Part 4 out of 11
likely to recommend the seclusion of her daughter in a convent. All her
religious doctrines were those of the Low Church. But she had a
tendency to arrive at similar results by other means. She was so afraid
of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that she would fain shut up her
child so as to keep her from the reach of all evil. Vowed celibacy was
abominable to her, because it was the resource of the Roman Catholics;
and because she had been taught to believe that convent-walls were
screens for hiding unheard-of wickedness. But yet, on behalf of her
child, she desired seclusion from the world, fancying that so and so
only might security be ensured. Superstition was as strong with her as
with any self-flagellated nun. Fasting, under that name, she held in
abhorrence. But all sensual gratifications were wicked in her sight. She
would allow all home indulgences to her daughter, each under some
separate plea,--constrained to do so by excessive love; but she did so
always in fear and trembling, lest she was giving some foothold to
Satan. All of which Robert Bolton understood better even than did his
father when he gave the above advice in reference to this lover.
Men Are So Wicked
A month had passed by since Caldigate's interview with Mrs. Bolton, and
nothing had as yet been decided either for him or against him at
Chesterton And the fact that no absolute decision had been made against
him may be taken as having been very much in his favour. But of those
who doubted, and doubting, had come to no decision, Mrs. Bolton herself
was by no means one. She was as firm as ever in her intention that the
idea should not even be suggested to her daughter. Nor, up to this time,
had our hero's name been even mentioned to Hester Bolton.
About a week after Caldigate's visit to Chesterton in the early days of
August, he wrote to Robert Bolton saying that he was going into Scotland
for a month, and that he trusted that during that time his proposition
might be considered. On his return he would take the liberty of calling
on Mr. Bolton at the bank. In the meantime he hoped that inquiries might
be made as to his position in the world, and in order that such
inquiries might be effectual he gave a reference to his man of business
in London. To this letter Robert Bolton sent no answer; but he went up
to London, and did make the inquiries as suggested, and consulted his
brother the barrister, and his sister-in-law the barrister's wife. They
were both of opinion that John Caldigate was behaving well, and were of
opinion also that something should be done to liberate Hester from the
thraldom of her mother. 'I knew how it would be when she grew up and
became a woman,' said Mrs. William Bolton. 'Nobody will be allowed to
see her, and she won't have a chance of settling herself. When we asked
her to come up here for a couple of months in the season, Mrs. Bolton
sent me word that London is a terrible place for young girls,--though,
of course, she knew that our own girls were being brought up here.' Then
the ways of Mrs. Bolton at Chesterton and Hester's future life generally
were discussed in a spirit that was by no means unfriendly to our hero.
The suggested inquiries were made in the city, and were all favourable.
Everyone connected with the mining interests of the Australian colonies
knew the name of John Caldigate. All of that class of people were well
aware of his prosperity and confirmed good-fortune. He had brought with
him or sent home nobody quite knew how much money. But it was very well
known that he had left his interest in the Polyeuka mine to be sold for
L60,000, and now there had come word that a company had created itself
for the sake of making the purchase, and that the money would be
forthcoming. The gentleman in the city connected with mining matters did
not think that Mr. Caldigate would be called upon to go out to the
colony again, unless he chose to do so for his own pleasure. All this
Robert Bolton learned in the City, and he learned also that the man as
to whom he was making inquiry was held in high esteem for honesty,
perseverance, and capacity. The result of all this was that he returned
to Cambridge with a feeling that his sister ought to be allowed to make
the man's acquaintance. He and his brother had agreed that something
should be done to liberate their sister from her present condition. Love
on the part of a mother may be as injurious as cruelty, if the mother be
both tyrannical and superstitious. While Hester had been a child, no
interference had been possible or perhaps expedient,--but the time had
now come when something ought to be done. Such having been the decision
in Harley Street, where the William Boltons lived, Robert Bolton went
back home with the intention of carrying it out.
This could only be done through the old man, and even with him not
without great care. He was devotedly attached to his young wife;--but
was very averse to having it thought that he was ruled by her. Indeed,
in all matters affecting his establishment, his means, and his business,
he would hardly admit of interference from her at all. His worldly
matters he kept between himself and his sons. But in regard to his soul
he could not restrain her, and sometimes would hardly oppose her. The
prolonged evening prayers, the sermons twice a-week, the two long church
services on Sundays,--indulgence as to the third being allowed to him
only on the score of his age,--he endured at her command. And in regard
to Hester, he had hitherto been ruled by his wife, thinking it proper
that a daughter should be left in the hands of her mother. But now, when
he was told that if he did not interfere, his girl would be constrained
by the harsh bonds of an unnatural life, stern as he was himself and
inclined to be gloomy, little as he was disposed to admit ideas of
recreation and delight, he did acknowledge that something should be done
to relieve her. 'But when I die she must be left in her mother's hands,'
said the old banker.
'It is to be hoped that she may be in other hands before that,' replied
his son. 'I do not mean to say anything against my step-mother;--but for
a young woman it is generally best that she should be married. And in
Hester's peculiar position, she ought to have the chance of choosing for
In this way something almost like a conspiracy was made on behalf of
Caldigate. And yet the old man did not as yet abandon his prejudices
against the miner. A man who had at so early an age done so much to ruin
himself, and had then sprung so suddenly from ruin to prosperity, could
not, he thought, be regarded as a steady well-to-do man of business. He
did agree that, as regarded Hester, the prison-bars should be removed;
but he did not think that she should be invited to walk forth with Mr.
John Caldigate. Robert declared that his sister was quite able to form
an opinion of her own, and boldly suggested that Hester should be
allowed to come and dine at his house. 'To meet the man?' asked the
banker in dismay. 'Yes,' said Robert. 'He isn't an ogre. You needn't be
afraid of him. I shall be there,--and Margaret. Bring her yourself if
you are afraid of anything. No plant ever becomes strong by being kept
always away from the winds of heaven.' To this he could not assent at
the time. He knew that it was impossible to assent without consulting
his wife. But he was brought so far round as to think that if nothing
but his own consent were wanting, his girl would be allowed to go and
meet the ogre.
'I suppose we ought to wish that Hester should be married some day,' he
said to his wife about this time. She shuddered and dashed her hands
together as though deprecating some evil,--some event which she could
hardly hope to avoid but which was certainly an evil. 'Do you not wish
that yourself?' She shook her head. 'Is it not the safest condition in
which a woman can live?'
'How shall any one be safe among the dangers of this world, Nicholas?'
She habitually called her husband by his Christian name, but she was the
only living being who did so.
'More safe then?' said he. 'It is the natural condition of a woman.'
'I do not know. Sin is natural.'
'Very likely. No doubt. But marriage is not sinful.'
'Men are so wicked.'
'Some of them are.'
'Where is there one that is not steeped in sin over his head?'
'That applies to women also; doesn't it?' said the banker petulantly. He
was almost angry because she was introducing a commonplace as to the
world's condition into a particular argument as to their daughter's
future life,--which he felt to be unfair and illogical.
'Of course it does, Nicholas. We are all black and grimed with sin, men
and women too; and perhaps something more may be forgiven to men because
they have to go out into the world and do their work. But neither one
nor the other can be anything but foul with sin;--except,--except--'
He was quite accustomed to the religious truth which was coming, and, in
an ordinary way, did not object to the doctrine which she was apt to
preach to him often. But it had no reference whatever to the matter now
under discussion. The general condition of things produced by the fall
of Adam could not be used as an argument against matrimony generally.
Wicked as men and women are it is so evidently intended that they should
marry and multiply that even she would not deny the general propriety of
such an arrangement. Therefore when he was talking to her about their
daughter, she was ill-treating him when on that occasion she flew away
to her much-accustomed discourse.
'What's the use, then, of saying that men are wicked?'
'They are. They are!'
'Not a doubt about it. And so are the women, but they've got to have
husbands and wives. They wouldn't be any the better if there were no
marrying. We have to suppose that Hester will do the same as other
'I hope not, Nicholas.'
'But why not?'
'They are vain, and they adorn themselves, not in modest apparel, as St.
Paul says in First Timothy, chapter second, nor with shame-facedness and
sobriety but with braided hair and gold and pearls and costly array.'
'What has that to do with it?'
'She might be married without all those things.'
'You said you wanted her to be like other girls.'
'No, I didn't. I said she would have to get married like other girls.
You don't want to make a nun of her.'
'A nun! I would sooner sit by her bedside and watch her die! My Hester a
'Very well, then. Let her go out into the world----'
'The world, Nicholas! The world, the flesh, and the devil! Do they not
always go together?'
He was much harassed and very angry. He knew how unreasonable she was,
and yet he did not know how to answer her. And she was dishonest with
him. Because she felt herself unable to advocate in plain terms a
thorough shutting up of her daughter,--a protecting of her from the
temptation of sin by absolute and prolonged sequestration,--therefore
she equivocated with him, pretending to think that he was desirous of
sending his girl out to have her hair braided and herself arrayed in
gold and pearls. It was thoroughly dishonest, and he understood the
dishonesty. 'She must go somewhere,' he said, rising from his chair and
closing the conversation. At this time a month had passed since
Caldigate had been at Chesterton, and he had now returned from Scotland
On the following day Hester was taken out to dinner at The Nurseries, as
Robert Bolton's house was called,--was taken out by her father. This was
quite a new experiment, as she had never dined with any of her aunts and
cousins except at an early dinner almost as a child,--and even as a
child not at her brother Robert's. But the banker, after having declared
that she must go somewhere, had persisted. It is not to be supposed that
Caldigate was on this occasion invited to meet her;--nor that the father
had as yet agreed that any such meeting should be allowed. But as
William Bolton,--the London brother,--and Mrs. William and one of their
girls were down at Cambridge, it was arranged that Hester should meet
her relatives. Even so much as this was not settled without much
opposition on the part of Hester's mother.
There was nobody at the house but members of the family. The old
banker's oldest son Nicholas was not there as his wife and Mrs. Robert
did not get on well together. Mrs. Nicholas was almost as strict as Mrs.
Bolton herself, and, having no children of her own, would not have
sympathised at all in any desire to procure for Hester the wicked luxury
of a lover. The second son Daniel joined the party with his wife, but he
had married too late to have grown-up children. His wife was strict
too,--but of a medium strictness. Teas, concerts, and occasional dinner
parties were with her permissible;--as were also ribbons and a certain
amount of costly array. Mrs. Nicholas was in the habit of telling Mrs.
Daniel that you cannot touch pitch and not be defiled,--generally
intending to imply that Mrs. Robert was the pitch; and would harp on the
impossibility of serving both God and mammon, thinking perhaps that her
brother-in-law Robert and mammon were one and the same. But Daniel, who
could go to church as often as any man on Sundays, and had thoroughly
acquired for himself the reputation of a religious man of business, had
his own ideas as to proprieties and expediencies, and would neither
quarrel with his brother Robert, or allow his wife to quarrel with Mrs.
Robert. So that the Nicholases lived very much alone. Mrs. Nicholas and
Mrs. Bolton might have suited each other, might have been congenial and
a comfort each to the other, but the elder son and the elder son's wife
had endeavoured to prevent the old man's second marriage, and there had
never been a thorough reconciliation since. There are people who can
never forgive. Mrs. Nicholas had never forgiven the young girl for
marrying the old man, and the young girl had never forgiven the
opposition of her elder step-daughter-in-law to her own marriage. Hence
it had come to pass that the Nicholases were extruded from the family
conclaves, which generally consisted of the Daniels and the Roberts. The
Williams were away in London, not often having much to do with these
matters. But they too allied themselves with the dominant party, it
being quite understood that as long as the old man lived Robert was and
would be the most potent member of the family.
When the father and the three sons were in the dining-room together,
after the six or seven ladies had left them, the propriety of allowing
John Caldigate to make Hester's acquaintance was fully discussed. 'I
would not for the world interfere,' said Robert, 'if I did not think it
unfair to the dear girl that she should be shut up there altogether.'
'Do you suppose that the young man is in earnest?' asked Daniel.
As to this they all agreed that there could be no doubt. He was, too, an
old family friend, well-to-do in the world, able to make proper
settlements, and not at all greedy as to a fortune with his wife. Even
Daniel Bolton thought that the young man should have a chance,--by
saying which he was supposed to declare that the question ought to be
left to the arbitrament of the young lady. The old banker was unhappy
and ill at ease. He could not reconcile himself at once to so great a
change. Though he felt that the excessive fears of his wife, if
indulged, would be prejudicial to their girl, still he did not wish to
thrust her out into the world all at once. Could there not be some
middle course? Could there not be a day named, some four years hence, at
which she might be allowed to begin to judge for herself? But his three
sons were against him, and he could not resist their joint influence. It
was therefore absolutely decided that steps should be taken for enabling
John Caldigate to meet Hester at Robert Bolton's house.
'I suppose it will end in a marriage,' William Bolton said to his
brother Robert when they were alone.
'Of course it will. She is the dearest creature in the world;--so good
to her mother; but no fool, and quite aware that the kind of restraint
to which she has been subjected is an injustice. Of course she will be
gratified when a man like that tells her that he loves her. He is a
good-looking fellow, with a fine spirit and plenty of means. How on
earth can she do better?'
'But Mrs. B.?' said William, who would sometimes thus disrespectfully
allude to his step-mother.
'Mrs. B. will do all she can to prevent it,' said Robert; 'but I think
we shall find that Hester has a will of her own.'
On the following day John Caldigate called at the bank, where the banker
had a small wainscoted back-parlour appropriated to himself. He had
already promised that he would see the young man, and Caldigate was
shown into the little room. He soon told his story, and was soon clever
enough to perceive that the telling of his story was at any rate
permitted. The old father did not receive him with astonishment and
displeasure combined, as the young mother had done. Of course he made
difficulties, and spoke of the thing as being beyond the bounds of
probability. But objection no stronger than that may be taken as
amounting almost to encouragement in such circumstances. And he paid
evident attention to all that Caldigate said about his own pecuniary
affairs,--going so far as to say that he was not in a condition to
declare whether he would give his daughter any fortune at all on her
'It is quite unnecessary,' said Caldigate.
'She will probably have something at my death,' rejoined the old man.
'And when may I see her?' asked Caldigate.
In answer to that Mr. Bolton would not at first make any suggestion
whatsoever,--falling back upon his old fears, and declaring that there
could be no such meetings at all, but at last allowing that the lover
should discuss the matter with his son Robert.
'Perhaps I may have been mistaken about the young man Caldigate,' the
banker said to his wife that night.
'I only say that perhaps I may have been mistaken.'
'You are not thinking of Hester?'
'I said nothing about Hester then;--but perhaps I may have been
mistaken in my opinion about that young man John Caldigate.'
John Caldigate, as he rode home after his interview at the bank, almost
felt that he had cleared away many difficulties, and that, by his
perseverance, he might probably be enabled to carry out the dream of his
After that Caldigate did not allow the grass to grow under his feet, and
before the end of November the two young people were engaged. As Robert
Bolton had said, Hester was of course flattered and of course delighted
with this new joy. John Caldigate was just the man to recommend himself
to such a girl, not too light, not too prone to pleasure, not contenting
himself with bicycles, cricket matches, or billiards, and yet not wholly
given to serious matters as had been those among whom she had hitherto
passed her days. And he was one who could speak of his love with soft
winning words, neither roughly nor yet with too much of shame-faced
diffidence. And when he told her how he had sworn to himself after
seeing her that once,--that once when all before him in life was
enveloped in doubt and difficulty,--that he would come home and make her
his wife, she thought that the manly constancy of his heart was almost
divine. Of course she loved him with all her heart. He was in all
respects one made to be loved by a woman;--and then what else had she
ever had to love? When once it was arranged that he should be allowed to
speak to her, the thing was done. She did not at once tell him that it
was done. She took some few short halcyon weeks to dally with the vow
which her heart was ready to make; but those around her knew that the
vow had been inwardly made; and those who were anxious on her behalf
with a new anxiety, with a new responsibility, redoubled their inquiries
as to John Caldigate. How would Robert Bolton or Mrs. Robert excuse
themselves to that frightened miserable mother if at last it should turn
out that John Caldigate was not such as they had represented him to be?
But no one could pick a hole in him although many attempts to pick holes
were made. The question of his money was put quite at rest by the
transference of all his securities, balances, and documents to the
Boltons' bank, and the L60,000 for Polyeuka was accepted, so that there
was no longer any need that he should go again to the colony. This was
sweet news to Hester when she first heard it;--for it had come to pass
that it had been agreed that the marriage should be postponed till his
return, that having been the one concession made to Mrs. Bolton. There
had been many arguments about it;--but Hester at last told him that she
had promised so much to her mother and that she would of course keep her
promise. Then the arrangement took such a form that the journey was not
necessary,--or perhaps the objection to the journey became so strong in
Caldigate's mind that he determined to dispense with it at any price.
And thus, very greatly to the dismay of Mrs. Bolton, suddenly there came
to be no reason why they should not be married almost at once.
But there was an attempt made at the picking of holes,--or rather many
attempts. It would be unfair to say that this was carried on by Mrs.
Bolton herself;--but she was always ready to listen to what evil things
were said to her. Mrs. Nicholas, in her horror at the general wickedness
of the Caldigates almost reconciled herself to her step-mother, and
even Mrs. Daniel began to fear that a rash thing was being done. In the
first place there was the old story of Davis and Newmarket. Robert
Bolton who had necessarily become the advocate and defender of our hero
generally, did not care much for Davis and Newmarket. All young men sow
their wild oats. Of course he had been extravagant. Since his
extravagance he had shown himself to be an industrious, sensible, steady
member of society;--and there was the money that he had earned! What
young man had earned more in a shorter time, or had ever been more
prudent in keeping it? Davis and Newmarket were easily answered by a
reference to the bank account. Did he ever go to Newmarket now, though
he was living so close to it? On that matter Robert Bolton was very
But Mrs. Nicholas had found out that Caldigate had spent certainly two
Sundays running at Folking without going to church at all; and, as far
as she could learn, he was altogether indifferent about public worship.
Mrs. Bolton, who could never bring herself to treat him as a son-in-law,
but who was still obliged to receive him, taxed him to his face with his
paganism. 'Have you no religion, Mr. Caldigate?' He assured her that he
had, and fell into a long discussion in which he thoroughly confused
her, though he by no means convinced her that he was what he ought to
be. But he went with her to church twice on one Sunday, and showed her
that he was perfectly familiar with the ways of the place.
But perhaps the loudest complaint came from the side of Babington; and
here two sets of enemies joined their forces together who were
thoroughly hostile to each other. Mrs. Babington declared loudly that
old Bolton had been an errand-boy in his youth, and that his father had
been a porter and his mother a washerwoman. This could do no real harm,
as Caldigate would not have been deterred by any such rumours, even had
they been true; but they tended to show animosity, and enabled Mrs.
Nicholas to find out the cause of the Babington opposition. When she
learned that John Caldigate had been engaged to his cousin Julia, of
course she made the most of it; and so did Mrs. Bolton. And in this way
it came to be reported not only that the young man had been engaged to
Miss Babington before he went to Australia,--but also that he had
renewed his engagement since his return. 'You do not love her, do you?'
Hester asked him. Then he told her the whole story, as nearly as he
could tell it with some respect for his cousin, laughing the while at
his aunt's solicitude, and saying, perhaps something not quite
respectful as to Julia's red cheeks and green hat, all of which
certainly had not the effect of hardening Hester's heart against him.
'The poor young lady can't help it if her feet are big,' said Hester,
who was quite alive to the grace of a well-made pair of boots, although
she had been taught to eschew braided hair and pearls and gold.
Mrs. Babington, however, pushed her remonstrances so far that she boldly
declared that the man was engaged to her daughter, and wrote to him more
than once declaring that it was so. She wrote, indeed, very often,
sometimes abusing him for his perfidy, and then, again, imploring him to
return to them, and not to defile the true old English blood of the
Caldigates with the suds of a washerwoman and the swept-up refuse of a
porter's shovel. She became quite eloquent in her denunciation, but
always saying that if he would only come back to Babington all would be
forgiven him. But in these days he made no visits to Babington.
Then there came a plaintive little note from Mrs. Shand. Of course they
wished him joy if it were true. But could it be true? Men were very
fickle, certainly; but this change seemed to have been very, very
sudden! And there was a word or two, prettily written in another hand,
on a small slip of paper--'Perhaps you had better send back the book';
and Caldigate, as he read it, thought that he could discern the
almost-obliterated smudge of a wiped-up tear. He wrote a cheerful letter
to Mrs. Shand, in which he told her that though he had not been
absolutely engaged to marry Hester Bolton before he started for
Australia,--and consequently before he had ever been at Pollington,--yet
his mind had been quite made up to do so; and that therefore he regarded
himself as being abnormally constant rather than fickle. 'And tell your
daughter, with my kindest regards,' he added, 'that I hope I may be
allowed to keep the book.'
The Babington objections certainly made their way in Cambridge and out
at Chesterton further than any others, and for a time did give a hope to
Mrs. Bolton and Mrs. Nicholas,--and made Robert Bolton shrug his
shoulders uneasily when he heard all the details of the engagement in
the linen-closet. But there came at one moment a rumour, which did not
count for much among the Boltons, but which disturbed Caldigate himself
more than any of the other causes adduced for breaking off his intended
marriage. Word came that he had been very intimate with a certain woman
on his way out to Melbourne woman supposed to be a foreigner and an
actress; and the name of Cettini was whispered. He did not know whence
the rumour came;--but on one morning Robert Bolton, half-laughing, but
still with a tone of voice that was half-earnest, taxed him with having
as many loves as Lothario. 'Who is Cettini?' asked Robert Bolton.
'Cettini?' said Caldigate, with a struggle to prevent a blush.
'Did you travel with such a woman?'
'Yes;--at least, if that was her name. I did not hear it till
afterwards. A very agreeable woman she was.'
'They say that you promised to marry her when on board.'
'Then they lie. But that is a matter of course. There are so many lies
going about that I almost feel myself to be famous.'
'You did not see her after the journey?'
'Yes, I did. I saw her act at Sydney; and very well she acted. Have you
anything else to ask?' Robert Bolton said that he had nothing else to
ask,--and seemed, at the moment, to turn his half-serious mood into one
that was altogether jocular, But the mention of the name had been a
wound; and when an anonymous letter a few days afterwards reached Hester
herself he was really unhappy. Hester made nothing of the letter--did
not even show it to her mother. At that time a day had been fixed for
their marriage; and she already regarded her lover as nearer to her than
either father or mother. The letter purported to be from some one who
had travelled with her lover and this woman on board ship, and declared
that everybody on board the ship had thought that Caldigate meant to
marry the woman,--who then, so said the letter, called herself Mrs.
Smith. Hester showed the letter to Caldigate, and then Caldigate told
his story. There had been such a woman, who had been much ill-treated
because of her poverty. He had certainly taken the woman's part. She had
been clever and, as he had thought, well-behaved. And, no doubt, there
had been a certain amount of friendship. He had seen her again in
Sydney, where he had found her exercising her profession as an actress.
That had been all. 'I cannot imagine, dear,' he said, 'that you should
be jealous of any woman; but certainly not of such a one as she.' 'Nor
can I imagine,' said Hester, stoutly, 'that I could possibly be jealous
of any woman.' And then there was nothing more said about the woman
During all this time there were many family meetings. Those between Mr.
Caldigate, the father, and old Mr. Bolton were pleasant enough, though
not peculiarly cordial. The banker, though he had been brought to agree
to the marriage had not been quite reconciled to it. His younger son had
been able to convince him that it was his duty to liberate his daughter
from the oppression of her mother's over-vigilance, and all the rest had
followed very quickly,--overwhelming him, as it were, by stern
necessity. When once the girl had come to understand that she could have
her own way, if she chose to have a way of her own, she very quickly
took the matter into her own management. And in this way the engagement
became a thing settled before the banker had realised the facts of the
position. Though he could not be cordial he endeavoured to be gracious
to his old friend. But Mrs. Bolton spoke words which made all friendship
impossible. She asked old Mr. Caldigate after his soul, and when he
replied to her less seriously than she thought becoming, she told him
that he was in the bad way. And then she said things about the marriage
which implied that she would sooner see her daughter in her grave than
married to a man who was no more than a professing Christian. The
conversation ended in a quarrel, after which the squire would not go
again to Puritan Grange.
There was indeed a time, an entire week, during which the mother and
daughter hardly spoke to each other. In these days Mrs. Bolton
continually demanded of her husband that he should break off the match,
always giving as a reason the alleged fact that John Caldigate was not a
true believer. It had been acknowledged between them that if such were
the fact the man would be an unfit husband for their daughter. But they
differed as to the fact. The son had over and over again declared
himself to be a faithful member of the Church of England,--not very
scrupulous perhaps in the performance of her ceremonies,--but still a
believing member. That his father was not so every one knew, but he was
not responsible for his father. Mr. Bolton seemed to think that the
argument was good;--but Mrs. Bolton was of opinion that to become
willingly the daughter-in-law of an infidel, would be to throw oneself
with one's eyes open in the way of perdition. Hester through all this
declared that nothing should now turn her from the man she loved, 'Not
though he were an infidel himself?' said the terror-stricken mother.
'Nothing!' said Hester, bravely. 'Of course I should try to change him.'
A more wretched woman than Mrs. Bolton might not probably then have been
found. She suddenly perceived herself to be quite powerless with the
child over whom her dominion had hitherto been supreme. And she felt
herself compelled to give way to people whom, with all her heart, she
hated. She determined that nothing,--nothing should induce her to soften
her feelings to this son-in-law who was forced upon her. The man had
come and had stolen from her her treasure, her one treasure. And that
other man whom she had always feared and always hated, Robert Bolton,
the man whose craft and worldliness had ever prevented her from
emancipating her husband from the flesh and the devil, had brought all
this about. Then she reconciled herself to her child, and wept over her,
and implored heaven to save her. Hester tried to argue with her,--spoke
of her own love,--appealed to her mother, asking whether, as she had now
declared her love, it could be right that she should abandon a man who
was so good and so fondly attached to her. Then Mrs. Bolton would hide
her face, and sob, and put up renewed prayers to heaven that her
daughter might not by means of this unhappy marriage become lost to all
sense of grace.
It was very miserable, but still the prospect of the marriage was never
abandoned nor postponed. A day had been settled a little before
Christmas, and the Robert Boltons would allow of no postponement. The
old man was so tormented by the misery of his own home that he himself
was averse to delay. There could be no comfort for him till the thing
should have been done. Mrs. Bolton had suggested that it should be put
off till the spring;--but he had gloomily replied that as the thing had
to be done, the sooner it was done the better.
It had been settled almost from the first that the marriage festival
should be held, not at Puritan Grange, but at The Nurseries; and
gradually it came to be understood that Mrs. Bolton herself would not be
present, either at the church or at the breakfast. It was in vain that
Hester implored her mother to yield to her in something, to stand with
her at any rate on the steps before the altar. 'Would you wish me to go
and lie before my God?' said the unhappy woman. 'When I would give all
that I have in the world except my soul,--my life, my name, even my
child herself, to prevent this, am I to go and smile and be
congratulated, and to look as though I were happy?' There was,
therefore, very much unhappiness at the Grange, and an absence of all
triumph even at The Nurseries. At the old bank-house in the town where
the Nicholases lived, the marriage was openly denounced; and even the
Daniels, though they were pledged to be present, were in doubt.
'I suppose it is all right,' said Mrs. Robert to her husband.
'Of course it is all right. Why not?'
'It seems sad that such an event as a marriage should give rise to so
much ill-feeling. I almost wish we had not meddled, Robert.'
'I don't think there is anything to regret. Remember what Hester's
position would have been if my father had died, leaving her simply to
her mother's guardianship! We were bound to free her from that, and we
have done it.' This was all very well;--but still there was no triumph,
no ringing of those inward marriage bells the sound of whose music ought
to be so pleasant to both the families concerned.
There were, however, two persons quite firm to their purpose, and these
were the bride and bridegroom. With him firmness was comparatively easy.
When his father suggested that the whole Bolton family was making itself
disagreeable, he could with much satisfaction reply that he did not
intend to marry the whole Bolton family. Having answered the first
letter or two he could ignore the Babington remonstrances. And when he
was cross-examined as to points of doctrine, he could with sincerity
profess himself to be of the same creed with his examiners. If he went
to church less often than old Mr. Bolton, so did old Mr. Bolton go less
often than his wife. It was a matter as to which there was no rule. Thus
his troubles were comparatively light, and his firmness might be
regarded as a thing of course. But she was firm too, and firm amidst
very different circumstances. Though her mother prayed and sobbed,
implored her, and almost cursed her, still she was firm. She had given
her word to the man, and her heart, and she would not go back. 'Yes,
papa. It is too late now,' she said, when her father coming from his
wife, once suggested to her that even yet it was not too late. 'Of
course I shall marry him,' she said to Mrs. Robert, almost with
indignation, when Mrs. Robert on one occasion almost broke down in her
'Dear aunt, indeed, indeed, you need not interfere,' she said to Mrs.
Nicholas. 'If he were all that they have called him, still I would marry
him,' she said to her other aunt,--'because I love him.' And so they all
became astonished at the young girl whom they had reared up among them,
and to understand that whatever might now be their opinions, she would
have her way.
And so it was decided that they should be married on a certain Tuesday
in the middle of December. Early in the morning she was to be brought
down to her aunt's house, there to be decked in her bridal robes, thence
to be taken to the church, then to return for the bridal feast, and from
thence to be taken off by her husband,--to go whither they might list.
It was a sad wedding, though everything within the power of Mr. Robert
Bolton was done to make it gay. There was a great breakfast, and all the
Boltons were at last persuaded to be present except Mrs. Bolton and Mrs.
Nicholas. As to Mrs. Nicholas she was hardly even asked. 'Of course we
would be delighted to see Mrs. Nicholas, if she would come,' Mrs. Robert
said to Nicholas himself. But there had been such long-continued and
absolute hostility between the ladies that this was known to be
impossible. In regard to Mrs. Bolton herself, great efforts were made.
Her husband condescended to beg her to consent on this one occasion to
appear among the Philistines. But as the time came nearer she became
more and more firm in her resolution. 'You shall not touch pitch and not
be defiled,' she said. 'You cannot serve God and Mammon.' When the old
man tried to show her that there was no question of Mammon here, she
evaded him, as she always did on such occasions, either by a real or
simulated deficiency of consequent intelligence. She regarded John
Caldigate as being altogether unregenerate, and therefore a man of the
world,--and therefore a disciple of Mammon. She asked him whether he
wanted her to do what she thought to be sinful. 'It is very sinful
hating people as you hate my sons' families,' he said in his wrath. 'No,
Nicholas, I do not hate their families. I certainly do not hate
Margaret, nor yet Fanny;--but I think that they live in opposition to
the Gospel. Am I to belie my own belief?' Now the old man was quite
certain that his wife did hate both Robert's wife and William's and
would not admit in her own mind this distinction between the conduct of
persons and the persons themselves. But he altogether failed in his
attempts to induce her to go to the breakfast.
The great contest was between the mother and the daughter; but in all
that passed between them no reference was even made to the banquet. As
to that Hester was indifferent. She thought, on the whole, that her
mother would do best to be absent. After all, what is a breakfast;--or
what the significance of any merry-meeting, even for a wedding? There
would no doubt be much said and much done on such an occasion at
variance with her mother's feelings. Even the enforced gaiety of the
dresses would be distasteful to her, and there would hardly be
sufficient cause for pressing her to be present on such an occasion. But
in reference to the church, the question, to Hester's thinking, was very
different, 'Mamma,' she said, 'if you are not there, it will be a
lasting misery to me.'
'How can I go there when I would give so much to save you from going
there yourself?' This was a terrible thing for a mother to say to her
own child on the eve of her wedding, but it had been now said so often
as to have lost something of its sting. It had come to be understood
that Mrs. Bolton would not allow herself to give any assent to the
marriage, but that the marriage was to go on without such assent. All
that had been settled. But still she might go to the church with them
and pray for good results. She feared that evil would come, but still
she might wish for good,--wish for it and pray for it.
'You don't want me to be unhappy, mamma?'
'Want!' said the mother. 'Who can want her child to be unhappy? But
there is an unhappiness harder to be borne, more to be dreaded, enduring
so much longer than that which we may suffer here.'
'Will you not come and pray that I may be delivered also from that? As I
am going from you, will you not let me know that you are there with me
at the last moment. Though you do not love him, you do not wish to
quarrel with me. Oh, mamma, let me feel at any rate that you are there.'
Then the mother promised that she would be there, in the church, though
unknown to or at least unrecognised by any one else. When the morning
came, and when Hester was dropped at The Nurseries, in order that she
might go up and be invested in her finery amidst her bridesmaids, who
were all her cousins, the carriage went on and took Mrs. Bolton to the
church. It was represented to her that, by this arrangement, she would
be forced to remain an hour alone in the cold building. But she was one
of those who regarded all discomfort as meritorious, as in some way
adding something to her claim for heaven. Self-scourging with rods as a
penance, was to her thinking a papistical ordinance most abominable and
damnatory; but the essence of the self-scourging was as comfortable to
her as ever was a hair-shirt to a Roman Catholic enthusiast. So she went
and sat apart in a dark distant pew, dressed in black and deeply veiled,
praying, not it is to be feared, that John Caldigate might be a good
husband to her girl, but that he, as he made his way downward to things
below, might not drag her darling with him. That only a few can be saved
was the fact in all her religion with which she was most thoroughly
conversant. The strait way and the narrow gate, through which only a few
can pass! Were they not known to all believers, to all who had a
glimmering of belief, as an established part of the Christian faith, as
a part so established that to dream even that the gate would be made
broad and the way open would be to dream against the Gospel, against the
very plainest of God's words? If so,--and she would tell herself at all
hours that certainly, certainly, certainly so it was,--then why should
she trouble herself for one so little likely to come in the way of
salvation as this man who was now robbing her of her daughter? If it was
the will of the Almighty,--as it clearly was the will of the
Almighty,--that, out of every hundred, ninety and nine should perish,
could she dare now to pray more than for one? Or if her prayers were
wider must they not be inefficacious? Yes;--there had been the thief
upon the cross! It was all possible. But this man was a thief, not upon
the cross. And, therefore, as she prayed that morning she said not a
prayer for him.
In the meantime the carriage had gone back for the bride, who in very
simple raiment, but yet in bridal-white array, was taken up to the
church. These Boltons were prosperous people, who had all their
carriages, so that there was no lack of vehicles. Two of the girls from
London and two from The Nurseries made up the bevy of bridesmaids who
were as bright and fair as though the bride had come from some worldlier
stock. Mrs. Robert, indeed, had done all she could to give to the whole
concern a becoming bridal brightness, till even Mrs. Daniel had been
tempted to remonstrate. 'I don't see why you shouldn't wear pretty
things if you've got the money to pay for them,' said Mrs. Robert. Mrs.
Daniel shook her head, but on the afternoon before the wedding she
bought an additional ribbon.
Caldigate came over from Folking that morning attended by one John
Jones, an old college friend, as his best man. The squire was not at the
wedding, but on the day before he was with Hester at The Nurseries,
telling her that she should be his dear daughter, and at the same time
giving her a whole set of wicked but very pretty worldly gauds. 'Upon my
word, my dear, he has been very gracious,' said Mrs. Robert, when she
saw them. 'I quite envy the girls being married nowadays, because they
get such pretty things.'
'They are very pretty,' said Hester.
'And must have cost, I'm afraid to say how much money.'
'I suppose it means to say that he will love me, and therefore I am so
glad to have them!' But the squire, though he did mean to say that he
would love her, did not come to the wedding. He was, he said,
unaccustomed to such things, and hoped that he might be excused.
Therefore, from the Folking side there was no one but John Caldigate
himself and John Jones. Of the Babingtons, of course, there was not one.
As long as there was a possibility of success Mrs. Babington had kept up
her remonstrances;--but when there was no longer a possibility she
announced that there was to be an everlasting quarrel between the
houses. Babington and Folking were for the future to know nothing of
each other. Caldigate had hoped that though the ladies would for a time
be unforgiving, his uncle and his male cousins would not take up the
quarrel. But aunt Polly was too strong for that; and he was declared to
be a viper who had been warmed in all their bosoms and had then stung
them all round. 'If you will nurse a viper in your bosom of course he
will sting you,' said Aunt Polly in a letter which she took the trouble
to write to the squire. In reply to which the squire wrote back thus;
'My dear sister, if you will look into your dictionary of natural
history you will see that vipers have no stings. Yours truly, D.
Caldigate.' This letter was supposed to add much to the already existing
But the marriage ceremony was performed in spite of all this
quarrelling, and the mother standing up in the dark corner of her pew
heard her daughter's silver-clear voice as she vowed to devote herself
to her husband. As she heard it, she also devoted herself. When sorrow
should come as sorrow certainly would come, then she would be ready once
again to be a mother to her child. But till that time should come the
wife of John Caldigate would be nothing to her.
She was not content with thinking and resolving that it should be so,
but she declared her intention in so many words to her daughter. For
poor Hester, though she was proud of her husband, this was in truth a
miserable day. Could she have been induced to separate herself
altogether from her mother on the previous night, or even on that
morning, it would have been better, but there was with her that
customary longing for a last word of farewell which has often made so
many of us wretched. And then there was a feeling that, as she was
giving herself away in marriage altogether in opposition to her mother's
counsels, on that very account she owed to her more attached and
increased observance. Therefore, she had arranged with her husband that
when she returned from the banquet to prepare herself for her journey, a
longer absence than usual should be allowed to her;--so that she might
be taken back to Chesterton, and might thus see her mother the last
after saying farewell to all the others. Then the carriage should return
to The Nurseries and he would be ready to step in, and she need not show
herself again, worn out as she would be with the tears and sobbings
which she anticipated.
It all went as it was arranged, but it would have been much better to
arrange it otherwise. The journey to the Grange and back, together with
the time spent in the interview, took an hour,--and the time went very
slowly with the marriage guests. There always comes a period beyond
which it is impossible to be festive. When the bride left the room, the
bridesmaids and other ladies went with her. Then the gentlemen who
remained hardly knew what to do with each other. Old Mr. Bolton was not
jovial on the occasion, and the four brothers hardly knew how to find
subjects for conversation on such an occasion. The bridegroom felt the
hour to be very long, although he consented to play billiards with the
boys; and John Jones, although he did at last escape and find his way up
among the girls, thought that his friend had married himself into a very
sombre family. But all this was pleasant pastime indeed compared with
that which poor Hester endured in her mother's bedroom. 'So it has been
done,' said Mrs. Bolton, sitting in a comfortless little chair, which
she was accustomed to use when secluded, with her Bible, from all the
household. She spoke in a voice that might have been fit had a son of
hers been just executed on the gallows.
'Oh, mamma, do not speak of it like that!'
'My darling, my own one; would you have me pretend what I do not feel?'
'Why, yes. Even that would be better than treatment such as this.' That
would have been Hester's reply could she have spoken her mind; but she
could not speak it, and therefore she stood silent. 'I will not pretend.
You and your father have done this thing against my wishes and against
'It is I that have done it, mamma.'
'You would not have persevered had he been firm,--as firm as I have
been. But he has vacillated, turning hither and thither, serving God and
Mammon. And he has allowed himself to be ruled by his own son. I will
never, never speak to Robert Bolton again.'
'Oh mamma, do not say that.'
'I do say it. I swear it. You shall not touch pitch and not be defiled.
If there be pitch on earth he is pitch. If your eye offend you, pluck it
out. He is my step-son, I know; but I will pluck him out like an eye
that has offended. It is he that has robbed me of my child.'
'Am I not still your child?' said Hester, going down on her knees with
her hands in her mother's lap and her eyes turned up to her mother's
'No. You are not mine any longer. You are his. You are that man's wife.
When he bids you do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, you
must do it. And he will bid you. You are not my child now. As days run
on and sins grow black I cannot warn you now against the wrath to come.
But though you are not my child, though you are this man's wife, I will
pray for you.'
'And for him?'
'I do not know. I cannot say. Who am I that I should venture to pray
specially for a stranger? That His way may be shown to all
sinners;--thus will I pray for him. And it will be shown. Though whether
he will walk in it,--who can say that?' So much was true of John
Caldigate, no doubt, and is true of all; but there was a tone in her
voice which implied that in regard to this special sinner there could be
very little hope indeed.
'Why should you think that he is bad, mamma?'
'We are all bad. There is no doubt about his being bad. There is not one
among us fit to sweep the lowest step of God's throne. But they who are
His people shall be made bright enough to sit round His feet. May the
time come when you, my darling, shall be restored to the fold.' The poor
young wife by this time had acknowledged to herself the mistake she had
made in thus coming to her mother after her marriage. She now was of
course in that ecstatic phase of existence which makes one's own self
altogether subordinate to the self of another person. That her husband
should be happy constituted her hope of happiness; that he should be
comfortable, her comfort. If he were thought worthy, that would be her
worthiness; or if he were good, that would be her goodness. And even as
to those higher, more distant aspirations, amidst which her mother was
always dwelling, she would take no joy for herself which did not include
him. The denunciations against him which were so plainly included even
in her mother's blessings and prayers for herself, did not frighten her
on behalf of the man to whom she had devoted herself. She could see the
fanaticism and fury of her mother's creed. But she could not escape from
the curse of the moment. When that last imprecation was made by the
woman, with her hands folded and her eyes turned up to heaven, Hester
could only bury her face on her mother's knees and weep. 'When that time
comes, and I know it will come, you shall return to me, and once more be
my child,' said the mother.
'You do not mean that I shall leave my husband?'
'Who can tell? If you do, and I am living, you shall be my child. Till
then we must be apart. How can it be otherwise? Can I give my cheek to a
man to be kissed, and call him my son, when I think that he has robbed
me of my only treasure?'
This was so terrible that the daughter could only hang around her
mother's neck, sobbing and kissing her at the same time, and then go
without another word. She was sure of this,--that if she must lose one
or the other, her mother or her husband, then she would lose her mother.
When she returned to The Nurseries, her husband, according to agreement
came out to her at once. She had bidden adieu to all the others; but at
the last moment her father put his hand into the carriage, so that she
could take it and kiss it. 'Mamma is so sad,' she said to him; 'go home
to her and comfort her.' Of course the old man did go home, but he was
aware that there would for some time be little comfort there either for
him or for his wife. He and his sons had been too powerful for her in
arranging the marriage; but now, now that it was done, nothing could
stop her reproaches. He had been made to think it wrong on one side to
shut his girl up, and now from the other side he was being made to think
that he had done very wrong in allowing her to escape.
It had been arranged that they should be driven out of Cambridge to the
railway station at Audley End on their way to London; so that they might
avoid the crowd of people who would know them at the Cambridge station.
As soon as they had got away from the door of Robert Bolton's house, the
husband attempted to comfort his young wife. 'At any rate it is over,'
he said, alluding of course to the tedium of their wedding festivities.
'So much is over,' she replied.
'You do not regret anything?'
She shook her head slowly as she leaned lovingly against his shoulder.
'You are not sorry, Hester, that you have become my wife?'
'I had to be your wife,--because I love you.'
'Is that a sorrow?'
'I had been all my mother's;--and now I am all yours. She has thrown me
off because I have disobeyed her. I hope you will never throw me off.'
'Is it likely?'
'I think not. I know that I shall never throw you off. They have tried
to make me believe that you are not all that you ought to be--in
religion. But now your religion shall be my religion, and your life my
life. I shall be of your colour--altogether But, John, a limb cannot be
wrenched out of a socket, as I have been torn away from my mother,
'She will forgive it all when we come back.'
'I fear--I fear. I never knew her to forgive anything yet.' This was
very bad; but nevertheless it was plain to him as it had been plain to
Robert and William Bolton, that not because of the violence of the
woman's character should the life of her daughter have been sacrificed
to her. His duty to make her new life bright for her was all the more
plain and all the more sound,--and as they made their first journey
together he explained to her how sacred that duty should always be to
As To Touching Pitch
Before the wedding old Mr. Caldigate arranged with his son that he would
give up to the young married people the house at Folking, and indeed the
entire management of the property. 'I have made up my mind about it,'
said the squire, who at this time was living with his son on happy
terms. 'I have never been adapted for the life of a country gentleman,'
he continued, 'though I have endeavoured to make the best of it, and
have in a certain way come to love the old place. But I don't care about
wheat nor yet about bullocks;--and a country house should always have a
mistress.' And so it was settled. Mr. Caldigate took for himself a house
in Cambridge, whither he proposed to remove nothing but himself and his
books, and promised to have Folking ready for his son and his son's
bride on their return from their wedding tour. In all this Robert Bolton
and the old squire acted together, the brother thinking that the
position would suit his sister well. But others among the Boltons,--Mrs
Daniel, the London people, and even Mrs. Robert herself,--had thought
that the 'young people' had better be further away from the influences
or annoyances of Puritan Grange. Robert, however, had declared that it
would be absurd to yield to the temper, and prejudice, and fury--as he
called it--of his father's wife. When this discussion was going on she
had absolutely quarrelled with the attorney, and the attorney had made
up his mind that she should be--ignored. And then, too, as Robert
explained, it must be for the husband and not for the wife to choose
where they would live. Folking was, or at any rate would be, his own, by
right of inheritance, and it was not to be thought of that a man should
be driven away from his natural duties and from the enjoyment of his
natural privileges by the mad humours of a fanatic female. In all this
old Mr. Bolton was hardly consulted; but there was no reason why he
should express an opinion. He was giving his daughter absolutely no
fortune; nor had he even vouchsafed to declare what money should be
coming to her at his death. John Caldigate had positively refused to say
a word on the subject;--had refused even when instigated to do so by
Hester's brother. 'It shall be just as he pleases,' Caldigate had said.
'I told your father that I was not looking after his daughter with any
view to money, and I will be as good as my word.' Robert had told her
father that something should be arranged;--but the old man had put it
off from day to day, and nothing had been arranged. And so it came to
pass that he was excluded almost from having an opinion as to his
daughter's future life.
It was understood that the marriage trip should be continued for some
months. Caldigate was fettered by no business that required an early
return. He had worked hard for five years, and felt that he had earned a
holiday. And Hester naturally was well disposed to be absent for as long
a time as would suit her husband. Time, and time alone, might perhaps
soften her mother's heart. They went to Italy, and stayed during the
winter months in Rome, and then, when the fine weather came, they
returned across the Alps, and lingered about among the playgrounds of
Europe, visiting Switzerland the Tyrol, and the Pyrenees, and returning
home to Cambridgeshire at the close of the following September.
And then there was a reason for the return. It would be well that the
coming heir to the Folking estate should be born at Folking. Whether an
heir, or only an insignificant girl, it would be well that the child
should be born amidst the comforts of home; and so they came back. When
they reached the station at Cambridge the squire was there to receive
them, as were also Robert Bolton and his wife. 'I am already in my new
house,' said the old man,--'but I mean to go out with you for to-day and
to-morrow, and just stay till you are comfortably fixed.'
'I never see her myself,' said Robert, in answer to a whispered inquiry
from his sister. 'Or it would be more correct to say she will never see
me. But I hear from the others that she speaks of you constantly.'
'She has written to me of course. But she never mentions John. In
writing back I have always sent his love, and have endeavoured to show
that I would not recognise any quarrel.'
'If I were you,' said Robert, 'I would not take him with me when I
went.' Then the three Caldigates were taken off to Folking.
A week passed by and then arrived the day on which it had been arranged
that Hester was to go to Chesterton and see her mother. There had been
numerous letters, and at last the matter was settled between Caldigate
and old Mr. Bolton at the bank. 'I think you had better let her come
alone,' the old man had said when Caldigate asked whether he might be
allowed to accompany his wife. 'Mrs. Bolton has not been well since her
daughter's marriage and has felt the desolation of her position very
much. She is weak and nervous, and I think you had better let Hester
come alone.' Had Caldigate known his mother-in-law better he would not
have suggested a visit from himself. No one who did know her would have
looked forward to see her old hatred eradicated by an absence of nine
months. Hester therefore went into Cambridge alone, and was taken up to
the house by her father. As she entered the iron gates she felt almost
as though she were going into the presence of one who was an enemy to
herself. And yet when she saw her mother, she rushed at once into the
poor woman's arms. 'Oh, mamma, dear mamma, dearest mamma! My own, own,
Mrs. Bolton was sitting by the open window of a small breakfast parlour
which looked into the garden, and had before her on her little table her
knitting and a volume of sermons. 'So you have come back, Hester,' she
said after a short pause. She had risen at first to receive her
daughter, and had returned her child's caresses, but had then reseated
herself quickly, as though anxious not to evince any strong feeling on
'Yes, mamma, I have come back. We have been so happy!'
'I am glad you have been happy. Such joys are short-lived; but, still--'
'He has been so good to me, mamma!'
Good! What was the meaning of the word good? She doubted the goodness of
such goodness as his. Do not they who are tempted by the pleasures of
the world always praise the good-nature and kindness of them by whom
they are tempted? There are meanings to the word good which are so
opposed one to another! 'A husband is, I suppose, generally kind to his
wife, at any rate for a little time,' she said.
'Oh, mamma, I do so wish you knew him!' The woman turned her face round,
away from her daughter, and assumed that look of hard, determined
impregnable obstinacy with which Hester had been well acquainted all
her life. But the young wife had come there with a purpose, not strong
perhaps, in actual hope, but resolute even against hope to do her best.
There must be an enduring misery to her unless she could bring her
mother into some friendly relation with her husband, and she had
calculated that the softness produced by her return would give a better
chance for this than she might find at any more protracted time. But
Mrs. Bolton had also made her calculations and had come to her
determination. She turned her head away therefore, and sat quite silent,
with the old stubborn look of resolved purpose.
'Mamma, you will let him come to you now?'
'Not your own Hester's husband?'
'Are we to be divided for ever?'
'Did I not tell you before,--when you were going? Shall I lie, and say
that I love him? I will not touch pitch, lest I be defiled.'
'Mamma, he is my husband. You shall not call him pitch. He is my very
own. Mamma, mamma!--recall the word that you have said.'
The woman felt that it had to be recalled in some degree. 'I said
nothing of him, Hester. I call that pitch which I believe to be wrong,
and if I swerve but a hair's-breadth wittingly towards what I believe to
be evil, then I shall be touching pitch and then I shall be defiled. I
did not say that he was pitch. Judge not and ye shall not be judged.'
But if ever judgment was pronounced, and a verdict given, and penalties
awarded, such was done now in regard to John Caldigate.
'But, mamma, why will it be doing evil to be gracious to your daughter's
The woman had an answer to this appeal very clearly set forth in her
mind though she was unable to produce it clearly in words. When the
marriage had been first discussed she had opposed it with all her
power, because she had believed the man to be wicked. He was
unregenerate;--and when she had put it to her husband and to the
Nicholases and to the Daniels to see whether such was not the case, they
had not contradicted her. It was acknowledged that he was such a one as
Robert,--a worldly man all round. And then he was worse than Robert,
having been a spendthrift, a gambler, and, if the rumours which had
reached them were true, given to the company of loose women. She had
striven with all her might that such a one should not be allowed to take
her daughter from her, and had striven in vain. He had succeeded;--but
his character was not changed by his success. Did she not know him to be
chaff that must be separated by the wind from the corn and then consumed
in the fire? His character was not altered because that human being whom
she loved the best in all the world had fallen into his power. He was
not the less chaff,--the less likely to be burned. That her daughter
should become chaff also,--ah, there was the agony of it! If instead of
taking the husband and wife together she could even now separate
them,--would it not be her duty to do so? Of all duties would it not be
the first? Let the misery here be what it might, what was that to
eternal misery or to eternal bliss? When therefore she was asked whether
she would be doing evil were she to be gracious to her own son-in-law,
she was quite, quite sure that any such civility would be a sin. The man
was pitch,--though she had been coerced by the exigencies of a worldly
courtesy to deny that she had intended to say so. He was pitch to her,
and she declared to herself that were she to touch him she would be
denied. But she knew not in what language to explain all this. 'What you
call graciousness, Hester, is an obligation of which religion knows
nothing,' she said after a pause.
'I don't know why it shouldn't. Are we to be divided, mamma, because of
'If you were alone----'
'But I am not alone. Oh, mamma, mamma, do you not know that I am going
to become a mother?'
'And you will not be with me, because you think that you and John differ
as to religious forms.'
'Forms!' she said. 'Forms! Is the spirit there? By their fruits ye shall
know them. I ask you yourself whether his life as you have seen it is
such as I should think conformable with the Word of God?'
'Whose life is so?'
'But an effort may be made. Do not let us palter with each other,
Hester! There are the sheep,--and there are the goats! Of which is he?
According to the teaching of your early years, in which flock would he
be found if account were taken now?'
There was something so terrible in this that the young wife who was thus
called upon to denounce her husband separated herself by some steps from
her mother, retreating back to a chair in which she seated herself. 'Do
you remember, mamma, the words you said just now? Judge not and ye shall
not be judged.'
'Nor do I judge.'
'And how does it go on? Forgive and ye shall be forgiven.'
'Neither do I judge, nor can I forgive.' This she said, putting all her
emphasis on the pronoun, and thereby declaring her own humility. 'But
the great truths of my religion are dear to me. I will not trust myself
in the way of sinners, because by some worldly alliance to which I
myself was no consenting party, I have been brought into worldly contact
with them. I at any rate will be firm. I say to you now no more than I
said, ah, so many times, when it was still possible that my words should
not be vain. They were vain. But not on that account am I to be
changed. I will not be wound like a skein of silk round your little
finger.' That was it. Was she to give way in everything because they had
been successful among them in carrying out this marriage in opposition
to her judgment? Was she to assent that this man be treated as a sheep
because he had prevailed against her, while she was so well aware that
he would still have been a goat to them all had he not prevailed? She at
any rate was sincere. She was consistent. She would be true to her
principles even at the expense of all her natural yearnings. Of what use
to her would be her religious convictions if she were to give them up
just because her heart-strings were torn and agonised? The man was a
goat though he were ten times told her child's husband. So she looked
again away into the garden and resolved that she would not yield in a
'Good-bye, mamma,' said Hester, rising from her chair, and coming up to
'Good-bye, Hester. God bless you, my child!'
'You will not come to me to Folking?'
'No. I will not go to Folking.'
'I may come to you here?'
'Oh yes;--as often as you will, and for as long as you will.'
'I cannot stay away from home without him, you know,' said the young
'As often as you will, and for as long as you will,' the mother said
again, repeating the words with emphasis. 'Would I could have you here
as I used to do, so as to look after every want and administer to every
wish. My fingers shall work for your baby, and my prayers shall be said
for him and for you, morning and night. I am not changed, Hester. I am
still and ever shall be, while I am spared, your own loving mother.' So
they parted, and Hester was driven back to Folking.
In forming our opinion as to others we are daily brought into
difficulty by doubting how much we should allow to their convictions,
and how far we are justified in condemning those who do not accede to
our own. Mrs. Bolton believed every word that she said. There was no
touch of hypocrisy about her. Could she without sting of conscience have
gone off to Folking and ate of her son-in-law's bread and drank of his
cup, and sat in his presence, no mother living would have enjoyed more
thoroughly the delight of waiting upon and caressing and bending over
her child. She denied herself all this with an agony of spirit, groaning
not only over their earthly separation, thinking not only of her
daughter's present dangers, but tormented also by reflections as to
dangers and possible separations in another world. But she knew she was
right. She knew at least that were she to act otherwise there would be
upon her conscience the weight of sin. She did not know that the
convictions on which she rested with such confidence had come in truth
from her injured pride,--had settled themselves in her mind because
she had been beaten in her endeavours to prevent her daughter's
marriage. She was not aware that she regarded John Caldigate as a
goat,--as one who beyond all doubt was a goat,--simply because John
Caldigate had had his way, while she had been debarred from hers. Such
no doubt was the case. And yet who can deny her praise for fidelity to
her own convictions? When we read of those who have massacred and
tortured their opponents in religion, have boiled alive the unfortunates
who have differed from themselves as to the meaning of an unintelligible
word or two, have vigorously torn the entrails out of those who have
been pious with a piety different from their own, how shall we dare to
say that they should be punished for their fidelity? Mrs. Bolton spent
much of that afternoon with her knees on the hard boards,--thinking that
a hassock would have taken something from the sanctity of the
action,--wrestling for her child in prayer. And she told herself that
her prayer had been heard. She got up more than ever assured that she
must not touch pitch lest she should be defiled. Let us pray for what we
will with earnestness,--though it be for the destruction of half of a
world,--we are sure to think that our prayers have been heard.
The New Heir
Things went on smoothly at Folking, or with apparent smoothness, for
three months, during which John Caldigate surprised both his friends and
his enemies by the exemplary manner in which he fulfilled his duties as
a parish squire. He was put on the commission, and was in the way to
become the most active Justice of the Peace in those parts. He made
himself intimate with all the tenants, and was almost worshipped by Mr.
Ralph Holt, his nearest neighbour, to whose judgment he submitted
himself in all agricultural matters. He shot a little, but moderately,
having no inclination to foster what is called a head of game. And he
went to church very regularly, having renewed his intimacy with Mr.
Bromley, the parson, a gentleman who had unfortunately found it
necessary to quarrel with the old squire, because the old squire had
been so manifestly a pagan.
There had been unhappiness in the parish on this head, and, especially,
unhappiness to Mr. Bromley, who was a good man. That Mr. Caldigate
should be what he called a pagan had been represented by Mr. Bromley to
his friends as a great misfortune, and especially a misfortune to the
squire himself. But he would have ignored that in regard to social
life,--so Mr. Bromley said when discussing the matter,--if the pagan
would have desisted from arguing the subject. But when Mr. Caldigate
insisted on the parson owning the unreasonableness of his own belief,
and called upon him to confess himself to be either a fool or a
hypocrite, then the parson found himself constrained to drop all further
intercourse. 'It is the way with all priests,' said the old squire
triumphantly to the first man he could get to hear him. 'The moment you
disagree with them they become your enemies at once, and would
straightway kill you if they had the power.' He probably did not know
how very disagreeable he had made himself to the poor clergyman.
But now matters were on a much better footing, and all the parish
rejoiced. The new squire was seen in his pew every Sunday morning, and
often entertained the parson at the house. The rumour of this change was
indeed so great that more than the truth reached the ears of some of the
Boltons, and advantage was taken of it by those who desired to prove to
Mrs. Bolton that the man was not a goat. What more would she have? He
went regularly to morning and evening service,--here it was that rumour
exaggerated our hero's virtues,--did all his duty as a country
gentleman, and was kind to his wife. The Daniels, who were but lukewarm
people, thought that Mrs. Bolton was bound to give way. Mrs. Robert
declared among her friends that the poor woman was becoming mad from
religion, and the old banker himself was driven very hard for a reply
when Robert asked him whether such a son-in-law as John Caldigate ought
to be kept at arms' length. The old man did in truth hate the name of
John Caldigate, and regretted bitterly the indiscretion of that day when
the spendthrift had been admitted within his gates. Though he had agreed
to the marriage, partly from a sense of duty to his child, partly under
the influences of his son, he had, since that, been subject to his wife
for nine or ten months. She had not been able to prevail against him in
action; but no earthly power could stop her tongue. Now when these new
praises were dinned into his ears, when he did convince himself that, as
far as worldly matters went, his son-in-law was likely to become a
prosperous and respected gentleman, he would fain have let the question
of hostility drop. There need not have been much intercourse between
Puritan Grange and Folking; but then also there need be no quarrel. He
was desirous that Caldigate should be allowed to come to the house, and
that even visits of ceremony should be made to Folking. But Mrs. Bolton
would have nothing to do with such half friendship. In the time that was
coming she must be everything or nothing to her daughter. And she could
not be brought to think that one who had been so manifestly a goat
should cease to be a goat so suddenly. In other words, she could not
soften her heart towards the man who had conquered her. Therefore when
the time came for the baby to be born there had been no reconciliation
between Puritan Grange and Folking.
Mrs. Babington had been somewhat less stern. Immediately on the return
of the married couple to their own home she had still been full of
wrath, and had predicted every kind of evil; but when she heard that all
tongues were saying all good things of this nephew of hers, and when she
was reminded by her husband that blood is thicker than water, and when
she reflected that it is the duty of Christians to forgive injuries, she
wrote to the sinner as follows:--
'BABINGTON HALL, _November_ 187-.
'My DEAR JOHN,--We are all here desirous that bygones should be
bygones, and are willing to forgive,--though we may not perhaps be
able to forget. I am quite of opinion that resentments should not be
lasting, let them have been ever so well justified by circumstances
'Your uncle bids me say that he hopes you will come over and shoot
the Puddinghall coverts with Humphry and John. They propose Thursday
next but would alter the day if that does not suit.
'We have heard of your wife's condition, of course, and trust that
everything may go well with her. I shall hope to make her
acquaintance some day when she is able to receive visitors.
'I am particularly induced at the present moment to hold out to you
once more the right hand of fellowship and family affection by the
fact that dear Julia is about to settle herself most advantageously
in life. She is engaged to marry the Rev. Augustus Smirkie, the
rector of Plum-cum-Pippins near Woodbridge in this county. We all
like Mr. Smirkie very much indeed, and think _that Julia has been
most fortunate in her choice_.' (These words were underscored doubly
by way of showing how very much superior was Mr. Augustus Smirkie to
Mr. John Caldigate.) 'I may perhaps as well mention, to avoid
anything disagreeable at present, that Julia is at this time staying
with Mr. Smirkie's mother at Ipswich.--Your affectionate aunt,
Caldigate was at first inclined to send, in answer to this letter, a
reply which would not have been agreeable to his aunt, but was talked
into a better state of mind by his wife. 'Telling me that she will
forgive me! The question is whether I will forgive her!' 'Let that be
the question,' said his wife, 'and do forgive her. She wants to come
round, and, of course, she has to make the best of it for herself. Tell
her from me that I shall be delighted to see her whenever she chooses to
'Poor Julia!' said Caldigate, laughing.
'Of course you think so, John. That's natural enough. Perhaps I think so
too. But what has that to do with it?'
'It's rather unfortunate that I know so much about Mr. Smirkie. He is
fifty years old, and has five children by his former wife.'
'I don't see why he shouldn't be a good husband for all that.'
'And Plum-cum-Pippins is less than _L300_ a-year. Poor dear Julia!'
'I believe you are jealous, John.'
'Well; yes. Look at the way she has underscored it. Of course I'm
jealous.' Nevertheless he wrote a courteous answer promising to go over
and shoot the coverts, and stay for one night.
He did go over and shoot the coverts, and stayed for one night; but the
visit was not very successful. Aunt Polly would talk of the glories of
the Plum-cum-Pippins rectory in a manner which implied that dear Julia's
escape from a fate which once threatened her had been quite
providential. When he alluded,--as he did, but should not have done,--to
the young Smirkies, she spoke with almost ecstatic enthusiasm of the
'dear children,' Caldigate knowing the while that the eldest child must
be at least sixteen. And then, though Aunt Polly was kind to him, she
was kind in an almost insulting manner,--as though he were to be
received for the sake of auld lang syne in spite of the step he had
taken downwards in the world. He did his best to bear all this with no
more than an inward smile, telling himself that it behoved him as a man
to allow her to have her little revenge. But the smile was seen, and the
more that was seen of it, the more often was he reminded that he had
lost that place in the Babington elysium which might have been his, had
he not been too foolish to know what was good for him. And a hint was
given that the Boltons a short time since had not been aristocratic
whereas it was proved to him from Burke's Landed Gentry that the
Smirkies had been established in Suffolk ever since Cromwell's time. No
doubt their land had gone, but still there had been Smirkies.
'How did you get on with them?' his father asked, as he passed home
'Much the same as usual. Of course in such family a son-in-law elect is
more thought of than a useless married man.'
'They snubbed you.'
'Aunt Polly snubbed me a little, and I don't think I had quite so good a
place for the shooting as in the old days. But all that was to be
expected. I quite agree with Aunt Polly that family quarrels are foolish
'I am not so sure. Some people doom themselves to an infinity of
annoyance because they won't avoid the society of disagreeable people. I
don't know that I have ever quarrelled with any one. I have never
intended to do so. But when I find that a man or woman is not
sympathetic I think it better to keep out of the way.' That was the
squire's account of himself. Those who knew him in the neighbourhood
were accustomed to say that he had quarrelled with everybody about him.
In December the baby was born, just twelve months after the marriage,
and there was great demonstrations of joy, and ringing of bells in the
parishes of Utterden and Netherden. The baby was a boy, and all was as
it ought to be. John Caldigate himself, when he came to look at his
position and to understand the feeling of those around him, was
astonished to find how strong was the feeling in his own favour, and how
thoroughly the tenants had been outraged by the idea that the property
might be made over to a more distant member of the family. What was it
to them who lived in the house at Folking? Why should they have been
solicitous in the matter? They had their leases, and there was no
adequate reason for supposing that one Caldigate would be more pleasant
in his dealing with them than another. And yet it was evident to him now
that this birth of a real heir at the squire's house, with a fair
prospect that the acres would descend in a right line, was regarded by
them all with almost superstitious satisfaction. The bells were rung as
though the church-towers were going to be pulled down, and there was not
a farmer or a farmer's wife who did not come to the door of Folking to
ask how the young mother and the baby were doing.
'This is as it should be, squoire,' said Ralph Holt, who was going about
in his Sunday clothes, as though it was a day much too sacred for muck
and work. He had caught hold of Caldigate in the stable yard, and was
now walking with him down towards the ferry.
'Yes;--she's doing very well, they tell me,' said the newly-made father.
'In course she'll do well. Why not? A healthy lass like she, if I may
make so free? There ain't nothing like having them strong and young,
with no town-bred airs about 'em. I never doubted as she wouldn't do
well. I can tell from their very walk what sort of mothers they'll be.'
Mr. Holt had long been known as the most judicious breeder of stock in
that neighbourhood. 'But it ain't only that, squoire.'
'The young'un will do well too, I hope.'
'In course he will. Why not? The foals take after their dams for a time,
pretty much always. But what I mean is;--we be all glad you've come back
from them out-o'-the-way parts.'
'I had to go there, Holt.'
'Well;--we don't know much about that, sir, and I don't mean nothing
'To tell the truth, my friend, I should not have done very well here
unless I had been able to top-dress the English acres with a little
'Like enough, squoire; like enough. But I wasn't making bold to say
nothing about that. For a young gentleman to go out a while and then to
come back was all very well. Most of 'em does it. But when there was a
talk as you wern't to come back, and that Master George was to take the
place;--why then it did seem as things was very wrong.'
'Master George might have been quite as good as I.'
'It wasn't the proper thing, squoire. It wasn't straight. If you hadn't
never a' been, sir, or if the Lord Almighty had taken you as he did the
others, God bless 'em, nobody wouldn't have had a right to say nothing.
But as you was to the fore it wouldn't have been straight, and no one
wouldn't have thought it straight.' Instigated by this John Caldigate
looked a good deal into the matter that day, and began to feel that,
having been born Squire of Folking, he had, perhaps, no right to deal
with himself otherwise Then various thoughts passed through his mind as
to other dealings which had taken place How great had been the chance
against his being Squire of Folking when he started with Dick Shand to
look for Australian gold! And how little had been the chance of his
calling Hester Bolton his wife when he was pledging his word to Mrs.
Smith on board the Goldfinder! But now it had all come round to him just
as he would have had it. There was his wife up-stairs in the big
bed-room with her baby,--the wife as to whom he had made that romantic
resolution when he had hardly spoken to her; and there had been the
bells ringing and the tenants congratulating him, and everything had
been pleasant His father who had so scorned him,--who in the days of
Davis and Newmarket had been so well justified in scorning him,--was now
his closest friend. Thinking of all this, he told himself that he had
certainly received better things than he had deserved.
A day or two after the birth of the baby Mrs. Robert came out to see the
new prodigy, and on the following day Mrs. Daniel. Mrs. Robert was, of
course, very friendly and disposed to be in all respects a good
sister-in-law. Hester's great grief was in regard to her mother. She was
steadfast enough in her resolution to stand in all respects by her
husband if there must be a separation,--but the idea of the separation
robbed her of much of her happiness, Mrs. Robert was aware that a great
effort was being made with Mrs. Bolton. The young squire's
respectability was so great, and his conduct so good, that not only the
Boltons themselves, but neighbours around who knew aught of the Bolton
affairs, were loud in denouncing the woman for turning up her nose at
such a son-in-law. The great object was to induce her to say that she
would allow Caldigate to enter the house at Chesterton. 'You know I
never see her now,' said Mrs. Robert; 'I'm too much of a sinner to think
of entering the gates.'
'Do not laugh at her, Margaret,' said Hester.
'I do not mean to laugh at her. It is simply the truth. Robert and I
have made up our minds that it is better for us all that I should not
put myself in her way.'
'Think how different it must be for me!'
'Of course it is. It is dreadful to think that she should be
so--prejudiced. But what can I do, dear? If they will go on persevering,
she will, of course, have to give way.' The 'they' spoken of were the
Daniels, and old Mr. Bolton himself, and latterly the Nicholases, all of
whom were of opinion that the separation of the mother from her daughter
was very dreadful, especially when it came to be understood that the
squire of Folking went regularly to his parish church.
On the next day Mrs. Daniel came out; and though she was much less liked
by Hester than her younger sister-in-law, she brought more comfortable
tidings. She had been at the Grange a day or two before, and Mrs. Bolton
had almost consented to say that she would see John Caldigate. 'You
shouldn't be in a hurry, you know, my dear,' said Mrs. Daniel.
'But what has John done that there should be any question about all
'I suppose he was a little--just a little--what they call fast once.'
'He got into debt when he was a boy,' said the wife, 'and then paid off
everything and a great deal more by his own industry. It seems to me
that everybody ought to be proud of him.'
'I don't think your mother is proud of him, my dear.'
'I hope he'll go when he's told to do so.'
'John! Of course he'll go if I ask him. There's nothing he wouldn't do
to make me happy. But really when I talk to him about it at all, I am
ashamed of myself. Poor mamma!' The result of this visit was, however,
very comforting. Mrs Daniel had seen Mrs. Bolton, and had herself been
witness to the fact that Mrs. Bolton had mitigated the sternness of her
denial when asked to receive her son-in-law at Puritan Grange. It was,
said Mrs. Daniel, the settled opinion of the Bolton family that, in the
course of another month or so, the woman would be induced to give way
under the pressure put upon her by the family generally.
News from the Gold Mines
It was said at the beginning of the last chapter that things had gone on
smoothly, or with apparent smoothness, at Folking since the return of
the Caldigates from their wedding tour; but there had in truth been a
small cloud in the Folking heavens over and beyond that Babington haze
which was now vanishing, and the storm at Chesterton as to which hopes
were entertained that it would clear itself away. It will perhaps be
remembered that Caldigate's offer for the sale of his interest in the
Polueuka mine had been suddenly accepted by certain enterprising persons
in Australia, and that the money itself had been absolutely forthcoming.
This had been in every way fortunate, as he had been saved from the
trouble of another journey to the colony; and his money matters had been
put on such a footing as to make him altogether comfortable But just
when he heard that the money had been lodged to his account,--and when
the money actually had been so paid,--he received a telegram from Mr.
Crinkett, begging that the matter might be for a time postponed. This,
of course, was out of the question. His terms had been accepted,--which
might have gone for very little had not the money been forthcoming. But
the cash was positively in his hands. Who ever heard of a man
'postponing' an arrangement in such circumstances? Let them do what they
might with Polyeuka, he was safe! He telegraphed back to say that there
could be no postponement As far as he was concerned the whole thing was
settled. Then there came a multiplicity of telegrams, very costly to the
Crinkett interest;--costly also and troublesome to himself; for he,
though the matter was so pleasantly settled as far as he was concerned,
could not altogether ignore the plaints that were made to him. Then
there came very long letters, long and loud; letters not only from
Crinkett, but from others, telling him that the Polyeuka gold had come
to an end, the lode disappearing altogether, as lodes sometimes do
disappear The fact was that the Crinkett Company asked to have back half
its money, offering him the Polyeuka mine in its entirety if he chose to
John Caldigate, though in England he could be and was a liberal
gentleman, had been long enough in Australia to know that if he meant to
hold his own among such men as Mr. Crinkett, he must make the best of
such turns of fortune as chance might give him. Under no circumstances
would Crinkett have been generous to him. Had Polyeuka suddenly become
more prolific in the precious metal than any mine in the colony the
Crinkett Company would have laughed at any claim made by him for further
payment. When a bargain has been fairly made, the parties must make the
best of it. He was therefore very decided in his refusal to make
restitution though he was at the same time profuse in his expressions of
Then there came a threat,--not from Crinkett, but from Mrs. Euphemia
Smith. And the letter was not signed Euphemia Smith,--but Euphemia
Caldigate. And the letter was as follows:---
'In spite of all your treachery to me I do not wish to ruin you, or
to destroy your young wife, by proving myself in England to have
been married to you at Ahalala. But I will do so unless you assent
to the terms which Crinkett has proposed. He and I are in
partnership in the matter with two or three others, and are willing
to let all that has gone before be forgotten if we have means given
us to make another start. You cannot feel that the money you have
received is fairly yours, and I can hardly think you would wish to
become rich by taking from me all that I have earned after so many
hardships. If you will do as I propose, you had better send out an
agent. On paying us the money he shall not only have the
marriage-certificate, but shall stand by and see me married to
Crinkett, who is now a widower. After that, of course, I can make no
claim to you. If you will not do this, both I and Crinkett, and the
other man who was present at our marriage, and Anne Young, who has
been with me ever since, will go at once to England, and the law
must take its course.
'I have no scruple in demanding this as you owe me so much more.
'Allan, the Wesleyan who married us, has gone out of the colony, no
one knows where,--but I send you the copy of the certificate; and
all the four of us who were there are still together. And there were
others who were at Ahalala at the time, and who remember the
marriage well. Dick Shand was not in the chapel, but Dick knew all
about it. There is quite plenty of evidence.
'Send back by the wire word what you will do, and let your agent
come over as soon as possible.
However true or however false the allegations made in the above letter
may have been, for a time it stunned him greatly. This letter reached
him about a month before the birth of his son, and for a day or two it
disturbed him greatly. He did not show it to his wife, but wandered
about the place alone thinking whether he would take any notice of it,
and what notice. At last he resolved that he would take the letter to
his brother-in-law Robert, and ask the attorney's advice. 'How much of
it is true?' demanded Robert, when he read the letter twice from
beginning to end.
'A good deal,' said Caldigate,--'as much as may be, with the exception
that I was never married to the woman.'
'I suppose not that.' Robert Bolton as he spoke was very grave, but did
not at first seem disposed to be angry. 'Had you not better tell me
everything do you think?'
'It is for that purpose that I have come and brought you the letter. You
understand about the money.'
'I suppose so.'
'There can be no reason why I should return a penny of it?'
'Certainly not, now. You certainly must not return it under a
threat,--even though the woman should be starving. There can be no
circumstances--' and as he spoke he dashed his hand down upon the
table,--'no circumstances in which a man should allow money to be
extorted from him by a threat. For Hester's sake you must not do that.'
'No;--no; I must not do that, of course.'
'And now tell me what is true?' There was something of authority in the
tone of his voice, something perhaps of censure, something too of doubt,
which went much against the grain with Caldigate. He had determined to
tell his story, feeling that counsel was necessary to him, but he wished
so to tell it as to subject himself to no criticism and to admit no
fault. He wanted assistance, but he wanted it on friendly and
sympathetic terms. He had a great dislike to being--'blown up,' as he
would probably have expressed it himself, and he already thought that he
saw in his companion's eye a tendency that way. Turning all this in his
mind, he paused a moment before he began to tell his tale. 'You say that
a good deal in this woman's letter is true. Had you not better tell me
what is true?'
'I was very intimate with her.'
'Did she ever live with you?'
'Yes, she did.'
'As your wife?'
'Well; yes. It is of course best that you should know all.' Then he gave
a tolerably true account of all that had happened between himself and
Mrs. Smith up to the time at which, as the reader knows, he found her
performing at the Sydney theatre.
'You had made her a distinct promise of marriage on board the ship?'
'I think I had.'
'Yes. I think I did. Can you not understand that a man may be in great
doubt as to the exact words that he may have spoken at such a time?'
'Then I don't think you realise the man's position. I wish to let you
know the truth as exactly as I can. You had better take it for granted
that I did make such a promise, though probably no such promise was
absolutely uttered. But I did tell her afterwards that I would marry
'Yes, when she followed me up to Ahalala.'
'Did Richard Shand know her?'
'Of course he did,--on board the ship;--and he was with me when she came
'And she lived with you?'
'And you promised to marry her?'
'And was that all?'
'I did not marry her, of course,' said Caldigate.
'Who heard the promise?'
'It was declared by her in the presence of that Wesleyan minister she
speaks of. He went to her to rebuke her, and she told him of the
promise. Then he asked me, and I did not deny it. At the moment when he
taxed me with it I was almost minded to do as I had promised.'
'You repeated your promise, then, to him?'
'Nothing of the kind. I did not deny it, and I told him at last to mind
his own business. Life up there was a little rough at that time.'
'So it seems, indeed. And then, after that?'
'I had given her money and she had some claims in a gold-mine. When she
was successful for a time she became so keen about her money that I
fancy she hardly wished to get herself married. Then we had some words,
and so we parted.'
'Did she call herself--Mrs. Caldigate?'
'I never called her so.'
'Did she herself assume the name?'
'It was a wild kind of life up there, Robert, and this was apparent in
nothing more than in the names people used. I daresay some of the
people did call her Mrs. Caldigate. But they knew she was not my wife.'
'And this man Crinkett?'
'He knew all about it.'
'He had a wife. Did his wife know her?'
'He had quarrelled with his wife at that time and had sent her away from
Nobble. Mrs. Smith was then living at Nobble, and Crinkett knew more
about her than I did. She was mad after gold, and it was with Crinkett
she was working. I gave her a lot of shares in another mine to leave
'The Old Stick-in-the-Mud they called it. I had been in partnership with
Crinkett and wanted to get out of the thing, and go in altogether for
Polyeuka. At that time the woman cared little for husbands or lovers.
She had been bitten with the fury of gold-gambling and, like so many of
them, filled her mind with an idea of unlimited wealth. And she had a
turn of luck. I suppose she was worth at one time eight or ten thousand
'But she did not keep it?'
'I knew but little of her afterwards. I kept out of her way; and though
I had dealings with Crinkett, I dropped them as soon as I could.' Then
he paused,--but Robert Bolton held his peace with anything but a
satisfied countenance. 'Now I think you know all about it.'
'It is a most distressing story.'
'All attempts at robbery and imposition are of course distressing.'
'There is so much in it that is--disgraceful.'
'I deny it altogether,--if you mean disgraceful to me.'
'If it had all been known as it is known now,--as it is known even by
your own telling, do you think that I should have consented to your
marriage with my sister?'
'Why not?' Robert Bolton shrugged his shoulders. 'And I think,
moreover, that had you refused your consent I should have married your
sister just the same.'
'Then you know very little about the matter.'
'I don't think there can be any good in going into that. It is at any
rate the fact that your sister is my wife. As this demand has been made
upon me it was natural that I should wish to discuss it with some one
whom I can trust. I tell you all the facts, but I am not going to listen
to any fault-finding as to my past life.'
'Why is she poor? She does not think herself so.'
'Because there is a world of sorrow and trouble before her; and because
all that you have told to me must probably be made known to her.'
'She knows it already;--that is, she knows what you mean. I have not
told her of the woman's lie, nor of this demand for money. But I shall
when she is strong enough to hear it and to talk of it. You are very
much mistaken if you think that there are secrets between me and
'I don't suppose you will be pleased to hear the story of such a life
told in all the public papers.'
'Certainly not;--but it will be an annoyance which I can bear. You or
any one else would be very much mistaken who would suppose that life out
in those places can go on in the same regular way that it does here.
Gold beneath the ground is a dangerous thing to touch, and few who have
had to do with it have come out much freer from misfortune than myself.
As for these people, I don't suppose that I shall hear from them again.
I shall send them both word that not a shilling is to be expected from
There was after this a long discussion as to the nature of the messages
to be sent. There was no absolute quarrel between the two men, and the
attorney acknowledged to himself that it was now his duty to give the
best advice in his power to his brother-in-law; but their manner to each
other was changed. It was evident that Robert did not quite believe all
that Caldigate told him, and evident also that Caldigate resented this
want of confidence. But still each knew that he could not do without the
other. Their connection was too firm and too close to be shaken off.
And, therefore, though their tones were hardly friendly, still they
consulted as to what should be done. It was at last decided that two
messages should be sent by Caldigate, one to Crinkett and the other to
Mrs. Smith, and each in the same words. 'No money will be sent you on
behalf of the Polyeuka mine,' and that this should be all. Any letter,
Robert Bolton thought, would be inexpedient. Then they parted, and the
two messages were at once sent.
After a day or two Caldigate recovered his spirits. We all probably know
how some trouble will come upon us and for a period seem to quell all
that is joyous in our life, and that then by quick degrees the weight of
the trouble will grow less, till the natural spring and vivacity of the
mind will recover itself, and make little or nothing of that which a few
hours ago was felt to be so grievous a burden. So it had been with John
Caldigate. He had been man enough to hold up his head when telling his
story to Robert Bolton, and to declare that the annoyance would be one
that he could bear easily;--but still for some hours after that he had
been unhappy. If by sacrificing some considerable sum of money,--even a
large sum of money, say ten thousand pounds,--he could at that moment
have insured the silence of Crinkett and the woman, he would have paid
his money. He knew the world well enough to be aware that he could
insure nothing by any such sacrifice. He must defy these claimants;--and
then if they chose to come to England with their story, he must bear it
as best he could. Those who saw him did not know that aught ailed him,
and Robert Bolton spoke no word of the matter to any one at Cambridge.
But Robert Bolton thought very much of it,--so much that on the
following day he ran up to London on purpose to discuss the matter with
his brother William. How would it be with them, and what would be his
duty, if the statement made by the woman should turn out to be true?
What security had they after the story told by Caldigate himself that
there had been no marriage? By his own showing he had lived with the
woman, had promised to marry her, had acknowledged his promise in the
hearing of a clergyman, and had been aware that she had called herself
by his name. Then he had given her money to go away. This had been his
own story. 'Do you believe him?' he said to his brother William.
'Yes; I do. In the first place, though I can understand from his
antecedents and from his surroundings at the time, that he should have
lived a loose sort of life when he was out there, I don't think that he
is a rascal or even a liar.'
'One wouldn't wish to think so.'
'I do not think so. He doesn't look like it, or talk like it, or act
'How many cases do we know in which some abominable unexpected villainy
has destroyed the happiness and respectability of a family?'
'But what would you do?' asked the barrister. 'She is married to him.
You cannot separate them if you would.'
'No,--poor girl. If it be so, her misery is accomplished; but if it be
so she should at once be taken away from him. What a triumph it would be
to her mother!'
That is a dreadful thing to say, Robert.'
'But nevertheless true. Think of her warnings and refusals, and of my
persistence! But if it be so, not the less must we all insist
upon--destroying him. If it be so, he must be punished to the extent of
William Bolton, however, would not admit that it could be so, and Robert
declared that though he suspected,--though in such a case he found
himself bound to suspect,--he did not in truth believe that Caldigate
had been guilty of so terrible a crime. All probability was against
it;--but still it was possible. Then, after much deliberation, it was
decided that an agent should be sent out by them to New South Wales, to
learn the truth, as far as it could be learned, and to bring back
whatever evidence might be collected without making too much noise in
the collection of it. Then there arose the question whether Caldigate
should be told of this;--but it was decided that it should be done at
the joint expense of the two brothers without the knowledge of Hester's
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