[Transcriber's note: Italics are indicated by the underscore character (_). Accent marks are ignored.]
Charles Reade and Dion Boucicault
THERE are places which appear, at first sight, inaccessible to romance; and such a place was Mr. Wardlaw's dining-room in Russell Square. It was very large, had sickly green walls, picked out with aldermen, full length; heavy maroon curtains; mahogany chairs; a turkey carpet an inch thick: and was lighted with wax candles only.
In the center, bristling and gleaming with silver and glass, was a round table, at which fourteen could have dined comfortably; and at opposite sides of this table sat two gentlemen, who looked as neat, grave, precise, and unromantic, as the place: Merchant Wardlaw, and his son.
Wardlaw senior was an elderly man, tall, thin, iron-gray, with a round head, a short, thick neck, a good, brown eye, a square jowl that betokened resolution, and a complexion so sallow as to be almost cadaverous. Hard as iron: but a certain stiff dignity and respectability sat upon him, and became him.
Arthur Wardlaw resembled his father in figure, but his mother in face. He had, and has, hay-colored hair, a forehead singularly white and delicate, pale blue eyes, largish ears, finely chiseled features, the under lip much shorter than the upper; his chin oval and pretty, but somewhat receding; his complexion beautiful. In short, what nineteen people out of twenty would call a handsome young man, and think they had described him.
Both the Wardlaws were in full dress, according to the invariable custom of the house; and sat in a dead silence, that seemed natural to the great sober room.
This, however, was not for want of a topic; on the contrary, they had a matter of great importance to discuss, and in fact this was why they dined tete-a-tete. But their tongues were tied for the present; in the first place, there stood in the middle of the table an epergne, the size of a Putney laurel-tree; neither Wardlaw could well see the other, without craning out his neck like a rifleman from behind his tree; and then there were three live suppressors of confidential intercourse, two gorgeous footmen and a somber, sublime, and, in one word, episcopal, butler; all three went about as softly as cats after a robin, and conjured one plate away, and smoothly insinuated another, and seemed models of grave discretion: but were known to be all ears, and bound by a secret oath to carry down each crumb of dialogue to the servants' hall, for curious dissection and boisterous ridicule.
At last, however, those three smug hypocrites retired, and, by good luck, transferred their suffocating epergne to the sideboard; so then father and son looked at one another with that conscious air which naturally precedes a topic of interest; and Wardlaw senior invited his son to try a certain decanter of rare old port, by way of preliminary.
While the young man fills his glass, hurl we in his antecedents.
At school till fifteen, and then clerk in his father's office till twenty-two, and showed an aptitude so remarkable, that John Wardlaw, who was getting tired, determined, sooner or later, to put the reins of government into his hands. But he conceived a desire that the future head of his office should be a university man. So he announced his resolution, and to Oxford went young Wardlaw, though he had not looked at Greek or Latin for seven years. He was, however, furnished with a private tutor, under whom he recovered lost ground rapidly. The Reverend Robert Penfold was a first-class man, and had the gift of teaching. The house of Wardlaw had peculiar claims on him, for he was the son of old Michael Penfold, Wardlaw's cashier; he learned from young Wardlaw the stake he was playing for, and instead of merely giving him one hour's lecture per day, as he did to his other pupils, he used to come to his rooms at all hours, and force him to read, by reading with him. He also stood his friend in a serious emergency. Young Wardlaw, you must know, was blessed or cursed with Mimicry; his powers in that way really seemed to have no limit, for he could imitate any sound you liked with his voice, and any form with his pen or pencil. Now, we promise you, he was one man under his father's eye, and another down at Oxford; so, one night, this gentleman, being warm with wine, opens his window, and, seeing a group of undergraduates chattering and smoking in the quadrangle, imitates the peculiar grating tones of Mr. Champion, vice-president of the college, and gives them various reasons why they ought to disperse to their rooms and study. "But, perhaps," says he, in conclusion, "you are too blind drunk to read Bosh in crooked letters by candle-light? In that case——"
And he then gave them some very naughty advice how to pass the evening; still in the exact tones of Mr. Champion, who was a very, very strict moralist; and this unexpected sally of wit caused shrieks of laughter, and mightily tickled all the hearers, except Champion ipse, who was listening and disapproving at another window. He complained to the president. Then the ingenious Wardlaw, not having come down to us in a direct line from Bayard, committed a great mistake—he denied it.
It was brought home to him, and the president, who had laughed in his sleeve at the practical joke, looked very grave at the falsehood; Rustication was talked of and even Expulsion. Then Wardlaw came sorrowfully to Penfold, and said to him, "I must have been awfully cut, for I don't remember all that; I had been wining at Christchurch. I do remember slanging the fellows, but how can I tell what I said? I say, old fellow, it will be a bad job for me if they expel me, or even rusticate me; my father will never forgive me; I shall be his clerk, but never his partner; and then he will find out what a lot I owe down here. I'm done for! I'm done for!"
Penfold uttered not a word, but grasped his hand, and went off to the president, and said his pupil had wined at Christchurch, and could not be expected to remember minutely. Mimicry was, unfortunately, a habit with him. He then pleaded for the milder construction with such zeal and eloquence that the high-minded scholar he was addressing admitted that construction was possible, and therefore must be received. So the affair ended in a written apology to Mr. Champion which had all the smoothness and neatness of a merchant's letter. Arthur Wardlaw was already a master in that style.
Six months after this, and one fortnight before the actual commencement of our tale, Arthur Wardlaw, well crammed by Penfold, went up for his final examination, throbbing with anxiety. He passed; and was so grateful to his tutor that, when the advowson of a small living near Oxford came into the market, he asked Wardlaw senior to lend Robert Penfold a sum of money, much more than was needed. And Wardlaw senior declined without a moment's hesitation.
This slight sketch will serve as a key to the dialogue it has postponed, and to subsequent incidents.
"Well, Arthur, and so you have really taken your degree?"
"No, sir; but I have passed my examination. The degree follows as a matter of course—that is a mere question of fees."
"Oh! Then now I have something to say to you. Try one more glass of the '47 port. Stop; you'll excuse me; I am a man of business; I don't doubt your word; Heaven forbid! but, do you happen to have any document you can produce, in further confirmation of what you state; namely, that you have passed your final examination at the University?"
"Certainly, sir;" replied young Wardlaw. "My Testamur."
"What is that?"
The young gentleman put his hand in his pocket and produced his Testamur, or "We bear witness"; a short printed document in Latin, which may be thus translated:
"We bear witness that Arthur Wardlaw, of St. Luke's College, has answered our questions in humane letters.
"GEORGE RICHARDSON, "ARTHUR SMYTHE, "EDWARD MERIVALE, "Examiners."
Wardlaw senior took it, laid it beside him on the table, inspected it with his double eye-glass, and, not knowing a word of Latin, was mightily impressed, and his respect for his son rose forty or forty-five per cent.
"Very well, sir," said he. "Now listen to me. Perhaps it was an old man's fancy; but I have often seen in the world what a stamp these universities put upon a man. To send you back from commerce to Latin and Greek, at two-and-twenty, was trying you rather hard; it was trying you doubly; your obedience, and your ability into the bargain. Well, sir, you have stood the trial, and I am proud of you. And so now it is my turn. From this day and from this hour look on yourself as my partner in the old established house of Wardlaw. My balance-sheet shall be prepared immediately, and the partnership deed drawn. You will enter on a flourishing concern, sir; and you will virtually conduct it, in written communication with me; for I have had five-and-forty years of it; and then my liver, you know! Watson advises me strongly to leave my desk, and try country air, and rest from business and its cares."
He paused a moment; and the young man drew a long breath, like one who was in the act of being relieved of some terrible weight.
As for the old gentleman, he was not observing his son just then, but thinking of his own career; a certain expression of pain and regret came over his features; but he shook it off with manly dignity. "Come, come," said he, "this is the law of Nature, and must be submitted to with a good grace. Wardlaw junior, fill your glass." At the same time he stood up and said, stoutly, "The setting sun drinks to the rising sun;" but could not maintain that artificial style, and ended with, "God bless you, my boy, and may you stick to business; avoid speculation, as I have done; and so hand the concern down healthy to your son, as my father there (pointing to a picture) handed it down to me, and I to you."
His voice wavered slightly in uttering this benediction; but only for a moment. He then sat quietly down, and sipped his wine composedly.
Not so the other. His color came and went violently all the time his father was speaking, and, when he ceased, he sank into his chair with another sigh deeper than the last, and two half-hysterical tears came to his pale eyes.
But presently, feeling he was expected to say something, he struggled against all this mysterious emotion, and faltered out that he should not fear the responsibility, if he might have constant recourse to his father for advice.
"Why, of course," was the reply. "My country house is but a mile from the station. You can telegraph for me in any case of importance."
"When would you wish me to commence my new duties?"
"Let me see, it will take six weeks to prepare a balance-sheet, such as I could be content to submit to an incoming partner. Say two months."
Young Wardlaw's countenance fell.
"Meantime you shall travel on the Continent and enjoy yourself."
"Thank you," said young Wardlaw, mechanically, and fell into a brown study.
The room now returned to what seemed its natural state. And its silence continued until it was broken from without.
A sharp knocking was heard at the street door, and resounded across the marble hall.
The Wardlaws looked at one another in some little surprise.
"I have invited nobody," said the elder. Some time elapsed, and then a footman made his appearance and brought in a card.
"Mr. Christopher Adams."
Now that Mr. Christopher Adams should call on John Wardlaw, in his private room, at nine o'clock in the evening, seemed to that merchant irregular, presumptuous and monstrous. "Tell him he will find me at my place of business to-morrow, as usual," said he, knitting his brows.
The footman went off with this message; and, soon after, raised voices were heard in the hall, and the episcopal butler entered the room with an injured countenance.
"He says he must see you; he is in great anxiety."
"Yes, I am in great anxiety," said a quavering voice at his, elbow; and Mr. Adams actually pushed by the butler, and stood, hat in hand, in those sacred precincts. "'Pray excuse me, sir," said he, "but it is very serious; I can't be easy in my mind till I have put you a question."
"This is very extraordinary conduct, sir," said Mr. Wardlaw. "Do you think I do business here, and at all hours?"
"Oh, no, sir. It is my own business. I am come to ask you a very serious question. I couldn't wait till morning with such a doubt on my mind."
"Well, sir, I repeat this is irregular and extraordinary; but as you are here, pray what is the matter?" He then dismissed the lingering butler with a look. Mr. Adams cast uneasy glances on young Wardlaw.
"Oh," said the elder, "you can speak before him. This is my partner; that is to say, he will be as soon as the balance-sheet can be prepared and the deed drawn. Wardlaw junior, this is Mr. Adams, a very respectable bill discounter."
The two men bowed to each other, and Arthur Wardlaw sat down motionless.
"Sir, did you draw a note of hand to-day?" inquired Adams of the elder merchant.
"I dare say I did. Did you discount one signed by me?"
"Yes, sir, we did."
"Well, sir, you have only to present it at maturity. Wardlaw & Son will provide for it, I dare say." This with the lofty nonchalance of a rich man who had never broken an engagement in his life.
"Ah, that I know they will if it is all right; but suppose it is not?"
"What d'ye mean?" asked Wardlaw, with some astonishment.
"Oh, nothing, sir! It bears your signature, that is good for twenty times the amount; and it is indorsed by your cashier. Only what makes me a little uneasy, your bills used to be always on your own forms, and so I told my partner; he discounted it. Gentlemen, I wish you would just look at it."
"Of course we will look at it. Show it Arthur first; his eyes are younger than mine."
Mr. Adams took out a large bill-book, extracted the note of hand, and passed it across the table to Wardlaw junior. He took it up with a sort of shiver, and bent his head very low over it; then handed it back in silence.
Adams took it to Wardlaw senior and laid it before him by the side of Arthur's Testamur.
The merchant inspected it with his glasses.
"The writing is mine, apparently."
"I am very glad of it," said the bill-broker, eagerly.
"Stop a bit," said Mr. Wardlaw. "Why, what is this? For two thousand pounds! and, as you say, not my form. I have signed no note for two thousand pounds this week. Dated yesterday. You have not cashed it, I hope?"
"I am sorry to say my partner has."
"Well, sir, not to keep you in suspense, the thing is not worth the stamp it is written on."
"Mr. Wardlaw!—Sir!—Good heavens! Then it is as I feared. It is a forgery."
"I should be puzzled to find any other name for it. You need not look so pale, Arthur. We can't help some clever scoundrel imitating our hands; and as for you, Adams, you ought to have been more cautious."
"But, sir, your cashier's name is Penfold," faltered the holder, clinging to a straw. "May he not have drawn—is the indorsement forged as well?"
Mr. Wardlaw examined the back of the bill, and looked puzzled. "No," said he. "My cashier's name is Michael Penfold, but this is indorsed 'Robert Penfold.' Do you hear, Arthur? Why, what is the matter with you? You look like a ghost. I say there is your tutor's name at the back of this forged note. That is very strange. Just look, and tell me who wrote these two words 'Robert Penfold'?"
Young Wardlaw took the document and tried to examine it calmly, but it shook visibly in his hand, and a cold moisture gathered on his brow. His pale eyes roved to and fro in a very remarkable way; and he was so long before he said anything that both the other persons present began to eye him with wonder.
At last he faltered out, "This 'Robert Penfold' seems to me very like his own handwriting. But then the rest of the writing is equally like yours, sir. I am sure Robert Penfold never did anything wrong. Mr. Adams, please oblige me. Let this go no further till I have seen him, and asked him whether he indorsed it."
"Now don't you be in a hurry," said the elder Wardlaw. "The first question is, who received the money?"
Mr. Adams replied that it was a respectable-looking man, a young clergyman.
"Ah!" said Wardlaw, with a world of meaning.
"Father!" said young Wardlaw, imploringly, "for my sake, say no more to-night. Robert Penfold is incapable of a dishonest act."
"It becomes your years to think so, young man. But I have lived long enough to see what crimes respectable men are betrayed into in the hour of temptation. And, now I think of it, this Robert Penfold is in want of money. Did he not ask me for a loan of two thousand pounds? Was not that the very sum? Can't you answer me? Why, the application came through you."
Receiving no reply from his son, but a sort of agonized stare, he took out his pencil and wrote down Robert Penfold's address. This he handed the bill-broker, and gave him some advice in a whisper, which Mr. Christopher Adams received with a profusion of thanks, and bustled away, leaving Wardlaw senior excited and indignant, Wardlaw junior ghastly pale and almost stupefied.
Scarcely a word was spoken for some minutes, and then the younger man broke out suddenly: "Robert Penfold is the best friend I ever had; I should have been expelled but for him, and I should never have earned that Testamur but for him."
The old merchant interrupted him. "You exaggerate. But, to tell the truth, I am sorry now I did not lend him the money you asked for. For, mark my words, in a moment of temptation that miserable young man has forged my name, and will be convicted of the felony and punished accordingly."
"No, no. Oh, God forbid!" shrieked young Wardlaw. "I couldn't bear it. If he did, he must have intended to replace it. I must see him; I will see him directly." He got up all in a hurry, and was going to Penfold to warn him, and get him out of the way till the money should be replaced. But his father started up at the same moment and forbade him, in accents that he had never yet been able to resist.
"Sit down, sir, this instant," said the old man, with terrible sternness. "Sit down, I say, or you will never be a partner of mine. Justice must take its course. What business and what right have we to protect a felon? I would not take your part if you were one. Indeed it is too late now, for the detectives will be with him before you could reach him. I gave Adams his address."
At this last piece of information Wardlaw junior leaned his head on the table and groaned aloud, and a cold perspiration gathered in beads upon his white forehead.
THAT same evening sat over their tea, in Norfolk Street, Strand, another couple, who were also father and son; but, in this pair, the Wardlaws were reversed. Michael Penfold was a reverend, gentle creature, with white hair, blue eyes and great timidity; why, if a stranger put to him a question he used to look all round the room before he ventured to answer.
Robert, his son, was a young man with a large brown eye, a mellow voice, square shoulders and a prompt and vigorous manner. Cricketer. Scholar. Parson.
They were talking hopefully together over a living Robert was going to buy. It was near Oxford, he said, and would not prevent his continuing to take pupils. "But, father," said he, "it will be a place to take my wife to if I ever have one; and, meantime, I hope you will run down now and then, Saturday to Monday."
"That I will, Robert. Ah! how proud she would have been to hear you preach; it was always her dream, poor thing."
"Let us think she can hear me," said Robert. "And I have got you still; the proceeds of this living will help me to lodge you more comfortably."
"You are very good, Robert. I would rather see you spend it upon yourself; but, dear me, what a manager you must be to dress so beautifully as you do, and send your old father presents as you do, and yet put by fourteen hundred pounds to buy this living."
"You are mistaken, sir, I have only saved four hundred; the odd thousand— But that is a secret for the present."
"Oh, I am not inquisitive. I never was."
They then chatted about things of no importance whatever, and the old gentleman was just lighting his candle to go to bed, when a visitor was ushered into the room.
The Penfolds looked a little surprised, but not much. They had no street door all to themselves; no liveried dragons to interpose between them and unseasonable or unwelcome visitors.
The man was well dressed, with one exception; he wore a gold chain. He had a hooked nose, and a black, piercing eye. He stood at the door and observed every person and thing in the room minutely before he spoke a word.
Then he said, quietly, "Mr. Michael Penfold, I believe."
"At your service, sir.
"And Mr. Robert Penfold."
"I am Robert Penfold. What is your business?"
"Pray is the 'Robert Penfold' at the back of this note your writing?"
"Certainly it is; they would not cash it without that."
"Oh, you got the money, then?"
"Of course I did."
"You have not parted with it, have you?"
"All the better." He then turned to Michael and looked at him earnestly a moment. "The fact is, sir," said he, "there is a little irregularity about this bill which must be explained, or your son might be called on to refund the cash."
"'Irregularity about—a bill?" cried Michael Penfold, in dismay "Who is the drawer? Let me see it. Oh, dear me, something wrong about a bill indorsed by you, Robert?" and the old man began to shake piteously.
"Why, father," said Robert, "what are you afraid of? If the bill is irregular I can but return the money. It is in the house."
"The best way will be for Mr. Robert Penfold to go at once with me to the bill-broker; he lives but a few doors off. And you, sir, must stay here and be responsible for the funds, till we return."
Robert Penfold took his hat directly, and went off with this mysterious visitor.
They had not gone many steps, when Robert's companion stopped, and, getting in front of him, said, "We can settle this matter here." At the same time a policeman crossed the way and joined them; and another man, who was, in fact, a policeman in plain clothes, emerged from a doorway and stood at Robert Penfold's back.
The detective, having thus surrounded him, threw off his disguise. "My man," said he, "I ought to have done this job in your house. But I looked at the worthy old gentleman and his gray hairs. I thought I'd spare him all I could. I have a warrant to arrest you for forgery!"
"Forgery! arrest me for forgery!" said Robert Penfold, with some amazement, but little emotion; for he hardly seemed to take it in, in all its horrible significance.
The next moment, however, he turned pale, and almost staggered under the blow.
"We had better go to Mr. Wardlaw," said he. "I entreat you to go to him with me."
"Can't be done," said the detective. "Wardlaw has nothing to do with it. The bill is stopped. You are arrested by the gent that cashed it. Here is the warrant; will you go quietly with us, or must I put the darbies on?"
Robert was violently agitated. "There is no need to arrest me," he cried; "I shall not run from my accuser. Hands off, I say. I'm a clergyman of the Church of England, and you shall not lay hands on me."
But one of the policemen did lay hands on him. Then the Reverend Robert Penfold shook him furiously off, and, with one active bound, sprang into the middle of the road.
The officers went at him incautiously, and the head detective, as he rushed forward, received a heavy blow on the neck and jaw that sounded along the street, and sent him rolling in the mud; this was followed by a quick succession of staggering facers, administered right and left on the eyes and noses of the subordinates. These, however, though bruised and bleeding, succeeded at last in grappling their man, and all came to the ground together, and there struggled furiously; every window in the street was open by this time, and at one the white hair and reverend face of Michael Penfold looked out on this desperate and unseemly struggle with hands that beat the air in helpless agony and inarticulate cries of terror.
The detective got up and sat upon Robert Penfold's chest; and at last the three forced the handcuffs upon him and took him in a cab to the station-house.
Next day, before the magistrate, Wardlaw senior proved the note was a forgery, and Mr. Adams's partner swore to the prisoner as the person who had presented and indorsed the note. The officers attended, two with black eyes apiece, and one with his jaw bound up, and two sound teeth in his pocket, which had been driven from their sockets by the prisoner in his desperate attempt to escape. Their evidence hurt the prisoner, and the magistrate refused bail.
The Reverend Robert Penfold was committed to prison, to be tried at the Central Criminal Court on a charge of felony.
Wardlaw senior returned home, and told Wardlaw junior, who said not a word. He soon received a letter from Robert Penfold, which agitated him greatly, and he promised to go to the prison and see him.
But he never went.
He was very miserable, a prey to an inward struggle. He dared not offend his father on the eve of being made partner. Yet his heart bled for Robert Penfold.
He did what might perhaps have been expected from that pale eye and receding chin—he temporized. He said to himself, "Before that horrible trial comes on, I shall be the house of Wardlaw, and able to draw a check for thousands. I'll buy off Adams at any price, and hush up the whole matter."
So he hoped, and hoped. But the accountant was slow, the public prosecutor unusually quick; and, to young Wardlaw's agony, the partnership deed was not ready when an imploring letter was put into his hands, urging him, by all that men hold sacred, to attend at the court as the prisoner's witness.
This letter almost drove young Wardlaw mad. He went to Adams and entreated him not to carry the matter into court. But Adams was inexorable. He had got his money, but would be revenged for the fright.
Baffled here, young Wardlaw went down to Oxford and shut himself up in his own room, a prey to fear and remorse. He sported his oak, and never went out. All his exercise was that of a wild beast in its den, walking restlessly up and down.
But all his caution did not prevent the prisoner's solicitor from getting to him. One morning, at seven o'clock, a clerk slipped in at the heels of his scout, and, coming to young Wardlaw's bedside, awoke him out of an uneasy slumber by serving him with a subpoena to appear as Robert Penfold's witness.
This last stroke finished him. His bodily health gave way under his mental distress. Gastric fever set in, and he was lying tossing and raving in delirium, while Robert Penfold was being tried at the Central Criminal Court.
The trial occupied six hours, and could easily be made rather interesting. But, for various reasons, with which it would not be good taste to trouble the reader, we decide to skim it.
The indictment contained two counts; one for forging the note of hand, the other for uttering it knowing it to be forged.
On the first count, the Crown was weak, and had to encounter the evidence of Undercliff, the distinguished expert, who swore that the hand which wrote "Robert Penfold" was not, in his opinion, the hand that had written the body of the instrument. He gave many minute reasons in support of this. And nothing of any weight was advanced contra. The judge directed the jury to acquit the prisoner on that count.
But, on the charge of uttering, the evidence was clear, and on the question of knowledge it was, perhaps, a disadvantage to the prisoner that he was tried in England, and could not be heard in person, as he could have been in a foreign court; above all, his resistance to the officers eked out the presumption that he knew the note had been forged by some person or other, who was probably his accomplice.
The absence of his witness, Wardlaw junior, was severely commented on by his counsel; indeed, he appealed to the judge to commit the said Wardlaw for contempt of court. But Wardlaw senior was recalled, and swore that he had left his son in a burning fever, not expected to live. And declared, with genuine emotion, that nothing but a high sense of public duty had brought him hither from his dying son's bedside. He also told the court that Arthur's inability to clear his friend had really been the first cause of his illness, from which he was not expected to recover.
The jury consulted together a long time; and, at last, brought in a verdict of "GUILTY"; but recommended him to mercy on grounds which might fairly have been alleged in favor of his innocence; but, if guilty, rather aggravated his crime.
Then an officer of the court inquired, in a sort of chant or recitative, whether the prisoner had anything to say why judgment should not be given in accordance with the verdict.
It is easy to divest words of their meaning by false intonation; and prisoners in general receive this bit of singsong in dead silence. For why? the chant conveys no idea to their ears, and they would as soon think of replying to the notes of a cuckoo.
But the Reverend Robert Penfold was in a keen agony that sharpened all his senses; he caught the sense of the words in spite of the speaker, and clung wildly to the straw that monotonous machine held out. "My lord! my lord!" he cried, "I'll tell you the real reason why young Wardlaw is not here."
The judge put up his hand with a gesture that enforced silence. "Prisoner," said he, "I cannot go back to facts; the jury have dealt with them. Judgment can be arrested only on grounds of law. On these you can be heard. But, if you have none to offer, you must be silent and submit to your sentence." He then, without a pause, proceeded to point out the heinous character of the offense, but admitted there was one mitigating circumstance; and, in conclusion, he condemned the culprit to five years' penal servitude.
At this the poor wretch uttered a cry of anguish that was fearful, and clutched the dock convulsively.
Now a prisoner rarely speaks to a judge without revolting him by bad law, or bad logic, or hot words. But this wild cry was innocent of all these, and went straight from the heart in the dock to the heart on the judgment seat. And so his lordship's voice trembled for a moment, and then became firm again, but solemn and humane.
"But," said he, "my experience tells me this is your first crime, and may possibly be your last. I shall therefore use my influence that you may not be associated with more hardened criminals, but may be sent out of this country to another, where you may begin life afresh, and, in the course of years, efface this dreadful stain. Give me hopes of you; begin your repentance where now you stand, by blaming yourself, and no other man. No man constrained you to utter a forged note, and to receive the money; it was found in your possession. For such an act there can be no defense in law, morality, or religion."
These words overpowered the culprit. He burst out crying with great violence.
But it did not last long. He became strangely composed all of a sudden; and said, "God forgive all concerned in this—but one—but one."
He then bowed respectfully, and like a gentleman, to the judge and the jury, and walked out of the dock with the air of a man who had parted with emotion, and would march to the gallows now without flinching.
The counsel for the Crown required that the forged document should be impounded.
"I was about to make the same demand," said the prisoner's counsel.
The judge snubbed them both, and said it was a matter of course.
Robert Penfold spent a year in separate confinement, and then, to cure him of its salutary effect (if any), was sent on board the hulk Vengeance, and was herded with the greatest miscreants in creation. They did not reduce him to their level, but they injured his mind. And, before half his sentence had expired, he sailed for a penal colony, a man with a hot coal in his bosom, a creature imbittered, poisoned; hoping little, believing little, fearing little, and hating much.
He took with him the prayer-book his mother had given him when he was ordained deacon. But he seldom read beyond the fly-leaf. There the poor lady had written at large her mother's heart, and her pious soul aspiring heavenward for her darling son. This, when all seemed darkest, he would sometimes run to with moist eyes. For he was sure of his mother's love, but almost doubted the justice of his God.
MR. WARDLAW went down to his son and nursed him. He kept the newspapers from him, and, on his fever abating, had him conveyed by easy stages to the seaside, and then sent him abroad.
The young man obeyed in gloomy silence. He never asked after Robert Penfold, now; never mentioned his name. He seemed, somehow, thankful to be controlled mind and body.
But, before he had been abroad a month, he wrote for leave to return home and to throw himself into business. There was, for once, a nervous impatience in his letters, and his father, who pitied him deeply, and was more than ever inclined to reward and indulge him, yielded readily enough; and, on his arrival, signed the partnership deed, and, Polonius-like, gave him much good counsel; then retired to his country seat.
At first he used to run up every three days, and examine the day-book and ledger, and advise his junior; but these visits soon became fewer, and at last he did little more than correspond occasionally.
Arthur Wardlaw held the reins, and easily paid his Oxford debts out of the assets of the firm. Not being happy in his mind, he threw himself into commerce with feverish zeal, and very soon extended the operations of the house.
One of his first acts of authority was to send for Michael Penfold into his room. Now poor old Michael, ever since his son's misfortune, as he called it, had crept to his desk like a culprit, expecting every day to be discharged. When he received this summons he gave a sigh and went slowly to the young merchant.
Arthur Wardlaw looked up at his entrance, then looked down again, and said coldly, "Mr. Penfold, you have been a faithful servant to us many years; I raise your salary fifty pounds a year, and you will keep the ledger."
The old man was dumfounded at first, and then began to give vent to his surprise and gratitude; but Wardlaw cut him short, almost fiercely. "There, there, there," said he, without raising his eyes, "let me hear no more about it, and, above all, never speak to me of that cursed business. It was no fault of yours, nor mine neither. There—go—I want no thanks. Do you hear? leave me, Mr. Penfold, if you please."
The old man bowed low and retired, wondering much at his employer's goodness, and a little at his irritability.
Wardlaw junior's whole soul was given to business night and day, and he soon became known for a very ambitious and rising merchant. But, by and by, ambition had to encounter a rival in his heart. He fell in love; deeply in love; and with a worthy object.
The young lady was the daughter of a distinguished officer, whose merits were universally recognized, but not rewarded in proportion. Wardlaw's suit was favorably received by the father, and the daughter gradually yielded to an attachment the warmth, sincerity and singleness of which were manifest. And the pair would have been married but for the circumstance that her father (partly through Wardlaw's influence, by the by) had obtained a lucrative post abroad which it suited his means to accept, at all events for a time. He was a widower, and his daughter could not let him go alone.
This temporary separation, if it postponed a marriage, led naturally to a solemn engagement; and Arthur Wardlaw enjoyed the happiness of writing and receiving affectionate letters by every foreign post. Love, worthily bestowed, shed its balm upon his heart, and, under its soft but powerful charm, he grew tranquil and complacent, and his character and temper seemed to improve. Such virtue is there in a pure attachment.
Meanwhile the extent of his operations alarmed old Penfold; but he soon reasoned that worthy down with overpowering conclusions and superior smiles.
He had been three years the ruling spirit of Wardlaw & Son, when some curious events took place in another hemisphere; and in these events, which we are now to relate, Arthur Wardlaw was more nearly interested than may appear at first sight.
Robert Penfold, in due course, applied to Lieutenant-General Rolleston for a ticket of leave. That functionary thought the application premature, the crime being so grave. He complained that the system had become too lax, and for his part he seldom gave a ticket-of-leave until some suitable occupation was provided for the applicant. "Will anybody take you as a clerk? If so, I'll see about it."
Robert Penfold could find nobody to take him into a post of confidence all at once, and wrote the general an eloquent letter, begging hard to be allowed to labor with his hands.
Fortunately, General Rolleston's gardener had just turned him off; so he offered the post to his eloquent correspondent, remarking that he did not much mind employing a ticket-of-leave man himself, though he was resolved to protect his neighbors from their relapses.
The convict then came to General Rolleston, and begged leave to enter on his duties under the name of James Seaton. At that General Rolleston hem'd and haw'd, and took a note. But his final decision was as follows: "If you really mean to change your character, why, the name you have disgraced might hang round your neck. Well, I'll give you every chance. But," said this old warrior, suddenly compressing his resolute lips just a little, "if you go a yard off the straight path now, look for no mercy, Jemmy Seaton."
So the convict was re-christened at the tail of a threat, and let loose among the warrior's tulips.
His appearance was changed as effectually as his name. Even before he was Seatoned he had grown a silky mustache and beard of singular length and beauty; and, what with these and his workingman's clothes, and his cheeks and neck tanned by the sun, our readers would never have recognized in this hale, bearded laborer the pale prisoner that had trembled, raged, wept and submitted in the dock of the Central Criminal Court.
Our universities cure men of doing things by halves, be the things mental or muscular; so Seaton gardened much more zealously than his plebeian predecessor: up at five, and did not leave till eight.
But he was unpopular in the kitchen—because he was always out of it. Taciturn and bitter, he shunned his fellow-servants.
Yet working among the flowers did him good; these his pretty companions and nurslings had no vices.
One day, as he was rolling the grass upon the lawn, he heard a soft rustle at some distance, and, looking round, saw a young lady on the gravel path, whose calm but bright face, coming so suddenly, literally dazzled him. She had a clear cheek blooming with exercise, rich brown hair, smooth, glossy and abundant, and a very light hazel eye, of singular beauty and serenity. She glided along, tranquil as a goddess, smote him with beauty and perfume, and left him staring after her receding figure, which was, in its way, as captivating as her face.
She was walking up and down for exercise, briskly, but without effort. Once she passed within a few yards of him, and he touched his hat to her. She inclined her head gently, but her eyes did not rest an instant on her gardener; and so she passed and repassed, unconsciously sawing this solitary heart with soft but penetrating thrills.
At last she went indoors to luncheon, and the lawn seemed to miss the light music of her rustling dress, and the sunshine of her presence, and there was a painful void; but that passed, and a certain sense of happiness stole over James Seaton—an unreasonable joy, that often runs before folly and trouble.
The young lady was Helen Rolleston, just returned home from a visit. She walked in the garden every day, and Seaton watched her, and peeped at her, unseen, behind trees and bushes. He fed his eyes and his heart upon her, and, by degrees, she became the sun of his solitary existence. It was madness; but its first effect was not unwholesome. The daily study of this creature, who, though by no means the angel he took her for, was at all events a pure and virtuous woman, soothed his sore heart, and counteracted the demoralizing influence of his late companions. Every day he drank deeper of an insane but purifying and elevating passion.
He avoided the kitchen still more; and that, by the by, was unlucky; for there he could have learned something about Miss Helen Rolleston that would have warned him to keep at the other end of the garden whenever that charming face and form glided to and fro among the minor flowers.
A beautiful face fires our imagination, and we see higher virtue and intelligence in it than we can detect in its owner's head or heart when we descend to calm inspection. James Seaton gazed on Miss Rolleston day after day, at so respectful a distance that she became his goddess. If a day passed without his seeing her, he was dejected. When she was behind her time, he was restless, anxious, and his work distasteful; and then, when she came out at last, he thrilled all over, and the lawn, ay, the world itself, seemed to fill with sunshine. His adoration, timid by its own nature, was doubly so by reason of his fallen and hopeless condition. He cut nosegays for her; but gave them to her maid Wilson for her. He had not the courage to offer them to herself.
One evening, as he went home, a man addressed him familiarly, but in a low voice. Seaton looked at him attentively, and recognized him at last. It was a convict called Butt, who had come over in the ship with him. The man offered him a glass of ale; Seaton declined it. Butt, a very clever rogue, seemed hurt. So then Seaton assented reluctantly. Butt took him to a public house in a narrow street, and into a private room. Seaton started as soon as he entered, for there sat two repulsive ruffians, and, by a look that passed rapidly between them and Butt, he saw plainly that they were waiting for him. He felt nervous; the place was so uncouth and dark, the faces so villainous.
However, they invited him to sit down, roughly, but with an air of good fellowship; and very soon opened their business over their ale. We are all bound to assist our fellow-creatures, when it can be done without trouble; and what they asked of him was a simple act of courtesy, such as in their opinion no man worthy of the name could deny to his fellow. It was to give General Rolleston's watchdog a piece of prepared meat upon a certain evening. And, in return for this trifling civility, they were generous enough to offer him a full share of any light valuables they might find in the general's house.
Seaton trembled, and put his face in his hands a moment. "I cannot do it," said he.
"He has been too good to me."
A coarse laugh of derision greeted this argument; it seemed so irrelevant to these pure egotists. Seaton, however, persisted, and on that one of the men got up and stood before the door, and drew his knife gently.
Seaton glanced his eyes round in search of a weapon, and turned pale.
"Do you mean to split on us, mate?" said one of the ruffians in front of him.
"No, I don't. But I won't rob my benefactor. You shall kill me first." And with that he darted to the fireplace, and in a moment the poker was high in air, and the way he squared his shoulders and stood ready to hit to the on, or cut to the off, was a caution.
"Come, drop that," said Butt, grimly; "and put up your knife, Bob. Can't a pal be out of a job, and yet not split on them that is in it!"
"Why should I split?" said Robert Penfold. "Has the law been a friend to me? But I won't rob my benefactor—and his daughter."
"That is square enough," said Butt. "Why, pals, there are other cribs to be cracked besides that old bloke's. Finish the ale, mate, and part friends."
"If you will promise me to crack some other crib, and let that one alone."
A sullen assent was given, and Seaton drank their healths, and walked away. Butt followed him soon after, and affected to side with him, and intimated that he himself was capable of not robbing a man's house who had been good to him, or to a pal of his. Indeed this plausible person said so much, and his sullen comrades had said so little, that Seaton, rendered keen and anxious by love, invested his savings in a Colt's revolver and ammunition.
He did not stop there; after the hint about the watch-dog, he would not trust that faithful but too carnivorous animal; he brought his blankets into the little tool-house, and lay there every night in a sort of dog's sleep. This tool-house was erected in a little back garden, separated from the lawn only by some young trees in single file. Now Miss Rolleston's window looked out upon the lawn, so that Seaton's watchtower was not many yards from it; then, as the tool-house was only lighted from above, he bored a hole in the wooden structure, and through this he watched, and slept, and watched. He used to sit studying theology by a farthing rushlight till the lady's bedtime, and then he watched for her shadow. If it appeared for a few moments on the blind, he gave a sigh of content and went to sleep, but awaked every now and then to see that all was well.
After a few nights, his alarms naturally ceased, but his love increased, fed now from this new source, the sweet sense of being the secret protector of her he adored.
Meantime, Miss Rolleston's lady's maid, Wilson, fell in love with him after her fashion; she had taken a fancy to his face at once, and he had encouraged her a little, unintentionally; for he brought the nosegays to her, and listened complacently to her gossip, for the sake of the few words she let fall now and then about her young mistress. As he never exchanged two sentences at a time with any other servant, this flattered Sarah Wilson, and she soon began to meet and accost him oftener, and in cherrier-colored ribbons, than he could stand. So then he showed impatience, and then she, reading him by herself, suspected some vulgar rival.
Suspicion soon bred jealousy, jealousy vigilance, and vigilance detection.
Her first discovery was that, so long as she talked of Miss Helen Rolleston, she was always welcome; her second was, that Seaton slept in the tool-house.
She was not romantic enough to connect her two discoveries together. They lay apart in her mind, until circumstances we are about to relate supplied a connecting link.
One Thursday evening James Seaton's goddess sat alone with her papa, and—being a young lady of fair abilities, who had gone through her course of music and other studies, taught brainlessly, and who was now going through a course of monotonous pleasures, and had not accumulated any great store of mental resources—she was listless and languid, and would have yawned forty times in her papa's face, only she was too well-bred. She always turned her head away, when it came, and either suppressed it, or else hid it with a lovely white hand. At last, as she was a good girl, she blushed at her behavior, and roused herself up, and said she, "Papa, shall I play you the new quadrilles?"
Papa gave a start and a shake, and said, with well-feigned vehemence, "Ay, do, my dear," and so composed himself—to listen; and Helen sat down and played the quadrilles.
The composer had taken immortal melodies, some gay, some sad, and had robbed them of their distinctive character and hashed them till they were all one monotonous rattle. But General Rolleston was little the worse for all this. As Apollo saved Horace from hearing a poetaster's rhymes, so did Somnus, another beneficent little deity, rescue our warrior from his daughter's music.
She was neither angry nor surprised. A delicious smile illumined her face directly; she crept to him on tiptoe, and bestowed a kiss, light as a zephyr, on his gray head. And, in truth, the bending attitude of this supple figure, clad in snowy muslin, the virginal face and light hazel eyes beaming love and reverence, and the airy kiss, had something angelic.
She took her candle, and glided up to her bedroom. And, the moment she got there, and could gratify her somnolence without offense, need we say she became wide-awake? She sat down and wrote long letters to three other young ladies, gushing affection, asking questions of the kind nobody replies to, painting, with a young lady's colors, the male being to whom she was shortly to be married, wishing her dear friends a like demigod, if perchance earth contained two; and so to the last new bonnet and preacher.
She sat over her paper till one o'clock, and Seaton watched and adored her shadow.
When she had done writing, she opened her window and looked out upon the night. She lifted those wonderful hazel eyes toward the stars, and her watcher might well be pardoned if he saw in her a celestial being looking up from an earthly resting place toward her native sky.
At two o'clock she was in bed, but not asleep. She lay calmly gazing at the Southern Cross and other lovely stars shining with vivid but chaste fire in the purple vault of heaven.
While thus employed she heard a slight sound outside that made her turn her eyes toward a young tree near her window. Its top branches were waving a good deal, though there was not a breath stirring. This struck her as curious, very curious.
While she wondered, suddenly an arm and a hand came in sight, and after them the whole figure of a man, going up the tree.
Helen sat up now, glaring with terror, and was so paralyzed she did not utter a sound. About a foot below her window was a lead flat that roofed the bay-window below. It covered an area of several feet, and the man sprang on to it with perfect ease from the tree. Helen shrieked with terror. At that very instant there was a flash, a pistol-shot, and the man's arms went whirling, and he staggered and fell over the edge of the flat, and struck the grass below with a heavy thud. Shots and blows followed, and all the sounds of a bloody struggle rung in Helen's ears as she flung herself screaming from the bed and darted to the door. She ran and clung quivering to her sleepy maid, Wilson. The house was alarmed, lights flashed, footsteps pattered, there was universal commotion.
General Rolleston soon learned his daughter's story from Wilson, and aroused his male servants, one of whom was an old soldier. They searched the house first; but no entrance had been effected; so they went out on the lawn with blunderbuss and pistol.
They found a man lying on his back at the foot of the bay window.
They pounced on him, and, to their amazement, it was the gardener, James Seaton. Insensible.
General Rolleston was quite taken aback for a moment. Then he was sorry. But, after a little reflection, he said very sternly, "Carry the blackguard indoors; and run for an officer."
Seaton was taken into the hall and laid flat on the floor.
All the servants gathered about him, brimful of curiosity, and the female ones began to speak all together; but General Rolleston told them sharply to hold their tongues, and to retire behind the man. "Somebody sprinkle him with cold water," said he; "and be quiet, all of you, and keep out of sight, while I examine him." He stood before the insensible figure with his arms folded, amid a dead silence, broken only by the stifled sobs of Sarah Wilson, and of a sociable housemaid who cried with her for company.
And now Seaton began to writhe and show signs of returning sense.
Next he moaned piteously, and sighed. But General Rolleston could not pity him; he waited grimly for returning consciousness, to subject him to a merciless interrogatory.
He waited just one second too long. He had to answer a question instead of putting one.
The judgment is the last faculty a man recovers when emerging from insensibility; and Seaton, seeing the general standing before him, stretched out his hands, and said, in a faint, but earnest voice, before eleven witnesses, "Is she safe? Oh, is she safe?"
SARAH WILSON left off crying, and looked down on the ground with a very red face. General Rolleston was amazed.
"Is she safe? Is who safe?" said he. "He means my mistress," replied Wilson, rather brusquely; and flounced out of the hall.
"She is safe, no thanks to you," said General Rolleston. "What were you doing under her window at this time of night?" And the harsh tone in which this question was put showed Seaton he was suspected. This wounded him, and he replied doggedly, "Lucky for you all I was there."
"That is no answer to my question," said the general sternly.
"It is all the answer I shall give you."
"Then I shall hand you over to the officer without another word."
"Do, sir, do," said Seaton bitterly; but he added more gently, "you will be sorry for it when you come to your senses."
At this moment Wilson entered with a message. "If you please, sir, Miss Rolleston says the robber had no beard. Miss have never noticed Seaton's face, but his beard she have; and, oh, if you please, sir, she begged me to ask him—Was it you that fired the pistol and shot the robber?"
The delivery of this ungrammatical message, but rational query was like a ray of light streaming into a dark place. It changed the whole aspect of things. As for Seaton, he received it as if Heaven was speaking to him through Wilson. His sullen air relaxed, the water stood in his eyes, he smiled affectionately, and said in a low, tender voice, "Tell her I heard some bad characters talking about this house—that was a month ago—so ever since then I have slept in the tool-house to watch. Yes, I shot the robber with my revolver, and I marked one or two more; but they were three to one; I think I must have got a blow on the head; for I felt nothing—"
Here he was interrupted by a violent scream from Wilson. She pointed downward, with her eyes glaring; and a little blood was seen to be trickling slowly over Seaton's stocking and shoe.
"Wounded," said the general's servant, Tom, in the business-like accent of one who had seen a thousand wounds.
"Oh, never mind that," said Seaton. "It can't be very deep, for I don't feel it;" then, fixing his eyes on General Rolleston, he said, in a voice that broke down suddenly, "There stands the only man who has wounded me to-night, to hurt me."
The way General Rolleston received this point-blank reproach surprised some persons present, who had observed only the imperious and iron side of his character. He hung his head in silence a moment; then, being discontented with himself, he went into a passion with his servants for standing idle. "Run away, you women," said he roughly. "Now, Tom, if you are good for anything, strip the man and stanch his wound. Andrew, a bottle of port, quick!"
Then, leaving him for a while in friendly hands, he went to his daughter and asked her if she saw any objection to a bed being made up in the house for the wounded convict.
"Oh, papa," said she, "why, of course not. I am all gratitude. What is he like, Wilson? for it is a most provoking thing, I never noticed his face, only his beautiful beard glittering in the sunshine ever so far off. Poor young man! Oh, yes, papa! send him to bed directly, and we will all nurse him. I never did any good in the world yet, and so why not begin at once?"
General Rolleston laughed at this squirt of enthusiasm from his staid daughter, and went off to give the requisite orders.
But Wilson followed him immediately and stopped him in the passage.
"If you please, sir, I think you had better not. I have something to tell you."
She then communicated to him by degrees her suspicion that James Seaton was in love with his daughter. He treated this with due ridicule at first; but she gave him one reason after another till she staggered him, and he went downstairs in a most mixed and puzzled frame of mind, inclined to laugh, inclined to be angry, inclined to be sorry.
The officer had just arrived, and was looking over some photographs to see if James Seaton was "one of his birds." Such, alas! was his expression.
At sight of this, Rolleston colored up; but extricated himself from the double difficulty with some skill. "Hexham," said he, "this poor fellow has behaved like a man, and got himself wounded in my service. You are to take him to the infirmary; but, mind, they must treat him like my own son, and nothing he asks for be denied him."
Seaton walked with feeble steps, and leaning on two men, to the infirmary; and General Rolleston ordered a cup of coffee, lighted a cigar and sat cogitating over this strange business and asking himself how he could get rid of this young madman and yet befriend him. As for Sarah Wilson, she went to bed discontented and wondering at her own bad judgment. She saw too late that if she had held her tongue Seaton would have been her patient and her prisoner; and as for Miss Rolleston, when it came to the point, why, she would never have nursed him except by proxy, and the proxy would have been Sarah Wilson.
However, the blunder blind passion had led her into was partially repaired by Miss Rolleston herself. When she heard, next day, where Seaton was gone, she lifted up her hands in amazement. "What could papa be thinking of to send our benefactor to a hospital?" And, after meditating awhile, she directed Wilson to cut a nosegay and carry it to Seaton. "He is a gardener;" said she innocently. "Of course he will miss his flowers sadly in that miserable place."
And she gave the same order every day, with a constancy that, you must know, formed part of this young lady's character. Soup, wine and jellies were sent from the kitchen every other day with equal pertinacity.
Wilson concealed the true donor of all those things and took the credit to herself. By this means she obtained the patient's gratitude, and he showed it so frankly she hoped to steal his love as well.
But no! his fancy and his heart remained true to the cold beauty he had served so well, and she had forgotten him, apparently.
This irritated Wilson at last, and she set to work to cure him with wholesome but bitter medicine. She sat down beside him one day, and said cheerfully, "We are all 'on the keyfeet' just now. Miss Rolleston's beau is come on a visit."
The patient opened his eyes with astonishment.
"Miss Rolleston's beau?"
"Ay, her intended. What, didn't you know, she is engaged to be married?"
"She engaged to be married?" gasped Seaton.
Wilson watched him with a remorseless eye.
"Why, James," said she, after awhile, "did you think the likes of her would go through the world without a mate?"
Seaton made no reply but a moan, and lay back like one dead, utterly crushed by this cruel blow.
A buxom middle-aged nurse now came up and said, with a touch of severity, "Come, my good girl, no doubt you mean well, but you are doing ill. You had better leave him to us for the present."
On this hint Wilson bounced out and left the patient to his misery.
At her next visit she laid a nosegay on his bed and gossiped away, talking of everything in the world except Miss Rolleston.
At last she came to a pause, and Seaton laid his hand on her arm directly, and looking piteously in her face spoke his first word.
"Does she love him?"
"What, still harping on her?" said Wilson. "Well, she doesn't hate him, I suppose, or she would not marry him."
"For pity's sake don't trifle with me! Does she love him?"
"La, James, how can I tell? She mayn't love him quite as much as I could love a man that took my fancy" (here she cast a languishing glance on Seaton); "but I see no difference between her and other young ladies. Miss is very fond of her papa, for one thing; and he favors the match. Ay, and she likes her partner well enough. She is brighter like, now he is in the house, and she reads all her friends' letters to him ever so lovingly; and I do notice she leans on him out walking, a trifle more than there is any need for."
At this picture James Seaton writhed in his bed like some agonized creature under vivisection; but the woman, spurred by jealousy, and also by egotistical passion, had no mercy left for him.
"And why not?" continued she; "he is young and handsome and rich and he dotes on her. If you are really her friend you ought to be glad she is so well suited."
At this admonition the tears stood in Seaton's eyes, and after awhile he got strength to say, "I know I ought, I know it. If he is only worthy of her, as worthy as any man could be."
"That he is, James. Why, I'll be bound you have heard of him. It is young Mr. Wardlaw."
Seaton started up in bed. "Who? Wardlaw? what Wardlaw?"
"What Wardlaw? why, the great London merchant, his son. Leastways he manages the whole concern now, I hear; the old gentleman, he is retired by all accounts."
"CURSE HIM! CURSE HIM! CURSE HIM!" yelled James Seaton, with his eyes glaring fearfully and both hands beating the air.
Sarah Wilson recoiled with alarm.
"That angel marry him!" shrieked Seaton. "Never, while I live. I'll throttle him with these hands first."
What more his ungovernable fury would have uttered was interrupted by a rush of nurses and attendants, and Wilson was bundled out of the place with little ceremony.
He contrived, however, to hurl a word after her, accompanied with a look of concentrated rage and resolution.
"NEVER, I TELL YOU—WHILE I LIVE."
At her next visit to the hospital Wilson was refused admission by order of the head surgeon. She left her flowers daily all the same.
After a few days she thought the matter might have cooled, and, having a piece of news to communicate to Seaton with respect to Arthur Wardlaw, she asked to see that patient.
"Left the hospital this morning," was the reply.
"Why not? We have cured worse cases than his."
"Where has he gone to? Pray tell me."
"Oh, certainly." And inquiry was made. But the reply was, "Left no address."
Sarah Wilson, like many other women of high and low degree, had swift misgivings of mischief to come. She was taken with a fit of trembling, and had to sit down in the hall.
And, to tell the truth, she had cause to tremble; for that tongue of hers had launched two wild beasts—Jealousy and Revenge.
When she got better she went home, and, coward-like, said not a word to living soul.
That day, Arthur Wardlaw dined with General Rolleston and Helen. They were to be alone for a certain reason; and he came half an hour before dinner. Helen thought he would, and was ready for him on the lawn.
They walked arm-in-arm, talking of the happiness before them, and regretting a temporary separation that was to intervene. He was her father's choice, and she loved her father devotedly; he was her male property; and young ladies like that sort of property, especially when they see nothing to dislike in it. He loved her passionately, and that was her due, and pleased her and drew a gentle affection, if not a passion, from her in return. Yes, that lovely forehead did come very near young Wardlaw's shoulder more than once or twice as they strolled slowly up and down on the soft mossy turf.
And, on the other side of the hedge that bounded the lawn, a man lay crouched in the ditch and saw it all with gleaming eyes.
Just before the affianced ones went in, Helen said, "I have a little favor to ask you, dear. The poor man, Seaton, who fought the robbers and was wounded—papa says he is a man of education, and wanted to be a clerk or something. Could you find him a place?"
"I think I can," said Wardlaw; "indeed, I am sure. A line to White & Co. will do it; they want a shipping clerk."
"Oh, how good you are!" said Helen; and lifted her face all beaming with thanks.
The opportunity was tempting; the lover fond. Two faces met for a single moment, and one of the two burned for five minutes after.
The basilisk eyes saw the soft collision; but the owner of those eyes did not hear the words that earned him that torture. He lay still and bided his time.
General Rolleston's house stood clear of the town at the end of a short but narrow and tortuous lane. This situation had tempted the burglars whom Seaton baffled; and now it tempted Seaton.
Wardlaw must pass that way on leaving General Rolleston's house.
At a bend of the lane two twin elms stood out a foot or two from the hedge. Seaton got behind these at about ten o'clock and watched for him with a patience and immobility that boded ill.
His preparations for this encounter were singular. He had a close-shutting inkstand and a pen, and one sheet of paper, at the top of which he had written "Sydney," and the day of the month and year, leaving the rest blank. And he had the revolver with which he had shot the robber at Helen Rolleston's window; and a barrel of that arm was loaded with swan shot.
THE moon went down; the stars shone out clearer.
Eleven o'clock boomed from a church clock in the town.
Wardlaw did not come, and Seaton did not move from his ambush.
Twelve o'clock boomed, and Wardlaw never came, and Seaton never moved.
Soon after midnight General Rolleston's hall door opened, and a figure appeared in a flood of light. Seaton's eye gleamed at the light, for it was young Wardlaw, with a footman at his back holding a lighted lamp.
Wardlaw, however, seemed in no hurry to leave the house, and the reason soon appeared; he was joined by Helen Rolleston, and she was equipped for walking. The watcher saw her serene face shine in the light. The general himself came next; and, as they left the door, out came Tom with a blunderbuss and brought up the rear. Seaton drew behind the trees, and postponed, but did not resign, his purpose.
Steps and murmurings came, and passed him, and receded.
The only words he caught distinctly came from Wardlaw, as he passed. "It is nearly high tide. I fear we must make haste."
Seaton followed the whole party at a short distance, feeling sure they would eventually separate and give him his opportunity with Wardlaw.
They went down to the harbor and took a boat; Seaton came nearer, and learned they were going on board the great steamer bound for England, that loomed so black, with monstrous eyes of fire.
They put off, and Seaton stood baffled.
Presently the black monster, with enormous eyes of fire, spouted her steam like a Leviathan, and then was still; next the smoke puffed, the heavy paddles revolved, and she rushed out of the harbor; and Seaton sat down upon the ground, and all seemed ended. Helen gone to England! Wardlaw gone with her! Love and revenge had alike eluded him. He looked up at the sky and played with the pebbles at his feet, stupidly, stupidly. He wondered why he was born; why he consented to live a single minute after this. His angel and his demon gone home together! And he left here!
He wrote a few lines on the paper he had intended for Wardlaw, sprinkled them with sand, and put them in his bosom, then stretched himself out with a weary moan, like a dying dog, to wait the flow of the tide, and, with it, Death. Whether or not his resolution or his madness could have carried him so far cannot be known, for even as the water rippled in, and, trickling under his back, chilled him to the bone, a silvery sound struck his ear. He started to his feet, and life and its joys rushed back upon him. It was the voice of the woman he loved so madly.
Helen Rolleston was on the water, coming ashore again in the little boat.
He crawled, like a lizard, among the boats ashore to catch a sight of her. He did see her, was near her, unseen himself. She landed with her father. So Wardlaw was gone to England without her. Seaton trembled with joy. Presently his goddess began to lament in the prettiest way. "Papa! papa!" she sighed, "why must friends part in this sad world? Poor Arthur is gone from me; and, by and by, I shall go from you, my own papa." And at that prospect she wept gently.
"Why, you foolish child!" said the old general tenderly, "what matters a little parting, when we are all to meet again in dear old England. Well then, there, have a cry; it will do you good." He patted her head tenderly as she clung to his warlike breast; and she took him at his word; the tears ran swiftly and glistened in the very starlight.
But, oh, how Seaton's heart yearned at all this!
What? mustn't he say a word to comfort her; he who, at that moment, would have thought no more of dying to serve her or to please her than he would of throwing one of those pebbles into that slimy water.
Well, her pure tears somehow cooled his hot brain, and washed his soul, and left him wondering at himself and his misdeeds this night. His guardian angel seemed to go by and wave her dewy wings, and fan his hot passions as she passed.
He kneeled down and thanked God he had not met Arthur Wardlaw in that dark lane.
Then he went home to his humble lodgings, and there buried himself; and from that day seldom went out, except to seek employment. He soon obtained it as a copyist.
Meantime the police were on his track, employed by a person with a gentle disposition, but a tenacity of purpose truly remarkable.
Great was Seaton's uneasiness when one day he saw Hexham at the foot of his stair; greater still, when the officer's quick eye caught sight of him, and his light foot ascended the stairs directly. He felt sure Hexham had heard of his lurking about General Rolleston's premises. However, he prepared to defend himself to the uttermost.
Hexham came into his room without ceremony, and looking mighty grim. "Well, my lad, so we have got you, after all."
"What is my crime now?" asked Seaton sullenly.
"James," said the officer, very solemnly, "it is an unheard-of crime this time. You have been running away from a pretty girl. Now that is a mistake at all times; but, when she is as beautiful as an angel, and rich enough to slip a flyer into Dick Hexham's hands, and lay him on your track, what is the use? Letter for you, my man."
Seaton took the letter, with a puzzled air. It was written in a clear but feminine hand, and slightly scented.
The writer, in a few polished lines, excused herself for taking extraordinary means to find Mr. Seaton; but hoped he would consider that he had laid her under a deep obligation, and that gratitude will sometimes be importunate. She had the pleasure to inform him that the office of shipping clerk at Messrs. White & Co.'s was at his service, and she hoped he would take it without an hour's further delay, for that she was assured that many persons had risen to wealth and consideration in the colony from such situations.
Then, as this wary but courteous young lady had no wish to enter into a correspondence with her ex-gardener, she added:
"Mr. Seaton need not trouble himself to reply to this note. A simple 'yes' to Mr. Hexham will be enough, and will give sincere pleasure to Mr. Seaton's
"Obedient servant and well-wisher,
"HELEN ANNE ROLLESTON."
Seaton bowed his head over this letter in silent but deep emotion.
Hexham respected that emotion, and watched him with a sort of vague sympathy.
Seaton lifted his head, and the tears stood thick in his eyes. Said he, in a voice of exquisite softness, scarce above a whisper, "Tell her, 'yes' and 'God bless her.' Good-by. I want to go on my knees, and pray God to bless her as she deserves. Good-by."
Hexham took the hint and retired softly.
WHITE & CO. stumbled on a treasure in James Seaton. Your colonial clerk is not so narrow and apathetic as your London clerk, whose two objects seem to be to learn one department only, and not to do too much in that; but Seaton, a gentleman and a scholar, eclipsed even colonial clerks in this, that he omitted no opportunity of learning the whole business of White & Co., and was also animated by a feverish zeal that now and then provoked laughter from clerks, but was agreeable as well as surprising to White & Co. Of that zeal his incurable passion was partly the cause. Fortunes had been made with great rapidity in Sydney; and Seaton now conceived a wild hope of acquiring one, by some lucky hit, before Wardlaw could return to Helen Rolleston. And yet his common sense said, if I was as rich as Croesus, how could she ever mate with me, a stained man? And yet his burning heart said, don't listen to reason; listen only to me. Try.
And so he worked double tides; and, in virtue of his university education, had no snobbish notions about never putting his hand to manual labor. He would lay down his pen at any moment and bear a hand to lift a chest or roll a cask. Old White saw him thus multiply himself, and was so pleased that he raised his salary one third.
He never saw Helen Rolleston, except on Sunday. On that day he went to her church, and sat half behind a pillar and feasted his eyes and his heart upon her. He lived sparingly, saved money, bought a strip of land by payment of ten pounds deposit, and sold it in forty hours for one hundred pounds profit, and watched keenly for similar opportunities on a larger scale; and all for her. Struggling with a mountain; hoping against reason, and the world.
White & Co. were employed to ship a valuable cargo on board two vessels chartered by Wardlaw & Son; the Shannon and Proserpine.
Both these ships lay in Sydney harbor, and had taken in the bulk of their cargoes; but the supplement was the cream; for Wardlaw in person had warehoused eighteen cases of gold dust and ingots, and fifty of lead and smelted copper. They were all examined and branded by Mr. White, who had duplicate keys of the gold cases. But the contents as a matter of habit and prudence were not described outside; but were marked Proserpine and Shannon, respectively; the mate of the Proserpine, who was in Wardlaw's confidence, had written instructions to look carefully to the stowage of all these cases, and was in and out of the store one afternoon just before closing, and measured the cubic contents of the cases, with a view to stowage in the respective vessels. The last time he came he seemed rather the worse for liquor; and Seaton, who accompanied him, having stepped out for a minute for something or other, was rather surprised on his return to find the door closed, and it struck him Mr. Wylie (that was the mate's name) might be inside; the more so as the door closed very easily with a spring bolt, but it could only be opened by a key of peculiar construction. Seaton took out his key, opened the door, and called to the mate, but received no reply. However, he took the precaution to go round the store, and see whether Wylie, rendered somnolent by liquor, might not be lying oblivious among the cases; Wylie, however, was not to be seen, and Seaton, finding himself alone, did an unwise thing; he came and contemplated Wardlaw's cases of metal and specie. (Men will go too near the thing that causes their pain.) He eyed them with grief and with desire, and could not restrain a sigh at these material proofs of his rival's wealth—the wealth that probably had smoothed his way to General Rolleston's home and to his daughter's heart; for wealth can pave the way to hearts, ay, even to hearts that cannot be downright bought. This reverie no doubt, lasted longer than he thought, for presently he heard the loud rattle of shutters going up below. It was closing time; he hastily closed and locked the iron shutters, and then went out and shut the door.
He had been gone about two hours, and that part of the street, so noisy in business hours, was hushed in silence, all but an occasional footstep on the flags outside, when something mysterious occurred in the warehouse, now as dark as pitch.
At an angle of the wall stood two large cases in a vertical position, with smaller cases lying at their feet. These two cases were about eight feet high, more or less. Well, behind these cases suddenly flashed a feeble light, and the next moment two brown and sinewy hands appeared on the edge of one of the cases—the edge next the wall; the case vibrated and rocked a little, and the next moment there mounted on the top of it not a cat, nor a monkey, as might have been expected, but an animal that in truth resembles both these quadrupeds, viz., a sailor; and need we say that sailor was the mate of the Proserpine? He descended lightly from the top of the case behind which he had been jammed for hours, and lighted a dark lantern; and went softly groping about the store with it.
This was a mysterious act, and would perhaps have puzzled the proprietors of the store even more than it would a stranger. For a stranger would have said at once this is burglary, or else arson; but those acquainted with the place would have known that neither of those crimes was very practicable. This enterprising sailor could not burn down this particular store without roasting himself the first thing; and indeed he could not burn it down at all; for the roof was flat, and was in fact one gigantic iron tank, like the roof of Mr. Goding's brewery in London. And by a neat contrivance of American origin the whole tank could be turned in one moment to a shower-bath, and drown a conflagration in thirty seconds or thereabouts. Nor could he rifle the place; the goods were greatly protected by their weight, and it was impossible to get out of the store without raising an alarm, and being searched.
But, not to fall into the error of writers who underrate their readers' curiosity and intelligence, and so deluge them with comments and explanations, we will now simply relate what Wylie did, leaving you to glean his motives as this tale advances.
His jacket had large pockets, and he took out of them a bunch of eighteen bright steel keys, numbered, a set of new screwdrivers, a flask of rum, and two ship biscuits.
He unlocked the eighteen cases marked Proserpine, etc., and, peering in with his lantern, saw the gold dust and small ingots packed in parcels, and surrounded by Australian wool of the highest possible quality. It was a luscious sight.
He then proceeded to a heavier task; he unscrewed, one after another, eighteen of the cases marked Shannon, and the eighteen so selected, perhaps by private marks, proved to be packed close, and on a different system from the gold, viz., in pigs, or square blocks, three, or in some cases four, to each chest. Now, these two ways of packing the specie and the baser metal, respectively, had the effect of producing a certain uniformity of weight in the thirty-six cases Wylie was inspecting. Otherwise the gold cases would have been twice the weight of those that contained the baser metal; for lead is proverbially heavy, but under scientific tests is to gold as five to twelve, or thereabouts.
In his secret and mysterious labor Wylie was often interrupted. Whenever he heard a step on the pavement outside he drew the slide of his lantern and hid the light. If he had examined the iron shutters he would have seen that his light could never pierce through them into the street. But he was not aware of this. Notwithstanding these occasional interruptions, he worked so hard and continuously that the perspiration poured down him ere he had unscrewed those eighteen chests containing the pigs of lead. However, it was done at last, and then he refreshed himself with a draught from his flask. The next thing was, he took the three pigs of lead out of one of the cases marked Shannon, etc., and numbered fifteen, and laid them very gently on the floor. Then he transferred to that empty case the mixed contents of a case branded Proserpine 1, etc., and this he did with the utmost care and nicety, lest gold dust spilled should tell tales. And so he went on and amused himself by shifting the contents of the whole eighteen cases marked Proserpine, etc., into eighteen cases marked Shannon, etc., and refilling them with the Shannon's lead. Frolicsome Mr. Wylie! Then he sat down on one of the cases Proserpine'd, and ate a biscuit and drank a little rum; not much; for at this part of his career he was a very sober man, though he could feign drunkenness, or indeed anything else.
The gold was all at his mercy, yet he did not pocket an ounce of it; not even a penny-weight to make a wedding-ring for Nancy Rouse. Mr. Wylie had a conscience. And a very original one it was; and, above all, he was very true to those he worked with. He carefully locked the gold cases up again and resumed the screwdriver, for there was another heavy stroke of work to be done; and he went at it like a man. He carefully screwed down again, one after another, all those eighteen cases marked. Shannon, which he had filled with gold dust, and then, heating a sailor's needle red-hot over his burning wick, he put his own secret marks on those eighteen cases—marks that no eye but his own could detect. By this time, though a very powerful man, he felt much exhausted and would gladly have snatched an hour's repose. But, consulting his watch by the light of his lantern, he found the sun had just risen. He retired to his place of concealment in the same cat-like way he had come out of it—that is to say, he mounted on the high cases, and then slipped down behind them, into the angle of the wall.
As soon as the office opened, two sailors, whom he had carefully instructed overnight, came with a boat for the cases; the warehouse was opened in consequence, but they were informed that Wylie must be present at the delivery.
"Oh, he won't be long," said they; "told us he would meet us here."
There was a considerable delay, and a good deal of talking, and presently Wylie was at their back, and put in his word.
Seaton was greatly surprised at finding him there, and asked him where he had sprung from.
"Me!" said Wylie, jocosely, "why, I hailed from Davy Jones's locker last."
"I never heard you come in," said Seaton, thoughtfully.
"Well, sir," replied Wylie, civilly, "a man does learn to go like a cat on board ship, that is the truth. I came in at the door like my betters; but I thought I heard you mention my name, so I made no noise. Well, here I am, anyway, and—Jack, how many trips can we take these thundering chests in? Let us see, eighteen for the Proserpine, and forty for the Shannon. Is that correct, sir?"
"Then, if you will deliver them, I'll check the delivery aboard the lighter there; and then we'll tow her alongside the ships."
Seaton called up two more clerks, and sent one to the boat and one on board the barge. The barge was within hail; so the cases were checked as they passed out of the store, and checked again at the small boat, and also on board the lighter. When they were all cleared out, Wylie gave Seaton his receipt for them, and, having a steam-tug in attendance, towed the lighter alongside the Shannon first.
Seaton carried the receipt to his employer. "But, sir," said he, "is this regular for an officer of the Proserpine to take the Shannon's cargo from us?"
"No, it is not regular," said the old gentleman; and he looked through a window and summoned Mr. Hardcastle.
Hardcastle explained that the Proserpine shipped the gold, which was the more valuable consignment; and that he saw no harm in the officer who was so highly trusted by the merchant (on this and on former occasions) taking out a few tons of lead and copper to the Shannon.
"Well, sir," said Seaton, "suppose I was to go out and see the chests stowed in those vessels?"
"I think you are making a fuss about nothing," said Hardcastle.
Mr. White was of the same opinion, but, being too wise to check zeal and caution, told Seaton he might go for his own satisfaction.
Seaton, with some difficulty, got a little boat and pulled across the harbor. He found the Shannon had shipped all the chests marked with her name; and the captain and mate of the Proserpine were beginning to ship theirs. He paddled under the Proserpine's stern.
Captain Hudson, a rough salt, sang out, and asked him roughly what he wanted there.
"Oh, it is all right," said the mate; "he is come for your receipt and Hewitt's. Be smart now, men; two on board, sixteen to come."
Seaton saw the chests marked Proserpine stowed in the Proserpine, and went ashore with Captain Hewitt's receipt for forty cases on board the Shannon, and Captain Hudson's of eighteen on board the Proserpine.
As he landed he met Lloyds' agent, and told him what a valuable freight he had just shipped. That gentleman merely remarked that both ships were underwritten in Sydney by the owners; but the freight was insured in London, no doubt.
There was still something about this business Seaton did not quite like; perhaps it was in the haste of the shipments, or in the manner of the mate. At all events, it was too slight and subtle to be communicated to others with any hope of convincing them; and, moreover, Seaton could not but own to himself that he hated Wardlaw, and was, perhaps, no fair judge of his acts, and even of the acts of his servants.
And soon a blow fell that drove the matter out of his head and his heart. Miss Helen Rolleston called at the office, and, standing within a few feet of him, handed Hardcastle a letter from Arthur Wardlaw, directing that the ladies' cabin on board the Shannon should be placed at her disposal.
Hardcastle bowed low to Beauty and Station, and promised her the best possible accommodation on board the Shannon, bound for England next week.
As she retired, she cast one quiet glance round the office in search of Seaton's beard. But he had reduced its admired luxuriance, and trimmed it to a narrow mercantile point. She did not know his other features from Adam, and little thought that young man, bent double over his paper, was her preserver and protege; still less that he was at this moment cold as ice, and quivering with misery from head to foot, because her own lips had just told him she was going to England in the Shannon.
Heartbroken, but still loving nobly, Seaton dragged himself down to the harbor, and went slowly on board the Shannon to secure Miss Rolleston every comfort.
Then, sick at heart as he was, he made inquiries into the condition of the vessel which was to be trusted with so precious a freight; and the old boatman who was rowing him, hearing him make these inquiries, told him he himself was always about, and had noticed the Shannon's pumps were going every blessed night.
Seaton carried this intelligence directly to Lloyds' agent; he overhauled the ship, and ordered her into the graving dock for repairs.
Then Seaton, for White & Co., wrote to Miss Rolleston that the Shannon was not seaworthy and could not sail for a month at the least.
The lady simply acknowledged Messrs. White's communication, and Seaton breathed again.
Wardlaw had made Miss Rolleston promise him faithfully to sail that month in his ship, the Shannon. Now she was a slave to her word and constant of purpose; so when she found she could not sail in the Shannon, she called again on Messrs. White, and took her passage in the Proserpine. The essential thing to her mind was to sail when she had promised, and to go in a ship that belonged to her lover.
The Proserpine was to sail in ten days.
Seaton inquired into the state of the Proserpine. She was a good, sound vessel, and there was no excuse for detaining her.
Then he wrestled long and hard with the selfish part of his great love. Instead of turning sullen, he set himself to carry out Helen Rolleston's will. He went on board the Proserpine and chose her the best stern cabin.
General Rolleston had ordered Helen's cabin to be furnished, and the agent had put in the usual things, such as a standing bedstead with drawers beneath, chest of drawers, small table, two chairs, washstand, looking-glass, and swinging lamp.
But Seaton made several visits to the ship, and effected the following arrangements at his own cost. He provided a neat cocoa-mat for her cabin deck, for comfort and foot-hold. He unshipped the regular six-paned stern windows, and put in single-pane plate glass; he fitted venetian blinds, and hung two little rose-colored curtains to each of the windows; all so arranged as to be easily removed in case it should be necessary to ship dead-lights in heavy weather. He glazed the door leading to her bath-room and quarter gallery with plate glass; he provided a light easy-chair, slung and fitted with grommets, to be hung on hooks screwed into the beams in the midship of the cabin. On this Helen could sit and read, and so become insensible to the motion of the ship. He fitted a small bookcase, with a button, which could be raised when a book might be wanted; he fixed a strike-bell in her maid's cabin communicating with two strikers in Helen's cabin; he selected books, taking care that the voyages and travels were prosperous ones. No "Seaman's Recorder," "Life-boat Journal," or "Shipwrecks and Disasters in the British Navy."
Her cabin was the after-cabin on the starboard side, was entered through the cuddy, had a door communicating with the quarter gallery, two stern windows and a dead-eye on deck. The maid's cabin was the port after-cabin; doors opened into cuddy and quarter-gallery. And a fine trouble Miss Rolleston had to get a maid to accompany her; but at last a young woman offered to go with her for high wages, demurely suppressing the fact that she had just married one of the sailors, and would have gladly gone for nothing. Her name was Jane Holt, and her husband's Michael Donovan.
In one of Seaton's visits to the Proserpine he detected the mate and the captain talking together and looking at him with unfriendly eyes—scowling at him would hardly be too strong a word.
However, he was in no state of mind to care much how two animals in blue jackets received his acts of self-martyrdom. He was there to do the last kind offices of despairing love for the angel that had crossed his dark path and illumined it for a moment, to leave it now forever.
At last the fatal evening came; her last in Sydney.
Then Seaton's fortitude, sustained no longer by the feverish stimulus of doing kindly acts for her, began to give way, and he desponded deeply.
At nine in the evening he crept upon General Rolleston's lawn, where he had first seen her. He sat down in sullen despair upon the very spot.
Then he came nearer the house. There was a lamp in the dining-room; he looked in and saw her.
She was seated at her father's knee, looking up at him fondly; her hand was in his; the tears were in their eyes; she had no mother; he no son; they loved one another devotedly. This, their tender gesture, and their sad silence, spoke volumes to any one that had known sorrow. Poor Seaton sat down on the dewy grass outside and wept because she was weeping.
Her father sent her to bed early. Seaton watched, as he had often done before, till her light went out; and then he flung himself on the wet grass and stared at the sky in utter misery.
The mind is often clearest in the middle of the night; and all of a sudden he saw, as if written on the sky, that she was going to England expressly to marry Arthur Wardlaw.
At this revelation he started up, stung with hate as well as love, and his tortured mind rebelled furiously. He repeated his vow that this should never be; and soon a scheme came into his head to prevent it; but it was a project so wild and dangerous that, even as his heated brain hatched it, his cooler judgment said, "Fly, madman, fly! or this love will destroy you!"
He listened to the voice of reason, and in another minute he was out of the premises. He fluttered to his lodgings.
When he got there he could not go in; he turned and fluttered about the streets, not knowing or caring whither; his mind was in a whirl; and, what with his bodily fever and his boiling heart, passion began to overpower reason, that had held out so gallantly till now. He found himself at the harbor, staring with wild and bloodshot eyes at the Proserpine, he who, an hour ago, had seen that he had but one thing to do—to try and forget young Wardlaw's bride. He groaned aloud, and ran wildly back into the town. He hurried up and down one narrow street, raging inwardly, like some wild beast in its den.