Part 1 out of 10
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Etext by James Rusk, firstname.lastname@example.org. Italics are indicated by the
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by Charles Reade and Dion Boucicault
THERE are places which appear, at first sight, inaccessible to romance;
and such a place was Mr. Wardlaw's dining-room in Russell Square. It was
very large, had sickly green walls, picked out with aldermen, full
length; heavy maroon curtains; mahogany chairs; a turkey carpet an inch
thick: and was lighted with wax candles only.
In the center, bristling and gleaming with silver and glass, was a round
table, at which fourteen could have dined comfortably; and at opposite
sides of this table sat two gentlemen, who looked as neat, grave,
precise, and unromantic, as the place: Merchant Wardlaw, and his son.
Wardlaw senior was an elderly man, tall, thin, iron-gray, with a round
head, a short, thick neck, a good, brown eye, a square jowl that
betokened resolution, and a complexion so sallow as to be almost
cadaverous. Hard as iron: but a certain stiff dignity and respectability
sat upon him, and became him.
Arthur Wardlaw resembled his father in figure, but his mother in face. He
had, and has, hay-colored hair, a forehead singularly white and delicate,
pale blue eyes, largish ears, finely chiseled features, the under lip
much shorter than the upper; his chin oval and pretty, but somewhat
receding; his complexion beautiful. In short, what nineteen people out of
twenty would call a handsome young man, and think they had described him.
Both the Wardlaws were in full dress, according to the invariable custom
of the house; and sat in a dead silence, that seemed natural to the great
This, however, was not for want of a topic; on the contrary, they had a
matter of great importance to discuss, and in fact this was why they
dined _tete-a-tete._ But their tongues were tied for the present; in the
first place, there stood in the middle of the table an epergne, the size
of a Putney laurel-tree; neither Wardlaw could well see the other,
without craning out his neck like a rifleman from behind his tree; and
then there were three live suppressors of confidential intercourse, two
gorgeous footmen and a somber, sublime, and, in one word, episcopal,
butler; all three went about as softly as cats after a robin, and
conjured one plate away, and smoothly insinuated another, and seemed
models of grave discretion: but were known to be all ears, and bound by a
secret oath to carry down each crumb of dialogue to the servants' hall,
for curious dissection and boisterous ridicule.
At last, however, those three smug hypocrites retired, and, by good luck,
transferred their suffocating epergne to the sideboard; so then father
and son looked at one another with that conscious air which naturally
precedes a topic of interest; and Wardlaw senior invited his son to try a
certain decanter of rare old port, by way of preliminary.
While the young man fills his glass, hurl we in his antecedents.
At school till fifteen, and then clerk in his father's office till
twenty-two, and showed an aptitude so remarkable, that John Wardlaw, who
was getting tired, determined, sooner or later, to put the reins of
government into his hands. But he conceived a desire that the future head
of his office should be a university man. So he announced his resolution,
and to Oxford went young Wardlaw, though he had not looked at Greek or
Latin for seven years. He was, however, furnished with a private tutor,
under whom he recovered lost ground rapidly. The Reverend Robert Penfold
was a first-class man, and had the gift of teaching. The house of Wardlaw
had peculiar claims on him, for he was the son of old Michael Penfold,
Wardlaw's cashier; he learned from young Wardlaw the stake he was playing
for, and instead of merely giving him one hour's lecture per day, as he
did to his other pupils, he used to come to his rooms at all hours, and
force him to read, by reading with him. He also stood his friend in a
serious emergency. Young Wardlaw, you must know, was blessed or cursed
with Mimicry; his powers in that way really seemed to have no limit, for
he could imitate any sound you liked with his voice, and any form with
his pen or pencil. Now, we promise you, he was one man under his father's
eye, and another down at Oxford; so, one night, this gentleman, being
warm with wine, opens his window, and, seeing a group of undergraduates
chattering and smoking in the quadrangle, imitates the peculiar grating
tones of Mr. Champion, vice-president of the college, and gives them
various reasons why they ought to disperse to their rooms and study.
"But, perhaps," says he, in conclusion, "you are too blind drunk to read
Bosh in crooked letters by candle-light? In that case----"
And he then gave them some very naughty advice how to pass the evening;
still in the exact tones of Mr. Champion, who was a very, very strict
moralist; and this unexpected sally of wit caused shrieks of laughter,
and mightily tickled all the hearers, except Champion ipse, who was
listening and disapproving at another window. He complained to the
president. Then the ingenious Wardlaw, not having come down to us in a
direct line from Bayard, committed a great mistake--he denied it.
It was brought home to him, and the president, who had laughed in his
sleeve at the practical joke, looked very grave at the falsehood;
Rustication was talked of and even Expulsion. Then Wardlaw came
sorrowfully to Penfold, and said to him, "I must have been awfully cut,
for I don't remember all that; I had been wining at Christchurch. I do
remember slanging the fellows, but how can I tell what I said? I say, old
fellow, it will be a bad job for me if they expel me, or even rusticate
me; my father will never forgive me; I shall be his clerk, but never his
partner; and then he will find out what a lot I owe down here. I'm done
for! I'm done for!"
Penfold uttered not a word, but grasped his hand, and went off to the
president, and said his pupil had wined at Christchurch, and could not be
expected to remember minutely. Mimicry was, unfortunately, a habit with
him. He then pleaded for the milder construction with such zeal and
eloquence that the high-minded scholar he was addressing admitted that
construction was _possible,_ and therefore must be received. So the
affair ended in a written apology to Mr. Champion which had all the
smoothness and neatness of a merchant's letter. Arthur Wardlaw was
already a master in that style.
Six months after this, and one fortnight before the actual commencement
of our tale, Arthur Wardlaw, well crammed by Penfold, went up for his
final examination, throbbing with anxiety. He passed; and was so grateful
to his tutor that, when the advowson of a small living near Oxford came
into the market, he asked Wardlaw senior to lend Robert Penfold a sum of
money, much more than was needed. And Wardlaw senior declined without a
This slight sketch will serve as a key to the dialogue it has postponed,
and to subsequent incidents.
"Well, Arthur, and so you have really taken your degree?"
"No, sir; but I have passed my examination. The degree follows as a
matter of course--that is a mere question of fees."
"Oh! Then now I have something to say to you. Try one more glass of the
'47 port. Stop; you'll excuse me; I am a man of business; I don't doubt
your word; Heaven forbid! but, do you happen to have any document you can
produce, in further confirmation of what you state; namely, that you have
passed your final examination at the University?"
"Certainly, sir;" replied young Wardlaw. "My Testamur."
"What is that?"
The young gentleman put his hand in his pocket and produced his Testamur,
or "We bear witness"; a short printed document in Latin, which may be
"We bear witness that Arthur Wardlaw, of St. Luke's College, has answered
our questions in humane letters.
Wardlaw senior took it, laid it beside him on the table, inspected it
with his double eye-glass, and, not knowing a word of Latin, was mightily
impressed, and his respect for his son rose forty or forty-five per cent.
"Very well, sir," said he. "Now listen to me. Perhaps it was an old man's
fancy; but I have often seen in the world what a stamp these universities
put upon a man. To send you back from commerce to Latin and Greek, at
two-and-twenty, was trying you rather hard; it was trying you doubly;
your obedience, and your ability into the bargain. Well, sir, you have
stood the trial, and I am proud of you. And so now it is my turn. From
this day and from this hour look on yourself as my partner in the old
established house of Wardlaw. My balance-sheet shall be prepared
immediately, and the partnership deed drawn. You will enter on a
flourishing concern, sir; and you will virtually conduct it, in written
communication with me; for I have had five-and-forty years of it; and
then my liver, you know! Watson advises me strongly to leave my desk, and
try country air, and rest from business and its cares."
He paused a moment; and the young man drew a long breath, like one who
was in the act of being relieved of some terrible weight.
As for the old gentleman, he was not observing his son just then, but
thinking of his own career; a certain expression of pain and regret came
over his features; but he shook it off with manly dignity. "Come, come,"
said he, "this is the law of Nature, and must be submitted to with a good
grace. Wardlaw junior, fill your glass." At the same time he stood up and
said, stoutly, "The setting sun drinks to the rising sun;" but could not
maintain that artificial style, and ended with, "God bless you, my boy,
and may you stick to business; avoid speculation, as I have done; and so
hand the concern down healthy to your son, as my father there (pointing
to a picture) handed it down to me, and I to you."
His voice wavered slightly in uttering this benediction; but only for a
moment. He then sat quietly down, and sipped his wine composedly.
Not so the other. His color came and went violently all the time his
father was speaking, and, when he ceased, he sank into his chair with
another sigh deeper than the last, and two half-hysterical tears came to
his pale eyes.
But presently, feeling he was expected to say something, he struggled
against all this mysterious emotion, and faltered out that he should not
fear the responsibility, if he might have constant recourse to his father
"Why, of course," was the reply. "My country house is but a mile from the
station. You can telegraph for me in any case of importance."
"When would you wish me to commence my new duties?"
"Let me see, it will take six weeks to prepare a balance-sheet, such as I
could be content to submit to an incoming partner. Say two months."
Young Wardlaw's countenance fell.
"Meantime you shall travel on the Continent and enjoy yourself."
"Thank you," said young Wardlaw, mechanically, and fell into a brown
The room now returned to what seemed its natural state. And its silence
continued until it was broken from without.
A sharp knocking was heard at the street door, and resounded across the
The Wardlaws looked at one another in some little surprise.
"I have invited nobody," said the elder. Some time elapsed, and then a
footman made his appearance and brought in a card.
"Mr. Christopher Adams."
Now that Mr. Christopher Adams should call on John Wardlaw, in his
private room, at nine o'clock in the evening, seemed to that merchant
irregular, presumptuous and monstrous. "Tell him he will find me at my
place of business to-morrow, as usual," said he, knitting his brows.
The footman went off with this message; and, soon after, raised voices
were heard in the hall, and the episcopal butler entered the room with an
"He says he _must_ see you; he is in great anxiety."
"Yes, I am in great anxiety," said a quavering voice at his, elbow; and
Mr. Adams actually pushed by the butler, and stood, hat in hand, in those
sacred precincts. "'Pray excuse me, sir," said he, "but it is very
serious; I can't be easy in my mind till I have put you a question."
"This is very extraordinary conduct, sir," said Mr. Wardlaw. "Do you
think I do business here, and at all hours?"
"Oh, no, sir. It is my own business. I am come to ask you a very serious
question. I couldn't wait till morning with such a doubt on my mind."
"Well, sir, I repeat this is irregular and extraordinary; but as you are
here, pray what is the matter?" He then dismissed the lingering butler
with a look. Mr. Adams cast uneasy glances on young Wardlaw.
"Oh," said the elder, "you can speak before him. This is my partner; that
is to say, he will be as soon as the balance-sheet can be prepared and
the deed drawn. Wardlaw junior, this is Mr. Adams, a very respectable
The two men bowed to each other, and Arthur Wardlaw sat down motionless.
"Sir, did you draw a note of hand to-day?" inquired Adams of the elder
"I dare say I did. Did you discount one signed by me?"
"Yes, sir, we did."
"Well, sir, you have only to present it at maturity. Wardlaw & Son will
provide for it, I dare say." This with the lofty nonchalance of a rich
man who had never broken an engagement in his life.
"Ah, that I know they will if it is all right; but suppose it is not?"
"What d'ye mean?" asked Wardlaw, with some astonishment.
"Oh, nothing, sir! It bears your signature, that is good for twenty times
the amount; and it is indorsed by your cashier. Only what makes me a
little uneasy, your bills used to be always on your own forms, and so I
told my partner; he discounted it. Gentlemen, I wish you would just look
"Of course we will look at it. Show it Arthur first; his eyes are younger
Mr. Adams took out a large bill-book, extracted the note of hand, and
passed it across the table to Wardlaw junior. He took it up with a sort
of shiver, and bent his head very low over it; then handed it back in
Adams took it to Wardlaw senior and laid it before him by the side of
The merchant inspected it with his glasses.
"The writing is mine, apparently."
"I am very glad of it," said the bill-broker, eagerly.
"Stop a bit," said Mr. Wardlaw. "Why, what is this? For two thousand
pounds! and, as you say, not my form. I have signed no note for two
thousand pounds this week. Dated yesterday. You have not cashed it, I
"I am sorry to say my partner has."
"Well, sir, not to keep you in suspense, the thing is not worth the stamp
it is written on."
"Mr. Wardlaw!--Sir!--Good heavens! Then it is as I feared. It is a
"I should be puzzled to find any other name for it. You need not look so
pale, Arthur. We can't help some clever scoundrel imitating our hands;
and as for you, Adams, you ought to have been more cautious."
"But, sir, your cashier's name is Penfold," faltered the holder, clinging
to a straw. "May he not have drawn--is the indorsement forged as well?"
Mr. Wardlaw examined the back of the bill, and looked puzzled. "No," said
he. "My cashier's name is Michael Penfold, but this is indorsed 'Robert
Penfold.' Do you hear, Arthur? Why, what is the matter with you? You look
like a ghost. I say there is your tutor's name at the back of this forged
note. That is very strange. Just look, and tell me who wrote these two
words 'Robert Penfold'?"
Young Wardlaw took the document and tried to examine it calmly, but it
shook visibly in his hand, and a cold moisture gathered on his brow. His
pale eyes roved to and fro in a very remarkable way; and he was so long
before he said anything that both the other persons present began to eye
him with wonder.
At last he faltered out, "This 'Robert Penfold' seems to me very like his
own handwriting. But then the rest of the writing is equally like yours,
sir. I am sure Robert Penfold never did anything wrong. Mr. Adams, please
oblige _me._ Let this go no further till I have seen him, and asked him
whether he indorsed it."
"Now don't you be in a hurry," said the elder Wardlaw. "The first
question is, who received the money?"
Mr. Adams replied that it was a respectable-looking man, a young
"Ah!" said Wardlaw, with a world of meaning.
"Father!" said young Wardlaw, imploringly, "for my sake, say no more
to-night. Robert Penfold is incapable of a dishonest act."
"It becomes your years to think so, young man. But I have lived long
enough to see what crimes respectable man are betrayed into in the hour
of temptation. And, now I think of it, this Robert Penfold is in want of
money. Did he not ask me for a loan of two thousand pounds? Was not that
the very sum? Can't you answer me? Why, the application came through
Receiving no reply from his son, but a sort of agonized stare, he took
out his pencil and wrote down Robert Penfold's address. This he handed
the bill-broker, and gave him some advice in a whisper, which Mr.
Christopher Adams received with a profusion of thanks, and bustled away,
leaving Wardlaw senior excited and indignant, Wardlaw junior ghastly pale
and almost stupefied.
Scarcely a word was spoken for some minutes, and then the younger man
broke out suddenly: "Robert Penfold is the best friend I ever had; I
should have been expelled but for him, and I should never have earned
that Testamur but for him."
The old merchant interrupted him. "You exaggerate. But, to tell the
truth, I am sorry now I did not lend him the money you asked for. For,
mark my words, in a moment of temptation that miserable young man has
forged my name, and will be convicted of the felony and punished
"No, no. Oh, God forbid!" shrieked young Wardlaw. "I couldn't bear it. If
he did, he must have intended to replace it. I must see him; I will see
him directly." He got up all in a hurry, and was going to Penfold to warn
him, and get him out of the way till the money should be replaced. But
his father started up at the same moment and forbade him, in accents that
he had never yet been able to resist.
"Sit down, sir, this instant," said the old man, with terrible sternness.
"Sit down, I say, or you will never be a partner of mine. Justice must
take its course. What business and what right have we to protect a felon?
I would not take your part if you were one. Indeed it is too late now,
for the detectives will be with him before you could reach him. I gave
Adams his address."
At this last piece of information Wardlaw junior leaned his head on the
table and groaned aloud, and a cold perspiration gathered in beads upon
his white forehead.
THAT same evening sat over their tea, in Norfolk Street, Strand, another
couple, who were also father and son; but, in this pair, the Wardlaws
were reversed. Michael Penfold was a reverend, gentle creature, with
white hair, blue eyes and great timidity; why, if a stranger put to him a
question he used to look all round the room before he ventured to answer.
Robert, his son, was a young man with a large brown eye, a mellow voice,
square shoulders and a prompt and vigorous manner. Cricketer. Scholar.
They were talking hopefully together over a living Robert was going to
buy. It was near Oxford, he said, and would not prevent his continuing to
take pupils. "But, father," said he, "it will be a place to take my wife
to if I ever have one; and, meantime, I hope you will run down now and
then, Saturday to Monday."
"That I will, Robert. Ah! how proud _she_ would have been to hear you
preach; it was always her dream, poor thing."
"Let us think she _can_ hear me," said Robert. "And I have got _you_
still; the proceeds of this living will help me to lodge you more
"You are very good, Robert. I would rather see you spend it upon
yourself; but, dear me, what a manager you must be to dress so
beautifully as you do, and send your old father presents as you do, and
yet put by fourteen hundred pounds to buy this living."
"You are mistaken, sir, I have only saved four hundred; the odd
thousand-- But that is a secret for the present."
"Oh, I am not inquisitive. I never was."
They then chatted about things of no importance whatever, and the old
gentleman was just lighting his candle to go to bed, when a visitor was
ushered into the room.
The Penfolds looked a little surprised, but not much. They had no street
door all to themselves; no liveried dragons to interpose between them and
unseasonable or unwelcome visitors.
The man was well dressed, with one exception; he wore a gold chain. He
had a hooked nose, and a black, piercing eye. He stood at the door and
observed every person and thing in the room minutely before he spoke a
Then he said, quietly, "Mr. Michael Penfold, I believe."
"At your service, sir.
"And Mr. Robert Penfold."
"I am Robert Penfold. What is your business?"
"Pray is the 'Robert Penfold' at the back of this note your writing?"
"Certainly it is; they would not cash it without that."
"Oh, you got the money, then?"
"Of course I did."
"You have not parted with it, have you?"
"All the better." He then turned to Michael and looked at him earnestly a
moment. "The fact is, sir," said he, "there is a little irregularity
about this bill which must be explained, or your son might be called on
to refund the cash."
"'Irregularity about--a bill?" cried Michael Penfold, in dismay "Who is
the drawer? Let me see it. Oh, dear me, something wrong about a bill
indorsed by you, Robert?" and the old man began to shake piteously.
"Why, father," said Robert, "what are you afraid of? If the bill is
irregular I can but return the money. It is in the house."
"The best way will be for Mr. Robert Penfold to go at once with me to the
bill-broker; he lives but a few doors off. And you, sir, must stay here
and be responsible for the funds, till we return."
Robert Penfold took his hat directly, and went off with this mysterious
They had not gone many steps, when Robert's companion stopped, and,
getting in front of him, said, "We can settle this matter here." At the
same time a policeman crossed the way and joined them; and another man,
who was, in fact, a policeman in plain clothes, emerged from a doorway
and stood at Robert Penfold's back.
The detective, having thus surrounded him, threw off his disguise. "My
man," said he, "I ought to have done this job in your house. But I looked
at the worthy old gentleman and his gray hairs. I thought I'd spare him
all I could. I have a warrant to arrest you for forgery!"
"Forgery! arrest me for forgery!" said Robert Penfold, with some
amazement, but little emotion; for he hardly seemed to take it in, in all
its horrible significance.
The next moment, however, he turned pale, and almost staggered under the
"We had better go to Mr. Wardlaw," said he. "I entreat you to go to him
"Can't be done," said the detective. "Wardlaw has nothing to do with it.
The bill is stopped. You are arrested by the gent that cashed it. Here is
the warrant; will you go quietly with us, or must I put the darbies on?"
Robert was violently agitated. "There is no need to arrest me," he cried;
"I shall not run from my accuser. Hands off, I say. I'm a clergyman of
the Church of England, and you shall not lay hands on me."
But one of the policemen did lay hands on him. Then the Reverend Robert
Penfold shook him furiously off, and, with one active bound, sprang into
the middle of the road.
The officers went at him incautiously, and the head detective, as he
rushed forward, received a heavy blow on the neck and jaw that sounded
along the street, and sent him rolling in the mud; this was followed by a
quick succession of staggering facers, administered right and left on the
eyes and noses of the subordinates. These, however, though bruised and
bleeding, succeeded at last in grappling their man, and all came to the
ground together, and there struggled furiously; every window in the
street was open by this time, and at one the white hair and reverend face
of Michael Penfold looked out on this desperate and unseemly struggle
with hands that beat the air in helpless agony and inarticulate cries of
The detective got up and sat upon Robert Penfold's chest; and at last the
three forced the handcuffs upon him and took him in a cab to the
Next day, before the magistrate, Wardlaw senior proved the note was a
forgery, and Mr. Adams's partner swore to the prisoner as the person who
had presented and indorsed the note. The officers attended, two with
black eyes apiece, and one with his jaw bound up, and two sound teeth in
his pocket, which had been driven from their sockets by the prisoner in
his desperate attempt to escape. Their evidence hurt the prisoner, and
the magistrate refused bail.
The Reverend Robert Penfold was committed to prison, to be tried at the
Central Criminal Court on a charge of felony.
Wardlaw senior returned home, and told Wardlaw junior, who said not a
word. He soon received a letter from Robert Penfold, which agitated him
greatly, and he promised to go to the prison and see him.
But he never went.
He was very miserable, a prey to an inward struggle. He dared not offend
his father on the eve of being made partner. Yet his heart bled for
He did what might perhaps have been expected from that pale eye and
receding chin--he temporized. He said to himself, "Before that horrible
trial comes on, I shall be the house of Wardlaw, and able to draw a check
for thousands. I'll buy off Adams at any price, and hush up the whole
So he hoped, and hoped. But the accountant was slow, the public
prosecutor unusually quick; and, to young Wardlaw's agony, the
partnership deed was not ready when an imploring letter was put into his
hands, urging him, by all that men hold sacred, to attend at the court as
the prisoner's witness.
This letter almost drove young Wardlaw mad. He went to Adams and
entreated him not to carry the matter into court. But Adams was
inexorable. He had got his money, but would be revenged for the fright.
Baffled here, young Wardlaw went down to Oxford and shut himself up in
his own room, a prey to fear and remorse. He sported his oak, and never
went out. All his exercise was that of a wild beast in its den, walking
restlessly up and down.
But all his caution did not prevent the prisoner's solicitor from getting
to him. One morning, at seven o'clock, a clerk slipped in at the heels of
his scout, and, coming to young Wardlaw's bedside, awoke him out of an
uneasy slumber by serving him with a subpoena to appear as Robert
This last stroke finished him. His bodily health gave way under his
mental distress. Gastric fever set in, and he was lying tossing and
raving in delirium, while Robert Penfold was being tried at the Central
The trial occupied six hours, and could easily be made rather
interesting. But, for various reasons, with which it would not be good
taste to trouble the reader, we decide to skim it.
The indictment contained two counts; one for forging the note of hand,
the other for uttering it knowing it to be forged.
On the first count, the Crown was weak, and had to encounter the evidence
of Undercliff, the distinguished expert, who swore that the hand which
wrote "Robert Penfold" was not, in his opinion, the hand that had written
the body of the instrument. He gave many minute reasons in support of
this. And nothing of any weight was advanced contra. The judge directed
the jury to acquit the prisoner on that count.
But, on the charge of uttering, the evidence was clear, and on the
question of knowledge it was, perhaps, a disadvantage to the prisoner
that he was tried in England, and could not be heard in person, as he
could have been in a foreign court; above all, his resistance to the
officers eked out the presumption that he knew the note had been forged
by some person or other, who was probably his accomplice.
The absence of his witness, Wardlaw junior, was severely commented on by
his counsel; indeed, he appealed to the judge to commit the said Wardlaw
for contempt of court. But Wardlaw senior was recalled, and swore that he
had left his son in a burning fever, not expected to live. And declared,
with genuine emotion, that nothing but a high sense of public duty had
brought _him_ hither from his dying son's bedside. He also told the court
that Arthur's inability to clear his friend had really been the first
cause of his illness, from which he was not expected to recover.
The jury consulted together a long time; and, at last, brought in a
verdict of "GUILTY"; but recommended him to mercy on grounds which might
fairly have been alleged in favor of his innocence; but, if guilty,
rather aggravated his crime.
Then an officer of the court inquired, in a sort of chant or recitative,
whether the prisoner had anything to say why judgment should not be given
in accordance with the verdict.
It is easy to divest words of their meaning by false intonation; and
prisoners in general receive this bit of singsong in dead silence. For
why? the chant conveys no idea to their ears, and they would as soon
think of _replying_ to the notes of a cuckoo.
But the Reverend Robert Penfold was in a keen agony that sharpened all
his senses; he caught the sense of the words in spite of the speaker, and
clung wildly to the straw that monotonous machine held out. "My lord! my
lord!" he cried, "I'll tell you the real reason why young Wardlaw is not
The judge put up his hand with a gesture that enforced silence.
"Prisoner," said he, "I cannot go back to facts; the jury have dealt with
them. Judgment can be arrested only on grounds of law. On these you can
be heard. But, if you have none to offer, you must be silent and submit
to your sentence." He then, without a pause, proceeded to point out the
heinous character of the offense, but admitted there was one mitigating
circumstance; and, in conclusion, he condemned the culprit to five years'
At this the poor wretch uttered a cry of anguish that was fearful, and
clutched the dock convulsively.
Now a prisoner rarely speaks to a judge without revolting him by bad law,
or bad logic, or hot words. But this wild cry was innocent of all these,
and went straight from the heart in the dock to the heart on the judgment
seat. And so his lordship's voice trembled for a moment, and then became
firm again, but solemn and humane.
"But," said he, "my experience tells me this is your first crime, and may
possibly be your last. I shall therefore use my influence that you may
not be associated with more hardened criminals, but may be sent out of
this country to another, where you may begin life afresh, and, in the
course of years, efface this dreadful stain. Give me hopes of you; begin
your repentance where now you stand, by blaming yourself, and no other
man. No man constrained you to utter a forged note, and to receive the
money; it was found in your possession. For such an act there can be no
defense in law, morality, or religion."
These words overpowered the culprit. He burst out crying with great
But it did not last long. He became strangely composed all of a sudden;
and said, "God forgive all concerned in this--but one--but one."
He then bowed respectfully, and like a gentleman, to the judge and the
jury, and walked out of the dock with the air of a man who had parted
with emotion, and would march to the gallows now without flinching.
The counsel for the Crown required that the forged document should be
"I was about to make the same demand," said the prisoner's counsel.
The judge snubbed them both, and said it was a matter of course.
Robert Penfold spent a year in separate confinement, and then, to cure
him of its salutary effect (if any), was sent on board the hulk
_Vengeance,_ and was herded with the greatest miscreants in creation.
They did not reduce him to their level, but they injured his mind. And,
before half his sentence had expired, he sailed for a penal colony, a man
with a hot coal in his bosom, a creature imbittered, poisoned; hoping
little, believing little, fearing little, and hating much.
He took with him the prayer-book his mother had given him when he was
ordained deacon. But he seldom read beyond the fly-leaf. There the poor
lady had written at large her mother's heart, and her pious soul aspiring
heavenward for her darling son. This, when all seemed darkest, he would
sometimes run to with moist eyes. For he was sure of his mother's love,
but almost doubted the justice of his God.
MR. WARDLAW went down to his son and nursed him. He kept the newspapers
from him, and, on his fever abating, had him conveyed by easy stages to
the seaside, and then sent him abroad.
The young man obeyed in gloomy silence. He never asked after Robert
Penfold, now; never mentioned his name. He seemed, somehow, thankful to
be controlled mind and body.
But, before he had been abroad a month, he wrote for leave to return home
and to throw himself into business. There was, for once, a nervous
impatience in his letters, and his father, who pitied him deeply, and was
more than ever inclined to reward and indulge him, yielded readily
enough; and, on his arrival, signed the partnership deed, and,
Polonius-like, gave him much good counsel; then retired to his country
At first he used to run up every three days, and examine the day-book and
ledger, and advise his junior; but these visits soon became fewer, and at
last he did little more than correspond occasionally.
Arthur Wardlaw held the reins, and easily paid his Oxford debts out of
the assets of the firm. Not being happy in his mind, he threw himself
into commerce with feverish zeal, and very soon extended the operations
of the house.
One of his first acts of authority was to send for Michael Penfold into
his room. Now poor old Michael, ever since his son's misfortune, as he
called it, had crept to his desk like a culprit, expecting every day to
be discharged. When he received this summons he gave a sigh and went
slowly to the young merchant.
Arthur Wardlaw looked up at his entrance, then looked down again, and
said coldly, "Mr. Penfold, you have been a faithful servant to us many
years; I raise your salary fifty pounds a year, and you will keep the
The old man was dumfounded at first, and then began to give vent to his
surprise and gratitude; but Wardlaw cut him short, almost fiercely.
"There, there, there," said he, without raising his eyes, "let me hear no
more about it, and, above all, never speak to me of that cursed business.
It was no fault of yours, nor mine neither. There--go--I want no thanks.
Do you hear? leave me, Mr. Penfold, if you please."
The old man bowed low and retired, wondering much at his employer's
goodness, and a little at his irritability.
Wardlaw junior's whole soul was given to business night and day, and he
soon became known for a very ambitious and rising merchant. But, by and
by, ambition had to encounter a rival in his heart. He fell in love;
deeply in love; and with a worthy object.
The young lady was the daughter of a distinguished officer, whose merits
were universally recognized, but not rewarded in proportion. Wardlaw's
suit was favorably received by the father, and the daughter gradually
yielded to an attachment the warmth, sincerity and singleness of which
were manifest. And the pair would have been married but for the
circumstance that her father (partly through Wardlaw's influence, by the
by) had obtained a lucrative post abroad which it suited his means to
accept, at all events for a time. He was a widower, and his daughter
could not let him go alone.
This temporary separation, if it postponed a marriage, led naturally to a
solemn engagement; and Arthur Wardlaw enjoyed the happiness of writing
and receiving affectionate letters by every foreign post. Love, worthily
bestowed, shed its balm upon his heart, and, under its soft but powerful
charm, he grew tranquil and complacent, and his character and temper
seemed to improve. Such virtue is there in a pure attachment.
Meanwhile the extent of his operations alarmed old Penfold; but he soon
reasoned that worthy down with overpowering conclusions and superior
He had been three years the ruling spirit of Wardlaw & Son, when some
curious events took place in another hemisphere; and in these events,
which we are now to relate, Arthur Wardlaw was more nearly interested
than may appear at first sight.
Robert Penfold, in due course, applied to Lieutenant-General Rolleston
for a ticket of leave. That functionary thought the application
premature, the crime being so grave. He complained that the system had
become too lax, and for his part he seldom gave a ticket-of-leave until
some suitable occupation was provided for the applicant. "Will anybody
take you as a clerk? If so, I'll see about it."
Robert Penfold could find nobody to take him into a post of confidence
all at once, and wrote the general an eloquent letter, begging hard to be
allowed to labor with his hands.
Fortunately, General Rolleston's gardener had just turned him off; so he
offered the post to his eloquent correspondent, remarking that he did not
much mind employing a ticket-of-leave man himself, though he was resolved
to protect his neighbors from their relapses.
The convict then came to General Rolleston, and begged leave to enter on
his duties under the name of James Seaton. At that General Rolleston
hem'd and haw'd, and took a note. But his final decision was as follows:
"If you really mean to change your character, why, the name you have
disgraced might hang round your neck. Well, I'll give you every chance.
But," said this old warrior, suddenly compressing his resolute lips just
a little, "if you go a yard off the straight path _now,_ look for no
mercy, Jemmy Seaton."
So the convict was re-christened at the tail of a threat, and let loose
among the warrior's tulips.
His appearance was changed as effectually as his name. Even before he was
Seatoned he had grown a silky mustache and beard of singular length and
beauty; and, what with these and his workingman's clothes, and his cheeks
and neck tanned by the sun, our readers would never have recognized in
this hale, bearded laborer the pale prisoner that had trembled, raged,
wept and submitted in the dock of the Central Criminal Court.
Our universities cure men of doing things by halves, be the things mental
or muscular; so Seaton gardened much more zealously than his plebeian
predecessor: up at five, and did not leave till eight.
But he was unpopular in the kitchen--because he was always out of it.
Taciturn and bitter, he shunned his fellow-servants.
Yet working among the flowers did him good; these his pretty companions
and nurslings had no vices.
One day, as he was rolling the grass upon the lawn, he heard a soft
rustle at some distance, and, looking round, saw a young lady on the
gravel path, whose calm but bright face, coming so suddenly, literally
dazzled him. She had a clear cheek blooming with exercise, rich brown
hair, smooth, glossy and abundant, and a very light hazel eye, of
singular beauty and serenity. She glided along, tranquil as a goddess,
smote him with beauty and perfume, and left him staring after her
receding figure, which was, in its way, as captivating as her face.
She was walking up and down for exercise, briskly, but without effort.
Once she passed within a few yards of him, and he touched his hat to her.
She inclined her head gently, but her eyes did not rest an instant on her
gardener; and so she passed and repassed, unconsciously sawing this
solitary heart with soft but penetrating thrills.
At last she went indoors to luncheon, and the lawn seemed to miss the
light music of her rustling dress, and the sunshine of her presence, and
there was a painful void; but that passed, and a certain sense of
happiness stole over James Seaton--an unreasonable joy, that often runs
before folly and trouble.
The young lady was Helen Rolleston, just returned home from a visit. She
walked in the garden every day, and Seaton watched her, and peeped at
her, unseen, behind trees and bushes. He fed his eyes and his heart upon
her, and, by degrees, she became the sun of his solitary existence. It
was madness; but its first effect was not unwholesome. The daily study of
this creature, who, though by no means the angel he took her for, was at
all events a pure and virtuous woman, soothed his sore heart, and
counteracted the demoralizing influence of his late companions. Every day
he drank deeper of an insane but purifying and elevating passion.
He avoided the kitchen still more; and that, by the by, was unlucky; for
there he could have learned something about Miss Helen Rolleston that
would have warned him to keep at the other end of the garden whenever
that charming face and form glided to and fro among the minor flowers.
A beautiful face fires our imagination, and we see higher virtue and
intelligence in it than we can detect in its owner's head or heart when
we descend to calm inspection. James Seaton gazed on Miss Rolleston day
after day, at so respectful a distance that she became his goddess. If a
day passed without his seeing her, he was dejected. When she was behind
her time, he was restless, anxious, and his work distasteful; and then,
when she came out at last, he thrilled all over, and the lawn, ay, the
world itself, seemed to fill with sunshine. His adoration, timid by its
own nature, was doubly so by reason of his fallen and hopeless condition.
He cut nosegays for her; but gave them to her maid Wilson for her. He had
not the courage to offer them to herself.
One evening, as he went home, a man addressed him familiarly, but in a
low voice. Seaton looked at him attentively, and recognized him at last.
It was a convict called Butt, who had come over in the ship with him. The
man offered him a glass of ale; Seaton declined it. Butt, a very clever
rogue, seemed hurt. So then Seaton assented reluctantly. Butt took him to
a public house in a narrow street, and into a private room. Seaton
started as soon as he entered, for there sat two repulsive ruffians, and,
by a look that passed rapidly between them and Butt, he saw plainly that
they were waiting for him. He felt nervous; the place was so uncouth and
dark, the faces so villainous.
However, they invited him to sit down, roughly, but with an air of good
fellowship; and very soon opened their business over their ale. We are
all bound to assist our fellow-creatures, when it can be done without
trouble; and what they asked of him was a simple act of courtesy, such as
in their opinion no man worthy of the name could deny to his fellow. It
was to give General Rolleston's watchdog a piece of prepared meat upon a
certain evening. And, in return for this trifling civility, they were
generous enough to offer him a full share of any light valuables they
might find in the general's house.
Seaton trembled, and put his face in his hands a moment. "I cannot do
it," said he.
"He has been too good to me."
A coarse laugh of derision greeted this argument; it seemed so irrelevant
to these pure egotists. Seaton, however, persisted, and on that one of
the men got up and stood before the door, and drew his knife gently.
Seaton glanced his eyes round in search of a weapon, and turned pale.
"Do you mean to split on us, mate?" said one of the ruffians in front of
"No, I don't. But I won't rob my benefactor. You shall kill me first."
And with that he darted to the fireplace, and in a moment the poker was
high in air, and the way he squared his shoulders and stood ready to hit
to the on, or cut to the off, was a caution.
"Come, drop that," said Butt, grimly; "and put up _your_ knife, Bob.
Can't a pal be out of a job, and yet not split on them that is in it!"
"Why should I split?" said Robert Penfold. "Has the law been a friend to
me? But I won't rob my benefactor--and his daughter."
"That is square enough," said Butt. "Why, pals, there are other cribs to
be cracked besides that old bloke's. Finish the ale, mate, and part
"If you will promise me to crack some other crib, and let that one
A sullen assent was given, and Seaton drank their healths, and walked
away. Butt followed him soon after, and affected to side with him, and
intimated that he himself was capable of not robbing a man's house who
had been good to him, or to a pal of his. Indeed this plausible person
said so much, and his sullen comrades had said so little, that Seaton,
rendered keen and anxious by love, invested his savings in a Colt's
revolver and ammunition.
He did not stop there; after the hint about the watch-dog, he would not
trust that faithful but too carnivorous animal; he brought his blankets
into the little tool-house, and lay there every night in a sort of dog's
sleep. This tool-house was erected in a little back garden, separated
from the lawn only by some young trees in single file. Now Miss
Rolleston's window looked out upon the lawn, so that Seaton's watchtower
was not many yards from it; then, as the tool-house was only lighted from
above, he bored a hole in the wooden structure, and through this he
watched, and slept, and watched. He used to sit studying theology by a
farthing rushlight till the lady's bedtime, and then he watched for her
shadow. If it appeared for a few moments on the blind, he gave a sigh of
content and went to sleep, but awaked every now and then to see that all
After a few nights, his alarms naturally ceased, but his love increased,
fed now from this new source, the sweet sense of being the secret
protector of her he adored.
Meantime, Miss Rolleston's lady's maid, Wilson, fell in love with him
after her fashion; she had taken a fancy to his face at once, and he had
encouraged her a little, unintentionally; for he brought the nosegays to
her, and listened complacently to her gossip, for the sake of the few
words she let fall now and then about her young mistress. As he never
exchanged two sentences at a time with any other servant, this flattered
Sarah Wilson, and she soon began to meet and accost him oftener, and in
cherrier-colored ribbons, than he could stand. So then he showed
impatience, and then she, reading him by herself, suspected some vulgar
Suspicion soon bred jealousy, jealousy vigilance, and vigilance
Her first discovery was that, so long as she talked of Miss Helen
Rolleston, she was always welcome; her second was, that Seaton slept in
She was not romantic enough to connect her two discoveries together. They
lay apart in her mind, until circumstances we are about to relate
supplied a connecting link.
One Thursday evening James Seaton's goddess sat alone with her papa,
and--being a young lady of fair abilities, who had gone through her
course of music and other studies, taught brainlessly, and who was now
going through a course of monotonous pleasures, and had not accumulated
any great store of mental resources--she was listless and languid, and
would have yawned forty times in her papa's face, only she was too
well-bred. She always turned her head away, when it came, and either
suppressed it, or else hid it with a lovely white hand. At last, as she
was a good girl, she blushed at her behavior, and roused herself up, and
said she, "Papa, shall I play you the new quadrilles?"
Papa gave a start and a shake, and said, with well-feigned vehemence,
"Ay, do, my dear," and so composed himself--to listen; and Helen sat down
and played the quadrilles.
The composer had taken immortal melodies, some gay, some sad, and had
robbed them of their distinctive character and hashed them till they were
all one monotonous rattle. But General Rolleston was little the worse for
all this. As Apollo saved Horace from hearing a poetaster's rhymes, so
did Somnus, another beneficent little deity, rescue our warrior from his
She was neither angry nor surprised. A delicious smile illumined her face
directly; she crept to him on tiptoe, and bestowed a kiss, light as a
zephyr, on his gray head. And, in truth, the bending attitude of this
supple figure, clad in snowy muslin, the virginal face and light hazel
eyes beaming love and reverence, and the airy kiss, had something
She took her candle, and glided up to her bedroom. And, the moment she
got there, and could gratify her somnolence without offense, need we say
she became wide-awake? She sat down and wrote long letters to three other
young ladies, gushing affection, asking questions of the kind nobody
replies to, painting, with a young lady's colors, the male being to whom
she was shortly to be married, wishing her dear friends a like demigod,
if perchance earth contained two; and so to the last new bonnet and
She sat over her paper till one o'clock, and Seaton watched and adored
When she had done writing, she opened her window and looked out upon the
night. She lifted those wonderful hazel eyes toward the stars, and her
watcher might well be pardoned if he saw in her a celestial being looking
up from an earthly resting place toward her native sky.
At two o'clock she was in bed, but not asleep. She lay calmly gazing at
the Southern Cross and other lovely stars shining with vivid but chaste
fire in the purple vault of heaven.
While thus employed she heard a slight sound outside that made her turn
her eyes toward a young tree near her window. Its top branches were
waving a good deal, though there was not a breath stirring. This struck
her as curious, very curious.
While she wondered, suddenly an arm and a hand came in sight, and after
them the whole figure of a man, going up the tree.
Helen sat up now, glaring with terror, and was so paralyzed she did not
utter a sound. About a foot below her window was a lead flat that roofed
the bay-window below. It covered an area of several feet, and the man
sprang on to it with perfect ease from the tree. Helen shrieked with
terror. At that very instant there was a flash, a pistol-shot, and the
man's arms went whirling, and he staggered and fell over the edge of the
flat, and struck the grass below with a heavy thud. Shots and blows
followed, and all the sounds of a bloody struggle rung in Helen's ears as
she flung herself screaming from the bed and darted to the door. She ran
and clung quivering to her sleepy maid, Wilson. The house was alarmed,
lights flashed, footsteps pattered, there was universal commotion.
General Rolleston soon learned his daughter's story from Wilson, and
aroused his male servants, one of whom was an old soldier. They searched
the house first; but no entrance had been effected; so they went out on
the lawn with blunderbuss and pistol.
They found a man lying on his back at the foot of the bay window.
They pounced on him, and, to their amazement, it was the gardener, James
General Rolleston was quite taken aback for a moment. Then he was sorry.
But, after a little reflection, he said very sternly, "Carry the
blackguard indoors; and run for an officer."
Seaton was taken into the hall and laid flat on the floor.
All the servants gathered about him, brimful of curiosity, and the female
ones began to speak all together; but General Rolleston told them sharply
to hold their tongues, and to retire behind the man. "Somebody sprinkle
him with cold water," said he; "and be quiet, all of you, and keep out of
sight, while I examine him." He stood before the insensible figure with
his arms folded, amid a dead silence, broken only by the stifled sobs of
Sarah Wilson, and of a sociable housemaid who cried with her for company.
And now Seaton began to writhe and show signs of returning sense.
Next he moaned piteously, and sighed. But General Rolleston could not
pity him; he waited grimly for returning consciousness, to subject him to
a merciless interrogatory.
He waited just one second too long. He had to answer a question instead
of putting one.
The judgment is the last faculty a man recovers when emerging from
insensibility; and Seaton, seeing the general standing before him,
stretched out his hands, and said, in a faint, but earnest voice, before
eleven witnesses, "Is she safe? Oh, is she safe?"
SARAH WILSON left off crying, and looked down on the ground with a very
red face. General Rolleston was amazed.
"Is she safe? Is who safe?" said he. "He means my mistress," replied
Wilson, rather brusquely; and flounced out of the hall.
"She is safe, no thanks to you," said General Rolleston. "What were you
doing under her window at this time of night?" And the harsh tone in
which this question was put showed Seaton he was suspected. This wounded
him, and he replied doggedly, "Lucky for you all I was there."
"That is no answer to my question," said the general sternly.
"It is all the answer I shall give you."
"Then I shall hand you over to the officer without another word."
"Do, sir, do," said Seaton bitterly; but he added more gently, "you will
be sorry for it when you come to your senses."
At this moment Wilson entered with a message. "If you please, sir, Miss
Rolleston says the robber had no beard. Miss have never noticed Seaton's
face, but his beard she have; and, oh, if you please, sir, she begged me
to ask him--Was it you that fired the pistol and shot the robber?"
The delivery of this ungrammatical message, but rational query was like a
ray of light streaming into a dark place. It changed the whole aspect of
things. As for Seaton, he received it as if Heaven was speaking to him
through Wilson. His sullen air relaxed, the water stood in his eyes, he
smiled affectionately, and said in a low, tender voice, "Tell her I heard
some bad characters talking about this house--that was a month ago--so
ever since then I have slept in the tool-house to watch. Yes, I shot the
robber with my revolver, and I marked one or two more; but they were
three to one; I think I must have got a blow on the head; for I felt
Here he was interrupted by a violent scream from Wilson. She pointed
downward, with her eyes glaring; and a little blood was seen to be
trickling slowly over Seaton's stocking and shoe.
"Wounded," said the general's servant, Tom, in the business-like accent
of one who had seen a thousand wounds.
"Oh, never mind that," said Seaton. "It can't he very deep, for I don't
feel it;" then, fixing his eyes on General Rolleston, he said, in a voice
that broke down suddenly, "There stands the only man who has wounded me
to-night, to hurt me."
The way General Rolleston received this point-blank reproach surprised
some persons present, who had observed only the imperious and iron side
of his character. He hung his head in silence a moment; then, being
discontented with himself, he went into a passion with his servants for
standing idle. "Run away, you women," said he roughly. "Now, Tom, if you
are good for anything, strip the man and stanch his wound. Andrew, a
bottle of port, quick!"
Then, leaving him for a while in friendly hands, he went to his daughter
and asked her if she saw any objection to a bed being made up in the
house for the wounded convict.
"Oh, papa," said she, "why, of course not. I am all gratitude. What is he
like, Wilson? for it is a most provoking thing, I never noticed his face,
only his beautiful beard glittering in the sunshine ever so far off. Poor
young man! Oh, yes, papa! send him to bed directly, and we will all nurse
him. I never did any good in the world yet, and so why not begin at
General Rolleston laughed at this squirt of enthusiasm from his staid
daughter, and went off to give the requisite orders.
But Wilson followed him immediately and stopped him in the passage.
"If you please, sir, I think you had better not. I have something to tell
She then communicated to him by degrees her suspicion that James Seaton
was in love with his daughter. He treated this with due ridicule at
first; but she gave him one reason after another till she staggered him,
and he went downstairs in a most mixed and puzzled frame of mind,
inclined to laugh, inclined to be angry, inclined to be sorry.
The officer had just arrived, and was looking over some photographs to
see if James Seaton was "one of his birds." Such, alas! was his
At sight of this, Rolleston colored up; but extricated himself from the
double difficulty with some skill. "Hexham," said he, "this poor fellow
has behaved like a man, and got himself wounded in my service. You are to
take him to the infirmary; but, mind, they must treat him like my own
son, and nothing he asks for be denied him."
Seaton walked with feeble steps, and leaning on two men, to the
infirmary; and General Rolleston ordered a cup of coffee, lighted a cigar
and sat cogitating over this strange business and asking himself how he
could get rid of this young madman and yet befriend him. As for Sarah
Wilson, she went to bed discontented and wondering at her own bad
judgment. She saw too late that if she had held her tongue Seaton would
have been her patient and her prisoner; and as for Miss Rolleston, when
it came to the point, why, she would never have nursed him except by
proxy, and the proxy would have been Sarah Wilson.
However, the blunder blind passion had led her into was partially
repaired by Miss Rolleston herself. When she heard, next day, where
Seaton was gone, she lifted up her hands in amazement. "What _could_ papa
be thinking of to send our benefactor to a hospital?" And, after
meditating awhile, she directed Wilson to cut a nosegay and carry it to
Seaton. "He is a gardener;" said she innocently. "Of course he will miss
his flowers sadly in that miserable place."
And she gave the same order every day, with a constancy that, you must
know, formed part of this young lady's character. Soup, wine and jellies
were sent from the kitchen every other day with equal pertinacity.
Wilson concealed the true donor of all those things and took the credit
to herself. By this means she obtained the patient's gratitude, and he
showed it so frankly she hoped to steal his love as well.
But no! his fancy and his heart remained true to the cold beauty he had
served so well, and she had forgotten him, apparently.
This irritated Wilson at last, and she set to work to cure him with
wholesome but bitter medicine. She sat down beside him one day, and said
cheerfully, "We are all _'on the keyfeet'_ just now. Miss Rolleston's
beau is come on a visit."
The patient opened his eyes with astonishment.
"Miss Rolleston's beau?"
"Ay, her intended. What, didn't you know, she is engaged to be married?"
"She engaged to be married?" gasped Seaton.
Wilson watched him with a remorseless eye.
"Why, James," said she, after awhile, "did you think the likes of her
would go through the world without a mate?"
Seaton made no reply but a moan, and lay back like one dead, utterly
crushed by this cruel blow.
A buxom middle-aged nurse now came up and said, with a touch of severity,
"Come, my good girl, no doubt you mean well, but you are doing ill. You
had better leave him to us for the present."
On this hint Wilson bounced out and left the patient to his misery.
At her next visit she laid a nosegay on his bed and gossiped away,
talking of everything in the world except Miss Rolleston.
At last she came to a pause, and Seaton laid his hand on her arm
directly, and looking piteously in her face spoke his first word.
"Does she love him?"
"What, still harping on _her?"_ said Wilson. "Well, she doesn't hate him,
I suppose, or she would not marry him."
"For pity's sake don't trifle with me! Does she love him?"
"La, James, how can I tell? She mayn't love him quite as much as I could
love a man that took my fancy" (here she cast a languishing glance on
Seaton); "but I see no difference between her and other young ladies.
Miss is very fond of her papa, for one thing; and he favors the match.
Ay, and she likes her partner well enough. She is brighter like, now he
is in the house, and she reads all her friends' letters to him ever so
lovingly; and I do notice she leans on him out walking, a trifle more
than there is any need for."
At this picture James Seaton writhed in his bed like some agonized
creature under vivisection; but the woman, spurred by jealousy, and also
by egotistical passion, had no mercy left for him.
"And why not?" continued she; "he is young and handsome and rich and he
dotes on her. If you are really her friend you ought to be glad she is so
At this admonition the tears stood in Seaton's eyes, and after awhile he
got strength to say, "I know I ought, I know it. If he is only worthy of
her, as worthy as any man could be."
"That he is, James. Why, I'll be bound you have heard of him. It is young
Seaton started up in bed. "Who? Wardlaw? what Wardlaw?"
"What Wardlaw? why, the great London merchant, his son. Leastways he
manages the whole concern now, I hear; the old gentleman, he is retired
by all accounts."
"CURSE HIM! CURSE HIM! CURSE HIM!" yelled James Seaton, with his eyes
glaring fearfully and both hands beating the air.
Sarah Wilson recoiled with alarm.
"That angel marry _him!"_ shrieked Seaton. "Never, while I live. I'll
throttle him with these hands first."
What more his ungovernable fury would have uttered was interrupted by a
rush of nurses and attendants, and Wilson was bundled out of the place
with little ceremony.
He contrived, however, to hurl a word after her, accompanied with a look
of concentrated rage and resolution.
"NEVER, I TELL YOU--WHILE I LIVE."
At her next visit to the hospital Wilson was refused admission by order
of the head surgeon. She left her flowers daily all the same.
After a few days she thought the matter might have cooled, and, having a
piece of news to communicate to Seaton with respect to Arthur Wardlaw,
she asked to see that patient.
"Left the hospital this morning," was the reply.
"Why not? We have cured worse cases than his."
"Where has he gone to? Pray tell me."
"Oh, certainly." And inquiry was made. But the reply was, "Left no
Sarah Wilson, like many other women of high and low degree, had swift
misgivings of mischief to come. She was taken with a fit of trembling,
and had to sit down in the hall.
And, to tell the truth, she had cause to tremble; for that tongue of hers
had launched two wild beasts--Jealousy and Revenge.
When she got better she went home, and, coward-like, said not a word to
That day, Arthur Wardlaw dined with General Rolleston and Helen. They
were to be alone for a certain reason; and he came half an hour before
dinner. Helen thought he would, and was ready for him on the lawn.
They walked arm-in-arm, talking of the happiness before them, and
regretting a temporary separation that was to intervene. He was her
father's choice, and she loved her father devotedly; he was her male
property; and young ladies like that sort of property, especially when
they see nothing to dislike in it. He loved her passionately, and that
was her due, and pleased her and drew a gentle affection, if not a
passion, from her in return. Yes, that lovely forehead did come very near
young Wardlaw's shoulder more than once or twice as they strolled slowly
up and down on the soft mossy turf.
And, on the other side of the hedge that bounded the lawn, a man lay
crouched in the ditch and saw it all with gleaming eyes.
Just before the affianced ones went in, Helen said, "I have a little
favor to ask you, dear. The poor man, Seaton, who fought the robbers and
was wounded--papa says he is a man of education, and wanted to be a clerk
or something. _Could_ you find him a place?"
"I think I can," said Wardlaw; "indeed, I am sure. A line to White & Co.
will do it; they want a shipping clerk."
"Oh, how good you are!" said Helen; and lifted her face all beaming with
The opportunity was tempting; the lover fond. Two faces met for a single
moment, and one of the two burned for five minutes after.
The basilisk eyes saw the soft collision; but the owner of those eyes did
not hear the words that earned him that torture. He lay still and bided
General Rolleston's house stood clear of the town at the end of a short
but narrow and tortuous lane. This situation had tempted the burglars
whom Seaton baffled; and now it tempted Seaton.
Wardlaw must pass that way on leaving General Rolleston's house.
At a bend of the lane two twin elms stood out a foot or two from the
hedge. Seaton got behind these at about ten o'clock and watched for him
with a patience and immobility that boded ill.
His preparations for this encounter were singular. He had a
close-shutting inkstand and a pen, and one sheet of paper, at the top of
which he had written "Sydney," and the day of the month and year, leaving
the rest blank. And he had the revolver with which he had shot the robber
at Helen Rolleston's window; and a barrel of that arm was loaded with
THE moon went down; the stars shone out clearer.
Eleven o'clock boomed from a church clock in the town.
Wardlaw did not come, and Seaton did not move from his ambush.
Twelve o'clock boomed, and Wardlaw never came, and Seaton never moved.
Soon after midnight General Rolleston's hall door opened, and a figure
appeared in a flood of light. Seaton's eye gleamed at the light, for it
was young Wardlaw, with a footman at his back holding a lighted lamp.
Wardlaw, however, seemed in no hurry to leave the house, and the reason
soon appeared; he was joined by Helen Rolleston, and she was equipped for
walking. The watcher saw her serene face shine in the light. The general
himself came next; and, as they left the door, out came Tom with a
blunderbuss and brought up the rear. Seaton drew behind the trees, and
postponed, but did not resign, his purpose.
Steps and murmurings came, and passed him, and receded.
The only words he caught distinctly came from Wardlaw, as he passed. "It
is nearly high tide. I fear we must make haste."
Seaton followed the whole party at a short distance, feeling sure they
would eventually separate and give him his opportunity with Wardlaw.
They went down to the harbor and took a boat; Seaton came nearer, and
learned they were going on board the great steamer bound for England,
that loomed so black, with monstrous eyes of fire.
They put off, and Seaton stood baffled.
Presently the black monster, with enormous eyes of fire, spouted her
steam like a Leviathan, and then was still; next the smoke puffed, the
heavy paddles revolved, and she rushed out of the harbor; and Seaton sat
down upon the ground, and all seemed ended. Helen gone to England!
Wardlaw gone with her! Love and revenge had alike eluded him. He looked
up at the sky and played with the pebbles at his feet, stupidly,
stupidly. He wondered why he was born; why he consented to live a single
minute after this. His angel and his demon gone home together! And he
He wrote a few lines on the paper he had intended for Wardlaw, sprinkled
them with sand, and put them in his bosom, then stretched himself out
with a weary moan, like a dying dog, to wait the flow of the tide, and,
with it, Death. Whether or not his resolution or his madness could have
carried him so far cannot be known, for even as the water rippled in,
and, trickling under his back, chilled him to the bone, a silvery sound
struck his ear. He started to his feet, and life and its joys rushed back
upon him. It was the voice of the woman he loved so madly.
Helen Rolleston was on the water, coming ashore again in the little boat.
He crawled, like a lizard, among the boats ashore to catch a sight of
her. He did see her, was near her, unseen himself. She landed with her
father. So Wardlaw was gone to England without her. Seaton trembled with
joy. Presently his goddess began to lament in the prettiest way. "Papa!
papa!" she sighed, "why must friends part in this sad world? Poor Arthur
is gone from me; and, by and by, I shall go from you, my own papa." And
at that prospect she wept gently.
"Why, you foolish child!" said the old general tenderly, "what matters a
little parting, when we are all to meet again in dear old England. Well
then, there, have a cry; it will do you good." He patted her head
tenderly as she clung to his warlike breast; and she took him at his
word; the tears ran swiftly and glistened in the very starlight.
But, oh, how Seaton's heart yearned at all this!
What? mustn't _he_ say a word to comfort her; he who, at that moment,
would have thought no more of dying to serve her or to please her than he
would of throwing one of those pebbles into that slimy water.
Well, her pure tears somehow cooled his hot brain, and washed his soul,
and left him wondering at himself and his misdeeds this night. His
guardian angel seemed to go by and wave her dewy wings, and fan his hot
passions as she passed.
He kneeled down and thanked God he had not met Arthur Wardlaw in that
Then he went home to his humble lodgings, and there buried himself; and
from that day seldom went out, except to seek employment. He soon
obtained it as a copyist.
Meantime the police were on his track, employed by a person with a gentle
disposition, but a tenacity of purpose truly remarkable.
Great was Seaton's uneasiness when one day he saw Hexham at the foot of
his stair; greater still, when the officer's quick eye caught sight of
him, and his light foot ascended the stairs directly. He felt sure Hexham
had heard of his lurking about General Rolleston's premises. However, he
prepared to defend himself to the uttermost.
Hexham came into his room without ceremony, and looking mighty grim.
"Well, my lad, so we have got you, after all."
"What is my crime now?" asked Seaton sullenly.
"James," said the officer, very solemnly, "it is an unheard-of crime this
time. You have been running away from a pretty girl. Now that is a
mistake at all times; but, when she is as beautiful as an angel, and rich
enough to slip a flyer into Dick Hexham's hands, and lay him on your
track, what _is_ the use? Letter for _you,_ my man."
Seaton took the letter, with a puzzled air. It was written in a clear but
feminine hand, and slightly scented.
The writer, in a few polished lines, excused herself for taking
extraordinary means to find Mr. Seaton; but hoped he would consider that
he had laid her under a deep obligation, and that gratitude will
sometimes be importunate. She had the pleasure to inform him that the
office of shipping clerk at Messrs. White & Co.'s was at his service, and
she hoped he would take it without an hour's further delay, for that she
was assured that many persons had risen to wealth and consideration in
the colony from such situations.
Then, as this wary but courteous young lady had no wish to enter into a
correspondence with her ex-gardener, she added:
"Mr. Seaton need not trouble himself to reply to this note. A simple
'yes' to Mr. Hexham will be enough, and will give sincere pleasure to Mr.
"Obedient servant and well-wisher,
"HELEN ANNE ROLLESTON."
Seaton bowed his head over this letter in silent but deep emotion.
Hexham respected that emotion, and watched him with a sort of vague
Seaton lifted his head, and the tears stood thick in his eyes. Said he,
in a voice of exquisite softness, scarce above a whisper, "Tell her,
'yes' and 'God bless her.' Good-by. I want to go on my knees, and pray
God to bless her as she deserves. Good-by."
Hexham took the hint and retired softly.
WHITE & CO. stumbled on a treasure in James Seaton. Your colonial clerk
is not so narrow and apathetic as your London clerk, whose two objects
seem to be to learn one department only, and not to do too much in that;
but Seaton, a gentleman and a scholar, eclipsed even colonial clerks in
this, that he omitted no opportunity of learning the whole business of
White & Co., and was also animated by a feverish zeal that now and then
provoked laughter from clerks, but was agreeable as well as surprising to
White & Co. Of that zeal his incurable passion was partly the cause.
Fortunes had been made with great rapidity in Sydney; and Seaton now
conceived a wild hope of acquiring one, by some lucky hit, before Wardlaw
could return to Helen Rolleston. And yet his common sense said, if I was
as rich as Croesus, how could she ever mate with me, a stained man? And
yet his burning heart said, don't listen to reason; listen only to me.
And so he worked double tides; and, in virtue of his university
education, had no snobbish notions about never putting his hand to manual
labor. He would lay down his pen at any moment and bear a hand to lift a
chest or roll a cask. Old White saw him thus multiply himself, and was so
pleased that he raised his salary one third.
He never saw Helen Rolleston, except on Sunday. On that day he went to
her church, and sat half behind a pillar and feasted his eyes and his
heart upon her. He lived sparingly, saved money, bought a strip of land
by payment of ten pounds deposit, and sold it in forty hours for one
hundred pounds profit, and watched keenly for similar opportunities on a
larger scale; and all for her. Struggling with a mountain; hoping against
reason, and the world.
White & Co. were employed to ship a valuable cargo on board two vessels
chartered by Wardlaw & Son; the _Shannon_ and _Proserpine._
Both these ships lay in Sydney harbor, and had taken in the bulk of their
cargoes; but the supplement was the cream; for Wardlaw in person had
warehoused eighteen cases of gold dust and ingots, and fifty of lead and
smelted copper. They were all examined and branded by Mr. White, who had
duplicate keys of the gold cases. But the contents as a matter of habit
and prudence were not described outside; but were marked _Proserpine_ and
_Shannon,_ respectively; the mate of the _Proserpine,_ who was in
Wardlaw's confidence, had written instructions to look carefully to the
stowage of all these cases, and was in and out of the store one afternoon
just before closing, and measured the cubic contents of the cases, with a
view to stowage in the respective vessels. The last time he came he
seemed rather the worse for liquor; and Seaton, who accompanied him,
having stepped out for a minute for something or other, was rather
surprised on his return to find the door closed, and it struck him Mr.
Wylie (that was the mate's name) might be inside; the more so as the door
closed very easily with a spring bolt, but it could only be opened by a
key of peculiar construction. Seaton took out his key, opened the door,
and called to the mate, but received no reply. However, he took the
precaution to go round the store, and see whether Wylie, rendered
somnolent by liquor, might not be lying oblivious among the cases; Wylie,
however, was not to be seen, and Seaton, finding himself alone, did an
unwise thing; he came and contemplated Wardlaw's cases of metal and
specie. (Men will go too near the thing that causes their pain.) He eyed
them with grief and with desire, and could not restrain a sigh at these
material proofs of his rival's wealth--the wealth that probably had
smoothed his way to General Rolleston's home and to his daughter's heart;
for wealth can pave the way to hearts, ay, even to hearts that cannot be
downright bought. This reverie no doubt, lasted longer than he thought,
for presently he heard the loud rattle of shutters going up below. It was
closing time; he hastily closed and locked the iron shutters, and then
went out and shut the door.
He had been gone about two hours, and that part of the street, so noisy
in business hours, was hushed in silence, all but an occasional footstep
on the flags outside, when something mysterious occurred in the
warehouse, now. as dark as pitch.
At an angle of the wall stood two large cases in a vertical position,
with smaller cases lying at their feet. These two cases were about eight
feet high, more or less. Well, behind these cases suddenly flashed a
feeble light, and the next moment two brown and sinewy hands appeared on
the edge of one of the cases--the edge next the wall; the case vibrated
and rocked a little, and the next moment there mounted on the top of it
not a cat, nor a monkey, as might have been expected, but an animal that
in truth resembles both these quadrupeds, viz., a sailor; and need we say
that sailor was the mate of the _Proserpine?_ He descended lightly from
the top of the case behind which he had been jammed for hours, and
lighted a dark lantern; and went softly groping about the store with it.
This was a mysterious act, and would perhaps have puzzled the proprietors
of the store even more than it would a stranger. For a stranger would
have said at once this is burglary, or else arson; but those acquainted
with the place would have known that neither of those crimes was very
practicable. This enterprising sailor could not burn down this particular
store without roasting himself the first thing; and indeed he could not
burn it down at all; for the roof was flat, and was in fact one gigantic
iron tank, like the roof of Mr. Goding's brewery in London. And by a neat
contrivance of American origin the whole tank could be turned in one
moment to a shower-bath, and drown a conflagration in thirty seconds or
thereabouts. Nor could he rifle the place; the goods were greatly
protected by their weight, and it was impossible to get out of the store
without raising an alarm, and being searched.
But, not to fall into the error of writers who underrate their readers'
curiosity and intelligence, and so deluge them with comments and
explanations, we will now simply relate what Wylie did, leaving you to
glean his motives as this tale advances.
His jacket had large pockets, and he took out of them a bunch of eighteen
bright steel keys, numbered, a set of new screwdrivers, a flask of rum,
and two ship biscuits.
He unlocked the eighteen cases marked _Proserpine,_ etc., and, peering in
with his lantern, saw the gold dust and small ingots packed in parcels,
and surrounded by Australian wool of the highest possible quality. It was
a luscious sight.
He then proceeded to a heavier task; he unscrewed, one after another,
eighteen of the cases marked _Shannon,_ and the eighteen so selected,
perhaps by private marks, proved to be packed close, and on a different
system from the gold, viz., in pigs, or square blocks, three, or in some
cases four, to each chest. Now, these two ways of packing the specie and
the baser metal, respectively, had the effect of producing a certain
uniformity of weight in the thirty-six cases Wylie was inspecting.
Otherwise the gold cases would have been twice the weight of those that
contained the baser metal; for lead is proverbially heavy, but under
scientific tests is to gold as five to twelve, or thereabouts.
In his secret and mysterious labor Wylie was often interrupted. Whenever
he heard a step on the pavement outside he drew the slide of his lantern
and hid the light. If he had examined the iron shutters he would have
seen that his light could never pierce through them into the street. But
he was not aware of this. Notwithstanding these occasional interruptions,
he worked so hard and continuously that the perspiration poured down him
ere he had unscrewed those eighteen chests containing the pigs of lead.
However, it was done at last, and then he refreshed himself with a
draught from his flask. The next thing was, he took the three pigs of
lead out of one of the cases marked _Shannon,_ etc., and numbered
fifteen, and laid them very gently on the floor. Then he transferred to
that empty case the mixed contents of a case branded _Proserpine_ 1,
etc., and this he did with the utmost care and nicety, lest gold dust
spilled should tell tales. And so he went on and amused himself by
shifting the contents of the whole eighteen cases marked _Proserpine,_
etc., into eighteen cases marked _Shannon,_ etc., and refilling them with
the _Shannon's_ lead. Frolicsome Mr. Wylie! Then he sat down on one of
the cases _Proserpine'd,_ and ate a biscuit and drank a little rum; not
much; for at this part of his career he was a very sober man, though he
could feign drunkenness, or indeed anything else.
The gold was all at his mercy, yet he did not pocket an ounce of it; not
even a penny-weight to make a wedding-ring for Nancy Rouse. Mr. Wylie had
a conscience. And a very original one it was; and, above all, he was very
true to those he worked with. He carefully locked the gold cases up again
and resumed the screwdriver, for there was another heavy stroke of work
to be done; and he went at it like a man. He carefully screwed down
again, one after another, all those eighteen cases marked. _Shannon,_
which he had filled with gold dust, and then, heating a sailor's needle
red-hot over his burning wick, he put his own secret marks on those
eighteen cases--marks that no eye but his own could detect. By this time,
though a very powerful man, he felt much exhausted and would gladly have
snatched an hour's repose. But, consulting his watch by the light of his
lantern, he found the sun had just risen. He retired to his place of
concealment in the same cat-like way he had come out of it--that is to
say, he mounted on the high cases, and then slipped down behind them,
into the angle of the wall.
As soon as the office opened, two sailors, whom he had carefully
instructed overnight, came with a boat for the cases; the warehouse was
opened in consequence, but they were informed that Wylie must be present
at the delivery.
"Oh, he won't be long," said they; "told us he would meet us here."
There was a considerable delay, and a good deal of talking, and presently
Wylie was at their back, and put in his word.
Seaton was greatly surprised at finding him there, and asked him where he
had sprung from.
"Me!" said Wylie, jocosely, "why, I hailed from Davy Jones's locker
"I never heard you come in," said Seaton, thoughtfully.
"Well, sir," replied Wylie, civilly, "a man does learn to go like a cat
on board ship, that is the truth. I came in at the door like my betters;
but I thought I heard you mention my name, so I made no noise. Well, here
I am, anyway, and--Jack, how many trips can we take these thundering
chests in? Let us see, eighteen for the _Proserpine,_ and forty for the
_Shannon._ Is that correct, sir?"
"Then, if you will deliver them, I'll check the delivery aboard the
lighter there; and then we'll tow her alongside the ships."
Seaton called up two more clerks, and sent one to the boat and one on
board the barge. The barge was within hail; so the cases were checked as
they passed out of the store, and checked again at the small boat, and
also on board the lighter. When they were all cleared out, Wylie gave
Seaton his receipt for them, and, having a steam-tug in attendance, towed
the lighter alongside the _Shannon_ first.
Seaton carried the receipt to his employer. "But, sir," said he, "is this
regular for an officer of the _Proserpine_ to take the _Shannon's_ cargo
"No, it is not regular," said the old gentleman; and he looked through a
window and summoned Mr. Hardcastle
Hardcastle explained that the _Proserpine_ shipped the gold, which was
the more valuable consignment; and that he saw no harm in the officer who
was so highly trusted by the merchant (on this and on former occasions)
taking out a few tons of lead and copper to the _Shannon._
"Well, sir," said Seaton, "suppose I was to go out and see the chests
stowed in those vessels?"
"I think you are making a fuss about nothing," said Hardcastle.
Mr. White was of the same opinion, but, being too wise to check zeal and
caution, told Seaton he might go for his own satisfaction.
Seaton, with some difficulty, got a little boat and pulled across the
harbor. He found the _Shannon_ had shipped all the chests marked with her
name; and the captain and mate of the _Proserpine_ were beginning to ship
theirs. He paddled under the _Proserpine's_ stern.
Captain Hudson, a rough salt, sang out, and asked him roughly what he
"Oh, it is all right," said the mate; "he is come for your receipt and
Hewitt's. Be smart now, men; two on board, sixteen to come."
Seaton saw the chests marked _Proserpine_ stowed in the _Proserpine,_ and
went ashore with Captain Hewitt's receipt for forty cases on board the
_Shannon,_ and Captain Hudson's of eighteen on board the _Proserpine._
As he landed he met Lloyds' agent, and told him what a valuable freight
he had just shipped. That gentleman merely remarked that both ships were
underwritten in Sydney by the owners; but the freight was insured in
London, no doubt.
There was still something about this business Seaton did not quite like;
perhaps it was in the haste of the shipments, or in the manner of the
mate. At all events, it was too slight and subtle to be communicated to
others with any hope of convincing them; and, moreover, Seaton could not
but own to himself that he hated Wardlaw, and was, perhaps, no fair judge
of his acts, and even of the acts of his servants.
And soon a blow fell that drove the matter out of his head and his heart.
Miss Helen Rolleston called at the office, and, standing within a few
feet of him, handed Hardcastle a letter from Arthur Wardlaw, directing
that the ladies' cabin on board the _Shannon_ should be placed at her
Hardcastle bowed low to Beauty and Station, and promised her the best
possible accommodation on board the _Shannon,_ bound for England next
As she retired, she cast one quiet glance round the office in search of
Seaton's beard. But he had reduced its admired luxuriance, and trimmed it
to a narrow mercantile point. She did not know his other features from
Adam, and little thought that young man, bent double over his paper, was
her preserver and _protege;_ still less that he was at this moment cold
as ice, and quivering with misery from head to foot, because her own lips
had just told him she was going to England in the _Shannon._
Heartbroken, but still loving nobly, Seaton dragged himself down to the
harbor, and went slowly on board the _Shannon_ to secure Miss Rolleston
Then, sick at heart as he was, he made inquiries into the condition of
the vessel which was to be trusted with so precious a freight; and the
old boatman who was rowing him, hearing him make these inquiries, told
him he himself was always about, and had noticed the _Shannon's_ pumps
were going every blessed night.
Seaton carried this intelligence directly to Lloyds' agent; he overhauled
the ship, and ordered her into the graving dock for repairs.
Then Seaton, for White & Co., wrote to Miss Rolleston that the _Shannon_
was not seaworthy and could not sail for a month at the least.
The lady simply acknowledged Messrs. White's communication, and Seaton
Wardlaw had made Miss Rolleston promise him faithfully to sail that month
in his ship, the _Shannon._ Now she was a slave to her word and constant
of purpose; so when she found she could not sail in the _Shannon,_ she
called again on Messrs. White, and took her passage in the _Proserpine._
The essential thing to her mind was to sail when she had promised, and to
go in a ship that belonged to her lover.
The _Proserpine_ was to sail in ten days.
Seaton inquired into the state of the _Proserpine._ She was a good, sound
vessel, and there was no excuse for detaining her.
Then he wrestled long and hard with the selfish part of his great love.
Instead of turning sullen, he set himself to carry out Helen Rolleston's
will. He went on board the _Proserpine_ and chose her the best stern
General Rolleston had ordered Helen's cabin to be furnished, and the
agent had put in the usual things, such as a standing bedstead with
drawers beneath, chest of drawers, small table, two chairs, washstand,
looking-glass, and swinging lamp.
But Seaton made several visits to the ship, and effected the following
arrangements at his own cost. He provided a neat cocoa-mat for her cabin
deck, for comfort and foot-hold. He unshipped the regular six-paned stern
windows, and put in single-pane plate glass; he fitted venetian blinds,
and hung two little rose-colored curtains to each of the windows; all so
arranged as to be easily removed in case it should be necessary to ship
dead-lights in heavy weather. He glazed the door leading to her bath-room
and quarter gallery with plate glass; he provided a light easy-chair,
slung and fitted with grommets, to be hung on hooks screwed into the
beams in the midship of the cabin. On this Helen could sit and read, and
so become insensible to the motion of the ship. He fitted a small
bookcase, with a button, which could be raised when a book might be
wanted; he fixed a strike-bell in her maid's cabin communicating with two
strikers in Helen's cabin; he selected books, taking care that the
voyages and travels were prosperous ones. No "Seaman's Recorder,"
"Life-boat Journal," or "Shipwrecks and Disasters in the British Navy."
Her cabin was the after-cabin on the starboard side, was entered through
the cuddy, had a door communicating with the quarter gallery, two stern
windows and a dead-eye on deck. The maid's cabin was the port
after-cabin; doors opened into cuddy and quarter-gallery. And a fine
trouble Miss Rolleston had to get a maid to accompany her; but at last a
young woman offered to go with her for high wages, demurely suppressing
the fact that she had just married one of the sailors, and would have
gladly gone for nothing. Her name was Jane Holt, and her husband's
In one of Seaton's visits to the _Proserpine_ he detected the mate and
the captain talking together and looking at him with unfriendly
eyes--scowling at him would hardly be too strong a word.
However, he was in no state of mind to care much how two animals in blue
jackets received his acts of self-martyrdom. He was there to do the last
kind offices of despairing love for the angel that had crossed his dark
path and illumined it for a moment, to leave it now forever.
At last the fatal evening came; her last in Sydney.
Then Seaton's fortitude, sustained no longer by the feverish stimulus of
doing kindly acts for her, began to give way, and he desponded deeply.
At nine in the evening he crept upon General Rolleston's lawn, where he
had first seen her. He sat down in sullen despair upon the very spot.
Then he came nearer the house. There was a lamp in the dining-room; he
looked in and saw her.
She was seated at her father's knee, looking up at him fondly; her hand
was in his; the tears were in their eyes; she had no mother; he no son;
they loved one another devotedly. This, their tender gesture, and their
sad silence, spoke volumes to any one that had known sorrow. Poor Seaton
sat down on the dewy grass outside and wept because she was weeping.
Her father sent her to bed early. Seaton watched, as he had often done
before, till her light went out; and then he flung himself on the wet
grass and stared at the sky in utter misery.
The mind is often clearest in the middle of the night; and all of a
sudden he saw, as if written on the sky, that she was going to England
expressly to marry Arthur Wardlaw.
At this revelation he started up, stung with hate as well as love, and
his tortured mind rebelled furiously. He repeated his vow that this
should never be; and soon a scheme came into his head to prevent it; but
it was a project so wild and dangerous that, even as his heated brain
hatched it, his cooler judgment said, "Fly, madman, fly! or this love
will _destroy_ you!"
He listened to the voice of reason, and in another minute he was out of
the premises. He fluttered to his lodgings.
When he got there he could not go in; he turned and fluttered about the
streets, not knowing or caring whither; his mind was in a whirl; and,
what with his bodily fever and his boiling heart, passion began to
overpower reason, that had held out so gallantly till now. He found
himself at the harbor, staring with wild and bloodshot eyes at the
_Proserpine,_ he who, an hour ago, had seen that he had but one thing to
do--to try and forget young Wardlaw's bride. He groaned aloud, and ran
wildly back into the town. He hurried up and down one narrow street,
raging inwardly, like some wild beast in its den.
By-and-by his mood changed, and he hung round a lamp-post and fell to
moaning and lamenting his hard fate and hers.
A policeman came up, took him for a maudlin drunkard, and half-advised,
half-admonished, him to go home.
At that he gave a sort of fierce, despairing snarl and ran into the next
street to be alone.
In this street he found a shop open and lighted, though it was but five
o'clock in the morning. It was a barber's whose customers were working
people. HAIRCUTTING, SIXPENCE. EASY SHAVING, THREEPENCE. HOT COFFEE,
FOURPENCE THE CUP. Seaton's eye fell upon this shop. He looked at it
fixedly a moment from the opposite side of the way and then hurried on.
He turned suddenly and came back. He crossed the road and entered the
shop. The barber was leaning over the stove, removing a can of boiling
water from the fire to the hob. He turned at the sound of Seaton's step
and revealed an ugly countenance, rendered sinister by a squint.
Seaton dropped into a chair and said, "I want my beard taken off."
The man looked at him, if it could be called looking at him, and said
dryly, "Oh, do ye? How much am I to have for that job?"
"You know your own charge."
"Of course I do. Threepence a chin."
"Very well. Be quick then."
"Stop a bit. That is my charge to working folk. I must have something
more off you."
"Very well, man, I'll pay you double."
"My price to you is ten shillings."
"Why, what is that for?" asked Seaton in some alarm; he thought, in his
confusion, the man must have read his heart.
"I'll tell ye why," said the squinting barber. "No, I won't. I'll show
ye." He brought a small mirror and suddenly clapped it before Seaton's
eyes. Seaton started at his own image; wild, ghastly, and the eyes so
bloodshot. The barber chuckled. This start was an extorted compliment to
his own sagacity. "Now wasn't I right?" said he; "did I ought to take the
beard off such a mug as that--for less than ten shillings?"
"I see," groaned Seaton; "you think I have committed some crime. One man
sees me weeping with misery; he calls me a drunkard; another sees me pale
with the anguish of my breaking heart; he calls me a felon. May God's
curse light on him and you, and all mankind!"
"All right," said the squinting barber, apathetically; "my price is ten
bob, whether or no."
Seaton felt in his pockets. "I have not got the money about me," said he.
"Oh, I'm not particular; leave your watch."
Seaton handed the squinting vampire his watch without another word and
let his head fall upon his breast.
The barber cut his beard close with the scissors, and made trivial
remarks from time to time, but received no reply.
At last, extortion having put him in a good humor, he said, "Don't be so
down-hearted, my lad. You are not the first that has got into trouble and
had to change faces."
Seaton vouchsafed no reply.
The barber shaved him clean, and was astonished at the change, and
congratulated him. "Nobody will ever know you," said he; "and I'll tell
you why; your mouth, it is inclined to turn up a little; now a mustache
it bends down, and that alters such a mouth as yours entirely. But, I'll
tell you what, taking off this beard shows me something. _You are a
gentleman!!_ Make it a sovereign, sir."
Seaton staggered out of the place without a word.
"Sulky, eh?" muttered the barber. He gathered up some of the long hair he
had cut off Seaton's chin with his scissors, admired it, and put it away
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