Part 6 out of 11
'Practically you can. Take her bonnet away,--or whatever she came in.
Don't let there be a vehicle to carry her back. Let the keys be turned
if it be necessary. The servants must know of course what you are doing;
but they will probably be on your side. I don't mean to say that if she
be resolute to escape at any cost you can prevent her. But probably she
will not be resolute like that. It requires a deal of resolution for a
young woman to show herself in the streets alone in so wretched a plight
as hers. It depends on her disposition.'
'She is very determined,' said Hester's mother.
'And you can be equally so.' To this assertion Mrs. Bolton assented with
a little nod. 'You can only try it. It is one of those cases in which,
unfortunately publicity cannot be avoided. We have to do the best we can
for her, poor dear, according to our conscience. I should induce her to
come on a visit to her mother, and then I should, if possible, detain
It was thus that William Bolton gave his advice; and as Robert Bolton
assented, it was determined that this should be the line of action. Nor
can it be said that they were either cruel or unloving in their
projected scheme. Believing as they did that the man was not her
husband, it must be admitted that it was their duty to take her away
from him if possible. But it was not probable that Hester herself would
look upon their care of her in the same light. She would beat herself
against the bars of her cage; and even should she be prevented from
escaping by the motives and reasons which William Bolton had suggested,
she would not the less regard her father and mother as wicked tyrants.
The mother understood that very well. And she, though she was hard to
all the world besides, had never been hard to her girl. No tenderest
female bosom that ever panted at injustice done to her offspring was
more full than hers of pity, love, and desire. To save her Hester from
sin and suffering she would willingly lay down her life. And she knew
that in carrying out the scheme that had been proposed she must appear
to her girl to be an enemy,--to be the bitterest of all enemies! I have
seen a mother force open the convulsively closed jaws of her child in
order that some agonising torture might be applied,--which, though
agonising, would tend to save her sick infant's life. She did it
though, the child shrank from her as from some torturing fiend. This
mother resolved that she would do the same,--though her child, too,
should learn to hate her.
William Bolton undertook to go out to Folking and give the invitation by
which she was to be allured to come to Puritan Grange,--only for a day
and night if longer absence was objectionable; only for a morning visit,
if no more could be achieved. It was all treachery and falsehood;--a
doing of certain evil that possible good might come from it. 'She win
hate me for ever, but yet it ought to be done,' said William Bolton; who
was a good man, an excellent husband and father, and regarded in his own
profession as an honourable trustworthy man.
'She will never stay,' the old man said to his wife, when the others had
gone and they two were left together.
'I don't know.'
'I am sure she will never stay.'
'I will try.'
Mrs. Robert said the same thing when the scheme was explained to her.
'Do you think anybody could keep me a prisoner against my will,--unless
they locked me up in a cell? Do you think I would not scream?'
The husband endeavoured to explain that the screaming might depend on
the causes which had produced the coercion. 'I think you would scream,
and scream till you were let loose, if the person locking you up had
nothing to justify him. But if you felt that the world would be all
against you, then you would not scream and would not be let out.'
Mrs. Robert, however, seemed to think that no one could keep her in any
house against her own will without positive bolts, bars, and chains.
In the meantime much had been settled out at Folking, or had been
settled at Cambridge, so that the details were known at Folking. Mr.
Seely had taken up the case, and had of course gone into it with much
more minuteness than Robert Bolton had done. Caldigate owned to the
writing of the envelope, and to the writing of the letter, but declared
that that letter had not been sent in that envelope. He had written the
envelope in some foolish joke while at Ahalala,--he remembered doing it
well; but he was quite sure that it had never passed through the Sydney
post-office. The letter itself had been written from Sydney. He
remembered writing that also, and he remembered posting it at Sydney in
an envelope addressed to Mrs. Smith. When Mr. Seely assured him that he
himself had seen the post-office stamp of Sydney on the cover, Caldigate
declared that it must have been passed through the post-office for
fraudulent purposes after it had left his hands. 'Then,' said Mr. Seely,
'the fraud must have been meditated and prepared three years ago,--which
is hardly probable.'
As to the letter from the clergyman, Allan, of which Mr. Seely had
procured a copy, Caldigate declared that it had certainly never been
addressed to him. He had never received any letter from Mr. Allan,--had
never seen the man's handwriting. He was quite sure that if he were in
New South Wales he could get a dozen people to swear that there had
never been such a marriage at Ahalala. He did name many people,
especially Dick Shand. Then Mr. Seely proposed to send out an agent to
the colony, who should take the depositions of such witnesses as he
could find, and who should if possible bring Dick Shand back with him.
And, at whatever cost, search should be made for Mr. Allan; and Mr.
Allan should, if found, be brought to England, if money could bring him.
If Mr. Allan could not be found, some document written by him might
perhaps be obtained with reference to his handwriting. But, through it
all, Mr. Seely did believe that there had been some marriage ceremony
between his client and Mrs. Euphemia Smith.
All this, down to the smallest detail, was told to Hester,--Hester
Bolton or Hester Caldigate, whichever she might be. And there was no
word uttered by the man she claimed as her husband which she did not
believe as though it were gospel.
Hester Is Lured Back
On the Monday morning, Mr. William Bolton, the barrister, who had much
to his own inconvenience remained at Cambridge for the purpose of
carrying out the scheme which he had proposed, went over to Folking in a
fly. He had never been at the place before, and was personally less well
acquainted with the family into which his sister had married than any
other Bolton. Had everything been pleasant, nothing could have been more
natural than such a visit; but as things were very far from pleasant
Hester was much surprised when he was shown into her room. It had been
known to Robert Bolton that Caldigate now came every day into Cambridge
to see either his lawyer or his father, and that therefore he would
certainly not be found at home about the middle of the day. It was
henceforth to be a law with all the Boltons, at any rate till after the
trial, that they would not speak to, or if possible see, John Caldigate.
Not without very strong cause would William Bolton have entered his
house, but that strong cause existed.
'Oh, William! I am so glad to see you,' said Hester, rushing into her
'I too am glad to see you, Hester, though the time is so sad to us all.'
'Yes; yes. It is sad;--oh, so sad! Is it not terrible that there should
be people so wicked, and that they should be able to cause so much
trouble to innocent persons.'
'With all my heart I feel for you,' said the brother, caressing his
With quickest instinct she immediately perceived that a slight emphasis
given to the word 'you' implied the singular number. She drew herself
back a little, still feeling, however, that no offence had as yet been
committed against which she could express her indignation. But it was
necessary that a protest should be made at once. 'I am so sorry that my
husband is not here to welcome you. He has gone into Cambridge to fetch
his father. Poor Mr. Caldigate is so troubled by all this that he
prefers now to come and stay with us.'
'Ah, indeed! I dare say it will be better that the father and the son
should be together.'
'Father and son, or even mother and daughter, are not like husbands and
wives, are they?'
'No; they are not,' said the barrister, not quite knowing how to answer
so very self-evident a proposition but understanding accurately the line
of thought which had rendered it necessary for the poor creature to
reassert at every moment the bond by which she would fain be bound to
the father of her child.
'But Mr. Caldigate is so good,--so good and gentle to me and baby, that
I am delighted that he should be here with John. You know of all this.'
'Yes, I know, of course.'
'And will feel all that John has to suffer.'
'It is very bad, very bad for everybody concerned. By his own showing,
'William,' said she, 'let this be settled in one word. I will not hear a
syllable against my husband from you or any one else. I am delighted to
see you,--I cannot tell you how delighted. Oh, if papa would come,--or
mamma! Dear, dear mamma! You don't suppose but what I love you all!'
'I am sure you do.'
'But not from papa or mamma even will I hear a word against him. Would
Fanny,'--Fanny was the barrister's wife--'let her people come and say
things behind your back?'
'I hope not.'
'Then, believe that I can be as stout as Fanny. But we need not quarrel.
You will come and see baby, and have some lunch. I am afraid they will
not be here till three or four, but they will be so glad to see you if
you will wait.'
He would not wait, of course; but he allowed himself to be taken away to
see baby, and did eat his lunch. Then he brought forward the purport of
his mission. 'Your mother is most anxious to see you, Hester. You will
go and visit her?'
'Oh, yes,' said Hester, unaware of any danger. 'But I wish she would
come to me.'
'My dear girl, as things are at present that is impossible. You can
understand as much as that. There must be a trial.'
'I suppose so.'
'And till that has been held your mother would be wrong to come here. I
express no judgment against any one.'
'I should have thought mamma would have been the first to support
me,--me and baby,' she said sobbing.
'Certainly, if you were homeless--'
'But I am not. My husband gives me a house to live in, and I want none
'What I wish to explain is that if you were in want of anything--'
'I am in want of nothing--but sympathy.'
'You have it from me and from all of us. But pray, listen for a moment.
She cannot come to you till the trial be over. I am sure Mr. Caldigate
would understand that.'
'He comes to me,' she said, alluding to her father-in-law, and not
choosing to understand that her brother should have called her husband
'But there can be no reason why you should not go to Chesterton.'
'Just to see mamma?'
'For a day or two,' he replied, blushing inwardly at his own lie. 'Could
you go to-morrow?'
'Oh no;--not to stay. Of course I must ask my husband. I'm sure he'll
let me go if I ask it, but not to-morrow. Why to-morrow?'
'Only that your mother longs to see you.' He had been specially
instigated to induce her to come as soon as possible. 'You may imagine
how anxious she is.'
'Poor mamma! Yes;--I know she suffers. I know mamma's feelings. Mamma
and I must, must, must quarrel if we talk about this. Of course I will
go to see her. But will you tell her this,--that if she cannot speak of
my husband with affection and respect it will be better that--she should
not mention him at all. I will not submit to a word even from her.'
When he took his departure it was settled that she should, with her
husband's permission, go over to Chesterton for a couple of nights in
the course of the next week; but that she could not fix the day till she
had seen him. Then, when he was taking his departure and kissing her
once again, she whispered a word to him. 'Try and be charitable,
William. I sometimes think that at Chesterton we hardly knew what
That evening the proposed visit to Chesterton was discussed at Folking.
The old man had very strongly taken up his son's side, and was of
opinion that the Boltons were not only uncharitable, but perversely
ill-conditioned in the view which they took. To his thinking, Crinkett,
Adamson, and the woman were greedy, fraudulent scoundrels, who had
brought forward this charge solely with the view of extorting money. He
declared that the very fact that they had begun by asking for money
should have barred their evidence before any magistrates. The oaths of
the four 'scoundrels' were, according to him, worth nothing. The scrap
of paper purporting to be a copy of the marriage certificate, and the
clergyman's pretended letter, were mere forgeries, having about them no
evidence or probability of truth. Any one could have written them. As to
that envelope addressed to Mrs. Caldigate, with the Sydney postmark, he
had his own theory. He thought but little of the intercourse which his
son acknowledged with the woman, but was of opinion that his son 'had
been an ass' in writing those words. But a man does not marry a woman by
simply writing his own name with the word mistress prefixed to it on an
envelope. Any other woman might have adduced the envelope as evidence of
his marriage with her! It was, he said, monstrous that any one should
give credence to such bundles of lies. Therefore his words were gospel,
and his wishes were laws to Hester. She clung round him, and hovered
over him, and patted him like a very daughter, insisting that he should
nurse the baby, and talking of him to her husband as though he were
manifestly the wisest man in Cambridgeshire. She forgot even that little
flaw in his religious belief. To her thinking at the present moment, a
man who would believe that her baby was the honest son of an honest
father and mother had almost religion enough for all purposes.
'Quite right that you should go,' said the old man.
'I think so,' said the husband, 'though I am afraid they will trouble
'The only question is whether they will let her come back.'
'What!' exclaimed Hester.
'Whether they won't keep you when they've got you.'
'I won't be kept. I will come back. You don't suppose I'd let them talk
'No, my dear; I don't think they'll be able to do that. But there are
such things as bolts and bars.'
'Impossible!' said his son.
'Do you mean that they'll send me to prison?' asked Hester.
'No; they can't do that. They wouldn't take you in at the county jail,
but they might make a prison of Puritan Grange. I don't say they will,
but they might try it.'
'I should get out, of course.'
'I daresay you would; but there might be trouble.'
'Papa would not allow that,' said Hester. 'Papa understands better than
that. I've a right to go where I like, just as anybody else;--that is,
if John tells me.' The matter was discussed at some length, but John
Caldigate was of opinion that no such attempt as the old man had
suggested was probable,--or even possible. The idea that in these days
any one should be kept a prisoner in a private house,--any one over whom
no one in that house possessed legitimate authority,--seemed to him to
be monstrous. That a husband should lock up his wife might be possible,
or a father his unmarried and dependent daughter; but that any one
should venture to lock up another man's wife was, he declared, out of
the question. Mr. Caldigate again said that he should not be surprised
if it were attempted; but acknowledged that the attempt could hardly be
As Hester was anxious to make the visit, it was arranged that she should
go. It was not that she expected much pleasure even in seeing her
mother;--but that it was expedient at such a time to maintain what
fellowship might still be possible with her own family. The trial would
of course liberate them from all their trouble; and then, when the trial
should be over, it would be very sad if an entire rupture between
herself and her parents should have been created. She would be true to
her husband; as true as a part must be to the whole, as the heart must
to the brain. They two were, and ever would be, one. But if her mother
could be spared to her, if she could be saved from a lasting quarrel
with her mother, it would be so much to her! Tears came into the eyes
even of the old man as he assented; and her husband swore to her that
for her sake he would forgive every injury from any one bearing the name
of Bolton when all this should be over.
A day was therefore fixed, and a note was written, and on the last day
of February she and her baby and her nurse were taken over to Puritan
Grange. In the meantime telegrams at a very great cost had been flying
backwards and forwards between Cambridge and Sydney. William and Robert
Bolton had determined among them that, at whatever expense to the
family, the truth must be ascertained; and to this the old banker had
assented. So far they were right, no doubt. If the daughter and sister
was not in truth a wife,--if by grossest, by most cruel ill-usage she
had been lured to a ruin for which there could be no remedy in this
world,--it would be better that the fact should be known at once, so
that her life might be pure though it could never again be bright. But
it was strange that, with all these Boltons, there was a desire, an
anxiety, to prove the man's guilt rather than his innocence. Mrs. Bolton
had always regarded him as a guilty man,--though guilty of she knew not
what. She had always predicted misery from a marriage so distasteful to
her; and her husband, though he had been brought to oppose her and to
sanction the marriage, had, from the moment in which the sanction was
given, been induced by her influence to reject it. Robert Bolton, when
the charge was first made, when the letter from the woman was first
shown to him, had become aware that he had made a mistake in allowing
this trouble to come upon the family; and then, as from point to point
the evidence had been opened out to him, he had gradually convinced
himself that the son-in-law and brother-in-law, whom he had, as it
were, forced into the family, was a bigamist. There was present to them
all an intense desire to prove the man's guilt, which was startling to
all around who heard anything of the matter. Up to this time the Bolton
telegrams and the Caldigate telegrams had elicited two facts,--that
Allan the Wesleyan minister had gone to the Fiji Islands and had there
died, and that they at Nobble who had last known Dick Shand's address,
now knew it no longer. Caldigate had himself gone to Pollington, and had
there ascertained that no tidings had been received from Dick by any of
the Shand family for the last twelve months. It had been decided that
the trial must be postponed at any rate till the summer assizes, which
would be held in Cambridge about the last week in August; and it was
thought by some that even then the case would not be ready. There was,
no doubt, an opinion prevalent in Cambridge that the unfortunate young
mother should be taken home to her own family till the matter should be
decided; and among the ladies of the town John Caldigate himself was
blamed severely for not allowing her to place herself under her father's
protection; but the ladies of the town generally were not probably well
acquainted with the disposition and temper of the young wife herself.
Things were in this condition when Hester and her baby went to her
father's house. Though that suspicion as to some intended durance which
Mr. Caldigate had expressed was not credited by her, still, as she was
driven up to the house, the idea was in her mind. She looked at the door
and she looked at the window, and she could not conceive it possible
that such a thing should be attempted. She thought of her own knowledge
of the house; how, if it were necessary, she could escape from the back
of the garden into the little field running down to the river, and how
she could cross the ferry. Of course she knew every outlet and inlet
about the place, and was sure that confinement would be impossible. But
she did not think of her bonnet nor of her boots, nor of the horror
which it would be to her should she be driven to wander forth into the
town, and to seek a conveyance back to Folking in the public streets.
She went on a Monday with an understanding that she was to remain there
till Wednesday. Mrs. Bolton almost wished that a shorter visit had been
arranged in order that she might at once commence her hostile operations
without any intermediate and hypocritical pretences. She had planned her
campaign thoroughly in her own mind, and had taken the cook into her
confidence, the cook being the oldest and most religious servant in the
house. When the day of departure should have come the cook was to lock
the doors, and the gardener was to close the little gate at the bottom
of the garden; and the bonnet and other things were to be removed, and
then the mother would declare her purpose. But in the meantime allusions
to that intended return to Folking must be accepted, and listened to
with false assent. It was very grievous, but so it was arranged. As soon
as Hester was in the house the mother felt how much better it would have
been to declare to her daughter at once that she was a prisoner;--but it
was then too late to alter their proposed plans.
It very nearly came to pass that Hester left her mother on the morning
of her arrival. They had both determined to be cautious, reticent, and
forbearing but the difference between them was so vital that reticence
was impossible. At first there was a profusion of natural tears, and a
profusion of embraces Each clung to the other for a while as though some
feeling might be satisfied by mere contact; and then the woe of the
thing, the woe of it, was acknowledged on both sides' They could agree
that the wickedness of the wicked was very wicked. Wherever might lie
the sin of fraud and falsehood, the unmerited misfortunes of poor Hester
were palpable enough. They could weep together over the wrongs
inflicted on that darling baby. But by degrees it was impossible to
abstain from alluding to the cause of their sorrow;--and such allusion
became absolutely necessary when an attempt was made to persuade Hester
to remain at her old home with her own consent. This was done by her
father on the evening of her arrival, in compliance with the plan that
had been arranged. 'No, papa, no; I cannot do that,' she said, with a
tone of angry determination.
'It is your duty, Hester. All your friends will tell you so.'
'My duty is to my husband,' she said, 'and in such a matter I can allow
myself to listen to no other friend.' She was so firm and fixed in this
that he did not even dare to go on with his expostulation.
But afterwards, when they were upstairs together, Mrs. Bolton spoke out
more at length and with more energy. 'Mamma, it is of no use,' said
'It ought to be of use. Do you know the position in which you are?'
'Very well. I am my husband's wife.'
'If it be so, well. But if it be not so, and if you remain with him
while there is a doubt upon the matter, then you are his mistress.'
'If I am not his wife, then I will be his mistress,' said Hester,
standing up and looking as she spoke much as her mother would look in
her most determined moments.
'What is the use of all this, mamma? Nothing shall make me leave him.
Others may be ashamed of me; but because of this I shall never be
ashamed of myself. You are ashamed of me!'
'If you could mean what you said just now I should be ashamed of you.'
'I do mean it. Though the juries and the judges should say that he was
not my husband, though all the judges in England should say it, I would
not believe them. They may put him in prison and so divide us; but they
never shall divide my bone from his bone, and my flesh from his flesh.
As you are ashamed of me, I had better go back to-morrow.'
Then Mrs. Bolton determined that early in the morning she would look to
the bolts and bars; but when the morning came matters had softened
themselves a little.
The Babington Wedding
It is your duty,--especially your duty,--to separate them.' This was
said by Mr. Smirkie, the vicar of Plum-cum-Pippin, to Mr. Bromley, the
rector of Utterden, and the words were spoken in the park at Babington
where the two clergymen were taking a walk together. Mr. Smirkie's first
wife had been a Miss Bromley, a sister of the clergyman at Utterden and
as Julia Babington was anxious to take to her bosom all her future
husband's past belongings, Mr. Bromley had been invited to Babington. It
might be that Aunt Polly was at this time well inclined to exercise her
hospitality in this direction by a feeling that Mr. Bromley would be
able to talk to them about this terrible affair. Mr. Bromley was
intimate with John Caldigate, and of course would know all about it.
There was naturally in Aunt Polly's heart a certain amount of
self-congratulation at the way in which things were going. Mr. Smirkie,
no doubt, had had a former wife, but no one would call him a bigamist.
In what a condition might her poor Julia have been but for that
interposition of Providence! For Aunt Polly regarded poor Hester Bolton
as having been quite a providential incident, furnished expressly for
the salvation of Julia. Hitherto Mr. Bromley had been very short in his
expressions respecting the Folking tragedy, having simply declared
that, judging by character, he could not conceive that a man such as
Caldigate would have been guilty of such a crime. But now he was being
put through his facings more closely by his brother-in-law.
'Why should I want to separate them?'
'Because the evidence of his guilt is so strong.'
'That is for a jury to judge.'
'Yes; and if a jury should decide that there had been no Australian
marriage,--which I fear we can hardly hope;--but if a jury were to
decide that, then of course she could go back to him. But while there is
a doubt, I should have thought, Tom, you certainly would have seen it,
even though you never have had a wife of your own.'
'I think I see all that there is to see,' said the other. 'If the poor
lady has been deceived and betrayed no punishment can be too heavy for
the man who has so injured her. But the very enormity of the iniquity
makes me doubt it. As far as I can judge, Caldigate is a high-spirited,
honest gentleman, to whom the perpetration of so great a sin would
hardly suggest itself.'
'But if,--but if--! Think of her condition, Tom!'
'You would have to think of your own, if you were to attempt to tell her
to leave him.'
'That means that you are afraid of her.'
'It certainly means that I should be very much afraid if I thought of
taking such a liberty. If I believed it to be my duty, I hope that I
would do it.'
'You are her clergyman.'
'Certainly. I christened her child. I preach to her twice every Sunday.
And if she were to die I should bury her.'
'Is that all?'
'Pretty nearly;--except that I generally dine at the house once a week.'
'Is there nothing further confided to you than that?'
'If she were to come to me for advice, then it would be my duty to give
her what advice I thought to be best; and then--'
'Then I should have to make up my mind,--which I have not done at
present,--I should have to make up my mind, not as to his guilt, for I
believe him to be innocent, but as to the expediency of a separation
till a jury should have acquitted him. But I am well aware that she
won't come to me; and from little words which constantly drop from her,
I am quite sure that nothing would induce her to leave her husband but a
direct command from himself.'
'You might do it through him.'
'I am equally sure that nothing would induce him to send her away.'
But such a conviction as this was not sufficient for Mr. Smirkie. He was
alive to the fact,--uncomfortably alive to the fact,--that the ordinary
life of gentle-folk in England does not admit of direct clerical
interference. As a country clergyman, he could bestow his admonitions
upon his poorer neighbours; but upon those who were well-to-do he could
not intrude himself unasked, unless, as he thought, in cases of great
emergency. Here was a case of very great emergency. He was sure that he
would have courage for the occasion if Folking were within the bounds of
Plum-cum-Pippin. It was just the case in which counsel should be
volunteered;--in which so much could be said which would be gross
impertinence from others though it might be so manifest a duty to a
clergyman! But Mr. Bromley could not be aroused to a sense either of his
duty or of his privileges. All this was sad to Mr. Smirkie, who
regretted those past days in which, as he believed, the delinquent soul
had been as manifestly subject to ecclesiastical interference as the
delinquent body has always been to the civil law.
But with Julia, who was to be his wife, he could be more imperative.
She was taught to give thanks before the throne of grace because she had
been spared the ignominy of being married to a man who could not have
made her his wife, and had had an unstained clergyman of the Church of
England given to her for her protection. For with that candour which is
so delightful, and so common in these days, everything had been told to
Mr. Smirkie,--how her young heart had for a time turned itself towards
her cousin, how she had been deceived, and then how rejoiced she was
that by such deceit she had been reserved for her present more glorious
fate. 'And won't Mr. Bromley speak to her?' Julia asked.
'It is a very difficult question,--a very difficult question, indeed,'
said Mr. Smirkie, shaking his head. He was quite sure that were Folking
in his parish he would perform the duty, though Mr. Caldigate and the
unfortunate lady might be as a lion and a lioness in opposition to him;
but he was also of opinion that sacerdotal differences of opinion should
not be discussed among laymen,--should not be discussed by a clergyman
even with the wife of his bosom.
At Babington opinion was somewhat divided. Aunt Polly and Julia were of
course certain that John Caldigate had married the woman in Australia.
But the two other girls and their father were not at all so sure.
Indeed, there had been a little misunderstanding among the Babingtons on
the subject, which was perhaps strengthened by the fact that Mr. Smirkie
had more endeared himself to Julia's mother than to Julia's father or
sisters, and that Mr. Smirkie himself was very clear as to the
criminality of the bigamist 'I suppose you are often there,' Mr.
Babington said to his guest, the parson of Utterden.
'Yes; I have seen a good deal of them.'
'Do you think it possible?'
'Not probable,' said the clergyman.
'I don't,' said the Squire. 'I suppose he was a little wild out there,
but that is a very different thing from bigamy. Young men, when they
get out to those places, are not quite so particular as they ought to be
I daresay. When I was young, perhaps I was not as steady as I ought to
have been. But, by George! here is a man comes over and asks for a lot
of money; and then the woman asks for money; and then they say that if
they don't get it, they'll swear the fellow was married in Australia. I
can't fancy that any jury will believe that.'
'I hope not.'
'And yet, Madame,'--the Squire was in the habit of calling his wife
Madame when he intended to insinuate anything against her,--'has got it
settled in her head that this young woman isn't his wife at all. I think
it's uncommon hard. A man ought to be considered innocent till he has
been found guilty. I shall go over and see him one of these days, and
say a kind word to her.'
There was at that moment some little difference of opinion, which was
coming to a head in reference to a very delicate matter. When the
conversations above related took place, the Babington wedding had been
fixed to take place in a week's time. Should cousin John be invited, or
should he not? Julia was decidedly against it. 'She did not think,' she
said, 'that she could stand up at the altar and conduct herself on an
occasion so trying if she were aware that he were standing by her.' Mr.
Smirkie, of course, was not asked,--was not directly asked. But equally,
of course, he was able to convey his own opinion through his future
bride. Aunt Polly thought that the county would be shocked if a man
charged with bigamy was allowed to be present at the marriage. But the
Squire was a man who could have an opinion of his own; and after having
elicited that of Mr. Bromley, insisted that the invitation should be
'It will be a pollution,' said Julia, sternly, to her younger sisters.
'You will be a married woman almost before you have seen him,' said
Georgiana, the second, 'and so it won't matter so much to you. We must
get over it as we can.'
Julia had been thought by her sisters not to bear the Smirkie triumph
with sufficient humility; and they, therefore, were sometimes a little
harsh to her. 'I don't think you understand it at all,' said Julia. 'You
have no conception what should be the feelings of a married woman,
especially when she is going to become the wife of one of God's
But in spite of all this, Aunt Polly wrote to her nephew as follows:--
'Dear John,--Our dearest Julia is to be married on Tuesday next. You
know how anxious we all have been to maintain affectionate family
relations with you, and we therefore do not like the idea of our
sweet child passing from her present sphere to other duties without
your presence. Will you come over on Monday evening, and stay till
after the breakfast? It is astonishing how many of our friends from
the two counties have expressed their wish to grace the ceremony by
their company. I doubt whether there is a clergyman in the diocese
of Ely more respected and thought of by all the upper classes than
'I do not ask Mrs. Caldigate, because, under present circumstances,
she would not perhaps wish to go into company, and because Augustus
has never yet had an opportunity of making her acquaintance. I will
only say that it is the anxious wish of us all here that you and she
together may soon see the end of these terrible troubles.--Believe
me to be, your affectionate aunt,
The writing of this letter had not been effected without much
difficulty. The Squire himself was not good at the writing of letters,
and, though he did insist on seeing this epistle, so that he might be
satisfied that Caldigate had been asked in good faith, he did not know
how to propose alterations. 'That's all my eye,' he said, referring to
his son-in-law that was to be. 'He's as good as another, but I don't
know that he's any better.'
'That, my dear,' said Aunt Polly, 'is because you do not interest
yourself about such matters. If you had heard what the Archdeacon said
of him the other day, you would think differently.'
'He's another parson,' said the Squire. 'Of course they butter each
other up.' Then he went on to the other paragraph. 'I wouldn't have said
anything about his wife.'
'That would not have been civil,' said Aunt Polly; 'and as you insist on
my asking him, I do not wish to be rude.' And so the letter was sent as
it was written.
It reached Caldigate on the day which Hester was passing with her mother
at Chesterton,--on the Tuesday. She had left Folking on the Monday,
intending to return on the Wednesday. Caldigate was therefore alone with
his father. 'They might as well have left that undone,' said he,
throwing the letter over the table.
'It's about the silliest letter I ever read,' said the old Squire; 'but
it is intended for civility. She means to show that she does not condemn
you. There are many people who do not know when to speak and when to be
silent. I shouldn't go.'
'No, I shan't go.'
'But I should take it as meant in kindness.'
Then John Caldigate wrote back as follows:--'All this that has befallen
my wife and me prevents us from going anywhere. She is at the present
moment with her own people at Chesterton, but when she returns I shall
not leave her. Give my kindest love to Julia, and ask her from me to
accept the little present which I send her.'
Julia declared that she would much rather not have accepted the brooch,
and that she would never wear it. But animosity against such articles
wears itself out quickly, and it may be expected that the little
ornament will be seen in the houses of the Suffolk gentry among whom Mr.
Smirkie is so popular.
Whether it was Mr. Smirkie's popularity, or the general estimation in
which the Babington family were held, or the delight which is taken by
the world at large in weddings, there was a very great gathering at
Babington church, and in the Squire's house afterwards. Though it was
early in March,--a time of the year which, in the eastern counties of
England, is not altogether propitious to out-of-doors festivity,--though
the roads were muddy, and the park sloppy, and the church abominably
open to draughts, still there was a crowd. The young ladies in that part
of the world had been slow in marrying lately, and it was felt that the
present occasion might give a little fillip to the neighbourhood. This
was the second Suffolk young lady that Mr. Smirkie had married, and he
was therefore entitled to popularity. He certainly had done as much as
he could, and there was probably no one around who had done more.
'I think the dear child will be happy,' said Mrs. Babington to her old
friend, Mrs. Munday,--the wife of Archdeacon Munday, the clerical
dignitary who had given Mr. Smirkie so good a character.
'Of course she will,' said Mrs. Munday, who had already given three
daughters in marriage to three clergymen, and who had, as it were,
become used to the transfer.
'And that she will do her duty in it.'
'Why not? There's nothing difficult in it if she only sees that he has
his surplice and bands properly got up. He is not, on the whole, a
bad-tempered man; and though the children are rough, they'll grow out of
that. And she ought to make him take two, or perhaps three, glasses of
port wine on Sundays. Mr. Smirkie is not as young as he used to be, and
two whole duties, with the Sunday school, which must be looked into, do
take a good deal out of a man. The archdeacon, of course, has a curate;
but I suppose Mr. Smirkie could hardly manage that just at present?'
The views which had hitherto been taken at Babington of the bride's
future life had been somewhat loftier than this. The bands and the
surplice and the port wine seemed to be small after all that had been
said. The mother felt that she was in some degree rebuked,--not having
yet learned that nothing will so much lessen the enthusiasm one may feel
for the work of a barrister, or a member of Parliament, or a clergyman,
as a little domestic conversation with the wife of the one or the other.
But Mrs. Munday was a lady possessing much clerical authority, and that
which she said had to be endured with equanimity.
Mr. Smirkie seemed to enjoy the occasion, and held his own through the
day with much dignity, The archdeacon, and the clergyman of the parish,
and Mr. Bromley, all assisted, and nothing was wanting of outward
ceremony which a small country church could supply. When his health was
drunk at the breakfast he preached quite a little sermon as he returned
thanks, holding his bride's hands in his the while, performing his part
in the scene in a manner which no one else would have dared to attempt.
Then there was the parting between the mother and daughter, upstairs,
before she was taken away for her ten days' wedding-tour to Brighton.
'My darling;--it is not so far but that I can come and see you very
'Pray do, mamma.'
'And I think I can help you with the children.'
'I am not a bit afraid of them, mamma. I intend to have my way with
them, and that will be everything I don't mean to be weak. Of course
Augustus will do what he thinks best in the parish, but he quite
understands that I am to be mistress at home. As for Mrs. Munday, mamma,
I don't suppose that she knows everything. I believe I can manage quite
as well as Mrs. Munday.'
Then there was a parting joint congratulation that she had not yielded
to the allurements of her cousin, John Caldigate. 'Oh, no, mamma; that
would never have done.'
'Think where you might have been now!'
'I am sure I should have found out his character in time and have broken
from him, let it have cost what it might. A man that can do such things
as that is to me quite horrible. What is to become of her, and her
baby;--and, perhaps, two,' she added in a whisper, holding up her hands
and shaking her head. The ceremony through which she had just passed had
given her courage to hint at such a possibility. 'I suppose she'll have
to be called Miss Bolton again.' Of course there was some well-founded
triumph in the bosom of the undoubted Mrs. Augustus Smirkie as she
remembered what her own fate might have been. Then she was carried away
in the family carriage amidst a deluge of rice and a shower of old
That same night Mr. Bromley gave an account of the wedding to John
Caldigate at Folking, telling him how well all the personages had
performed their parts. 'Poor Julia! she at any rate will be safe.'
'Safe enough, I should think,' said the clergyman.
'What I mean is that she has no dangers to fear such as my poor wife has
encountered. Whomever I think of now I cannot but compare them to
ourselves. No woman surely was ever so ill-used as she, and no man ever
so unfortunate as myself.'
'It will be all over in August.'
'And where shall I be? My own lawyer tells me that it is too probable
that I shall be in prison. And where will she be then?'
Early on the Tuesday morning Hester came down into the breakfast parlour
at Puritan Grange, having with difficulty persuaded herself that she
would stay the appointed hours in her mother's house. On the previous
evening her mother had, she thought, been very hard on her, and she had
determined to go. She would not stay even with her mother, if her mother
insisted upon telling her that she was not her husband's wife. But
during the night she was able to persuade herself to bear what had been
already said,--to let it be as though it had been forgotten. Her mother
was her mother. But she would bear no more. As to herself and her own
conduct her parents might say what they pleased to her. But of her
husband she would endure to hear no evil word spoken. In this spirit she
came down into the little parlour.
Mrs. Bolton was also up,--had been up and about for some time previous.
She was a woman who never gave way to temptations of ease. A nasty dark
morning at six o'clock, with just light enough to enable her to dress
without a candle, with no fire and no hot water, with her husband
snoring while she went through her operations, was to her thinking the
proper condition of things for this world. Not to be cold, not to be
uncomfortable, not to strike her toes against the furniture because she
could not quite see what she was about, would to her have been to be
wicked. When her daughter came into the parlour, she had been about the
house for more than an hour, and had had a conference both with the cook
and with the gardener. The cook was of opinion that not a word should be
said, or an unusual bolt drawn, or a thing removed till the Wednesday.
'She can't carry down her big box herself, ma'am; and the likes of Miss
Hester would never think of going without her things;--and then there's
the baby.' A look of agony came across the mother's face as she heard
her daughter called Miss Hester;--but in truth the woman had used the
name from old association, and not with any reference to her late young
mistress's present position. 'I should just tell her flat on Wednesday
morning that she wasn't to stir out of this, but I wouldn't say nothing
at all about any of it till then.' The gardener winked and nodded his
head, and promised to put a stake into the ground behind the little
wicket-gate which would make the opening of it impossible. 'But take my
word for it, ma'am, she'll never try that. She'll be a deal too proud.
She'll rampage at the front door, and'll despise any escaping like.'
That was the gardener's idea, and the gardener had long known the young
lady. By these arguments Mrs. Bolton was induced to postpone her prison
arrangements till the morrow.
When she found her daughter in the small parlour she had settled much in
her mind. During the early morning,--that is, till Mr. Bolton should
have gone into Cambridge,--not a word should be said about the marriage.
Then when they two would be alone together, another attempt should be
made to persuade Hester to come and live at Chesterton till after the
trial. But even in making that attempt no opinion should be expressed as
to John Caldigate's wickedness and no hint should be given as to the
coming incarceration. 'Did you bring baby down with you?' the
grandmother asked. No; baby had been awake ever so long, and then had
gone to sleep again, and the nurse was now with him to protect him from
the sufferings incident to waking. 'Your papa will be down soon, and
then we will have breakfast,' said Mrs. Bolton. After that there was
silence between them for some time.
A bond of discord, if the phrase may be allowed, is often quite as
strong as any bond coming from concord and agreement. There was to both
these women a subject of such paramount importance to each that none
other could furnish matter of natural conversation. The one was saying
to herself ever and always, 'He is my husband. Let the outside world say
what it may, he is my husband.' But the other was as constantly denying
to herself this assertion and saying, 'He is not her husband. Certainly
he is not her husband.' And as to the one the possession of that which
she claimed was all the world, and as to the other the idea of the
possession without true possession entailed upon her child pollution,
crime, and ignominy, it was impossible but that the mind of each should
be too full to admit of aught but forced expressions on other matters.
It was in vain for them to attempt to talk of the garden, the house, the
church, or of the old man's health. It was in vain even to attempt to
talk of the baby. There are people who, however full their hearts may
be, full of anger or full of joy, can keep the fulness in abeyance till
a chosen time for exhibiting it shall come. But neither of these two was
such a person. Every stiff plait in the elder woman's muslin and crape
declared her conviction that John Caldigate was not legally married to
her daughter. Every glance of Hester's eye, every motion made with her
hands, every little shake of her head, declared her purpose of fighting
for that one fact, whatever might be the odds against her.
When the banker came down to breakfast things were better for a little
time. The pouring out of his tea mitigated somewhat the starchiness of
his wife's severity, and Hester when cutting the loaf for him could seem
to take an interest in performing an old duty. He said not a word
against Caldigate; and when he went out, Hester, as had been her custom,
accompanied him to the gate. 'Of course you will be here when I come,'
'Oh yes; I do not go home till to-morrow.' Then she parted from him,
and spent the next hour or two up-stairs with her baby.
'May I come in?' said the mother, knocking at the door.
'Oh yes, mamma. Don't you think baby is very like his father?'
'I dare say. I do not know that I am good at tracing likenesses. He
certainly is like you.'
'So much more like his father!' said Hester.
After that there was a pause, and then the mother commenced her task in
her most serious voice. 'Hester, my child, you can understand that a
duty may become so imperious that it must be performed.'
'Yes,' said Hester, pressing her lips close together 'I can understand
that.' There might be a duty very necessary for her to perform, though
in the performance of it she should be driven to quarrel absolutely with
her own mother.
'So it is with me. Whom do you think I love best in all the world?'
'I do love your father dearly, and I endeavour, by God's grace, to do my
duty by him, though, I fear, it is done imperfectly. But, my child, our
hearts, I think, yearn more to those who are younger than ourselves than
to our elders. We love best those whom we have cherished and protected,
and whom we may perhaps still cherish and protect. When I try to tear my
heart away from the things of this vile world, it clings to you--to
Of course this could not be borne without an embrace 'Oh, mamma!' Hester
exclaimed, throwing herself on her knees before her mother's lap.
'If you suffer, must not I suffer? If you rejoice, would I not fain
rejoice with you if I could? Did I not bring you into the world, my only
one, and nursed you, and prayed for you, and watched you with all a
mother's care as you grew up among the troubles of the world? Have you
not known that my heart has been too soft towards you even for the due
performance of my duties?'
'You have always been good to me, mamma.'
'And am I altered now? Do you think that a mother's heart can be changed
to her only child?'
'No, Hester. That, I think, is impossible. Though for the last twelve
months I have not seen you day by day,--though I have not prepared the
food which you eat and the clothes which you wear, as I used to do,--you
have been as constantly in my mind. You are still my child, my only
'Mamma, I know you love me.'
'I so love you as to know that I sin in so loving aught that is human.
And so loving you, must I not do my duty by you? When love and duty both
compel me to speak, how shall I be silent?'
'You have said it, mamma,' said Hester, slowly drawing herself up from
off the ground.
'And is saying it once enough, when, as I think, the very soul, the
immortal soul, of her who is of all the dearest to me depends on what I
may say;--may be saved, or, oh, perhaps lost for ever by the manner in
which I may say it! How am I not to speak when such thoughts as these
are heavy within me?'
'What is it you would say?' This Hester asked with a low hoarse voice
and a stern look, as though she could not resist her mother's prayer for
the privilege of speaking; but at the same time was resolutely prepared
not to be turned a hair's-breadth by anything that might be said.
'Not a word about him.'
'No, mamma; no. Unless you can tell me that you will love him as your
'Not a word about him,' she repeated, in a harsher voice. She felt that
that promise should have been enough, and that in the present
circumstances she should not have been invited to love the man she
hated. 'Your father and I wish you for the next few months to come and
live with us.'
'It is quite impossible,' said Hester, standing very upright, with a
face altogether unlike that she had worn when kneeling at her mother's
'You should listen to me.'
'Yes, I will listen.'
'There will be a trial.'
'Undoubtedly. John, at least, seems to think so. It is possible that
these wicked people may give it up, or that they may have no money to go
on; but I suppose there will be a trial.'
'The woman has bound herself to prosecute him.'
'Because she wants to get money. But we need not discuss that, mamma.
John thinks that there will be a trial.'
'Till that is over, will you not be better away from him? How will it be
with you if it should be decided that he is not your husband?' Here
Hester of course prepared herself for interruption, but her mother
prayed for permission to continue.
'Listen to me for one moment, Hester.'
'Very well, mamma. Go on.'
'How would it be with you in that case? You must be separated then. As
that is possible, is it not right that you should obey the ordinances of
God and man, and keep yourself apart till they who are in authority
shall have spoken?'
'There are no such ordinances.'
'There are indeed. If you were to ask all your friends, all the married
women in Cambridgeshire, what would they say? Would they not all tell
you that no woman should live with a man while there is a shadow of
doubt? And as to the law of God, you know God's law, and can only defend
yourself by your own certainty as to a matter respecting which all
others are uncertain. You think yourself certain because such certainty
is a way to yourself out of your present misery.'
It had been arranged at Folking, before Hester had started, that
Caldigate himself should drive the waggonette into Cambridge to take her
back on the Wednesday, but that he would bring a servant with him who
should drive the carriage up to the Grange, so that he, personally,
should not have to appear at the door of the house. He would remain at
Mr. Seely's, and then the waggonette should pick him up. This had been
explained to Mrs. Bolton. 'John will remain in town, because he has so
much to do with Mr. Seely,' Hester had said; 'and Richard will call here
at about twelve.' All her plans had thus been made known, and Mrs.
Bolton was aware at what hour the bolts must be drawn and the things
But, as the time drew nearer, her dislike to a sudden commencement of
absolute hostilities became stronger,--to hostilities which would seem
to have no sanction from Mr. Bolton himself, because he would then be
absent. And he too, though as he lay awake through the dreary hours of
the long night he said no word about the plan, felt, and felt more
strongly as the dawn was breaking, that it would be mean to leave his
daughter with a farewell kiss, knowing as he would do that he was
leaving her within prison-bars, leaving her to the charge of jailers.
The farewell kiss would be given as though he and she were to meet no
more in her old home till this terrible trial should be over, and some
word appropriate to such a parting would then be spoken. But any such
parting word would be false, and the falsehood would be against his own
child! 'Does she expect it?' he said, in a low voice, when his wife came
up to him as he was dressing.
'She expects nothing. I am thinking that perhaps you would tell her
that she could not go to-day.'
'I could not say "to-day." If I tell her anything, I must tell her all.'
'Will not that be best?' Then the old man thought it all over. It would
be very much the best for him not to say anything about it if he could
reconcile it to his conscience to leave the house without doing so. And
he knew well that his wife was more powerful than he,--gifted with
greater persistence, more capable of enduring a shower of tears or a
storm of anger. The success of the plan would be more probable if the
conduct of it were left entirely to his wife, but his conscience was
sore within him.
'You will come with me to the gate,' he said to his daughter, after
their silent breakfast.
'Oh yes;--to say good-bye.'
Then he took his hat, and his gloves, and his umbrella, very slowly,
lingering in the hall as he did so, while his wife kept her seat firm
and square at the breakfast table. Hester had her hat and shawl with
her; but Mrs. Bolton did not suspect that she would endeavour to escape
now without returning for her child. Therefore she sat firm and square,
waiting to hear from Hester herself what her father might bring himself
to communicate to her. 'Hester,' he said, as he slowly walked round the
sweep in front of the house, 'Hester,' he said, 'you would do your duty
best to God and man,--best to John Caldigate and to your child,--by
'How can I unless he tells me?'
'You have your father's authority.'
'You surrendered it when you gave me to him as his wife. It is not that
I would rebel against you, papa, but that I must obey him. Does not St.
Paul say, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the
'Certainly; and you cannot suppose that in any ordinary case I would
interfere between you and him. It is not that I am anxious to take
anything from him that belongs to him.' Then, as they were approaching
the gate, he stood still. 'But now, in such an emergency as this, when a
question has risen as to his power of making you his wife----'
'I will not hear of that. I am his wife.'
'Then it may become my duty and your mother's to--to--to provide you
with a home till the law shall have decided.'
'I cannot leave his home unless he bids me.'
'I am telling you of my duty--of my duty and your mother's.' Then he
passed out through the gate, thus having saved his conscience from the
shame of a false farewell; and she slowly made her way back to the
house, after standing for a moment to look after him as he went. She was
almost sure now that something was intended. He would not have spoken in
that way of his duty unless he had meant her to suppose that he intended
to perform it. 'My duty,' he had said, 'my duty and your mother's!' Of
course something was intended, something was to be done or said more
than had been done or said already. During the breakfast she had seen in
the curves of her mother's mouth the signs of some resolute purpose.
During the very prayers she had heard in her mother's voice a sound as
of a settled determination She knew,--she knew that something was to be
done, and with that knowledge she went back into her mother's room, and
sat herself down firmly and squarely at the table. She had left her cup
partly full, and began again to drink her tea. 'What did your papa say
to you?' asked her mother.
'Papa bade me stay here, but I told him that most certainly I should go
home to Folking.' Then Mrs. Bolton also became aware of fixed will and
resolute purpose on her daughter's part.
'Does his word go for nothing?'
'How can two persons' words go for anything when obedience is
concerned? It is like God and Mammon.'
'If two people tell one differently, it must be right to cling to one
and leave the other. No man can serve two masters. I have got to obey my
husband. Even were I to say that I would stay, he could come and take me
'He could not do that.'
'I shall not be so disobedient as to make it necessary The carriage will
be here at twelve, and I shall go. I had better go and help nurse to put
the things up.' So saying she left the room, but Mrs. Bolton remained
there a while, sitting square and firm at the table.
It was not yet ten when she slowly followed her daughter up-stairs. She
first went into her own room for a moment, to collect her thoughts over
again, and then she walked across the passage to her daughter's chamber.
She knocked at the door, but entered as she knocked. 'Nurse,' she said,
'will you go into my room for a minute or two? I wish to speak to your
mistress. May she take the baby, Hester?' The baby was taken, and then
the two were alone. 'Do not pack up your things to-day, Hester.'
'You are not going to-day.'
'I am going to-day, mamma.'
'That I should seem to be cruel to you,--only seem,--cuts me to the
heart. But you cannot go back to Folking to-day.'
'When am I to go?'
'Tell me what you mean, mamma. Is it that I am to be a prisoner?'
'If you would be gentle I would explain it.'
'I will not be gentle. You mean to keep me,--by violence; but I mean to
go; my husband will come. I will not be kept. Oh, mamma, you would not
desire me to quarrel with you openly, before the servants, before all
the world! I will not be kept. I will certainly go back to Folking.
Would I not go back though I had to get through the windows, to walk the
whole way, to call upon the policemen even to help me?'
'No one will help you, Hester. Every one will know that for the present
this should be your home.'
'It never shall be my home again,' said Hester, bursting into tears, and
rushing after her baby.
Then there were two hours of intense misery in that house,--of misery to
all who were concerned. The servants, down to the girl in the scullery
and the boy who cleaned the boots, were made aware that master and
mistress were both determined to keep their married daughter a prisoner
in the house. The servants of the house sided with their mistress
generally, having all of them been induced to regard John Caldigate with
horror. Hester's nurse, of course, sympathised with her and her baby.
During these two hours the packing was completed, but Hester found that
her strong walking-boots and her bonnet had been abstracted. Did they
really think that at such a time as this boots and bonnets would be
anything to her? They could know nothing of her nature. They could not
understand the sort of combat she would carry on if an attempt were made
to take from her her liberty,--an attempt made by those who had by law
no right to control her! When once she had learned what was being done
she would not condescend to leave her room till the carriage should have
come. That that would come punctually at twelve she was sure. Then she
would go down without her bonnet and without her boots, and see whether
any one would dare to stand in her way, as with her baby in her arms she
would attempt to walk forth through the front door.
But it had not occurred to her that other steps might be taken. Just
before twelve the gardener stationed himself on the road before the
house,--a road which was half lane and half street, belonging to the
suburban village of Chesterton,--and there awaited the carriage at a
spot some yards away from the gate. It was well that he was early,
because Richard was there a few minutes before the time appointed. 'She
ain't a-going back to-day,' said the gardener, laying his hands gently
on the horse's back.
'Who ain't not a-going back?' asked the coachman.
'Miss Hester ain't.'
'Mrs. John ain't a-going home?'
'No;--I was to come out and tell you, as master don't like wheels on the
gravel if it can be helped. We ain't got none of our own.'
'Missus ain't a-going home? Why, master expects her for certain!'
'I was to say she ain't a-going to-day.'
The man who was driving passed the reins into his whip-hand, and raising
his hat, began to scratch his head with the other. He knew at once that
there was something wrong,--that this prolonged staying away from home
was not merely a pleasantly lengthened visit. His master had been very
urgent with him as to punctuality, and was evidently intent upon the
return of his wife. All the facts of the accusation were known to the
man, and the fact also that his master's present wife was entirely in
accord with his master. It could not be that she should have determined
to prolong her visit, and then have sent him back to her husband with
such a message as this! 'If you'll hold the hosses just a minute,' he
said, 'I'll go in and see my missus.'
But the Grange gardener was quite as intent on his side of the question
as was the Folking coachman on the other. To him the horrors of bigamy
were manifest. He was quite of opinion that 'Miss Hester,'--who never
ought to have been married in that way at all,--should now be kept a
prisoner in her father's house. 'It ain't no use your going in,--and you
can't,' said the gardener. 'I ain't a-going to hold the horses, and
there's nobody as will.'
'What's up, mate?'
'I don't know as I'm mate to you, nor yet to no one like you. And as to
what's up, I've told you all as I'm bade to tell you; and I ain't
a-going to tell you no more. You can't turn your horses there You'd
better drive round into the village, and there you'll get the high-road
back to Cambridge.' Then the gardener retreated within a little gate of
his own which led from the lane into the precincts close to his own
cottage. The man was an honest, loyal old fanatic, who would scruple at
nothing in carrying out the orders of his mistress in so good a cause.
And personally his feelings had been acerbated in that he had been
called 'mate' by a man not half his age.
The coachman did as he was bid, seeing before him no other possible
course. He could not leave his horses. But when he was in front of the
iron gates he stopped and examined the premises. The gates were old, and
were opened and closed at ordinary times by an ordinary ancient lock.
But now there was a chain passed in and out with a padlock,--evidently
placed there to prevent him from entering in opposition to the
gardener's instructions. There was clearly no course open to him but to
drive the carriage back to his master.
At a quarter before twelve Hester left her own room,--which looked
backwards into the garden, as did all the pleasanter rooms of the
house,--with the intention of seating herself in a spare room looking
out to the front, from which she could have seen the carriage as it
entered the gate. Had she so seen it she would certainly have called to
the man from the window when he was standing in the road. But the door
of that front room was locked against her; and when she tried the other
she found that all the front rooms were locked. She knew the house, of
course, as well as did her mother, and she rushed up to the attics where
the servants occupied the rooms looking out to the road. But they, too,
were locked against her. Then it flashed upon her that the attempt to
make her a prisoner was to be carried out through every possible detail.
What should she do? Her husband would come of course; but what if he
were unable to force an entrance? And how could he force it? Would the
police help him? Would the magistrates help him? She knew that the law
was on her side, and on his,--that the law would declare him to be her
lord and owner till the law should have separated them. But would the
law allow itself to be used readily for this purpose? She, too, could
understand that the feeling of the community would be against her, and
that in such a case the law might allow itself to become slow,
lethargic, and perhaps inoperative, yielding to the popular feeling. She
saw the points which were strong against her as clearly as William and
Robert Bolton had seen those which were strong on their side. But----!
As she stood there beating her foot angrily on the floor of the passage,
she made up her mind that there should be more than one 'but' in his
favour. If they kept her, they should have to lock her up as in a
dungeon; they and all the neighbourhood should hear her voice. They
should be driven to do such things that the feeling of the community
would be no longer on their side.
Various ideas passed through her mind. She thought for a moment that she
would refuse to take any nourishment in that house. Her mother would
surely not see her die; and would thus have to see her die or else send
her forth to be fed. But that thought stayed with her but for a moment.
It was not only for herself that she must eat and drink, but for her
baby. Then, finding that she could not get to the front windows, and
seeing that the time had come in which the carriage should have been
there, she went down into the hall, where she found her mother seated on
a high-backed old oak armchair. The windows of the hall looked out on to
the sweep before the house; but she was well aware that from these lower
windows the plot of shrubs in the centre of the space hindered any view
of the gate. Without speaking to her mother she put her hand upon the
lock of the door as though to walk forth, but found it barred. 'Am I a
prisoner?' she said.
'Yes, Hester; yes. If you will use such a word as to your father's
house, you are a prisoner.'
'I will not remain so. You will have to chain me, and to gag me, and to
kill me. Oh, my baby,--oh, my child! Nurse, nurse, bring me my boy.'
Then with her baby in her arms, she sat down in another high-backed oak
armchair, looking at the hall-door. There she would sit till her husband
should come. He surely would come. He would make his way up to those
windows, and there she could at any rate hear his commands. If he came
for her, surely she would be able to escape.
The coachman drove back to the town very quickly, and went to the inn at
which his horses were generally put up, thinking it better to go to his
master thence on foot. But there he found John Caldigate, who had come
across from Mr. Seely's office. 'Where is Mrs. Caldigate?' he said, as
the man drove the empty carriage down the entrance to the yard. The man,
touching his hat, and with a motion of his hand which was intended to
check his master's impetuosity, drove on; and then, when he had freed
himself from the charge of his horses, told his story with many
'The gardener said she wasn't to come!'
'Just that, sir. There's something up more than you think, sir; there is
indeed. He was that fractious that he wouldn't hold the hosses for me,
not for a minute, till I could go in and see, and then------'
'The gates was chained, sir.'
'A chain was round the bars, and a padlock. I never see such a thing on
a gentleman's gate in my life before. Chained; as nobody wasn't to go
in, nor yet nobody wasn't to come out!' The man as he said this wore
that air of dignity which is always imparted by the possession of great
tidings the truth of which will certainly not be doubted.
The tidings were great. The very thing which his father had suggested,
and which he had declared to be impossible, was being done. The old
banker himself would not, he thought, have dared to propose and carry
out such a project. The whole Bolton family had conspired together to
keep his wife from him, and had allured her away by the false promise of
a friendly visit! He knew, too, that the law was on his side; but he
knew also that he might find it very difficult to make use of the law.
If the world of Cambridge chose to think that Hester was not his wife,
the world of Cambridge would probably support the Boltons by their
opinion. But if she, if his Hester, were true to him, and she certainly
would be true to him--and if she were as courageous as he believed her
to be,--then, as he thought, no house in Chesterton would be able to
He stood for a moment turning in his mind what he had better do. Then he
gave his orders to the man in a clear natural voice. 'Take the horses
out, Richard, and feed them. You had better get your dinner here, so
that I may be sure to find you here the moment I want you.
'I won't stir a step from the place,' said the man.
What should he do? John Caldigate, as he walked out of the inn-yard, had
to decide for himself what he would do at once. His first impulse was to
go to the mayor and ask for assistance. He had a right to the custody of
his wife. Her father had no right to make her a prisoner. She was
entitled to go whither she pleased, so long as she had his sanction and
should she be separated from him by the action of the law, she would be
entitled to go whither she pleased without sanction from any one.
Whether married or unmarried she was not subject to her father. The
husband was sure that he was entitled to the assistance of the police,
but he doubted much whether he would be able to get it, and he was most
averse to ask for it.
And yet what other step could he take? With no purpose as yet quite
fixed, he went to the bank, thinking that he might best commence his
work by expostulating with his wife's father. It was Mr. Bolton's habit
to walk every morning into the town, unless he was deterred by heat or
wet or ill health; and till lately it had been his habit also to walk
back, his house being a mile and a half distant from the bank; but
latterly the double walk had become too much for him, and, when the time
for his return came, he would send out for a cab to take him home. His
hours were very various. He would generally lunch at the bank, in his
own little dingy room; but if things went badly with him, so as to
disturb his mind, he would go back early in the day, and generally pass
the afternoon asleep. On this occasion he was very much troubled, so
that when Caldigate reached the bank, which he did before one, Mr.
Bolton was already getting into his cab. 'Could I speak a few words to
you, sir?' said Caldigate in the street.
'I am not very well to-day,' said the banker, hardly looking round,
persevering in his effort to get into the vehicle.
'I would not keep you for a minute, sir. I must see you, as you are
There were already half-a-dozen people collected, all of whom had no
doubt heard the story of John Caldigate's wife. There was, indeed, no
man or woman in Cambridge whose ears it had not reached. In the hearing
of these Mr. Bolton was determined not to speak of his daughter, and he
was equally determined not to go back into the house. 'I have nothing to
say,' he muttered--'nothing, nothing; drive on.' So the cab was driven
on, and John Caldigate was left in the street.
The man's anger now produced a fixed purpose, and with a quick step he
walked away from the bank to Robert Bolton's office. There he soon found
himself in the attorney's room. 'Are you aware of what they are doing at
the Grange?' he asked, in a voice which was not so guarded as it should
have been on such an occasion. Anger and the quickness of his walk had
combined to make him short of breath, and he asked the question with
that flurried, hasty manner which is common to angry people who are hot
rather than malicious in their angers.
'I don't think I am,' said the attorney. 'But if I were, I doubt whether
I should just at present be willing to discuss their doings with you.'
'My wife has gone there on a visit.'
'I am glad to hear it. It is the best thing that my sister could do.'
'And now it seems some difficulty is made about her returning.'
That I think very likely. Her father and mother can hardly wish that she
should go back to your house at present. I cannot imagine that she
should wish it herself. If you have the feelings of a gentleman or the
heart of a man you ought not to wish it.'
'I have not come here to be taught what is becoming either to a man or a
'If you will allow me to say so, while things are as they are at
present, you ought not to come here at all.'
'I should not have done so but for this violence, this breach of all
hospitality at your father's house! My wife went there with the
understanding that she was to stay for two days.'
'And now, you say, they detain her. I am not responsible; but in doing
so they have my thorough sympathy and approbation. I do not know that I
can help them, or that they will want my help; but I shall help them if
I can. The fact is, you had better leave her there.'
'I should not have volunteered my advice, but, as you are here, I may
perhaps say a word. If you attempt to take her by violence from her
father's house you will have all the town, all the county, all England
'I should;--I own it;----unless she wished to come to me. If she
chooses to stay, she shall stay.'
'It must not be left to her. If she be so infatuated, she must not be
allowed to judge for herself. Till this trial be over, she and you must
live apart. Then, if that woman does not make good her claim,--if you
can prove that the woman is lying,--then you will have back your wife.
But if, as everybody I find believes at present, it should be proved
that you are the husband of that woman, and that you have basely
betrayed my poor sister by a mock marriage, then she must be left to the
care of her father and her mother, and may Heaven help her in her
misery.' All this he said with much dignity, and in a manner with which
even Caldigate could not take personal offence. 'You must remember,' he
added, 'that this poor injured one is their daughter and my sister.'
'I say that she has been in no wise injured but,--as I also am
injured,--by a wicked plot. And I say that she shall come back to me,
unless she herself elects to remain with her parents.' Then he left the
office and went forth again into the streets.
He now took at once the road to Chesterton, trying as he did so to make
for himself in his own mind a plan or map of the premises. It would, he
thought, be impossible but that his wife would be able to get out of the
house and come to him if he could only make her aware of his presence.
But then there was the baby, and it would be necessary not only that she
should escape herself but that she should bring her child with her.
Would they attempt to hold her? Could it be that they should have
already locked her up in some room up-stairs? And if she did escape out
of some window, even with her baby in her arms, how would it be with
them then as they made their way back into the town? Thinking of this he
hurried back to the inn and told Richard to take the carriage into
Chesterton and wait there at the turn of the lane, where the lane leads
down from the main road to the Grange. He was to wait there, though it
might be all the day, till he heard from or saw his master. The man, who
was quite as keen for his master as was the old gardener for his
mistress on the other side, promised accurate obedience. Then he
retraced his steps and walked as fast as he could to the Grange.
During all this time the mother and the daughter kept their weary seats
in the hall, Hester having her baby in her arms. She had quite
determined that nothing should induce her again to go up-stairs,--lest
the key of the room should be turned upon her. For a long time they sat
in silence, and then she declared her purpose.
'I shall remain here, mamma.'
'If so, I must remain too.'
'I shall not go up to my bedroom again, you may be sure of that.'
'You will go up to-night, I hope.'
'Certainly not. Nurse shall take baby up to his cradle. I do not suppose
you will be cruel enough to separate me from my child.'
'Cruel! Do you not know that I would do anything for you or your
child,--that I would die for you or your child?'
'I suppose you will let them bring me food here. You would not wish him
to be starved.'
'Well; what would you have me say? Are you not my jailer?'
'I am your mother. According to my conscience I am acting for you as
best I know how. Do you not know that I mean to be good to you?'
'I know you are not good to me. Nobody can be good who tries to separate
me from my husband. I shall remain here till he comes and tells me how I
am to be taken away.' Then Mr. Bolton returned, and made his way into
the house with the assistance of the gardener through the kitchen. He
found the two women sitting in the hall, each in the high-backed
arm-chair, and his daughter with her baby in her arms,--a most piteous
sight, the two of them thus together. 'Papa,' she said, as he came up
into the hall from the kitchen, 'you are treating me badly, cruelly,
unjustly. You have no right to keep me here against my will. I am my
husband's wife, and I must go to my husband.'
'It is for the best, Hester.'
'What is wrong cannot be for the best. Do you suppose that he will let
me be kept here in prison? Of course he will come. Why do you not let me
'It is right that you should be here, Hester,' he said, as he passed
up-stairs to his own bedroom. It was a terrible job of work for which he
had no strength whatever himself, and as to which he was beginning to
doubt whether even his wife's strength would suffice. As for her, as for
Hester, perhaps it would be well that she should be wearied and broken
into submission. But it was fearful to think that his wife should have
to sit there the whole day saying nothing, doing nothing, merely
watching lest her daughter should attempt to escape through some window.
'It will kill your father, I think,' said the mother.
'Why does he not let me go then? I have to think of my husband and my
child.' Then again there was silence. When they had been seated thus for
two hours, all the words that had been spoken between them had not
spread themselves over ten minutes, and Mrs. Bolton was looking forward
to hour after hour of the same kind. It did not seem to her to be
possible that Hester should be forced up into her own room. Even she,
with all her hardihood, could not ask the men about the place to take
her in their arms and carry her with violence up the stairs. Nor would
the men have done it, if so required. Nothing but a policeman's garb
will seem to justify the laying of a hand upon a woman, and even that
will hardly do it unless the woman be odiously disreputable. Mrs. Bolton
saw clearly what was before her. Should Hester be strong in her purpose
to remain seated as at present, she also must remain seated. Weariness
and solicitude for her baby might perhaps drive the young mother to bed.
Then she also would go to her bed,--and would rest, with one eye ever
open, with her ears always on the alert. She was somewhat sure of
herself. Her life had not been so soft but that she could endure
much,--and of her purpose she was quite sure. Nothing would trouble her
conscience if she could succeed in keeping her daughter separated from
Caldigate in his hot haste walked up to the iron gates and found them
chained. It was in vain that he shook them, and in vain that he looked
at them. The gates were fully twelve feet high, and spiked at the top.
At each side of the gates ran a wall surmounted by iron
railings,--extending to the gardener's cottage on the one side, and to
the coach-house on the other. The drive up to the house, which swept
round a plot of thick shrubs, lay between the various offices,--the
stables and coach-house being on one side, and the laundry and
gardener's cottage on the other. From the road there was no mode of
ingress for him to this enclosure, unless he could get over the
railings. This might perhaps have been possible, but it would have been
quite impossible for him to bring his wife back by the same way. There
was a bell at the gardener's little gate, which he rang loudly; but no
one would come to him. At last he made his way round into the
kitchen-garden by a corner where access was made by climbing a
moderately high gate which gave an entrance to the fields. From thence
he had no difficulty in making his way on to the lawn at the back of the
house, and up by half-a-dozen stone steps to the terrace which ran along
under the windows. Here he found that the lower shutters were barred on
the inside throughout so that he could not look into any of the rooms.
But he could rap at the windows, which he did loudly, and it was in his
power to break them if he pleased. He rapped very loudly; but poor
Hester, who sat at the front hall, heard nothing of the noise.
He knew that from the back-garden he could make his way to the front,
with more or less of violence. Between the gardener's cottage and the
laundry there was a covered passage leading to the front, the buildings
above being continuous, but leaving a way through for the convenience of
the servants. This, however, was guarded by a trellis-work gate. But
even on this gate the gardener had managed to fix a lock. When Caldigate
reached the spot the man was standing, idle and observant, at his own
cottage door. 'You had better open this gate,' said Caldigate, 'or I
shall kick it open.'
'You mustn't do that, Mr. Caldigate. It's master's orders as it's to be
locked. It's master's orders as you ain't to be in here at all.' Then
Caldigate raised his foot, and the trellis-work gate was very soon
despatched. 'Very well,' said the man;--'very well, Mr. Caldigate.
That'll have to come agin you when the other things come. It's my belief
as it's burglorious.' Then Caldigate went up before the house windows,
and the gardener followed him.
The front door was approached by half-a-dozen stone steps, which were
guarded on each side by a curved iron rail. Along the whole front of the
house, passing under the steps, there ran a narrow, shallow area,
contrived simply to give light to the kitchen and offices in the
basement storey. But this area was, again, guarded by an iron rail,
which was so constructed as to make it impossible that any one less
expert than a practised house-breaker should get in or out of any of the
windows looking that way. From the hall there were no less than four
windows looking to the front; but they were all equally unapproachable.
The moment that Caldigate appeared coming round the curve of the gravel
road Hester saw him. Jumping up from her chair with her baby, she rushed
to the window, and called to him aloud, tapping at the window as she did
so, 'John, I am here! Come to me! come to me! Take me out! They have
shut me in, and will not let me come to you.' Then she held up the baby.
'Mamma, let him in, so that he come to his own baby. You dare not keep
the father away from his own child.' At this time the nurse was in the
hall, as was also the cook. But the front door was locked as well as
chained, and the key was in Mrs. Bolton's own pocket. She sat perfectly
silent, rigid, without a motion. She had known that he would come and
show himself; and she had determined that she would be rigid, silent,
and motionless. She would not move or speak unless Hester should
endeavour to make her way down into the kitchen. But just in the passage
which led to the top of the kitchen stairs stood the cook,--strong,
solid, almost twice the weight of Hester,--a pious, determined woman, on
whom her mistress could depend that she would remain there impervious.
They could talk to each other now, Hester and Caldigate, each explaining
or suggesting what had been done or should be done; but they could
converse only so that their enemies around them should hear every word
that was spoken. 'No, John, no; I will not stay,' she said, when her
husband told her that he would leave the decision to her. 'Unless it be
to do your bidding, I will not stay here willingly. And, John, I will
not move upstairs. I will remain here; and if they choose to give me
food they may bring it to me. Unless they carry me I will not go to my
bedroom. And they shall tear me to pieces before I will let them carry
me. Poor baby! poor baby! I know he will be ill,' she said, moaning, but
still so that he, standing beyond the railings, should hear her through
the window. 'I know he will be ill; but what can I do? They do not care
for my baby. If he should die it will be nothing to them.' During all
this Mrs. Bolton kept her resolve, and sat there rigid, with her eyes
fixed on vacancy, speaking no word, apparently paying no attention to
the scene around her. Her back was turned to the front door, so that she
could not see John Caldigate. Nor would she attempt to look at him. He
could not get in, nor could the other get out. If that were so she would
endeavour to bear it all. In the meantime the old man was sitting in his
arm-chair up in his bedroom, reduced almost to inanity of mind by the
horror of the occasion. When he could think of it all he would tell
himself that he must let her go. He could not keep the mother and her
baby a prisoner in such a condition as this.
Then there came dinner. Let misfortunes be what they may, dinner will
come. The old man crawled down-stairs, and Hester was invited into the
dining-room. 'No,' she said. 'If you choose to send it to me here,
because of baby, I will eat.' Then, neither would Mrs. Bolton go to her
husband; but both of them, seated in their high-backed arm-chairs, ate
their food with their plates upon their laps.
During this time Caldigate still remained outside, but in vain. As
circumstances were at present, he had no means of approaching his wife.
He could kick down a slight trellis-work gate; but he could bring no
adequate force to bear against the stout front door. At last, when the
dusk of evening came on he took his departure, assuring his wife that he
would be there again on the following morning.
During the whole of that night Hester kept her position in the hall,
holding her baby in her arms as long as the infant would sleep in that
position, and then allowing the nurse to take it to its cradle
up-stairs. And during the whole night also Mrs. Bolton remained with her
daughter. Tea was brought to them, which each of them took, and after
that neither spoke a word to the other till the morning. Before he went
to bed, Mr. Bolton came down and made an effort for their joint comfort.
'Hester,' he said, 'why should you not go to your room? You can do
yourself no good by remaining there.' 'No,' she said, sullenly; 'no; I
will stay.' 'You will only make yourself ill,--you and your mother.'
'She can go. Though I should die, I will stay here.'
Nor could he succeed better with his wife. 'If she is obstinate, so must
I be,' said Mrs. Bolton. It was in vain that he endeavoured to prove to
her that there could be no reason for such obstinacy, that her daughter
would not attempt to escape during the hours of the night without her
'You would not do that,' said the old man, turning to his daughter. But
to this Hester would make no reply, and Mrs. Bolton simply declared her
purpose of remaining. To her mind there was present an idea that she
would, at any rate, endure as much actual suffering as her daughter.
There they both sat, and in the morning they were objects pitiable to be
Macbeth and Sancho have been equally eloquent in the praise of sleep.
'Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care!' But sleep will knit
up effectually no broken stitches unless it be enjoyed in bed. Blessings
on him who invented sleep,' said Sancho. But the great inventor was he
who discovered mattresses and sheets and blankets. These two
unfortunates no doubt slept; but in the morning they were weary,
comfortless, and exhausted. Towels and basins were brought to them, and
then they prepared themselves to watch through another day. It seemed to
be a trial between them, which could outwatch the other. The mother was,
of course, much the older; but with poor Hester there was the baby to
add to her troubles. Never was there a woman more determined to carry
out her purpose than Mrs. Bolton, or one more determined to thwart the
purpose of another than she who still called herself Hester Caldigate.
In the morning Mrs. Bolton implored her husband to go into Cambridge as
usual; but he felt that he could not leave the house with such inmates.
So he sat in his bedroom dozing wretchedly in his arm-chair.
Caldigate appeared before the house at nine o'clock, no further attempt
having been made to exclude his entrance by the side gate, and asked to
see Mr. Bolton. 'Papa is up-stairs,' said Hester through the window. But
the old man would not come down to see his visitor, nor would he send
any message. Then Caldigate declared his purpose of going at once to the
mayor and demanding assistance from the police. He at any rate would
return with the carriage as early as he could after his visit to the
magistrates' office. He went to the mayor, and inflicted much trouble on
that excellent officer, who, however, at last, with the assistance of
his clerk,--and of Robert Bolton, whom he saw on the sly,--came to the
decision that his own authority would not suffice for the breaking open
of a man's house in order that his married daughter should be taken by
violence from his custody. 'No doubt,' he said; 'no doubt,' when
Caldigate pleaded that Mr. Bolton's daughter was, at any rate for the
present, his own wife; and that a man's right to have his wife is
undoubted. Those words 'no doubt' were said very often; but no other
words were said. Then the clerk expressed an opinion that the proper
course would be for Mr. Caldigate to go up to London and get an order
from the Vice-Chancellor; which was, of course, tantamount to saying
that his wife was to remain at Chesterton till after the trial,--unless
she could effect her own escape.
But not on that account was he inclined to yield. He had felt from the
first, as had she also, that she would make her way out of the house, or
would not make it, as she might or might not have the courage to be
persistent in demanding it. This, indeed, had been felt both by William
and Robert Bolton when they had given their counsel. 'She is a woman
with a baby, and when in your house will be subject to your influences.
She will be very angry at first, but will probably yield after a time to
your instructions. She will at last give an unwilling assent to the
course you propose. That is what may be expected. But if she should be
firmer than we think, if there should be in her bosom a greater power of
resistance than we expect, should she dash herself too violently against
the cage,--then you must let her go.' That was intended to be the gist
of the advice given, though it perhaps was not so accurately expressed.
It was in that way understood by the old man; but Mrs. Bolton would not
so understand it. She had taken the matter in hand, and as she pressed
her lips together she told herself that she intended to go through with
And so did Hester. But as this day went on, Hester became at times
almost hysterical in her efforts to communicate with her husband through
the window, holding up her baby and throwing back her head, and was
almost in convulsions in her efforts to get at him. He on the other side
thundered at the door with the knocker, till that instrument had been
unscrewed from within. But still he could knock with his stick and shout
with his voice; while the people outside the iron gates stood looking on
in a crowd. In the course of the day Robert Bolton endeavoured to get an
order from the magistrates for the removal of Caldigate by the police.
But the mayor would not assent either to that. Old Mr. Bolton was the
owner of the house, and if there was a nuisance to be complained of, it
was he that must complain. The mayor during these days was much tried.
The steady married people of the borough,--the shopkeepers and their
wives, the doctors and lawyers and clergymen in favour of Mr. and Mrs.
Bolton. It was held to be fitting that a poor lady in Hester's
unfortunate position should be consigned to the care of her parents till
the matter had been settled. But the people generally sympathised with
the young husband and young wife, and were loud in denouncing the
illegality of the banker's proceedings. And it was already rumoured that
among the undergraduates Caldigate's side was favoured. It was generally
known that Crinkett and the woman had asked for money before they had
brought their accusation and on that account sympathy ran with the
Squire of Folking. The mayor, therefore, did not dare to give an order
that Caldigate should be removed from off the premises at Puritan
Grange, knowing that he was there in search of a wife who was only
anxious to place herself in his custody.
But nothing was done all that day. About four in the afternoon, while
Caldigate was still there, and at a moment in which poor Hester had been
reduced by the continuance of her efforts to a state of hysterical
prostration, the old man summoned his wife upstairs. She, with a motion
to the cook, who still guarded the stairs, obeyed the order, and for a
moment left her watch.
'You must let her go,' said the old man, with tremulous anxiety, beating
with his fingers on his knees as he spoke. 'You must let her go.'
'It will kill her.'
'If I let her go, I shall kill her soul,' said the determined woman. 'Is
not her soul more than her body?'
'They will say we--murdered her.'
'Who will say it? And what would that be but the breath of a man? Does
not our Father who is in heaven know that I would die to do her a
service, if the service accorded with His will? Does He not know that I
am cruel to her here in order that she may be saved from eternal----'
She was going to say, in the natural fervour of her speech, 'from
eternal cruelty to come,' but she checked herself. To have admitted that
such a judgment could be worse than just, worse even than merciful,
would be blasphemy to her. 'Oh, He knows! He knows! And if He knows,
what matters what men say that I have done to her.'
'I cannot have it go on like this,' said he, still whispering.
'She will be wearied out, and then we will take her to her bed.'
But Mr. Bolton succeeded in demanding that a telegram should be sent up
to William requesting him to come down to the Grange as early as
possible on the following morning. This was sent, and also a message to
Robert Bolton in Cambridge, telling him that William had been summoned.
During these two days he had not been seen at the Grange, though he knew
much of what was being done there. Had he, however, been aware of all
that his sister and step-mother were enduring, he would probably have
appeared upon the scene. As it was, he had justified his absence by
pleading to himself Mrs. Bolton's personal enmity, and the understanding
which existed that he should not visit the house. Then, when it was
dark, Caldigate with the carriage again returned to the town, where he
slept as he had done on the previous night. Again their food was brought
to the two women in the hall, and again each of them swallowed a cup of
tea as they prepared themselves for the work of the night.
In the hall there was a gas-stove, which was kept burning, and gave a
faint glimmer, so that each could see the outline of the other. Light
beyond that there was none. In the weary long hours of nights such as
these, nights passed on the seats of railway carriages, or rougher
nights, such as some of us remember, on the outside of coaches, or
sitting by the side of the sick, sleep will come early and will early
go. The weariness of the past day will produce some forgetfulness for an
hour or two, and then come the slow, cold, sad hours through which the
dawn has to be expected. Between two and three these unfortunates were
both awake, the poor baby having been but lately carried back from its
mother to its cradle. Then suddenly Mrs. Bolton heard rather than saw
her daughter slip down from her chair on to the ground and stretch
herself along upon the hard floor. 'Hester,' she said; but Hester did
not answer. 'Hester, are you hurt?' When there was still no answer, the
mother got up, with limbs so stiff that she could hardly use them, and
stood over her child. 'Hester, speak to me.'
'I will never speak to you more,' said the daughter.
'My child, why will you not go to your comfortable wholesome bed?'
'I will not go; I will die here.'
'The door shall not be locked. You shall have the key with you. I will
do nothing to hurt you if you will go to your bed.'
'I will not go; leave me alone. You cannot love me, mamma, or you would
not treat me like this.'
'Love you! Oh, my child! If you knew! If you could understand! Why am I
doing this? Is it not because I feel it to be my duty? Will you let me
take you to your bed?'
'No, never. I, too, can do my duty,--my duty to my husband. It is to
remain here till I can get to him, even though I should die.' Then she
turned her poor limbs on the hard floor, and the mother covered her with
a cloak and placed a cushion beneath her head. Then, after standing a
while over her child, she returned to her chair, and did not move or
speak again till the old cook came, with the first glimmer of the
morning, to inquire how the night had been passed.
'I cannot allow this; I cannot allow this,' said Mr. Bolton, when he
shuffled down in his slippers. The old servant had been up to him and
had warned him that such sufferings as these might have a tragic
end,--too probably an end fatal to the infant. If the mother's strength
should altogether fail her, would it not go badly with the baby? So the
cook had argued, who had been stern enough herself, anxious enough to
secure 'Miss Hester' from the wickedness of John Caldigate. But she was
now cowed and frightened, and had acknowledged to herself that if 'Miss
Hester' would not give way, then she must be allowed to go forth, let
the wickedness be what it might.
'There must be an end to this,' said the old man.
'What end?' asked his wife. 'Let her obey her parents.'
'I will obey only my husband,' said Hester.
'Of course there must be an end. Let her go to her bed, and, weary as I
am, I will wait upon her as only a mother can wait upon her child. Have
I not prayed for her through the watches of the night, that she might be
delivered from this calamity, that she might be comforted by Him in her
sorrow? What have I done these two last weary days but pray to the Lord
God that He might be merciful to her?'
'Let me go,' said Hester.
'I will not let you go,' said the mother, rising from her seat. 'I too
can suffer. I too can endure. I will not be conquered by my own child.'
There spoke the human being. That was the utterance natural to the
woman. 'In this struggle, hard as it is, I will not be beat by one who
has been subject to my authority.' In all those prayers,--and she had
prayed,--there had been the prayer in her heart, if not in her words,
that she might be saved from the humiliation of yielding.
Early in the day Caldigate was again in front of the house, and outside
there was a close carriage with a pair of horses, standing at the
gardener's little gate. And at the front gate, which was still chained,
there was again the crowd. At about one both William and Robert Bolton
came upon the scene, and were admitted by the gardener and cook through
the kitchen-door into the house. They were close to Caldigate as they
entered; neither did they speak to him or he to them. At that moment
Hester was standing with the baby at the window, and saw them. 'Now I
shall be allowed to go,' she exclaimed. Mrs. Bolton was still seated
with her back to the windows; but she had heard the steps on the gravel,
and the opening of the kitchen-door; and she understood Hester's words,
and was aware that her husband's sons were in the house.
They had agreed as to what should be done, and at once made their way up
into the hall. 'William, you will make them let me go. You will make
them let me go,' said Hester, rushing at once to the elder of the two,
and holding out her baby as though for him to take. She was now in a
state so excited, so nervous, so nearly hysterical, that she was hardly
able to control herself. 'You will not let them kill me, William,--me
and my baby.' He kissed her and said a kind word or two, and then,
Back to Full Books