Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
Part 8 out of 9
sweetness of nature; part of the patience with which she
"accepted her penance." Her true instincts told her that it was
not right to disturb others with many expressions of her remorse;
that the holiest repentance consisted in a quiet and daily
sacrifice. Still there were times when she wearied pitifully of
her inaction. She was so willing to serve and work, and every one
despised her services. Her mind, as I have said before, had been
well cultivated during these last few years; so now she used all
the knowledge she had gained in teaching Leonard, which was an
employment that Mr. Benson relinquished willingly, because he
felt that it would give her some of the occupation that she
needed. She endeavoured to make herself useful in the house in
every way she could; but the waters of house-keeping had closed
over her place during the time of her absence at Mr.
Bradshaw's--and, besides, now that they were trying to restrict
every unnecessary expense, it was sometimes difficult to find
work for three women. Many and many a time Ruth turned over in
her mind every possible chance of obtaining employment for her
leisure hours, and nowhere could she find it. Now and then Sally,
who was her confidante in this wish, procured her some
needlework, but it was of a coarse and common kind, soon done,
lightly paid for. But, whatever it was, Ruth took it, and was
thankful, although it added but a few pence to the household
purse. I do not mean that there was any great need of money; but
a new adjustment of expenditure was required--a reduction of
wants which had never been very extravagant.
Ruth's salary of forty pounds was gone, while more of her "keep,"
as Sally called it, was thrown upon the Bensons. Mr. Benson
received about eighty pounds a year for his salary as minister.
Of this, he knew that twenty pounds came from Mr. Bradshaw; and,
when the old man appointed to collect the pew-rents brought him
the quarterly amount, and he found no diminution in them, he
inquired how it was, and learnt that, although Mr. Bradshaw had
expressed to the collector his determination never to come to
chapel again, he had added, that of course his pew-rent should be
paid all the same. But this Mr. Benson could not suffer; and the
old man was commissioned to return the money to Mr. Bradshaw, as
being what his deserted minister could not receive.
Mr. and Miss Benson had about thirty or forty pounds coming in
annually from a sum which, in happier days, Mr. Bradshaw had
invested in Canal shares for them. Altogether their income did
not fall much short of a hundred a year, and they lived in the
Chapel-house free of rent. So Ruth's small earnings were but very
little in actual hard commercial account, though in another sense
they were much; and Miss Benson always received them with quiet
simplicity. By degrees, Mr. Benson absorbed some of Ruth's time
in a gracious and natural way. He employed her mind in all the
kind offices he was accustomed to render to the poor around him.
And as much of the peace and ornament of life as they gained now
was gained on a firm basis of truth. If Ruth began low down to
find her place in the world, at any rate there was no flaw in the
Leonard was still their great anxiety. At times the question
seemed to be, could he live through all this trial of the
elasticity of childhood? And then they knew how precious a
blessing--how true a pillar of fire, he was to his mother; and
how black the night, and how dreary the wilderness would be, when
he was not. The child and the mother were each messengers of
God--angels to each other.
They had long gaps between the pieces of intelligence respecting
the Bradshaws. Mr. Bradshaw had at length purchased the house at
Abermouth, and they were much there. The way in which the Bensons
heard most frequently of the family of their former friends, was
through Mr. Farquhar. He called on Mr. Benson about a month after
the latter had met Jemima in the street. Mr. Farquhar was not in
the habit of paying calls on any one; and, though he had always
entertained and evinced the most kind and friendly feeling
towards Mr. Benson, he had rarely been in the Chapel-house. Mr.
Benson received him courteously, but he rather expected that
there would be some especial reason alleged, before the
conclusion of the visit, for its occurrence; more particularly as
Mr. Farquhar sat talking on the topics of the day in a somewhat
absent manner, as if they were not the subjects most present to
his mind. The truth was, he could not help recurring to the last
time when he was in that room, waiting to take Leonard a ride,
and his heart beating rather more quickly than usual at the idea
that Ruth might bring the boy in when he was equipped. He was
very full now of the remembrance of Ruth; and yet he was also
most thankful, most self-gratulatory, that he had gone no further
in his admiration of her--that he had never expressed his regard
in words--that no one, as he believed, was cognisant of the
incipient love which had grown partly out of his admiration, and
partly out of his reason. He was thankful to be spared any
implication in the nine-days' wonder which her story had made in
Eccleston. And yet his feeling for her had been of so strong a
character, that he winced, as with extreme pain, at every
application of censure to her name. These censures were often
exaggerated, it is true; but, when they were just in their
judgment of the outward circumstances of the case, they were not
the less painful and distressing to him. His first rebound to
Jemima was occasioned by Mrs. Bradshaw's account of how severely
her husband was displeased at her daughter's having taken part
with Ruth; and he could have thanked and almost blessed Jemima
when she dropped in (she dared do no more) her pleading excuses
and charitable explanations on Ruth's behalf. Jemima had learnt
some humility from the discovery which had been to her so great a
shock; standing, she had learnt to take heed lest she fell; and,
when she had once been aroused to a perception of the violence of
the hatred which she had indulged against Ruth, she was more
reticent and measured in the expression of all her opinions. It
showed how much her character had been purified from pride, that
now she felt aware that what in her was again attracting Mr.
Farquhar was her faithful advocacy of her rival, wherever such
advocacy was wise or practicable. He was quite unaware that
Jemima had been conscious of his great admiration for Ruth; he
did not know that she had ever cared enough for him to be
jealous. But the unacknowledged bond between them now was their
grief, and sympathy, and pity for Ruth; only in Jemima these
feelings were ardent, and would fain have become active; while in
Mr. Farquhar they were strongly mingled with thankfulness that he
had escaped a disagreeable position, and a painful notoriety. His
natural caution induced him to make a resolution never to think
of any woman as a wife until he had ascertained all her
antecedents, from her birth upwards; and the same spirit of
caution, directed inwardly, made him afraid of giving too much
pity to Ruth, for fear of the conclusions to which such a feeling
might lead him. But still his old regard for her, for Leonard,
and his esteem and respect for the Bensons, induced him to lend a
willing ear to Jemima's earnest entreaty that he would go and
call on Mr. Benson, in order that she might learn something about
the family in general, and Ruth in particular. It was thus that
he came to sit by Mr. Benson's study fire, and to talk, in an
absent way, to that gentleman. How they got on the subject he did
not know, more than one-half of his attention being distracted;
but they were speaking about politics, when Mr. Farquhar learned
that Mr. Benson took in no newspaper.
"Will you allow me to send you over my Times? I have generally
done with it before twelve o'clock, and after that it is really
waste-paper in my house. You will oblige me by making use of it."
"I am sure I am very much obliged to you for thinking of it. But
do not trouble yourself to send it; Leonard can fetch it."
"How is Leonard now?" asked Mr. Farquhar, and he tried to speak
indifferently; but a grave look of intelligence clouded his eyes
as he looked for Mr. Benson's answer. "I have not met him
"No!" said Mr. Benson, with an expression of pain in his
countenance, though he, too, strove to speak in his usual tone.
"Leonard is not strong, and we find it difficult to induce him to
go much out-of-doors."
There was a little silence for a minute or two, during which Mr.
Farquhar had to check an unbidden sigh. But, suddenly rousing
himself into a determination to change the subject, he said--
"You will find rather a lengthened account of the exposure of Sir
Thomas Campbell's conduct at Baden. He seems to be a complete
blackleg, in spite of his baronetcy. I fancy the papers are glad
to get hold of anything just now."
"Who is Sir Thomas Campbell?" asked Mr. Benson.
"Oh, I thought you might have heard the report--a true one, I
believe--of Mr. Donne's engagement to his daughter. He must be
glad she jilted him now, I fancy, after this public exposure of
her father's conduct." (That was an awkward speech, as Mr.
Farquhar felt; and he hastened to cover it, by going on without
"Dick Bradshaw is my informant about all these projected
marriages in high life--they are not much in my way; but, since
he has come down from London to take his share in the business, I
think I have heard more of the news and the scandal of what, I
suppose, would be considered high life, than ever I did before;
and Mr. Donne's proceedings seem to be an especial object of
interest to him."
"And Mr. Donne is engaged to a Miss Campbell, is he?"
"Was engaged; if I understood right, she broke off the engagement
to marry some Russian prince or other--a better match, Dick
Bradshaw told me. I assure you," continued Mr. Farquhar, smiling,
"I am a very passive recipient of all such intelligence, and
might very probably have forgotten all about it, if the Times of
this morning had not been so full of the disgrace of the young
"Richard Bradshaw has quite left London, has he?" asked Mr.
Benson, who felt far more interest in his old patron's family
than in all the Campbells that ever were or ever would be.
"Yes. He has come to settle down here. I hope he may do well, and
not disappoint his father, who has formed very high expectations
from him; I am not sure if they are not too high for any young
man to realise." Mr. Farquhar could have said more; but Dick
Bradshaw was Jemima's brother, and an object of anxiety to her.
"I am sure, I trust such a mortification--such a grief as any
disappointment in Richard, may not befall his father," replied
"Jemima--Miss Bradshaw," said Mr. Farquhar, hesitating, "was most
anxious to hear of you all. I hope I may tell her you are all
well" (with an emphasis on all); "that----"
"Thank you. Thank her for us. We are all well; all except
Leonard, who is not strong, as I said before. But we must be
patient. Time, and such devoted, tender love as he has from his
mother, must do much."
Mr. Farquhar was silent.
"Send him to my house for the papers. It will be a little
necessity for him to have some regular exercise, and to face the
world. He must do it, sooner or later."
The two gentlemen shook hands with each other warmly on parting;
but no further allusion was made to either Ruth or Leonard.
So Leonard went for the papers. Stealing along by back
streets--running with his head bent down--his little heart
panting with dread of being pointed out as his mother's child--so
he used to come back, and run trembling to Sally, who would hush
him up to her breast with many a rough-spoken word of pity and
sympathy. Mr. Farquhar tried to catch him to speak to him, and
tame him, as it were; and, by-and-by, he contrived to interest
him sufficiently to induce the boy to stay a little while in the
house or stables, or garden. But the race through the streets was
always to be dreaded as the end of ever so pleasant a visit. Mr.
Farquhar kept up the intercourse with the Bensons which he had
thus begun. He persevered in paying calls--quiet visits, where
not much was said, political or local news talked about, and the
same inquiries always made and answered as to the welfare of the
two families, who were estranged from each other. Mr. Farquhar's
reports were so little varied that Jemima grew anxious to know
"Oh, Mr. Farquhar!" said she; "do you think they tell you the
truth? I wonder what Ruth can be doing to support herself and
Leonard? Nothing that you can hear of, you say; and, of course,
one must not ask the downright question. And yet I am sure they
must be pinched in some way. Do you think Leonard is stronger?"
"I am not sure. He is growing fast; and such a blow as he has had
will be certain to make him more thoughtful and full of care than
most boys of his age; both these circumstances may make him thin
and pale, which he certainly is."
"Oh! how I wish I might go and see them all! I could tell in a
twinkling the real state of things." She spoke with a tinge of
her old impatience.
"I will go again, and pay particular attention to anything you
wish me to observe. You see, of course, I feel a delicacy about
asking any direct questions, or even alluding in any way to these
"And you never see Ruth by any chance?"
They did not look at each other while this last question was
asked and answered.
"I will take the paper to-morrow myself; it will be an excuse for
calling again, and I will try to be very penetrating; but I have
not much hope of success.
"Oh, thank you. It is giving you a great deal of trouble; but you
are very kind."
"Kind, Jemima!" he repeated, in a tone which made her go very red
and hot; "must I tell you how you can reward me?--Will you call
me Walter?--say, thank you, Walter--just for once."
Jemima felt herself yielding to the voice and tone in which this
was spoken; but her very consciousness of the depth of her love
made her afraid of giving way, and anxious to be wooed, that she
might be reinstated in her self-esteem.
"No!" said she, "I don't think I can call you so. You are too
old. It would not be respectful." She meant it half in joke, and
had no idea he would take the allusion to his age so seriously as
he did. He rose up, and coldly, as a matter of form, in a changed
voice, wished her "Good-bye." Her heart sank; yet the old pride
was there. But as he was at the very door, some sudden impulse
made her speak--
"I have not vexed you, have I, Walter?"
He turned round, glowing with a thrill of delight. She was as red
as any rose; her looks dropped down to the ground.
They were not raised, when, half-an-hour afterwards, she said,
"You won't forbid my going to see Ruth, will you? because if you
do, I give you notice I shall disobey you." The arm around her
waist clasped her yet more fondly at the idea, suggested by this
speech, of the control which he should have a right to exercise
over her actions at some future day.
"Tell me," said he, "how much of your goodness to me, this last
happy hour, has been owing to the desire of having more freedom
as a wife than as a daughter?" She was almost glad that he should
think she needed any additional motive to her love for him before
she could have accepted him. She was afraid that she had betrayed
the deep, passionate regard with which she had long looked upon
him. She was lost in delight at her own happiness. She was silent
for a time. At length she said--
"I don't think you know how faithful I have been to you ever
since the days when you first brought me pistachio-candy from
London--when I was quite a little girl."
"Not more faithful than I have been to you," for in truth, the
recollection of his love for Ruth had utterly faded away, and he
thought himself a model of constancy; "and you have tried me
pretty well. What a vixen you have been!" Jemima sighed; smitten
with the consciousness of how little she had deserved her present
happiness; humble with the recollection of the evil thoughts that
had raged in her heart during the time (which she remembered
well, though he may have forgotten it) when Ruth had had the
affection which her jealous rival coveted.
"I may speak to your father; may not I, Jemima?"
No! for some reason or fancy which she could not define, and
could not be persuaded out of, she wished to keep their mutual
understanding a secret. She had a natural desire to avoid the
congratulations she expected from her family. She dreaded her
father's consideration of the whole affair as a satisfactory
disposal of his daughter to a worthy man, who, being his partner,
would not require any abstraction of capital from the concern,
and Richard's more noisy delight at his sister's having "hooked"
so good a match. It was only her simple-hearted mother that she
longed to tell. She knew that her mother's congratulations would
not jar upon her, though they might not sound the full organ-peal
of her love. But all that her mother knew passed onwards to her
father; so for the present, at any rate, she determined to
realise her secret position alone. Somehow, the sympathy of all
others that she most longed for was Ruth's; but the first
communication of such an event was due to her parents. She
imposed very strict regulations on Mr. Farquhar's behaviour; and
quarrelled and differed from him more than ever, but with a
secret joyful understanding with him in her heart, even while
they disagreed with each other--for similarity of opinion is not
always--I think not often--needed for fulness and perfection of
After Ruth's "detection," as Mr. Bradshaw used to call it, he
said he could never trust another governess again; so Mary and
Elizabeth had been sent to school the following Christmas, and
their place in the family was but poorly supplied by the return
of Mr. Richard Bradshaw, who had left London, and been received
as a partner.
SALLY TAKES HER MONEY OUT OF THE BANK
The conversation narrated in the last chapter as taking place
between Mr. Farquhar and Jemima, occurred about a year after
Ruth's dismissal from her situation. That year, full of small
events, and change of place to the Bradshaws, had been monotonous
and long in its course to the other household. There had been no
want of peace and tranquillity; there had, perhaps, been more of
them than in the preceding years, when, though unacknowledged by
any, all must have occasionally felt the oppression of the
falsehood--and a slight glancing dread must have flashed across
their most prosperous state, lest, somehow or another, the
mystery should be disclosed. But now, as the shepherd-boy in John
Bunyan sweetly sang, "He that is low need fear no fall." Still,
their peace was as the stillness of a grey autumnal day, when no
sun is to be seen above, and when a quiet film seems drawn before
both sky and earth, as if to rest the wearied eyes after the
summer's glare. Few events broke the monotony of their lives, and
those events were of a depressing kind. They consisted in Ruth's
futile endeavours to obtain some employment, however humble; in
Leonard's fluctuations of spirits and health; in Sally's
increasing deafness; in the final and unmendable wearing-out of
the parlour carpet, which there was no spare money to replace,
and so they cheerfully supplied its want by a large hearth-rug
that Ruth made out of ends of list; and, what was more a subject
of unceasing regret to Mr. Benson than all, the defection of some
of the members of his congregation, who followed Mr. Bradshaw's
lead. Their places, to be sure, were more than filled up by the
poor, who thronged to his chapel; but still it was a
disappointment to find that people about whom he had been
earnestly thinking--to whom he had laboured to do good--should
dissolve the connection without a word of farewell or
explanation. Mr. Benson did not wonder that they should go; nay,
he even felt it right that they should seek that spiritual help
from another, which he, by his error, had forfeited his power to
offer; he only wished they had spoken of their intention to him
in an open and manly way. But not the less did he labour on among
those to whom God permitted him to be of use. He felt age
stealing upon him apace, although he said nothing about it, and
no one seemed to be aware of it; and he worked the more
diligently while "it was yet day." It was not the number of his
years that made him feel old, for he was only sixty, and many men
are hale and strong at that time of life; in all probability, it
was that early injury to his spine which affected the
constitution of his mind as well as his body, and predisposed
him, in the opinion of some at least, to a feminine morbidness of
conscience. He had shaken off somewhat of this since the affair
with Mr. Bradshaw; he was simpler and more dignified than he had
been for several years before, during which time he had been
anxious and uncertain in his manner, and more given to thought
than to action.
The one happy bright spot in this grey year was owing to Sally.
As she said of herself, she believed she grew more "nattered" as
she grew older; but that she was conscious of her "natteredness"
was a new thing, and a great gain to the comfort of the house,
for it made her very grateful for forbearance, and more aware of
kindness than she had ever been before. She had become very deaf;
yet she was uneasy and jealous if she were not informed of all
the family thoughts, plans, and proceedings, which often had
(however private in their details) to be shouted to her at the
full pitch of the voice. But she always heard Leonard perfectly.
His clear and bell-like voice, which was similar to his mother's
till sorrow had taken the ring out of it, was sure to be heard by
the old servant, though every one else had failed. Sometimes,
however, she "got her hearing sudden," as she phrased it, and was
alive to every word and noise, more particularly when they did
not want her to hear; and at such times she resented their
continuance of the habit of speaking loud as a mortal offence.
One day, her indignation at being thought deaf called out one of
the rare smiles on Leonard's face; she saw it, and said, "Bless
thee, lad; if it but amuses thee, they may shout through a ram's
horn to me, and I'll never let on I'm not deaf. It's as good a
use as I can be of," she continued to herself, "if I can make
that poor lad smile a bit."
If she expected to be everybody's confidant, she made Leonard
hers. "There!" said she, when she came home from her marketing
one Saturday night, "look here, lad! Here's forty-two pound,
seven shillings and twopence! It's a mint of money, isn't it? I
took it all in sovereigns for fear of fire."
"What is it all for, Sally?" said he.
"Ay, lad! that's asking. It's Mr. Benson's money," said she
mysteriously, "that I've been keeping for him. Is he in the
study, think ye?"
"Yes! I think so. Where have you been keeping it?"
"Never you mind!" She went towards the study, but, thinking she
might have been hard on her darling in refusing to gratify his
curiosity, she turned back and said--
"I say--if thou wilt thou mayest do me a job of work some day.
I'm wanting a frame made for a piece of writing."
And then she returned to go into the study, carrying her
sovereigns in her apron.
"Here, Master Thurstan," said she, pouring them out on the table
before her astonished master. "Take it, it's all yours."
"All mine! What can you mean?" asked he, bewildered.
She did not hear him and went on--
"Lock it up safe out o' the way. Dunnot go and leave it about to
tempt folks. I'll not answer for myself if money's left about. I
may be cribbing a sovereign."
"But where does it come from?" said he.
"Come from!" she replied. "Where does all money come from but the
bank, to be sure. I thought any one could tell that."
"I have no money in the bank!" said he, more and more perplexed.
"No, I knowed that; but I had. Dunnot ye remember how ye would
raise my wage last Martinmas eighteen year? You and Faith were
very headstrong, but I was too deep for you. See thee! I went and
put it i' th' bank. I was never going to touch it; and if I had
died it would have been all right, for I'd a will made, all
regular and tight--made by a lawyer (leastwise he would have been
a lawyer if he hadn't got transported first). And now, thinks I,
I think I'll just go and get it out and give it 'em. Banks is not
"I'll take care of it for you with the greatest pleasure. Still,
you know, banks allow interest."
"D'ye suppose I don't know all about interest and compound
interest too by this time? I tell ye I want ye to spend it. It's
your own. It's not mine. It always was yours. Now you're not
going to fret me by saying you think it mine." Mr. Benson held
out his hand to her, for he could not speak. She bent forward to
him as he sat there and kissed him.
"Eh, bless ye, lad! It's the first kiss I've had of ye sin' ye
were a little lad, and it's a great refreshment. Now don't you
and Faith go and bother me with talking about it. It's just
yours, and make no more ado."
She went back into the kitchen, and brought out her will, and
gave Leonard directions how to make a frame for it; for the boy
was a very tolerable joiner, and had a box of tools which Mr.
Bradshaw had given him some years ago.
"It's a pity to lose such fine writing," said she; "though I
can't say as I can read it. Perhaps you'd just read it for me,
Leonard." She sat open-mouthed with admiration at all the long
The frame was made, and the will hung up opposite to her bed,
unknown to any one but Leonard; and, by dint of his repeated
reading it over to her, she learnt all the words, except
"testatrix" which she would always call "testy tricks." Mr.
Benson had been too much gratified and touched, by her
unconditional gift of all she had in the world, to reject it; but
he only held it in his hands as a deposit until he could find a
safe investment befitting so small a sum. The little
rearrangements of the household expenditure had not touched him
as they had done the women. He was aware that meat-dinners were
not now everyday occurrences; but he preferred puddings and
vegetables, and was glad of the exchange. He observed, too, that
they all sat together in the kitchen in the evenings; but the
kitchen, with the well-scoured dresser, the shining saucepans,
the well-blacked grate, and whitened hearth, and the warmth which
seemed to rise up from the very flags, and ruddily cheer the most
distant corners, appeared a very cosy and charming sitting-room;
and, besides, it appeared but right that Sally, in her old age,
should have the companionship of those with whom she had lived in
love and faithfulness so many years. He only wished he could more
frequently leave the solitary comfort of his study, and join the
kitchen party; where Sally sat as mistress in the chimney corner,
knitting by firelight, and Miss Benson and Ruth, with the candle
between them, stitched away at their work; while Leonard strewed
the ample dresser with his slate and books. He did not mope and
pine over his lessons; they were the one thing that took him out
of himself. As yet his mother could teach him, though in some
respects it was becoming a strain upon her acquirements and
powers. Mr. Benson saw this, but reserved his offers of help as
long as he could, hoping that before his assistance became
absolutely necessary, some mode of employment beyond that of
occasional plain-work might be laid open to Ruth.
In spite of the communication they occasionally had with Mr.
Farquhar, when he gave them the intelligence of his engagement to
Jemima, it seemed like a glimpse into a world from which they
were shut out. They wondered--Miss Benson and Ruth did at
least--much about the details. Ruth sat over her sewing, fancying
how all had taken place; and, as soon as she had arranged the
events which were going on among people and places once so
familiar to her, she found some discrepancy, and set-to afresh to
picture the declaration of love, and the yielding, blushing
acceptance; for Mr. Farquhar had told little beyond the mere fact
that there was an engagement between himself and Jemima which had
existed for some time, but which had been kept secret until now,
when it was acknowledged, sanctioned, and to be fulfilled as soon
as he returned from an arrangement of family affairs in Scotland.
This intelligence had been enough for Mr. Benson, who was the
only person Mr. Farquhar saw; as Ruth always shrank from the post
of opening the door, and Mr. Benson was apt at recognising
individual knocks, and always prompt to welcome Mr. Farquhar.
Miss Benson occasionally thought--and what she thought she was in
the habit of saying--that Jemima might have come herself to
announce such an event to old friends; but Mr. Benson decidedly
vindicated her from any charge of neglect, by expressing his
strong conviction that to her they owed Mr. Farquhar's calls--his
all but out-spoken offers of service--his quiet, steady interest
in Leonard; and, moreover (repeating the conversation he had had
with her in the street, the first time they met after the
disclosure), Mr. Benson told his sister how glad he was to find
that, with all the warmth of her impetuous disposition hurrying
her on to rebellion against her father, she was now attaining to
that just self-control which can distinguish between mere wishes
and true reasons--that she could abstain from coming to see Ruth
while she would do but little good, reserving herself for some
great occasion or strong emergency.
Ruth said nothing, but she yearned all the more in silence to see
Jemima. In her recollection of that fearful interview with Mr.
Bradshaw, which haunted her yet, sleeping or waking, she was
painfully conscious that she had not thanked Jemima for her
generous, loving advocacy; it had passed unregarded at the time
in intensity of agony--but now she recollected that by no word,
or tone, or touch, had she given any sign of gratitude. Mr.
Benson had never told her of his meeting with Jemima; so it
seemed as if there were no hope of any future opportunity for it
is strange how two households, rent apart by some dissension, can
go through life, their parallel existences running side by side,
yet never touching each other, near neighbours as they are,
habitual and familiar guests as they may have been.
Ruth's only point of hope was Leonard. She was weary of looking
for work and employment, which everywhere seemed held above her
reach. She was not impatient of this but she was very, very
sorry. She felt within her such capability, and all ignored her,
and passed her by on the other side. But she saw some progress in
Leonard. Not that he could continue to have the happy
development, and genial ripening, which other boys have; leaping
from childhood to boyhood, and thence to youth, with glad bounds,
and unconsciously enjoying every age. At present there was no
harmony in Leonard's character; he was as full of thought and
self-consciousness as many men, planning his actions long
beforehand, so as to avoid what he dreaded, and what she could
not yet give him strength to face, coward as she was herself, and
shrinking from hard remarks. Yet Leonard was regaining some of
his lost tenderness towards his mother; when they were alone he
would throw himself on her neck and smother her with kisses,
without any apparent cause for such a passionate impulse. If any
one was by, his manner was cold and reserved. The hopeful parts
of his character were the determination evident in him to be a
"law unto himself," and the serious thought which he gave to the
formation of this law. There was an inclination in him to reason,
especially and principally with Mr. Benson, on the great
questions of ethics which the majority of the world have settled
long ago. But I do not think he ever so argued with his mother.
Her lovely patience, and her humility, was earning its reward;
and from her quiet piety, bearing sweetly the denial of her
wishes--the refusal of her begging--the disgrace in which she
lay, while others, less worthy were employed--this, which
perplexed him, and almost angered him at first, called out his
reverence at last, and what she said he took for his law with
proud humility; and thus softly she was leading him up to God.
His health was not strong; it was not likely to be. He moaned and
talked in his sleep, and his appetite was still variable, part of
which might be owing to his preference of the hardest lessons to
any outdoor exercise. But this last unnatural symptom was
vanishing before the assiduous kindness of Mr. Farquhar, and the
quiet but firm desire of his mother. Next to Ruth, Sally had
perhaps the most influence over him; but he dearly loved both Mr.
and Miss Benson; although he was reserved on this, as on every
point not purely intellectual. His was a hard childhood, and his
mother felt that it was so. Children bear any moderate degree of
poverty and privation cheerfully; but, in addition to a good deal
of this, Leonard had to bear a sense of disgrace attaching to him
and to the creature he loved best; this it was that took out of
him the buoyancy and natural gladness of youth, in a way which no
scantiness of food or clothing or want of any outward comfort,
could ever have done.
Two years had passed away--two long, eventless years. Something
was now going to happen, which touched their hearts very nearly,
though out of their sight and hearing. Jemima was going to be
married this August, and by-and-by the very day was fixed. It was
to be on the 14th. On the evening of the 13th, Ruth was sitting
alone in the parlour, idly gazing out on the darkening shadows in
the little garden; her eyes kept filling with quiet tears, that
rose, not for her own isolation from all that was going on of
bustle and preparation for the morrow's event, but because she
had seen how Miss Benson had felt that she and her brother were
left out from the gathering of old friends in the Bradshaw
family. As Ruth sat, suddenly she was aware of a figure by her;
she started up, and in the gloom of the apartment she recognised
Jemima. In an instant they were in each other's arms--a long,
"Can you forgive me?" whispered Jemima in Ruth's ear.
"Forgive you! What do you mean? What have I to forgive? The
question is, can I ever thank you as I long to do, if I could
"Oh, Ruth, how I hated you once!"
"It was all the more noble in you to stand by me as you did. You
must have hated me when you knew how I was deceiving you all!"
"No, that was not it that made me hate you. It was before that.
Oh, Ruth, I did hate you!"
They were silent for some time, still holding each other's hands.
Ruth spoke first--
"And you are going to be married to-morrow!"
"Yes," said Jemima. "To-morrow at nine o'clock. But I don't think
I could have been married without coming to wish Mr. Benson and
Miss Faith good-bye."
"I will go for them," said Ruth.
"No, not just yet. I want to ask you one or two questions first.
Nothing very particular; only it seems as if there had been such
a strange, long separation between us. Ruth," said she, dropping
her voice, "is Leonard stronger than he was? I was so sorry to
hear about him from Walter. But he is better?" asked she
"Yes, he is better. Not what a boy of his age should be," replied
his mother, in a tone of quiet but deep mournfulness. "Oh,
Jemima!" continued she, "my sharpest punishment comes through
him. To think of what he might have been, and what he is."
"But Walter says he is both stronger in health, and not
so--nervous and shy;" Jemima added the last words in a hesitating
and doubtful manner, as if she did not know how to express her
full meaning without hurting Ruth.
"He does not show that he feels his disgrace so much. I cannot
talk about it, Jemima, my heart aches so about him. But he is
better," she continued, feeling that Jemima's kind anxiety
required an answer at any cost of pain to herself.
"He is only studying too closely now; he takes to his lessons
evidently as a relief from thought. He is very clever, and I hope
and trust, yet I tremble to say it, I believe he is very good."
"You must let him come and see us very often when we come back.
We shall be two months away. We are going to Germany, partly on
Walter's business. Ruth, I have been talking to papa to-night,
very seriously and quietly; and it has made me love him so much
more, and understand him so much better."
"Does he know of your coming here? I hope he does," said Ruth.
"Yes. Not that he liked my doing it at all. But, somehow, I can
always do things against a person's wishes more easily when I am
on good terms with them--that's not exactly what I meant; but now
to-night, after papa had had been showing me that he really loved
me more than I ever thought he had done (for I always fancied he
was so absorbed in Dick, he did not care much for us girls), I
felt brave enough to say that I intended to come here and bid you
all good-bye. He was silent for a minute, and then said I might
do it, but I must remember he did not approve of it, and was not
to be compromised by my coming; still I can tell that, at the
bottom of his heart, there is some of the old kindly feeling to
Mr. and Miss Benson, and I don't despair of its all being made
up, though, perhaps, I ought to say that mamma does."
"Mr. and Miss Benson won't hear of my going away," said Ruth
"They are quite right."
"But I am earning nothing. I cannot get any employment. I am only
a burden and an expense."
"Are you not also a pleasure? And Leonard, is he not a dear
object of love? It is easy for me to talk, I know, who am so
impatient. Oh, I never deserved to be so happy as I am! You don't
know how good Walter is. I used to think him so cold and
cautious. But now, Ruth, will you tell Mr. and Miss Benson that I
am here? There is signing of papers, and I don't know what to be
done at home. And when I come back, I hope to see you often, if
you'll let me."
Mr. and Miss Benson gave her a warm greeting. Sally was called
in, and would bring a candle with her, to have a close inspection
of her, in order to see if she was changed--she had not seen her
for so long a time, she said; and Jemima stood laughing and
blushing in the middle of the room, while Sally studied her all
over, and would not be convinced that the old gown which she was
wearing for the last time was not one of the new wedding ones.
The consequence of which misunderstanding was, that Sally, in her
short petticoats and bedgown, turned up her nose at the
old-fashioned way in which Miss Bradshaw's gown was made. But
Jemima knew the old woman, and rather enjoyed the contempt for
her dress. At last she kissed them all, and ran away to her
impatient Mr. Farquhar, who was awaiting her.
Not many weeks after this, the poor old woman whom I have named
as having become a friend of Ruth's during Leonard's illness
three years ago, fell down and broke her hip-bone. It was a
serious, probably a fatal, injury, for one so old; and as soon as
Ruth heard of it she devoted all her leisure time to old Ann
Fleming. Leonard had now outstripped his mother's powers of
teaching, and Mr. Benson gave him his lessons; so Ruth was a
great deal at the cottage both night and day. There Jemima found
her one November evening, the second after their return from
their prolonged stay on the Continent. She and Mr. Farquhar had
been to the Bensons, and had sat there some time; and now Jemima
had come on just to see Ruth for five minutes, before the evening
was too dark for her to return alone. She found Ruth sitting on a
stool before the fire, which was composed of a few sticks on the
hearth. The blaze they gave was, however, enough to enable her to
read; and she was deep in study of the Bible in which she had
read aloud to the poor old woman, until the latter had fallen
asleep. Jemima beckoned her out, and they stood on the green just
before the open door, so that Ruth could see if Ann awoke.
"I have not many minutes to stay, only I felt as if I must see
you. And we want Leonard to come to us to see all our German
purchases, and hear all our German adventures. May he come
"Yes; thank you. Oh! Jemima, I have heard something--I have got a
plan that makes me so happy! I have not told any one yet. But Mr.
Wynne (the parish doctor, you know) has asked me if I would go
out as a sick nurse--he thinks he could find me employment."
"You, a sick nurse!" said Jemima, involuntarily glancing over the
beautiful lithe figure, and the lovely refinement of Ruth's face
as the light of the rising moon fell upon it. "My dear Ruth, I
don't think you are fitted for it!"
"Don't you?" said Ruth, a little disappointed. "I think I am; at
least, that I should be very soon. I like being about sick and
helpless people; I always feel so sorry for them; and then I
think I have the gift of a very delicate touch, which is such a
comfort in many cases. And I should try to be very watchful and
patient. Mr. Wynne proposed it himself."
"It was not in that way I meant you were not fitted for it. I
meant that you were fitted for something better. Why, Ruth, you
are better educated than I am!"
"But if nobody will allow me to teach?--for that is what I
suppose you mean. Besides, I feel as if all my education would be
needed to make me a good sick nurse."
"Your knowledge of Latin, for instance," said Jemima, hitting, in
her vexation at the plan, on the first acquirement of Ruth she
could think of.
"Well!" said Ruth, "that won't come amiss; I can read the
"Which the doctors would rather you did not do."
"Still, you can't say that any knowledge of any kind will be in
my way, or will unfit me for my work."
"Perhaps not. But all your taste and refinement will be in your
way, and will unfit you."
"You have not thought about this so much as I have, or you would
not say so. Any fastidiousness I shall have to get rid of, and I
shall be better without; but any true refinement I am sure I
shall find of use; for don't you think that every power we have
may be made to help us in any right work, whatever that is? Would
you not rather be nursed by a person who spoke gently and moved
quietly about, than by a loud bustling woman?"
"Yes, to be sure; but a person unfit for anything else may move
quietly, and speak gently, and give medicine when the doctor
orders it, and keep awake at night; and those are the best
qualities I ever heard of in a sick nurse." Ruth was quite silent
for some time. At last she said, "At any rate it is work, and as
such I am thankful for it. You cannot discourage me--and perhaps
you know too little of what my life has been--how set apart in
idleness I have been--to sympathise with me fully."
"And I wanted you to come to see us--me in my new home. Walter
and I had planned that we would persuade you to come to us very
often" (she had planned, and Mr. Farquhar had consented); "and
now you will have to be fastened up in a sick-room."
"I could not have come," said Ruth quickly. "Dear Jemima! it is
like you to have thought of it--but I could not come to your
house. It is not a thing to reason about. It is just feeling. But
I do feel as if I could not go. Dear Jemima! if you are ill or
sorrowful, and want me, I will come----"
"So you would and must to any one, if you take up that calling."
"But I should come to you, love, in quite a different way; I
should go to you with my heart full of love--so full that I am
afraid I should be too anxious."
"I almost wish I were ill, that I might make you come at once."
"And I am almost ashamed to think how I should like you to be in
some position in which I could show you how well I remember that
day--that terrible day in the school-room. God bless you for it,
THE FORGED DEED
Mr. Wynne, the parish surgeon, was right. He could and did obtain
employment for Ruth as a sick nurse. Her home was with the
Bensons; every spare moment was given to Leonard and to them; but
she was at the call of all the invalids in the town. At first her
work lay exclusively among the paupers. At first, too, there was
a recoil from many circumstances, which impressed upon her the
most fully the physical sufferings of those whom she tended. But
she tried to lose the sense of these--or rather to lessen them,
and make them take their appointed places--in thinking of the
individuals themselves, as separate from their decaying frames;
and all along she had enough self-command to control herself from
expressing any sign of repugnance. She allowed herself no nervous
haste of movement or touch that should hurt the feelings of the
poorest, most friendless creature, who ever lay a victim to
disease. There was no rough getting over of all the disagreeable
and painful work of her employment. When it was a lessening of
pain to have the touch careful and delicate, and the ministration
performed with gradual skill, Ruth thought of her charge, and not
of herself. As she had foretold, she found a use for all her
powers. The poor patients themselves were unconsciously gratified
and soothed by her harmony and refinement of manner, voice, and
gesture. If this harmony and refinement had been merely
superficial, it would not have had this balmy effect. That arose
from its being the true expression of a kind, modest, and humble
spirit. By degrees her reputation as a nurse spread upwards, and
many sought her good offices who could well afford to pay for
them. Whatever remuneration was offered to her, she took it
simply and without comment; for she felt that it was not hers to
refuse; that it was, in fact, owing to the Bensons for her and
her child's subsistence. She went wherever her services were
first called for. If the poor bricklayer, who broke both his legs
in a fall from the scaffolding, sent for her when she was
disengaged, she went and remained with him until he could spare
her, let who would be the next claimant. From the happy and
prosperous in all but health she would occasionally beg off; when
some one less happy and more friendless wished for her; and
sometimes she would ask for a little money from Mr. Benson to
give to such in their time of need. But it was astonishing how
much she was able to do without money.
Her ways were very quiet; she never spoke much. Any one who has
been oppressed with the weight of a vital secret for years, and
much more any one the character of whose life has been stamped by
one event, and that producing sorrow and shame, is naturally
reserved. And yet Ruth's silence was not like reserve; it was too
gentle and tender for that. It had more the effect of a hush of
all loud or disturbing emotions, and out of the deep calm the
words that came forth had a beautiful power. She did not talk
much about religion; but those who noticed her knew that it was
the unseen banner which she was following. The low-breathed
sentences which she spoke into the ear of the sufferer and the
dying carried them upwards to God.
She gradually became known and respected among the roughest boys
of the rough populace of the town. They would make way for her
when she passed along the streets with more deference than they
used to most; for all knew something of the tender care with
which she had attended this or that sick person, and, besides,
she was so often in connection with Death that something of the
superstitious awe with which the dead were regarded by those
rough boys in the midst of their strong life, surrounded her.
She herself did not feel changed. She felt just as faulty--as far
from being what she wanted to be, as ever. She best knew how many
of her good actions were incomplete, and marred with evil. She
did not feel much changed from the earliest Ruth she could
remember. Everything seemed to change but herself. Mr. and Miss
Benson grew old, and Sally grew deaf, and Leonard was shooting
up, and Jemima was a mother. She and the distant hills that she
saw from her chamber window, seemed the only things which were
the same as when she first came to Eccleston. As she sat looking
out, and taking her fill of solitude, which sometimes was her
most thorough rest--as she sat at the attic window looking
abroad--she saw their next-door neighbour carried out to sun
himself in his garden. When she first came to Eccleston, this
neighbour and his daughter were often seen taking long and
regular walks; by-and-by his walks became shorter, and the
attentive daughter would convoy him home, and set out afresh to
finish her own. Of late years he had only gone out in the garden
behind his house; but at first he had walked pretty briskly there
by his daughter's help--now he was carried, and placed in a
large, cushioned easy-chair, his head remaining where it was
placed against the pillow, and hardly moving when his kind
daughter, who was now middle-aged, brought him the first roses of
the summer. This told Ruth of the lapse of life and time.
Mr. and Mrs. Farquhar were constant in their attentions; but
there was no sign of Mr. Bradshaw ever forgiving the imposition
which had been practised upon him, and Mr. Benson ceased to hope
for any renewal of their intercourse. Still, he thought that he
must know of all the kind attentions which Jemima paid to them,
and of the fond regard which both she and her husband bestowed on
Leonard. This latter feeling even went so far that Mr. Farquhar
called one day, and with much diffidence begged Mr. Benson to
urge Ruth to let him be sent to school at his (Mr. Farquhar's)
Mr. Benson was taken by surprise, and hesitated. "I do not know.
It would be a great advantage in some respects; and yet I doubt
whether it would in others. His mother's influence over him is
thoroughly good, and I should fear that any thoughtless allusions
to his peculiar position might touch the raw spot in his mind."
"But he is so unusually clever, it seems a shame not to give him
all the advantages he can have. Besides, does he see much of his
"Hardly a day passes without her coming home to be an hour or so
with him, even at her busiest times; she says it is her best
refreshment. And often, you know, she is disengaged for a week or
two, except the occasional services which she is always rendering
to those who need her. Your offer is very tempting, but there is
so decidedly another view of the question to be considered, that
I believe we must refer it to her."
"With all my heart. Don't hurry her to a decision. Let her weigh
it well. I think she will find the advantages preponderate."
"I wonder if I might trouble you with a little business, Mr.
Farquhar, as you are here?"
"Certainly; I am only too glad to be of any use to you."
"Why, I see from the report of the Star Life Assurance Company in
the Times, which you are so good as to send me, that they have
declared a bonus on the shares; now it seems strange that I have
received no notification of it, and I thought that perhaps it
might be lying at your office, as Mr. Bradshaw was the purchaser
of the shares, and I have always received the dividends through
Mr. Farquhar took the newspaper, and ran his eye over the report.
"I have no doubt that's the way of it," said he. "Some of our
clerks have been careless about it; or it may be Richard himself.
He is not always the most punctual and exact of mortals; but I'll
see about it. Perhaps after all it mayn't come for a day or two;
they have always such numbers of these circulars to send out."
"Oh! I'm in no hurry about it. I only want to receive it some
time before I incur any expenses, which the promise of this bonus
may tempt me to indulge in."
Mr. Farquhar took his leave. That evening there was a long
conference, for, as it happened, Ruth was at home. She was
strenuously against the school plan. She could see no advantages
that would counterbalance the evil which she dreaded from any
school for Leonard; namely, that the good opinion and regard of
the world would assume too high an importance in his eyes. The
very idea seemed to produce in her so much shrinking affright,
that by mutual consent the subject was dropped; to be taken up
again, or not, according to circumstances.
Mr. Farquhar wrote the next morning, on Mr. Benson's behalf, to
the Insurance Company, to inquire about the bonus. Although he
wrote in the usual formal way, he did not think it necessary to
tell Mr. Bradshaw what he had done; for Mr. Benson's name was
rarely mentioned between the partners; each had been made fully
aware of the views which the other entertained on the subject
that had caused the estrangement; and Mr. Farquhar felt that no
external argument could affect Mr. Bradshaw's resolved
disapproval and avoidance of his former minister.
As it happened, the answer from the Insurance Company (directed
to the firm) was given to Mr. Bradshaw along with the other
business letters. It was to the effect that Mr. Benson's shares
had been sold and transferred above a twelvemonth ago, which
sufficiently accounted for the circumstance that no notification
of the bonus had been sent to him.
Mr. Bradshaw tossed the letter on one side, not displeased to
have a good reason for feeling a little contempt at the
unbusiness-like forgetfulness of Mr. Benson, at whose instance
some one had evidently been writing to the Insurance Company. On
Mr. Farquhar's entrance, he expressed this feeling to him.
"Really," he said, "these Dissenting ministers have no more
notion of exactitude in their affairs than a child! The idea of
forgetting that he has sold his shares, and applying for the
bonus, when it seems he has transferred them only a year ago!"
Mr. Farquhar was reading the letter while Mr. Bradshaw spoke.
"I don't quite understand it," said he. "Mr. Benson was quite
clear about it. He could not have received his half-yearly
dividends unless he had been possessed of these shares; and I
don't suppose Dissenting ministers, with all their ignorance of
business, are unlike other men in knowing whether or not they
receive the money that they believe to be owing to them."
"I should not wonder if they were--if Benson was, at any rate.
Why, I never knew his watch to be right in all my life--it was
always too fast or too slow; it must have been a daily discomfort
to him. It ought to have been. Depend upon it, his money matters
are just in the same irregular state; no accounts kept, I'll be
"I don't see that that follows," said Mr. Farquhar, half amused.
"That watch of his is a very curious one--belonged to his father
and grandfather, I don't know how far back."
"And the sentimental feelings which he is guided by prompt him to
keep it, to the inconvenience of himself and every one else."
Mr. Farquhar gave up the subject of the watch as hopeless.
"But about this letter. I wrote, at Mr. Benson's desire, to the
Insurance Office, and I am not satisfied with this answer. All
the transaction has passed through our hands. I do not think it
is likely Mr. Benson would write and sell the shares without, at
any rate, informing us at the time, even though he forgot all
about it afterwards."
"Probably he told Richard, or Mr. Watson."
"We can ask Mr. Watson at once. I am afraid we must wait till
Richard comes home, for I don't know where a letter would catch
him." Mr. Bradshaw pulled the bell that rang into the
head-clerk's room, saying as he did so--
"You may depend upon it, Farquhar, the blunder lies with Benson
himself. He is just the man to muddle away his money in
indiscriminate charity, and then to wonder what has become of
Mr. Farquhar was discreet enough to hold his tongue.
"Mr. Watson," said Mr. Bradshaw, as the old clerk made his
appearance, "here is some mistake about those Insurance shares we
purchased for Benson ten or a dozen years ago. He spoke to Mr.
Farquhar about some bonus they are paying to the shareholders, it
seems; and, in reply to Mr. Farquhar's letter, the Insurance
Company say the shares were sold twelve months since. Have you
any knowledge of the transaction? Has the transfer passed through
your hands? By the way" (turning to Mr. Farquhar), "who kept the
certificates? Did Benson or we?"
"I really don't know," said Mr. Farquhar. "Perhaps Mr. Watson can
Mr. Watson meanwhile was studying the letter. When he had ended
it, he took off his spectacles, wiped them, and replacing them,
he read it again.
"It seems very strange, sir," he said at length, with his
trembling, aged voice, "for I paid Mr. Benson the account of the
dividends myself last June, and got a receipt in form, and that
is since the date of the alleged transfer."
"Pretty nearly twelve months after it took place," said Mr.
"How did you receive the dividends? An order on the Bank, along
with old Mrs. Cranmer's?" asked Mr. Bradshaw sharply.
"I don't know how they came. Mr. Richard gave me the money, and
desired me to get the receipt."
"It's unlucky Richard is from home," said Mr. Bradshaw; "he could
have cleared up this mystery for us."
Mr. Farquhar was silent.
"Do you know where the certificates were kept, Mr. Watson?" said
"I'll not be sure, but I think they were with Mrs. Cranmer's
papers and deeds in box A, 24."
"I wish old Cranmer would have made any other man his executor.
She, too, is always coming with some unreasonable request or
"Mr. Benson's inquiry about his bonus is perfectly reasonable, at
any rate." Mr. Watson, who was dwelling in the slow fashion of
age on what had been said before, now spoke--
"I'll not be sure, but I am almost certain, Mr. Benson said, when
I paid him last June, that he thought he ought to give the
receipt on a stamp, and had spoken about it to Mr. Richard the
time before, but that Mr. Richard said it was of no consequence.
Yes," continued he, gathering up his memory as he went on, "he
did--I remember now--and I thought to myself that Mr. Richard was
but a young man. Mr. Richard will know all about it."
"Yes," said Mr. Farquhar gravely.
"I shan't wait till Richard's return," said Mr. Bradshaw. "We can
soon see if the certificates are in the box Watson points out; if
they are there, the Insurance people are no more fit to manage
their concern than that cat, and I shall tell them so. If they
are not there (as I suspect will prove to be the case), it is
just forgetfulness on Benson's part, as I have said from the
"You forget the payment of the dividends," said Mr. Farquhar, in
a low voice.
"Well, sir! what then?" said Mr. Bradshaw abruptly. While he
spoke--while his eye met Mr. Farquhar's--the hinted meaning of
the latter flashed through his mind; but he was only made angry
to find that such a suspicion could pass through any one's
"I suppose I may go, sir," said Watson respectfully, an uneasy
consciousness of what was in Mr. Farquhar's thoughts troubling
the faithful old clerk.
"Yes. Go. What do you mean about the dividends?" asked Mr.
Bradshaw impetuously of Mr. Farquhar.
"Simply, that I think there can have been no forgetfulness--no
mistake on Mr. Benson's part," said Mr. Farquhar, unwilling to
put his dim suspicion into words.
"Then, of course, it is some blunder of that confounded Insurance
Company. I will write to them to-day, and make them a little
brisker and more correct in their statements."
"Don't you think it would be better to wait till Richard's
return? He may be able to explain it."
"No, sir!" said Mr. Bradshaw sharply. "I do not think it would be
better. It has not been my way of doing business to spare any
one, or any company, the consequences of their own carelessness;
nor to obtain information second-hand, when I could have it
direct from the source. I shall write to the Insurance Office by
the next post."
Mr. Farquhar saw that any further remonstrance on his part would
only aggravate his partner's obstinacy: and, besides, it was but
a suspicion,--an uncomfortable suspicion. It was possible that
some of the clerks at the Insurance Office might have made a
mistake. Watson was not sure, after all, that the certificates
had been deposited in box A, 24; and when he and Mr. Farquhar
could not find them there, the old man drew more and yet more
back from his first assertion of belief, that they had been
Mr. Bradshaw wrote an angry and indignant reproach of
carelessness to the Insurance Company. By the next mail one of
their clerks came down to Eccleston; and, having leisurely
refreshed himself at the inn, and ordered his dinner with care,
he walked up to the great warehouse of Bradshaw & Co., and sent
in his card, with a pencil notification, "On the part of the Star
Insurance Company," to Mr. Bradshaw himself.
Mr. Bradshaw held the card in his hand for a minute or two
without raising his eyes. Then he spoke out loud and firm--
"Desire the gentleman to walk up. Stay! I will ring my bell in a
minute or two, and then show him upstairs."
When the errand-boy had closed the door, Mr. Bradshaw went to a
cupboard where he usually kept a glass and a bottle of wine (of
which he very seldom partook, for he was an abstemious man). He
intended now to take a glass, but the bottle was empty; and,
though there was plenty more to be had for ringing, or even
simply going into another room, he would not allow himself to do
this. He stood and lectured himself in thought.
"After all, I am a fool for once in my life. If the certificates
are in no box which I have yet examined, that does not imply they
may not be in some one which I have not had time to search.
Farquhar would stay so late last night! And, even if they are in
none of the boxes here, that does not prove----" He gave the bell
a jerking ring, and it was yet sounding when Mr. Smith, the
insurance clerk, entered.
The manager of the Insurance Company had been considerably
nettled at the tone of Mr. Bradshaw's letter; and had instructed
the clerk to assume some dignity at first in vindicating (as it
was well in his power to do) the character of the proceedings of
the Company, but at the same time he was not to go too far, for
the firm of Bradshaw & Co. was daily looming larger in the
commercial world, and if any reasonable explanation could be
given it was to be received, and bygones be bygones.
"Sit down, sir!" said Mr. Bradshaw.
"You are aware, sir, I presume, that I come on the part of Mr.
Dennison, the manager of the Star Insurance Company, to reply in
person to a letter of yours, of the 29th, addressed to him?"
Mr. Bradshaw bowed. "A very careless piece of business," he said
stiffly. "Mr. Dennison does not think you will consider it as
such when you have seen the deed of transfer, which I am
commissioned to show you."
Mr. Bradshaw took the deed with a steady hand. He wiped his
spectacles quietly, without delay, and without hurry, and
adjusted them on his nose. It is possible that he was rather long
in looking over the document--at least, the clerk had just begun
to wonder if he was reading through the whole of it, instead of
merely looking at the signature, when Mr. Bradshaw said: "It is
possible that it may be----of course, you will allow me to take
this paper to Mr. Benson, to--to inquire if this be his
"There can be no doubt of it, I think, sir," said the clerk,
calmly smiling, for he knew Mr. Benson's signature well.
"I don't know, sir--I don't know." (He was speaking as if the
pronunciation of every word required a separate effort of will,
like a man who has received a slight paralytic stroke.)
"You have heard, sir, of such a thing as forgery--forgery, sir?"
said he, repeating the last word very distinctly; for he feared
that the first time he had said it, it was rather slurred over.
"Oh, sir! there is no room for imagining such a thing, I assure
you. In our affairs we become aware of curious forgetfulness on
the part of those who are not of business habits."
"Still I should like to show it Mr. Benson, to prove to him his
forgetfulness, you know. I believe, on my soul, it is some of his
careless forgetfulness--I do, sir," said he. Now he spoke very
quickly. "It must have been. Allow me to convince myself. You
shall have it back to-night, or the first thing in the morning."
The clerk did not quite like to relinquish the deed, nor yet did
he like to refuse Mr. Bradshaw. If that very uncomfortable idea
of forgery should have any foundation in truth--and he had given
up the writing! There were a thousand chances to one against its
being anything but a stupid blunder; the risk was more imminent
of offending one of the directors.
As he hesitated, Mr. Bradshaw spoke very calmly, and almost with
a smile on his face. He had regained his self-command. "You are
afraid, I see. I assure you, you may trust me. If there has been
any fraud--if I have the slightest suspicion of the truth of the
surmise I threw out just now,"--he could not quite speak the bare
naked word that was chilling his heart--"I will not fail to aid
the ends of justice, even though the culprit should be my own
He ended, as he began, with a smile--such a smile!--the stiff
lips refused to relax and cover the teeth. But all the time he
kept saying to himself--
"I don't believe it--I don't believe it. I'm convinced it's a
blunder of that old fool Benson."
But when he had dismissed the clerk, and secured the piece of
paper, he went and locked the door, and laid his head on his
desk, and moaned aloud. He had lingered in the office for the two
previous nights; at first, occupying himself in searching for the
certificates of the Insurance shares; but, when all the boxes and
other repositories for papers had been ransacked, the thought
took hold of him that they might be in Richard's private desk;
and, with the determination which overlooks the means to get at
the end, he had first tried all his own keys on the complicated
lock, and then broken it open with two decided blows of a poker,
the instrument nearest at hand. He did not find the certificates.
Richard had always considered himself careful in destroying any
dangerous or tell-tale papers; but the stern father found enough,
in what remained, to convince him that his pattern son--more even
than his pattern son, his beloved pride--was far other than what
Mr. Bradshaw did not skip or miss a word. He did not shrink while
he read. He folded up letter by letter; he snuffed the candle
when its light began to wane, and no sooner; but he did not miss
or omit one paper--he read every word. Then, leaving the letters
in a heap upon the table, and the broken desk to tell its own
tale, he locked the door of the room which was appropriated to
his son as junior partner, and carried the key away with him.
There was a faint hope, even after this discovery of many
circumstances of Richard's life, which shocked and dismayed his
father--there was still a faint hope that he might not be guilty
of forgery--that it might not be no forgery after all--only a
blunder--an omission--a stupendous piece of forgetfulness. That
hope was the one straw that Mr. Bradshaw clung to.
Late that night Mr. Benson sat in his study. Every one else in the
house had gone to bed; but he was expecting a summons to some one
who was dangerously ill. He was not startled, therefore, at the
knock which came to the front door about twelve; but he was
rather surprised at the character of the knock, so slow and loud,
with a pause between each rap. His study-door was but a step from
that which led into the street. He opened it, and there
stood--Mr. Bradshaw; his large, portly figure not to be mistaken
even in the dusky night.
He said, "That is right. It was you I wanted to see." And he
walked straight into the study. Mr. Benson followed, and shut the
door. Mr. Bradshaw was standing by the table, fumbling in his
pocket. He pulled out the deed; and, opening it, after a pause,
in which you might have counted five, he held it out to Mr.
"Read it!" said he. He spoke not another word until time had
been allowed for its perusal. Then he added--
"That is your signature?" The words were an assertion, but the
tone was that of question.
"No, it is not," said Mr. Benson decidedly. "It is very like my
writing. I could almost say it was mine, but I know it is not."
"Recollect yourself a little. The date is August the third of
last year, fourteen months ago. You may have forgotten it." The
tone of the voice had a kind of eager entreaty in it, which Mr.
Benson did not notice--he was so startled at the fetch of his own
"It is most singularly like mine; but I could not have signed
away these shares--all the property I have--without the slightest
remembrance of it."
"Stranger things have happened. For the love of Heaven, think if
you did not sign it. It's a deed to transfer for those Insurance
shares, you see. You don't remember it? You did not write this
name--these words?" He looked at Mr. Benson with craving
wistfulness for one particular answer. Mr. Benson was struck at
last by the whole proceeding, and glanced anxiously at Mr.
Bradshaw, whose manner, gait, and voice, were so different from
usual that he might well excite attention. But as soon as the
latter was aware of this momentary inspection, he changed his
tone all at once.
"Don't imagine, sir, I wish to force any invention upon you as a
remembrance. If you did not write this name, I know who did. Once
more I ask you--does no glimmering recollection of--having needed
money, we'll say--I never wanted you to refuse my subscription to
the chapel, God knows!--of having sold these accursed
shares?--Oh! I see by your face you did not write it; you need
not to speak to me--I know."
He sank down into a chair near him. His whole figure drooped. In
a moment he was up, and standing straight as an arrow,
confronting Mr. Benson, who could find no clue to this stern
"You say you did not write these words?" pointing to the
signature, with an untrembling finger. "I believe you; Richard
Bradshaw did write them."
"My dear sir--my dear old friend!" exclaimed Mr. Benson, "you are
rushing to a conclusion for which, I am convinced, there is no
foundation; there is no reason to suppose that because----"
"There is reason, sir. Do not distress yourself--I am perfectly
calm." His stony eyes and immovable face did indeed look rigid.
"What we have now to do is to punish the offence. I have not one
standard for myself and those I love--(and, Mr. Benson, I did
love him)--and another for the rest of the world. If a stranger
had forged my name, I should have known it was my duty to
prosecute him. You must prosecute Richard."
"I will not," said Mr. Benson.
"You think, perhaps, that I shall feel it acutely. You are
mistaken. He is no longer as my son to me. I have always resolved
to disown any child of mine who was guilty of sin. I disown
Richard. He is as a stranger to me. I shall feel no more at his
exposure--his punishment----" He could not go on for his voice
was choking. "Of course, you understand that I must feel shame at
our connection; it is that that is troubling me; that is but
consistent with a man who has always prided himself on the
integrity of his name; but as for that boy, who has been brought
up all his life as I have brought up my children, it must be some
innate wickedness! Sir, I can cut him off, though he has been as
my right hand--beloved. Let me be no hindrance to the course of
justice, I beg. He has forged your name--he has defrauded you of
money--of your all, I think you said."
"Some one has forged my name. I am not convinced that it was your
son. Until I know all the circumstances, I decline to prosecute."
"What circumstances?" asked Mr. Bradshaw, in an authoritative
manner, which would have shown irritation but for his
"The force of the temptation--the previous habits of the
"Of Richard. He is the person," Mr. Bradshaw put in.
Mr. Benson went on, without taking any notice. "I should think it
right to prosecute, if I found out that this offence against me
was only one of a series committed, with premeditation, against
society. I should then feel, as a protector of others more
helpless than myself----"
"It was your all," said Mr. Bradshaw.
"It was all my money; it was not my all," replied Mr. Benson; and
then he went on as if the interruption had never been--"Against
an habitual offender. I shall not prosecute Richard. Not because
he is your son--do not imagine that! I should decline taking such
a step against any young man without first ascertaining the
particulars about him, which I know already about Richard, and
which determine me against doing what would blast his character
for life--would destroy every good quality he has."
"What good quality remains to him?" asked Mr. Bradshaw. "He has
deceived me--he has offended God."
"Have we not all offended Him?" Mr. Benson said in a low tone.
"Not consciously. I never do wrong consciously. But
Richard--Richard." The remembrance of the undeceiving letters--the
forgery--filled up his heart so completely that he could not speak
for a minute or two. Yet when he saw Mr. Benson on the point of
saying something, he broke in--
"It is no use talking, sir. You and I cannot agree on these
subjects. Once more, I desire you to prosecute that boy, who is
no longer a child of mine."
"Mr. Bradshaw, I shall not prosecute him. I have said it once for
all. To-morrow you will be glad that I do not listen to you. I
should only do harm by saying more at present."
There is always something aggravating in being told, that the
mood in which we are now viewing things strongly will not be our
mood at some other time. It implies that our present feelings are
blinding us, and that some more clear-sighted spectator is able
to distinguish our future better than we do ourselves. The most
shallow person dislikes to be told that any one can gauge his
depth. Mr. Bradshaw was not soothed by this last remark of Mr.
Benson's. He stooped down to take up his hat and be gone. Mr.
Benson saw his dizzy way of groping, and gave him what he sought
for; but he received no word of thanks. Mr. Bradshaw went
silently towards the door, but, just as he got there, he turned
round, and said--
"If there were more people like me, and fewer like you, there
would be less evil in the world, sir. It's your sentimentalists
that nurse up sin." Although Mr. Benson had been very calm during
this interview, he had been much shocked by what had been let out
respecting Richard's forgery; not by the fact itself so much as
by what it was a sign of. Still, he had known the young man from
childhood, and had seen, and often regretted, that his want of
moral courage had rendered him peculiarly liable to all the bad
effects arising from his father's severe and arbitrary mode of
treatment. Dick would never have had "pluck" enough to be a
hardened villain, under any circumstances: but, unless some good
influence, some strength, was brought to bear upon him, he might
easily sink into the sneaking scoundrel. Mr. Benson determined to
go to Mr. Farquhar's the first thing in the morning, and consult
him as a calm, clear-headed family friend--partner in the
business, as well as son- and brother-in-law to the people
AN ACCIDENT TO THE DOVER COACH
While Mr. Benson lay awake for fear of oversleeping himself, and
so being late at Mr. Farquhar's (it was somewhere about six
o'clock--dark as an October morning is at that time), Sally came
to his door and knocked. She was always an early riser; and if
she had not been gone to bed long before Mr. Bradshaw's visit
last night, Mr. Benson might safely have trusted to her calling
"Here's a woman down below as must see you directly. She'll be
upstairs after me if you're not down quick."
"Is it any one from Clarke's?"
"No, no! not it, master," said she through the keyhole; "I reckon
it's Mrs. Bradshaw, for all she's muffled up."
He needed no other word. When he went down, Mrs. Bradshaw sat in
his easy-chair, swaying her body to and fro, and crying without
restraint. Mr. Benson came up to her, before she was aware that
he was there.
"Oh! sir," said she, getting up and taking hold of both his
hands, "you won't be so cruel, will you? I have got some money
somewhere--some money my father settled on me, sir; I don't know
how much, but I think it's more than two thousand pounds, and you
shall have it all. If I can't give it you now, I'll make a will,
sir. Only be merciful to poor Dick--don't go and prosecute him,
"My dear Mrs. Bradshaw, don't you agitate yourself in this way. I
never meant to prosecute him."
"But Mr. Bradshaw says that you must."
"I shall not, indeed. I have told Mr. Bradshaw so."
"Has he been here? Oh! is not he cruel? I don't care. I have been
a good wife till now. I know I have. I have done all he bid me,
ever since we were married. But now I will speak my mind, and say
to everybody how cruel he is--how hard to his own flesh and
blood! If he puts poor Dick in prison, I will go too. If I'm to
choose between my husband and my son, I choose my son; for he
will have no friends, unless I am with him."
"Mr. Bradshaw will think better of it. You will see that, when
his first anger and disappointment are over, he will not be hard
"You don't know Mr. Bradshaw," said she mournfully, "if you think
he'll change. I might beg and beg--I have done many a time, when
we had little children, and I wanted to save them a whipping--but
no begging ever did any good. At last I left it off. He'll not
"Perhaps not for human entreaty. Mrs. Bradshaw, is there nothing
The tone of his voice suggested what he did not say.
"If you mean that God may soften his heart," replied she humbly,
"I'm not going to deny God's power--I have need to think of Him,"
she continued, bursting into fresh tears, "for I am a very
miserable woman. Only think! he cast it up against me last night,
and said, if I had not spoilt Dick this never would have
"He hardly knew what he was saying last night. I will go to Mr.
Farquhar's directly, and see him; and you had better go home, my
dear Mrs. Bradshaw; you may rely upon our doing all that we can."
With some difficulty he persuaded her not to accompany him to Mr.
Farquhar's; but he had, indeed, to take her to her own door,
before he could convince her that, at present, she could do
nothing but wait the result of the consultations of others.
It was before breakfast, and Mr. Farquhar was alone; so Mr.
Benson had a quiet opportunity of telling the whole story to the
husband before the wife came down. Mr. Farquhar was not much
surprised, though greatly distressed. The general opinion he had
always entertained of Richard's character had predisposed him to
fear, even before the inquiry respecting the Insurance shares.
But it was still a shock when it came, however much it might have
"What can we do?" said Mr. Benson, as Mr. Farquhar sat gloomily
"That is just what I was asking myself. I think I must see Mr.
Bradshaw, and try and bring him a little out of this unmerciful
frame of mind. That must be the first thing. Will you object to
accompany me at once? It seems of particular consequence that we
should subdue its obduracy before the affair gets wind."
"I will go with you willingly. But I believe I rather serve to
irritate Mr. Bradshaw; he is reminded of things he has said to me
formerly, and which he thinks he is bound to act up to. However,
I can walk with you to the door, and wait for you (if you'll
allow me) in the street. I want to know how he is to-day, both
bodily and mentally; for indeed, Mr. Farquhar, I should not have
been surprised last night if he had dropped down dead, so
terrible was his strain upon himself."
Mr. Benson was left at the door as he had desired, while Mr.
Farquhar went in.
"Oh, Mr. Farquhar, what is the matter?" exclaimed the girls,
running to him.
"Mamma sits crying in the old nursery. We believe she has been
there all night. She will not tell us what it is, nor let us be
with her; and papa is locked up in his room, and won't even
answer us when we speak, though we know he is up and awake, for
we heard him tramping about all night."
"Let me go up to him," said Mr. Farquhar.
"He won't let you in. It will be of no use." But in spite of what
they said, he went up; and to their surprise, after hearing who
it was, their father opened the door, and admitted their
brother-in-law. He remained with Mr. Bradshaw about half-an-hour,
and then came into the dining-room, where the two girls stood
huddled over the fire, regardless of the untasted breakfast
behind them; and, writing a few lines, he desired them to take
his note up to their mother, saying that it would comfort her a
little, and that he should send Jemima, in two or three hours,
with the baby--perhaps to remain some days with them. He had no
time to tell them more; Jemima would.
He left them, and rejoined Mr. Benson. "Come home and breakfast
with me. I am off to London in an hour or two, and must speak
with you first."
On reaching his house, he ran upstairs to ask Jemima to breakfast
alone in her dressing-room, and returned in five minutes or less.
"Now I can tell you about it," said he. "I see my way clearly to
a certain point. We must prevent Dick and his father meeting just
now, or all hope of Dick's reformation is gone for ever. His
father is as hard as the nether millstone. He has forbidden me
"Yes; because I would not give up Dick as utterly lost and bad;
and because I said I should return to London with the clerk, and
fairly tell Dennison (he's a Scotchman, and a man of sense and
feeling) the real state of the case. By the way, we must not say
a word to the clerk; otherwise he will expect an answer, and make
out all sorts of inferences for himself, from the unsatisfactory
reply he must have. Dennison will be upon honour--will see every
side of the case--will know you refuse to prosecute; the Company
of which he is manager are no losers. Well! when I said what I
thought wise, of all this--when I spoke as if my course were a
settled and decided thing, the grim old man asked me if he was to
be an automaton in his own house. He assured me he had no feeling
for Dick--all the time he was shaking like an aspen; in short,
repeating much the same things he must have said to you last
night. However, I defied him, and the consequence is, I'm
forbidden the house, and, what is more, he says he will not come
to the office while I remain a partner."
"What shall you do?"
"Send Jemima and the baby. There's nothing like a young child for
bringing people round to a healthy state of feeling; and you
don't know what Jemima is, Mr. Benson! No! though you've known
her from her birth. If she can't comfort her mother, and if the
baby can't steal into her grandfather's heart, why--I don't know
what you may do to me. I shall tell Jemima all, and trust to her
wit and wisdom to work at this end, while I do my best at the
"Richard is abroad, is not he?"
"He will be in England to-morrow. I must catch him somewhere; but
that I can easily do. The difficult point will be, what to do
with him--what to say to him, when I find him. He must give up
his partnership, that's clear. I did not tell his father so, but
I am resolved upon it. There shall be no tampering with the
honour of the firm to which I belong."
"But what will become of him?" asked Mr. Benson anxiously.
"I do not yet know. But, for Jemima's sake--for his dour old
father's sake--I will not leave him adrift. I will find him some
occupation as clear from temptation as I can. I will do all in my
power. And he will do much better, if he has any good in him, as
a freer agent, not cowed by his father into a want of
individuality and self-respect. I believe I must dismiss you, Mr.
Benson," said he, looking at his watch; "I have to explain all to
my wife, and to go to that clerk. You shall hear from me in a day
Mr. Benson half envied the younger man's elasticity of mind, and
power of acting promptly. He himself felt as if he wanted to sit
down in his quiet study, and think over the revelations and
events of the last twenty-four hours. It made him dizzy even to
follow Mr. Farquhar's plans, as he had briefly detailed them; and
some solitude and consideration would be required before Mr.
Benson could decide upon their justice and wisdom. He had been
much shocked by the discovery of the overt act of guilt which
Richard had perpetrated, low as his opinion of that young man had
been for some time; and the consequence was, that he felt
depressed, and unable to rally for the next few days. He had not
even the comfort of his sister's sympathy, as he felt bound in
honour not to tell her anything; and she was luckily so much
absorbed in some household contest with Sally that she did not
notice her brother's quiet languor.
Mr. Benson felt that he had no right at this time to intrude into
the house which he had been once tacitly forbidden. If he went
now to Mr. Bradshaw's without being asked, or sent for, he
thought it would seem like presuming on his knowledge of the
hidden disgrace of one of the family. Yet he longed to go: he
knew that Mr. Farquhar must be writing almost daily to Jemima,
and he wanted to hear what he was doing. The fourth day after her
husband's departure she came, within half-an-hour after the post
delivery, and asked to speak to Mr. Benson alone.
She was in a state of great agitation, and had evidently been
crying very much.
"Oh, Mr. Benson!" said she, "will you come with me, and tell papa
this sad news about Dick? Walter has written me a letter at last,
to say he has found him--he could not at first; but now it seems
that, the day before yesterday, he heard of an accident which had
happened to the Dover coach; it was overturned--two passengers
killed, and several badly hurt. Walter says we ought to be
thankful, as he is, that Dick was not killed. He says it was such
a relief to him on going to the place--the little inn nearest to
where the coach was overturned--to find that Dick was only
severely injured; not one of those who was killed. But it is a
terrible shock to us all. We had had no more dreadful fear to
lessen the shock; mamma is quite unfit for anything, and we none
of us dare to tell papa." Jemima had hard work to keep down her
sobs thus far, and now they overmastered her.
"How is your father? I have wanted to hear every day," asked Mr.
"It was careless of me not to come and tell you; but, indeed, I
have had so much to do. Mamma would not go near him. He has said
something which she seems as if she could not forgive. Because he
came to meals, she would not. She has almost lived in the
nursery; taking out all Dick's old playthings, and what clothes
of his were left, and turning them over, and crying over them."
"Then Mr. Bradshaw has joined you again; I was afraid, from what
Mr. Farquhar said, he was going to isolate himself from you all?"
"I wish he had," said Jemima, crying afresh. "It would have been
more natural than the way he has gone on; the only difference
from his usual habit is, that he has never gone near the office,
or else he has come to meals just as usual, and talked just as
usual; and even done what I never knew him do before, tried to
make jokes--all in order to show us how little he cares."
"Does he not go out at all?"
"Only in the garden. I am sure he does care after all; he must
care; he cannot shake off a child in this way, though he thinks
he can; and that makes me so afraid of telling him of this
accident. Will you come, Mr. Benson?"
He needed no other word. He went with her, as she rapidly
threaded her way through the by-streets. When they reached the
house, she went in without knocking, and, putting her husband's
letter into Mr. Benson's hand, she opened the door of her
father's room, and saying--"Papa, here is Mr. Benson," left them
Mr. Benson felt nervously incapable of knowing what to do, or to
say. He had surprised Mr. Bradshaw sitting idly over the
fire--gazing dreamily into the embers. But he had started up, and
drawn his chair to the table, on seeing his visitor; and, after
the first necessary words of politeness were over, he seemed to
expect him to open the conversation.
"Mrs. Farquhar has asked me," said Mr. Benson, plunging into the
subject with a trembling heart, "to tell you about a letter she
has received from her husband;" he stopped for an instant, for he
felt that he did not get nearer the real difficulty, and yet
could not tell the best way of approaching it.
"She need not have given you that trouble. I am aware of the
reason of Mr. Farquhar's absence. I entirely disapprove of his
conduct. He is regardless of my wishes; and disobedient to the
commands which, as my son-in-law, I thought he would have felt
bound to respect. If there is any more agreeable subject that you
can introduce, I shall be glad to hear you, sir."
"Neither you, nor I, must think of what we like to hear or to
say. You must hear what concerns your son."
"I have disowned the young man who was my son," replied he
"The Dover coach has been overturned," said Mr. Benson,
stimulated into abruptness by the icy sternness of the father.
But, in a flash, he saw what lay below that terrible assumption
of indifference. Mr. Bradshaw glanced up in his face one look of
agony--and then went grey-pale; so livid that Mr. Benson got up
to ring the bell in affright, but Mr. Bradshaw motioned to him to
"Oh! I have been too sudden, sir--he is alive, he is alive!" he
exclaimed, as he saw the ashy face working in a vain attempt to
speak; but the poor lips (so wooden, not a minute ago) went
working on and on, as if Mr. Benson's words did not sink down
into the mind, or reach the understanding. Mr. Benson went
hastily for Mrs. Farquhar.
"Oh, Jemima!" said he, "I have done it so badly--I have been so
cruel--he is very ill, I fear--bring water, brandy----" and he
returned with all speed into the room. Mr. Bradshaw--the great,
strong, iron man--lay back in his chair in a swoon, a fit.
"Fetch my mother, Mary. Send for the doctor, Elizabeth," said
Jemima, rushing to her father. She and Mr. Benson did all in
their power to restore him. Mrs. Bradshaw forgot all her vows of
estrangement from the dead-like husband, who might never speak to
her, or hear her again, and bitterly accused herself for every
angry word she had spoken against him during these last few
Before the doctor came, Mr. Bradshaw had opened his eyes and
partially rallied, although he either did not, or could not
speak. He looked struck down into old age. His eyes were
senseless in their expression, but had the dim glaze of many
years of life upon them. His lower jaw fell from his upper one,
giving a look of melancholy depression to the face, although the
lips hid the unclosed teeth. But he answered correctly (in
monosyllables, it is true) all the questions which the doctor
chose to ask. And the medical man was not so much impressed with
the serious character of the seizure as the family, who knew all
the hidden mystery behind, and had seen their father lie for the
first time with the precursor aspect of death upon his face.
Rest, watching, and a little medicine, were what the doctor
prescribed; it was so slight a prescription, for what had appeared
to Mr. Benson so serious an attack, that he wished to follow the
medical man out of the room to make further inquiries, and learn
the real opinion which he thought must lurk behind. But, as he
was following the doctor, he--they all--were aware of the effort
Mr. Bradshaw was making to rise, in order to arrest Mr. Benson's
departure. He did stand up, supporting himself with one hand on
the table, for his legs shook under him. Mr. Benson came back
instantly to the spot where he was. For a moment it seemed as if
he had not the right command of his voice: but at last he said,
with a tone of humble, wistful entreaty, which was very
"He is alive, sir; is he not?"
"Yes, sir--indeed he is; he is only hurt. He is sure to do well.
Mr. Farquhar is with him," said Mr. Benson, almost unable to
speak for tears.
Mr. Bradshaw did not remove his eyes from Mr. Benson's face for
more than a minute after his question had been answered. He
seemed as though he would read his very soul, and there see if he
spoke the truth. Satisfied at last, he sank slowly into his
chair; and they were silent for a little space, waiting to
perceive if he would wish for any further information just then.
At length he put his hands slowly together in the clasped
attitude of prayer, and said--"Thank God!"
THE BRADSHAW PEW AGAIN OCCUPIED
If Jemima allowed herself now and then to imagine that one good
would result from the discovery of Richard's delinquency, in the
return of her father and Mr. Benson to something of their old
understanding and their old intercourse--if this hope fluttered
through her mind, it was doomed to disappointment. Mr. Benson
would have been most happy to go, if Mr. Bradshaw had sent for
him; he was on the watch for what might be even the shadow of such
an invitation--but none came. Mr. Bradshaw, on his part, would
have been thoroughly glad if the wilful seclusion of his present
life could have been broken by the occasional visits of the old
friend whom he had once forbidden the house; but, this
prohibition having passed his lips, he stubbornly refused to do
anything which might be construed into unsaying it. Jemima was
for some time in despair of his ever returning to the office, or
resuming his old habits of business. He had evidently threatened
as much to her husband. All that Jemima could do was to turn a
deaf ear to every allusion to this menace, which he threw out
from time to time, evidently with a view to see if it had struck
deep enough into her husband's mind for him to have repeated it
to his wife. If Mr. Farquhar had named it--if it was known only
to two or three to have been, but for one half-hour even, his
resolution--Mr. Bradshaw could have adhered to it, without any
other reason than the maintenance of what he called consistency,
but which was in fact doggedness. Jemima was often thankful that
her mother was absent, and gone to nurse her son. If she had been
at home, she would have entreated and implored her husband to
fall back into his usual habits, and would have shown such a
dread of his being as good as his word, that he would have been
compelled to adhere to it by the very consequence affixed to it.
Mr. Farquhar had hard work, as it was, in passing rapidly enough
between the two places--attending to his business at Eccleston;
and deciding, comforting, and earnestly talking, in Richard's
sick-room. During an absence of his, it was necessary to apply to
one of the partners on some matter of importance; and
accordingly, to Jemima's secret joy, Mr. Watson came up and asked
if her father was well enough to see him on business? Jemima
carried in this inquiry literally; and the hesitating answer
which her father gave was in the affirmative. It was not long
before she saw him leave the house, accompanied by the faithful
old clerk; and when he met her at dinner he made no allusion to
his morning visitor, or to his subsequent going out. But from
that time forwards he went regularly to the office. He received
all the information about Dick's accident, and his progress
towards recovery, in perfect silence, and in as indifferent a
manner as he could assume; but yet he lingered about the family
sitting-room every morning until the post had come in which
brought all letters from the south.
When Mr. Farquhar at last returned to bring the news of Dick's
perfect convalescence, he resolved to tell Mr. Bradshaw all that
he had done and arranged for his son's future career; but, as Mr.
Farquhar told Mr. Benson afterwards, he could not really say if
Mr. Bradshaw had attended to one word that he said.
"Rely upon it," said Mr. Benson, "he has not only attended to it,
but treasured up every expression you have used."
"Well, I tried to get some opinion, or sign of emotion, out of
him. I had not much hope of the latter, I must own; but I thought
he would have said whether I had done wisely or not in procuring
that Glasgow situation for Dick--that he would, perhaps, have
been indignant at my ousting him from the partnership so entirely
on my own responsibility."
"How did Richard take it?"
"Oh, nothing could exceed his penitence. If one had never heard
of the proverb, 'When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would
be,' I should have had greater faith in him; or if he had had
more strength of character to begin with, or more reality and
less outward appearance of good principle instilled into him.
However, this Glasgow situation is the very thing; clear, defined
duties, no great trust reposed in him, a kind and watchful head,
and introductions to a better class of associates than I fancy he
has ever been thrown amongst before. For, you know, Mr. Bradshaw
dreaded all intimacies for his son, and wanted him to eschew all
society beyond his own family--would never allow him to ask a
friend home. Really, when I think of the unnatural life Mr.
Bradshaw expected him to lead, I get into charity with him, and
have hopes. By the way, have you ever succeeded in persuading his
mother to send Leonard to school? He may run the same risk from
isolation as Dick: not be able to choose his companions wisely
when he grows up, but be too much overcome by the excitement of
society to be very discreet as to who are his associates. Have
you spoken to her about my plan?"
"Yes! but to no purpose. I cannot say that she would even admit
an argument on the subject. She seemed to have an invincible
repugnance to the idea of exposing him to the remarks of other
boys on his peculiar position."
"They need never know of it. Besides, sooner or later, he must
step out of his narrow circle, and encounter remark and scorn."
"True," said Mr. Benson mournfully. "And you may depend upon it,
if it really is the best for Leonard, she will come round to it
by-and-by. It is almost extraordinary to see the way in which her
earnest and most unselfish devotion to this boy's real welfare
leads her to right and wise conclusions."
"I wish I could tame her so as to let me meet her as a friend.
Since the baby was born, she comes to see Jemima. My wife tells
me, that she sits and holds it soft in her arms, and talks to it
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