The Castle Inn
Stanley John Weyman
Part 6 out of 7
light thrown by the lanthorn, it struck her that the avenue they were
traversing was not the one by which she had approached the house two
nights before. The trees seemed to stand farther from one another and to
be smaller. Or was it her fancy?
But it was not that had moved him to stand; for in a moment, with a
curious sound between a groan and a curse he led the way on, without
answering her. Fifty paces brought them to the gate and the road.
Thomasson held up his lanthorn and looked over the gate.
'Where is the carriage?' she whispered, startled by the darkness and
'It should be here,' he answered, his voice betraying his perplexity.
'It should be here at this gate. But I--I don't see it.'
'Would it have lights?' she asked anxiously. He had opened the gate by
this time, and as she spoke they passed through, and stood together
looking up and down the road. The moon was obscured, and the lanthorn's
rays were of little use to find a carriage which was not there.
'It should be here, and it should have lights,' he said in evident
dismay. 'I don't know what to think of it. I--ha! What is that? It is
coming, I think. Yes, I hear it. The coachman must have drawn off a
little for some reason, and now he has seen the lanthorn.'
He had only the sound of wheels to go upon, but he proved to be right;
she uttered a sigh of relief as the twin lights of a carriage apparently
approaching round a bend of the road broke upon them. The lights drew
near and nearer, and the tutor waved his lamp. For a second the driver
appeared to be going to pass them; then, as Mr. Thomasson again waved
his lanthorn and shouted, he drew up.
'Halloa!' he said.
Mr. Thomasson did not answer, but with a trembling hand opened the door
and thrust the girl in. 'God bless you!' she murmured; 'and--' He
slammed the door, cutting short the sentence.
'Well?' the driver said, looking down at him, his face in shadow; 'I
'Go on!' Mr. Thomasson cried peremptorily, and waving his lanthorn
again, startled the horses; which plunged away wildly, the man tugging
vainly at the reins. The tutor fancied that, as it started, he caught a
faint scream from the inside of the chaise, but he set it down to fright
caused by the sudden jerk; and, after he had stood long enough to assure
himself that the carriage was keeping the road, he turned to retrace his
steps to the house.
He was feeling for the latch of the gate--his thoughts no pleasant ones,
for the devil pays scant measure--when his ear was surprised by a new
sound of wheels approaching from the direction whence the chaise had
come. He stood to listen, thinking he heard an echo; but in a second or
two he saw lights approaching through the night precisely as the other
lights had approached. Once seen they came on swiftly, and he was still
standing gaping in wonder when a carriage and pair, a postboy riding and
a servant sitting outside, swept by, dazzling him a moment; the next it
was gone, whirled away into the darkness.
THE INN AT CHIPPENHAM
The road which passed before the gates at Bastwick was not a highway,
and Mr. Thomasson stood a full minute, staring after the carriage, and
wondering what chance brought a traveller that way at that hour.
Presently it occurred to him that one of Mr. Pomeroy's neighbours might
have dined abroad, have sat late over the wine, and be now returning;
and that so the incident might admit of the most innocent explanation.
Yet it left him uneasy. Until the last hum of wheels died in the
distance he stood listening and thinking. Then he turned from the gate,
and with a shiver betook himself towards the house. He had done
Or had he? The road was not ten paces behind him, when a cry rent the
darkness, and he paused to listen. He caught the sound of hasty
footsteps crossing the open ground on his right, and apparently
approaching; and he raised his lanthorn in alarm. The next moment a dark
form vaulted the railings that fenced the avenue on that side, sprang on
the affrighted tutor, and, seizing him violently by the collar, shook
him to and fro as a terrier shakes a rat.
It was Mr. Pomeroy, beside himself with rage. 'What have you done with
her?' he cried. 'You treacherous hound! Answer, or by heaven I shall
'Done--done with whom?' the tutor gasped, striving to free himself.
'Mr. Pomeroy, I am not--what does this--mean?'
'With her? With the girl?'
'She is--I have put her in the carriage! I swear I have! Oh!' he
shrieked, as Mr. Pomeroy, in a fresh access of passion, gripped his
throat and squeezed it. 'I have put her in the carriage, I tell you! I
have done everything you told me!'
'In the carriage? What carriage? In what carriage?'
'The one that was there.'
'At the gate?'
'You fool! You imbecile!' Mr. Pomeroy roared, as he shook him with all
his strength. 'The carriage is at the other gate.'
Mr. Thomasson gasped, partly with surprise, partly under the influence
of Pomeroy's violence. 'At the other gate?' he faltered. 'But--there was
a carriage here. I saw it. I put her in it. Not a minute ago!'
'Then, by heaven, it was your carriage, and you have betrayed me,'
Pomeroy retorted; and shook his trembling victim until his teeth
chattered and his eyes protruded. 'I thought I heard wheels and I came
to see. If you don't tell me the truth this instant,' he continued
furiously, 'I'll have the life out of you.'
'It is the truth,' Mr. Thomasson stammered, blubbering with fright. 'It
was a carriage that came up--and stopped. I thought it was yours, and I
put her in. And it went on.'
'A lie, man--a lie!'
'I swear it is true! I swear it is! If it were not should I be going
back to the house? Should I be going to face you?' Mr. Thomasson
The argument impressed Pomeroy; his grasp relaxed. 'The devil is in it,
then!' he muttered. 'For no one else could have set a carriage at that
gate at that minute! Anyway, I'll know. Come on!' he continued
recklessly snatching up the lanthorn, which had fallen on its side and
was not extinguished. 'We'll after her! By the Lord, we'll after her.
They don't trick me so easily!'
The tutor ventured a terrified remonstrance, but Mr. Pomeroy, deaf to
his entreaties and arguments, bundled him over the fence, and, gripping
his arm, hurried him as fast as his feet would carry him across the
sward to the other gate. A carriage, its lamps burning brightly, stood
in the road. Mr. Pomeroy exchanged a few curt words with the driver,
thrust in the tutor, and followed himself. On the instant the vehicle
dashed away, the coachman cracking his whip and shouting oaths at
The hedges flew by, pale glimmering walls in the lamplight; the mud flew
up and splashed Mr. Pomeroy's face; still he hung out of the window, his
hand on the fastening of the door, and a brace of pistols on the ledge
before him; while the tutor, shuddering at these preparations, hoping
against hope that they would overtake no one, cowered in the farther
corner. With every turn of the road or swerve of the horses Pomeroy
expected to see the fugitives' lights. Unaware or oblivious that the
carriage he was pursuing had the start of him by so much that at top
speed he could scarcely look to overtake it under the hour, his rage
increased with every disappointment. Although the pace at which they
travelled over a rough road was such as to fill the tutor with instant
terror and urgent thoughts of death--although first one lamp was
extinguished and then another, and the carriage swung so violently as
from moment to moment to threaten an overturn, Mr. Pomeroy never ceased
to hang out of the window, to yell at the horses and upbraid the driver.
And with all, the labour seemed to be wasted. With wrath and a volley of
curses he saw the lights of Chippenham appear in front, and still no
sign of the pursued. Five minutes later the carriage awoke the echoes in
the main street of the sleeping town, and Mr. Thomasson drew a deep
breath of relief as it came to a stand.
Not so Mr. Pomeroy. He dashed the door open and sprang out, prepared to
overwhelm the driver with reproaches. The man anticipated him. 'They are
here,' he said with a sulky gesture.
A man in a watchman's coat, and carrying a staff and lanthorn--of whom
the driver had already asked a question--came heavily round, from the
off-side of the carriage. 'There is a chaise and pair just come in from
the Melksham Road,' he said, 'and gone to the Angel, if that is what you
want, your honour.'
'A lady with them?'
'I saw none, but there might be.'
'How long ago?'
'We're right!' Mr. Pomeroy cried with a jubilant oath, and turning back
to the door of the carriage, slipped the pistols into his skirt pockets.
'Come,' he said to Thomasson. 'And do you,' he continued, addressing his
driver, who was no other than the respectable Tamplin, 'follow at a
walking pace. Have they ordered on?' he asked, slipping a crown into the
'I think not, your honour,' the man answered. 'I believe they are
With a word of satisfaction Mr. Pomeroy hurried his unwilling companion
towards the inn. The streets were dark; only an oil lamp or two burned
at distant points. But the darkness of the town was noon-day light in
comparison of the gloom which reigned in Mr. Thomasson's mind. In the
grasp of this headstrong man, whose temper rendered him blind to
obstacles and heedless of danger, the tutor felt himself swept along,
as incapable of resistance as the leaf that is borne upon the stream. It
was not until they turned into the open space before the Angel, and
perceived a light in the doorway of the inn that despair gave him
courage to remonstrate.
Then the risk and folly of the course they were pursuing struck him so
forcibly that he grew frantic. He clutched Mr. Pomeroy's sleeve, and
dragging him aside out of earshot of Tamplin, who was following them,
'This is madness!' he urged vehemently. 'Sheer madness! Have you
considered, Mr. Pomeroy? If she is here, what claim have we to interfere
with her? What authority over her? What title to force her away? If we
had overtaken her on the road, in the country, it might have been one
thing. But here--'
'Here?' Mr. Pomeroy retorted, his face dark, his under-jaw thrust out
hard as a rock. 'And why not here?'
'Because--why, because she will appeal to the people.'
'The people who have brought her hither.'
'And what is their right to her?' Mr. Pomeroy retorted, with a brutal
'The people at the inn, then.'
'Well, and what is their right? But--I see your point, parson! Damme,
you are a cunning one. I had not thought of that. She'll appeal to them,
will she? Then she shall be my sister, run off from her home! Ha! Ha! Or
no, my lad,' he continued, chuckling savagely, and slapping the tutor on
the back; 'they know me here, and that I have no sister. She shall be
your daughter!' And while Mr. Thomasson stared aghast, Pomeroy laughed
recklessly. 'She shall be your daughter, man! My guest, and run off with
an Irish ensign! Oh, by Gad, we'll nick her! Come on!'
Mr. Thomasson shuddered. It seemed to him the wildest scheme--a folly
beyond speech. Resisting the hand with which Pomeroy would have impelled
him towards the lighted doorway, 'I will have nothing to do with it!' he
cried, with all the firmness he could muster. 'Nothing! Nothing!'
'A minute ago you might have gone to the devil!' Mr. Pomeroy answered
grimly, 'and welcome! Now, I want you. And, by heaven, if you don't
stand by me I'll break your back! Who is there here who is likely to
know you? Or what have you to fear?'
'She'll expose us!' Mr. Thomasson whimpered. 'She'll tell them!'
'Who'll believe her?' the other answered with supreme contempt. 'Which
is the more credible story--hers about a lost heir, or ours? Come on,
Mr. Thomasson had been far from anticipating a risk of this kind when he
entered on his career of scheming. But he stood in mortal terror of his
companion, whose reckless passions were fully aroused; and after a brief
resistance he succumbed. Still protesting, he allowed himself to be
urged past the open doors of the inn-yard--in the black depths of which
the gleam of a lanthorn, and the form of a man moving to and fro,
indicated that the strangers' horses were not yet bedded--and up the
hospitable steps of the Angel Inn.
A solitary candle burning in a room on the right of the hall, guided
their feet that way. Its light disclosed a red-curtained snuggery, well
furnished with kegs and jolly-bodied jars, and rows of bottles; and in
the middle of this cheerful profusion the landlord himself, stooping
over a bottle of port, which he was lovingly decanting. His array, a
horseman's coat worn over night-gear, with bare feet thrust into
slippers, proved him newly risen from bed; but the hum of voices and
clatter of plates which came from the neighbouring kitchen were signs
that, late as it was, the good inn was not caught napping.
The host heard their steps behind him, but crying 'Coming, gentlemen,
coming!' finished his task before he turned. Then 'Lord save us!' he
ejaculated, staring at them--the empty bottle in one hand, the decanter
in the other. 'Why, the road's alive to-night! I beg your honour's
pardon, I am sure, and yours, sir! I thought 'twas one of the gentlemen
that arrived, awhile ago--come down to see why supper lagged. Squire
Pomeroy, to be sure! What can I do for you, gentlemen? The fire is
scarce out in the Hertford, and shall be rekindled at once?'
Mr. Pomeroy silenced him by a gesture. 'No,' he said; 'we are not
staying. But you have some guests here, who arrived half an hour ago?'
'To be sure, your honour. The same I was naming.' 'Is there a young lady
The landlord looked hard at him. 'A young lady?' he said.
'Yes! Are you deaf, man?' Pomeroy retorted wrathfully, his impatience
getting the better of him. 'Is there a young lady with them? That is
what I asked.'
But the landlord still stared; and it was only after an appreciable
interval that he answered cautiously: 'Well, to be sure, I am not--I am
not certain. I saw none, sir. But I only saw the gentlemen when they had
gone upstairs. William admitted them, and rang up the stables. A young
lady?' he continued, rubbing his head as if the question perplexed him.
'May I ask, is't some one your honour is seeking?'
'Damme, man, should I ask if it weren't?' Mr. Pomeroy retorted angrily.
'If you must know, it is this gentleman's daughter, who has run away
from her friends.'
'And taken up with a beggarly Irishman!'
The landlord stared from one to the other in great perplexity. 'Dear
me!' he said. 'That is sad! The gentleman's daughter!' And he looked at
Mr. Thomasson, whose fat sallow face was sullenness itself. Then,
remembering his manners, 'Well, to be sure, I'll go and learn,' he
continued briskly. 'Charles!' to a half-dressed waiter, who at that
moment appeared at the foot of the stairs, 'set lights in the Yarmouth
and draw these gentlemen what they require. I'll not be many minutes,
He hurried up the narrow staircase, and an instant later appeared on the
threshold of a room in which sat two gentlemen, facing one another in
silence before a hastily-kindled fire. They had travelled together from
Bristol, cheek by jowl in a post-chaise, exchanging scarce as many words
as they had traversed miles. But patience, whether it be of the sullen
or the dignified cast, has its limits; and these two, their tempers
exasperated by a chilly journey taken fasting, had come very near to the
end of sufferance. Fortunately, at the moment Mr. Dunborough--for he was
the one--made the discovery that he could not endure Sir George's
impassive face for so much as the hundredth part of another minute--and
in consequence was having recourse to his invention for the most brutal
remark with which to provoke him--the port and the landlord arrived
together; and William, who had carried up the cold beef and stewed
kidneys by another staircase, was heard on the landing. The host helped
to place the dishes on the table. Then he shut out his assistant.
'By your leave, Sir George,' he said diffidently. 'But the young lady
you were inquiring for? Might I ask--?'
He paused as if he feared to give offence. Sir George laid down his
knife and fork and looked at him. Mr. Dunborough did the same. 'Yes,
yes, man,' Soane said. 'Have you heard anything? Out with it!'
'Well, sir, it is only--I was going to ask if her father lived in these
Mr. Dunborough burst into rude laughter. 'Oh, Lord!' he said. 'Are we
grown so proper of a sudden? Her father, damme!'
Sir George shot a glance of disdain at him. Then, 'My good fellow,' he
said to the host, 'her father has been dead these fifteen years.'
The landlord reddened, annoyed by the way Mr. Dunborough had taken him.
'The gentleman mistakes me, Sir George,' he said stiffly. 'I did not ask
out of curiosity, as you, who know me, can guess; but to be plain, your
honour, there are two gentlemen below stairs, just come in; and what
beats me, though I did not tell them so, they are also in search of a
'Indeed?' Sir George answered, looking gravely at him. 'Probably they
are from the Castle Inn at Marlborough, and are inquiring for the lady
we are seeking.'
'So I should have thought,' the landlord answered, nodding sagely; 'but
one of the gentlemen says he is her father, and the other--'
Sir George stared. 'Yes?' he said, 'What of the other?'
'Is Mr. Pomeroy of Bastwick,' the host replied, lowering his voice.
'Doubtless your honour knows him?'
'He has naught to do with the young lady?'
'Nothing in the world.'
'I ask because--well, I don't like to speak ill of the quality, or of
those by whom one lives, Sir George; but he has not got the best name
in the county; and there have been wild doings at Bastwick of late, and
writs and bailiffs and worse. So I did not up and tell him all I knew.'
On a sudden Dunborough spoke. 'He was at College, at Pembroke,' he said.
'Doyley knows him. He'd know Tommy too; and we know Tommy is with the
girl, and that they were both dropped Laycock way. Hang me, if I don't
think there is something in this!' he continued, thrusting his feet into
slippers: his boots were drying on the hearth. 'Thomasson is rogue
enough for anything! See here, man,' he went on, rising and flinging
down his napkin; 'do you go down and draw them into the hall, so that I
can hear their voices. And I will come to the head of the stairs. Where
'Between here and Melksham, but a bit off the road, sir.'
'It would not be far from Laycock?'
'No, your honour; I should think it would be within two or three miles
of it. They are both on the flat the other side of the river.'
'Go down! go down!' Mr. Dunborough answered. 'And pump him, man! Set him
talking. I believe we have run the old fox to earth. It will be our
fault if we don't find the vixen!'
By this time the arrival of a second pair of travellers hard on the
heels of the first had roused the inn to full activity. Half-dressed
servants flitted this way and that through the narrow passages, setting
night-caps in the chambers, or bringing up clean snuffers and snuff
trays. One was away to the buttery, to draw ale for the driver, another
to the kitchen with William's orders to the cook. Lights began to shine
in the hall and behind the diamond panes of the low-browed windows; a
pleasant hum, a subdued bustle, filled the hospitable house.
On entering the Yarmouth, however, the landlord was surprised to find
only the clergyman awaiting him. Mr. Pomeroy, irritated by his long
absence, had gone to the stables to learn what he could from the
postboy. The landlord was nearer indeed than he knew to finding no one;
for when he entered, Mr. Thomasson, unable to suppress his fears, was on
his feet; another ten seconds, and the tutor would have fled
panic-stricken from the house.
The host did not suspect this, but Mr. Thomasson thought he did; and the
thought added to his confusion. 'I--I was coming to ask what had
happened to you,' he stammered. 'You will understand, I am very anxious
to get news.'
'To be sure, sir,' the landlord answered comfortably. 'Will you step
this way, and I think we shall be able to ascertain something
But the tutor did not like his tone; moreover, he felt safer in the
room than in the public hall. He shrank back. 'I--I think I will wait
here until Mr. Pomeroy returns,' he said.
The landlord raised his eyebrows. 'I thought you were anxious, sir,' he
retorted, 'to get news?'
'So I am, very anxious!' Mr. Thomasson replied, with a touch of the
stiffness that marked his manner to those below him. 'Still, I think I
had better wait here. Or, no, no!' he cried, afraid to stand out, 'I
will come with you. But, you see, if she is not here, I am anxious to go
in search of her as quickly as possible, where--wherever she is.'
'To be sure, that is natural,' the landlord answered, holding the door
open that the clergyman might pass out, 'seeing that you are her father,
sir. I think you said you were her father?' he continued, as Mr.
Thomasson, with a scared look round the hall, emerged from the room.
'Ye--yes,' the tutor faltered; and wished himself in the street. 'At
least--I am her step-father.'
'Oh, her step-father!'
'Yes,' Mr. Thomasson answered, faintly. How he cursed the folly that had
put him in this false position! How much more strongly he would have
cursed it, had he known what it was cast that dark shadow, as of a
lurking man, on the upper part of the stairs!
'Just so,' the landlord answered, as he paused at the foot of the
staircase. 'And, if you please--what might your name be, sir?'
A cold sweat rose on the tutor's brow; he looked helplessly towards the
door. If he gave his name and the matter were followed up, he would be
traced, and it was impossible to say what might not come of it. At last,
'Mr. Thomas,' he said, with a sneaking guilty look.
'Mr. Thomas, your reverence?'
'And the young lady's name would be Thomas, then?'
'N-no,' Mr. Thomasson faltered. 'No. Her name--you see,' he continued,
with a sickly smile, 'she is my step-daughter.'
'To be sure, your reverence. So I understood. And her name?'
The tutor glowered at his persecutor. 'I protest, you are monstrous
inquisitive,' he said, with a sudden sorry air of offence. 'But, if you
must know, her name is Masterson; and she has left her friends to
join--to join a--an Irish adventurer.'
It was unfortunately said; the more as the tutor in order to keep his
eye on the door, by which he expected Mr. Pomeroy to re-enter, had
turned his back on the staircase. The lie was scarcely off his lips when
a heavy hand fell on his shoulder, and, twisting him round with a jerk,
brought him face to face with an old friend. The tutor's eyes met those
of Mr. Dunborough, he uttered one low shriek, and turned as white as
paper. He knew that Nemesis had overtaken him.
But not how heavy a Nemesis! For he could not know that the landlord of
the Angel owned a restive colt, and no farther back than the last fair
had bought a new whip; nor that that very whip lay at this moment where
the landlord had dropped it, on a chest so near to Mr. Dunborough's hand
that the tutor never knew how he became possessed of it. Only he saw it
imminent, and would have fallen in sheer terror, his coward's knees
giving way under him, if Mr. Dunborough had not driven him back against
the wall with a violence that jarred the teeth in his head.
'You liar!' the infuriated listener cried; 'you lying toad!' and shook
him afresh with each sentence. 'She has run away from her friends, has
she? With an Irish adventurer, eh? And you are her father? And your name
is Thomas? Thomas, eh! Well, if you do not this instant tell me where
she is, I'll Thomas you! Now, come! One! Two! Three!'
In the last words seemed a faint promise of mercy; alas! it was
fallacious. Mr. Thomasson, the lash impending over him, had time to
utter one cry; no more. Then the landlord's supple cutting-whip, wielded
by a vigorous hand, wound round the tenderest part of his legs--for at
the critical instant Mr. Dunborough dragged him from the wall--and with
a gasping shriek of pain, pain such as he had not felt since boyhood,
Mr. Thomasson leapt into the air. As soon as his breath returned, he
strove frantically to throw himself down; but struggle as he might, pour
forth screams, prayers, execrations, as he might, all was vain. The hour
of requital had come. The cruel lash fell again and again, raising great
wheals on his pampered body: now he clutched Mr. Dunborough's arm only
to be shaken off; now he grovelled on the floor; now he was plucked up
again, now an ill-directed cut marked his cheek. Twice the landlord, in
pity and fear for the man's life, tried to catch Mr. Dunborough's arm
and stay the punishment; once William did the same--for ten seconds of
this had filled the hall with staring servants. But Mr. Dunborough's arm
and the whirling whip kept all at a distance; nor was it until a
tender-hearted housemaid ran in at risk of her beauty, and clutched his
wrist and hung on it, that he tossed the whip away, and allowed Mr.
Thomasson to drop, a limp moaning rag on the floor.
'For shame!' the girl cried hysterically. 'You blackguard! You cruel
''Tis he's the blackguard, my dear!' the honourable Mr. Dunborough
answered, panting, but in the best of tempers. 'Bring me a tankard of
something; and put that rubbish outside, landlord. He has got no more
than he deserved, my dear.'
Mr. Thomasson uttered a moan, and one of the waiters stooping over him
asked him if he could stand. He answered only by a faint groan, and the
man raising his eyebrows, looked gravely at the landlord; who, recovered
from the astonishment into which the fury and suddenness of the assault
had thrown him, turned his indignation on Mr. Dunborough.
'I am surprised at you, sir,' he cried, rubbing his hands with vexation.
'I did not think a gentleman in Sir George's company would act like
this! And in a respectable house! For shame, sir! For shame! Do, some of
you,' he continued to the servants, 'take this gentleman to his room and
put him to bed. And softly with him, do you hear?'
'I think he has swooned,' the man answered, who had stooped over him.
The landlord wrung his hands. 'Fie, sir--for shame!' he said. 'Stay,
Charles; I'll fetch some brandy.'
He bustled away to do so, and to acquaint Sir George; who through all,
and though from his open door he had gathered what was happening, had
resolutely held aloof. The landlord, as he went out, unconsciously
evaded Mr. Pomeroy who entered at the same moment from the street.
Ignorant of what was forward--for his companion's cries had not reached
the stables--Pomeroy advanced at his ease and was surprised to find the
hall, which he had left empty, occupied by a chattering crowd of
half-dressed servants; some bending over the prostrate man with lights,
some muttering their pity or suggesting remedies; while others again
glanced askance at the victor, who, out of bravado rather than for any
better reason, maintained his place at the foot of the stairs, and now
and then called to them 'to rub him--they would not rub that off!'
Mr. Pomeroy did not at first see the fallen man, so thick was the press
round him. Then some one moved, and he did; and the thing that had
happened bursting on him, his face, gloomy before, grew black as a
thunder-cloud. He flung the nearest to either side, that he might see
the better; and, as they recoiled, 'Who has done this?' he cried in a
voice low but harsh with rage. 'Whose work is this?' And standing over
the tutor he turned himself, looking from one to another.
But the servants knew his reputation, and shrank panic-stricken from his
eye; and for a moment no one answered. Then Mr. Dunborough, who,
whatever his faults, was not a coward, took the word. 'Whose work is
it?' he answered with assumed carelessness. 'It is my work. Have you any
fault to find with it?'
'Twenty, puppy!' the elder man retorted, foaming with rage. And then,
'Have I said enough, or do you want me to say more?' he cried.
'Quite enough,' Mr. Dunborough answered calmly. He had wreaked the worst
of his rage on the unlucky tutor. 'When you are sober I'll talk to you.'
Mr. Pomeroy with a frightful oath cursed his impudence. 'I believe I
have to pay you for more than this!' he panted. 'Is it you who decoyed a
girl from my house to-night?'
Mr. Dunborough laughed aloud. 'No, but it was I sent her there,' he
said. He had the advantage of knowledge. 'And if I had brought her away
again, it would have been nothing to you.'
The answer staggered Bully Pomeroy in the midst of his rage.
'Who are you?' he cried.
'Ask your friend there!' Dunborough retorted with disdain. 'I've
written my name on him! It should be pretty plain to read'; and he
turned on his heel to go upstairs.
Pomeroy took two steps forward, laid his hand on the other's shoulder,
and, big man as he was, turned him round. 'Will you give me
satisfaction?' he cried.
Dunborough's eyes met his. 'So that is your tone, is it?' he said
slowly; and he reached for the tankard of ale that had been brought to
him, and that now stood on a chest at the foot of the stairs.
But Mr. Pomeroy's hand was on the pot first; in a second its contents
were in Dunborough's face and dripping from his cravat. 'Now will you
fight?' Bully Pomeroy cried; and as if he knew his man, and that he had
done enough, he turned his back on the stairs and strode first into
Two or three women screamed as they saw the liquor thrown, and a waiter
ran for the landlord. A second drawer, more courageous, cried,
'Gentlemen, gentlemen--for God's sake, gentlemen!' and threw himself
between the younger man and the door of the room. But Dunborough, his
face flushed with anger, took him by the shoulder, and sent him
spinning; then with an oath he followed the other into the Yarmouth, and
slammed the door in the faces of the crowd. They heard the key turned.
'My God!' the waiter who had interfered cried, his face white, 'there
will be murder done!' And he sped away for the kitchen poker that he
might break in the door. He had known such a case before. Another ran to
seek the gentleman upstairs. The others drew round the door and stooped
to listen; a moment, and the sound they feared reached their ears--the
grinding of steel, the trampling of leaping feet, now a yell and now a
taunting laugh. The sounds were too much for one of the men who heard
them: he beat on the door with his fists. 'Gentlemen!' he cried, his
voice quavering, 'for the Lord's sake don't, gentlemen! Don't!' On which
one of the women who had shrieked fell on the floor in wild hysterics.
That brought to a pitch the horror without the room, where lights shone
on frightened faces and huddled forms. In the height of it the landlord
and Sir George appeared. The woman's screams were so violent that it was
rather from the attitude of the group about the door than from anything
they could hear that the two took in the position. The instant they did
so Sir George signed to the servants to stand aside, and drew back to
hurl himself against the door. A cry that the poker was come, and that
with this they could burst the lock with ease, stayed him just in
time--and fortunately; for as they went to adjust the point of the tool
between the lock and the jamb the nearest man cried 'Hush!' and raised
his hand, the door creaked, and in a moment opened inwards. On the
threshold, supporting himself by the door, stood Mr. Dunborough, his
face damp and pale, his eyes furtive and full of a strange horror. He
looked at Sir George.
'He's got it!' he muttered in a hoarse whisper. 'You had better--get a
surgeon. You'll bear me out,' he continued, looking round eagerly, 'he
began it. He flung it in my face. By God--it may go near to hanging me!'
Sir George and the landlord pushed by him and went in. The room was
lighted by one candle, burning smokily on the high mantelshelf; the
other lay overturned and extinguished in the folds of a tablecloth which
had been dragged to the floor. On a wooden chair beside the bare table
sat Mr. Pomeroy, huddled chin to breast, his left hand pressed to his
side, his right still resting on the hilt of his small-sword. His face
was the colour of chalk, and a little froth stood on his lips; but his
eyes, turned slightly upwards, still followed his rival with a grim
fixed stare. Sir George marked the crimson stain on his lips, and
raising his hand for silence--for the servants were beginning to crowd
in with exclamations of horror--knelt down beside the chair, ready to
support him in case of need. "They are fetching a surgeon," he said. "He
will be here in a minute."
Mr. Pomeroy's eyes left the door, through which Dunborough had
disappeared, and for a few seconds they dwelt unwinking on Sir George:
but for a while he said nothing. At length, "Too late," he whispered.
"It was my boots--I slipped, or I'd have gone through him. I'm done. Pay
Tamplin--five pounds I owe him."
Soane saw that it was only a matter of minutes, and he signed to the
landlord, who was beginning to lament, to be silent.
"If you can tell me where the girl is--in two words," he said gently,
"will you try to do so?"
The dying man's eyes roved over the ring of faces. "I don't know," he
whispered, so faintly that Soane had to bring his ear very near his
lips. "The parson--was to have got her to Tamplin's--for me. He put her
in the wrong carriage. He's paid. And--I'm paid."
With the last word the small-sword fell clinking to the floor. The dying
man drew himself up, and seemed to press his hand more and more tightly
to his side. For a brief second a look of horror--as if the
consciousness of his position dawned on his brain--awoke in his eyes.
Then he beat it down. "Tamplin's staunch," he muttered. "I must stand by
Tamplin. I owe--pay him five pounds for--"
A gush of blood stopped his utterance. He gasped and with a groan but no
articulate word fell forward in Soane's arms. Bully Pomeroy had lost his
Not this time the spare thousands the old squire, good saving man, had
left on bond and mortgage; not this time the copious thousands he had
raised himself for spendthrift uses: nor the old oaks his
great-grand-sire had planted to celebrate His Majesty's glorious
Restoration: nor the Lelys and Knellers that great-grand-sire's son,
shrewd old connoisseur, commissioned: not this time the few hundreds
hardly squeezed of late from charge and jointure, or wrung from the
unwilling hands of friends--but life; life, and who shall say what
IN THE CARRIAGE
Mr. Thomasson was mistaken in supposing that it was the jerk, caused by
the horses' start, which drew from Julia the scream he heard as the
carriage bounded forward and whirled into the night. The girl, indeed,
was in no mood to be lightly scared; she had gone through too much. But
as, believing herself alone, she sank back on the seat--at the moment
that the horses plunged forward--her hand, extended to save herself,
touched another hand: and the sudden contact in the dark, conveying to
her the certainty that she had a companion, with all the possibilities
the fact conjured up, more than excused an involuntary cry.
The answer, as she recoiled, expecting the worst, was a sound between a
sigh and a grunt; followed by silence. The coachman had got the horses
in hand again, and was driving slowly; perhaps he expected to be
stopped. She sat as far into her corner as she could, listening and
staring, enraged rather than frightened. The lamps shed no light into
the interior of the carriage, she had to trust entirely to her ears;
and, gradually, while she sat shuddering, awaiting she knew not what,
there stole on her senses, mingling with the roll of the wheels, a sound
the least expected in the world--a snore!
Irritated, puzzled, she stretched out a hand and touched a sleeve, a
man's sleeve; and at that, remembering how she had sat and wasted fears
on Mr. Thomasson before she knew who he was, she gave herself entirely
to anger. 'Who is it?' she cried sharply. 'What are you doing here?'
The snoring ceased, the man turned himself in his corner. 'Are we
there?' he murmured drowsily; and, before she could answer, was
The absurdity of the position pricked her. Was she always to be
travelling in dark carriages beside men who mocked her? In her
impatience she shook the man violently. 'Who are you? What are you doing
here?' she cried again.
The unseen roused himself. 'Eh?' he exclaimed. 'Who--who spoke? I--oh,
dear, dear, I must have been dreaming. I thought I heard--'
'Mr. Fishwick!' she cried; her voice breaking between tears and
laughter. 'Mr. Fishwick!' And she stretched out her hands, and found
his, and shook and held them in her joy.
The lawyer heard and felt; but, newly roused from sleep, unable to see
her, unable to understand how she came to be by his side in the
post-chaise, he shrank from her. He was dumbfounded. His mind ran on
ghosts and voices; and he was not to be satisfied until he had stopped
the carriage, and with trembling fingers brought a lamp, that he might
see her with his eyes. That done, the little attorney fairly wept
'That I should be the one to find you!' he cried. 'That I should be the
one to bring you back! Even now I can hardly believe that you are here!
Where have you been, child? Lord bless us, we have seen strange things!'
'It was Mr. Dunborough!' she cried with indignation.
'I know, I know,' he said. 'He is behind with Sir George Soane. Sir
George and I followed you. We met him, and Sir George compelled him to
'Compelled him?' she said.
'Ay, with a pistol to his head,' the lawyer answered; and chuckled and
leapt in his seat--for he had re-entered the carriage--at the
remembrance. 'Oh, Lord, I declare I have lived a year in the last two
days. And to think that I should be the one to bring you back!' he
repeated. 'To bring you back! But there, what happened to you? I know
that they set you down in the road. We learned that at Bristol this
afternoon from the villains who carried you off.'
She told him how they had found. Mr. Pomeroy's house, and taken shelter
'You have been there until now?' he said in amazement. 'At a gentleman's
house? But did you not think, child, that we should be anxious? Were
there no horses? No servants? Didn't you think of sending word to
'He was a villain,' she answered, shuddering. Brave as she was, Mr.
Pomeroy had succeeded in frightening her. 'He would not let me go. And
if Mr. Thomasson had not stolen the key of the room and released me, and
brought me to the gate to-night, and put me in with you--'
'But how did he know that I was passing?' Mr. Fishwick cried, thrusting
back his wig and rubbing his head in perplexity. He could not yet
believe that it was chance and only chance had brought them together.
And she was equally ignorant. 'I don't know,' she said. 'He only told
me--that he would have a carriage waiting at the gate.'
'And why did he not come with you?'
'He said--I think he said he was under obligations to Mr. Pomeroy.'
'Pomeroy? Pomeroy?' the lawyer repeated slowly. 'But sure, my dear, if
he was a villain, still, having the clergyman with you you should have
been safe. This Mr. Pomeroy was not in the same case as Mr. Dunborough.
He could not have been deep in love after knowing you a dozen hours.'
'I think,' she said, but mechanically, as if her mind ran on something
else, 'that he knew who I was, and wished to make me marry him.'
'Who you were!' Mr. Fishwick repeated; and--and he groaned.
The sudden check was strange, and Julia should have remarked it. But she
did not; and after a short silence, 'How could he know?' Mr. Fishwick
'I don't know,' she answered, in the same absent manner. Then with an
effort which was apparent in her tone, 'Lord Almeric Doyley was there,'
she said. 'He was there too.'
'Ah!' the lawyer replied, accepting the fact with remarkable apathy.
Perhaps his thoughts also were far away. 'He was there, was he?'
'Yes,' she said. 'He was there, and he--' then, in a changed tone, 'Did
you say that Sir George was behind us?'
'He should be,' he answered; and, occupied as she was with her own
trouble, she was struck with the gloom of the attorney's tone. 'We
settled,' he continued, 'as soon as we learned where the men had left
you, that I should start for Calne and make inquiries there, and they
should start an hour later for Chippenham and do the same there. Which
reminds me that we should be nearing Calne. You would like to
'I would rather go forward to Marlborough,' she answered feverishly, 'if
you could send to Chippenham to tell them I am safe? I would rather go
back at once, and quietly.'
'To be sure,' he said, patting her hand. 'To be sure, to be sure,' he
repeated, his voice shaking as if he wrestled with some emotion.
'You'll he glad to be with--with your mother.'
Julia wondered a little at his tone, but in the main he had described
her feelings. She had gone through so many things that, courageous as
she was, she longed for rest and a little time to think. She assented in
silence therefore, and, wonderful to relate, he fell silent too, and
remained so until they reached Calne. There the inn was roused; a
messenger was despatched to Chippenham; and while a relay of horses was
prepared he made her enter the house and eat and drink. Had he stayed at
that, and preserved when he re-entered the carriage the discreet silence
he had maintained before, it is probable that she would have fallen
asleep in sheer weariness, and deferred to the calmer hours of the
morning the problem that occupied her. But as they settled themselves in
their corners, and the carriage rolled out of the town, the attorney
muttered that he did not doubt Sir George would be at Marlborough to
breakfast. This set the girl's mind running. She moved restlessly, and
presently, 'When did you hear what had happened to me?' she asked.
'A few minutes after you were carried off,' he answered; 'but until Sir
George appeared, a quarter of an hour later, nothing was done.'
'And he started in pursuit?' To hear it gave her a delicious thrill
between pain and pleasure.
'Well, at first, to confess the truth,' Mr. Fishwick answered humbly, 'I
thought it was his doing, and--'
'You did?' she cried in surprise.
'Yes, I did; even I did. And until we met Mr. Dunborough, and Sir George
got the truth from him--I had no certainty. More shame to me!'
She bit her lips to keep back the confession that rose to them, and for
a little while was silent. Then, to his astonishment, 'Will he ever
forgive me?' she cried, her voice tremulous. 'How shall I tell him? I
was mad--I must have been mad.'
'My dear child,' the attorney answered in alarm, 'compose yourself. What
is it? What is the matter?'
'I, too thought it was he! I, even I. I thought that he wanted to rid
himself of me,' she cried, pouring forth her confession in shame and
abasement. 'There! I can hardly bear to tell you in the dark, and how
shall I tell him in the light?'
'Tut-tut!' Mr. Fishwick answered. 'What need to tell any one? Thoughts
'Oh, but'--she laughed hysterically--'I was not free, and I--what do you
think I did?' She was growing more and more excited.
'Tut-tut!' the lawyer said. 'What matter?'
'I promised--to marry some one else.'
'Good Lord!' he said. The words were forced from him.
'Some one else!' she repeated. 'I was asked to be my lady, and it
tempted me! Think! It tempted me,' she continued with a second laugh,
bitterly contemptuous. 'Oh, what a worm--what a thing I am! It tempted
me. To be my lady, and to have my jewels, and to go to Ranelagh and the
masquerades! To have my box at the King's House and my frolic in the
pit! And my woman as ugly as I liked--if he might have my lips! Think of
it, think of it! That anyone should be so low! Or no, no, no!' she cried
in a different tone. 'Don't believe me! I am not that! I am not so vile!
But I thought he had tricked me, I thought he had cheated me, I thought
that this was his work, and I was mad! I think I was mad!'
'Dear, dear,' Mr. Fishwick said rubbing his head. His tone was
sympathetic; yet, strange to relate, there was no real smack of sorrow
in it. Nay, an acute ear might have caught a note of relief, of hope,
almost of eagerness. 'Dear, dear, to be sure!' he continued; 'I
suppose--it was Lord Almeric Doyley, the nobleman I saw at Oxford?'
'And you don't know what to do, child?'
'To do?' she exclaimed.
'Which--I mean which you shall accept. Really,' Mr. Fishwick continued,
his brain succumbing to a kind of vertigo as he caught himself balancing
the pretensions of Sir George and Lord Almeric, 'it is a very remarkable
position for any young lady to enjoy, however born. Such a choice--'
'Choice!' she cried fiercely, out of the darkness. 'There is no choice.
Don't you understand? I told him No, no, no, a thousand times No!'
Mr. Fishwick sighed. 'But I understood you to say,' he answered meekly,
'that you did not know what to do.'
'How to tell Sir George! How to tell him.'
Mr. Fishwick was silent a moment. Then he said earnestly, 'I would not
tell him. Take my advice, child. No harm has been done. You said No to
'I said Yes,' she retorted.
'But I thought--'
'And then I said No,' she cried, between tears and foolish laughter.
'Cannot you understand?'
Mr. Fishwick could not; but, 'Anyway, do not tell him,' he said. 'There
is no need, and before marriage men think much of that at which they
'And much of a woman of whom they think nothing afterwards,' she
'Yet do not tell him,' he pleaded. From the sound of his voice she knew
that he was leaning forward. 'Or at least wait. Take the advice of one
older than you, who knows the world, and wait.'
'And talk to him, listen to him, smile on his suit with a lie in my
heart? Never?' she cried. Then with a new strange pride, a faint touch
of stateliness in her tone, 'You forget who I am, Mr. Fishwick,' she
said. 'I am as much a Soane as he is, and it becomes me to--to remember
that. Believe me, I would far rather resign all hope of entering his
house, though I love him, than enter it with a secret in my heart.'
Mr. Fishwick groaned. He told himself that this would be the last straw.
This would give Sir George the handle he needed. She would never enter
'I have not been true to him,' she said. 'But I will be true now.'
'The truth is--is very costly,' Mr. Fishwick murmured almost under his
breath. 'I don't know that poor people can always afford it, child.'
'For shame!' she cried hotly. 'For shame! But there,' she continued, 'I
know you do not mean it. I know that what you bid me do you would not do
yourself. Would you have sold my cause, would you have hidden the truth
for thousands? If Sir George had come to you to bribe you, would you
have taken anything? Any sum, however large? I know you would not. My
life on it, you would not. You are an honest man,' she cried warmly.
The honest man was silent awhile. Presently he looked out of the
carriage. The moon had risen over Savernake; by its light he saw that
they were passing Manton village. In the vale on the right the tower of
Preshute Church, lifting its head from a dark bower of trees, spoke a
solemn language, seconding hers. 'God bless you!' he said in a low
voice. 'God bless you.'
A minute later the horses swerved to the right, and half a dozen lights
keeping vigil in the Castle Inn gleamed out along the dark front. The
post-chaise rolled across the open, and drew up before the door.
Julia's strange journey was over. Its stages, sombre in the retrospect,
rose before her as she stepped from the carriage: yet, had she known
all, the memories at which she shuddered would have worn a darker hue.
But it was not until a late hour of the following morning that even the
lawyer heard what had happened at Chippenham.
The attorney entered the Mastersons' room a little before eleven next
morning; Julia was there, and Mrs. Masterson. The latter on seeing him
held up her hands in dismay. 'Lord's wakes, Mr. Fishwick!' the good
woman cried, 'why, you are the ghost of yourself! Adventuring does not
suit you, that's certain. But I don't wonder. I am sure I have not slept
a wink these three nights that I have not dreamt of Bessy Canning and
that horrid old Squires; which, she did it without a doubt. Don't go to
say you've bad news this morning.'
Certain it was that Mr. Fishwick looked woefully depressed. The night's
sleep, which had restored the roses to Julia's cheeks and the light to
her eyes, had done nothing for him; or perhaps he had not slept. His
eyes avoided the girl's look of inquiry. 'I've no news this morning,' he
said awkwardly. 'And yet I have news.'
'Bad?' the girl said, nodding her comprehension; and her colour slowly
'Bad,' he said gravely, looking down at the table.
Julia took her fostermother's hand in hers, and patted it; they were
sitting side by side. The elder woman, whose face was still furrowed by
the tears she had shed in her bereavement, began to tremble. 'Tell us,'
the girl said bravely. 'What is it?'
'God help me,' Mr. Fishwick answered, his face quivering. 'I don't know
how I shall tell you. I don't indeed. But I must.' Then, in a voice
harsh with pain, 'Child, I have made a mistake,' he cried. 'I am wrong,
I was wrong, I have been wrong from the beginning. God help me! And God
help us all!'
The elder woman broke into frightened weeping. The younger grew pale and
paler: grew presently white to the lips. Still her eyes met his, and did
not flinch. 'Is it--about our case?' she whispered.
'Yes! Oh, my dear, will you ever forgive me?'
'About my birth?'
'I am not Julia Soane? Is that it?'
He nodded again.
'Not a Soane--at all?'
'No; God forgive me, no!'
She continued to hold the weeping woman's hand in hers, and to look at
him; but for a long minute she seemed not even to breathe. Then in a
voice that, notwithstanding the effort she made, sounded harsh in his
ears, 'Tell me all,' she muttered. 'I suppose--you have found
'I have,' he said. He looked old, and worn, and shabby; and was at once
the surest and the saddest corroboration of his own tidings. 'Two days
ago I found, by accident, in a church at Bristol, the death certificate
of the--of the child.'
'But then--who am I?' she asked, her eyes growing wild: the world was
turning, turning with her.
'Her husband,' he answered, nodding towards Mrs. Masterson, 'adopted a
child in place of the dead one, and said nothing. Whether he intended to
pass it off for the child entrusted to him, I don't know. He never made
any attempt to do so. Perhaps,' the lawyer continued drearily, 'he had
it in his mind, and when the time came his heart failed him.'
'And I am that child?'
Mr. Fishwick looked away guiltily, passing his tongue over his lips. He
was the picture of shame and remorse.
'Yes,' he said. 'Your father and mother were French. He was a teacher of
French at Bristol, his wife French from Canterbury. No relations
'My name?' she asked, smiling piteously.
'Pare,' he said, spelling it. And he added, 'They call it Parry.'
She looked round the room in a kind of terror, not unmixed with wonder.
To that room they had retired to review their plans on their first
arrival at the Castle Inn--when all smiled on them. Thither they had
fled for refuge after the brush with Lady Dunborough and the rencontre
with Sir George. To that room she had betaken herself in the first flush
and triumph of Sir George's suit; and there, surrounded by the same
objects on which she now gazed, she had sat, rapt in rosy visions,
through the livelong day preceding her abduction. Then she had been a
gentlewoman, an heiress, the bride in prospect of a gallant
What wonder that, as she looked round in dumb misery, recognising these
things, her eyes grew wild again; or that the shrinking lawyer expected
an outburst. It came, but from another quarter. The old woman rose and
trembling pointed a palsied finger at him. 'Yo' eat your words!' she
said. 'Yo' eat your words and seem to like them. But didn't yo' tell me
no farther back than this day five weeks that the law was clear? Didn't
yo' tell me it was certain? Yo' tell me that!'
'I did! God forgive me,' Mr. Fishwick murmured from the depths of his
'Didn't yo' tell me fifty times, and fifty times to that, that the case
was clear?' the old woman continued relentlessly. 'That there were
thousands and thousands to be had for the asking? And her right besides,
that no one could cheat her of, no more than me of the things my
man left me?'
'I did, God forgive me!' the lawyer said.
'But yo' did cheat me!' she continued with quavering insistence, her
withered face faintly pink. 'Where is the home yo' ha' broken up? Where
are the things my man left me? Where's the bit that should ha' kept me
from the parish? Where's the fifty-two pounds yo' sold all for and ha'
spent on us, living where's no place for us, at our betters' table? Yo'
ha' broken my heart! Yo' ha' laid up sorrow and suffering for the girl
that is dearer to me than my heart. Yo' ha' done all that, and yo' can
come to me smoothly, and tell me yo' ha' made a mistake. Yo' are a
rogue, and, what maybe is worse, I mistrust me yo' are a fool!'
'Mother! mother!' the girl cried.
'He is a fool!' the old woman repeated, eyeing him with a dreadful
sternness. 'Or he would ha' kept his mistake to himself. Who knows of
it? Or why should he be telling them? 'Tis for them to find out, not for
him! Yo' call yourself a lawyer? Yo' are a fool!' And she sat down in a
palsy of senile passion. 'Yo' are a fool! And yo' ha' ruined us!'
Mr. Fishwick groaned, but made no reply. He had not the spirit to defend
himself. But Julia, as if all through which she had gone since the day
of her reputed father's death had led her to this point, only that she
might show the stuff of which she was wrought, rose to the emergency.
'Mother,' she said firmly, her hand resting on the older woman's
shoulder, 'you are wrong--you are quite wrong. He would have ruined us
indeed, he would have ruined us hopelessly and for ever, if he had kept
silence! He has never been so good a friend to us as he has shown
himself to-day, and I thank him for his courage. And I honour him!' She
held out her hand to Mr. Fishwick, who having pressed it, his face
working ominously, retired to the window.
'But, my deary, what will yo' do?' Mrs. Masterson cried peevishly. 'He
ha' ruined us!'
'What I should have done if we had never made this mistake,' Julia
answered bravely; though her lips trembled and her face was white, and
in her heart she knew that hers was but a mockery of courage, that must
fail her the moment she was alone. 'We are but fifty pounds worse
than we were.'
'Fifty pounds!' the old woman cried aghast. 'Yo' talk easily of fifty
pounds. And, Lord knows, it is soon spent here. But where will yo'
'Well, well,' the girl answered patiently, 'that is true. Yet we must
make the best of it. Let us make the best of it,' she continued,
appealing to them bravely, yet with tears in her voice. 'We are all
losers together. Let us bear it together. I have lost most,' she
continued, her voice trembling. Fifty pounds? Oh, God! what was fifty
pounds to what she had lost. 'But perhaps I deserve it. I was too ready
to leave you, mother. I was too ready to--to take up with new things
and--and richer things, and forget those who had been kin to me and kind
to me all my life. Perhaps this is my punishment. You have lost your
all, but that we will get again. And our friend here--he, too,
Mr. Fishwick, standing, dogged and downcast, by the window, did not say
what he had lost, but his thoughts went to his old mother at Wallingford
and the empty stocking, and the weekly letters he had sent her for a
month past, letters full of his golden prospects, and the great case of
Soane _v_. Soane, and the grand things that were to come of it. What a
home-coming was now in store for him, his last guinea spent, his hopes
wrecked, and Wallingford to be faced!
There was a brief silence. Mrs. Masterson sobbed querulously, or now and
again uttered a wailing complaint: the other two stood sank in bitter
retrospect. Presently, 'What must we do?' Julia asked in a faint voice.'
I mean, what step must we take? Will you let them know?'
'I will see them,' Mr. Fishwick answered, wincing at the note of pain in
her voice. 'I--I was sent for this morning, for twelve o'clock. It is a
quarter to eleven now.'
She looked at him, startled, a spot of red in each cheek. 'We must go
away,' she said hurriedly, 'while we have money. Can we do better than
return to Oxford?'
The attorney felt sure that at the worst Sir George would do something
for her: that Mrs. Masterson need not lament for her fifty pounds. But
he had the delicacy to ignore this. 'I don't know,' he said mournfully.
'I dare not advise. You'd be sorry, Miss Julia--any one would be sorry
who knew what I have gone through. I've suffered--I can't tell you what
I have suffered--the last twenty-four hours! I shall never have any
opinion of myself again. Never!'
Julia sighed. 'We must cut a month out of our lives,' she murmured. But
it was something else she meant--a month out of her heart!
If Julia's return in the middle of the night balked the curiosity of
some who would fain have had her set down at the door that they might
enjoy her confusion as she passed through the portico, it had the
advantage, appreciated by others, of leaving room for conjecture. Before
breakfast her return was known from, one end of the Castle Inn to the
other; within half an hour a score had private information. Sir George
had brought her back, after marrying her at Salisbury. The attorney had
brought her back, and both were in custody, charged with stealing Sir
George's title-deeds. Mr. Thomasson had brought her back; he had wedded
her at Calne, the reverend gentleman himself performing the ceremony
with a curtain-ring at a quarter before midnight, in the presence of two
chambermaids, in a room hung with drab moreen. Sir George's servant had
brought her back; he was the rogue in the play; it was Lady Harriet
Wentworth and footman Sturgeon over again. She had come back in a
Flemish hat and a white cloth Joseph with black facings; she had come
back in her night-rail; she had come back in a tabby gauze, with a lace
head and lappets. Nor were there wanting other rumours, of an
after-dinner Wilkes-and-Lord-Sandwich flavour, which we refrain from
detailing; but which the Castle Inn, after the mode of the eighteenth
century, discussed with freedom in a mixed company.
Of all these reports and the excitement which they created in an
assemblage weary of waiting on the great man's recovery and in straits
for entertainment, the attorney knew nothing until he set forth to keep
the appointment in Lord Chatham's apartments; which, long the object of
desire, now set his teeth on edge. Nor need he have learned much of them
then; for he had only to cross the lobby of the east wing, and was in
view of the hall barely three seconds. But, unluckily, Lady Dunborough,
cackling shrewishly with a kindred dowager, caught sight of him as he
passed; and in a trice her old limbs bore her in pursuit. Mr. Fishwick
heard his name called, had the weakness to turn, and too late found that
he had fallen into the clutches of his ancient enemy.
The absence of her son's name from the current rumours had relieved the
Viscountess of her worst fears, and left her free to enjoy herself.
Seeing his dismay, 'La, man! I am not going to eat you!' she cried; for
the lawyer, nervous and profoundly dispirited, really shrank before her.
'So you have brought back your fine madam, I hear? And made an honest
woman of her!'
Mr. Fishwick glared at her, but did not answer.
'I knew what would come of pushing out of your place, my lad!' she
continued, nodding complacently. 'It wasn't likely she'd behave herself.
When the master is away the man will play, and the maid too. I mind me
perfectly of the groom. A saucy fellow and a match for her; 'tis to be
hoped he'll beat some sense into her. Was she tied up at Calne?'
'No!' Mr. Fishwick blurted, wincing under her words; which hurt him a
hundred times more sharply than if the girl had been what he had thought
her. Then he might have laughed at the sneer and the spite that dictated
it. Now--something like this all the world would say.
The Viscountess eyed him cunningly, her head on one side. 'Was it at
Salisbury, then?' she cried. 'Wherever 'twas. I hear she had need of
haste. Or was it at Bristol? D'you hear me speak to you, man?' she
continued impatiently. 'Out with it.'
'At neither,' he cried.
My lady's eyes sparkled with rage. 'Hoity-toity!' she answered. 'D'you
say No to me in that fashion? I'll thank you to mend your manners,
Fishwick, and remember to whom you are speaking. Hark ye, sirrah, is she
Sir George's cousin or is she not?'
'She is not, my lady,' the attorney muttered miserably.
'But she is married?'
'No,' he said; and with that, unable to bear more, he turned to fly.
She caught him by the sleeve. 'Not married?' she cried, grinning with
ill-natured glee. 'Not married? And been of three days with a man! Lord,
'tis a story as bald as Granby! She ought to be whipped, the hussy! Do
you hear? She ought to the Roundhouse, and you with her, sirrah, for
passing her of on us!'
But that was more than the attorney, his awe of the peerage
notwithstanding, could put up with. 'God forgive you!' he cried. 'God
forgive you, ma'am, your hard heart!'
She was astonished. 'You impudent fellow!' she exclaimed. 'What do you
know of God? And how dare you name Him in the same breath with me? D'you
think He'd have people of quality be Methodists and live as the like of
you? God, indeed! Hang your impudence! I say, she should to the
Roundhouse--and you, too, for a vagabond! And so you shall!'
The lawyer shook with rage. 'The less your ladyship talks of the
Roundhouse,' he answered, his voice trembling, 'the better! There's one
is in it now who may go farther and fare worse--to your sorrow,
You rogue!' she cried. 'Do you threaten me?'
'I threaten no one,' he answered. 'But your son, Mr. Dunborough, killed
a man last night, and lies in custody at Chippenham at this very time! I
say no more, my lady!'
He had said enough. My lady glared; then began to shake in her turn. Yet
her spirit was not easily quelled; 'You lie!' she cried shrilly, the
stick, with which she vainly strove to steady herself, rattling on the
floor.' Who dares to say that my son has killed a man?'
'It is known,' the attorney answered.
'Who--who is it?'
'Mr. Pomeroy of Bastwick, a gentleman living near Calne.'
'In a duel! 'Twas in a duel, you lying fool!' she retorted hoarsely.
'You are trying to scare me! Say 'twas in a duel and I--I'll
'They shut themselves up in a room, and there were no seconds,' the
lawyer answered, beginning to pity her. 'I believe that Mr. Pomeroy gave
the provocation, and that may bring your ladyship's son off. But, on the
'On the other hand, what? What?' she muttered.
'Mr. Dunborough had horsewhipped a man that was in the other's company.'
'It was Mr. Thomasson.'
Her ladyship's hands went up. Perhaps she remembered that but for her
the tutor would not have been there. Then 'Sink you! I wish he had
flogged you all!' she shrieked, and, turning stiffly, she went mumbling
and cursing down the stairs, the lace lappets of her head trembling,
and her gold-headed cane now thumping the floor, now waving uncertainly
in the air.
* * * * *
A quarter of an hour earlier, in the apartments for which Mr. Fishwick
was bound when her ladyship intercepted him, two men stood talking at a
window. The room was the best in the Castle Inn--a lofty panelled
chamber with a southern aspect looking upon the smooth sward and
sweet-briar hedges of Lady Hertford's terrace, and commanding beyond
these a distant view of the wooded slopes of Savernake. The men spoke in
subdued tones, and more than once looked towards the door of an adjacent
room, as if they feared to disturb some one.
'My dear Sir George,' the elder said, after he had listened patiently to
a lengthy relation, in the course of which he took snuff a dozen times,
'your mind is quite made up, I suppose?'
'Well, it is a remarkable series of events; a--most remarkable series,'
Dr. Addington answered with professional gravity. 'And certainly, if the
lady is all you paint her--and she seems to set you young bloods on
fire--no ending could well be more satisfactory. With the addition of a
comfortable place in the Stamps or the Pipe Office, if we can take his
lordship the right way--it should do. It should do handsomely. But',
with a keen glance at his companion, 'even without that--you know that
he is still far from well?'
'I know that all the world is of one of two opinions,' Sir George
answered, smiling. 'The first, that his lordship ails nothing save
politically; the other, that he is at death's door and will not have
The physician shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. 'Neither is true,'
he said. 'The simple fact is, he has the gout; and the gout is an odd
thing, Sir George, as you'll know one of these days,' with another sharp
glance at his companion. 'It flies here and there, and everywhere.'
'And where is it now?' Soane asked innocently.
'It has gone to his head,' Addington answered, in a tone so studiously
jejune that Sir George glanced at him. The doctor, however, appeared
unaware of the look, and merely continued: 'So, if he does not take
things quite as you wish, Sir George, you'll--but here his
The doctor thought that he had sufficiently prepared Soane for a change
in his patron's appearance. Nevertheless, the younger man was greatly
shocked when through the door, obsequiously opened--and held open while
a man might count fifty, so that eye and mind grew expectant--the great
statesman, the People's Minister at length appeared. For the stooping
figure that moved to a chair only by virtue of a servant's arm, and
seemed the taller for its feebleness, for dragging legs and shrunken,
frame and features sharpened by illness and darkened by the great peruke
it was the Earl's fashion to wear, he was in a degree prepared. But for
the languid expression of the face that had been so eloquent, for the
lacklustre eyes and the dulness of mind that noticed little and heeded
less, he was not prepared; and these were so marked and so unlike the
'A daring pilot in extremity
Pleased with the danger when the waves went high'
--so unlike the man whose eagle gaze had fluttered Courts and imposed
the law on Senates, that it was only the presence of Lady Chatham, who
followed her lord, a book and cushion in her hands, that repressed the
exclamation which rose to Sir George's lips. So complete was the change
indeed that, as far as the Earl was concerned, he might have uttered it!
His lordship, led to the head of the table, sank without a word into the
chair placed for him, and propping his elbow on the table and his head
on his hand, groaned aloud.
Lady Chatham compressed her lips with evident annoyance as she took her
stand behind her husband's chair; it was plain from the glance she cast
at Soane that she resented the presence of a witness. Even Dr.
Addington, with his professional _sang-froid_ and his knowledge of the
invalid's actual state, was put out of countenance for a moment. Then he
signed to Sir George to be silent, and to the servant to withdraw.
At last Lord Chatham spoke. 'This business?' he said in a hollow voice
and without uncovering his eyes, 'is it to be settled now?'
'If your lordship pleases,' the doctor answered in a subdued tone.
'Sir George Soane is there?'
'Sir George,' the Earl said with an evident effort, 'I am sorry I cannot
receive you better.'
'My lord, as it is I am deeply indebted to your kindness.'
'Dagge finds no flaw in their case,' Lord Chatham continued
apathetically. 'Her ladyship has read his report to me. If Sir George
likes to contest the claim, it is his right.'
'I do not propose to do so.'
Sir George had not this time subdued his voice to the doctor's pitch;
and the Earl, whose nerves seemed alive to the slightest sound, winced
visibly. 'That is your affair,' he answered querulously. 'At any rate
the trustees do not propose to do so.'
Sir George, speaking with more caution, replied that he acquiesced; and
then for a few seconds there was silence in the room, his lordship
continuing to sit in the same attitude of profound melancholy, and the
others to look at him with compassion, which they vainly strove to
dissemble. At last, in a voice little above a whisper, the Earl asked if
the man was there.
'He waits your lordship's pleasure,' Dr. Addington answered. 'But before
he is admitted,' the physician continued diffidently and with a manifest
effort, 'may I say a word, my lord, as to the position in which this
places Sir George Soane?'
'I was told this morning,' Lord Chatham answered, in the same muffled
tone, 'that a match had been arranged between the parties, and that
things would remain as they were. It seemed to me, sir, a prudent
Sir George was about to answer, but Dr. Addington made a sign to him to
be silent. 'That is so,' the physician replied smoothly. 'But your
lordship is versed in Sir George Soane's affairs, and knows that he must
now go to his wife almost empty-handed. In these circumstances it has
occurred rather to his friends than to himself, and indeed I speak
against his will and by sufferance only, that--that, in a word,
Lord Chatham lowered his hand as Dr. Addington paused. A faint flush
darkened his lean aquiline features, set a moment before in the mould of
hopeless depression. 'What?' he said. And he raised himself sharply in
his chair. 'What has occurred to his friends?'
'That some provision might be made for him, my lord.'
'From the public purse?' the Earl cried in a startling tone. 'Is that
your meaning, sir?' And, with the look in his eyes which had been more
dreaded by the Rigbys and Dodingtons of his party than the most
scathing rebuke from the lips of another, he fixed the unlucky doctor
where he stood. 'Is that your proposal, sir?' he repeated.
The physician saw too late that he had ventured farther than his
interest would support him; and he quailed. On the other hand, it is
possible he had been neither so confident before, nor was so entirely
crushed now, as appeared. 'Well, my lord, it did occur to me,' he
stammered, 'as not inconsistent with the public welfare.'
'The public welfare!' the minister cried in biting accents. 'The public
plunder, sir, you mean! It were not inconsistent with that to quarter on
the nation as many ruined gentlemen as you please! But you mistake if
you bring the business to me to do--you mistake. I have dispersed
thirteen millions of His Majesty's money in a year, and would have spent
as much again and as much to that, had the affairs of this nation
required it; but the gentleman is wrong if he thinks it has gone to my
friends. My hands are clean,' his lordship continued with an expressive
gesture. 'I have said, in another place, none of it sticks to them.
_Virtute me involvo_!' And then, in a lower tone, but still with a note
of austerity in his voice, M rejoice to think,' he continued, 'that the
gentleman was not himself the author of this application. I rejoice to
think that it did not come from him. These things have been done freely;
it concerns me not to deny it; but since I had to do with His Majesty's
exchequer, less freely. And that only concerns me!'
Sir George Soane bit his lip. He felt keenly the humiliation of his
position. But it was so evident that the Earl was not himself--so
evident that the tirade to which he had just listened was one of those
outbursts, noble in sentiment, but verging on the impracticable and the
ostentatious, in which Lord Chatham was prone to indulge in his weaker
moments, that he felt little inclination to resent it. Yet to let it
pass unnoticed was impossible.
'My lord,' he said firmly, but with respect, 'it is permitted to all to
make an application which the custom of the time has sanctioned. That is
the extent of my action--at the highest. The propriety of granting such
requests is another matter and rests with your lordship. I have nothing
to do with that.'
The Earl appeared to be as easily disarmed as he had been lightly
aroused. 'Good lad! good lad!' he muttered. 'Addington is a fool!' Then
drowsily, as his head sunk on his hand again, 'The man may enter. I will
THE ATTORNEY SPEAKS
It was into an atmosphere highly charged, therefore, in which the
lightning had scarcely ceased to play, and might at any moment dart its
fires anew, that Mr. Fishwick was introduced. The lawyer did not know
this; yet it was to be expected that without that knowledge he would
bear himself but ill in the company in which he now found himself. But
the task which he had come to perform raised him above himself;
moreover, there is a point of depression at which timidity ceases, and
he had reached this point. Admitted by Dr. Addington, he looked round,
bowed stiffly to the physician, and lowly and with humility to Lord
Chatham and her ladyship; then, taking his stand at the foot of the
table, he produced his papers with an air of modest self-possession.
Lord Chatham did not look up, but he saw what was passing. 'We have no
need of documents,' he said in the frigid tone which marked his dealings
with all save a very few. 'Your client's suit is allowed, sir, so far as
the trustees are concerned. That is all it boots me to say.'
'I humbly thank your lordship,' the attorney answered, speaking with an
air of propriety which surprised Sir George. 'Yet I have with due
submission to crave your lordship's leave to say somewhat.'
'There is no need,' the Earl answered, 'the claim being allowed, sir.'
'It is on that point, my lord.'
The Earl, his eyes smouldering, looked his displeasure, but controlled
himself. 'What is it?' he said irritably.
'Some days ago, I made a singular discovery, my lord,' the attorney
answered sorrowfully. 'I felt it necessary to communicate it to my
client, and I am directed by her to convey it to your lordship and to
all others concerned.' And the lawyer bowed slightly to Sir
Lord Chatham raised his head, and for the first time since the
attorney's entrance looked at him with a peevish attention. 'If we are
to go into this, Dagge should be here,' he said impatiently. 'Or your
lawyer, Sir George.' with a look as fretful in that direction. 'Well,
man, what is it?'
'My lord,' Mr. Fish wick answered, 'I desire first to impress upon your
lordship and Sir George Soane that this claim was set on foot in good
faith on the part of my client, and on my part; and, as far as I was
concerned, with no desire to promote useless litigation. That was the
position up to Tuesday last, the day on which the lady was forcibly
carried off. I repeat, my lord, that on that day I had no more doubt of
the justice of our claim than I have to-day that the sky is above us.
But on Wednesday I happened in a strange way--at Bristol, my lord,
whither but for that abduction I might never have gone in my life--on a
discovery, which by my client's direction I am here to communicate.'
'Do you mean, sir,' the Earl said with sudden acumen, a note of keen
surprise in his voice, 'that you are here--to abandon your claim?'
'My client's claim,' the attorney answered with a sorrowful look. 'Yes,
my lord, I am.'
For an instant there was profound silence in the room; the astonishment
was as deep as it was general. At last, 'are the papers which were
submitted to Mr. Dagge--are they forgeries then?' the Earl asked.
'No, my lord; the papers are genuine,' the attorney answered. 'But my
client, although the identification seemed to be complete, is not the
person indicated in them.' And succinctly, but with sufficient
clearness, the attorney narrated his chance visit to the church, the
discovery of the entry in the register, and the story told by the good
woman at the 'Golden Bee.' 'Your lordship will perceive,' he concluded,
'that, apart from the exchange of the children, the claim was good. The
identification of the infant whom the porter presented to his wife with
the child handed to him by his late master three weeks earlier seemed to
be placed beyond doubt by every argument from probability. But the child
was not the child,' he added with a sigh. And, forgetting for the moment
the presence in which he stood, Mr. Fishwick allowed the despondency he
felt to appear in his face and figure.
There was a prolonged silence. 'Sir!' Lord Chatham said at last--Sir
George Soane, with his eyes on the floor and a deep flush on his face,
seemed to be thunderstruck by this sudden change of front--'it appears
to me that you are a very honest man! Yet let me ask you. Did it never
occur to you to conceal the fact?'
'Frankly, my lord, it did,' the attorney answered gloomily, 'for a day.
Then I remembered a thing my father used to say to us, "Don't put
molasses in the punch!" And I was afraid.'
'Don't put molasses in the punch!' his lordship ejaculated, with a
lively expression of astonishment. 'Are you mad, sir?'
'No, my lord and gentlemen,' Mr. Fishwick answered hurriedly.' But it
means--don't help Providence, which can very well help itself. The thing
was too big for me, my lord, and my client too honest. I thought, if it
came out afterwards, the last state might be worse than the first.
And--I could not see my way to keep it from her; and that is the truth,'
he added candidly.
The statesman nodded. Then,
'_Dissimulare etiam sperasti, perfide tantum
Posse nefas, tacitusque meam subducere terram_?'
he muttered in low yet sonorous tones.
Mr. Fishwick stared. 'I beg your lordship's pardon,' he said. 'I do not
'There is no need. And that is the whole truth, sir, is it?'
'Yes, my lord, it is.'
'Very good. Very good,' Lord Chatham replied, pushing away the papers
which the attorney in the heat of his argument had thrust before him.
'Then there is an end of the matter as far as the trustees are
concerned. Sir George, you have nothing to say, I take it?'
'No, I thank you, my lord--nothing here,' Soane answered vaguely. His
face continued to wear the dark flush which had overspread it a few
minutes before. 'This, I need not say, is an absolute surprise to
me,' he added.
'Just so. It is an extraordinary story. Well, good-morning, sir,' his
lordship continued, addressing the attorney. 'I believe you have done
your duty. I believe you have behaved very honestly. You will hear
Mr. Fishwick knew that he was dismissed, but after a glance aside, which
showed him Sir George standing in a brown study, he lingered. 'If your
lordship,' he said desperately, 'could see your way to do anything--for
'For your client? Why?' the Earl cried, with a sudden return of his
gouty peevishness. 'Why, sir--why?'
'She has been drawn,' the lawyer muttered 'out of the position in which
she lived, by an error, not her own, my lord.'
'Yes, my lord.'
'And why drawn?' the Earl continued regarding him severely. 'I will tell
you, sir. Because you were not content to await the result of
investigation, but must needs thrust yourself in the public eye! You
must needs assume a position before it was granted! No, sir, I allow you
honest; I allow you to be well-meaning; but your conduct has been
indiscreet, and your client must pay for it. Moreover, I am in the
position of a trustee, and can do nothing. You may go, sir.'
After that Mr. Fishwick had no choice but to withdraw. He did so; and a
moment later Sir George, after paying his respects, followed him. Dr.
Addington was clear-sighted enough to fear that his friend had gone
after the lawyer, and, as soon as he decently could, he went himself in
pursuit. He was relieved to find Sir George alone, pacing the floor of
the room they shared.
The physician took care to hide his real motive and his distrust of
Soane's discretion under a show of heartiness. 'My dear Sir George, I
congratulate you!' he cried, shaking the other effusively by the hand.
'Believe me, 'tis by far the completest way out of the difficulty; and
though I am sorry for the--for the young lady, who seems to have behaved
very honestly--well, time brings its repentances as well as its
revenges. It is possible the match would have done tolerably well,
assuming you to be equal in birth and fortune. But even then 'twas a
risk; 'twas a risk, my dear sir! And now--'
'It is not to be thought of, I suppose?' Sir George said; and he looked
at the other interrogatively.
'Good Lord, no!' the physician answered. 'No, no, no!' he added
Sir George nodded, and, turning, looked thoughtfully through the window.
His face still wore a flush. 'Yet something must be done for her,' he
said in a low voice. 'I can't let her here, read that.'
Dr. Addington took the open letter the other handed to him, and, eyeing
it with a frown while he fixed his glasses, afterwards proceeded to
'Sir,' it ran--it was pitifully short--'when I sought you I deemed
myself other than I am. Were I to seek you now I should be other than I
deem myself. We met abruptly, and can part after the same fashion. This
from one who claims to be no more than your well-wisher.--JULIA.'
The doctor laid it down and took a pinch of snuff. 'Good girl!' he
muttered. 'Good girl. That--that confirms me. You must do something for
her, Sir George. Has she--how did you get that, by the way?'
'I found it on the table. I made inquiry, and heard that she left
Marlboro' an hour gone.'
'I could not learn.'
'Good girl! Good girl! Yes, certainly you must do something for her.'
'You think so?' Sir George said, with a sudden queer look at the doctor,
'Even I! An allowance of--I was going to suggest fifty guineas a year,'
Dr. Addington continued impulsively. 'Now, after reading that letter, I
say a hundred. It is not too much, Sir George! 'Fore Gad, it is not too
The physician paused to take an elaborate pinch of snuff. 'You'll
forgive me,' he answered. 'But before this about her birth came out, I
fancied that you were doing, or going about to do the girl no good. Now,
my dear Sir George, I am not strait-laced,' the doctor continued,
dusting the snuff from the lappets of his coat, 'and I know very well
what your friend, my Lord March, would do in the circumstances. And you
have lived much, with him, and think yourself, I dare swear, no better.
But you are, my dear sir--you are, though you may not know it. You are
wondering what I am at? Inclined to take offence, eh? Well, she's a good
girl, Sir George'--he tapped the letter, which lay on the table beside
him--'too good for that! And you'll not lay it on your conscience,
'I will not,' Sir George said quietly.
'Good lad!' Dr. Addington muttered, in the tone Lord Chatham had used;
for it is hard to be much with the great without trying on their shoes.
'Good lad! Good lad!'
Soane did not appear to notice the tone. 'You think an allowance of a
hundred guineas enough?' he said, and looked at the other.
'I think it very handsome,' the doctor answered. 'D----d handsome.'
'Good!' Sir George rejoined. 'Then she shall have that allowance;' and
after staring awhile at the table he nodded assent to his thoughts
and went out.
A HANDSOME ALLOWANCE
The physician might not have deemed his friend so sensible--or so
insensible--had he known that the young man proposed to make the offer
of that allowance in person. Nor to Sir George Soane himself, when he
alighted five days later before The George Inn at Wallingford, did the
offer seem the light and easy thing,
'Of smiles and tears compact,'
it had appeared at Marlborough. He recalled old clashes of wit, and here
and there a spark struck out between them, that, alighting on the flesh,
had burned him. Meanwhile the arrival of so fine a gentleman, travelling
in a post-chaise and four, drew a crowd about the inn. To give the
idlers time to disperse, as well as to remove the stains of the road, he
entered the house, and, having bespoken dinner and the best rooms,
inquired the way to Mr. Fishwick the attorney's. By this time his
servant had blabbed his name; and the story of the duel at Oxford being
known, with some faint savour of his fashion, the landlord was his most
obedient, and would fain have guided his honour to the place cap
Rid of him, and informed that the house he sought was neighbour on the
farther side, of the Three Tuns, near the bridge, Sir George strolled
down the long clean street that leads past Blackstone's Church, then in
the building, to the river; Sinodun Hill and the Berkshire Downs,
speaking evening peace, behind him. He paused before a dozen neat houses
with brass knockers and painted shutters, and took each in turn for the
lawyer's. But when he came to the real Mr. Fishwick's, and found it a
mere cottage, white and decent, but no more than a cottage, he thought
that he was mistaken. Then the name of 'Mr. Peter Fishwick,
Attorney-at-Law,' not in the glory of brass, but painted in white
letters on the green door, undeceived him; and, opening the wicket of
the tiny garden, he knocked with the head of his cane on the door.
The appearance of a stately gentleman in a laced coat and a sword,
waiting outside Fishwick's, opened half the doors in the street; but not
that one at which Sir George stood. He had to knock again and again
before he heard voices whispering inside. At last a step came tapping
down the bricked passage, a bolt was withdrawn, and an old woman, in a
coarse brown dress and a starched mob, looked out. She betrayed no
surprise on seeing so grand a gentleman, but told his honour, before he
could speak, that the lawyer was not at home.
'It is not Mr. Fishwick I want to see,' Sir George answered civilly.
Through the brick passage he had a glimpse, as through a funnel, of
green leaves climbing on a tiny treillage, and of a broken urn on a
scrap of sward. 'You have a young lady staying here?' he continued.
The old woman's stiff grey eyebrows grew together. 'No!' she said
sharply. 'Nothing of the kind!'
'A Miss Masterson.'
'No' she snapped, her face more and more forbidding. 'We have no Misses
here, and no baggages for fine gentlemen! You have come to the wrong
house!' And she tried to shut the door in his face.
He was puzzled and a little affronted; but he set his foot between the
door and the post, and balked her. 'One moment, my good woman,' he
said. 'This is Mr. Fishwick's, is it not?'
'Ay, 'tis,' she answered, breathing hard with indignation. 'But if it is
him your honour wants to see, you must come when he is at home. He is
not at home to-day.'
'I don't want to see him,' Sir George said. 'I want to speak to the
young lady who is staying here.'
'And I tell you that there is no young lady staying here!' she retorted
wrathfully. 'There is no soul in the house but me and my serving girl,
and she's at the wash-tub. It is more like the Three Tuns you want!
There's a flaunting gipsy-girl there if you like--but the less said
about her the better.'
Sir George stood and stared at the woman. At last, on a sudden
suspicion, 'Is your servant from Oxford?' he said.
She seemed to consider him before she answered. 'Well, if she is?' she
said grudgingly. 'What then?'
'Is her name Masterson?'
Again she seemed to hesitate. At last, 'May be and may be not!' she
snapped, with a sniff of contempt.
He saw that it was, and for an instant the hesitation was on his side.
Then, 'Let me come in!' he said abruptly. 'You are doing your son's
client little good by this!' And when she had slowly and grudgingly made
way for him to enter, and the door was shut behind him, 'Where is she?'
he asked almost savagely. 'Take me to her!'
The old dame muttered something unintelligible. Then, 'She's in the back
part,' she said, 'but she'll not wish to see you. Don't blame me if she
pins a clout to your skirts.'
Yet she moved aside, and the way lay open--down the brick passage. It
must be confessed that for an instant, just one instant, Sir George
wavered, his face hot; for the third part of a second the dread of the
ridiculous, the temptation to turn and go as he had come were on him.
Nor need he, for this, forfeit our sympathies, or cease to be a hero. It
was the age, be it remembered, of the artificial. Nature, swathed in
perukes and ruffles, powder and patches, and stifled under a hundred
studied airs and grimaces, had much ado to breathe. Yet it did breathe;
and Sir George, after that brief hesitation, did go on. Three steps
carried him down the passage. Another, and the broken urn and tiny
treillage brought him up short, but on the greensward, in the sunlight,
with the air of heaven fanning his brow. The garden was a very
duodecimo; a single glance showed him its whole extent--and Julia.
She was not at the wash-tub, as the old lady had said; but on her knees,
scouring a step that led to a side-door, her drugget gown pinned up
about her. She raised her head as he appeared, and met his gaze
defiantly, her face flushing red with shame or some kindred feeling. He
was struck by a strange likeness between her hard look and the frown
with which the old woman at the door had received him; and this, or
something in the misfit of her gown, or the glimpse he had of a stocking
grotesquely fine in comparison of the stuff from which it peeped--or
perhaps the cleanliness of the step she was scouring, since he seemed to
instant, just one instant, Sir George wavered, his face hot; for the
third part of a second the dread of the ridiculous, the temptation to
turn and go as he had come were on him. Nor need he, for this, forfeit
our sympathies, or cease to be a hero. It was the age, be it remembered,
of the artificial. Nature, swathed in perukes and ruffles, powder and
patches, and stifled under a hundred studied airs and grimaces, had much
ado to breathe. Yet it did breathe; and Sir George, after that brief
hesitation, did go on. Three steps carried him down the passage.
Another, and the broken urn and tiny treillage brought him up short, but
on the greensward, in the sunlight, with the air of heaven fanning his
brow. The garden was a very duodecimo; a single glance showed him its
whole extent--and Julia.
She was not at the wash-tub, as the old lady had said; but on her knees,
scouring a step that led to a side-door, her drugget gown pinned up
about her. She raised her head as he appeared, and met his gaze
defiantly, her face flushing red with shame or some kindred feeling. He
was struck by a strange likeness between her hard look and the frown
with which the old woman at the door had received him; and this, or
something in the misfit of her gown, or the glimpse he had of a stocking
grotesquely fine in comparison of the stuff from which it peeped--or
perhaps the cleanliness of the step she was scouring, since he seemed to
see everything without looking at it--put an idea into his head. He
checked the exclamation that sprang to his lips; and as she rose to her
feet he saluted her with an easy smile. 'I have found you, child,' he
said. 'Did you think you had hidden yourself?'
She met his gaze sullenly. 'You have found me to no purpose,' she said.
Her tone matched her look.
The look and the words together awoke an odd pang in his heart. He had
seen her arch, pitiful, wrathful, contemptuous, even kind; but never
sullen. The new mood gave him the measure of her heart; but his tone
lost nothing of its airiness. 'I hope not,' he said, 'for we think you
have behaved vastly well in the matter, child. Remarkably well! And
that, let me tell you, is not only my own sentiment, but the opinion of
my friends who perfectly approve of the arrangement I have come to
propose. You may accept it, therefore, without the least scruple.'
'Arrangement?' she muttered. Her cheeks, darkly red a moment before,
began to fade.
'Yes,' he said. 'I hope you will think it not ungenerous. It will rid
you of the need to do this--sort of thing, and put you--put you in a
comfortable position. Of course, you know,' he continued in a tone of
patronage, under which her heart burned if her cheeks did not, 'that a
good deal of water has run under the bridge since we talked in the
garden at Marlborough? That things are changed.'
Her eyelids quivered under the cruel stroke. But her only answer was,
'They are.' Yet she wondered how and why; for if she had thought herself
an heiress, he had not--then.
'You admit it, I am sure?' he persisted.
'Yes,' she answered resolutely.
'And that to--to resume, in fact, the old terms would be--impossible,'
'Quite impossible.' Her tone was as hard as his was easy.
'I thought so,' Sir George continued complacently. 'Still, I could not,
of course, leave you here, child. As I have said, my friends think that
something should be done for you; and I am only too happy to do it. I
have consulted them, and we have talked the matter over. By the way,'
with a look round, 'perhaps your mother should be here--Mrs. Masterson,
I mean? Is she in the house?'
'No,' she answered, her face flaming scarlet; for pride had conquered
pain. She hated him. Oh, how she hated him and the hideous dress which
in her foolish dream--when, hearing him at the door, she had looked for
something very different--she had hurriedly put on; and the loose tangle
of hair which she had dragged with trembling fingers from its club so
that it now hung sluttishly over her ear. She longed, as she had never
longed before, to confront him in all her beauty; to be able to say to
him, 'Choose where you will, can you buy form or face like this?'
Instead she stood before him, prisoned in this shapeless dress, a
slattern, a drab, a thing whereat to curl the lip.
'Well, I am sorry she is not here,' he resumed. 'It would have given
a--a kind of legality to the offer,' he continued with an easy laugh.
'To tell you the truth, the amount was not fixed by me, but by my
friend, Dr. Addington, who interested himself in your behalf. He thought
that an allowance of a hundred guineas a year, child, properly secured,
would place you in comfort, and--and obviate all this,' with a negligent
wave of the hand that took in the garden and the half-scoured stone, 'at
the same time,' he added, 'that it would not be unworthy of the donor.'
And he bowed, smiling.
'A hundred guineas?' she said slowly. 'A year?'
'To be sure, child.'
'On your word?' with a sudden glance at him. 'Of course, I could not ask
better security! Surely, sir, there's but one thing to be said. 'Tis too
generous, too handsome!'
'Tut-tut!' he answered, wondering at her way of taking it.
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