II. Puritan Grange
III. Daniel Caldigate
IV. The Shands
V. The Goldfinder
VI. Mrs. Smith
VII. The Three Attempts
VIII. Reaching Melbourne
X. Polyeuka Hall
XII. Mademoiselle Cettini
XIII. Coming Back
XIV. Again at Home
XV. Again at Pollington
XVI. Again at Babington
XVII. Again at Puritan Grange
XVIII. Robert Bolton
XIX. Men are so wicked
XX. Hester’s Courage
XXI. The Wedding
XXII. As to touching Pitch
XXIII. The New Heir
XXIV. News from the Gold Mines
XXV. The Baby’s Sponsors
XXVI. A Stranger in Cambridge
XXVII. The Christening
XXVIII. Tom Crinkett at Folking
XXIX. ‘Just by telling me that I am’ XXX. The Conclave at Puritan Grange
XXXI. Hester is Lured Back
XXXII. The Babington Wedding
XXXV. In Prison
XXXVI. The Escape
XXXVII. Again at Folking
XL. Waiting for the Trial
XLI. The First Day
XLII. The Second Day
XLIII. The Last Day
XLIV. After the Verdict
XLV. The Boltons are much Troubled XLVI. Burning Words
XLVII. Curlydown and Bagwax
XLVIII. Sir John Jorum’s Chambers
XLIX. All the Shands
L. Again at Sir John’s Chambers
LI. Dick Shand goes to Cambridgeshire LII. The Fortunes of Bagwax
LIII. Sir John backs his Opinion
LIV. Judge Bramber
LV. How the Conspirators Throve. LVI. The Boltons are very Firm
LVII. Squire Caldigate at the Home Office LVIII. Mr. Smirkie is Ill-used
LIX. How the Big-Wigs doubted
LX. How Mrs. Bolton was nearly conquered LXI. The News reaches Cambridge
LXII. John Caldigate’s Return
LXIII. How Mrs. Bolton was quite conquered LXIV. Conclusion
Perhaps it was more the fault of Daniel Caldigate the father than of his son John Caldigate, that they two could not live together in comfort in the days of the young man’s early youth. And yet it would have been much for both of them that such comfortable association should have been possible to them. Wherever the fault lay, or the chief fault–for probably there was some on both sides–the misfortune was so great as to bring crushing troubles upon each of them.
There were but the two of which to make a household. When John was fifteen, and had been about a year at Harrow, he lost his mother and his two little sisters almost at a blow. The two girls went first, and the poor mother, who had kept herself alive to see them die, followed them almost instantly. Then Daniel Caldigate had been alone.
And he was a man who knew how to live alone,–a just, hard, unsympathetic man,–of whom his neighbours said, with something of implied reproach, that he bore up strangely when he lost his wife and girls. This they said, because he was to be seen riding about the country, and because he was to be heard talking to the farmers and labourers as though nothing special had happened to him. It was rumoured of him, too, that he was as constant with his books as before; and he had been a man always constant with his books; and also that he had never been seen to shed a tear, or been heard to speak of those who had been taken from him.
He was, in truth, a stout, self-constraining man, silent unless when he had something to say. Then he could become loud enough, or perhaps it might be said, eloquent. To his wife he had been inwardly affectionate, but outwardly almost stern. To his daughters he had been the same,–always anxious for every good thing on their behalf, but never able to make the children conscious of this anxiety. When they were taken from him, he suffered in silence, as such men do suffer; and he suffered the more because he knew well how little of gentleness there had been in his manners with them.
But he had hoped, as he sat alone in his desolate house, that it would be different with him and his only son,–with his son who was now the only thing left to him. But the son was a boy, and he had to look forward to what years might bring him rather than to present happiness from that source. When the boy came home for his holidays, the father would sometimes walk with him, and discourse on certain chosen subjects,–on the politics of the day, in regard to which Mr. Caldigate was an advanced Liberal, on the abomination of the Game Laws, on the folly of Protection, on the antiquated absurdity of a State Church;–as to all which matters his son John lent him a very inattentive ear. Then the lad would escape and kill rabbits, or rats, or even take birds’ nests, with a zest for such pursuits which was disgusting to the father, though he would not absolutely forbid them. Then John would be allured to go to his uncle Babington’s house, where there was a pony on which he could hunt, and fishing-rods, and a lake with a boat, and three fine bouncing girl-cousins, who made much of him, and called him Jack; so that he soon preferred his uncle Babington’s house, and would spend much of his holidays at Babington House.
Mr. Caldigate was a country squire with a moderate income, living in a moderate house called Folking, in the parish of Utterden, about ten miles from Cambridge. Here he owned nearly the entire parish, and some portion of Netherden, which lay next to it, having the reputation of an income of L3,000 a-year. It probably amounted to about two-thirds of that. Early in life he had been a very poor man, owing to the improvidence of his father; but he had soon quarrelled with his father,–as he had with almost everyone else,–and had for some ten years earned his own bread in the metropolis among the magazines and newspapers. Then, when his father died, the property was his own, with such encumbrances as the old squire had been able to impose upon it. Daniel Caldigate had married when he was a poor man, but did not go to Folking to live till the estate was clear, at which time he was forty years old. When he was endeavouring to inculcate good Liberal principles into that son of his, who was burning the while to get off to a battle of rats among the corn-stacks, he was not yet fifty. There might therefore be some time left to him for the promised joys of companionship if he could only convince the boy that politics were better than rats.
But he did not long make himself any such promise. It seemed to him that his son’s mind was of a nature very different from his own; and much like to that of his grandfather. The lad could be awakened to no enthusiasm in the abuse of Conservative leaders. And those Babingtons were such fools! He despised the whole race of them,–especially those thick-legged, romping, cherry-cheeked damsels, of whom, no doubt, his son would marry one. They were all of the earth earthy, without an idea among them. And yet he did not dare to forbid his son to go to the house, lest people should say of him that his sternness was unendurable.
Folking is not a place having many attractions of its own, beyond the rats. It lies in the middle of the Cambridgeshire fens, between St. Ives, Cambridge, and Ely. In the two parishes of Utterden and Netherden there is no rise of ground which can by any stretch of complaisance be called a hill. The property is bisected by an immense straight dike, which is called the Middle Wash, and which is so sluggish, so straight, so ugly, and so deep, as to impress the mind of a stranger with the ideas of suicide. And there are straight roads and straight dikes, with ugly names on all sides, and passages through the country called droves, also with ugly appellations of their own, which certainly are not worthy of the name of roads. The Folking Causeway possesses a bridge across the Wash, and is said to be the remains of an old Roman Way which ran in a perfectly direct line from St. Neots to Ely. When you have crossed the bridge going northward,–or north-westward,–there is a lodge at your right hand, and a private road running, as straight as a line can be drawn, through pollard poplars, up to Mr. Caldigate’s house. Round the house there are meadows, and a large old-fashioned kitchen garden, and a small dark flower-garden, with clipt hedges and straight walks, quite in the old fashion. The house itself is dark, picturesque, well-built, low, and uncomfortable. Part of it is as old as the time of Charles II., and part dates from Queen Anne. Something was added at a later date,–perhaps early in the Georges; but it was all done with good materials, and no stint of labour. Shoddy had not been received among building materials when any portion of Folking was erected. But then neither had modern ideas of comfort become in vogue. Just behind the kitchen-garden a great cross ditch, called Foul-water Drain, runs, or rather creeps, down to the Wash, looking on that side as though it had been made to act as a moat to the house; and on the other side of the drain there is Twopenny Drove, at the end of which Twopenny Ferry leads to Twopenny Hall, a farmhouse across the Wash belonging to Mr. Caldigate. The fields around are all square and all flat, all mostly arable, and are often so deep in mud that a stranger wonders that a plough should be able to be dragged through the soil. The farming is, however, good of its kind, and the ploughing is mostly done by steam.
Such is and has been for some years the house at Folking in which Mr. Caldigate has lived quite alone. For five years after his wife’s death he had only on rare occasions received visitors there. Twice his brother had come to Folking, and had brought a son with him. The brother had been a fellow of a college at Cambridge, and had taken a living, and married late in life. The living was far away in Dorsetshire, and the son, at the time of these visits, was being educated at a private school. Twice they had both been at Folking together, and the uncle had, in his silent way, liked the boy. The lad had preferred, or had pretended to prefer, books to rats; had understood or seemed to understand, something of the advantages of cheap food for the people, and had been commended by the father for general good conduct. But when they had last taken their departure from Folking, no one had entertained any idea of any peculiar relations between the nephew and the uncle. It was not till a year or two more had run by, that Mr. Daniel Caldigate thought of making his nephew George the heir to the property.
The property indeed was entailed upon John, as it had been entailed upon John’s father. There were many institutions of his country which Mr. Caldigate hated with almost an inhuman hatred; but there were none more odious to him than that of entails, which institution he was wont to prove by many arguments to be the source of all the ignorance and all the poverty and all the troubles by which his country was inflicted. He had got his own property by an entail, and certainly never would have had an acre had his father been able to consume more than a life-interest. But he had denied that the property had done him any good, and was loud in declaring that the entail had done the property and those who lived on it very much harm. In his hearts of hearts he did feel a desire that when he was gone the acres should still belong to a Caldigate. There was so much in him of the leaven of the old English squirarchic aristocracy as to create a pride in the fact that the Caldigates had been at Folking for three hundred years, and a wish that they might remain there; and no doubt he knew that without repeated entails they would not have remained there. But still he had hated the thing, and as years rolled on he came to think that the entail now existing would do an especial evil.
His son on leaving school spent almost the whole four months between that time and the beginning of his first term at Cambridge with the Babingtons. This period included the month of September, and afforded therefore much partridge shooting,–than which nothing was meaner in the opinion of the Squire of Folking. When a short visit was made to Folking, the father was sarcastic and disagreeable; and then, for the first time, John Caldigate showed himself to be possessed of a power of reply which was peculiarly disagreeable to the old man. This had the effect of cutting down the intended allowance of L250 to L220 per annum, for which sum the father had been told that his son could live like a gentleman at the University. This parsimony so disgusted uncle Babington, who lived on the other side of the county, within the borders of Suffolk, that he insisted on giving his nephew a hunter, and an undertaking to bear the expense of the animal as long as John should remain at the University. No arrangement could have been more foolish. And that last visit made by John to Babington House for the two days previous to his Cambridge career was in itself most indiscreet. The angry father would not take upon himself to forbid it, but was worked up by it to perilous jealousy. He did not scruple to declare aloud that old Humphrey Babington was a thick-headed fool; nor did Humphrey Babington, who, with his ten or twelve thousand a-year, was considerably involved, scruple to say that he hated such cheese-paring ways. John Caldigate felt more distaste to the cheese-paring ways than he did to his uncle’s want of literature.
Such was the beginning of the rupture which took place before the time had come for John to take his degree. When that time came he had a couple of hunters at Cambridge, played in the Cambridge eleven, and rowed in one of the Trinity boats. He also owed something over L8O0 to the regular tradesmen of the University, and a good deal more to other creditors who were not ‘regular.’ During the whole of this time his visits to Folking had been short and few. The old squire had become more and more angry, and not the less so because he was sensible of a non-performance of duty on his own part. Though he was close to Cambridge he never went to see his son; nor would he even press the lad to come out to Folking. Nor when, on rare occasions, a visit was made, did he endeavour to make the house pleasant. He was jealous, jealous to hot anger, at being neglected, but could not bring himself to make advances to his own son. Then when he heard from his son’s tutor that his son could not pass his degree without the payment of L800 for recognised debts,–then his anger boiled over, and he told John Caldigate that he was expelled from his father’s heart and his father’s house.
The money was paid and the degree was taken: and there arose the question as to what was to be done. John, of course, took himself to Babington House, and was condoled with by his uncle and cousins. His troubles at this time were numerous enough. That L800 by no means summed up his whole indebtedness;–covered indeed but a small part of it. He had been at Newmarket; and there was a pleasant gentleman, named Davis, who frequented that place and Cambridge, who had been very civil to him when he lost a little money, and who now held his acceptances for, alas! much more than L800. Even uncle Babington knew nothing of this when the degree was taken. And then there came a terrible blow to him. Aunt Babington,–aunt Polly as she was called,–got him into her own closet upstairs, where she kept her linen and her jams and favourite liqueurs, and told him that his cousin Julia was dying in love for him. After all that had passed, of course it was expected he would engage himself to his cousin Julia. Now Julia was the eldest, the thickest-ankled, and the cherry-cheekedest of the lot. To him up to that time the Babington folk had always been a unit. No one else had been so good-natured to him, had so petted him, and so freely administered to all his wants. He would kiss them all round whenever he went to Babington; but he had not kissed Julia more than her sisters. There were three sons, whom he never specially liked, and who certainly were fools. One was the heir, and, of course, did nothing; the second was struggling for a degree at Oxford with an eye to the family living; the third was in a fair way to become the family gamekeeper. He certainly did not wish to marry into the family;–and yet they had all been so kind to him!
‘I should have nothing to marry on, aunt Polly,’ he said.
Then he was reminded that he was his father’s heir, and that his father’s house was sadly in want of a mistress. They could live at Babington till Folking should be ready. The prospect was awful!
What is a young man to say in such a position? ‘I do not love the young lady after that fashion, and therefore I must decline.’ It requires a hero, and a cold-blooded hero, to do that. And aunt Polly was very much in earnest, for she brought Julia into the room, and absolutely delivered her up into the young man’s arms.
‘I am so much in debt,’ he said, ‘that I don’t care to think of it.’
Aunt Polly declared that such debts did not signify in the least. Folking was not embarrassed. Folking did not owe a shilling. Every one knew that. And there was Julia in his arms! He never said that he would marry her; but when he left the linen-closet the two ladies understood that the thing was arranged.
Luckily for him aunt Polly had postponed this scene till the moment before his departure from the house. He was at this time going to Cambridge, where he was to be the guest, for one night, of a certain Mr. Bolton, who was one of the very few friends to whom his father was still attached. Mr. Bolton was a banker, living close to Cambridge, an old man now, with four sons and one daughter; and to his house John Caldigate was going in order that he might there discuss with Mr. Bolton certain propositions which had been made between him and his father respecting the Folking property. The father had now realised the idea of buying his son out; and John himself, who had all the world and all his life before him, and was terribly conscious of the obligations which he owed to his friend Davis, had got into his head a notion that he would prefer to face his fortune with a sum of ready money, than to wait in absolute poverty for the reversion of the family estate. He had his own ideas, and in furtherance of them he had made certain inquiries. There was gold being found at this moment among the mountains of New South Wales, in quantities which captivated his imagination. And this was being done in a most lovely spot, among circumstances which were in all respects romantic. His friend, Richard Shand, who was also a Trinity man, was quite resolved to go out, and he was minded to accompany his friend. In this way, and, as he thought, in this way only, could a final settlement be made with that most assiduous of attendants, Mr. Davis. His mind was fully set upon New South Wales, and his little interview with his cousin Julia did not tend to bind him more closely to his own country, or to Babington, or to Folking.
Perhaps there had been a little treachery on the part of Mr. Davis, for he had, in a gently insinuating way, made known to the Squire the fact of those acceptances, and the additional fact that he was, through unforeseen circumstances, lamentably in want of ready money. The Squire became eloquent, and assured Mr. Davis that he would not pay a penny to save either Mr. Davis or his son from instant imprisonment,–or even from absolute starvation. Then Mr. Davis shrugged his shoulders, and whispered the word, ‘Post-obits.’ The Squire, thereupon threatened to kick him out of the house, and, on the next day, paid a visit to his friend Mr. Bolton. There had, after that, been a long correspondence between the father, the son, and Mr. Bolton, as to which John Caldigate said not a word to the Babingtons. Had he been more communicative, he might have perhaps saved himself from that scene in the linen-closet. As it was, when he started for Cambridge, nothing was known at Babington either of Mr. Davis or of the New South Wales scheme.
Mr. Bolton lived in a large red-brick house, in the village of Chesterton, near to Cambridge, which, with a large garden, was surrounded by an old, high, dark-coloured brick-wall. He rarely saw any company; and there were probably not many of the more recently imported inhabitants of the town who had ever been inside the elaborate iron gates by which the place was to be approached. He had been a banker all his life, and was still reported to be the senior partner in Bolton’s bank. But the management of the concern had, in truth, been given up to his two elder sons. His third son was a barrister in London, and a fourth was settled in Cambridge as a solicitor. These men were all married, and were doing well in the world, living in houses better than their father’s, and spending a great deal more money. Mr. Bolton had the name of being a hard man, because, having begun life in small circumstances, he had never learned to chuck his shillings about easily; but he had, in a most liberal manner, made over the bulk of his fortune to his sons; and though he himself could rarely be got to sit at their tables, he took delight in hearing that they lived bounteously with their friends. He had been twice married, and there now lived with him his second wife and a daughter, Hester,–a girl about sixteen years of age at the period of John Caldigate’s visit to Puritan Grange, as Mr. Bolton’s house was called. At this time Puritan Grange was not badly named; for Mrs. Bolton was a lady of stern life, and Hester Bolton was brought up with more of seclusion and religious observances than are now common in our houses.
Mr. Bolton was probably ten years older than the Squire of Folking; but circumstances had, in early life, made them fast friends. The old Squire had owed a large sum of money to the bank, and Mr. Bolton had then been attracted by the manner in which the son had set himself to work, so that he might not be a burden on the estate. They had been fast friends for a quarter of a century, and now the arrangement of terms between the present Squire and his son had been left to Mr. Bolton.
Mr. Bolton had, no doubt, received a very unfavourable account of the young man. Men, such as was Mr. Bolton, who make their money by lending it out at recognised rates of interest,–and who are generally very keen in looking after their principal,–have no mercy whatsoever for the Davises of creation, and very little for their customers. To have had dealings with a Davis is condemnation in their eyes. Mr. Bolton would not, therefore, have opened his gates to this spendthrift had not his feelings for the father been very strong. He had thought much upon the matter, and had tried hard to dissuade the Squire. He, the banker, was not particularly attached to the theory of primogeniture. He had divided his wealth equally between his own sons. But he had a strong idea as to property and its rights. The young man’s claim to Folking after his father’s death was as valid as the father’s claim during his life. No doubt, the severance of the entail, if made at all, would be made in accordance with the young man’s wishes, and on certain terms which should be declared to be just by persons able to compute the value of such rights. No doubt, also,–so Mr. Bolton thought,–the property would be utterly squandered if left in its present condition. It would be ruined by incumbrances in the shape of post-obits. All this had been deeply considered, and at last Mr. Bolton had consented to act between the father and the son.
When John Caldigate was driven up through the iron gates to Mr. Bolton’s door, his mind was not quite at ease within him. He had seen Mr. Bolton on two or three occasions during his University career, and had called at the house; but he had never entered it, and had never seen the ladies; and now it was necessary that he should discuss his own follies, and own all his faults. Of course, that which he was going to do would, in the eyes of the British world, be considered very unwise. The British world regards the position of heirship to acres as the most desirable which a young man could hold. That he was about to abandon. But, as he told himself, without abandoning it he could not rid himself from the horror of Davis. He was quite prepared to acknowledge his own vice and childish stupidity in regard to Davis. He had looked all round that now, and was sure that he would do nothing of the kind again. But how could he get rid of Davis in any other way than this? And then Folking had no charms for him. He hated Folking. He was certain that any life would suit him better than a life to be passed as squire of Folking. And he was quite alive to the fact that, though there was at home the prospect of future position and future income, for the present, there would be nothing. Were he to submit himself humbly to his father, he might probably be allowed to vegetate at the old family home. But there was no career for him. No profession had as yet been even proposed. His father was fifty-five, a very healthy man,–likely to live for the next twenty years. And then it would be impossible that he should dwell in peace under the same roof with his father. And Davis! Life would be miserable to him if he could not free himself from that thraldom. The sum of money which was to be offered to him, and which was to be raised on the Folking property, would enable him to pay Davis, and to start upon his career with plentiful means in his pocket. He would, too, be wise and not risk all his capital. Shand had a couple of thousand pounds, and he would start with a like sum of his own. Should he fail in New South Wales, there would still be something on which to begin again. With his mind thus fixed, he entered Mr. Bolton’s gates.
He was to stay one night at Puritan Grange; and then, if the matter were arranged, he would go over to Folking for a day or two, and endeavour to part from his father on friendly terms. In that case he would be able to pay Davis himself, and there need be no ground for quarrelling on that score.
Before dinner the matter was settled at the Grange. The stern old man bade his visitor sit down, and then explained to him at full length that which it was proposed to do. So much money the Squire had himself put by; so much more Mr. Bolton himself would advance; the value had been properly computed; and, should the arrangement be completed, he, John Caldigate, would sell his inheritance at its proper price. Over and over again the young man endeavoured to interrupt the speaker, but was told to postpone his words till the other should have done. Such interruptions came from the too evident fact that Mr. Bolton thoroughly despised his guest. Caldigate, though he had been very foolish, though he had loved to slaughter rats and rabbits, and to romp with the girls at Babington, was by no means a fool. He was possessed of good natural abilities, of great activity, and of a high spirit. His appreciation was quicker than that of the old banker, who, as he soon saw, had altogether failed to understand him. In every word that the banker spoke, it was evident that he thought that these thousands would be squandered instantly. The banker spoke as though this terrible severance was to be made because the natural heir had shown himself to be irrevocably bad. What could be expected from a youth who was deep in the books of a Davis before he had left his college? ‘I do not recommend this,’ he said at last. ‘I have never recommended it. The disruption is so great as to be awful. But when your father has asked what better step he could take, I have been unable to advise him.’ It was as though the old man were telling the young one that he was too bad for hope, and that, therefore, he must be consigned for ever to perdition.
Caldigate, conscious of the mistake which the banker was making, full of hope as to himself, intending to acknowledge the follies of which he had been guilty, and, at the same time, not to promise,–for he would not condescend so far,–but to profess that they were things of the past, and impatient of the judgment expressed against him, endeavoured to stop the old man in his severity, so that the tone in which the business was being done might be altered. But when he found that he could not do this without offence, he leaned back in his chair, and heard the indictment to the end. ‘Now, Mr. Bolton,’ he said, when at length his time came, ‘you shall hear my view of the matter.’ And Mr. Bolton did hear him, listening very patiently. Caldigate first asserted, that in coming there, to Puritan Grange, his object had been to learn what were the terms proposed,–as to which he was now willing to give his assent. He had already quite made up his mind to sell what property he had on the estate, and therefore, though he was much indebted to Mr. Bolton for his disinterested and kind friendship, he was hardly in want of counsel on that matter. Mr. Bolton raised his eyebrows, but still listened patiently. Caldigate then went on to explain his views as to life, declaring that under no circumstances–had there been no Davis–would he have consented to remain at Folking as a deputy-squire, waiting to take up his position some twenty years hence at his father’s death. Nor, even were Folking his own at this moment, would he live there! He must do something; and, upon the whole, he thought that gold-mining in the colonies was the most congenial pursuit to which he could put his hand. Then he made a frank acknowledgment as to Davis and his gambling follies, and ended by saying that the matter might be regarded as settled.
He had certainly been successful in changing the old man’s opinion. Mr. Bolton did not say as much, nor was he a man likely to make such acknowledgment; but when he led John Caldigate away to be introduced to his wife in the drawing-room, he felt less of disdain for his guest than he had done half an hour before. Mr. Bolton was a silent, cautious man, even in his own family, and had said nothing of this business to his wife, and nothing, of course, to his daughter. Mrs. Bolton asked after the Squire, and expressed a hope that her guest would not find the house very dull for one night. She had heard that John Caldigate was a fast young man, and of course regarded him as a lost sinner. Hester, who was with her mother, looked at him with all her young big eyes, but did not speak a word. It was very seldom that she saw any young man, or indeed young people of either sex. But when this stranger spoke freely to her mother about this subject and the other, she listened to him and was interested.
John Caldigate, without being absolutely handsome, was a youth sure to find favour in a woman’s eyes. He was about five feet ten in height, strong and very active, with bright dark eyes which were full of life and intelligence. His forehead was square and showed the angles of his brow; his hair was dark and thick and cut somewhat short; his mouth was large, but full of expression and generally, also, of good-humour. His nose would have been well formed, but that it was a little snubbed at the end. Altogether his face gave you the idea of will, intellect, and a kindly nature; but there was in it a promise, too, of occasional anger, and a physiognomist might perhaps have expected from it that vacillation in conduct which had hitherto led him from better things into wretched faults.
As he was talking to Mrs. Bolton he had observed the girl, who sat apart, with her fingers busy on her work, and who had hardly spoken a word since his entrance. She was, he thought, the most lovely human being that he had ever beheld; and yet she was hardly more than a child. But how different from those girls at Babington! Her bright brown hair was simply brushed from off her forehead and tied in a knot behind her head. Her dress was as plain as a child’s,–as though it was intended that she should still be regarded as a child. Her face was very fair, with large, grey, thoughtful eyes, and a mouth which, though as Caldigate watched her it was never opened, seemed always as if it was just about to pour forth words. And he could see that though her eyes were intent upon her work, from time to time she looked across at him; and he thought that if only they two were alone together, he could teach her to speak.
But no such opportunity was given to him now, or during his short sojourn at the Grange. After a while the old man returned to the room and took him up to his bed-chamber. It was then about half-past four, and he was told that they were to dine at six. It was early in November,–not cold enough for bedroom fires among thrifty people, and there he was left, apparently to spend an hour with nothing to do. Rebelling against this, declaring that even at Puritan Grange he would be master of his own actions, he rushed down into the hall, took his hat, and walked off into the town. He would go and take one last look at the old college.
He went in through the great gate and across the yard, and passing by the well-known buttery-hatches, looked into the old hall for the last time. The men were all seated at dinner, and he could see the fellows up at the high table. Three years ago it had been his fixed resolve to earn for himself the right to sit upon that dais. He had then been sure of himself,–that he would do well, and take honours, and win a fellowship. There had been moments in which he had thought that a college life would suit him till he came into his own property. But how had all that faded away! Everybody had congratulated him on the ease with which he did his work,–and the result had been Newmarket, Davis, and a long score in the ephemeral records of a cricket match. As he stood there, with his slouched hat over his eyes, one of the college servants recognised him, and called him by his name. Then he passed on quickly, and made his way out to the gravel-walk by the river-side. It was not yet closed for the night, and he went on, that he might take one last turn up and down the old avenue.
He had certainly made a failure of his life so far. He did acknowledge to himself that there was something nobler in these classic shades than in the ore-laden dirt of an Australian gold-gully. He knew as much of the world as that. He had not hitherto chosen the better part, and now something of regret, even as to Folking,–poor old Folking,–came upon him. He was, as it were, being kicked out and repudiated by his own family as worthless. And what was he to do about Julia Babington? After that scene in the linen-closet, he could not leave his country without a word either to Julia or to aunt Polly. But the idea of Julia was doubly distasteful to him since that lovely vision of young female simplicity had shone upon him from the corner of Mrs. Bolton’s drawing-room. Romping with the Babington girls was all very well; but if he could only feel the tips of that girl’s fingers come within the grasp of his hand! Then he thought that it would lend a fine romance to his life if he could resolve to come back, when he should be laden with gold, and make Hester Bolton his wife. It should be his romance, and he swore that he would cling to it.
He turned back, and came down to dinner five minutes after the time. At ten minutes before dinner-time Mr. Bolton heard that he was gone out and was offended,–thinking it quite possible that he would not return at all. What might not be expected from a young man who could so easily abandon his inheritance! But he was there, only five minutes after the time, and the dinner was eaten almost in silence. In the evening there was tea, and the coldest shivering attempt at conversation for half an hour, during which he could still at moments catch the glance of Hester’s eyes, and see the moving curve of her lips. Then there was a reading of the Bible, and prayer, and before ten he was in his bed-room.
On the next morning as he took his departure, Mr. Bolton said a word intended to be gracious. ‘I hope you may succeed in your enterprise, Mr. Caldigate.’
‘Why should I not as well as another?’ said John, cheerily.
‘If you are steady, sober, industrious, self-denying and honest, you probably will,’ replied the banker.
‘To promise all that would be to promise too much,’ said John. ‘But I mean to make an effort.’
Then at that moment he made one effort which was successful. For an instant he held Hester’s fingers within his hand.
That piece of business was done. It was one of the disagreeable things which he had had to do before he could get away to the gold-diggings, and it was done. Now he had to say farewell to his father, and that would be a harder task. As the moment was coming in which he must bid adieu to his father, perhaps for ever, and bid adieu to the old place which, though he despised it, he still loved, his heart was heavy within him. He felt sure that his father had no special regard for him;–in which he was, of course, altogether wrong, and the old man was equally wrong in supposing that his son was unnaturally deficient in filial affection. But they had never known each other, and were so different that neither had understood the other. The son, however, was ready to confess to himself that the chief fault had been with himself. It was natural, he thought, that a father’s regard should be deadened by such conduct as his had been, and natural that an old man should not believe in the quick repentance and improvement of a young one.
He hired a gig and drove himself over from Cambridge to Folking. As he got near to the place, and passed along the dikes, and looked to the right and left down the droves, and trotted at last over the Folking bridge across the Middle Wash, the country did not seem to him to be so unattractive as of yore; and when he recognised the faces of the neighbours, when one of the tenants spoke to him kindly, and the girls dropped a curtsey as he passed, certain soft regrets began to crop up in his mind. After all, there is a comfort in the feeling of property–not simply its money comfort, but in the stability and reputation of a recognised home. Six months ago there had seemed to him to be something ridiculous in the idea of a permanent connection between the names of Caldigate and Folking. It was absurd that, with so wild and beautiful a world around him, he should be called upon to live in a washy fen because his father and grandfather had been unfortunate enough to do so. And then, at that time, all sympathy with bricks and mortar, any affection for special trees or well-known home-haunts, was absurd in his eyes. And as his father had been harsh to him, and did not like him, would it not be better that they should be far apart? It was thus that he had reasoned. But now all that was changed. An unwonted tenderness had come upon his spirit. The very sallows by the brook seemed to appeal to him. As he saw the house chimneys through the trees, he remembered that they had carried smoke from the hearths of many generations of Caldigates. He remembered, too, that his father would soon be old, and would be alone. It seemed to himself that his very mind and spirit were altered.
But all that was too late. He had agreed to the terms proposed; and even were he now to repudiate them, what could he do with Davis, and how could he live for the present? Not for a moment did he entertain such an idea, but he had lost that alacrity of spirit which had been his when he first found the way out of his difficulties.
His father did not come forth to meet him. He went in across the hall and through the library, into a little closet beyond, in which Mr. Caldigate was wont to sit. ‘Well, John,’ said the old man, ‘how have you and Mr. Bolton got on together?’
There seemed to be something terribly cold in this. It might be better that they should part,–better even, though the parting should be for ever. It might be right;–nay, he knew that it was right that he should be thrust out of the inheritance. He had spent money that was not his own, and, of course, he must pay the debt. But that his father should sit there in his chair on his entrance, not even rising to greet him, and should refer at once to Mr. Bolton and that business arrangement, as though that, and that alone, need now be discussed, did seem to him to be almost cruel. Of all that his father had suffered in constraining himself to this conduct, he understood nothing. ‘Mr. Bolton made himself very plain, sir.’
‘He would be sure to do so. He is a man of business and intelligent. But as to the terms proposed, were they what you had expected?’
‘Quite as good as I had expected.’
‘Whether good or bad, of course you will understand that I have had nothing to do with them. The matter has been referred to two gentlemen conversant with such subjects; and, after due inquiry, they told Mr. Bolton what was the money value of your rights. It is a question to be settled as easily as the price of a ton of coals or a joint of beef. But you must understand that I have not interfered.’
‘I am quite aware of that, sir.’
‘As for the money, something over a third of it is in my own hands. I have not been extravagant myself, and have saved so much. The remainder will come out of Mr. Bolton’s bank, and will be lent on mortgage. I certainly shall not have cause for extravagance now, living here alone; and shall endeavour to free the estate from the burden by degrees. When I die, it will, in accordance with my present purpose, go to your cousin George.’ As this was said, John thought he perceived something like a quiver in his father’s voice, which, up to that point, had been hard, clear, and unshaken. ‘As to that, however, I do not intend to pledge myself,’ he continued. ‘The estate will now be my own, subject to the claim from Messrs. Bolton’s bank. I don’t know that there is anything else to be said.’
‘Not about business, sir.’
‘And it is business, I suppose, that has brought you here,–and to Cambridge. I do not know what little things you have of your own in the house.’
‘Not much, sir.’
‘If there be anything that you wish to take, take it. But with you now, I suppose, money is the only possession that has any value.’
‘I should like to have the small portrait of you,–the miniature.’
‘The miniature of me,’ said the father, almost scoffingly, looking up at his son’s face, suspiciously. And yet, though he would not show it, he was touched. Only if this were a ruse on the part of the young man, a mock sentiment, a little got-up theatrical pretence,–then,–then how disgraced he would be in his own estimation at having been moved by such mockery!
The son stood square before his father, disdaining any attempt to evince a supplicating tenderness either by his voice or by his features. ‘But, perhaps, you have a special value for it,’ he said.
‘No, indeed. It is others, not oneself, that ought to have such trifles,–that is, if they are of value at all.’
‘There is none but myself that can care much for it.’
‘There is no one to care at all. No one else that is,’ he added, wishing to avoid any further declaration. ‘Take that or anything else you want in the house. There will be things left, I suppose,–clothes and books and suchlike.’
‘Hardly anything, sir. Going so far, I had better give them away. A few books I shall take.’ Then the conversation was over; and in a few minutes John Caldigate found himself roaming alone about the place.
It was so probable that he might never see it again! Indeed it seemed to him now that were he to return to England with a fortune made, he would hardly come to Folking. Years and years must roll by before that could be done. If he could only come back to Cambridge and fetch that wife away with him, then he thought it would be better for him to live far from England, whether he were rich or whether he were poor. It was quite evident that his father’s heart was turned from him altogether. Of course he had himself to blame,–himself only; but still it was strange to him that a father should feel no tenderness at parting with an only son. While he had been in the room he had constrained himself manfully; not a drop of moisture had glittered in his eye; not a tone of feeling had thrilled in his voice; his features had never failed him. There had always been that look of audacity on his brow joined to a certain manliness of good-humour in his mouth, as though he had been thoroughly master of himself and the situation. But now, as he pushed his hat from off his forehead, he rubbed his hand across his eyes to dash away the tears. He felt almost inclined to rush back to the house and fall on his knees before his father, and kiss the old man’s hands, and beg the old man’s blessing. But though he was potent for much he was not potent for that. Such expression of tenderness would have been true; but he knew that he would so break down in the attempt as to make it seem to be false.
He got out upon Twopenny Drove and passed over the ferry, meaning to walk across the farm and so out on to the Causeway, and round home by the bridge. But on the other side of the Wash he encountered Mr. Ralph Holt, the occupier of Twopenny farm, whose father also and grandfather had lived upon the same acres. ‘And so thou be’est going away from us, Mr. John,’ said the farmer, with real tenderness, almost with solemnity, in his voice, although there was at the same time something ridiculous in the far-fetched sadness of his tone and gait.
‘Yes, indeed, Holt, I want to travel and see the world at a distance from here.’
‘If it was no more than that, Mr. John, there would be nothing about it. Zeeing the world! You young collegers allays does that. But be’est thou to come back and be Squoire o’Folking?’
‘I think not, Holt, I think not. My father, I hope, will be Squire for many a year.’
‘Like enough. And we all hope that, for there aren’t nowhere a juster man nor the Squoire, and he’s hale and hearty. But in course of things his time’ll run out. And it be so, Mr. John, that thou be’est going for ever and allays?’
‘I rather think I am.’
‘It’s wrong, Mr. John. Though maybe I’m making over-free to talk of what don’t concern me. Yet I say it’s wrong. Sons should come arter fathers, specially where there’s land. We don’t none of us like it;–none of us! It’s worse nor going, any one of ourselves For what’s a lease? But when a man has a freehold he should stick to it for ever and aye. It’s just as though the old place was a-tumbling about all our ears.’ Caldigate was good-natured with the man, trying to make him understand that everything was being done for the best. And at last he bade him good-bye affectionately, shaking hands with him, and going into the farmhouse to perform the same ceremony with his wife and daughters. But to the last Ralph Holt was uncomfortable and dismal, foretelling miseries. It was clear that, to his thinking, the stability of this world was undermined and destroyed by the very contemplation of such a proceeding as this.
Caldigate pursued his walk, and in the course of it bade farewell to more than one old friend. None of them were so expressive as Holt, but he could perceive that he was regarded by all of them as a person who, by his conduct, was bringing misfortune, not only on himself, but on the whole parishes of Utterden and Netherden.
At dinner the Squire conversed upon various subjects if not easily to himself, at least with affected ease. Had he applied himself to subjects altogether indifferent,–to the state of politics, or the Game Laws, or the absurdities of a State Church, the unfitness of such matters for the occasion would have been too apparent. Both he and his son would have broken down in the attempt. But he could talk about Babington,–abusing the old family,–and even about himself, and about New South Wales, and gold, and the coming voyage, without touching points which had been, and would be, specially painful. Not a word had ever been spoken between them as to Davis. There had, of course, been letters, very angry letters; but the usurer’s name had never been mentioned. Nor was there any need that it should be mentioned now. It was John’s affair,–not in any way his. So he asked and listened to much about Richard Shand, and the mode of gold-finding practised among the diggings in New South Wales.
When the old butler had gone he was even more free, speaking of things that were past, not only without anger, but, as far as possible, without chagrin,–treating his son as a person altogether free from any control of his. ‘I dare say it is all for the best,’ he said.
‘It is well at any rate to try to think so, sir,’ replied John, conscience-stricken as to his own faults.
‘I doubt whether there would have been anything for you to do here,–or at least anything that you would have done. You would have had too much ambition to manage this little estate under me, and not enough of industry, I fear, to carry you to the front in any of the professions. I used to think of the bar.’
‘And so did I.’
‘But when I found that the Babingtons had got hold of you, and that you liked horses and guns, better than words and arguments—-‘
‘I never did, sir.’
‘It seemed so.’
‘Of course I have been weak.’
‘Do not suppose for a moment that I am finding fault. It would be of no avail, and I would not thus embitter our last hours together. But when I saw how your tastes seemed to lead you, I began to fear that there could be no career for you here. On such a property as Babington an eldest son may vegetate like his father before him, and may succeed to it in due time, before he has wasted everything, and may die as he had lived, useless, but having to the end all the enjoyments of a swine.’
‘You are severe upon my cousins, sir.’
‘I say what I think. But you would not have done that. And though you are not industrious, you are far too active and too clever for such a life. Now you are probably in earnest as to the future.’
‘Yes, I am certainly in earnest.’
‘And though you are going to risk your capital in a precarious business, you will only be doing what is done daily by enterprising men. I could wish that your position were more secure;–but that now cannot be helped.’
‘My bed is as I have made it. I quite understand that, sir.’
‘Thinking of all this, I have endeavoured to reconcile myself to your going.’ Then he paused a moment, considering what he should next say. And his son was silent, knowing that something further was to come. ‘Had you remained in England we could hardly have lived together as father and son should live. You would have been dependent on me, and would have rebelled against that submission which a state of dependence demands. There would have been nothing for you but to have waited,–and almost to have wished, for my death.’
‘No, sir; never; never that.’
‘It would have been no more than natural. I shall hear from you sometimes?’
‘It will give an interest to my life if you will write occasionally. Whither do you go to-morrow?’
It had certainly been presumed, though never said, that this last visit to the old home was to be only for one day. The hired gig had been kept; and in his letter the son had asked whether he could be taken in for Thursday night. But now the proposition that he should go so soon seemed to imply a cold-blooded want of feeling on his part. ‘I need not be in such a hurry, sir,’ he said.
‘Of course, it shall be as you please, but I do not know that you will do any good by staying. A last month may be pleasant enough, or even a last week, but a last day is purgatory. The melancholy of the occasion cannot be shaken off. It is only the prolonged wail of a last farewell.’ All this was said in the old man’s ordinary voice, but it seemed to betoken if not feeling itself, a recognition of feeling which the son had not expected.
‘It is very sad,’ said the son.
‘Therefore, why prolong it? Stand not upon the order of your going but go at once,–seeing that it is necessary that you should go. Will you take any more wine? No? Then let us go into the other room. As they are making company of you and have lighted another fire, we will do as they would have us.’ Then for the rest of the evening there was some talk about books, and the father, who was greatly given to reading, explained to his son what kind of literature would, as he thought, fit in best with the life of a gold-digger.
After what had passed, Caldigate, of course, took his departure on the following morning. Good-bye said the old man, as the son grasped his hand, ‘Good-bye.’ He made no overture to come even as far as the hall in making this his final adieu.
‘I trust I may return to see you in health.’
‘It may be so. As to that we can say nothing. Good-bye.’ Then, when the son had turned his back, the father recalled him, by a murmur rather than by a word,–but in that moment he had resolved to give way a little to the demands of nature. Good-bye my son,’ he said, in a low voice, very solemnly; ‘May God bless you and preserve you.’ Then he turned back at once to his own closet.
John Caldigate had promised to go direct from Folking to the house of his friend Richard Shand, or rather, to the house in which lived Richard Shand’s father and family. The two young men had much to arrange together, and this had been thought to be expedient. When Caldigate, remembering how affairs were at his own home, had suggested that at so sad a moment he might be found to be in the way, Shand had assured him that there would be no sadness at all. ‘We are not a sentimental race,’ he had said. ‘There are a dozen of us, and the sooner some of us disperse ourselves, the more room will there be in the nest for the others.’
Shand had been Caldigate’s most intimate friend at college through the whole period of their residence and now he was to be his companion in a still more intimate alliance. And yet, though he liked the man, he did not altogether approve of him. Shand had also got into debt at Cambridge, but had not paid his debts; and had dealings also with Davis, as to which he was now quite indifferent. He had left the University without taking a degree, and had seemed to bear all these adversities with perfect equanimity. There had not been hitherto much of veneration in Caldigate’s character, but even he had, on occasions, been almost shocked at the want of respect evinced by his friend for conventional rules. All college discipline, all college authorities, all university traditions had been despised by Shand, who even in his dress had departed as far from recognised customs and fashions among the men as from the requisitions of the statutes and the milder requirements of the dignitaries of the day. Now, though he could not pay his debts,–and intended, indeed, to run away from them,–he was going to try his fortune with a certain small capital which his father had agreed to give him as his share of what there might be of the good things of the world among the Shands generally. As Shand himself said of both of them, he was about to go forth as a prodigal son, with a perfect assurance that, should he come back empty-handed, no calf would be killed for him. But he was an active man, with a dash of fun, and perhaps a sprinkling of wit, quick and brave, to whom life was apparently a joke, and who boasted of himself that, though he was very fond of beef and beer, he could live on bread and water, if put to it, without complaining. Caldigate almost feared that the man was a dangerous companion, but still there was a certain fitness about him for the thing contemplated; and, for such a venture, where could he find any other companion who would be fit?
Dr. Shand, the father, was a physician enjoying a considerable amount of provincial eminence in a small town in Essex. Here he had certainly been a succesful man; for, with all the weight of such a family on his back, he had managed to save some money. There had been small legacies from other Shands, and trifles of portion had come to them from the Potters, of whom Mrs. Shand had been one,–Shand and Potter having been wholesale druggists in Smithfield. The young Shands had generally lived a pleasant life; had gone to school,–the eldest son, as we have seen, to the university also,–and had had governesses, and ponies to ride, and had been great at dancing, and had shot arrows, and played Badminton, and been subject to but little domestic discipline. They had lived crowded together in a great red-brick house, plenteously, roughly, quarrelling continually, but very fond of each other in their own way, and were known throughout that side of the country as a happy family. The girls had always gloves and shoes for dancing, and the boys had enjoyed a considerable amount of shooting and hunting without owning either guns or horses of their own. Now Dick was to go in quest of a fortune, and all the girls were stitching shirts for him, and were as happy as possible. Not a word was said about his debts, and no one threw it in his teeth that he had failed to take a degree. It was known of the Shands that they always made the best of everything.
When Caldigate got out of the railway carriage at Pollington, he was still melancholy with the remembrance of all that he had done and all that he had lost, and he expected to find something of the same feeling at his friend’s house. But before he had been there an hour he was laughing with the girls as though such an enterprise as theirs was the best joke in the world. And when a day and a night had passed, Mrs. Shand was deep among his shirts and socks, and had already given him much advice about flannel and soft soap. ‘I know Maria would like to go out with you,’ said the youngest daughter on the third day, a girl of twelve years old, who ought to have known better, and who, nevertheless, knew more than she ought to have done.
‘Indeed Maria would like nothing of the kind,’ said the young lady in question.
‘Only, Mr. Caldigate, of course you would have to marry her.’ Then the child was cuffed, and Maria declared that the proposed arrangement would suit neither her nor Mr. Caldigate in the least. The eldest daughter, Harriet, was engaged to marry a young clergyman in the neighbourhood, which event, however, was to be postponed till he had got a living; and the second, Matilda, was under a cloud because she would persist in being in love with Lieutenant Postlethwaite, of the Dragoons, whose regiment was quartered in the town. Maria was the third. All these family secrets were told to him quite openly as well as the fact that Josh, the third son, was to become a farmer because he could not be got to learn the multiplication table.
Between Pollington and London, Caldigate remained for six weeks, during which time he fitted himself out, took his passage, and executed the necessary deeds as to the estate. It might have been pleasant enough,–this little interval before his voyage,–as the Shands, though rough and coarse, were kind to him and good-humoured, had it not been that a great trouble befell him through over conscientiousness as to a certain matter. After what had passed at Babington House, it was expedient that he should, before he started for New South Wales, give some notice to his relatives there, so that Julia might know that destiny did not intend her to become Mrs. Caldigate of Folking. Aunt Polly had, no doubt, been too forward in that matter, and in wishing to dispose of her daughter had put herself in the way of merited rebuke and disappointment. It was, however, not the less necessary that she should be told of the altered circumstances of her wished-for son-in-law. But, had he been wise, he would so have written his letter that no answer should reach him before he had left the shores of England. His conscience however, pinched him, and before he had even settled the day on which he would start, he wrote to his aunt a long letter in which he told her everything,–how he had disposed of his inheritance,–how he had become so indebted to Davis as to have to seek a new fortune out of England,–how he had bade farewell to Folking for ever,–and how impossible it was under all these circumstances that he should aspire to the hand of his cousin Julia.
It was as though a thunderbolt had fallen among them at Babington. Mr. Babington himself was certainly not a clever man, but he knew enough of his own position, as an owner of acres, to be very proud of it, and he was affectionate enough towards his nephew to feel the full weight of this terrible disruption It seemed to him that his brother-in-law, Daniel Caldigate, was doing a very wicked thing, and he hurried across the country, to Folking, that he might say so. ‘You have not sense enough to understand the matter,’ said Daniel Caldigate. ‘You have no heart in your bowels if you can disinherit an only son,’ said the big squire. ‘Never mind where I carry my heart,’ said the smaller squire; ‘but it is a pity you should carry so small an amount of brain.’ No good could be done by such a meeting as that, nor by the journey which aunt Polly took to Pollington. The Caldigates, both father and son, were gifted with too strong a will to be turned from their purpose by such interference. But a great deal of confusion was occasioned; and aunt Polly among the Shands was regarded as a very wonderful woman indeed. ‘Oh, my son, my darling son!’ she said, weeping on John Caldigate’s shoulder. Now John Caldigate was certainly not her son, in the usual acceptation of the word, nor did Maria Shand believe that he was so even in that limited sense in which a daughter’s husband may be so designated. It was altogether very disagreeable, and made our hero almost resolve to get on board the ship a week before it started from the Thames instead of going down to Plymouth and catching it at the last moment. Of course it would have been necessary that the Babingtons should know all about it sooner or later, but John very much regretted that he had not delayed his letter till the day before his departure.
There is something jovial when you are young in preparing for a long voyage and for totally altered circumstances in life, especially when the surroundings are in themselves not melancholy. A mother weeping over a banished child may be sad enough,–going as an exile when there is no hope of a return, But here among the Shands, with whom sons and daughters were plentiful, and with whom the feelings were of a useful kind, and likely to wear well, rather than of a romantic nature, the bustle, the purchasings, the arrangements, and the packings generally had in them a pleasantness of activity with no disagreeable accompaniments.
‘I do hope you will wear them, Dick,’ the mother said with something like a sob in her voice; but the tenderness came not from the approaching departure, but from her fear that the thick woollen drawers on which she was re-sewing all the buttons, should be neglected,–after Dick’s usual fashion. ‘Mr. Caldigate I hope you will see that he wears them. He looks strong, but indeed he is not.’ Our hero who had always regarded his friend as a bull for strength of constitution generally, promised that he would be attentive to Dick’s drawers.
‘You may be sure that I shall wear them,’ said Dick; ‘but the time will come when I shall probably wear nothing else, so you had better make the buttons firm.’
Everything was to be done with strict economy, but yet there was plenty of money for purchases. There always is at such occasions. The quantity of clothes got together seemed to be more than any two men could ever wear; and among it all there were no dress-coats and no dress-trousers: or, if either of them had such articles, they were smuggled. The two young men were going out as miners, and took a delight in preparing themselves to be rough. Caldigate was at first somewhat modest in submitting his own belongings to the females of the establishment but that feeling soon wore off, and the markings and mendings, and buttonings and hemmings went on in a strictly impartial manner as though he himself were a chick out of the same brood.
‘What will you do?’ said the doctor, ‘if you spend your capital and make nothing?’
‘Work for wages,’ said Dick. ‘We shall have got, at any rate, enough experience out of our money to be able to do that. Men are getting 10s. a-day.’
‘But you’d have to go on doing that always,’ said the mother.
‘Not at all. Of course it’s a life of ups and downs. A man working for wages can put half what he earns into a claim, so that when a thing does come up trumps at last, he will have his chance. I have read a good deal about it now. There is plenty to be got if a man only knows how to keep it.’
‘Drinking is the worst,’ said the doctor.
‘I think I can trust myself for that,’ said Dick, whose hand at the moment was on a bottle of whisky, and who had been by no means averse to jollifications at Cambridge. ‘A miner when he’s at work should never drink.’
‘Nor when he’s not at work, if he wants to keep what he earns.’
‘I’m not going to take the pledge, or anything of that kind,’ continued the son, ‘but I think I know enough of it all, not to fall into that pit.’ During this discussion, Caldigate sat silent, for he had already had various conversations on this subject with his friend. He had entertained some fears, which were not, perhaps, quite removed by Dick’s manly assurances.
A cabin had been taken for the joint use of the young men on board the Goldfinder, a large steamer which was running at the time from London to Melbourne, doing the voyage generally in about two months. But they were going as second-class passengers and their accommodation therefore was limited. Dick had insisted on this economy, which was hardly necessary to Caldigate, and which was not absolutely pressed upon the other. But Dick had insisted. ‘Let us begin as we mean to go on,’ he had said; ‘of course we’ve got to rough it. We shall come across something a good deal harder than second-class fare before we have made our fortunes, and worked probably with mates more uncouth than second-class passengers.’ It was impossible to oppose counsel such as this, and therefore second-class tickets were taken on board the Goldfinder.
A terrible struggle was made during the last fortnight to prevent the going of John Caldigate. Mr. Babington was so shocked that he did not cease to stir himself. Allow a son to disinherit himself, merely because he had fallen into the hands of a money-lending Jew before he had left college! To have the whole condition of a property changed by such a simple accident! It was shocking to him; and he moved himself in the matter with much more energy than old Mr. Caldigate had expected from him. He wrote heartrending letters to Folking, in spite of the hard words which had been said to him there. He made a second journey to Cambridge, and endeavoured to frighten Mr. Bolton. Descent of acres from father to son was to him so holy a thing, that he was roused to unexpected energies. He was so far successful that Mr. Daniel Caldigate did write a long letter to his son, in which he offered to annul the whole proceeding. ‘Your uncle accuses me of injustice,’ he said. ‘I have not been unjust. But there is no reason whatever why the arrangement should stand. Even if the money has been paid to Davis I will bear that loss rather than you should think that I have taken advantage of you in your troubles.’ But John Caldigate was too firm and too determined for such retrogression. The money had been paid to Davis, and other monies had been used in other directions. He was quite contented with the bargain, and would certainly adhere to it.
Then came the last night before their departure; the evening before the day on which they were to go from Pollington to London, and from London to Plymouth. All the heavy packages, and all the clothes had, of course, been put on board the Goldfinder in the London docks. The pleasant task of preparation was at an end, and they were now to go forth upon their hard labours. Caldigate had become so intimate with the family, that it seemed as though a new life had sprung up for him, and that as he had parted from all that he then had of a family at Folking, he was now to break away from new ties under the doctor’s roof. They had dined early, and at ten o’clock there was what Mrs. Shand called a little bit of supper. They were all of them high in heart, and very happy,–testifying their affection to the departing ones by helping them to the nicest bits, and by filling their tumblers the fullest. How it happened, no one could have said, but it did happen that, before the evening was over, Maria and Caldigate were together in a little room behind the front parlour. What still remained of their luggage was collected there, and this last visit had probably been made in order that the packages might be once more counted.
‘It does seem so odd that you should be going,’ she said.
‘It is so odd to me that I should ever have come.’
‘We had always heard of you since Dick went to Cambridge.’
‘I knew that there were so many of you, and that was all. Brothers never talk of their sisters, I suppose. But I seem to know you now so well! You have been so kind to me!’
‘Because you are Dick’s friend.’
‘I didn’t suppose that it was anything else.’
‘That’s not nice of you, Mr. Caldigate. You know that we are all very fond of you. We shall be so anxious to hear. You will be good to him, won’t you?’
‘And he to me, I hope.’
‘I think you are steadier than he is, and can do more for him than he can for you. I wonder, shall we ever see each other again, Mr. Caldigate?’
‘New South Wales is so far, and you will both marry there, and then you will not want to come back. I hope I may live to see dear Dick again some day.’
‘But only Dick?’
‘And you too, if you would care about it.’
‘Of course I should care about it,’ he said. And as he said so, of course he put his arm round her waist and kissed her. It did not mean much. She did not think it meant much. But it gave a little colouring of romance to that special moment of her life. He, when he went up to his bed, declared to himself that it meant nothing at all. He still had those large eyes clear before him, and was still fixed in his resolution to come back for them when some undefined point of his life should have passed by.
‘Now,’ said Dick Shand, as they were seated together in a third-class railway carriage on the following morning, ‘now I feel that I am beginning life.’
‘With proper resolutions, I hope, as to honesty, sobriety, and industry.’
‘With a fixed determination to make a fortune, and come back, and be _facile princeps_ among all the Shands. I have already made up my mind as to the sum I will give each of the girls, and the way I will start the two younger boys in business. In the meantime let us light a pipe.’
There is no peculiar life more thoroughly apart from life in general, more unlike our usual life, more completely a life of itself, governed by its own rules and having its own roughnesses and amenities, than life on board ship. What tender friendship it produces, and what bitter enmities! How completely the society has formed itself into separate sets after the three or four first days! How thoroughly it is acknowledged that this is the aristocratic set, and that the plebeian! How determined are the aristocrats to admit no intrusion, and how anxious are the plebeians to intrude! Then there arises the great demagogue, who heads a party, having probably been disappointed in early life,–that is, in his first endeavours on board the ship. And the women have to acknowledge all their weaknesses, and to exercise all their strength. It is a bad time for them on board ship if they cannot secure the attention of the men,–as it is in the other world; but in order that they may secure it, they assume indifference. They assume indifference, but are hard at work with their usual weapons. The men can do very well by themselves. For them there is drinking, smoking, cards, and various games; but the potency of female spells soon works upon them, and all who are worth anything are more or less in love by the end of the first week. Of course it must all come to an end when the port is reached. That is understood, though there may sometimes be mistakes. Most pathetic secrets are told with the consciousness that they will be forgotten as soon as the ship is left. And there is the whole day for these occupations. No work is required from any one. The lawyer does not go to his court, nor the merchant to his desk. Pater-familias receives no bills; mater-familias orders no dinners. The daughter has no household linen to disturb her. The son is never recalled to his books. There is no parliament, no municipality, no vestry. There are neither rates nor taxes nor rents to be paid. The government is the softest despotism under which subjects were ever allowed to do almost just as they please. That the captain has a power is known, but hardly felt. He smiles on all, is responsible for everything, really rules the world submitted to him, from the setting of the sails down to the frying of the chops, and makes one fancy that there must be something wrong with men on shore because first-class nations cannot be governed like first-class ships.
The Goldfinder had on board her over a hundred first-class passengers, and nearly as many of the second class. The life among them was much of the same kind, though in the second class there was less of idleness, less of pleasure, and something more of an attempt to continue the ordinary industry of life. The women worked more and the men read more than their richer neighbours. But the love-making, and the fashion, and the mutiny against the fashion, were the same in one set as in the other. Our friends were at first subjected to an inconvenience which is always felt in such a position. They were known to have had saloon rather than second-class antecedents. Everybody had heard that they had been at Cambridge, and therefore they were at first avoided. And as they themselves were determined not to seek associates among their more aristocratic neighbours, they were left to themselves and solitary for some few days. But this was a condition not at all suited to Dick Shand’s temperament, and it was not long before he had made both male and female acquaintances.
‘Have you observed that woman in the brown straw hat?’ Dick said to Caldigate, one morning, as they were leaning together on the forepart of the vessel against one of the pens in which the fowls were kept. They were both dressed according to the parts they were acting, and which they intended to act, as second-class passengers and future working miners. Any one knowing in such matters would have seen that they were over-dressed; for the real miner, when he is away from his work, puts on his best clothes, and endeavours to look as little rough as possible. And all this had no doubt been seen and felt, and discounted among our friends’ fellow-passengers.
‘I have seen her every day, of course,’ said Caldigate, ‘and have been looking at her for the last half hour.’
‘She is looking at us now.’
‘She seems to me to be very attentive to the stocking she is mending.’
‘Just a woman’s wiles. At this moment she can’t hear us, but she knows pretty nearly what we are saying by the way our lips are going. Have you spoken to her?’
‘I did say a word or two to her yesterday.’
‘What did she say?’
‘I don’t recollect especially. She struck me as talking better than her gown, if you know what I mean.’
‘She talks a great deal better than her gown,’ said Dick. ‘I don’t quite know what to make of her. She says that she is going out to earn her bread; but when I asked her how, she either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer me. She is a mystery, and mysteries are always worth unravelling. I shall go to work and unravel her.’
At that moment the female of whom they were speaking got up from her seat on one of the spars which was bound upon the deck, folded up her work, and walked away. She was a remarkable woman, and certainly looked to be better than her gown, which was old and common enough. Caldigate had observed her frequently, and had been much struck by the word or two she had spoken to him on the preceding day. ‘I should like ship-life well enough,’ she had said, in answer to some ordinary question, ‘if it led to nothing else.’
‘You would not remain here for ever?’
‘Certainly, if I could. There is plenty to eat, and a bed to sleep on, and no one to be afraid of. And though nobody knows me, everybody knows enough of me not to think that I ought to be taken to a police office because I have not gloves to my hands.’
‘Don’t you think it wearisome?’ he had asked.
‘Everything is wearisome; but here I have a proud feeling of having paid my way. To have settled in advance for your dinner for six weeks to come is a magnificent thing. If I get too tired of it I can throw myself overboard. You can’t even do that in London without the police being down upon you. The only horror to me here is that there will so soon be an end to it.’
At that time he had not even heard her name, or known whether she were alone or joined to others. Then he had inquired, and a female fellow-passenger had informed him that she was a Mrs. Smith,–that she had seen better days, but had been married to a ne’er-do-well husband, who had drank himself to death within a year of their marriage, and that she was now going out to the colony, probably,–so the old lady said who was the informant,–in search of a second husband. She was to some extent, the old lady said, in charge of a distant relative, who was then on board, with a respectable husband and children, and who was very much ashamed of her poor connection. So much John Caldigate had heard.
Though he had heard this he did not feel inclined to tell it all to Dick Shand. Dick had professed his intention of unravelling the mystery, but Caldigate almost thought that he would like to unravel it himself. The woman was so constantly alone! And then, though she was ill-dressed, untidy, almost unkempt on occasions, still, through it all, there was something attractive about her. There was a brightness in her eye, and a courage about her mouth, which had made him think that, in spite of her appearance, she would be worth his attention–just for the voyage. When he had been speaking to herself they had been on the deck together, and it had been dusk and he had not been able to look her in the face; but while Shand had been speaking to him he had observed that she was very comely. And this was the more remarkable because it seemed to him to be so evident that she made the worst rather than the best of herself. She was quite a young woman;–probably, he thought, not more than three or four and twenty; and she was there, with many young men round her, and yet she made no effort to attract attention. When his eye had fallen upon her she had generally been quite alone, doing some piece of coarse and ordinary work.
‘I have had another conversation with her,’ said Shand to him that night.
‘Have you unravelled the mystery?’
‘Not quite; but I have got the fact that there is a mystery. She told me that you and I and she herself ought not to be here. When I asked her why, she said that you and I ought to be gentlemen and that she ought to be a lady. I told her that you and I were gentlemen, in spite of our trousers. “Ah,” she said, “there comes the difference; I’m not a lady any longer!” When I contradicted her she snubbed me, and said that I hadn’t seen enough of the world to know anything about it. But I’ll have it all out of her before I’ve done.’
For some days after that Caldigate kept himself aloof from Mrs. Smith, not at all because he had ceased to notice her or to think about her, but from a feeling of dislike to exhibit rivalry with his friend. Shand was making himself very particular, and he thought that Shand was a fool for his pains. He was becoming angry with Shand, and had serious thoughts of speaking to him with solemn severity. What could such a woman be to him? But at the bottom of all this there was something akin to jealousy. The woman was good-looking, and certainly clever, and was very interesting. Shand, for two or three evenings running, related his success; how Mrs. Smith had communicated to him the fact that she utterly despised those Cromptons, who were distant cousins of her late husband’s, and with whom she had come on board; how she preferred to be alone to having aught to do with them; how she had one or two books with her, and passed some hours in reading; and how she was poor, very poor, but still had something on which to live for a few weeks after landing. But Caldigate fancied that there must be a betrayal of trust in these revelations, and though he was in truth interested about the woman, did not give much encouragement to his friend.
‘Upon my word,’ he said, ‘I don’t seem to care so very much about Mrs. Smith’s affairs.’
‘I do,’ said Shand, who was thick-skinned and irrepressible. ‘I declared my intention of unravelling the mystery, and I mean to do it.’
‘I hope you are not too inquisitive?’
‘Of course she likes to have some one to whom she can talk. And what can people talk about on board ship except themselves? A woman who has a mystery always likes to have it unravelled. What else is the good of a mystery?’
He was thick-skinned and irrepressible, but Caldigate endeavoured to show his displeasure. He felt that the poor woman was in coarse hands; and he thought that, had matters gone otherwise, he might have accepted, in a more delicate manner, so much confidence as she chose to vouchsafe.
So it was when they had been a fortnight at sea. They had left home in mid-winter; but now they were in the tropics, near the line, and everything was sultry, sleepy, and warm. Flying-fishes were jumping from the waves on to the deck, and when the dusk of night was come, the passengers would stand by the hour together watching the phosphorus on the water. The Southern Cross had shown itself plainly, and possessed the heavens in conjunction with the Bear. The thick woollen drawers which had been so carefully prepared, were no longer in use, and men were going about in light pantaloons and linen jackets,–those on the quarter-deck at first beautifully clean and white, while our friends of the second cabin were less careful. The women, too, had got quit of their wraps, and lounged about the deck in light attire. During the bright hours of the day the aristocrats, in the stern, were shrouded from the sun by a delightful awning; but, forward, the passengers sought the shade of the loose idle sails, or screened themselves from the fierce rays as best they might among the hatchways and woodwork But it was when the burning sun had hidden himself, when the short twilight had disappeared, and the heavens were alive and alight with stars, that all the world of the ship would be crowded on the upper deck. There they would remain, long after the lamps below had been extinguished, some of them sleeping through the whole night in the comparative coolness of the air. But it was from eight, when tea would be over, till midnight, that the hum of voices would be thickest, and the tread of those who walked for their exercise the most frequent.
At such times Caldigate would be often alone; for though he had made acquaintances, and had become indeed intimate with some of those around him, he had never thrust himself into the life of the ship as Shand had done. Charades were acted in the second cabin, in which Shand always took part,–and there were penny readings, at which Shand was often the reader. And he smoked much and drank somewhat with those who smoked and drank. The awe at first inspired by his university superiority and supposed rank in the world had faded almost into nothing, but by Caldigate, unconsciously, much of this had been preserved. I am not sure that he did not envy his friend, but at any rate he stood aloof. And, in regard to Mrs. Smith, when he saw her walking one evening with Shand in the sweetly dim light of the evening, with her hand upon Shand’s arm, he made up his mind that he would think no more about her.
They had been at sea just a fortnight when this happened. And in about a quarter of an hour after this resolve had been formed Mrs. Smith was standing by him and talking to him. A ball was being held on the quarter-deck, or rather, as there was in truth no quarter-deck to the Goldfinder, on that clean, large, luxurious expanse devoted to the aristocracy in the after-part of the vessel. From among the second-class passengers, two fiddlers and a flute player had been procured, who formed the band. At sea you have always to look for your musicians among the second-class passengers. And now under the awning young and old were standing up, and making themselves happy beneath the starlight and the glimmer of the dozen ship-lamps which had been hung around. On board ship there are many sources of joy of which the land knows nothing. You may flirt and dance at sixty; and if you are awkward in the turn of a valse, you may put it down to the motion of the ship. You need wear no gloves, and may drink your soda-and-brandy without being ashamed of it.
It was not for John Caldigate to join the mazes of that dance, though he would have liked it well, and was well fitted by skill and taste for such exercise. But the ground was hallowed on which they trod, and forbidden to him; and though there was probably not a girl or a dancing married woman there who would not have been proud to stand up with Mr. Caldigate of Folking, there was not one who would have dared to take the hand of a second-class passenger. So he stood, just within his own boundary, and looked and longed. Then there was a voice in his ear. ‘Do you dance, Mr. Caldigate?’
It was a very pleasant voice, low, but distinct and silvery, infinitely better again than the gown; a voice so distinct and well-managed that it would have been noticed for its peculiar sweetness if coming from any high-bred lady. He turned round and found her face close to his. Why had she come to speak to him when she must have perceived that he had intentionally avoided her.
‘I used to be very fond of dancing,’ he said, ‘but it is one of the things that have gone away.’
‘I, too, was fond of dancing; but, as you say, it has gone away. It will come back to you, in half-a-dozen years, perhaps. It can never come back to me. Things do come back to men.’
‘Why more than to women?’
‘You have a resurrection;–I mean here upon earth. We never have. Though we live as long as you, the pleasure-seeking years of our lives are much shorter. We burst out into full flowering early in our spring, but long before the summer is over, we are no more than huddled leaves and thick stalks.’
‘Are you a thick stalk, Mrs. Smith?’
‘Unfortunately, not. My flowers are gone while my stalk is still thin and sensitive. And then women can’t recuperate.’
‘I don’t quite know what that means.’
‘Yes, you do. It is good English enough even for Cambridge by this time. If you had made a false step, got into debt and ran away, or mistaken another man’s wife for your own, or disappeared altogether under a cloud for a while, you could retrieve your honour, and, sinking at twenty-five or thirty, could come up from out of the waters at thirty-five as capable of enjoyment and almost as fresh as ever. But a woman does not bear submersion. She is draggled ever afterwards. She must hide everything by a life of lies, or she will get no admittance anywhere. The man is rather the better liked because he has sown his wild oats broadly. Of all these ladies dancing there, which dances the best? There is not one who really knows how to dance.’
She had changed the conversation so suddenly, rushing off from that great question as to the condition of women generally to the very unimportant matter of the dancing powers of the ladies who were manoeuvring before them, that Caldigate hardly knew how to travel with her so quickly. ‘They all dance well enough for ship dancing,’ he replied; ‘but as to what you were saying about women—-‘
‘No, Mr. Caldigate; they don’t dance well enough for ship dancing. Dancing, wherever it be done, should be graceful. A woman may at any rate move her feet in accordance with time, and she need not skip, nor prance, nor jump, even on board ship. Look at that stout lady.’
Everybody by this time knew everybody’s name.
‘If she is Mrs. Callander?’
Mrs. Smith, no doubt, knew very well that it was Mrs. Callander.
‘Does not your ear catch separately the thud of her footfall every time she comes to the ground?’
‘She is fat, fair, and forty.’
‘Fat enough;–and what she lacks in fairness may be added on to the forty; but if she were less ambitious and had a glimmer of taste, she might do better than that. You see that girl with the green scarf round her? She is young and good-looking. Why should she spring about like a bear on a hot iron?’
‘You should go and teach them.’
‘It is just what I should like; only they would not be taught; and I should be stern, and tell them the truth.’
‘Why don’t you go and dance with them yourself?’
‘Why not? There is one second-class lady there?’ This was true. For though none of the men would have been admitted from the inferior rank to join the superior, the rule of demarcation had so far been broken that a pretty girl who was known to some of the first-class passengers had been invited to come over the line and join the amusements of the evening ‘She dances about as well as any of them.’
‘If you were among them would you dare to come out and ask me to join them? That is a question which you won’t even dare to answer.’
‘It is a little personal.’
‘”No,” you ought to say. “I could not do that because your clothes are so poor, and because of your ragged old hat, and I am not quite sure that your shoes are fit to be seen.” Is not that what you would say, if you said what you thought?’
‘Perhaps it is.’
‘And if you said all that you thought, perhaps you would remind me that a woman of whom nobody knows anything is always held to be disreputable. That girl, no doubt, has her decent belongings. I have nobody.’
‘You have your friends on board.’
‘No, I have not. I have not a single friend on board. Those Cromptons were very unwillingly persuaded to take a sort of interest in me, though they really know nothing about me. And I have already lost any good which might come from their protection. She told me yesterday, that I ought not to walk about with Mr. Shand.’
‘And what did you say?’
‘Of course I told her to mind her own business. I had no alternative. A woman has to show a little spirit or she will be trodden absolutely into the dirt. It was something to have a woman to speak to, even though I had not a thought in common with her;–though she was to my feeling as inferior to myself as I no doubt am thought to be by that fat prancing woman to herself. Even Mrs. Crompton’s countenance was of value. But if I had yielded she would have taken it out in tyranny. So now we don’t speak.’
‘That is a pity.’
‘It is a pity. You watch them all and see how they look at me,–the women, I mean. They know that Mr. Shand speaks to me, and that you and Mr. Shand are the two gentlemen we have among us. There are, no doubt, a dozen of them watching me now, somewhere, and denouncing me for the impropriety of my behaviour.’
‘Is it improper?’
‘What do you think?’
‘Why may we not talk as well as others?’
‘Exactly. But there are people who are tabooed. Look at that Miss Green and the ship doctor.’ At that moment the ship’s doctor and the young lady in question came close to them in the dance. ‘There is no harm in Miss Green talking by the hour together with the doctor, because she is comfortably placed. She has got an old father and mother on board who don’t look after her, and everything is respectable. But if I show any of the same propensities I ought almost to be put into irons.’
‘Has anybody else been harsh to you?’
‘The Captain has been making inquiries,–no doubt with the idea that he may at last be driven to harsh measures. Have you got a sister?’
‘Or a mother?’
‘Or a housemaid?’
‘Not even a housemaid. I have no female belongings whatever.’
‘Don’t you know that if you had a sister, and a mother, and a housemaid, your mother would quite expect that your sister should in time have a lover, but that she would be horrified at the idea of the housemaid having a follower?’
‘I did not know that. I thought housemaids got married sometimes.’
‘Human nature is stronger than tyranny.’
‘But what does all this mean? You are not a housemaid, and you have not got a mistress?’
‘Not exactly. But at present;–if I say my outward woman you’ll know what I mean perhaps.’
‘I think I shall.’
‘Well; my present outward woman stands to me in lieu of the housemaid’s broom, and the united authority of the Captain and Mrs. Crompton make up the mistress between them. And the worst of it all is, that though I have to endure the tyranny, I have not got the follower. It is as hard upon Mr. Shand as it is upon me.’
‘Shand, I suppose, can take care of himself.’
‘No doubt;–and so in real truth can I. I can stand apart and defy them all; and as I look at them looking at me, and almost know with what words they are maligning me, I can tell myself that they are beneath me, and that I care nothing for them. I shall do nothing which will enable any one to interfere with me. But it seems hard that all this should be so because I am a widow,–and because I am alone,–and because I am poorly clothed.’
As she said this there were tears in her eyes, true ones, and something of the sound of a broken sob in her voice. And Caldigate was moved. The woman’s condition was to be pitied, whether it had been produced with or without fault on her own part. To be alone is always sad,–even for a man; but for a woman, and for a young woman, it is doubly melancholy. Of a sudden the dancing was done and the lamps were taken away.
‘If you do not want to go to bed,’ he said, ‘let us take a turn.’
‘I never go to bed. I mean here, on board ship. I linger up on deck, half hiding myself about the place, till I see some quartermaster eying me suspiciously and then I creep down into the little hole which I occupy with three of Mrs. Crompton’s children and then I cry myself to sleep. But I don’t call that going to bed.’
‘Take a turn now.’
‘I shall feel like the housemaid talking to her follower through the area-gate. But she is brave, and why should I be a coward?’ Then she put her hand upon his arm. ‘And you,’ she said, ‘why are not you dancing in the other part of the ship with Mrs. Callander and Miss Green, instead of picking your way among the hencoops here with me?’
‘This suited my pocket best,–and my future prospects.’
‘You are making a delightful experiment in roughing it,–as people eat pic-nic dinners out in the woods occasionally, so that there may be a break in the monotony of chairs and tables.’
While Shand had been unravelling her mystery, she, perhaps, had been more successful in unravelling his.
‘We intend to be miners.’
‘And to return home before long with some vast treasure. I hope you may be successful.’
‘You seem to doubt it.’
‘Of course it is doubtful. If not, the thing would be common and hardly worth the doing. Will Mr. Shand be very persistent as a working miner?’
‘I hope so.’
‘He seems to me to have great gifts of idleness, which on board ship are a blessing. How I do envy men when I see them smoking! It seems to me that nothing is wanting to them. Women have their needlework; but though they hate it less than idleness, they do hate it. But you really like your tobacco.’
‘I don’t like being idle. I read a good deal. Do you read?’
‘I have but few books here. I have read more perhaps than most young women of my age. I came away in such a hurry that I have almost nothing with me.’
‘Can I lend you books?’
‘If you will. I will promise to take care of them.’
‘I have “The Heartbroken One,” by Spratt, you know. It is very absurd, but full of life from beginning to end. All that Spratt writes is very lively.’
‘I don’t think I care for Spratt. He may be lively, but he’s not life-like.’
‘And “Michael Bamfold.” It is hard work, perhaps but very thoughtful, if you can digest that sort of thing.’
‘I hate thought.’
‘What do you say to Miss Bouverie’s last;–“Ridden to a Standstill;” a little loud, perhaps, but very interesting? Or “Green Grow the Rushes O,” by Mrs. Tremaine? None of Mrs. Tremaine’s people do anything that anybody would do, but they all talk well.’
‘I hate novels written by women. Their girls are so unlovely, and their men such absurdly fine fellows!’
‘I have William Coxe’s “Lock picked at Last,” of which I will defy you to find the secret till you have got to the end of it.’
‘I am a great deal too impatient.’
‘And Thompson’s “Four Marquises.” That won’t give you any trouble, because you will know it all from the first chapter.’
‘And never have a moment of excitement from the beginning to the end. I don’t think I care very much for novels. Have you nothing else?’
Caldigate had many other books, a Shakespeare, some lighter poetry, and sundry heavier works of which he did not wish specially to speak, lest he should seem to be boasting of his own literary taste; but at last it was settled that on the next morning he should supply her with what choice he had among the poets. Then at about midnight they parted, and Caldigate, as he found his way down to his cabin, saw the quartermaster with his eye fixed upon Mrs. Smith. There is no so stern guardian of morality and propriety as your old quartermaster on board a first-class ship.
‘You have been having a grand time of it with Mrs. Smith,’ said Shand as soon as Caldigate was in their cabin.
‘Pretty well,–as far as fine times go on board ship. Is there anything against it?’
‘Oh, no, not that I know of. I started the hare; if you choose to run it I have no right to complain, I suppose.’
‘I don’t know anything about the hare, but you certainly have no right to complain because I have been talking to Mrs. Smith;–unless indeed you tell me that you are going to make her Mrs. Shand.’
‘You are much more likely to make her Mrs. Caldigate.’
‘I don’t know that I should have any objection;–that is, if I wanted a wife. She is good-looking, clever, well-educated, and would be well-mannered were it not that she bristles up against the ill-usage of the world too roughly.’
‘I didn’t know it had gone so far as that,’ said Shand, angrily.
‘Nor did I, till you suggested it to me. Now I think I’ll go to sleep, if you please, and dream about it.’
He did not go to sleep, but lay awake half thinking and half dreaming. He certainly liked Mrs. Smith; but then, as he had begun to find out of himself he liked women’s society generally. He was almost jealous of the doctor, because the doctor was allowed to talk to Miss Green and waltz with Miss Green, whereas he could not approach her. Then he thought of Maria Shand and that kiss in the little back parlour,–the kiss which had not meant much, but which had meant something; and then of Julia Babington, to whom he was not quite sure that he ought not to feel himself engaged. But the face that was clearest to him of all,–and which became the dearer the nearer that he approached to a state of dozing,–was that of Hester Bolton, whose voice he had hardly heard, who had barely spoken to him;–the tips of whose fingers he had only just touched. If there was any one thing fixed on his mind it was that, as soon as he had put together a large lump of gold, he would go back to Cambridge and win Hester Bolton to be his wife. But yet what a singular woman was this Mrs. Smith! As to marrying her, that of course had been a joke produced by the petulance of his snoring friend. He began to dislike Shand, because he did snore so loudly, and drank so much bottled ale, and smelt so strongly of cavendish tobacco. Mrs. Smith was at any rate much too good for Shand. Surely she must have been a lady, or her voice would not have been sweet and silvery? And though she did bristle roughly against the ill-usage of the world, and say strong things, she was never absolutely indelicate or even loud. And she was certainly very interesting. How did it come to pass that she was so completely alone, so poor, so unfriended and yet possessed of such gifts? There certainly was a mystery, and it would certainly be his fate, and not the fate of Dick Shand, to unravel it. The puzzle was much too delicate and too intricate for Dick Shand’s rough hands. Then, giving his last waking thoughts for a moment to Hester Bolton, he went to sleep in spite of the snoring.
On the next morning, as soon as he was out of bed, he opened a small portmanteau in which he had put up some volumes the day before he left Pollington and to which he had not yet had recourse since the beginning of the voyage. From these he would select one or two for the use of his new friend. So he dragged out the valise from beneath the berth, while Shand abused him for the disturbance he made. On the top, lying on the other volumes, which were as he had placed them, was a little book, prettily bound, by no means new, which he was sure had never been placed there by himself. He took it up, and, standing in the centre of the cabin, between the light of the porthole and Dick’s bed, he examined it. It was a copy of Thomson’s ‘Seasons’, and on the flyleaf was written in a girl’s hand the name of its late owner,–Maria Shand. The truth flashed upon him at once. She must have gone down on that last night after he was in bed, and thus have made her little offering in silence, knowing that it would be hidden from him till he was far away from her.
‘What book is that?’ said Shand suddenly, emerging with his head and shoulders from the low berth.
‘A book of mine,’ said Caldigate, disconcerted for the moment.
‘What are you going to do with it?’
‘I am looking for something to lend to Mrs. Smith.’
‘That is Molly’s Thomson’s “Seasons,”‘ said the brother, remembering, as we are so apt to remember the old thing that had met his eye so often in the old house. ‘Where did you get it?’
‘I didn’t steal it, Dick.’
‘I don’t suppose you did; but I’m sure it’s the book I say.’
‘No doubt it is. If you think it is in bad hands, shall I give it back to you?’
‘I don’t want it. If she gave it you, she was a fool for her pains.’
‘I don’t see that.’
‘I would rather, at any rate, that you would not lend a book with my sister’s name in it to Mrs. Smith.’
‘I was not thinking of doing so. She wants a Shakespeare that I have got here, and a volume of Tennyson.’ Then Dick retreated back into his berth, and snored again, while Caldigate dressed himself. When that operation was completed,–which, including his lavations, occupied about five minutes,–he went up on the deck with the books for Mrs. Smith in his hand, and with Thomson’s ‘Seasons’ in his pocket. So the poor girl had absolutely stolen down-stairs in the middle of the cold night, and had opened the case and re-fastened it, in order that he, when in strange lands, might find himself in possession of something that had been hers!
He had not been alone a minute or two, and was looking about to see if Mrs. Smith was there, when he was accosted by the Captain. The Captain was a pleasant-looking, handsome man, about forty-five years of age, who had the good word of almost everybody on board, but who had not before spoken specially to Caldigate.
‘Good morning, Mr. Caldigate. I hope you find yourself fairly comfortable where you are.’
‘Pretty well, thank you, Captain.’