Part 11 out of 11
within the high walls of that lonely abode, and that she should thus be
able to prove how right she had been, how wicked and calamitous their
interference with her child,--that had been the scheme of her life. And
now her scheme was knocked on the head, and Hester was to become a
prosperous ordinary married woman amidst the fatness of the land at
Folking! It was all wormwood to her. But still, as she walked, she
acknowledged to herself, that as that old man had said so,--so it must
be. With all her labour, with all her care, and with all her strength,
she had not succeeded in becoming the master of that weak old man.
The News Reaches Cambridge
The tidings of John Caldigate's pardon reached Cambridge on the Saturday
morning, and was communicated in various shapes. Official letters from
the Home Office were written to the governor of the jail and to the
sub-sheriff, to Mr. Seely who was still acting as attorney on behalf of
the prisoner, and to Caldigate himself. The latter was longer than the
others, and contained a gracious expression of Her Majesty's regret that
he as an innocent person should have been subjected to imprisonment. The
Secretary of State also was described as being keenly sensible of the
injustice which had been perpetrated by the unfortunate and most unusual
circumstances of the case. As the Home Office had decided that the man
was to be considered innocent, it decided also on the expression of its
opinion without a shadow of remaining doubt. And the news reached
Cambridge in other ways by the same post. William Bolton wrote both to
his father and brother, and Mr. Brown the Under-Secretary sent a private
letter to the old squire at Folking, of which further mention shall be
made. Before church time on the Sunday morning, the fact that John
Caldigate was to be released, or had been released from prison, was
known to all Cambridge.
Caldigate himself had borne his imprisonment on the whole well. He had
complained but little to those around him, and had at once resolved to
endure the slowly passing two years with silent fortitude,--as a brave
man will resolve to bear any evil for which there is no remedy. But a
more wretched man than he was after the first week of bitterness could
hardly be found. Fortitude has no effect in abating such misery other
than what may come from an absence of fretful impatience. The man who
endures all that the tormentors can do to him without a sign, simply
refuses to acknowledge the agonies inflicted. So it was with Caldigate.
Though he obeyed with placid readiness all the prison instructions, and
composed his features and seemed almost to smile when that which was to
be exacted from him was explained, he ate his heart in dismay as he
counted the days, the hours, the minutes, and then calculated the amount
of misery that was in store for him. And there was so much more for him
to think of than his own condition He knew of course that he was
innocent of the crime imputed to him;--but would it not be the same to
his wife and child as though he had been in truth guilty? Would not his
boy to his dying day be regarded as illegitimate? And though he had been
wrongly condemned, had not all this come in truth from his own fault?
And when that eternity of misery within the prison walls should have
come to an end,--if he could live through it so as to see the end of
it,--what would then be his fate, and what his duty? He had perfect
trust in his wife; but who could say what two years might do,--two
years during which she would be subjected to the pressure of all her
friends? Where should he find her when the months had passed? And if she
were no longer at Folking, would she come back to him? He was sure,
nearly sure, that he could not claim her as his wife. And were she
still minded to share her future lot with him, in what way should he
treat her? If that horrid woman was his wife in the eye of the law,--and
he feared though hardly knew that it would be so,--then could not that
other one, who was to him as a part of his own soul, be his wife also?
What would become of his child, who, as far as he could see, would not
be his child at all in the eye of the law? Even while he was still a
free man, still uncondemned, an effort had been made to rob him of his
wife and boy,--an effort which for a time had seemed to be successful.
How would Hester be able to withstand such attempts when they would be
justified by a legal decision that she was not his wife,--and could
not become his wife while that other woman was alive? Such thoughts as
these did not tend to relieve the weariness of his days.
The only person from the outside world whom he was allowed to see during
the three months of his incarceration was Mr. Seely, and with him he had
two interviews. From the time of the verdict Mr. Seely was still engaged
in making those enquiries as to the evidence of which we have heard so
much, and though he was altogether unsympathetic and incredulous, still
he did his duty. He had told his client that these enquiries were being
made, and had, on his second visit, informed him of the arrival of Dick
Shand. But he had never spoken with hope, and had almost ridiculed
Bagwax with his postage-stamps and postmarks. When Caldigate first heard
that Dick was in England,--for a minute or two,--he allowed himself to
be full of hope. But the attorney had dashed his hopes. What was Shand's
evidence against the testimony of four witnesses who had borne the fire
of cross-examination? Their character was not very good, but Dick's was,
if possible, worse. Mr. Seely did not think that Dick's word would go
for much. He could simply say that, as far as he knew, there had been no
marriage. And in this Mr. Seely had been right, for Dick's word had not
gone for much. Then, when Crinkett and Mrs. Smith had been arrested, no
tidings had reached him of that further event. It had been thought best
that nothing as to that should be communicated to him till the result
should be known.
Thus it had come to pass that when the tidings reached the prison he was
not in a state of expectation. The governor of the prison knew what was
going on, and had for days been looking for the order of release. But he
had not held himself to be justified in acquainting his prisoner with
the facts. The despatches to him and to Caldigate from the Home Office
were marked immediate, and by the courtesy of the postmaster were given
in at the prison gates before daylight. Caldigate was still asleep when
the door of the cell was opened by the governor in person and the
communication was made to him as he lay for the last time stretched on
his prison pallet. 'You can get up a free man, Mr. Caldigate,' said the
governor, with his hand on his prisoner's shoulder. 'I have here the
Queen's pardon. It has reached me this morning.' Caldigate got up and
looked at the man as though he did not at first understand the words
that had been spoken. 'It is true, Mr. Caldigate. Here is my
authority,--and this, no doubt, is a communication of the same nature to
yourself.' Then Caldigate took the letter, and, with his mind still
bewildered, made himself acquainted with the gratifying fact that all
the big-wigs were very sorry for the misfortune which had befallen him.
In his state of mind, as it then was, he was by no means disposed to
think much of the injustice done to him. He had in store for him, for
immediate use, a whole world of glorious bliss. There was his house, his
property, his farm, his garden, and the free air. And there would be the
knowledge of all those around him that he had not done the treacherous
thing of which those wretches had accused him.
And added to all this, and above all this, there would be his wife and
his child! It was odd enough that a word from the mouth of an exalted
Parliamentary personage should be able to give him back one wife and
release him from another,--in opposition to the decision of the
law,--should avail to restore to his boy the name and birthright of
which he had been practically deprived, and should, by a stroke of his
pen, undo all that had been done by the combined efforts of jury, judge,
and prosecutor! But he found that so it was. He was pardoned, forsooth,
as though he were still a guilty man! Yet he would have back his wife
and child, and no one could gainsay him.
'When can I go?' he said, jumping from his bed.
'When you please;--now, at once. But you had better come into the house
and breakfast with me first.'
'If I may I would rather go instantly. Can you send for a carriage for
me?' Then the governor endeavoured to explain to him that it would be
better for his wife, and more comfortable for everybody concerned, that
she should have been enabled to expect him, if it were only for an hour
or two, before his arrival. A communication would doubtless have been
made from the Home Office to some one at Folking, and as that would be
sent out by the foot-postman it would not be received before nine in the
But Caldigate would not allow himself to be persuaded As for eating
before he had seen the dear ones at home, that he declared to be
impossible. A vision of what that breakfast might be to him with his own
wife at his side came before his eyes, and therefore a messenger was at
once sent for the vehicle.
But the postmaster, who from the beginning had never been a believer in
the Australian wife, and, being a Liberal, was staunch to the Caldigate
side of the question, would not allow the letter addressed to the old
squire to be retained for the slow operations of the regular messenger,
but sent it off manfully by horse express, before the dawn of day, so
that it reached the old squire almost as soon as the other letters
reached the prison. The squire, who was an early man, was shaving
himself when the despatch was brought into his room with an intimation
that the boy on horseback wanted to know what he was to do next. The boy
of course got his breakfast and Mr. Caldigate read his letter, which was
'HOME OFFICE,--_October_, 187-.
'My DEAR SIR,--When you did me the honour of calling upon me here I
was able to do no more than express my sympathy as to the misfortune
which had fallen upon your family, and to explain to you, I fear not
very efficiently, that at that moment the mouths of all of us here
were stopped by official prudence as to the matter which was
naturally so near your heart. I have now the very great pleasure of
informing you that the Secretary of State has this morning received
her Majesty's command to issue a pardon for your son. The official
intimation will be sent to him and to the county authorities by this
post, and by the time that this reaches you he will be a free man.
'In writing to you, I need hardly explain that the form of a pardon
from the Throne is the only mode allowed by the laws of the country
for setting aside a verdict which has been found in error upon false
evidence. Unfortunately, perhaps, we have not the means of annulling
a criminal conviction by a second trial; and therefore, on such
occasions as this,--occasions which are very rare,--we have but this
lame way of redressing a great grievance. I am happy to think that
in this case the future effect will be as complete as though the
verdict had been reversed. As to the suffering which has been
already endured by your son, by his much-injured wife, and by
yourself, I am aware that no redress can be given.
It is one of those cases in which the honest and good have to
endure a portion of the evil produced by the dishonesty of the
wicked. I can only add to this my best wishes for your son's
happiness on his return to his home, and express a hope that you
will understand that I would most willingly have made your visit to
the Home Office more satisfactory had it been within my power to do
so.--Believe me, very faith-fully yours,
He had not read this letter to the end, and had hardly washed the soap
from his face, before he was in his daughter-in-law's room. She was
there with her child, still in bed,--thinking, thinking, thinking
whether there would ever come an end to her misery. 'It has come,' said
the old man.
'What has come?' she asked, jumping up with the baby in her arms. But
she knew what had come, for he had the letter open in his hands.
'They have pardoned him. The absurdity of the thing! Pardoning a man
whom they know to be innocent, and to have been injured!'
But the 'absurdity of the thing,' as the old squire very naturally
called it, was nothing to her now. He was to come back to her. She would
be in his arms that day. On that very day she would once again hold up
her boy to be kissed by his father.
'Where is he? When will he come? Of course I will go to him! You will
make them have the waggonnette at once; will you not? I will be dressed
in five minutes if you will go. Of course I will go to fetch him.'
But this the squire would not allow. The carriage should be sent, of
course, and if it met his son on the road, as was probable, there would
be no harm done. But it would not be well that the greeting between the
husband and the wife should be in public. So he went out to order the
carriage and to prepare himself to accompany it, leaving her to think
of her happiness and to make herself ready for the meeting. But when
left to herself she could hardly compose herself so as to brush her hair
and give herself those little graces which should be pleasant to his
eye. 'Papa is coming,' she said to her boy over and over again. 'Papa is
coming back. Papa will be here; your own, own, own papa.' Then she threw
aside the black gown, which she had worn since he left her, and chose
for her wear one which he himself had taken pride in buying for
her,--the first article of her dress in the choice of which he had been
consulted as her husband; and with quick unsteady hand she pulled out
some gay ribbon for her baby. Yes;--she and her boy would once again be
bright for his sake;--for his sake there should again be gay ribbons and
soft silks. 'Papa is coming, my own one; your own, own papa!' and then
she smothered the child with kisses.
While they were sitting at breakfast at Puritan Grange, the same news
reached Mr. and Mrs. Bolton. The letter to the old man from his son in
town was very short, merely stating that the authorities at the Home
Office had at last decided that Caldigate should be released from
prison. The writer knew that his father would be prepared for this news
by his brother; and all that could be said in the way of argument had
been said already. The letters which came to Puritan Grange were few in
number, and were generally addressed to the lady. The banker's letters
were all received at the house of business in the town. 'What is it?'
asked the wife, as soon as she saw the long official envelope. But he
read it to the end very slowly before he vouchsafed her any reply. 'It
has to do with that wretched man in prison,' she said. 'What is it?'
'He is in prison no longer.'
'They have let him escape?'
'The Queen has pardoned him because he was not guilty.'
'The Queen! As though she could know whether he be guilty or innocent.
What can the Queen know of the manner of his life in foreign
parts,--before he had taken my girl away from me?'
'He never married the woman. Let there be no more said about it. He
never married her.'
But Mrs. Bolton, though she was not victorious, was not to be silenced
by a single word. No more about it, indeed! There must be very much more
about it. 'If she was not his wife, she was worse,' she said.
'He has repented of that.'
'Repented!' she said, with scorn. What very righteous person ever
believed in the repentance of an enemy?
'Why should he not repent?'
'He has had leisure in jail.'
'Let us hope that he has used it. At any rate he is her husband. There
are not many days left to me here. Let me at least see my daughter
during the few that remain to me.'
'Do I not want to see my own child?'
'I will see her and her boy;--and I will have them called by the name
which is theirs. And he shall come,--if he will. Who are you, or who am
I, that we shall throw in his teeth the sins of his youth?' Then she
became sullen and there was not a word more said between them that
morning. But after breakfast the old gardener was sent into town for a
fly, and Mr. Bolton was taken to the bank.
'And what are we to do now?' asked Mrs. Robert Bolton of her husband,
when the tidings were made known to her also at her breakfast-table.
'We must take it as a fact that she is his wife.'
'Of course, my dear. If the Secretary of State were to say that I was
his wife, I suppose I should have to take it as a fact.'
'If he said that you were a goose it might be nearer the mark.'
'Really! But a goose must know what she is to do.'
'You must write her a letter and call her Mrs. Caldigate. That will be
'And what shall I say to her?'
'Ask her to come here, if you will.'
'And him, too. The fact is we have got to swallow it all. I was sure
that he had married that woman, and then of course I wanted to get
Hester away from him. Now I believe that he never married her, and
therefore we must make the best of him as Hester's husband.'
'You used to like him.'
'Yes;--and perhaps I shall again. But why on earth did he pay twenty
thousand pounds to those miscreants? That is what I could not get over.
It was that which made me sure he was guilty. It is that which still
puzzles me so that I can hardly make up my mind to be quite sure that he
is innocent. But still we have to be sure. Perhaps the miracle will be
explained some day.'
John Caldigate's Return
The carriage started with the old man in it as soon as the horses could
be harnessed; but on the Folking causeway it met the fly which was
bringing John Caldigate to his home,--so that the father and son greeted
each other in the street amidst the eyes of the villagers. To them it
did not much matter, but the squire had certainly been right in saving
Hester from so public a demonstration of her feelings. The two men said
hardly a word when they met, but stood there for a moment grasping each
other's hands. Then the driver of the fly was paid, and the carriage
was turned back to the house. 'Is she well?' asked Caldigate.
'She will be well now.'
'Has she been ill?'
'She has not been very happy, John, while you have been away from her.'
'And the boy?'
'He is all right. He has been spared the heart-breaking knowledge of the
injury done to him. It has been very bad with you, I suppose.'
'I do not like being in jail, sir. It was the length of the time before
me that seemed to crush me. I could not bring myself to believe that I
should live to see the end of it.'
'The end has come, my boy,' said his father, again taking him by the
hand, 'but the cruelty of the thing remains. Had there been another
trial as soon as the other evidence was obtained, the struggle would
have kept your heart up. It is damnable that a man in an office up in
London should have to decide on such a matter, and should be able to
take his own time about it!' The grievance was still at the old squire's
heart in spite of the amenity of Mr. Brown's letter; but John Caldigate,
who was approaching his house and his wife, and to whom, after his
imprisonment even the flat fields and dykes were beautiful, did not at
the moment much regard the anomaly of the machinery by which he had been
Hester in the meantime had donned her silk dress, and had tied the gay
bow round her baby's frock, who was quite old enough to be astonished
and charmed by the unusual finery in which he was apparelled. Then she
sat herself at the window of a bedroom which looked out on to the gravel
sweep, with her boy on her lap, and there she was determined to wait
till the carriage should come.
But she had hardly seated herself before she heard the wheels. 'He is
here. He is coming. There he is!' she said to the child. 'Look! look! It
is papa.' But she stood back from the window that she might not be
seen. She had thought it out with many fluctuations as to the very spot
in which she would meet him. At one moment she had intended to go down
to the gate, then to the hall-door, and again she had determined that
she would wait for him in the room in which his breakfast was prepared
for him. But she had ordered it otherwise at last. When she saw the
carriage approaching, she retreated back from the window, so that he
should not even catch a glimpse of her; but she had seen him as he sat,
still holding his father's hand. Then she ran back to her own chamber
and gave her orders as she passed across the passage. 'Go down, nurse,
and tell him that I am here. Run quick, nurse; tell him to come at
But he needed no telling. Whether he had divined her purpose, or whether
it was natural to him to fly like a bird to his nest, he rushed upstairs
and was in the room almost before his father had left the carriage She
had the child in her hands when she heard him turn the lock of the door;
but before he entered the boy had been laid in his cradle,--and then she
was in his arms.
For the first few minutes she was quite collected, not saying much, but
answering his questions by a word or two. Oh yes; she was well; and baby
was well,--quite well. He, too, looked well, she said, though there was
something of sadness in his face. 'But I will kiss that away,--so soon,
so soon.' She had always expected that he would come back long, long
before the time that had been named. She had been sure of it, she
declared, because that it was impossible that so great injustice should
be done. But the last fortnight had been very long. When those wicked
people had been put in prison she had thought that then surely he would
come. But now he was there, with his arms round her, safe in his own
home, and everything was well. Then she lifted the baby up to be kissed
again and again, and began to dance and spring in her joy. Then,
suddenly, she almost threw the child into his arms, and seated herself,
covered her face with her hands and began to sob with violence. When he
asked her, with much embracing to compose herself, sitting close to her,
kissing her again and again, she shook her head as it lay upon his
shoulder, and then burst out into a fit of laughter. 'What does it
matter,' she said after a while, as he knelt at her knees;--'what does
it matter? My boy's father has come back to him. My boy has got his own
name, and he is an honest true Caldigate; and no one again will tell me
that another woman owns my husband, my own husband, the father of my
boy. It almost killed me, John, when they said that you were not mine.
And yet I knew that they said it falsely. I never doubted for a moment.
I knew that you were my own, and that my boy had a right to his father's
name. But it was hard to hear them say so, John. It was hard to bear
when my mother swore that it was so!'
At last they went down and found the old squire waiting for his
breakfast. 'I should think,' said he, 'that you would be glad to see a
loaf of bread on a clean board again, and to know that you may cut it as
you please. Did they give you enough where you were?'
'I didn't think much about it, sir.'
'But you must think about it now,' said Hester. 'To please me you must
like everything; your tea, and your fresh eggs, and the butter and the
cream. You must let yourself be spoilt for a time just to compensate me
for your absence.'
'You have made yourself smart to receive him at any rate,' said the
squire, who had become thoroughly used to the black gown which she had
worn morning, noon, and evening while her husband was away.
'Why should I not be smart,' she said, 'when my man has come to me? For
whose eyes shall I put on the raiment that is his own but for his? I
was much lower than a widow in the eyes of all men; but now I have got
my husband back again. And my boy shall wear the very best that he has,
so that his father may see him smile at his own gaudiness. Yes, father,
I may be smart now. There were moments in which I thought that I might
never wear more the pretty things which he had given me.' Then she rose
from her seat again, and hung on his neck, and wept and sobbed till he
feared that her heart-strings would break with joy.
So the morning passed away among them till about eleven o'clock, when
the servant brought in word that Mr. Holt and one or two other of the
tenants wanted to see the young master. The squire had been sitting
alone in the back room so that the husband and wife might be left
together; but he had heard voices with which he was familiar, and he now
came through to ask Hester whether the visitors should be sent away for
the present. But Hester would not have turned a dog from the door which
had been true to her husband through his troubles. 'Let them come,' she
said. 'They have been so good to me, John, through it all! They have
always known that baby was a true Caldigate.'
Holt and the other farmers were shown into the room, and Holt as a
matter of course became the spokesman. When Caldigate had shaken hands
with them all round, each muttering his word of welcome, then Holt
began: 'We wish you to know, squoire, that we, none of us, ain't been
comfortable in our minds here at Folking since that crawling villain
Crinkett came and showed himself at our young squire's christening.'
'That we ain't,' said Timothy Purvidge, another Netherden farmer.
'I haven't had much comfort since that day myself, Mr. Purvidge,' said
Caldigate,--'not till this morning.'
'Nor yet haven't none of us,' continued Mr. Holt, very impressively.
'We knowed as you had done all right. We was as sure as the church
tower. Lord love you, sir, when it was between our young missus,--who'll
excuse me for noticing these bright colours, and for saying how glad I
am to see her come out once again as our squire's wife should come
out,--between her and that bedangled woman as I seed in the court, it
didn't take no one long to know what was the truth!' The eloquence here
was no doubt better than the argument, as Caldigate must have felt when
he remembered how fond he had once been of that 'bedangled woman.'
Hester, who, though she knew the whole story, did not at this moment
join two and two together, thought that Mr. Holt put the case uncommonly
well. 'No! we knew,' he continued, with a wave of his hand. 'Butthejury
weren't Netherden men,--nor yet Utterden, Mr. Halfacre,' he added,
turning to a tenant from the other parish. 'And they couldn't tell how
it all was as we could. And there was that judge, who would have
believed any miscreant as could be got anywhere, to swear away a man's
liberty,--or his wife and family, which is a'most worse. We saw how it
was to be when he first looked out of his eye at the two post-office
gents, and others who spoke up for the young squoire. It was to be
guilty. We know'd it. But it didn't any way change our minds. As to
Crinkett and Smith and them others, we saw that they were ruffians. We
never doubted that. But we saw as there was a bad time coming to you,
Mr. John. Then we was unhappy; unhappy along of you, Mr. John,--but
a'most worse as to this dear lady and the boy.'
'My missus cried that you wouldn't have believed,' said Mr. Purvidge.
'"If that's true," said my missus, "she ain't nobody; and it's my belief
she's as true a wife as ever stretched herself aside her husband."' Then
Hester bethought herself what present, of all presents, would be most
acceptable to Mrs. Purvidge, who was a red-faced, red-armed,
hard-working old woman, peculiarly famous for making cheeses.
'We all knew it,' said Mr. Holt, slapping his thigh with great energy.
'And now, in spite of 'em all, judge, jury, and lying witnesses,--the
king has got his own again.' At this piece of triumphant rhetoric there
was a cheer from all the farmers. 'And so we have come to wish you all
joy, and particularly you, ma'am, with your boy. Things have been said
of you, ma'am, hard to bear, no doubt. But not a word of the kind at
Folking, nor yet in Netherden;--nor yet at Utterden, Mr. Halfacre. But
all this is over, and we do hope that you, ma'am, and the young squoire
'll live long, and the young 'un of all long after we are gone to our
rest,--and that you'll be as fond of Folking as Folking is of you. I
can't say no fairer.' Then the tray was brought in with wine, and
everybody drank everybody's health, and there was another shaking of
hands all round. Mr. Purvidge, it was observed, drank the health of
every separate member of the family in a separate bumper, pressing the
edge of the glass securely to his lips, and then sending the whole
contents down his throat at one throw with a chuck from his little
The two Caldigates went out to see their friends as far as the gate, and
while they were still within the grounds there came a merry peal from
the bells of Netherden church-tower. 'I knew they'd be at it,' said Mr.
'And quite right too,' said Mr. Halfacre. 'We'd rung over at Utterden,
only we've got nothing but that little tinkling thing as is more fitter
to swing round a bullock's neck than on a church-top.'
'I told 'em as they should have beer,' said Mr. Brownby, whose house
stood on Folking Causeway, 'and they shall have beer!' Mr. Brownby was a
silent man, and added nothing to this one pertinent remark.
'As to beer,' said Mr. Halfacre, 'we'd 'ave found the beer at Utterden.
There wouldn't have been no grudging the beer, Mr. Brownby, no more than
there is in the lower parish; but you can't get up a peal merely on
beer. You've got to have bells.'
While they were still standing at the gate, Mr. Bromley the clergyman
joined them, and walked back towards the house with the two Caldigates.
He, too, had come to offer his congratulations, and to assure the
released prisoner that he never believed the imputed guilt. But he would
not go into the house, surmising that on such a day the happy wife would
not care to see many visitors. But Caldigate asked him to take a turn
about the grounds, being anxious to learn something from the outside
world. 'What do they say to it all at Babington?'
'I think they're a little divided.'
'My aunt has been against me, of course.'
'At first she was, I fancy. It was natural that people should believe
till Shand came back.'
'Poor, dear old Dick. I must look after Dick. What about Julia?'
'Spretae injuria formae!' said Mr. Bromley. 'What were you to expect?'
'I'll forgive her. And Mr. Smirkie? I don't think Smirkie ever looked on
me with favourable eyes.'
Then the clergyman was forced to own that Smirkie too had been among
those who had believed the woman's story. 'But you have to remember how
natural it is that a man should think a verdict to be right. In our
country a wrong verdict is an uncommon occurrence. It requires close
personal acquaintance and much personal confidence to justify a man in
supposing that twelve jurymen should come to an erroneous decision. I
thought that they were wrong. But still I knew that I could hardly
defend my opinion before the outside world.'
'It is all true,' said Caldigate; 'and I have made up my mind that I
will be angry with no one who will begin to believe me innocent from
His mind, however, was considerably exercised in regard to the Boltons,
as to whom he feared that they would not even yet allow themselves to be
convinced For his wife's happiness their conversion was of infinitely
more importance than that of all the outside world beyond. When the
gloom of the evening had come, she too came out and walked with him
about the garden and grounds with the professed object of showing him
whatever little changes might have been made. But the conversation soon
fell back upon the last great incident of their joint lives.
'But your mother cannot refuse to believe what everybody now declares to
be true,' he argued.
'Mamma is so strong in her feelings.'
'She must know they would not have let me out of prison in opposition to
the verdict until they were very sure of what they were doing.'
Then she told him all that had occurred between her and her mother since
the trial,--how her mother had come out to Folking and had implored her
to return to Chesterton, and had then taken herself away in dudgeon
because she had not prevailed. 'But nothing would have made me leave the
place,' she said, 'after what they tried to do when I was there before.
Except to go to church, I have not once been outside the gate.'
'Your brothers will come round, I suppose. Robert has been very angry
with me, I know. But he is a man of the world and a man of sense.'
'We must take it as it will come, John. Of course it would be very much
to me to have my father and mother restored to me. It would be very much
to know that my brothers were again my friends. But when I remember how
I prayed yesterday but for one thing, and that now, to-day, that one
thing has come to me;--how I have got that which, when I waked this
morning, seemed to me to be all the world to me, the want of which made
my heart so sick that even my baby could not make me glad, I feel that
nothing ought now to make me unhappy. I have got you, John, and
everything else is nothing.' As he stooped in the dark to kiss her again
among the rose-bushes, he felt that it was almost worth his while to
have been in prison.
After dinner there came a message to them across the ferry from Mr.
Holt. Would they be so good as to walk down to the edge of the great
dike, opposite to Twopenny Farm, at nine o'clock? As a part of the
message, Mr. Holt sent word that at that hour the moon would be rising.
Of course they went down to the dike,--Mr. Caldigate, John Caldigate,
and Hester there, outside Mr. Holt's farmyard, just far enough to avoid
danger to the hay-ricks and corn-stacks there was blazing an enormous
bonfire. All the rotten timber about the place and two or three
tar-barrels had been got together, and there were collected all the
inhabitants of the two parishes. The figures of the boys and girls and
of the slow rustics with their wives could be seen moving about
indistinctly across the water by the fluttering flame of the bonfire.
And their own figures, too, were observed in the moonlight, and John
Caldigate was welcomed back to his home by a loud cheer from all his
'I did not see much of it myself,' Mr. Holt said afterwards, 'because me
and my missus was busy among the stacks all the time, looking after the
sparks. The bonfire might a' been too big, you know.'
How Mrs. Bolton Was Quite Conquered
Nearly a week passed over their heads at Puritan Grange before anything
further was either done or said, or even written, as to the return of
John Caldigate to his own home and to his own wife. In the meantime,
both Mrs. Robert and Mrs. Daniel had gone out to Folking and made visits
of ceremony,--visits which were intended to signify their acknowledgment
that Mrs. John Caldigate was Mrs. John Caldigate. With Mrs. Daniel the
matter was quite ceremonious and short. Mrs. Robert suggested something
as to a visit into Cambridge, saying that her husband would be delighted
if Hester and Mr. Caldigate would come and dine and sleep. Hester
immediately felt that something had been gained, but she declined the
proposed visit for the present. 'We have both of us,' she said, 'gone
through so much, that we are not quite fit to go out anywhere yet.' Mrs.
Robert had hardly expected them to come, but she had observed her
husband's behests. So far there had been a family reconciliation during
the first few days after the prisoner's release; but no sign came from
Mrs. Bolton; and Mr. Bolton, though he had given his orders, was not at
first urgent in requiring obedience to them. Then she received a letter
'DEAREST, DEAREST MAMMA,--Of course you know that my darling husband
has come back to me. All I want now to make me quite happy is to
have you once again as my own, own mother. Will you not send me a
line to say that it shall all be as though these last long dreary
months had never been;--so that I may go to you and show you my baby
once again? And, dear mamma, say one word to me to let me know that
you know that he is my husband. Tell papa to say so also.--Your most
Mrs. Bolton found this letter on the breakfast-table lying, as was usual
with her letters, close to her plate, and she read it without saying a
word to her husband. Then she put it in her pocket, and still did not
say a word. Before the middle of the day she had almost made up her
mind that she would keep the letter entirely to herself. It was well,
she thought, that he had not seen it, and no good could be done by
showing it to him. But he had been in the breakfast-parlour before her,
had seen the envelope, and had recognised the handwriting. They were
sitting together after lunch, and she was just about to open the book of
sermons with which, at that time, she was regaling him, when he stopped
her with a question. 'What did Hester say in her letter?'
Even those who intend to be truthful are sometimes surprised into a lie.
'What letter?' she said. But she remembered herself at once, and knew
that she could not afford to be detected in a falsehood. 'That note from
Hester? Yes;--I had a note this morning.'
'I know you had a note. What does she say?'
'She tells me that he--he has come back.'
'And what else? She was well aware that we knew that without her telling
'She wants to come here.'
'Bid her come.'
'Of course she shall come.'
'And him.' To this she made no answer, except with the muscles of her
face, which involuntarily showed her antagonism to the order she had
received. 'Bid her bring her husband with her,' said the banker.
'He would not come,--though I were to ask him.'
'Then let it be on his own head.'
'I will not ask him,' she said at last, looking away across the room at
the blank wall. 'I will not belie my own heart. I do not want to see him
here. He has so far got the better of me; but I will not put my neck
beneath his feet for him to tread on me.'
Then there was a pause;--not that he intended to allow her disobedience
to pass, but that he was driven to bethink himself how he might best
oppose her. 'Woman,' he said, 'you can neither forgive nor forget.'
'He has got my child from me,--my only child.'
'Does he persecute your child? Is she not happy in his love? Even if he
have trespassed against you, who are you that you should not forgive a
trespass? I say that he shall be asked to come here, that men may know
that in her own father's house she is regarded as his true and honest
'Men!' she murmured. 'That men may know!' But she did not again tell him
that she would not obey his command.
She sat all the remainder of the day alone in her room, hardly touching
the work which she had beside her, not opening the book which lay by her
hand on the table. She was thinking of the letter which she knew that
she must write, but she did not rise to get pen and ink, nor did she
even propose to herself that the letter should be written then. Not a
word was said about it all the evening. On the next morning the banker
pronounced his intention of going into town, but before he started he
referred to the order he had given. 'Have you written to Hester?' he
asked. She merely shook her head. 'Then write to-day.' So saying, he
tottered down the steps with his stick and got into the fly.
About noon she did get her paper and ink, and very slowly wrote her
letter. Though her heart was, in truth, yearning towards her
daughter,--though at that moment she could have made any possible
sacrifice for her child had her child been apart from the man she
hated,--she could not in her sullenness force her words into a form of
'DEAR HESTER,' she said. 'Of course I shall be glad to see you and
your boy. On what day would it suit you to come, and how long would
you like to stay? I fear you will find me and your father but dull
companions after the life you are now used to. If Mr. Caldigate
would like to come with you, your father bids me say that he will
be glad to see him.--Your loving mother,
She endeavoured, in writing her letter, to obey the commands that had
been left with her, but she could not go nearer to it than this. She
could not so far belie her heart as to tell her daughter that she
herself would be glad to see the man. Then it took her long to write the
address. She did write it at last;
Mrs. JOHN CALDIGATE,
But as she wrote it she told herself that she believed it to be a lie.
When the letter reached Hester there was a consultation over it, to
which old Mr. Caldigate was admitted. It was acknowledged on all sides
that anything would be better than a family quarrel. The spirit in which
the invitation had been written was to be found in every word of it.
There was not a word to show that Mrs. Bolton had herself accepted the
decision to which everyone else had come in the matter;--everything,
rather, to show that she had not done so. But, as the squire said, it
does not do to inquire too closely into all people's inner beliefs. 'If
everybody were to say what he thinks about everybody, nobody would ever
go to see anybody.' It was soon decided that Hester, with her baby,
should go on an early day to Puritan Grange, and should stay there for a
couple of nights. But there was a difficulty as to Caldigate himself. He
was naturally enough anxious to send Hester without him, but she was as
anxious to take him. 'It isn't for my own sake,' she said,--'because I
shall like to have you there with me. Of course it will be very dull for
you, but it will be so much better that we should all be reconciled, and
that everyone should know that we are so.'
'It would only be a pretence,' said he.
'People must pretend sometimes, John,' she answered. At last it was
decided that he should take her, reaching the place about the hour of
lunch, so that he might again break bread in her father's house,--that
he should then leave her there, and that at the end of the two days she
should return to Folking.
On the day named they reached Puritan Grange at the hour fixed. Both
Caldigate and Hester were very nervous as to their reception, and got
out of the carriage almost without a word to each other. The old
gardener, who had been so busy during Hester's imprisonment, was there
to take the luggage; and Hester's maid carried the child as Caldigate,
with his wife behind him, walked up the steps and rang the bell. There
was no coming out to meet them, no greeting them even in the hall. Mr.
Bolton was perhaps too old and too infirm for such running out, and it
was hardly within his nature to do so. They were shown into the
well-known morning sitting-room, and there they found Hester's father in
his chair, and Mrs. Bolton standing up to receive them.
Hester, after kissing her father, threw herself into her mother's arms
before a word had been said to Caldigate. Then the banker addressed him
with a set speech, which no doubt had been prepared in the old man's
mind. 'I am very glad,' he said, 'that you have brought this unhappy
matter to so good a conclusion, Mr. Caldigate.'
'It has been a great trouble,--worse almost for Hester than for me.'
'Yes, it has been sad enough for Hester,--and the more so because it was
natural that others should believe that which the jury and the judge
declared to have been proved. How should any one know otherwise?'
'Just so, Mr. Bolton. If they will accept the truth now, I shall be
'It will come, but perhaps slowly to some folk. You should in justice
remember that your own early follies have tended to bring this all
It was a grim welcome, and the last speech was one which Caldigate
found it difficult to answer. It was so absolutely true that it admitted
of no answer. He thought that it might have been spared, and shrugged
his shoulders as though to say that that part of the subject was one
which he did not care to discuss. Hester heard it, and quivered with
anger even in her mother's arms. Mrs. Bolton heard it, and in the midst
of her kisses made an inward protest against the word used. Follies
indeed! Why had he not spoken out the truth as he knew it, and told the
man of his vices?
But it was necessary that she too should address him. 'I hope I see you
quite well, Mr. Caldigate,' she said, giving him her hand.
'The prison has not disagreed with me,' he said, with an attempt at a
smile, 'though it was not an agreeable residence.'
'If you used your leisure there to meditate on your soul's welfare, it
may have been of service to you.'
It was very grim. But the banker having made his one severe speech,
became kind in his manner, and almost genial. He asked after his
son-in-law's future intentions, and when he was told that they thought
of spending some months abroad so as to rid themselves in that way of
the immediate record of their past misery, he was gracious enough to
express his approval of the plan; and then when the lunch was announced,
and the two ladies had passed out of the room, he said a word to his
son-in-law in private. 'As I was convinced, Mr. Caldigate, when I first
heard the evidence, that that other woman was your wife, and was
therefore very anxious to separate my daughter from you, so am I
satisfied now that the whole thing was a wicked plot.'
'I am very glad to hear you say that, sir.'
'Now, if you please, we will go in to lunch.'
As long as Caldigate remained in the house Mrs. Bolton was almost
silent. The duties of a hostess she performed in a stiff ungainly way.
She asked him whether he would have hashed mutton or cold beef, and
allowed him to pour a little sherry into her wine-glass. But beyond this
there was not much conversation. Mr. Bolton had said what he had to say,
and sat leaning forward with his chin over his plate perfectly silent.
It is to be supposed that he had some pleasure in having his daughter
once more beneath his roof, especially as he had implored his wife not
to deprive him of that happiness during the small remainder of his days.
But he sat there with no look of joy upon his face. That she should be
stern, sullen, and black-browed was to be expected. She had been
compelled to entertain their guest; and was not at all the woman to bear
such compulsion meekly.
The hour at last wore itself away, and the carriage which was to take
Caldigate back to Folking was again at the door. It was a Tuesday. 'You
will send for me on Thursday,' she said to him in a whisper.
'Early? After breakfast, you know. I suppose you will not come
'Not here, I think. I have done all the good that I can do, and it is
pleasant to no one. But you shall pick me up in the town. I shall go in
and see your brother Robert.' Then he went, and Hester was left with her
As she turned back from the hall-door she found her mother standing at
the foot of the stairs, waiting for her. 'Shall I come with you, mamma?'
she said. Holding each other's arms they went up, and so passed into
Hester's room, where the nurse was sitting with the boy. 'Let her go
into my room,' said the elder lady. So the nurse took the baby away, and
they were alone together. 'Oh, Hester, Hester, my child!' said the
mother, flinging her arms wildly round her daughter.
The whole tenor of her face was changed at that moment. Even to Hester
she had been stern, forbidding, and sullen. There had not been a
gracious movement about her lips or eyes since the visitors had come. A
stranger, could a stranger have seen it all, would have said that the
mother did not love her child, that there was no touch of tenderness
about the woman's heart. But now, when she was alone, with the one thing
on earth that was dear to her, she melted at once. In a moment Hester
found herself seated on the sofa, with her mother kneeling before her,
sobbing, and burying her face in the loved one's lap. 'You love me,
'Love you, mamma! You know I love you.'
'Not as it used to be. I am nothing to you now. I can do nothing for you
now. You turn away from me, because--because--because--'
'I have never turned away from you, mamma.'
'Because I could not bear that you should be taken away from me and
given to him.'
'He is good, mamma. If you would only believe that he is good!'
'He is not good. God only is good, my child.'
'He is good to me.'
'Ah, yes;--he has taken you from me. When I thought you were coming
back, in trouble, in disgrace from the world, nameless, a poor injured
thing, with your nameless babe, then I comforted myself because I
thought that I could be all and everything to you. I would have poured
balm into the hurt wounds. I would have prayed with you, and you and I
would have been as one before the Lord.'
'You are not sorry, mamma, that I have got my husband again?'
'Oh, I have tried,--I have tried not to be sorry.'
'You do not believe now that that woman was his wife?'
Then the old colour came back upon her face, and something of the old
look, and the tenderness was quenched in her eyes, and the softness of
her voice was gone. 'I do not know,' she said.
'Mamma, you must know. Get up and sit by me till I tell you. You must
teach yourself to know this,--to be quite sure of it. You must not think
that your daughter is,--is living in adultery with the husband of
another woman. To me who knew him there has never been a shadow of a
doubt, not a taint of fear to darken the certainty of my faith. It could
not have been so, perhaps, with you who have not known his nature. But
now, now, when all of them, from the Queen downwards, have declared that
this charge has been a libel, when even the miscreants themselves have
told against themselves, when the very judge has gone back from the word
in which he was so confident, shall my mother,--and my mother
only,--think that I am a wretched, miserable, nameless outcast, with a
poor nameless, fatherless baby? I am John Caldigate's wife before God's
throne, and my child is his child, and his lawful heir, and owns his
father's name. My husband is to me before all the world,--first, best,
dearest,--my king, my man, my master, and my lover. Above all things, he
is my husband.' She had got up, and was standing before her mother with
her arms folded before her breast, and the fire glanced from her eyes as
she spoke. 'But, mamma, because I love him more, I do not love you
'Oh yes, oh yes; so much less.'
'No, mamma. It is given to us, of God, so to love our husband; "For the
husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the Church." You
would not have me forget such teaching as that?'
'No,--my child; no.'
'When I went out and had him given to me for my husband, of course I
loved him best. The Lord do so to me and more also if aught but death
part him and me! But shall that make my mother think that her girl's
heart is turned away from her? Mamma, say that he is my husband.' The
frown came back, and the woman sat silent and sullen, but there was
something of vacillating indecision in her face. 'Mamma,' repeated
Hester, 'say that he is my husband.'
'I suppose so,' said the woman, very slowly.
'Mamma, say that it is so, and bless your child.'
'God bless you, my child.'
'And you know that it is so?'
'Yes.' The word was hardly spoken, but the lips of the one were close to
the ear of the other, and the sound was heard, and the assent was
The web of our story has now been woven, the piece is finished, and it
is only necessary that the loose threads should be collected, so that
there may be no unravelling. In such chronicles as this, something no
doubt might be left to the imagination without serious injury to the
story; but the reader, I think, feels a deficiency when, through tedium
or coldness, the writer omits to give all the information which he
Among the male personages of my story, Bagwax should perhaps be allowed
to stand first. It was his energy and devotion to his peculiar duties
which, after the verdict, served to keep alive the idea that that
verdict had been unjust. It was through his ingenuity that Judge Bramber
was induced to refer the inquiry back to Scotland Yard, and in this way
to prevent the escape of Crinkett and Euphemia Smith. Therefore we will
first say a word as to Bagwax and his history.
It was rumoured at the time that Sir John Joram and Mr. Brown, having
met each other at the club after the order for Caldigate's release had
been given, and discussing the matter with great interest, united in
giving praise to Bagwax. Then Sir John told the story of those broken
hopes, of the man's desire to travel, and of the faith and honesty with
which he sacrificed his own aspirations for the good of the poor lady
whose husband had been so cruelly taken away from her. Then,--as it was
said at the time,--an important letter was sent from the Home Office to
the Postmaster-General, giving Mr. Bagwax much praise, and suggesting
that a very good thing would be done to the colony of New South Wales if
that ingenious and skilful master of postmarks could be sent out to
Sydney with the view of setting matters straight in the Sydney
office. There was then much correspondence with the Colonial Office,
which did not at first care very much about Bagwax; but at last the
order was given by the Treasury, and Bagwax went. There were many tears
shed on the occasion at Apricot Villa. Jemima Curlydown thought that she
also should be allowed to see Sydney, and was in favour of an immediate
marriage with this object. But Bagwax felt that the boisterous ocean
might be unpropitious to the delights of a honeymoon; and Mr. Curlydown
reminded his daughter of all the furniture which would thus be lost.
Bagwax went as a gay bachelor, and spent six happy months in the bright
colony. He did not effect much, as the delinquent who had served
Crinkett in his base purposes had already been detected and punished
before his arrival; but he was treated with extreme courtesy by the
Sydney officials, and was able to bring home with him a treasure in the
shape of a newly-discovered manner of tying mail-bags. So that when the
'Sydney Intelligencer' boasted that the great English professor who had
come to instruct them all had gone home instructed, there was some truth
in it. He was married immediately after his return, and Jemima his wife
has the advantage, in her very pretty drawing-room, of every shilling
that he made by the voyage. My readers will be glad to hear that soon
afterwards he was appointed Inspector-General of Post-marks, to the
great satisfaction of all the post-office.
[Footnote 1: I hope my friends in the Sydney post-office will take
no offence should this story ever reach their ears. I know how well
the duties are done in that office, and, between ourselves, I think
that Mr. Bagwax's journey was quite unnecessary.]
One of the few things which Caldigate did before he took his wife
abroad was to 'look after Dick Shand.' It was manifest to all concerned
that Dick could do no good in England. His yellow trousers and the
manners which accompanied them were not generally acceptable in
merchants' offices and suchlike places. He knew nothing about English
farming, which, for those who have not learned the work early, is an
expensive amusement rather than a trade by which bread can be earned.
There seemed to be hardly a hope for Dick in England. But he had done
some good among the South Sea Islanders. He knew their ways and could
manage them. He was sent out, therefore, with a small capital to be
junior partner on a sugar estate in Queensland. It need hardly be said
that the small capital was lent to him by John Caldigate. There he took
steadily to work, and it is hoped by his friends that he will soon begin
to repay the loan.
The uncle, aunt, and cousins at Babington soon renewed their intimacy
with John Caldigate, and became intimate with Hester. The old squire
still turned up his nose at them, as he had done all his life, calling
them Boeotians, and reminding his son that Suffolk had always been a
silly county. But the Babingtons, one and all, knew this, and had no
objection to be accounted thick-headed as long as they were acknowledged
to be prosperous, happy, and comfortable. It had always been considered
at Babington that young Caldigate was brighter and more clever than
themselves; and yet he had been popular with them as a cousin of whom
they ought to be proud. He was soon restored to his former favour, and
after his return from the Continent spent a fortnight at the Hall, with
his wife, very comfortably. Julia, indeed, was not there, nor Mr.
Smirkie. Among all their neighbours and acquaintances Mr. Smirkie was
the last to drop the idea that there must have been something in that
story of an Australian marriage. His theory of the law on the subject
was still incorrect. The Queen's pardon, he said, could not do away with
the verdict, and therefore he doubted whether the couple could be
regarded as man and wife. He was very anxious that they should be
married again, and with great good-nature offered to perform the
ceremony himself either at Plum-cum-Pippins or even in the drawing-room
'Suffolk to the very backbone!' was the remark of the Cambridgeshire
squire when he heard of this very kind offer. But even he at last came
round, under his wife's persuasion, when he found that the paternal
mansion was likely to be shut against him unless he yielded.
Hester's second tour with her husband was postponed for some weeks,
because it was necessary that her husband should appear as a witness
against Crinkett and Euphemia Smith. They were tried also at Cambridge,
but not before Judge Bramber. The woman never yielded an inch. When she
found how it was going with her, she made fast her money, and with
infinite pluck resolved that she would endure with patience whatever
might be in store for her, and wait for better times. When put into the
dock she pleaded not guilty with a voice that was audible only to the
jailer standing beside her, and after that did not open her mouth during
the trial. Crinkett made a great effort to be admitted as an additional
witness against his comrade, but, having failed in that, pleaded guilty
at last. He felt that there was no hope for him with such a weight of
evidence against him, and calculated that his punishment might thus be
lighter, and that he would save himself the cost of an expensive
defence. In the former hope he was deceived as the two were condemned to
the same term of imprisonment. When the woman heard that she was to be
confined for three years with hard labour her spirit was almost broken.
But she made no outward sign; and as she was led away out of the dock
she looked round for Caldigate, to wither him with the last glance of
her reproach. But Caldigate, who had not beheld her misery without some
pang at his heart, had already left the court.
Judge Bramber never opened his mouth upon the matter to a single human
being. He was a man who, in the bosom of his family, did not say much
about the daily work of his life, and who had but few friends
sufficiently intimate to be trusted with his judicial feelings. The
Secretary of State was enabled to triumph in the correctness of his
decision, but it may be a question whether Judge Bramber enjoyed the
triumph. The matter had gone luckily for the Secretary; but how would it
have been had Crinkett and the woman been acquitted?--how would it have
been had Caldigate broken down in his evidence, and been forced to admit
that there had been a marriage of some kind? No doubt the accusation had
been false. No doubt the verdict had been erroneous. But the man had
brought it upon himself by his own egregious folly, and would have had
no just cause for complaint had he been kept in prison till the second
case had been tried. It was thus that Judge Bramber regarded the
matter;--but he said not a word about it to any one.
When the second trial was over, Caldigate and his wife started for
Paris, but stayed a few days on their way with William Bolton in London.
He and his wife were quite ready to receive Hester and her husband with
open arms. 'I tell you fairly,' said he to Caldigate, 'that when there
was a doubt, I thought it better that you and Hester should be apart.
You would have thought the same had she been your sister. Now I am only
too happy to congratulate both of you that the truth has been brought to
On their return Mrs. Robert Bolton was very friendly,--and Robert Bolton
himself was at last brought round to acknowledge that his convictions
had been wrong. But there was still much that stuck in his throat. 'Why
did John Caldigate pay twenty thousand pounds to those persons when he
knew that they had hatched a conspiracy against himself?' This question
he asked his brother William over and over again, and never could be
satisfied with any answer which his brother could give him.
Once he asked the question of Caldigate himself. 'Because I felt that,
in honour, I owed it to them,' said Caldigate; 'and, perhaps, a little
too because I felt that, if they took themselves off at once, your
sister might be spared something of the pain which she has suffered.'
But still it was unintelligible to Robert Bolton that any man in his
senses should give away so large a sum of money with so slight a
prospect of any substantial return.
Hester often goes to see her mother, but Mrs. Bolton has never been at
Folking, and probably never will again visit that house. She is a woman
whose heart is not capable of many changes, and who cannot readily give
herself to new affections. But having once owned that John Caldigate is
her daughter's husband, she now alleges no further doubt on the matter.
She writes the words 'Mrs. John Caldigate' without a struggle, and does
take delight in her daughter's visits.
When last I heard from Folking, Mrs. John Caldigate's second boy had
just been born.
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