the stair, and on the road ever so far, and
life seemed ended for me when I heard it no more.

"Edward has come home. Mamma told him all: he listened gravely: I hung
upon his hips; and at last the oracle spoke; and said 'This is a nice
muddle.'

"More we could not get from him; he must sleep on it. O suspense! you
torture! He had seen a place he thinks will suit us: it is a bad omen his
saying that so soon after. As I went to bed I could not help whispering,
'If he and I are parted, so will you and Jane.' The cruel boy answered me
_out loud,_ 'Thank you, little girl: that is a temptation; and you have
put me on my guard.'

"Oh, how hard it is to understand a _man!_ they _are_ so impracticable
with their justice and things. I came away with my cheeks burning, and my
heart like a stone; to bed, but not to sleep. My poor, poor unhappy,
noble Alfred!"

_"Dec. 27th._--Mamma and Edward have discussed it: they say nothing to
me. Can they have written to him? I go about my duties like a ghost; and
pray for submission to the Divine will."

_"Dec. 28th_--To-day as I was reading by main force to Mrs. Eagleton's
sick girl, came Sarah all in a hurry with, I was wanted, Miss. But I
_would_ finish my chapter, and O how hard the devil tried to make me
gabble it; so I clenched my teeth at him, and read it as if I was
spelling it; and then _didn't_ I fly?

_"He_ was there; and they all sat waiting for me. I was hot and cold all
at the same time, and he rose and bowed to me, and I curtseyed to him,
and sat down and took my work, and didn't know one bit what I was doing.

"And our new oracle, Edward, laid down the law like anything. 'Look here,
Hardie,' said he, 'if anybody but you had told us about this fourteen
thousand pounds, I should have set the police on your governor before
now. But it seems to me a shabby thing to attack a father on the son's
information, especially when it's out of love for one of us he has
denounced his own flesh and blood.'

"'No, no,' said Alfred eagerly, 'out of love of justice.'

"'Ah, you think so, my fine fellow, but you would not have done it for a
stranger,' said Edward. Then he went on: 'Of all blunders, the worst is
to fall between two stools. Look here, mamma: we decide, for the son's
sake, not to attack the father: after that it would be very inconsistent
to turn the cold shoulder to the son. Another thing, who suffers most by
this fraud? Why the man that marries Julia.' Alfred burst out
impetuously, 'Oh, prove that to me, and let me be that sufferer.' Edward
turned calmly to mamma: 'If the fourteen thousand pounds was in our
hands, what should you do with it?'

"The dear thing said she should settle at least ten thousand of it on Me,
and marry Me to this poor motherless boy, 'whom I have learned to love
myself,' said she.

"'There,' said Edward, 'you see it is you who lose by your governor's--I
won't say what--if you marry my sister.'

"Alfred took his hand, and said, 'God bless you for telling me this.'

"Then Edward turned to mamma and me; and said, 'This poor fellow has left
his father's house because he wronged us: then this house ought to open
its arms to him: that is only justice. But now to be just to our side; I
have been to Mr. Crawford, the lawyer, and I find this Hardie junior has
ten thousand pounds of his own. That ought to be settled on Julia, to
make up for what she loses by Hardie senior's--I won't say what.'

"'If anybody settles any of their trash on _me,_ I'll beat them, and
throw it in the fire,' said I; 'and I hated money.'

"The oracle asked me directly did I hate clothes and food, and charity to
the poor, and cleanliness, and decency? Then I didn't hate money, 'for
none of these things can exist without money, you little romantic humbug;
you shut up!'

"Mamma rebuked him for his expressions, but approved his sentiments. But
I did not care for his sentiments: for _he_ smiled on me, and said, 'We
two are of one mind; we shall transfer our fortune to Captain Dodd, whom
my father has robbed. Julia will consent to share my honest poverty.'

"'Well, we will talk about that,' said Edward pompously.

"'Talk about it without me, then,' I cried, and got up, and marched out
indignant: only it was partly my low cunning to hide my face that I could
not keep the rapture out of. And, as soon as I had retired with cold
dignity, off I skipped into the garden to let my face loose, and I think
they sent him after me; for I heard his quick step behind me; so I ran
away from him as hard as I could; so of course he soon caught me; in the
shrubbery where he first asked me to be his; and he kissed both my hands
again and again like wildfire, as he is, and he said, 'You are right,
dearest; let them talk of their trash while I tell you how I adore you;
poverty with you will be the soul's wealth; even misfortune, by your
side, would hardly be misfortune: let all the world go, and let you and I
be one, and live together; and die together; for now I see I could not
have lived without you, nor without your love.' And I whispered something
on his shoulder--no matter what; what signifies the cackle of a goose?
And we mingled our happy tears, and our hearts, and our souls. Ah, Love
is a sweet a dreadful passion: what we two have gone through for one
another in a few months! He dined with us, and Edward and he sat a long,
long time talking; I dare say it was only about their odious money; still
I envied Edward having him so long. But at last he came up, and devoured
me with his lovely grey eyes, and I sang him Aileen Aroon, and he
whispered things in my ear, oh, such sweet sweet, idiotic, darling
things; I will not part with even the shadow of one of them by putting it
on paper, only I am the blessedest creature in all the world; and I only
hope to goodness it is not very wicked to be so happy as I am."

_"Dec. 31st._--It is all settled. Alfred returns to Oxford to make up for
lost time; the time spent in construing me instead of Greek: and at the
end of term he is to come of age and marry--somebody. Marriage! what a
word to put down! it makes me tingle; it thrills me; it frightens me
deliciously: no, not deliciously; anything but: for suppose, being both
of us fiery, and they all say one of them ought to be cold blooded for a
pair to be happy, I should make him a downright bad wife. Why then I hope
I shall die in a year or two out of my darling's way, and let him have a
good one instead. I'd come back from the grave and tear her to pieces.

_"Jan. 4th._--Found a saint in a garret over a stable. Took her my
luncheon clandestinely; that is lady-like for 'under my apron:' and was
detected and expostulated by Ned. He took me into his studio--it is
carpeted with shavings--and showed me the _'Tiser_ digest, an enormous
book he has made of newspaper cuttings all in apple-pie order; and out of
this authority he proved vice and poverty abound most wherever there are
most charities. Oh, 'and the poor' a set of intoxicated sneaks, and me a
Demoralising Influence. It is all very fine: but why are there saints in
garrets, and half-starved? That rouses all my evil passions, and I cannot
bear it; it _is_ no use.

_"Jan. 6th._--Once a gay day; but now a sad one. Mamma gone to see poor
papa, where he is. Alfred found me sorrowful, and rested my forehead on
his shoulder; that soothed me, while it lasted. I think I should like to
grow there. Mem! to burn this diary; and never let a creature see a
syllable.

"As soon as he was gone, prayed earnestly on my knees not to make an idol
of him. For it is our poor idols that are destroyed for our weakness.
Which really I cannot quite see the justice of."

_"Jan. 8th._--Jane does not approve my proposal that we should praise now
and then at the same hour instead of always praying. The dear girl sends
me her unconverted diary 'to show me she is "a brand."' I have read most
of it. But really it seems to me she was always goodish: only she went to
parties, and read novels, and enjoyed society.

"There, I have finished it. Oh dear, how like her _un_converted diary is
to my _con_verted one!"

_"Jan. 14th._--A sorrowful day: he and I parted, after a fortnight of the
tenderest affection, and that mutual respect without which neither of us,
I think, could love long. I had resolved to be very brave; but we were
alone, and his bright face looked so sad; the change in it took me by
surprise, and my resolution failed; I clung to him. If gentlemen could
interpret, as we can, he would never have left me. It is better as it is.
He kissed my tears away as fast as they came: it was the first time he
had ever kissed more than my hand; so I shall have that to think of, and
his dear promised letters: but it made me cry more at the time, of
course. Some day, when we have been married years and years, I shall tell
him not to go and pay a lady for every tear; if he wants her to leave
off.

"The whole place so gloomy and vacant now.

_"Jan. 20th._--Poverty stares us in the face. Edward says we could make a
modest living in London; and nobody be the wiser: but here we are known,
and _'must_ be ladies and gentlemen, and fools,' he says. He has now made
me seriously promise not to give money and things out of the house to the
poor: it is robbing my mother and him. Ah, now I see it _is_ nonsense to
despise money: here I come home sad from my poor people; and I used to
return warm all over. And the poor old souls do not enjoy my sermons half
so much as when I gave them nice things to eat along with them.

"The dear boy, that I always loved dearly, but _admire_ and love now that
he has turned an intolerable tyrant and he used to be Wax, has put down
two maids out of our three, and brings our dinner up himself in a jacket,
then puts on his coat and sits down with us, and we sigh at him and he
grins and derides us; he does not care one straw for Pomp. And mamma and
I have to dress one another now. And I like it."

_"Jan. 30th._--He says we may now, by great economy, subsist honestly
till my wedding-day; but then mamma and he must _'absquatulate.'_ Oh,
what stout hearts men have. They can jest at sorrow even when, in spite
of their great thick skins, they feel it. Ah, the real poor are happy:
they marry, and need not leave the parish where their mother lives."

_"Feb. 4th._--A kind and most delicate letter from Jane. She says, 'Papa
and I are much grieved at Captain Dodd's affliction, and deeply concerned
at your loss by the Bank. Papa has asked Uncle Thomas for two hundred
pounds, and I entreat you to oblige me by receiving it at my hands and
applying it according to the dictates of your own affectionate heart."

"Actually our Viceroy will not let me take it: he says he will not accept
a crumb from the man who owes us a loaf."

_"Feb. 8th._--Jane mortified, and no wonder. If she knew how very poor we
are, she would be surprised as well. I have implored her not to take it
to heart, for that all will be explained one day, and she will see we
_could_ not.

"His dear letters! I feed on them. We have no secrets, no two minds. He
is to be a first class and then a private tutor. Our money is to go to
mamma: it is he and I that are to work our fingers to the bone (I am so
happy!), and never let them be driven by injustice from their home. But
all this is a great secret. The Viceroy will be defeated, only I let him
talk till Alfred is here to back me. No; it is _not_ just the rightful
owner of fourteen thousand pounds should be poor.

"How shallow female education is: I was always led to suppose modesty is
the highest virtue. No such thing! Justice is the queen of the virtues:
_He_ is justice incarnate."

_"March 10th._--On reperusing this diary, it is demoralising; very: it
feeds self. Of all the detestable compositions: Me, Me, Me, from one end
to another: for when it is not about myself, it is about Alfred, and that
it is my he-Me though not my she-one. So now to turn over a new leaf:
from this day I shall record only the things that happen in this house
and what my betters say to _me,_ not what I say; and the texts; and
outline of the sermons; and Jane's Christian admonitions."

Before a resolve so virtuous all impure spirits retire, taking off their
hats, and bowing down to the very ground, but apprehending Small Beer.

CHAPTER XXVIII

_Extracts from Jane Hardie's Diary._

_"March 3rd._--In my district again, the first time since my illness,
from which I am indeed but half recovered. Spoke faithfully to Mrs. B.
about her infidel husband: told her not to try and talk to him, but to
talk to God about him. Gave her my tract 'A quiet heart.' Came home
tired. Prayed to be used to sharpen the sickles of other reapers.

_"March 4th._--At St. Philip's to hear the Bishop. In the midst of an
excellent sermon on Gen. i. 2, he came out with the waters of baptism, to
my horror: he disclaimed the extravagant views some of them take, then
hankered after what he denied, and then partly unsaid _that_ too. While
the poor man was trimming his sails, I slunk behind a pillar in the
corner of my pew, and fell on my knees, and prayed (a) against the stream
of poison flowing on the congregation. Oh, I felt like Jeremiah in his
dungeon.

"In the evening papa forbade me to go to church again: said the wind was
too cold: I kissed him, and went up to my room and put my head between
the pillows not to hear the bells. Prayed for poor (b) Alfred."

_"March 5th._--Sadly disappointed in J. D. I did hope he was embittering
the world to her by degrees. But for some time past she writes in
ill-concealed spirits.

"Another friend, after seeking rest in the world, is now seeking it in
ritualism. May both be drawn from their rotten reeds to the cross

'And oh this moral may my heart retain,
All hopes of happiness on earth are vain.'"

_"March 6th._--The cat is out of the bag. She is corresponding with
Alfred: indeed she makes no secret of it. Wrote her a (c) faithful
letter. Received a short reply, saying I had made her unhappy, and
begging me to suspend my judgment till she could undeceive me without
giving me too much pain. What mystery is this?"

_March 7th._--Alfred announces his unalterable determination to marry
Julia. I read the letter to papa directly. He was silent for a long time:
and then said: 'All the worse for both of them.' It was all I could do to
suppress a thrill of carnal complacency at the thought this might in time
pave the way to another union. Even to think of that now is a sin. 1 Cor.
vii. 20-4, plainly shows that whatever position (d) of life we are placed
in, there it is our duty to abide. A child, for instance, is placed in
subjection to her parents; and must not leave them without their
consent."

_"March 8th._--Sent two cups of cold water to two fellow-pilgrims of mine
on the way to Jerusalem, viz: to E. H., Rom. viii. 1; to Mrs. M.,
Philipp. ii. 27.

"Prayed for increase of humility. I am so afraid my great success in His
vineyard has seduced me into feeling as if there was a spring of living
water in myself, instead of every drop being derived from the true
fountain."

_"March 9th._--Dr. Wycherley closeted two hours with papa--papa had sent
for him, I find. What is it makes me think that man is no true friend to
Alfred in his advice? I don't like these roundabout speakers: the lively
oracles are not roundabout."

_"March 10th._-- My beloved friend and fellow-labourer, Charlotte D----,
ruptured a blood-vessel (x) at three P. M., and was conveyed in the
chariots of angels to the heavenly banqueting-house, to go no more out.
May I be found watching.

_"March 11th._-- Dreadfully starved with these afternoon sermons. If they
go on like this, I really must stay at home, and feed upon the word."

_"March 12th._-- Alfred has written to his trustees, and announced his
coming marriage, and told them he is going to settle all his money upon
the Dodds. Papa quite agitated by this news: it did not come from Alfred;
one of the trustees wrote to papa. Oh, the blessing of Heaven will never
rest on this unnatural marriage. Wrote a faithful letter to Alfred while
papa was writing to our trustee."

_"March 13th._--My book on Solomon's Song now ready for publication. But
it is so difficult now-a-days to find a publisher for such a subject. The
rage is for sentimental sermons, or else for fiction (f) under a thin
disguise of religious biography."

_"March l4th._--Mr. Plummer, of whose zeal and unction I had heard so
much, was in the town and heard of me, and came to see me by appointment
just after luncheon. _Such_ a sweet meeting. He came in and took my hand,
and in that posture prayed that the Holy Spirit might be with us to make
our conversation profitable to us, and redound to His glory. Poor man,
his wife leads him a cat and dog life, I hear, with her jealousy. We had
a _sweet_ talk; he admires Canticles almost as much as I do (z): and has
promised to take my book and get it cast on the Lord (g) for me.

_"March 15th._--To _please,_ one must not be faithful. (h) Miss L., after
losing all her relations, and at thirty years of age, is to be married
next week. She came to me and gushed out about the blessing of having at
last one earthly friend to whom she could confide everything. On this I
felt it my duty to remind her she might lose him by death, and then what
a blank; and I was going on to detach her from the arm of flesh, when she
burst out crying, and left me abruptly; couldn't bear the truth, poor
woman.

"In the afternoon met _him_ and bowed, and longed to speak, but thought
it my duty not to: cried bitterly on reaching home."

_"March l7th._--Transcribed all the (i) texts on Solomon's Song. It seems
to be the way He (j) has marked out for me to serve him."

_"March 19th._--Received this letter from Alfred:

'DEAR JANE,--I send you a dozen kisses and a piece of advice; learn more;
teach less: study more; preach less: and don't be in such a hurry to
judge and condemn your intellectual and moral superiors, on insufficient
information.--Your affectionate brother,

ALFRED.'

A poor return for me loving his soul as my own. I do but advise him the
self-denial I myself pursue. Woe be to him if he rejects it."

_"March 20th._--A perverse reply from J. D. I had proposed we should
plead for our parents at the Throne. She says she fears that might seem
like assuming the office of the mediator: and besides her mother is
nearer Heaven than she is. What blindness! I don't know a more thoroughly
unhealthy mind than poor Mrs. (k) Dodd's. I am learning to pray walking.
Got this idea from Mr. Plummer. How closely he walks! his mind so
_exactly_ suits mine.

_"March 22nd._--Alfred returned. Went to meet him at the station. How
bright and handsome he looked! He kissed me so affectionately; and was as
kind and loving as could be: I, poor unfaithful wretch, went hanging (m)
on his arm, and had not the heart to dash his carnal happiness just then.

"He is gone _there._"

_"March 24th._--Stole into Alfred's lodging when he was out; and, after
prayer, pinned Deuteronomy xxvii. 16, Proverbs xiii. 1, and xv. 5, and
Mark vii. 10, upon his bed-curtains."

_"March 25th._--Alfred has been in my room, and nailed Matthew vii. 1,
Mark x. 7, and Ezek. xviii. 20, on my wall. He found my diary, and has
read it, not to profit by, alas! but to scoff."

[Specimen of Alfred's comments. _N.B._ Fraternal criticism:

A. Nolo Episcopari.

B. It's an ill wind that blows nobody good.

D. The old trick; picking one text, straining it; and ignoring six. So
then nobody who is not born married, must get married.

E. Recipe. To know people's real estimate of themselves, study their
language of self-depreciation. If, even when they undertake to lower
themselves, they cannot help insinuating self-praise, be sure their
humility is a puddle, their vanity is a well. This sentence is typical of
the whole Diary or rather Iary; it sounds Publican, smells Pharisee.

X. How potent a thing is language in the hand of a master: Here is sudden
death made humorous by a few incongruous phrases neatly disposed.

F. Excuse me; there is still a little market for the Liquefaction of Holy
Writ, and the perversion of Holy Writ; two deathless arts, which meet in
your comment on the song you ascribe to Solomon.

Z. More than Mrs. Plummer does, apparently.

G. Apotheosis of the British public. How very like profaneness some
people's piety is!

C. H. Faith, with this school, means anything the opposite of Charity.

I. You are morally truthful: but intellectually mendacious. The texts on
Solomon's Song! You know very well there is not one. No grave writer in
all Scripture has ever deigned to cite, or notice, that coarse
composition; puellarum deliciae.

J. Modest periphrasis for "I like it." Motto for this Diary; "Ego, et
Deus meus."

K. In other words, a good, old-fashioned, sober, humble Christian, to
whom the daring familiarities of your school seem blasphemies.

M. Here I recognise my sister; somewhat spoiled by a detestable sect; but
lovable by nature (which she is for ever abusing); and therefore always
amiable, when off her guard.]

_"March 28th._--Mr. Crawford the attorney called and told papa his son
had instructed him to examine the trust-deed, and to draw his marriage
settlement. Papa treated him with the greatest civility, and brought him
the deed. He wanted to take it away to copy; but papa said he had better
send a clerk here. Poor papa hid his distress from this gentleman, though
not from me; and gave him a glass of wine.

"Then Mr. Crawford chatted, and let out Alfred had asked him to advance a
hundred pounds for the wedding presents, &c. Papa said he might do so
with perfect safety.

"But the moment he was gone, his whole manner changed. He walked about in
terrible anger and agitation: and then sat down and wrote letters; one
was to uncle Thomas; and one to a Mr. Wycherley; I believe a brother of
the doctor's. I never knew him so long writing two letters before.

"Heard a noise in the road, and it was Mr. Maxley, and the boys after him
hooting; they have found out his infirmity: what a savage animal is man,
till grace changes him! The poor soul had a stick, and now and then
turned and struck at them but his tormentors were too nimble. I drew papa
to the window, and showed him, and reminded him of the poor man's
request. He answered impatiently what was that to him? 'We have a worse
case nearer hand. Charity begins at home.' I ventured to say yes, but it
did not begin _and_ end at home."

_"March 31st._--Mr. Osmond here to-day; and over my work I heard papa
tell him Alfred is blackening his character in the town with some
impossible story about fourteen thousand pounds. Mr. Osmond very kind and
sympathising; set it all down to illusion; assured papa there was neither
malice nor insincerity in it. 'But what the better am I for that?' said
poor papa; 'if I am slandered, I am slandered.' And they went out
together.

"Papa seems to feel this engagement more than all his troubles, and,
knowing by sad experience it is useless to expostulate with Alfred, I
wrote a long and faithful letter to Julia just before luncheon, putting
it to her as a Christian whether she could reconcile it to her profession
to set a son against his father, and marry him in open defiance.

"She replied, 3 P. M., that her mother approved the marriage, and she
owed no obedience, nor affection either, to _my_ parent

"3.30. Sent back a line rebuking her for this quibble.

"At 5 received a note from Mrs. Dodd proposing that the correspondence
between myself and her daughter should cease _for the present._

5.30. Retorted with an amendment that it should cease _for ever._ No
reply. Such are worldlings! Remonstrance only galls them. And so in one
afternoon's correspondence ends one more of my Christian friendships with
persons of my own sex. This is the eighth to which a carnal attachment
has been speedily fatal.

"In the evening Alfred came in looking very red, and asked me whether it
was not self-reliant and uncharitable of me to condemn so many estimable
persons, all better acquainted with the circumstances than I am. I
replied with the fifth commandment. He bit his lip and said, 'We had
better not meet again, until you have found out which is worthiest of
honour, your father or your brother.' And with this he left abruptly; and
something tells me I shall not see him again. My faithfulness has wounded
him to the quick. Alas! Prayed for him and cried myself to sleep."

_"April 4th._ Met _him_ disguised as a common workman, and carrying a
sack full of things. I was so shocked I could not maintain my resolution:
I said, 'Oh, Mr. Edward, what are you doing?' He blushed a little, but
told me he was going to sell some candlesticks and things of his making:
and he should get a better price in that dress; all traders looked on a
_gentleman_ as a thing made to be pillaged. Then he told me he was going
to turn them into a bonnet and a wreath; and his beautiful brown eyes
sparkled with affection. What egotistical creatures _they_ must be! I was
quite overcome, and said, Oh why did he refuse our offer? Did he hate me
so very much that he would not even take his due from my hand? 'No,' he
said, 'nobody in our house is so unjust to you as to hate you; my sister
honours you, and is very sorry you think ill of her: and, as for me, I
love you; you know how I love you.' I hid my face in my hands; and sobbed
out, 'Oh, you must not; you must not; my poor father has one disobedient
child already.' He said softly, 'Don't cry, dear one; have a little
patience; perhaps the clouds will clear: and, meantime, why think so ill
of us? Consider, we are four in number, of different dispositious, yet
all of one mind about Julia marrying Alfred. May we not be right; may we
not know something we love you too well to tell you?' His words and his
rich manly voice were so soothing; I gave him just one hand while I still
hid my burning face with the other; he kissed the hand I yielded him, and
left me abruptly.

"If Alfred should be right! I am staggered now; he puts it so much more
convincingly."

_"April 5th._ A letter from Alfred, announcing his wedding by special
license for the 11th.

"Made no reply. What _could_ I say?

"Papa, on my reading it out left his very breakfast half finished, and
packed up his bag and rushed up to London. I caught a side view of his
face; and I am miserable. Such a new, such a terrible expression! a vile
expression! Heaven forgive me, it seemed the look of one who meditated a
_crime._"

CHAPTER XXIX

THE spirit of dissension in Musgrove Cottage penetrated to the very
kitchen. Old Betty sided with Alfred, and combated in her place the creed
of the parlour: "Why, according to Miss, the young sparrows are bound
never to fly out of the nest; or else have the Bible flung at 'em. She do
go on about God's will: seems to me 'tis His will the world should be
peopled by body and beast--which they are both His creatures--and, by the
same toaken, if they don't marry they does wus. Certainly whilst a young
man bides at home, it behoves him to be dutiful; but that ain't to say he
_is_ to bide at home for ever. Master Alfred's time is come to leave we,
and be master in a house of his own, as his father done before him, which
he forgets that now; he is grown to man's estate, and got his mother's
money, and no more bound to our master than I be." She said, too, that
"parting blights more quarrels than it breeds:" and she constantly
invited Peggy to speak up, and gainsay her. But Peggy was a young woman
with white eyelashes, and given to looking down, and not to speaking up:
she was always watching Mr. Hardie in company, like a cat cream; and
hovering about him when alone. Betty went so far as to accuse her of
colloguing with him against Alfred, and of "setting her cap at master,"
which accusation elicited no direct reply, but stinging innuendoes hours
after.

Now, if one looks into the thing, the elements of discord had attacked
Albion Villa quite as powerfully as Musgrove Cottage; but had hitherto
failed signally: the mutual affection of the Dodds was so complete, and
no unprincipled person among them to split the good.

And, now that the wedding drew near, there was but one joyful heart
within the walls, though the others were too kind and unselfish to throw
cold water. Mrs. Dodd's own wedding had ended in a piteous separation,
and now to part with her darling child and launch her on the uncertain
waves of matrimony! She heaved many a sigh when alone: but as there were
no bounds to her maternal love, so there were no exceptions to her
politeness: over her aching heart she forced on a wedding face, subdued,
but hopeful, for her daughter, as she would for any other young lady
about to be married beneath her roof.

It wanted but six days, when one morning after breakfast the bereaved
wife, and mother about to be deserted, addressed her son and Viceroy
thus: "Edward, we _must_ borrow fifty pounds."

"Fifty pounds! what for? who wants that?"

"Why, _I_ want it," said Mrs. Dodd stoutly.

"Oh, if _you_ want it--what to do, please?"

"Why, to buy her wedding clothes, dear."

"I thought what her 'I' would come to," said Julia reproachfully.

Edward shook his head, and said, "He who goes a borrowing goes a
sorrowing.'

"But she is not a he," objected Mrs. Dodd with the subtlety of a
schoolman: "and who ever heard of a young lady being married without some
things to be married _in?_"

"Well, I've heard Nudity is not the cheese on public occasions: but why
not go dressed like a lady as she always does, only with white gloves;
and be married without any bother and nonsense."

"You talk like a boy," said Mrs. Dodd. "I could not bear it. My poor
child!" and she cast a look of tenderest pity on the proposed victim.
"Well, suppose we make the poor child the judge," suggested Edward. He
then put it to Julia whether, under the circumstances, she would wish
them to run in debt, buying her finery to wear for a day. "It was not
fair to ask _her,_" said Mrs. Dodd with a sigh.

Julia blushed and hesitated, and said she would be candid; and then
stopped.

"Ugh!" ejaculated Edward. "This is a bad beginning. Girl's candour! Now
for a masterpiece of duplicity."

Julia inquired how he dared; and Mrs. Dodd said warmly that Julia was not
like other people, she could be candid; had actually done it, more than
once, within her recollection. The young lady justified the exception as
follows: "If I was going to be married to myself, or to some gentleman I
did not care for, I would not spend a shilling. But I am going to marry
_him;_ and so--oh, Edward, think of them saying, 'What has he married? a
dowdy: why she hadn't new things on to go to church with him: no bonnet,
no wreath, no new white dress!' To mortify him the very first day of
our----" The sentence remained unfinished, but two lovely eyes filled to
the very brim without running over, and completed the sense, and did the
Viceroy's business, though a brother. "Why you dear little goose," said
he: "of course, I don't mean that. I have as good as got the things we
must buy; and those are a new bonnet----"

"Ah!"

"A wreath of orange blossoms----"

"Oh you good boy!"

"Four pair of gloves: two white--one is safe to break--two dark; very
dark: invisible green, or visible black; last the honeymoon. All the rest
you must find in the house."

"What, fit her out with a parcel of old things? so cruel, so
unreasonable, dear Edward?"

"Old things! Why, where is all your gorgeous attire from Oriental climes?
I see the splendiferous articles arrive, and then they vanish for ever."

"Now, shawls and Indian muslins! pray what use are they to a bride?"

"Why, what looks nicer than a white muslin dress?"

"Married in muslin? The very idea makes me shiver."

"Well, clap her on another petticoat."

"How can you be so childish? Muslin is not the _the thing._"

"No more is running in debt."

He then suggested that a white shawl or two should be cut into a bridal
dress. At this both ladies' fair throats opened on him with ridicule: cut
fifty guinea shawls into ten-pound dresses; that was male economy! was
it? Total, a wedding was a wedding: new things always _had_ had to be
bought for a wedding, and always would _in secula seculorum._

"New things? Yes," said the pertinacious wretch; "but they need not be
new-bought things. You ladies go and confound the world's eyes with your
own in the drollest way: If Gorgeous Attire has lain long in your
drawers, you fancy the world will detect on its glossy surface how long
you had it, and gloated over it, and made it stale to your eye, before
you could bring your mind to wear it. That is your delusion, that and the
itch for going out shopping; oh, I'm down on you. Mamma dear, you open
that gigantic wardrobe of yours; and I'll oil my hair, white-wash my mug
(a little moan from Mrs. D.) and do the counterjumping business to the
life; hand the things down to you, unrol 'em, grin, charge you 100 per
cent over value, note them down in a penny memorandum-book, sing out
'Caesh! Caesh!' &c. &c.: and so we shall get all Julia wants, and go
through the ritual of shopping without the substantial disgrace of
running in debt."

Mrs. Dodd smiled admiringly, as ladies generally do at the sauciness of a
young male; but proposed an amendment. She would open her wardrobe, and
look out all the contents for Edward's inspection; and, if the mere sight
of them did not convince him they were inappropriate to a bride, why then
she would coincide with his views, and resign her own.

"All right!" said he. "That will take a jolly time, I know; so I'll go to
my governor first for the bonnet and wreath."

Mrs. Dodd drew in at this last slang word; she had heard young gentlemen
apply it to their fathers. Edward, she felt sure, would not so sully that
sacred relation; still the word was obnoxious for its past offences; and
she froze at it: "I have not the honour to know who the personage is you
so describe," said she formally. Edward replied very carelessly that it
was an upholsterer at the north end of the town.

"Ah, a tradesman you patronise."

"Humph! Well, yes, that is the word, mamma, haw! haw! I have been making
the bloke a lot of oak candlesticks, and human heads with sparkling eyes,
for walking-sticks, &c. And now I'll go and draw my--protege's--blunt."
The lady's hands were uplifted towards pitying Heaven with one impulse.
The young workman grinned: "Soyons de notre siecle," said he, and
departed whistling in the tenor clef. He had the mellowest whistle.

After a few minutes well spent in deploring the fall of her Oxonian, and
gently denouncing his motto, and his century, its ways, and above all its
words, Mrs. Dodd took Julia to her bedroom, and unlocked drawers and
doors in her wardrobe; and straightway Sarah, who was hurriedly flogging
the chairs with a duster, relaxed, and began to work on a cheval-glass as
slowly as if she was drawing Nelson's lions at a thousand pounds the
tail. Mrs. Dodd opened a drawer and took out three pieces of worked
Indian muslin, a little discoloured by hoarding: "There, that must be
bleached and make you some wrappers for the honeymoon, if the weather is
at all fine; and petticoats to match;" next an envelope consisting of two
foolscap sheets tacked: this, carefully undone upon the bed revealed a
Brussels lace flounce and a veil: "It was my own," said Mrs. Dodd softly.
"I saved it for you; see here is your name written on it seventeen years
ago. I thought 'this dear little toddler will have wings some day, and
then she will leave me.' But now I am almost afraid to let you wear it;
it might bring you misfortune: suppose after years of wedded love you
should be bereaved of----" Mrs. Dodd choked, and Julia's arms were round
her neck in a moment.

"I'll risk it," cried she impetuously. "If it but makes me as beloved as
you are, I'll wear it, come weal come woe! And then I shall feel it over
me at the altar like my guardian angel's wings, my own sweet, darling
mamma. Oh what an idiot, what a wretch I am, to leave you at all."

This unfortunate, unexpected burst, interrupted business sadly. Mrs. Dodd
sank down directly on the bed and wept; Julia cried over her, and Sarah
plumped herself down in a chair and blubbered. But wedding flowers are
generally well watered in the private apartments.

Patient Mrs. Dodd soon recovered herself: "This is childish of me. When I
think that there are mothers who see their children go from the house
corpses, not brides, I ought to be ashamed of myself. Come! a l'oeuvre.
Ah, here is something." And she produced a white China crape shawl. "Oh,
how sweet," said Julia; "why have you never worn it?"

"Dear me, child, what use would things be to those I love, if I went and
_wore_ them?"

The next article she laid her hand on was a roll of white poplin, and
drew an exclamation from Mrs. Dodd herself: "If I had not forgotten this,
and it is the very thing. Your dear papa bought me this in London, and I
remonstrated with him well for buying me such a delicate thing, only once
wear. I kissed it and put it away, and forgot it. They _say_ if you keep
a thing seven years. It _is_ just seven years since he gave it to me.
Really, the dear boy is a witch: this is your wedding dress, my precious
precious." She unrolled a few yards on the bed to show it; and asked the
gloating Sarah with a great appearance of consideration whether they were
not detaining her from her occupations?

"Oh no, mum. This glass have got so dull; I'm just polishing of it a bit.
I shan't be a minute now, mum."

From silver tissue paper, Mrs. Dodd evolved a dress (unmade) of white
crape embroidered in true lover's-knots of violet silk, and ears of wheat
in gold. Then there was a scream at the glass, and Sarah seen in it with
ten claws in the air very wide apart: she had slily turned the mirror and
was devouring the reflexion of the finery, and this last Indian fabric
overpowered her. Her exclamation was instantly followed by much
polishing; but Mrs. Dodd replied to it after the manner of her sex: "Well
it _is_ lovely," said she to Julia: "but where is the one with beetle
wings? Oh here."

"Real beetles' wings, mamma?" inquired Julia.

"Yes, love."

"So they are, and how wicked! and what a lovely green! I will never wear
them: they are prismatic: now, if ever I am to be a Christian, I had
better begin: everything _has_ a beginning. Oh vanity of women, you stick
at nothing. A thousand innocent lives stolen to make one dress!" And she
put one hand before her eyes, and with the other ordered the dress back
into the wardrobe with genuine agitation.

"My dear, what expressions! And you need not wear it; indeed neither of
them is fit for that purpose. But you _must_ have a pretty thing or two
about you. I have hoarded these a good many years; now it is your turn to
have them by you. And let me see; you want a travelling cloak: but the
dear boy will not let us; so choose a warm shawl."

A rich but modest one was soon found, and Julia tried it on, arching her
supple neck, and looking down over her shoulder to see the effect behind,
in which attitude oh for an immortal brush to paint her, or anything half
as bright, supple, graceful, and every inch a woman. At this moment Mrs.
Dodd threw a lovely blue Indian shawl on the bed, galvanising Sarah so
that up went her hands again, and the door opened softly and a handsome
head in a paper cap peeped on the scene, inquiring with mock timidity
"May 'The British Workman' come in?"

He was invited warmly; Julia whipped his cap off, and tore it in two,
reddening, and Mrs. Dodd, intending to compliment his foresight, showed
him the bed laden with the treasures they had disinterred from vanity's
mahogany tomb.

"Well, mother," said he, "you were right, and I was wrong: they are
inappropriate enough, the whole lot."

The ladies looked at one another, and Sarah permitted herself a species
of snort.

"Do we want Sarah?" he asked quietly. She retired bridling.

"Inappropriate?" exclaimed Mrs. Dodd. "There is nothing here unfit for a
bride's trousseau."

"Good Heavens! Would you trick her out like a Princess?"

"We must. We are too poor to dress her like a lady."

"Cinderella; at your service," observed Julia complacently, and
pirouetted before him in her new shawl.

Ideas rejected peremptorily at the time often rankle, and bear fruit
by-and-bye. Mrs. Dodd took up the blue shawl, and said she would make
Julia a peignoir of it; and the border, being narrowish, would do for the
bottom. "That was a good notion, of yours, darling," said she, bestowing
a sweet smile on Edward. He grunted. Then she took out a bundle of lace:
"Oh, for pity's sake, no more," cried the "British Workman."

"Now, dearest, you have interfered once in feminine affairs, and we
submitted. But, if you say another word, I will trim her poplin with
Honiton two feet deep."

"Quarter! quarter!" cried Edward. "I'm dumb; grant me but this; have
nothing made up for her out of the house: you know there is no dressmaker
in Barkington can cut like you: and then that will put some limit to our
inconsistency." Mrs. Dodd agreed; but she must have a woman in to sew.

Edward grunted at this, and said: "I wish I could turn you these gowns
with my lathe; what a deal of time and bother it would save. However, if
you want any stuffing, come to me; I'll lend you lots of shavings; make
the silk rustle. Oh, here is my governor's contribution." And he produced
L. 7, 10s.

"Now, look there," said Julia sorrowfully, "it is money. And I thought
you were going to bring me the very bonnet yourself. Then I should have
valued it."

"Oh yes," replied the young gentleman ironically; "can I choose a bonnet
to satisfy such swells as you and mamma? I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll
go with you and look as wise as Solomon, all the time you are choosing
it"

"A capital plan," said Julia.

Edward then shook his fist at the finery: and retired to work again for
his governor: "Flowers," he observed, "are indispensable, at a wedding
breakfast; I hear too it is considered the right cheese to add something
in the shape of grub." Exit whistling in the tenor clef; and keeping
their hearts up, like a man.

So now there were two workshops in Albion Villa. Ned's study, as he
called it, and the drawing-room. In the former shavings flew, and settled
at their ease, and the whirr of the lathe slept not; the latter was all
patterns, tapes, hooks and eyes, whalebone, cuttings of muslin, poplin
and paper; clouds of lining-muslin, snakes of piping; skeins, shreds; and
the floor literally sown with pins, escaped from the fingers of the fair,
those taper fingers so typical of the minds of their owners: or they have
softness, suppleness, nimbleness, adroitness, and "a plentiful lack" of
tenacity.

The days passed in hard work, and the evenings in wooing, never sweeter
than when it has been so earned: and at last came the wedding eve. Dr.
Sampson, who was to give the bride away, arrived just before dinner-time:
the party, including Alfred, sat down to a charming little dinner; they
ate beetles' wings, and drank Indian muslin fifteen years in the wood.
For the lathe and the chisel proved insufficient, and Julia having really
denied herself, as an aspirant to Christianity, that assassin's robe,
Mrs. Dodd sold it under the rose to a fat old dowager--for whom nothing
was too fine--and so kept up appearances.

Julia and Alfred were profoundly happy at bottom; yet their union was
attended with too many drawbacks for boisterous gaiety, and Alfred, up to
this time, had shown a seriousness and sobriety of bliss, that won Mrs.
Dodd's gratitude: it was the demeanour of a delicate mind; it became his
own position, at odds with his own flesh and blood for Julia's sake; it
became him as the son-in-law of a poor woman so lately bereaved of her
husband, and reduced to poverty by one bearing the name of Hardie.

But now Dr. Sampson introduced a gayer element. He had seen a great deal
of Life; _i.e.,_ of death and trouble. This had not hardened him, but,
encountering a sturdy, valiant, self-protecting nature, had made him
terribly tough and elastic; it was now his way never to go forward or
backward a single step after sorrow. He seldom mentioned a dead friend or
relation; and, if others forced the dreary topic on him, they could never
hold him to it; he was away directly to something pleasant or useful,
like a grasshopper skipping off a grave into the green grass. He had felt
keenly about David while there was anything to be done: but now his poor
friend was in a madhouse, thanks to the lancet: and there was an end of
_him._ Thinking about him would do him no good. The present only is
irresistible; past and future ills the mind can bar out by a resolute
effort. The bride will very likely die of her first child! Well then,
forget that just now. Her father is in an asylum! Well then, don't
remember him at the wrong time: there sit female beauty and virtue ready
to wed manly wit and comeliness, seated opposite; see their sweet stolen
glances; a few hours only between them and wedded rapture: and I'm here
to give the lovely virgin away: fill the bumper high! _dum vivimus
vivamus._ In this glorious spirit he rattled on, and soon drew the young
people out, and silvery peals of laughter rang round the genial board.

This jarred on Mrs. Dodd. She bore it in silence some time; but with the
grief it revived and sharpened by contrast, and the polite effort to hide
her distress, found herself becoming hysterical: then she made the usual
signal to Julia, and beat an early retreat. She left Julia in the
drawing-room, and went and locked herself in her own room. "Oh, how can
they be so cruel as to laugh and giggle in my David's house!" She wept
sadly, and for the first time felt herself quite lonely in the world: for
what companionship between the gay and the sad hearted? Poor thing, she
lived to reproach herself even with this, the nearest approach she ever
made to selfishness.

Ere long she crept into Julia's room and humbly busied herself packing
her trunks for the wedding tour. The tears fell fast on her white hands.

She would not have been left alone a minute if Julia's mind had not been
occupied just then with an affectionate and amiable anxiety: she
earnestly desired to reconcile her Alfred and his sister before the
wedding; and she sat in the drawing-room thinking whether it could be
done, and how.

At last she sat down blushing, and wrote a little note, and rang the bell
for Sarah, and sent it courageously into the dining-room.

Sarah very prudently listened at the keyhole before entering, for she
said to herself, "If they are talking free, I shan't go in till it's
over."

The persons so generously suspected were discussing a parchment Alfred
had produced, and wanted signed: "You are our trustee, my boy," said he
to Edward: "so just write your name here, and mine comes here, and the
witness's there: the Doctor and Sarah will do. Send for a pen."

"Let's read it first, please."

"Read it! What for?"

"Catch me signing a paper without reading it, my boy."

"What, can't you trust me? " inquired Alfred, hurt.

"Oh yes. And can't you trust me?"

"There's a question: why I have appointed you my Trusty in the Deed; he,
he."

"Well then trust me without my signing, and I'll trust you without
reading."

Sampson laughed at this retort, and Alfred reddened; he did not want the
Deed read. But while he hesitated, Sarah came in with Julia's note,
asking him to come to her for a minute. This sweet summons made him
indifferent to prosaic things. "Well, read away," said he: "one comfort,
you will be no wiser."

"What, is it in Latin?" asked Edward with a wry face.

"No such luck. Deeds used to be in Latin; but Latin could not be made
obscure enough. So now Dark Deeds are written in an unknown tongue called
'Lawyerish,' where the sense is 'as one grain of wheat in two bushels of
chaff,' pick it out if you can.

"Whatever man has done man may do," said Dr. Sampson stoutly. "You have
rid it, and yet understood it: so why mayn't we, ye monster o' conceit?"

"Read it?" said Alfred. "I never read it: would not read it for a great
deal of money. The moment I saw what a senseless rigmarole it was, I
flung it down and insisted on the battological author furnishing me with
an English translation. He complied: the crib occupies just twenty lines;
the original three folio pages, as you see. That crib, gentlemen," added
he severely, "is now in my waistcoat pocket; and you shall never see it--
for your impudence. No, seat yourself by that pool of parchment (sedet
eternumque sedebit, &c.) and fish for Lawyer Crawford's ideas, rari
nantes in gurgite vasto." And with this he flew up-stairs on the wings of
love. Julia met him in the middle of the room all in a flutter: "It is to
ask you a favour. I am unhappy--about one thing."

She then leaned one hand softly on his shoulder, and curving her lovely
supple neck looked round into his face and watched it as she preferred
her petition: "It is about Jane and you. I cannot bear to part you two in
this way: only think six days you have not spoken, and I am the cause."

"Not the only cause, love."

"I don't know, darling. But it is very cruel. I have got my dear mother
and Edward; you have nobody--but Me. Alfred," said she with gentle
impetuosity, "now is your time; your papa is away."

"Oh, is he?" said Alfred carelessly.

"Yes. Sarah says Betty says he is gone to Uncle Thomas. So I know you
won't refuse me, my own Alfred: it is to go to your sister this minute
and make it up."

"What, and leave you?" objected Alfred ruefully.

"No, no; you are with the gentlemen, you know: you are not here, _in
reality,_ till tea. Make them an excuse: say the truth; say it is Me; and
come back to me with good news."

He consented on these terms.

Then she armed him with advice: "You go to make peace; it is our last
chance; now remember, you must be very generous, very sweet-tempered.
Guard against your impetuosity. Do take warning by me; see how impetuous
I am. And then, you know, after all, she is only a lady, and a great
creature like you ought not to be ruffled by anything so small as a
lady's tongue: the idea! And, dearest, don't go trusting to your logic,
but _do_ descend to the arts of persuasion, because they are far more
convincing somehow: please try them."

"Yes. Enumerate them."

"Why, kissing and coaxing, and--don't ask _me._"

"Will you bestow a specimen of those arts on me if I succeed?"

"Try me," said she: and looked him earnestly in the face; but lowered her
long lashes slowly and shyly, as she realised to what her Impetuosity was
pledging itself.

Alfred got his hat and ran to Musgrove Cottage.

A man stepped out of the shadow of a hedge opposite Albion Villa, and
followed him, keeping in shadow as much as possible.

The door of Musgrove Cottage was opened to him by old Betty with a joyful
start! "Mr. Alfred, I _de_clare! Come in; there's only me and Miss.
Master is in Yorkshire, and that there crocodile, Peggy, she is turned
away--for sauce--and a good riddance of bad rubbish: Miss is in the
parlour."

She ushered him triumphantly in. Jane was seated reading: she dropped her
book, and ran and kissed him with a cry of joy. So warm a reception
surprised him agreeably, and simplified his task. He told her he was come
to try and make it up with her before the wedding: "We lose your
presence, dear Jenny," said he, "and that is a great grief to us, valuing
you as we do: don't refuse us your good wishes to-morrow."

"Dearest Alfred," said she, "can you think it? I pray for you day and
night. And I have begun to blame myself for being so sure you were in the
wrong and poor papa faultless. What you sent me half in jest, I take in
earnest 'Judge not that ye be not judged.'"

"Why, Jenny," said Alfred, "how red your eyes are."

At this observation the young saint laid her head on her brother's
shoulder and had a good cry like any other girl. When she recovered a
little she told him, yes, she had been very unhappy: that he had always
been a dear good brother to her, and the only one she had; and that it
cut her to the heart not to be at his wedding; it seemed so unkind.

Alfred set her on his knee--she had more soul than body--and kissed her
and comforted her: and, in this happy revival of natural affection, his
heart opened, he was off his guard, and told her all: gave her the
several proofs their father had got the L. 14,000. Jane, arrested by the
skill and logical clearness with which he marshalled the proofs, listened
in silence; and presently a keen shudder ran through her frame, and
reminded him he was setting a daughter against her father.

"There," said he, "I always said I would never tell you, and now I've
done it. Well, at least you will see with what consideration, and
unheard-of leniency, the Dodds for our sake are treating Mr. Richard
Hardie. Just compare their conduct to him with his to them. And which is
most to his advantage? that I should marry Julia, and give Mrs. Dodd the
life interest in my ten thousand pounds, to balance his dishonesty, or
for him to be indicted as a thief? Ned Dodd told us plainly he would have
set the police on him, had any other but his son been the informant"

"Did _he_ say that? Oh, Alfred, this is a miserable world."

"I can't see that: it is the jolliest world in the world: everything is
bright and lovely, and everybody is happy except a few sick people, and a
few peevish ones that run to meet trouble. To-morrow I marry my sweet
Julia; Richard Hardie will find we two don't molest him, nor trouble our
heads about him. He will get used to us; and one fine day we shall say to
him, 'Now, we know all about the L. 14,000: just leave it by will to dear
Jenny, and let my friend Dodd marry her, and you can enjoy it unmolested
for your lifetime.' He will consent: and you will marry Ned, and then
you'll find the world has been wickedly slandered by dishonest men and
dismal dogs."

In this strain he continued till he made her blush a good deal and smile
a little; a sad smile.

But at last she said, "If I was sure all this is true, I think I should
go--with a heavy heart--to your wedding. If I don't, the best part of me
will be there, my prayers, and my warm, warm wishes for you both. Kiss
her for me, and tell her so; and that I hope we shall meet round His
throne soon, if we cannot meet at His altar to-morrow."

Brother and sister then kissed one another affectionately; and Alfred ran
back like the wind to Albion Cottage. Julia was not in the drawing-room,
and some coolish tea was. After waiting half an hour he got impatient,
and sent Sarah to say he had a message for her. Sarah went upstairs to
Mrs. Dodd's room, and was instantly absorbed. After waiting again for a
long time, Alfred persuaded Edward to try his luck. Edward went up to
Mrs. Dodd's room, and was absorbed.

The wedding dress was being solemnly tried on. A clean linen sheet was on
the floor, and the bride stood on it, receiving the last touches of the
milliner's art. With this and her white poplin and lace veil she seemed
framed in white, and her cheeks bloomed so, and her eyes beamed, with
excitement and innocent vanity, that altogether she was supernaturally
lovely.

Once enter the room enchanted by this snow-chad rose, and--_Vestigia
nulla retrorsum._

However, Edward escaped at last and told Alfred what was on foot, and
drew a picture of the Bride with white above and white below.

"Oh, let me see her," implored the lover.

Edward must ask mamma about that. He did, and mamma said "Certainly not;
the last person in the world that shall see her in her wedding dress."
But she should come down to him in half an hour. It seemed a very long
half-hour. However, by way of compensation, he was alone when she did
come. "Good news?" she asked eagerly.

"Capital: we are the best of friends. Why she is half inclined to
_come._"

"Then--oh how good you are: oh, how I love you."

And she flung a tender arm round his neck, like a young goddess making
love; and her sweet face came so near his, he had only to stoop a little,
and their lips met in a long blissful kiss.

That kiss was an era in her life. Innocence itself, she had put up her
delicious lips to her lover in pure, though earnest affection; but the
male fire with which his met them, made her blush as well as thrill, and
she drew back a little, ashamed and half scared, and nestled on his
shoulder, hiding a face that grew redder and redder.

He bent his graceful head, and murmured down to her, "Are you afraid of
me, sweetest?"

"Oh no, no! Yes, a little. I don't know. I was afraid I had made too free
with my Treasure; you don't quite belong to me yet, you know."

"Oh yes, I do; and, what is more, you belong to me. Don't you, sweet
rebel?"

"Ah, that I do, heart and soul, my own, own, own."

A few more soft delicious murmurs, and then Julia was summoned to more
rites of vanity, and the lovers parted with tender reluctance for those
few hours.

Alfred went home to his lodgings. He had not been there above ten
minutes, when he came out hastily, and walked quickly to the "White
Lion," the principal inn in Barkington. He went into the stable-yard, and
said a few words to the ostler: then returned to his lodgings.

The man followed him at a distance from Albion Terrace; watched him home;
dogged him to the "White Lion;" and, by-and-bye, entered the yard and
offered the ostler a glass of ale at the tap.

At Albion Villa they were working on Julia's dresses till past midnight:
and then Mrs. Dodd insisted on her going to bed. She obeyed; but when the
house was all quiet, came stealing out to her mother, and begged to sleep
with her: the sad mother strained her in a tearful embrace: and so they
passed the night; clinging to one another more as the parting drew near.

Edward arranged the wedding breakfast for after the ceremony; and sent
the ladies up a cup of coffee, and a bit of toast apiece. They could
hardly find appetite even for this; or indeed time; there was so much
still to do.

At ten o'clock Julia was still in the height of dressing, delayed by
_contretemps_ upon _contretemps._ Sarah and her sister did her hair up
too loose, and, being a glorious mass, it threatened all to come down
and, meantime, a hair-pin quietly but persistently bored her cream-white
poll.

"Oh, run for mamma!" she cried.

Mamma came half dressed, had the hair all down again, and did it up with
adroit and loving hand, and put on the orange wreath, kissed her
admiringly, and retired to her own toilet; and the girls began to lace
the bride's body.

Bump came Edward's foot against the door, making them all shriek.

"Now I don't want to hurry you; but Dr. Sampson is come." The handmaids,
flustered, tried to go faster; and, when the work was done, Julia took
her little handglass and inspected her back: "Oh," she screamed, "I am
crooked. There, go for mamma!"

Mamma soon came, and the poor bride held out imploring hands, "I'm all
awry; I'm as crooked as a ram's horn."

"La, miss," said Sarah, "it's only behind; nobody will notice it."

"How can they help it? Mamma! _am_ I deformed?"

Mrs. Dodd smiled superior and bade her be calm: "It is the lacing, dear.
No, Sarah, it is no use your _pulling_ it; all the pulling in the world
will not straighten it. I thought so: you have missed the second top
hole."

Julia's little foot began to beat a tattoo on the floor: "There is not a
soul in the house but you can do the simplest thing. Eyes and no eyes!
Fingers and no fingers! I never did."

"Hush, love, we all do our best."

"Oh, I am sure of that; poor things."

_"Nobody_ can lace you if you fidget about love," objected Mrs. Dodd.

(Bump)! "Now I don't want to hurry any man's cattle: but the bridesmaids
are come."

"Oh dear, I shall never be ready in time," said Julia; and the tattoo
recommenced.

"Plenty of time, love," said Mrs. Dodd, quietly lacing: "not half-past
ten yet. Sarah, go and see if the bridegroom has arrived."

Sarah returned with the reassuring tidings that the bridegroom had not
yet arrived; though the carriages had.

"Oh, thank Heaven, _he_ is not come," said Julia. "If I keep him waiting
to-day, he might say--'Oho!'"

Under dread of a comment so significant she was ready at last, and said
majestically he might come now whenever he liked.

Meantime, down stairs an uneasiness of the opposite kind was growing. Ten
minutes past the appointed time, and the bridegroom not there. So while
Julia, now full dressed, and easy in her mind, was directing Sarah's
sister to lay out her plain travelling dress, bonnet and gloves on the
bed, Mrs. Dodd was summoned downstairs. She came down with Julia's white
gloves in her hand, and a needle and thread, the button sewed on by
trade's fair hand having flown at the first strain. Edward met her on the
stairs: "What had we better do, mother?" said he, _sotto voce:_ "there
must be some mistake. Can you remember? Wasn't he to call for me on the
way to the church?"

"I really do not know," said Mrs. Dodd. "Is he at the church, do you
think?"

"No, no, either he was to call for me here, or I for him. I'll go to the
church, though: it is only a step."

He ran off, and in a little more than five minutes came into the
drawing-room.

"No, he is not there. I must go to his lodgings. Confound him, he has got
reading Aristotle, I suppose."

This passed before the whole party, Julia excepted.

Sampson looked at his watch, and said he could conduct the ladies to the
church while Edward went for Alfred. "Division of labour," said he
gallantly, "and mine the delightful half."

Mrs. Dodd demurred to the plan. She was for waiting quietly in one place.

"Well, but" said Edward, "we may overdo that; here it is a quarter-past
eleven, and you know they can't be married after twelve. No, I really
think you had better all go with the doctor. I dare say we shall be there
as soon as you will."

This was agreed on after some discussion. Edward, however, to provide
against all contingencies, begged Sampson not to wait for him should
Alfred reach the church by some other road: "I'm only groomsman, you
know," said he. He ran off at a racing pace. The bride was then summoned,
admired, and handed into one carriage with her two bridesmaids, Miss
Bosanquet and Miss Darton. Sampson and Mrs. Dodd went in the other; and
by half-past eleven they were all safe in the church.

A good many people, high and low, were about the door and in the pews,
waiting to see the beautiful Miss Dodd married to the son of a personage
once so popular as Mr. Hardie: it had even transpired that Mr. Hardie
disapproved the match. They had been waiting a long time, and were
beginning to wonder what was the matter, when, at last the bride's party
walked up the aisle with a bright April sun shining on them through the
broad old windows. The bride's rare beauty, and stag-like carriage of her
head, imperial in its loveliness and orange wreath, drew a hum of
admiration.

The party stood a minute or two at the east end of the church, and then
the clergyman came out and invited them into the vestry.

Their reappearance was eagerly expected; in silence at first, but
presently in loud and multitudinous whispers.

At this moment a young lady, with almost perfect features and sylph-like
figure, modestly dressed in dove-coloured silk, but with a new chip
bonnet and white gloves, entered a pew near the west door, and said a
little prayer; then proceeded up the aisle, and exchanged a word with the
clerk, then into the vestry.

"Cheep! cheep! cheep!" went fifty female tongues, and the arrival of the
bridegroom's sister became public news.

The bride welcomed her in the vestry with a sweet guttural of surprise
and delight, and they kissed one another like little tigers.

"Oh, my darling Jane, how kind of you! have I got you back to make my
happiness complete?"

Now none of her own party had thought it wise to tell Julia there was any
hitch: but Miss Hardie blurted out naturally enough, "But where's
Alfred?"

"I don't know, dear," said Julia innocently. "Are not he and Edward in
another part of the church? I thought we were waiting till twelve
o'clock, perhaps. Mamma dear, you know everything; I suppose this is all
right?"

Then, looking round at her friends' faces, she saw in a moment that it
was all wrong. Sampson's, in particular, was burning with manly
indignation, and even her mother's discomposed, and trying to smile.

When the innocent saw this, she suspected her beloved was treating her
cavalierly, and her poor little mouth began to work, and she had much ado
not to whimper.

Mrs. Dodd, to encourage her, told her not to be put out: it had been
arranged all along that Edward should go for him: "Unfortunately we had
an impression it was the other way: but now Edward is gone to his
lodgings."

"No, mamma," said Julia; "Alfred was to call for Edward; because our
house was on the way."

"Are you sure, my child?" asked Mrs. Dodd very gravely.

"Oh yes, mamma," said Julia, beginning to tremble; "at a quarter before
eleven: I heard them settle it."

The matter was terribly serious now; indeed, it began to look hopeless.
Weather overclouded: rain-drops falling; and hard upon twelve o'clock.

They all looked at one another in despair.

Suddenly there was a loud, long buzzing heard outside, and the house of
God turned into a gossiping fair. "Talk of money changers," said Satan
that day, "give _me_ the exchangers of small talk."

"Thank Heaven they are come," said Mrs. Dodd. But, having thus relieved
her mind, she drew herself up and prepared a freezing reception for the
defaulter.

A whisper reached their excited ears: "It is young Mr. Dodd" and next
moment Edward came into the vestry--alone: the sight of him was enough;
his brow wet with perspiration, his face black and white with bitter
wrath.

"Come home, _my_ people," he said sternly: "there will be no wedding here
to-day!"

The bridesmaids cackled questions at him; he turned his back on them.

Mrs. Dodd knew her son's face too well to waste inquiries. "Give me my
child!" she cried, in such a burst of mother's anguish long restrained,
that even the insult to the bride was forgotten for one moment, till she
was seen tottering into her mother's arms and cringing and trying to hide
bodily in her: "Oh, throw a shawl over me," she moaned; "hide all this."

Well, they all did what they could. Jane hung round her neck and sobbed,
and said, "I've a sister now, and no brother." The bridesmaids cried. The
young curate ran and got the fly to the vestry-door: "Get into it," he
said, "and you will at least escape the curious crowd."

"God bless you, Mr. Hurd," said Edward, half choked. He hurried the
insulted bride and her mother in; Julia huddled and shrank into a corner
under Mrs. Dodd's shawl: Mrs. Dodd had all the blinds down in a moment;
and they went home as from a funeral.

Ay, and a funeral it was; for the sweetest girl in England buried her
hopes, her laugh, her May of youth, in that church that day.

When she got to Albion Villa, she cast a wild look all around for fear
she should be seen in her wedding clothes, and darted moaning into the
house.

Sarah met her in the hall, smirking; and saying, "Wish you j----"

The poor bride screamed fearfully at the mocking words, and cut the
conventional phrase in two as with a razor; then fled to her own room and
tore off her wreath, her veil, her pearls, and had already strewed the
room, when Mrs. Dodd, with a foot quickened by affection, burst in and
caught her half fainting, and laid her weary as old age, and cold as a
stone, upon her mother's bosom, and rocked her as in the days of happy
childhood never to return, and bedewed the pale face with her own tears.

Sampson took the bridesmaids each to her residence, on purpose to leave
Edward free. He came home, washed his face, and, sick at heart, but more
master of himself, knocked timidly at Julia's door.

"Come in, _my son,_" said a broken voice.

He crept in, and saw a sorry sight. The travelling dress and bonnet were
waiting still on the bed; the bridal wreath and veil lay on the floor;
and so did half the necklace, and the rest of the pearls all about the
floor; and Julia, with all her hair loose and hanging below her waist,
lay faintly quivering in her mother's arms.

Edward stood and looked, and groaned.

Mrs. Dodd whispered to him over Julia: "Not a tear! not a tear!"

"Dead, or false?" moaned the girl: "dead, or false? Oh that I could
believe he was false; no, no, he is dead, dead."

Mrs. Dodd whispered again over her girl.

"Tell her something: give us tears--the world for one tear!"

"What shall I say?" gasped Edward.

"Tell her the truth, and trust to God, whose child she is." Edward knelt
on the floor and took her hand--

"My poor little Ju," he said, in a voice broken with pity and emotion,
"would you rather have him dead, or false to you?"

"'Why false, a thousand times. It's Edward. Bless your sweet face, my
own, own brother; tell me he is false, and not come to deadly harm."

"You shall judge for yourself," he groaned. "I went to his lodgings. He
had left the town. The woman told me a letter came for him last night. A
letter in--a female hand. The scoundrel came in from us; got this letter;
packed up his things directly; paid his lodging; and went off in a
two-horse fly at eight o'clock in the morning."

CHAPTER XXX

AT these plain proofs of Alfred's infidelity, Julia's sweet throat began
to swell hysterically, and then her bosom to heave and pant: and, after a
piteous struggle, came a passion of sobs and tears so wild, so
heart-broken, that Edward blamed himself bitterly for telling her.

But Mrs. Dodd sobbed "No, no, I would rather have her so; only leave her
with me now: bless you, darling: leave us quickly."

She rocked and nursed her deserted child hours and hours: and so the
miserable day crawled to its close.

Downstairs the house looked strange and gloomy: she, who had brightened
it all, was darkened herself. The wedding breakfast and flowers remained
in bitter mockery. Sarah cleared half the table, and Sampson and Edward
dined in moody silence.

Presently Sampson's eye fell upon the Deed: it lay on a small table with
a pen beside it, to sign on their return from church.

Sampson got hold of it and dived in the verbiage. He came up again with a
discovery. In spite of its feebleness, verbosity, obscurity, and idiotic
way of expressing itself, the Deed managed to convey to David and Mrs.
Dodd a life interest in nine thousand five hundred pounds, with reversion
to Julia and the children of the projected marriage. Sampson and Edward
put their heads over this, and it puzzled them, "Why, man," said Sampson,
"if the puppy had signed this last night, he would be a beggar now."

"Ay," said Edward, "but after all he did not sign it."

"Nay, but that was your fault, not his: the lad was keen to sign."

"That is true; and perhaps if we had pinned him to this, last night, he
would not have dared insult my sister to-day."

Sampson changed the subject by inquiring suddenly which way he was gone.

"Curse him, I don't know; and don't care. Go where he will I shall meet
him again some day; and then--Edward spoke almost in a whisper, but a
certain grind of his white teeth and flashing of his lion eyes made the
incomplete sentence very expressive.

"What ninnies you young men are," said the Doctor; "even you, that I dub
'my fathom o' good sense:' just finish your denner and come with me."

"No, Doctor; I'm off my feed for once: if you had been upstairs and seen
my poor sister! Hang the grub; it turns my stomach." And he shoved his
plate away, and leaned over the back of his chair.

Sampson made him drink a glass of wine, and then they got up from the
half-finished meal and went hurriedly to Alfred's lodgings, the Doctor,
though sixty, rushing along with all the fire and buoyancy of early
youth. They found the landlady surrounded by gossips curious as
themselves, and longing to chatter, but no materials. The one new fact
they elicited was that the vehicle was a White Lion fly, for she knew the
young man by the cast in his eye. "Come away," shouted the Doctor
unceremoniously, and in two minutes they were in the yard of the White
Lion.

Sampson called the ostler: out came a hard-featured man, with a strong
squint. Sampson concluded this was his man, and said roughly: "Where did
you drive young Hardie this morning?"

He seemed rather taken aback by this abrupt question; but reflected and
slapped his thigh: "Why, that is the party from Mill Street."

"Yes."

"Druv him to Silverton station, sir: and wasn't long about it,
either--gent was in a hurry."

"What train did he go by?"

"Well, I don't know, sir; I left him at the station."

"Well, then, where did he take his ticket for? Where did he tell the
porter he was going? Think now, and I'll give y' a sovereign."

The ostler scratched his head, and seemed at first inclined to guess for
the sovereign, but at last said: "I should only be robbing you gents. Ye
see, he paid the fly then and there, and gave me a crown: and I druv away
directly."

On this they gave him a shilling and left him. But on leaving the yard
Edward said: "Doctor, I don't like that fellow's looks: let us try the
landlord." They went into the bar and made similar inquiries. The
landlord was out, the mistress knew nothing about it, but took a book out
of a drawer, and turned over the leaves. She read out an entry to this
effect--

"Pair horse fly to Silverton: take up in Mill Street at eight o'clock. Is
that it, sir?" Sampson assented; but Edward told her the ostler said it
was Silverton station.

"No: it is Silverton in the book, sir. Well, you see it is all one to us;
the station is further than the town, but we charge seven miles whichever
'tis."

Bradshaw, inspected then and there, sought in vain to conceal that four
trains reach Silverton from different points between 8.50 and 9.25 A. M.

The friends retired with this scanty information. Alfred could hardly
have gone to London; for there was a train up from Barkington itself at
8.30. But he might have gone to almost any other part of the island, or
out of it for that matter. Sampson fell into a brown study.

After a long silence, which Edward was too sad to break, he said
thoughtfully: "Bring sceince to bear on this hotch-potch. Facks are never
really opposed to facks; they onnly seem to be: and the true solution is
the one which riconciles all the facks: for instance, the chronothairmal
Therey riconciles all th' undisputed facks in midicine. So now sairch for
a solution to riconcile the Deed with the puppy levanting."

Edward searched, but could find none; and said so.

"Can't you?" said Sampson; "then I'll give you a couple. Say he is
touched in the upper story for one."

"What do you mean? Mad?"

"Oh: there are degrees of Phrinzy. Here is th' inconsistency of conduct
that marks a disturbance of the reason: and, to tell the truth, I once
knew a young fellow that played this very prank at a wedding, and the
nixt thing we hard, my lorrd was in Bedlam."

Edward shook his head: "It is the villain's heart, not his brain."

Sampson then offered another solution, in which he owned he had more
confidence--

"He has been courting some other wumman first: she declined, or made
believe; but, when she found he had the spirit to go and marry an
innocent girl, then the jade wrote to him and yielded. It's a married
one, likely. I've known women go further for hatred of a wumman than they
would for love of a man and here was a temptation! to snap a lover off
th' altar, and insult a rival, all at one blow. He meant to marry: he
meant to sign that deed: ay and at his age, even if he had signed it, he
would have gone off at passion's call, and beggared himself. What enrages
me is that we didn't let him sign it, and so nail the young rascal's
money."

"Curse his money," said Edward, "and him too. Wait till I can lay my hand
on him: I'll break every bone in his skin."

"And I'll help you."

In the morning, Mrs. Dodd left Julia for a few minutes expressly to ask
Sampson's advice. After Alfred's conduct she was free, and fully
determined, to defend herself and family against spoliation by any means
in her power: so she now showed the doctor David's letter about the L.
14,000; and the empty pocket-book; and put together the disjointed
evidence of Julia, Alfred, and circumstances, in one neat and luminous
statement. Sampson was greatly struck with the revelation: he jumped off
his chair and marched about excited: said truth was stranger than
fiction, and this was a manifest swindle: then he surprised Mrs. Dodd in
her turn by assuming that old Hardie was at the bottom of yesterday's
business. Neither Edward nor his mother could see that, and said so: his
reply was characteristic: "Of course you can't; you are Anglosaxins; th'
Anglosaxins are good at drawing distinctions: but they can't gineralise.
I'm a Celt, and gineralise--as a duck swims. I discovered th' unity of
all disease: it would be odd if I could not trace the maniform iniquities
you suffer to their one source."

"But what is the connecting link?" asked Mrs. Dodd, still incredulous.

"Why, Richard Hardie's interest."

"Well, but the letter?" objected Edward.

"There goes th' Anglosaxin again," remonstrated Sampson: "puzzling his
head over petty details; and they are perhaps mere blinds thrown out by
the enemy. Put this and that together: Hardie senior always averse to
this marriage; Hardie senior wanting to keep L. 14,000 of yours: if his
son, who knows of the fraud, became your mother's son, the swinidle would
be hourly in danger (no connection? y' unhappy Anglosaxins; why the two
things are interwoven). And so young Hardie is got out of the way: old
Hardie's doing, or I'm a Dutchman."

This reasoning still appeared forced and fanciful to Edward but it began
to make some little impression on Mrs. Dodd, and encouraged her to own
that her poor daughter suspected foul play.

"Well, that is possible, too: whativer tempted man has done, tempted man
will do: but more likely he has bribed Jezebel to write and catch the
goose by the heart. Gintlennen, I'm a bit of a physiognomist: look at old
Hardie's lines; his cords, I might say: and deeper every time I see him.
Sirs, there's an awful weight on that man's mind. Looksee! I'll just send
a small trifle of a detective down to watch his game, and pump his
people: and, as soon as it is safe, we'll seize the old bird, and, once
he is trapped the young one will reappear like magic: th' old one will
disgorge; we'll just compound the felony--been an old friend--and recover
the cash."

A fine sketch; but Edward thought it desperately wild, and Mrs. Dodd
preferred employing a respectable attorney to try and obtain justice in
the regular way. Sampson laughed at her; what was the use of attacking in
the regular way an irregular genius like old Hardie? "Attorneys are too
humdrum for such a job," said he; "they start with a civil letter putting
a rogue on his guard; they proceed t' a writ and then he digs a hole in
another county and buries the booty; or sails t' Australia with it.
N'list'me; I'm an old friend, and an insane lover of justice--I say
insane, because my passion is not returned, or the jade wouldn't keep out
of my way so all these years--you leave all this to me."

"Stop a minute," said Edward; "you must not go compromising us: and we
have no money to pay for luxuries like detectives."

"I won't compromise any one of you: and my detective shan't cost y' a
penny."

"Ah, my dear friend," said Mrs. Dodd, "the fact is, you do not know all
the difficulties that beset us. Tell him, Edward. Well, then, let _me._
The poor boy is attached to this gentleman's daughter, whom you propose
to treat like a felon: and he is too good a son and too good a friend for
me to--what, what, shall I do?"

Edward coloured up to the eyes. "Who told you that, mother?" said he.
"Well, yes, I do love her, and I'm not ashamed of it. Doctor," said the
poor fellow after a while, "I see now I am not quite the person to advise
my mother in this matter. I consent to leave it in your hands."

And in pursuance of this resolution, he retired to his study.

"There's a damnable combination," said Sampson drily. "Truth is
sairtainly more wonderful than feckshin. Here's my fathom o' good sense
in love with a wax doll, and her brother jilting his sister, and her
father pillaging his mother. It _beats_ hotch-potch."

Mrs. Dodd denied the wax doll: but owned Miss Hardie was open to vast
objections: "An inestimable young lady; but so odd; she is one of these
uneasy-minded Christians that have sprung up: a religious egotist, and
_malade imaginaire,_ eternally feeling her own spiritual pulse----"

"I know the disorrder," cried Sampson eagerly: "the pashints have a hot
fit (and then they are saints): followed in due course by the cold fit
(and then they are the worst of sinners): and so on in endless rotation:
and, if they could only realise my great discovery, the perriodicity of
all disease, and time their sintiments, they would find the hot fit and
the cold return chronometrically, at intervals as rigular as the tide's
ebb and flow; and the soul has nothing to do with either febrile symptom.
Why Religion, apart from intermittent Fever of the Brain, is just the
caumest, peaceablest, sedatest thing in all the world."

"Ah, you are too deep for me, my good friend. All I know is that she is
one of this new school, whom I take the liberty to call 'THE FIDGETY
CHRISTIANS.' They cannot let their poor souls alone a minute; and they
pester one day and night with the millennium; as if we shall not all be
dead long before that. But the worst is, they apply the language of
earthly passion to the Saviour of mankind, and make one's flesh creep at
their blasphemies; so coarse, so familiar: like that rude multitude which
thronged and pressed Him when on earth. But, after all, she came to the
church, and took my Julia's part; so that shows she has _principle;_ and
do pray spare me her feelings in any step you take against that
dishonourable person her father. I must go back to his victim, my poor,
poor child--I dare not leave her long. Oh, Doctor, such a night! and, if
she dozes for a minute, it is to wake with a scream and tell me she sees
him dead: sometimes he is drowned; sometimes stained with blood, but
always dead."

This evening Mr. Hardie came along in a fly with his luggage on the box,
returning to Musgrove Cottage as from Yorkshire: in passing Albion Villa
he cast it a look of vindictive triumph. He got home and nodded by the
fire in his character of a man wearied by a long journey. Jane made him
some tea, and told him how Alfred had disappeared on his wedding-day.

"The young scamp," said he; he added, coolly, "It is no business of mine.
I had no hand in making the match, thank Heaven." In the conversation
that ensued, he said he had always been averse to the marriage; but not
so irreconcilably as to approve this open breach of faith with a
respectable young lady. "This will recoil upon our name, you know, at
this critical time," said he.

Then Jane mustered courage to confess that she had gone to the wedding
herself: "Dear papa," said she, "it was made clear to me that the Dodds
are acting in what they consider a most friendly way to you. They
think--I cannot tell you what they think. But, if mistaken, they are
sincere: and so, after prayer, and you not being here for me to consult,
I did go to the church. Forgive me, papa: I have but one brother; and she
is my dear friend."

Mr. Hardie's countenance fell at this announcement, and he looked almost
diabolical. But on second thoughts he cleared up wonderfully: "I will be
frank with you, Jenny: if the wedding had come off; I should have been
deeply hurt at your supporting that little monster of ingratitude. He not
only marries against his father's will (that is done every day), but
slanders and maligns him publicy in his hour of poverty and distress. But
now that he has broken faith and insulted Miss Dodd as well as me, I
declare I am glad you were there, Jenny. It will separate us from his
abominable conduct. But what does he say for himself? What reason does he
give?"

"Oh, it is all mystery as yet."

"Well, but he must have sent some explanation to the Dodds."

"He may have: I don't know. I have not ventured to intrude on my poor
insulted friend. Papa, I hear her distress is fearful; they fear for her
reason. Oh, if harm comes to her, God will assuredly punish him whose
heartlessness and treachery has brought her to it. Mark my words," she
continued with great emotion, "this cruel act will not go unpunished even
in this world."

"There, there, change the subject," said Mr. Hardie peevishly. "What have
I to do with his pranks? He has disowned me for his father, and I disown
him for my son."

The next day Peggy Black called, and asked to see master. Old Betty,
after the first surprise, looked at her from head to foot, and foot to
head, as if measuring her for a suit of disdain; and told her she might
carry her own message; then flounced into the kitchen, and left her to
shut the street door, which she did. She went and dropped her curtsey at
the parlour door, and in a miminy piminy voice said she was come to make
her submission, and would he forgive her, and give her another trial? Her
penitence, after one or two convulsive efforts, ended in a very fair flow
of tears.

Mr. Hardie shrugged his shoulders, and asked Jane if the girl had ever
been saucy to her.

"Oh no, papa: indeed I have no fault to find with poor Peggy."

"Well, then, go to your work, and try and not offend Betty; remember she
is older than you."

Peggy went for her box and bandbox, and reinstated herself quietly, and
all old Betty's endeavours to irritate her only elicited a calm cunning
smile, with a depression of her downy eyelashes.

_Albion Villa._

Next morning Edward Dodd was woke out of a sound sleep at about four
o'clock, by a hand upon his shoulder: he looked up, and rubbed his eyes;
it was Julia standing by his bedside, dressed, and in her bonnet.
"Edward," she said in a hurried whisper, "there is foul play: I cannot
sleep, I cannot be idle. He has been decoyed away, and perhaps murdered.
Oh, pray get up and go to the police office or somewhere with me."

"Very well; but wait till morning."

"No; now; now--now--now. I shall never go out of doors in the daytime
again. Wait? I'm going crazy with wait, wait, wait, wait, waiting."

Her hand was like fire on him, and her eyes supernaturally bright.

"There," said Edward with a groan, "go downstairs, and I will be with you
directly."

He came down: they went out together: her little burning hand pinched his
tight, and her swift foot seemed scarcely to touch the ground; she kept
him at his full stride till they got to the central police station.
There, at the very thought of facing men, the fiery innocent suddenly
shrank together, and covered her blushing face with her hot hands. She
sent him in alone. He found an intelligent superintendent, who entered
into the case with all the coolness of an old official hand.

Edward came out to his sister, and as he hurried her home, told her what
had passed: "The superintendent asked to see the letter; I told him he
had taken it with him: that was a pity, he said. Then he made me describe
Alfred to a nicety: and the description will go up to London this
morning, and all over Barkington, and the neighbourhood, and the county."

She stopped to kiss him, then went on again with her head down, and
neither spoke till they were nearly home: then Edward told her "the
superintendent felt quite sure that the villain was not dead; nor in
danger of it."

"Oh, bless him! bless him! for saying so."

"And that he will turn up in London before very long; not in this
neighbourhood. He says he must have known the writer of the letter, and
his taking his luggage with him shows he has gone off deliberately. My
poor little Ju, now do try and look at it as he does, and everybody else
does; try and see it as you would if you were a bystander."

She laid her soft hand on his shoulder as if to support herself floating
in her sea of doubt: "I do see I am a poor credulous girl; but how can my
Alfred be false to me? Am I to doubt the Bible? Am I to doubt the sun? Is
nothing true in heaven or earth? Oh, if I could only have died as I was
dressing for church--died while he seemed true! He _is_ true; the wicked
creature has cast some spell on him: he has gone in a moment of delirium;
he will regret what he has done, perhaps regrets it now. I am ungrateful
to you, Edward, and to the good policeman, for saying he is not dead.
What more do I require? He is dead to me. Edward, let us leave this
place. We _were_ going: let us go to-day; this very day; oh, take me, and
hide me where no one that knows me can ever see me again." A flood of
tears came to her relief: and she went along sobbing and kissing her
brother's hand every now and then.

But, as they drew near the gate of Albion Villa, twilight began to usher
in the dawn. Julia shuddered at even that faint light, and fled like a
guilty thing, and hid herself sobbing in her own bedroom.

Mr. Richard Hardie slept better now than he had done for some time past,
and therefore woke more refreshed and in better spirits. He knew an
honest family was miserable a few doors off; but he did not care. He got
up and shaved with a mind at ease. One morning, when he had removed the
lather from one half his face, he happened to look out of window, and saw
on the wall opposite--a placard: a large placard to this effect:

"ONE HUNDRED GUINEAS REWARD!

Whereas, on the 11th instant Mr. Alfred Hardie disappeared mysteriously
from his lodgings in 15 Mill Street, under circumstances suggesting a
suspicion of foul play, know all men that the above reward will be paid
to any person or persons who shall first inform the undersigned where the
said Alfred Hardie is to be found, and what person or persons, if any,
have been concerned in his disappearance.

ALEXANDER SAMPSON, 39 Pope Street, Napoleon Square London."

CHAPTER XXXI

THE note Alfred Hardie received, on the 10th of April, was from Peggy
Black. The letters were well formed, for she had been educated at the
national school: but the style was not upon a par.

"MR. ALFRED, SIR,--Margaret Black sends her respects, and if you want to
know the truth about the money, I can tell you all, and where it is at
this present time. Sir, I am now in situation at Silverton Grove House,
about a furlong from the station; and if you will be so good to call
there and ask for Margaret, I will tell you where it is, which I mean the
L. 14,000; for it is a sin the young lady should be beguiled of her own.
Only you must please come this evening, or else to-morrow before ten
o'clock, by reason my mistress and me we are going up to London that day
early, and she talk of taking me abroad along with her.--I remain, Sir,
yours respectfully to command,

MARGARET BLACK.

"If you please, sir, not to show this letter on no account."

Alfred read this twice over, and felt a contemptuous repugnance towards
the writer, a cashiered servant, who offered to tell the truth out of
spite, having easily resisted every worthy motive. Indeed, I think he
would have perhaps dismissed the subject into the fire, but for a strange
circumstance that had occurred to him this very afternoon; but I had no
opportunity to relate it till now. Well, just as he was going to dress
for dinner, he received a visit from Dr. Wycherley, a gentleman he
scarcely knew by name. Dr. Wycherley inquired after his kephalalgia:
Alfred stared and told him it was much the same; troubled him
occasionally.

"And your insomnia."

"I don't know the word: have you any authority for it?"

Dr. Wycherley smiled with a sort of benevolent superiority that galled
his patient, and proceeded to inquire after his nightly visions and
voices. But at this Alfred looked grave as well as surprised and vexed.
He was on his guard now, and asked himself seriously what was the meaning
of all this, and could his father have been so mad as to talk over his
own shame with this stranger: he made no reply whatever.

Dr. Wycherley's curiosity was not of a very ardent kind: for he was one
of those who first form an opinion, and then collect the materials of
one: and a very little fact goes a long way with such minds. So, when he
got no answer about the nocturnal visions and voices, he glided calmly on
to another matter. "By-the-bye, that L. 14,000!"

Alfred started, and then eyed him keenly: "What L. 14,000?"

"The fabulous sum you labour under the impression of your father having
been guilty of clandestinely appropriating."

This was too much for Alfred's patience. "I don't know who you are, sir,"
said he; "I never exchanged but three words in my life with you; and do
you suppose I will talk to a stranger on family matters of so delicate a
kind as this? I begin to think you have intruded yourself on me simply to
gratify an impertinent curiosity."

"The hypothesis is at variance with my established character," replied
the oleaginous one. "Do me the justice to believe in the necessity of
this investigation, and that it is one of a most friendly character."

"Then I decline the double nuisance: your curiosity and your friendship!
Take them both out of my room, sir, or I shall turn them both out by one
pair of shoulders."

"You shall smart for this," said the doctor, driven to plain English by
anger, that great solvent of circumlocution with which Nature has
mercifully supplied us. He made to the door, opened it, and said in
considerable excitement to some one outside, "Excited!--Very!"

Now Dr. Pleonast had no sooner been converted to the vernacular, and
disappeared, than another stranger entered the room. He had evidently
been lurking in the passage: it was a man of smallish stature, singularly
gaunt, angular, and haggard, but dressed in a spruce suit of black,
tight, new, and glossy. In short, he looked like Romeo's apothecary gone
to Stultz with the money. He fluttered in with pale cheek and
apprehensive body, saying hurriedly, "Now, my _dear_ sir, _be_ calm:
_pray_ be calm. I have come down all the way from London to see you, and
I am _sure_ you won't make me lose my journey; will you now?"

"And pray who asked you to come all the way from London, sir?"

"A person to whom your health is very dear."

"Oh indeed; so I have secret friends, have I? Well, you may tell my
secret, underhand, _friends,_ I never was better in my life."

"I am truly glad to hear it," said the little man: "let me introduce
myself, as Dr. Wycherley forgot to do it." And he handed Alfred a card,
on which his name and profession were written.

"Well, Mr. Speers," said Alfred, "I have only a moment to give you, for I
must dress for dinner. What do you want?"

"I come, sir, in hopes of convincing your friends you are not so very
ill; not incurable. Why your eye is steady, your complexion good: a
little high with the excitement of this conversation; but, if we can only
get over this little delusion, all will be well."

"What little delusion?"

"About the L. 14,000, you know."

"What L. 14,000? I have not mentioned L. 14,000 to you, have I?"

"No, sir: you seem to shun it like poison; that is the worst of it. You
talk about it to others fast enough: but to Dr. Wycherley and myself, who
could cure you of it, you would hide all about it, if you could."

At this Alfred rose and put his hands in his pockets and looked down
grimly on his inquisitor. "Mr. Speers," said he, "you had better go.
There is no credit to be gained by throwing so small an apothecary as you
out of that window; and _you_ won't find it pleasant either; for, if you
provoke me to it, I shall not stand upon ceremony: I shan't open the
window first, as I should for Dr. What's his confounded name."

At these suggestive words, spoken with suppressed ire and flashing eyes,
Speers scuttled to the door crabwise, holding the young lion in check
conventionally--to wit, with an eye as valiant as a sheep's; and a joyful
apothecary was he when he found himself safe outside the house and beside
Dr. Wycherley, who was waiting for him.

Alfred soon cooled, and began to laugh at his own anger and the unbounded
impudence of his visitors: but, on the other hand, it struck him as a
grave circumstance that so able a man as his father should stir muddy
water; should go and talk to these strangers about the money he had
misappropriated. He puzzled himself all the time he was dressing: and,
not to trouble the reader with all the conjectures that passed through
his mind, he concluded at last, that Mr. Hardie must feel very strong,
very sure there was no evidence against him but his son's, or he would
not take the eighth commandment by the horns like this.

"Injustice carries it with a high hand," thought Alfred, with a sigh. He
was not the youth to imitate his father's shamelessness: so he locked
this last incident in his own breast; did not even mention it to Julia.

But now, on reading Peggy's note, his warlike instincts awoke, and,
though he despised his correspondent and her motives, he could not let
such a chance pass of defeating brazen injustice. It was unfortunate and
awkward to have to go to Silverton on his wedding morning; but, after
all, there was plenty of time. He packed up his things at once for the
wedding tour, and in the morning took them with him in the fly to
Silverton: his plan was to come back direct to Albion Villa: so he went
to Silverton Grove full dressed, all ready for the wedding.

As it happened he overtook his friend Peterson just outside the town,
called to him gaily, and invited him to church and breakfast.

To his surprise the young gentleman replied sullenly that he should
certainly not come.

"Not come, old fellow?" said Alfred, hurt.

"You have a good cheek to ask me," retorted the other.

This led to an explanation. Peterson's complaint was that he had told
Alfred he was in love with Julia, and Alfred had gone directly and fallen

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