As it all became clear to his mind, he thumped his table partly in triumph,—partly in despair. 'What's the matter with you now?' said Mr. Curlydown. It was a quarter past four, and Curlydown had not completed his daily inspections. Had Bagwax been doing his proper share of work, Curlydown would have already washed his hands and changed his coat, and have been ready to start for the 4.30 train. As it was, he had an hour of labour before him, and would be unable to count the plums upon his wall, as was usual with him before dinner.
'It becomes more wonderful every day,' said Bagwax solemnly,—almost awfully.
'It is very wonderful to me that a man should be able to sit so many hours looking at one dirty bit of paper.'
'Every moment that I pass with that envelope before my eyes I see the innocent husband in jail, and the poor afflicted wife weeping in her solitude.'
'You'll be going on to the stage, Bagwax, before this is done.'
'I have sometimes thought that it was the career for which I was best adapted. But, as to the envelope, the facts are now certain.'
'Any new facts?' asked Curlydown. But he asked the question in a jeering tone, not at all as though desiring confidence or offering sympathy.
'Yes,' replied Bagwax, slowly. 'The facts are certainly new,—and most convincing; but as you have not given attention to the particular branch concerned there can be no good in my mentioning them. You would not understand me.' It was thus that he revenged himself on Curlydown. Then there was again silence between them for a quarter of an hour, during which Curlydown was hurrying through his work, and Bagwax was meditating whether it was certainly his duty to make known the facts as to the postage-stamp. 'You are so unkind,' said Bagwax at last, in a tone of injured friendship, burning to tell his new discovery.
'You have got it all your way,' said Curlydown, without lifting his head. 'And then, as you said just now,—I don't understand.'
'I'd tell you everything if you'd only be a little less hard.'
Curlydown was envious. He had, of course, been told of the civil things which Sir John Joram had said; and though he did not quite believe all, he was convinced that Bagwax was supposed to have distinguished himself. If there was anything to be known he would like to know it. Nor was he naturally quarrelsome. Bagwax was his old friend. 'I don't mean to be hard,' he said. 'Of course one does feel oneself fretted when one has been obliged to miss two trains.'
'Can I lend a hand?' said Bagwax.
'It doesn't signify now. I can't catch anything before the 5.20. One does expect to get away a little earlier than that on a Saturday. What is it that you've found out?'
'Do you really care to know?'
'Of course I do,—if it's anything in earnest. I took quite as much interest as you in the matter when we were down at Cambridge.'
'You see that postage-stamp?' Bagwax stretched out the envelope,—or rather the photograph of the envelope, for it was no more. But the Queen's head, with all its obliterating smudges, and all its marks and peculiarities, were to be seen quite as plainly as on the original, which was tied up carefully among the archives of the trial. 'You see that postage-stamp?' Curlydown took his glass, and looked at the document, and declared that he saw the postage-stamp very plainly.
'But it does not tell you anything particular?'
'Nothing very particular—at the first glance,' said Curlydown, gazing through the glass with all his eyes.
'I see that they obliterate out there with a kind of star.'
'That has nothing to do with it.'
'The bunch of hair at the back of the head isn't quite like our bunch of hair.'
'Just the same;—taken from the same die,' said Bagwax.
'The little holes for dividing the stamps are bigger.'
'It isn't that.'
'Then what the d—— is it?'
'There are letters at every corner,' said Bagwax.
'That's of course,' said Curlydown.
'Can you read those letters?' Curlydown owned that he never had quite understood what those letters meant. 'Those two P's in the two bottom corners tell me that that stamp wasn't printed before '74. It was all explained to me not long ago. Now the postmark is dated '73.' There was an air of triumph about Bagwax as he said this which almost drove Curlydown back to hostility. But he checked himself merely shaking his head, and continued to look at the stamp. 'What do you think of that?' asked Bagwax.
'You'd have to prove it.'
'Of course I should. But the stamps are made here and are sent out to the colony. I shall see Smithers at the stamp-office on Monday of course.' Mr. Smithers was a gentleman concerned in the manufacture of stamps. 'But I know my facts. I am as well aware of the meaning of those letters as though I had made postage-stamps my own peculiar duty. Now what ought I to do?'
'You wouldn't have to go, I suppose?'
'Not a foot.'
'And yet it ought to be found out how that date got there.' And Curlydown put his finger upon the impression—10th May, 1873.
'Not a doubt about it. I should do a deal of good by going if they'd give me proper authority to overhaul everything in the office out there. They had the letter stamped fraudulently;—fraudulently, Mr. Curlydown! Perhaps if I stayed at home to give evidence, they'd send you to Sydney to find all that out.'
There was a courtesy in this suggestion which induced Curlydown to ask his junior to come down and take pot-luck at Apricot Villa. Bagwax was delighted, for his heart had been sore at the coolness which had grown up between him and the man under whose wing he had worked for so many years. He had been devoted to Curlydown till growing ambition had taught him to think himself able to strike out a line for himself. Mr. Curlydown had two daughters, of whom the younger, Jemima, had found much favour in the eyes of Bagwax. But since the jealousy had sprung up between the two men he had never seen Jemima, nor tasted the fruits of Curlydown's garden. Mrs. Curlydown, who approved of Bagwax, had been angry, and Jemima herself had become sullen and unloving to her father. On that very morning Mrs. Curlydown had declared that she hated quarrels like poison. 'So do I, mamma,' said Jemima, breaking her silence emphatically. 'Not that Mr. Bagwax is anything to anybody.'
'That does look like something,' said Curlydown, whispering to his friend in the railway carriage. They were sitting opposite to each other, with their knees together,—and were of course discussing the envelope.
'It is everything. When they were making up their case in Australia, and when the woman brought out the cover with his writing upon it, with the very name, Mrs. Caldigate, written by himself,—Crinkett wasn't contented with that. So they put their heads together, and said that if the letter could be got to look like a posted letter,—a letter sent regularly by the post,—that would be real evidence. The idea wasn't bad.'
'Nothing has ever been considered better evidence than postmarks,' said Curlydown, with authority.
'It was a good idea. Then they had to get a postage-stamp. They little knew how they might put their foot into it there. And they got hold of some young man at the post-office who knew how to fix a date-stamp with a past date. How these things become clear when one looks at them long enough!'
'Only one has to have an eye in one's head.'
'Yes,' said Bagwax, as modestly as he could at such a moment. 'A fellow has to have his wits about him before he can do anything out of the common way in any line. You'd tell Sir John everything at once;—wouldn't you?' Curlydown raised his hat and scratched his head. 'Duty first, you know. Duty first,' said Bagwax.
'In a man's own line,—yes,' said Curlydown. 'Somebody else ought to have found that out. That's not post-office. It's stamps and taxes. It's very hard that a man should have to cut the nose off his own face by knowing more than he need know.'
'Duty! Duty!' said Bagwax as he opened the carriage-door and jumped out on to the platform.
When he got up to the cottage, Mrs. Curlydovvn assured him that it was quite a cure for sore eyes to see him. Sophia, the elder of the two daughters at home, told him that he was a false truant; and Jemima surmised that the great attractions of the London season had prevented him from coming down to Enfield. 'It isn't that, indeed,' he said. 'I am always delighted in running down. But the Caldigate affair has been so important!'
'You mean the trial,' said Mrs. Curlydown. 'But the man has been in prison ever so long.'
'Unjustly! Most unjustly!'
'Is it so, really?' asked Jemima. 'And the poor young bride?'
'Not so much of a bride,' said Sophia. 'She's got one, I know.'
'And papa says you're to go out to Botany Bay,' said Jemima. 'It'll be years and years before you are back again.' Then he explained it was not Botany Bay, and he would be back in six months. And, after all, he wasn't going at all. 'Well, I declare, if papa isn't down the walk already,' said Jemima, looking out of the window.
'I don't think I shall go at all,' said Bagwax in a melancholy tone as he went up-stairs to wash his hands.
The dinner was very pleasant; and as Curlydown and his guest drank their bottle of port together at the open window, it was definitely settled that Bagwax should reveal the mystery of the postage-stamp to Sir John Joram at once. 'I should have it like a lump of lead on my conscience all the time I was on the deep,' said Bagwax, solemnly.
'Conscience is conscience, to be sure,' said Curlydown
'I don't think that I'm given to be afraid,' said Bagwax. 'The ocean, if I know myself, would have no terrors for me;—not if I was doing my duty. But I should hear the ship's sides cracking with every blast if that secret were lodged within my breast.'
'Take another glass of port, old boy.'
Bagwax did take another glass, finishing the bottle, and continued. 'Farewell to those smiling shores. Farewell, Sydney, and all her charms. Farewell to her orange groves, her blue mountains, and her rich gold-fields.'
'Take a drop of whitewash to wind up, and then we'll join the ladies.' Curlydown was a strictly hospitable man, and in his own house would not appear to take amiss anything his guest might say. But when Bagwax became too poetical over his wine, Curlydown waxed impatient. Bagwax took his drop of whitewash, and then hurried on to the lawn to join Jemima.
'And you really are not going to those distant parts?'
'No,' said Bagwax, with all that melancholy which wine and love combined with sorrow can produce. 'That dream is over.'
'I am so glad.'
'Why should you be glad? Why should a resolve which it almost breaks my heart to make be a source of joy to you?'
'Of course you would have nothing to regret at leaving, Mr. Bagwax.'
'Very much,—if I were going for ever. No;—I could never do that, unless I were to take some dear one with me. But, as I said, that dream is over. It has ever been my desire to see foreign climes, and the chance so seldom comes in a man's way.'
'You've been to Ostend, I know, Mr. Bagwax.'
'Oh yes, and to Boulogne,' said Bagwax, proudly. 'But the desire of travel grows with the thing it feeds on. I long to overcome great distances,—to feel that I have put illimitable space behind me. To set my foot on shores divided from these by the thickness of all the earth would give me a sense of grandeur which I—which,—which,—would be magnificent.'
'I suppose that is natural in a man.'
'In some men,' said Bagwax, not liking to be told that his heroic instincts were shared by all his brethren.
'But women, of course, think of the dangers. Suppose you were to be cast away!'
'What matter? With a father of a family of course it would be different. But a lone man should never think of such things.' Jemima shook her head and walked silently by his side. 'If I had some dear one who cared for me I suppose it would be different with me.'
'I don't know,' said Jemima. 'Gentlemen like to amuse themselves sometimes, but it doesn't often go very deep.'
'Things always go deep with me,' said Bagwax. 'I panted for that journey to the Antipodes;—panted for it! Now that it is over, perhaps some day I may tell you under what circumstances it has been relinquished. In the meantime my mind passes to other things; or perhaps I should say my heart—Jemima!' Then Bagwax stopped on the path.
'Go on, Mr. Bagwax. Papa will be looking at you.'
'Jemima,' he said, 'will you recompense me by your love for what I have lost on the other side of the globe?' She recompensed him, and he was happy.
The future father and son-in-law sat and discussed their joint affairs for an hour after the ladies had retired. As to Jemima and his love, Bagwax was allowed to be altogether triumphant. Mrs. Curlydown kissed him, and he kissed Sophia. That was in public. What passed between him and Jemima no human eye saw. The old post-office clerk took the younger one to his heart, and declared that he was perfectly satisfied with his girl's choice. 'I've always known that you were steady,' he said, 'and that's what I look to. She has had her admirers, and perhaps might have looked higher; but what's rank or money if a man's fond of pleasure?' But when that was settled they returned again to the Caldigate envelope. Curlydown was not quite so sure as to that question of duty. The proposed journey to Sydney, with a pound a-day allowed for expenses, and the traveller's salary going on all the time, would put a nice sum of ready-money into Bagwax's pocket. 'It wouldn't be less than two hundred towards furnishing my boy,' said Curlydown. 'You'll want it. And as for the delay, what's six months? Girls like to have a little time to boast about it.'
But Bagwax had made up his mind, and nothing would shake him. 'If they'll let me go out all the same, to set matters right, of course I'd take the job. I should think it a duty, and would bear the delay as well as I could. If Jemima thought it right I'm sure she wouldn't complain. But since I saw that letter on that stamp my conscience has told me that I must reveal it all. It might be me as was in prison, and Jemima who was told that I had a wife in Australia. Since I've looked at it in that light I've been more determined than ever to go to Sir John Joram's chambers on Monday. Good-night, Mr. Curlydown. I am very glad you asked me down to the cottage to-day; more glad than anything.'
At half-past eleven, by the last train, Bagwax returned to town, and spent the night with mingled dreams, in which Sydney, Jemima, and the envelope were all in their turns eluding him, and all in their turns within his grasp.
Sir John Backs His Opinion
Well, Mr. Bagwax, I'm glad that it's only one envelope this time.' This was said by Sir John Joram to the honest and energetic post-office clerk on the morning of Wednesday the 3d September, when the lawyer would have been among the partridges down in Suffolk but for the vicissitudes of John Caldigate's case. It was hard upon Sir John, and went something against the grain with him. He was past the time of life at which men are enthusiastic as to the wrongs of others,—as was Bagwax; and had, in truth, much less to gain from the cause, or to expect, than Bagwax. He thought that the pertinacity of Bagwax, and the coming of Dick Shand at the moment of his holidays, were circumstances which justified the use of a little internal strong language,—such as he had occasionally used externally before he had become attorney-general. In fact he had—damned Dick Shand and Bagwax, and in doing so had considered that Jones his clerk was internal. 'I wish he had gone to Sydney a month ago,' he said to Jones. But when Jones suggested that Bagwax might be sent to Sydney without further trouble, Sir John's conscience pricked him. Not to be able to shoot a Suffolk partridge on the 1st of September was very cruel, but to be detained wrongfully in Cambridge jail was worse; and he was of opinion that such cruelty had been inflicted on Caldigate. On the Saturday Dick Shand had been with him. He had remained in town on the Monday and Tuesday by agreement with Mr. Seely. Early on the Tuesday intimation was given to him that Bagwax would come on the Wednesday with further evidence,—with evidence which should be positively conclusive. Bagwax had, in the meantime, been with his friend Smithers at the stamp-office, and was now fully prepared. By the help of Smithers he had arrived at the fact that the postage-stamp had certainly been fabricated in 1874, some months after the date imprinted on the cover of the letter to which it was affixed.
'No, Sir John;—only one this time. We needn't move anything.' All the chaos had been restored to its normal place, and looked as though it had never been moved since it was collected.
'And we can prove that this queen's-head did not exist before the 1st January, 1874.'
'Here's the deposition,' said Bagwax, who, by his frequent intercourse with Mr. Jones, had become almost as good as a lawyer himself,—'at least, it isn't a deposition, of course,—because it's not sworn.'
'A statement of what can be proved on oath.'
'Just that, Sir John. It's Mr. Smithers! Mr. Smithers has been at the work for the last twenty years. I knew it just as well as he from the first, because I attend to these sort of things; but I thought it best to go to the fountain-head.'
'Sir John will want to hear it from the fountain-head I said to myself; and therefore I went to Smithers. Smithers is perhaps a little conceited, but his word is—gospel. In a matter of postage-stamps Smithers is gospel.'
Then Sir John read the statement; and though he may not have taken it for gospel, still to him it was credible. 'It seems clear,' he said.
'Clear as the running stream,' said Bagwax.
'I should like to have all that gang up for perjury, Mr. Bagwax.'
'So should I, Sir John;—so should I. When I think of that poor dear lady and her infant babe without a name, and that young father torn from his paternal acres and cast into a vile prison, my blood boils within my veins, and all my passion to see foreign climes fades into the distance.'
'No foreign climes now, Mr. Bagwax.'
'I suppose not, Sir John,' said the hero, mournfully
'Not if this be true.'
'It's gospel, Sir John;—gospel. They might send me out to set that office to rights. Things must be very wrong when they could get hold of a date-stamp and use it in that way. There must be one of the gang in the office.'
'A bribe did it, I should say.'
'I could find it out, Sir John. Let me alone for that. You could say that you have found me—quick-like in this matter;—couldn't you, Sir John?' Bagwax was truly happy in the love of Jemima Curlydown; but the idea of earning two hundred pounds for furniture, and of seeing distant climes at the same time, had taken a strong hold of his imagination.
'I am afraid I should have no voice in the matter,—unless with the view of getting evidence.'
'And we've got that;—haven't we, Sir John?'
'I think so.'
'Duty, Sir John, duty!' said Bagwax, almost sobbing through his triumph.
'That's it, Mr. Bagwax.' Sir John too had given up his partridges,—for a day or two.
'And that gentleman will now be restored to his wife?'
'It isn't for me to say. As you and I have been engaged on the same side——' To be told that he had been on the same side with the late attorney-general was almost compensation to Bagwax for the loss of his journey. 'As you and I have been on the same side, I don't mind telling you that I think that he ought to be released. The matter remains with the Secretary of State, who will probably be guided by the judge who tried the case.'
'A stern man, Sir John.'
'Not soft-hearted, Mr. Bagwax,—but as conscientious a man as you'll be able to put your hand upon. The young wife with her nameless baby won't move him at all. But were he moved by such consideration he would be so far unfit for his office.'
'Mercy is divine,' said Bagwax.
'And therefore unfit to be used by a merely human judge. You know, I suppose, that Richard Shand has come home?'
'Indeed he has, and was with me a day or two since.'
'Can he say anything?' Bagwax was not rejoiced at Dick's opportune return. He thoroughly wished that Caldigate should be liberated, but he wished himself to monopolise the glory of the work.
'He says a great deal. He has sworn point-blank that there was no such marriage at the time named. He and Caldigate were living together then, and for some weeks afterwards, and the woman was never near them during the time.'
'To think of his coming just now!'
'It will be a great help, Mr. Bagwax; but it wouldn't be enough alone. He might possibly—tell an untruth.'
'Perjury on the other side, as it were.'
'Just that. But this little queen's-head here can't be untrue.'
'No, Sir John, no; that can't be,' said Bagwax, comforted; 'and the dated impression can't lie either. The envelope is what'll do it after all.'
'I hope so. You and Mr. Jones will prepare the statement for the Secretary of State, and I will send it myself.' With that Mr. Bagwax took his leave, and remained closeted with Mr. Jones for much of the remainder of the day.
The moment Sir John was alone he wrote an almost angry note to his friend Honybun, in conjunction with whom and another Member of Parliament he had the shooting in Suffolk. Honybun, who was also a lawyer, though less successful than his friend, was a much better shot, and was already taking the cream off the milk of the shooting. 'I cannot conceive,' he said at the end of his letter, 'that, after all my experience, I should have put myself so much out of my way to serve a client. A man should do what he's paid to do, and what it is presumed that he will do, and nothing more. But here I have been instigated by an insane ambition to emulate the good-natured zeal of a fellow who is absolutely willing to sacrifice himself for the good of a stranger.' Then he went on to say that he could not leave London till the Friday.
On the Thursday morning he put all the details together, and himself drew out a paper for the perusal of the Secretary of State. As he looked at the matter all round, it seemed to him that the question was so clear that even Judge Bramber could not hesitate. The evidence of Dick Shand was quite conclusive,—if credible. It was open, of course, to strong doubt, in that it could not be sifted by cross-examination. Alone, it certainly would not have sufficed to extort a pardon from any Secretary of State,—as any Secretary of State would have been alive to the fact that Dick might have been suborned. Dick's life had not been such that his single word would have been regarded as certainly true. But in corroboration it was worth much. And then if the Secretary or the judge could be got to go into that very complicated question of the dated stamp, it would, Sir John thought, become evident to him that the impression had not been made at the time indicated. This had gradually been borne in upon Sir John's mind, till he was almost as confident in his facts as Bagwax himself. But this operation had required much time and much attention. Would the Secretary, or would the judge, clear his table, and give himself time to inspect and to measure two or three hundred postmarks? The date of the fabrication of the postage-stamp would of course require to be verified by official report;—but if the facts as stated by Bagwax were thus confirmed, then the fraudulent nature of the envelope would be put beyond doubt. It would be so manifest that this morsel of evidence had been falsely concocted, that no clear-headed man, let his prepossessions be what they might, could doubt it. Judge Bramber would no doubt begin to sift the case with a strong bias in favour of the jury. It was for a jury to ascertain the facts; and in this case the jury had done so. In his opinion,—in Judge Bramber's opinion, as the judge had often declared it,—a judge should not be required to determine facts. A new trial, were that possible, would be the proper remedy, if remedy were wanted; but as that was impossible, he would be driven to investigate such new evidence as was brought before him, and to pronounce what would, in truth, be another verdict. All this was clear to Sir John; and he told himself that even Judge Bramber would not be able to deny that false evidence had been submitted to the jury.
Sir John, as he occupied his mind with the matter on the Thursday morning, did wake himself up to some generous energy on his client's behalf,—so that in sending the written statements of the case to the Home Secretary, he himself wrote a short but strongly-worded note. 'As it is quite manifest,' he said, 'that a certain amount of false and fraudulent circumstantial evidence has been brought into court by the witnesses who proved the alleged marriage, and as direct evidence has now come to hand on the other side which is very clear, and as far as we know trustworthy, I feel myself justified in demanding her Majesty's pardon for my client.'
On the next day he went down to Birdseye Lodge, near Ipswich, and was quite enthusiastic on the matter with his friend Honybun. 'I never knew Bramber go beyond a jury in my life,' said Honybun.
'He'll have to do it now. They can't keep him in prison when they find that the chief witness was manifestly perjured. The woman swore on her oath that the letter reached her by post in May, 1873. It certainly did not do so. The cover, as we see it, has been fabricated since that date.'
'I never thought the cover went for much,' said Honybun.
'For very little,—for nothing at all perhaps,—till proved to be fraudulent. If they had left the letter alone their case would have been strong enough for a conviction. As it was, they were fools enough to go into a business of this sort; but they have done so, and as they have been found out, the falsehood which has been detected covers every word of their spoken evidence with suspicion. It will be like losing so much of his heart's blood, but the old fellow will have to give way.'
'He never gave way in his life.'
'We'll make him begin.'
'I'll bet you a pony he don't.'
'I'll take the bet,' said the late Attorney-General. But as he did so he looked round to see that not even a gamekeeper was near enough to hear him.
On that Friday Bagwax was in a very melancholy state of mind at his office, in spite of the brilliancy of his prospects with Miss Curlydown. 'I'll just come back to my old work,' he said to his future father-in-law. 'There's nothing else for me to do.'
This was all as it should be, and would have been regarded a day or two ago by Curlydown as simple justice. There had been quite enough of that pottering over an old envelope, to the manifest inconvenience of himself and others. But now the matter was altered. His was a paternal and an affectionate heart, and he saw very plainly the pecuniary advantage of a journey to Sydney. And he knew too that, in official life as well as elsewhere, to those who have much, more is given. Now that Bagwax was to him in the light of a son, he wished Bagwax to rise in the world. 'I wouldn't give it up,' said he.
'But what would you do?'
'I'd stick to it like wax till they did something for me.'
'There's nothing to stick to.'
'I'd take it for granted I was going at once to Sydney. I'd get my outfit, and, by George! I'd take my place.'
'I've told Sir John I wasn't going; and he said it wasn't necessary.' As Bagwax told his sad tale he almost wept.
'I wouldn't mind that. I'd have it out of them somehow. Why is he to have all the pay? No doubt it's been hundreds to him; and you've done the work and got nothing.'
'When I asked him to get me sent, he said he'd no power;—not now it's all so plain.' He turned his face down towards the desk to hide the tear that now was, in truth, running down his face. 'But duty!' he said, looking up again. 'Duty! England expects——. D—n it, who's going to whimper? When I lay my head on my pillow at night and think that I, I, Thomas Bagwax, have restored that nameless one to her babe and her lord, I shall sleep even though that pillow be no better than a hard bolster.'
'Jemima will look after that,' said the father, laughing. 'But still I wouldn't give it up. Never give a chance up,—they come so seldom. I'll tell you what I should do;—I should apply to the Secretary for leave to go to Sydney at once.'
'At my own expense?' said Bagwax, horrified.
'Certainly not;—but that you might have an opportunity of investigating all this for the public service. It'll get referred round in some way to the Secretary of State, who can't but say all that you've done. When it gets out of a man's own office he don't so much mind doing a little job. It sounds good-natured. And then if they don't do anything for you, you'll get a grievance. Next to a sum of money down, a grievance is the best thing you can have. A man who can stick to a grievance year after year will always make money of it at last.'
On the Saturday, Bagwax went down to Apricot Lodge, having been invited to stay with his beloved till the Monday. In the smiles of his beloved he did find much consolation, especially as it had already been assured to him that sixty pounds a-year would be settled on Jemima on and from her wedding-day. And then they made very much of him. 'You do love me, Tom; don't you?' said Jemima. They were sitting on camp-stools behind the grotto, and Bagwax answered by pressing the loved one's waist. 'Better than going to Sydney, Tom,—don't you?'
'It is so very different,' said Bagwax,—which was true.
'If you don't like me better than anything else in all the world, however different, I will never stand at the altar with you.' And she moved her camp-stool perhaps an inch away.
'In the way of loving, of course I do.'
'Then why do you grieve when you've got what you like best?'
'You don't understand, Jemima, what a spirit of adventure means.'
'I think I do, or I shouldn't be going to marry you. That's quite as great an adventure as a journey to Sydney. You ought to be very glad to get off, now you're going to settle down as a married man.'
'Think what two hundred pounds would be, Jemima;—in the way of furniture.'
'That's papa's putting in, I know. I hate all that hankering after filthy lucre. You ought to be ashamed of wanting to go so far away just when you're engaged You wouldn't care about leaving me, I suppose the least.'
'I should always be thinking of you.'
'Yes, you would! But suppose I wasn't thinking of you. Suppose I took to thinking of somebody else. How would it be then?'
'You wouldn't do that, Jemima.'
'You ought to know when you're well off, Tom.' By this time he had recovered the inch and perhaps a little more. 'You ought to feel that you've plenty to console you.'
'So I do. Duty! duty! England expects that every man——'
'That's your idea of consolation, is it?' And away went the camp-stool half a yard.
'You believe in duty, don't you, Jemima?'
'In a husband's duty to his wife, I do;—and in a young man's duty to his sweetheart.'
'And in a father's to his children.'
'That's as may be,' said she, getting up and walking away into the kitchen-garden. He of course accompanied her, and before they got to the house had promised her not to sigh for the delights of Sydney, nor for the perils of adventure any more.
A secretary of State who has to look after the police and the magistrates, to answer questions in the House of Commons, and occasionally to make a telling speech in defence of his colleagues, and, in addition to this, is expected to perform the duties of a practical court of appeal in criminal cases, must have something to do. To have to decide whether or no some poor wretch shall be hanged, when, in spite of the clearest evidence, humanitarian petitions by the dozen overwhelm him with claims for mercy, must be a terrible responsibility. 'No, your Majesty, I think we won't hang him. I think we'll send him to penal servitude for life;—if your Majesty pleases.' That is so easy, and would be so pleasant. Why should any one grumble at so right royal a decision? But there are the newspapers, always so prone to complain;—and the Secretary has to acknowledge that he must be strong enough to hang his culprits in spite of petitions, or else he must give up that office. But when the evidence is not clear, the case is twice more difficult. The jury have found their verdict, and the law intends that the verdict of a jury shall be conclusive. When a man has been declared to be guilty by twelve of his countrymen,—he is guilty, let the facts have been what they may, and let the twelve have been ever so much in error. Majesty, however, can pardon guilt, and hence arises some awkward remedy for the mistakes of jurymen. But an unassisted Majesty cannot itself investigate all things,—is not, in fact, in this country supposed to perform any duties of that sort,—a Secretary of State is invested with the privilege of what is called mercy. It is justice rather that is wanted. If Bagwax were in the right about that envelope,—and the reader will by this time think that he was right; and if Dick Shand had sworn truly, then certainly our friend John Caldigate was not in want of mercy. It was instant justice that he required,—with such compensation as might come to him from the indignant sympathy of all good men.
I remember to have seen a man at Bermuda whose fate was peculiar. He was sleek, fat, and apparently comfortable, mixing pills when I saw him, he himself a convict and administering to the wants of his brother convicts. He remonstrated with me on the hardness of his position. 'Either I did do it, or I didn't,' he said. 'It was because they thought I didn't that they sent me here. And if I didn't, what right had they to keep me here at all?' I passed on in silence, not daring to argue the matter with the man in face of the warder. But the man was right. He had murdered his wife;—so at least the jury had said,—and had been sentenced to be hanged. He had taken the poor woman into a little island, and while she was bathing had drowned her. Her screams had been heard on the mainland, and the jury had found the evidence sufficient. Some newspaper had thought the reverse, and had mooted the question;—was not the distance too great for such screams to have been heard, or, at any rate, understood? So the man was again brought to trial in the Court of the Home Office, and was,—not pardoned, but sent to grow fat and make pills at Bermuda. He had, or he had not, murdered his wife. If he did the deed he should have been hanged;—and if not, he should not have been forced to make extorted pills.
What was a Secretary of State to do in such a case? No doubt he believed that the wretch had murdered his wife. No doubt the judge believed it. All the world believed it. But the newspaper was probably right in saying that the evidence was hardly conclusive,—probably right because it produced its desired effect. If the argument had been successfully used with the jury, the jury would have acquitted the man. Then surely the Secretary of State should have sent him out as though acquitted; and, not daring to hang him, should have treated him as innocent. Another trial was, in truth, demanded.
And so it was in Caldigate's case. The Secretary of State, getting up early in the morning after a remarkable speech, in which he vindicated his Ministry from the attacks of all Europe, did read all the papers, and took home to himself the great Bagwaxian theory. He mastered Dick's evidence;—and managed to master something also as to Dick's character. He quite understood the argument as to the postage-stamps,—which went further with him than the other arguments. And he understood the perplexity of his own position. If Bagwax was right, not a moment should be lost in releasing the ill-used man. To think of pardon, to mention pardon, would be an insult. Instant justice, with infinite regrets that the injuries inflicted admitted of no compensation,—that and that only, was impressively demanded. How grossly would that man have been ill-used!—how cruelly would that woman have been injured! But then, again,—if Bagwax was wrong;—if the cunning fraud had been concocted over here and not in Sydney;—if the plot had been made, not to incarcerate an innocent man, but to liberate a guilty man, then how unfit would he show himself for his position were he to be taken in by such guile! What crime could be worse than that committed by Caldigate against the young lady he had betrayed, if Caldigate were guilty? Upon the whole, he thought it would be safer to trust to the jury; but comforted himself by the reflection that he could for a while transfer the responsibility. It would perhaps be expedient to transfer it altogether. So he sent all the papers on to Judge Bramber.
Judge Bramber was a great man. Never popular, he had been wise enough to disregard popularity. He had forced himself into practice, in opposition to the attorneys, by industry and perspicuity. He had attended exclusively to his profession, never having attempted to set his foot on the quicker stepping-stones of political life. It was said of him that no one knew whether he called himself Liberal or Conservative At fifty-five he was put upon the bench, simply because he was supposed to possess a judicial mind. Here he amply justified that opinion,—but not without the sneer and ill-words of many. He was now seventy, and it was declared that years had had no effect on him. He was supposed to be absolutely merciless,—as hard as a nether millstone, a judge who could put on the black cap without a feeling of inward disgust. But it may be surmised that they who said so knew nothing of him,—for he was a man not apt to betray the secrets of his inner life. He was noted for his reverence for a jury, and for his silence on the bench. The older he grew the shorter became his charges; nor were there wanting those who declared that his conduct in this respect was intended as a reproach to some who are desirous of adorning the bench by their eloquence. To sit there listening to everything, and subordinating himself to others till his interposition was necessary, was his idea of a judge's duty. But when the law had declared itself, he was always strong in supporting the law. A man condemned for murder ought to be hanged,—so thought Judge Bramber,—and not released, in accordance with the phantasy of philanthropists. Such were the requirements of the law. If the law were cruel, let the legislators look to that. He was once heard to confess that the position of a judge who had condemned an innocent man might be hard to bear; but, he added, that a country would be unfortunate which did not possess judges capable of bearing even that sorrow. In his heart he disapproved of the attribute of mercy as belonging to the Crown. It was opposed to his idea of English law, and apt to do harm rather than good.
He had been quite convinced of Caldigate's guilt,—not only by the direct evidence, but by the concurrent circumstances. To his thinking, it was not in human nature that a man should pay such a sum as twenty thousand pounds to such people as Crinkett and Euphemia Smith,—a sum of money which was not due either legally or morally,—except with an improper object. I have said that he was a great man; but he did not rise to any appreciation of the motives which had unquestionably operated with Caldigate. Had Caldigate been quite assured, when he paid the money, that his enemies would remain and bear witness against him, still he would have paid it. In that matter he had endeavoured to act as he would have acted had the circumstances of the mining transaction been made known to him when no threat was hanging over his head. But all that Judge Bramber did not understand. He understood, however, quite clearly, that under no circumstances should money have been paid by an accused person to witnesses while that person's guilt and innocence were in question. In his summing-up he had simply told the jury to consider the matter;—but he had so spoken the word as to make the jury fully perceive what had been the result of his own consideration.
And then Caldigate and the woman had lived together, and a distinct and repeated promise of marriage had been acknowledged. It was acknowledged that the man had given his name to the woman, so far as himself to write it. Whatever might be the facts as to the postmark and postage-stamp, the words 'Mrs. Caldigate' had been written by the man now in prison.
Four persons had given direct evidence; and in opposition to them there had been nothing. Till Dick Shand had come, no voice had been brought forward to throw even a doubt upon the marriage. That two false witnesses should adhere well together in a story was uncommon; that three should do so, most rare; with four it would be almost a miracle. But these four had adhered. They were people, probably of bad character,—whose lives had perhaps been lawless. But if so, it would have been so much easier to prove them false if they were false. Thus Judge Bramber, when he passed sentence on Caldigate had not in the least doubted that the verdict was a true verdict.
And now the case was sent to him for reconsideration. He hated such reconsiderations. He first read Sir John Joram's letter, and declared to himself that it was unfit to have come from any one calling himself a lawyer. There was an enthusiasm about it altogether beneath a great advocate,—certainly beneath any forensic advocate employed otherwise than in addressing a jury. He, Judge Bramber, had never himself talked of 'demanding' a verdict even from a jury. He had only endeavoured to win it. But that a man who had been Attorney-General,—who had been the head of the bar,—should thus write to a Secretary of State, was to him disgusting. To his thinking, a great lawyer, even a good lawyer, would be incapable of enthusiasm as to any case in which he was employed. The ignorant childish world outside would indulge in zeal and hot feelings,—but for an advocate to do so was to show that he was no lawyer,—that he was no better than the outside world. Even spoken eloquence was, in his mind, almost beneath a lawyer,—studied eloquence certainly was so. But such written words as these disgusted him. And then he came across allusions to the condition of the poor lady at Folking. What could the condition of the lady at Folking have to do with the matter? Though the poor lady at Folking should die in her sorrow, that could not alter the facts as they had occurred in Australia! It was not for him, or for the Secretary of State, to endeavour to make things pleasant all round here in England. It had been the jury's duty to find out whether that crime had been committed, and his duty to see that all due facilities were given to the jury. It had been Sir John Joram's duty to make out what best case he could for his client,—and then to rest contented. Had all things been as they should be, the Secretary of State would have had no duty at all in the matter. It was in this frame of mind that Judge Bramber applied himself to the consideration of the case. No juster man ever lived;—and yet in his mind there was a bias against the prisoner.
Nevertheless he went to his work with great patience, and a resolve to sift everything that was to be sifted. The Secretary of State had done no more than his required duty in sending the case to him, and he would now do his. He took the counter-evidence as it came in the papers. In order that the two Bagwaxian theories, each founded on the same small document, might be expounded, one consecutively after the other, Dick Shand and his deposition were produced first. The judge declared to himself that Dick's single oath, which could not now be tested by cross-examination, amounted to nothing. He had been a drunkard and a pauper,—had descended to the lowest occupation which the country afforded, and had more than once nearly died from delirium tremens. He had then come home penniless, and had—produced his story. If such evidence could avail to rescue a prisoner from his sentence, and to upset a verdict, what verdict or what sentence could stand? Poor Dick's sworn testimony, in Judge Bramber's mind, told rather against Caldigate than for him.
Then came the postmarks,—as to which the Bagwaxian theory was quite distinct from that as to the postage-stamp. Here the judge found the facts to be somewhat complicated and mazy. It was long before he could understand the full purport of the argument used, and even at last he hardly understood the whole of it. But he could see nothing in it to justify him in upsetting the verdict;—nothing even to convince him that the envelope had been fraudulently handled. There was no evidence that such a dated stamp had not been in use at Sydney on the day named. Copies from the records kept daily at Sydney,—photographed copies,—should have been submitted before that argument had been used.
But when it came to the postage-stamp, then he told himself very quickly that the envelope had been fraudulently handled. The evidence as to the date of the manufacture of the stamp was conclusive. It could not have served to pay the postage on a letter from Sydney to Nobble in May 1873, seeing that it had not then been in existence. And thus any necessity there might otherwise have been for further inquiry as to the postmarks was dissipated. The envelope was a declared fraud, and the fraud required no further proof. That morsel of evidence had been fabricated, and laid, at any rate, one of the witnesses in the last trial open to a charge of perjury. So resolving, Judge Bramber pushed the papers away from him, and began to think the case over in his mind.
There was certainly something in the entire case as it now stood to excuse Sir John. That was the first line which his thoughts took. An advocate having clearly seen into a morsel of evidence on the side opposed to him, and having proved to himself beyond all doubt that it was maliciously false, must be held to be justified in holding more than a mere advocate's conviction as to the innocence of his client. Sir John had of course felt that a foul plot had been contrived. A foul plot no doubt had been contrived. Had the discovery taken place before the case had been submitted to the jury, the detection of that plot would doubtless have saved the prisoner, whether guilty or innocent. So much Judge Bramber admitted.
But should it necessarily serve to save him now? Before a jury it would have saved him, whether guilty or innocent. But the law had got hold of him, and had made him guilty, and the law need not now subject itself to the normal human weakness of a jury. The case was now in his hands,—in his, and those of the Secretary, and there need be no weakness. If the man was innocent, in God's name let him go;—though, as the judge observed to himself, he had deserved all he had got for his folly and vice. But this discovered plot by no means proved the man's innocence. It only proved the determination of certain persons to secure his conviction, whether by foul means or fair. Then he recapitulated to himself various cases in which he had known false evidence to have been added to true, with the object of convincing a jury as to a real fact.
It might well be that this gang of ruffians,—for it was manifest that there had been such a gang,—finding the envelope addressed by the man to his wife, had fraudulently,—and as foolishly as fraudulently,— endeavoured to bolster up their case by the postage-stamp and the postmark. Looking back at all the facts, remembering that fatal twenty thousand pounds, remembering that though the postmarks were forged on that envelope the writing was true, remembering the acknowledged promise and the combined testimony of the four persons,—he was inclined to think that something of the kind had been done in this case. If it were so, though he would fain see the perpetrators of that fraud on their trial for perjury, their fraud in no way diminished Caldigate's guilt. That a guilty man should escape out of the hands of justice by any fraud was wormwood to Judge Bramber. Caldigate was guilty. The jury had found him so. Could he take upon himself to say that the finding of the jury was wrong because the prosecuting party had concocted a fraud which had not been found out before the verdict was given? Sir John Joram, whom he had known almost as a boy, had 'demanded' the release of his client. The word stuck in Judge Bramber's throat. The word had been injudicious The more he thought of the word the more he thought that the verdict had been a true verdict, in spite of the fraud. A very honest man was Judge Bramber;—but human.
He almost made up his mind,—but then was obliged to confess to himself that he had not quite done so. 'It taints the entire evidence with perjury,' Sir John had said. The woman's evidence was absolutely so tainted,—was defiled with perjury. And the man Crinkett had been so near the woman that it was impossible to disconnect them. Who had concocted the fraud? The woman could hardly have done so without the man's connivance. It took him all the morning to think the matter out, and then he had not made up his mind. To reverse the verdict would certainly be a thorn in his side,—a pernicious thorn,—but one which, if necessary, he would endure. Thorns, however, such as these are very persuasive.
At last he determined to have inquiry made as to the woman by the police. She had laid herself open to an indictment for perjury, and in making inquiry on that head something further might probably be learned.
How the Conspirators Throve
There had been some indiscretion among Caldigate's friends from which it resulted that, while Judge Bramber was considering the matter, and before the police intelligence of Scotland Yard even had stirred itself in obedience to the judge's orders, nearly all the circumstances which had been submitted to the judge had become public. Shand knew all that Bagwax had done. Bagwax was acquainted with the whole of Dick's evidence. And Hester down at Folking understood perfectly what had been revealed by each of those enthusiastic allies. Dick, as we know, had been staying at Folking, and had made his presence notable throughout the county. He had succeeded in convincing uncle Babington, and had been judged to be a false witness by all the Boltons. In that there had perhaps been no great indiscretion. But when Bagwax opened a correspondence with Mrs. John Caldigate and explained to her at great length all the circumstances of the postmark and the postage-stamps, and when at her instance he got a day's holiday and rushed down to Folking, then, as he felt himself, he was doing that of which Sir John Joram and Mr. Jones would not approve. But he could not restrain himself. And why should he restrain himself when he had lost all hope of his journey to Sydney? When the prospect of that delight no longer illumined his days, why should he not enjoy the other delight of communicating his tidings, —his own discoveries,—to the afflicted lady? Unless he did so it would appear to her that Joram had done it all, and there would be no reward,—absolutely none! So he told his tale,—at first by letter and then with his own natural eloquence. 'Yes, Mrs. Caldigate the postmarks are difficult. It takes a lifetime of study to understand all the ins and outs of postmarks. To me it is A B C of course. When I had spent a week or two looking into it I was sure that impression had never been made in the way of business Bagwax was sitting out on the lawn at Folking and the bereaved wife, dressed in black, was near him, holding in her hand one of the photographed copies of the envelope. 'It's A B C to me; but I don't wonder you shouldn't see it.'
'I think I do see a good deal,' said Hester.
'But any babe may understand that,' said Bagwax, pressing forward and putting his forefinger on the obliteration of the postage-stamp. 'You see the date in the postmark.'
'I know the date very well.'
'We've had it proved that on the date given there, this identical postage-stamp had not yet been manufactured. The Secretary of State can't get over that. I'll defy him.'
'Why don't they release him at once then?
'Between you and me, Mrs. Caldigate, I think it's Judge Bramber.'
'He can't want to injure an innocent man.'
'From what I've heard Sir John say, I fancy he doesn't like to have the verdict upset. But they must do it. I'll defy them to get over that.' And again he tapped the queen's-head. Then he told the story of his love for Jemima, and of his engagement. Of course he was praised and petted,—as indeed he deserved; and thus, though the house at Folking was a sad house, he enjoyed himself,—as men do when much is made of them by pretty women.
But the result of all this was that every detail of the story became known to the public, and was quite common down at Cambridge. The old squire was urgent with Mr. Seely, asking why it was that when those things were known an instant order had not come from the Secretary of State for the liberation of his son. Mr. Seely had not been altogether pleased at the way in which Sir John had gone to work, and was still convinced of the guilt of his own client. His answer was therefore unsatisfactory, and the old squire proclaimed his intention of proceeding himself to London and demanding an interview with the Secretary of State. Then the Cambridge newspapers took up the subject,—generally in the Caldigate interest,—and from thence the matter was transferred to the metropolitan columns,—which, with one exception, were strong in favour of such a reversal of the verdict as could be effected by a pardon from the Queen. The one exception was very pellucid, very unanswerable, and very cold-blooded. It might have been written by Judge Bramber himself, but that Judge Bramber would sooner have cut his hand off than have defiled it by making public aught that had come before him judicially or officially. But all Judge Bramber's arguments were there set forth. Dick wished his father at once to proceed against the paper for libel because the paper said that his word could not be taken for much. The postmark theory was exposed to derision. There was no doubt much in the postage-stamp, but not enough to upset the overwhelming weight of evidence by which the verdict had been obtained. And so the case became really public, and the newspapers were bought and read with the avidity which marks those festive periods in which some popular criminal is being discussed at every breakfast-table.
Much of this had occurred before the intelligence of Scotland Yard had been set to work in obedience to Judge Bramber. The papers had been a day or two in the Home Office, and three or four days in the judge's hands before he could look at them. To Hester and the old squire at Folking the incarceration of that injured darling was the one thing in all the world which now required attention. To redress that terrible grievance, judges, secretaries, thrones, and parliaments, should have left their wonted tracks and thought of nothing till it had been accomplished. But Judge Bramber, in the performance of his duties, was never hurried; and at the Home Office a delay but of three or four days amounted to official haste. Thus it came to pass that all that Bagwax had done and all that Shand had said were known to the public at large before the intelligence of Scotland Yard was at work,—before anybody had as yet done anything.
Among the public were Euphemia Smith and Mr. Crinkett,—Adamson also, and Anna Young, the other witness. Since the trial, this confraternity had not passed an altogether fraternal life. When the money had been paid, the woman had insisted on having the half. She, indeed, had carried the cheque for the amount away from the Jericho Coffee-house. It had been given into her hands and those of Crinkett conjointly, and she had secured the document. The amount was payable to their joint order, and each had felt that it would be better to divide the spoil in peace. Crinkett had taken his half with many grumblings, because he had, in truth, arranged the matter and hitherto paid the expenses. Then the woman had wished to start at once for Australia, taking the other female with her. But to this Crinkett had objected. They would certainly, he said, be arrested for breaking their bail at whatever port they might reach,—and why should they go, seeing that the money had been paid to them on the distinct understanding that they were not pledged to abandon the prosecution. Most unwillingly the woman remained;—but did so fearing lest worse evil might betide her. Then there had arisen quarrels about the money between the two females, and between Crinkett and Adamson. It was in vain that Crinkett showed that, were he to share with Adamson, there would be very little of the plunder left to him. Adamson demanded a quarter of the whole, short of a quarter of the expenses, declaring that were it not paid to him, he would divulge everything to the police. The woman, who had got her money in her hand, and who was, in truth, spending it very quickly, would give back nothing for expenses, unless her expenses in England also were considered. Nor would she give a shilling to Anna Young, beyond an allowance of L2 a week, till, as she said, they were both back in the colony again. But Anna Young did not wish to go back to the colony. And so they quarrelled till the trial came and was over.
The verdict had been given on the 20th July, and it was about the middle of September when the newspapers made public all that Shand and Bagwax between them had said and done. At that time the four conspirators were still in England. The two men were living a wretched life in London, and the women were probably not less wretched at Brighton. Mrs. Smith, when she learned that Dick Shand was alive and in England, immediately understood her danger,—understood her danger, but did not at all measure the security which might come to her from the nature of Dick's character. She would have flown instantly without a word to any one, but that the other woman watched her day and night. They did not live under the same roof, nor in similar style. Euphemia Smith wore silk, and endeavoured to make the best of what female charms her ill mode of life had left to her; while Young was content with poor apparel and poor living,—but spent her time in keeping guard on the other. The woman in silk knew that were she to leave her lodgings for half a day without the knowledge of the woman in calico, the woman in calico would at once reveal everything to the police. But when she understood the point which had been raised and made as to the postmark,—which she did understand thoroughly,—then she comprehended also her own jeopardy, and hurried up to London to see Crinkett. And she settled matters with Young. If Young would go back with her to Australia, everything there should be made pleasant. Terms were made at the Brighton station. Anna Young was to receive two thousand pounds in London, and would then remain as companion with her old mistress.
In London there was a close conference, at first between the two principals only. Crinkett thought that he was comparatively safe. He had sworn to nothing about the letter; and though he himself had prepared the envelope, no proof of his handiwork was forthcoming that he had done so. But he was quite ready to start again to some distant portion of the earth's surface,—to almost any distant portion of the earth's surface,—if she would consent to a joining of purses. 'And who is to keep the joint purse?' asked Mrs. Smith, not without a touch of grand irony.
'Me, of course,' said Crinkett. 'A man always must have the money.'
'I'd sooner have fourteen years for perjury, like the Claimant,' said Mrs. Smith, with a grand resolve that, come what might, she would stick to her own money.
But at last it was decided. Adamson would not stir a step, but consented to remain with two thousand pounds, which Crinkett was compelled to pay him. Crinkett handed him the money within the precincts of one of the city banks not an hour before the sailing of the Julius Vogel from the London Docks for Auckland in New Zealand. At that moment both the women were on board the Julius Vogel, and the gang was so far safe. Crinkett was there in time, and they were carried safely down the river. New Zealand had been chosen because there they would be further from their persecutors than at any other spot they could reach. And the journey would occupy long, and they were pervaded by an idea that as they had been hitherto brought in question as to no crime, the officers of justice would hardly bring them back from so great a distance.
The Julius Vogel touched at Plymouth on her outward voyage. How terribly inconvenient must be this habit of touching to passengers going from home, such as Euphemia Smith and Thomas Crinkett! And the wretched vessel, which had made a quick passage round from the Thames, lay two days and two nights at Dartmouth, before it went on to Plymouth. Our friends, of course, did not go on shore. Our friends, who were known as Mr. Catley and his two widowed sisters, Mrs. Salmon and Mrs. York, kept themselves very quiet, and were altogether well-behaved. But the women could not restrain some manifestation of their impatience. Why did not the vessel start? Why were they to be delayed Then the captain made known to them that the time for starting had not yet come. Three o'clock on that day was the time fixed for starting. As the slow moments wore themselves away, the women trembled, huddled together on the poop of the vessel; while Crinkett, never letting the pipe out of his mouth, stood leaning against the taffrail, looking towards the port, gazing across the waters to see whether anything was coming towards the ship which might bode evil to his journey. Then there came the bustle preparatory to starting, and Crinkett thought that he was free, at any rate, for that journey. But such bustle spreads itself over many minutes. Quarter of an hour succeeded quarter of an hour, and still they were not off. The last passenger came on board, and yet they were not off. Then Crinkett with his sharp eyes saw another boat pushed off from the shore, and heard a voice declare that the Julius Vogel had received a signal not to start. Then Crinkett knew that a time of desperate trouble had come upon him, and he bethought himself what he would do. Were he to jump overboard, they would simply pick him up. Nor was he quite sure that he wished to die. The money which he had kept had not been obtained fraudulently, and would be left to him, he thought, after that term of imprisonment which it might be his fate to endure. But then, again, it might be that no such fate was in store for him. He had sworn only to the marriage and not to the letter. It might still be possible that he should be acquitted, while the woman was condemned. So he stood perfectly still, and said not a word to either of his companions as to the boat which was coming. He could soon see two men in the guise of policemen, and another who was certainly a policeman, though not in that guise. He stood there very quiet, and determined that he would tell his own name and those of the two women at the first question that was asked him. On the day but one following, Crinkett and Euphemia Smith were committed in London to take their trial for perjury.
Adamson, when he had read the reports in the newspapers, and had learned that the postage-stamp had been detected, and that Shand was at home, also looked about him a little. He talked over the matter at great length with Crinkett, but he did not tell Crinkett all his own ideas. Some of them he did make known to Crinkett. He would not himself go to the colonies with Crinkett, nor would he let Crinkett go till some share of the plunder had been made over to him. This, after many words, had been fixed at two thousand pounds; and the money, as we have seen, had been paid. Crinkett had been careful to make the payment at as late a moment as possible. He had paid the amount,—very much to his own regret when he saw that boat coming,—because he was quite sure that Adamson would at once have denounced him to the police, had he not done so. Adamson might denounce him in spite of the payment;—but the payment appeared to him to be his best chance. When he saw the boat coming, he knew that he had simply thrown away his two thousand pounds.
In truth, he had simply thrown it away. There is no comfort in having kept one's word honestly, when one would fain have broken it dishonestly. Adamson, with the large roll of bank-notes still in his pocket, had gone at once to Scotland Yard and told his story. At that time all the details had been sent by the judge to the police-office, and it was understood that a great inquiry was to be made. In the first place, Crinkett and Euphemia Smith were wanted. Adamson soon made his bargain. He could tell something,—could certainly tell where Crinkett and the women were to be found; but he must be assured that any little peccadillo of which he himself might have been guilty would be overlooked. The peccadillo on his part had been very small, but he must be assured. Then he was assured, and told the police at once that they could stop the two travellers at Plymouth. And of course he told more than that. There had been no marriage,—no real marriage. He had been induced to swear that there had been a marriage, because he had regarded the promise and the cohabitation as making a marriage,—'in heaven.' So he had expressed himself, and so excused himself. But now his eyes had been opened to the error of his ways, and he was free to acknowledge that he had committed perjury. There had been no marriage;—certainly none at all. He made his deposition, and bound himself down, and submitted to live under the surveillance of the police till the affair should be settled. Then he would be able to go where he listed, with two thousand pounds in his pocket. He was a humble, silent, and generally obedient man, but in this affair he had managed to thrive better than any of the others. Anna Young was afterwards allowed to fill the same position; but she failed in getting any of the money. While the women were in London together, and as they were starting, Euphemia Smith had been too strong for her companion. She had declared that she would not pay the money till they were afloat, and then that she would not pay it till they had left Plymouth. When the police came on board the Julius Vogel, Anna Young had as yet received nothing.
The Boltons Are Very Firm
While all this was going on, as the general opinion in favour of Caldigate was becoming stronger every day, when even Judge Bramber had begun to doubt, the feeling which had always prevailed at Puritan Grange was growing in intensity and converting itself from a conviction into a passion. That the wicked bigamist had falsely and fraudulently robbed her of her daughter was a religion to Mrs. Bolton;—and, as the matter had proceeded, the old banker had become ever more and more submissive to his wife's feelings. All the Cambridge Boltons were in accord on this subject,—who had never before been in accord on any subject. Robert Bolton, who understood thoroughly each point as it was raised on behalf of Caldigate, was quite sure that the old squire was spending his money freely, his own money and his son's, with the view of getting the verdict set aside. What was so clear as that Dick Shand and Bagwax, and probably also Smithers from the Stamps and Taxes, were all in the pay of old Caldigate? At this time the defection of Adamson was not known to him, but he did know that a strong case was being made with the Secretary of State. 'If it costs me all I have in the world I will expose them,' he said up in London to his brother William, the London barrister.
The barrister was not quite in accord with the other Boltons. He also had been disposed to think that Dick Shand and Bagwax might have been bribed by the squire. It was at any rate possible. And the twenty thousand pounds paid to the accusing witnesses had always stuck in his throat when he had endeavoured to believe that Caldigate might be innocent. It seemed to him still that the balance of evidence was against the man who had taken his sister away from her home. But he was willing to leave that to the Secretary of State and to the judge. He did not see why his sister should not have her husband and be restored to the world,—if Judge Bramber should at last decide that so it ought to be. No money could bribe Judge Bramber. No undue persuasion could weaken him. If that Rhadamanthus should at last say that the verdict had been a wrong verdict, then,—for pity's sake, for love's sake, in the name of humanity, and for the sake of all Boltons present and to come,—let the man be considered innocent.
But Robert Bolton was more intent on his purpose, and was a man of stronger passion. Perhaps some real religious scruple told him that a woman should not live with a man who was not her true husband,—let any judge say what he might. But hatred, probably, had more to do with it than religion. It was he who had first favoured Caldigate's claim on Hester's hand, and he who had been most grievously deceived. From the moment in which the conviction had come upon him that Caldigate had even promised his hand in marriage to Euphemia Smith, he had become Caldigate's enemy,—his bitter enemy; and now he could not endure the thought that he should be called upon again to receive Caldigate as his brother-in-law. Caldigate's guilt was an idea fixed in his mind which no Secretary of State, no Judge Bramber, no brother could expel.
And so it came to pass that there were hard words between him and his brother. 'You are wrong,' said William.
'How wrong? You cannot say that you believe him to be innocent.'
'If he receives the Queen's pardon he is to be considered as innocent.'
'Even though you should know him to have been guilty?'
'Well,—yes,' said William, slowly, and perhaps indiscreetly. 'It is a matter in which a man's guilt or innocence must be held to depend upon what persons in due authority have declared. As he is now guilty of bigamy in consequence of the verdict, even though he should never have committed the offence, so should he be presumed to be innocent, when that verdict has been set aside by the Queen's pardon on the advice of her proper officers,—even though he committed the offence.'
'You would have your sister live with a man who has another wife alive? It comes to that.'
'For all legal purposes he would have no other wife alive.'
'The children would be illegitimate.'
'There you are decidedly wrong,' said the barrister. 'The children would be legitimate. Even at this moment, without any pardon, the child could claim and would enter in upon his inheritance.'
'The next of kin would claim,' said the attorney.
'The burden of proving the former marriage would then be on him,' said the barrister.
'The verdict would be evidence,' said the attorney.
'Certainly,' said the barrister; 'but such evidence would not be worth a straw after a Queen's pardon, given on the advice of the judge who had tried the former case. As yet we know not what the judge may say,—we do not know the facts as they have been expounded to him. But if Caldigate be regarded as innocent by the world at large, it will be our duty so to regard him.'
'I will never look on him as Hester's husband,' said the attorney.
'I and Fanny have already made up our minds that we would at once ask them to come to us for a month,' said the barrister.
'Nothing on earth will induce me to speak to him,' said the attorney.
'Then you will be very cruel to Hester,' said the barrister.
'It is dreadful to me,' said the attorney, 'that you should care so little for your sister's reputation.' And so they quarrelled. Robert, leaving the house in great dudgeon, went down on the following morning to Cambridge.
At Puritan Grange the matter was argued rather by rules of religion than of law; but as the rules of law were made by those interested to fit themselves to expediency, so were the rules of religion fitted to prejudice. No hatred could be more bitter than that which Mrs. Bolton felt for the man whom she would permit no one to call her son-in-law. Something as to the postage-stamp and the postmarks was told her; but with a woman's indomitable obstinacy she closed her mind against all that,—as indeed did also the banker. 'Is her position in the world to depend upon a postage-stamp?' said the banker, intending to support his wife. Then she arose in her wrath, and was very eloquent. 'Her position in the world!' she said. 'What does it matter? It is her soul! Though all men and all women should call her a castaway, it would be nothing if the Lord knew her to be guiltless. But she will be living as an adulteress with an adulterer. The law has told her that it is so. She will feel every day and every night that she is a transgressor, and will vainly seek consolation by telling herself that men have pardoned that which God has condemned.' And again she broke forth. 'The Queen's pardon! What right has the Queen to pardon an adulterer who has crept into the bosom of a family and destroyed all that he found there? What sense of justice can any Queen have in her bosom who will send such a one back, to heap sin upon sin, to fasten the bonds of iniquity on the soul of my child?' Postage-stamps and postmarks and an old envelope! The triviality of the things as compared with the importance of everlasting life made her feel that they were unworthy to be even noticed. It did not occur to her that the presence of a bodkin might be ample evidence of murder. Post-marks indeed,—when her daughter's everlasting life was the matter in question! Then they told her of Dick Shand. She, too, had heard of Dick Shand. He had been a gambler. So she said,—without much truth. He was known for a drunkard, a spendthrift, a penniless idle ne'er-do-well who had wandered back home without clothes to his back;—which was certainly untrue, as the yellow trousers had been bought at San Francisco;—and now she was told that the hated miscreant was to be released from prison because such a one as this was ready to take an oath! She had a knack of looking on such men,—ne'er-do-wells like Dick Shand and Caldigate,—as human beings who had, as it were, lost their souls before death, so that it was useless to think of them otherwise than as already damned. That Caldigate should become a good, honest, loving husband, or Dick Shand a truth-speaking witness, was to her thinking much more improbable than that a camel should go through the eye of a needle. She would press her lips together and grind her teeth and shake her head when any one about her spoke of a doubt. The man was in prison, at any rate for two years,—locked up safe for so much time, as it might be a wild beast which with infinite trouble had been caged. And now they were talking of undoing the bars and allowing the monster to gorge himself again with his prey!
'If the Queen were told the truth she would never do it,' she said to her amazed husband. 'The Queen is a mother and a woman who kneels in prayer before her Maker. Something should be done, so that the truth may be made known to her.'
To illuminate all the darkness which was betrayed by this appeal to him was altogether beyond Mr. Bolton's power. He appreciated the depth of the darkness. He knew, for instance, that the Queen herself would in such a matter act so simply in accordance with the advice of some one else, that the pardon, if given, would not in the least depend on her Majesty's sentiments. To call it the Queen's pardon was a simple figure of speech. This was manifest to him, and he was driven to endeavour to make it manifest to her. She spoke of a petition to be sent direct to the Queen, and insinuated that Robert Bolton, if he were anything like a real brother, would force himself into her Majesty's presence. 'It isn't the Queen,' said her husband.
'It is the Queen. Mercy is the prerogative of the Crown. Even I know as much as that. And she is to be made to believe that this is mercy!'
'Her Majesty does what her Ministers tell her.'
'But she wouldn't if she was told the truth. I do not for a moment believe that she would allow such a man as that to be let loose about the world like a roaring lion if she knew all that you and I know. Mercy indeed!'
'It won't be meant for mercy, my dear.'
'What then? Do you not know that the man has another wife alive,—a wife much more suited to him than our poor darling? Nobody would hear my voice while there was yet time. And so my child, my only one, was taken away from me by her own father and her own brothers, and no one now will exert himself to bring her back to her home!' The poor old man had had but little comfort in his home since his daughter's marriage, and was now more miserable than ever.
Then there came a letter from Hester to her mother. Since Mrs. Bolton's last visit to Folking there had been some correspondence maintained. A few letters had passed, very sad on each side, in which the daughter had assured the mother of her undying love, and in which the mother had declared that day and night she prayed for her child. But of Caldigate, neither on one side nor on the other had mention been made. Now Hester, who was full of hope, and sick with hope deferred, endeavoured to convince her mother that the entire charge against her husband had been proved by new evidence to be false. She recapitulated all the little details with which the diligent reader must by this time be too well acquainted. She made quite clear, as she thought, the infamous plot by which the envelope had been made to give false evidence, and she added the assurance that certainly before long her dear, dearest, ill-used husband would be restored to her. Then she went on to implore her mother's renewed affection both for herself and him and her boy, promising that bygones should all be bygones; and then she ended by declaring that though the return of her husband would make her very happy, she could not be altogether happy unless her parents also should be restored to her.
To this there came a crushing answer, as follows:—-
'Puritan Grange, 28th September.'
'Dearest Hester,—It was unnecessary that you should ask for a renewal of your mother's love. There has never been a moment in which she has not loved you,—more dearly, I fear, than one human creature should ever love another. When I was strongest in opposing you, I did so from love. When I watched you in the hall all those hours, endeavouring to save you from further contact with the man who had injured you, I did it from love. You need not doubt my love.
'But as to all the rest, I cannot agree to a word that you say. They are plotting with false evidence to rescue the man from prison. I will not give way to it when my soul tells me that it is untrue. As your mother, I can only implore you to come back to me, and to save yourself from the further evil which is coming upon you. It may be that he will be enabled to escape, and then you will again have to live with a husband that is no husband,—unless you will listen to your mother's words.
'You are thinking of the good things of this world,—of a home with all luxuries and ease, and of triumph over those who, for the good of your soul, have hitherto marred your worldly joys. Is it thus that you hope to win that crown of everlasting life which you have been taught to regard as the one thing worthy of a Christian's struggles? Is it not true that, since that wretched day on which you were taken away from me, you have allowed your mind to pass from thoughts of eternity to longings after vain joys in this bitter, fruitless vale of tears? If that be so, can he who has so encouraged you have been good to you? Do you remember David's words; "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God"? And then, again; "They are brought down and fallen; but we are risen and stand upright." Ask yourself whether you have stood upright or have fallen, since you left your father's house; whether you have trusted in the Lord your God, or in horses and chariots,—that is, in the vain comforts of an easy life? If it be so, can it be for your good that you have left your father's house? And should you not accept this scourge that has fallen upon you as a healing balm from the hands of the Lord?
'My child, I have no other answer to send you. That I love you till my very bowels yearn after you is most true. But I cannot profess to believe a lie, or declare that to be good which I know to be evil.
'May the Lord bless you, and turn your feet aright, and restore you to your loving mother,
When Hester read this she was almost crushed. The delay since the new tidings had come to her had not, in truth, been very great. It was not yet quite a month since Shand had been at Folking, and a shorter period since the discoveries of Bagwax had been explained to her. But the days seemed to her to be very long; and day after day she thought that on that day at least the news of his promised release would be brought to her. And now, instead of these news, there came this letter from her mother, harder almost in its words than any words which had hitherto been either written or spoken in the matter. Even when all the world should have declared him innocent,—when the Queen, and the great officer of State, and that stern judge, should have said that he was innocent,—even then her cruel mother would refuse to receive him! She had been invited to ask herself certain questions as to the state of her soul, and as to the teaching she had received since her marriage. The subject is one on which there is no possible means of convergence between persons who have learned to differ. Her mother's allusions to chariots and horses was to her the enthusiasm of a fanatic. No doubt, teaching had come to her from her husband, but it had come at the period of life at which such lessons are easily learned. 'Brought down and fallen!' she said to herself. 'Yes, we are all brought down and fallen;' for she had not at all discarded the principles of her religious faith;—'but a woman will hardly raise herself by being untrue to her husband.' She, too, yearned for her mother;—but there was never a moment's doubt in her mind to which she would cling if at last it should become necessary that one should be cast off.
Mrs. Bolton, when the letter had been despatched, sat brooding over it in deep regret mixed with deeper anger. She was preparing for herself an awful tragedy. She must be severed for ever from her daughter, and so severed with the opinion of all her neighbours against her! But what was all that if she had done right? Or of what service to her would be the contrary if she were herself to think,—nay, to know,—that she had done wrong?
Squire Caldigate at the Home Office
When October came no information from the Secretary of State's office had yet reached Folking, and the two inhabitants there were becoming almost despondent as well as impatient. There was nobody with whom they could communicate. Sir John Joram had been obliged to answer a letter from the squire by saying that, as soon as there was anything to tell the tidings would assuredly be communicated to him from the Home Office. The letter had seemed to be cold and almost uncivil; but Sir John had in truth said all that he could say. To raise hopes which, after all, might be fallacious, would have been, on his part, a great fault. Nor, in spite of his bet, was he very sanguine, sharing his friend Honybun's opinion as to Judge Bramber's obstinacy. And there was a correspondence between the elder Caldigate and the Home Office, in which the letters from the squire were long and well argued, whereas the replies, which always came by return of post, were short and altogether formal. Some assistant under-secretary would sign his name at the end of three lines, in which the correspondent was informed that as soon as the matter was settled the result would be communicated.
Who does not know the sense of aggravated injustice which comes upon a sufferer when redress for an acknowledged evil is delayed? The wronged one feels that the whole world must be out of joint in that all the world does not rise up in indignation. So it was with the old squire, who watched Hester's cheek becoming paler day by day, and who knew by her silence that the strong hopes which in his presence had been almost convictions were gradually giving way to a new despair. Then he would abuse the Secretary of State, say hard things of the Queen, express his scorn as to the fatuous absurdities of the English law, and would make her understand by his anger that he also was losing hope.
During these days preparations were being made for the committal of Crinkett and Euphemia Smith, nor would Judge Bramber report to the Secretary till he was convinced that there was sufficient evidence for their prosecution. It was not much to him that Caldigate should spend another week in prison. The condition of Hester did not even come beneath his ken. When he found allusion to it in the papers before him, he treated it as a matter which should not have been adduced,—in bringing which under his notice there had been something akin to contempt of court, as though an endeavour had been made to talk him over in private. He knew his own character, and was indignant that such an argument should have been used with himself. He was perhaps a little more slow,—something was added to his deliberation,—because he was told that a young wife and an infant child were anxiously expecting the liberation of the husband and father. It was not as yet clear to Judge Bramber that the woman had any such husband, or that the child could claim his father.
At this crisis, when the first weeks in October had dragged themselves tediously along, Mr. Caldigate, in a fit which was half rage and half moodiness, took himself off to London. He did not tell Hester that he was going till the morning on which he started, and then simply assured her that she should hear from him by every post till he returned.
'You will tell me the truth, father.'
'If I know it myself, I will tell you.'
'But you will conceal nothing?'
'No;—I will conceal nothing. If I find that they are all utterly unjust, altogether hard-hearted, absolutely indifferent to the wrong they have done, I will tell you even that.' And thus he went.
He had hardly any fixed purpose in going. He knew that Sir John Joram was not in London, and that if he were in town he ought not to be made subject to visits on behalf of clients. To call upon any judge in such a matter would be altogether out of place, but to call upon such a judge as Judge Bramber would be very vain indeed. He had in his head some hazy idea of forcing an answer from the officials in Downing Street; but in his heart he did not believe that he should be able to get beyond the messengers. He was one of a class, not very small in numbers, who, from cultivating within their bosom a certain tendency towards suspicion, have come to think that all Government servants are idle, dilatory, supercilious and incompetent. That some of these faults may have existed among those who took wages from the Crown in the time of George III. is perhaps true. And the memory of those times has kept alive the accusation. The vitality of these prejudices calls to mind the story of the Nottinghamshire farmer who, when told of the return of Charles II., asked what had become of Charles I. Naseby, Worcester, and the fatal day at Whitehall had not yet reached him. Tidings of these things had only been approaching him during these twelve years. The true character of the Civil Service is only now approaching the intelligence of those who are still shaking their heads over the delinquencies of the last century. But old Mr. Caldigate was a man peculiarly susceptible to such hard judgments. From the crown down to the black helmet worn by the policeman who was occasionally to be seen on Folking causeway, he thought that all such headpieces were coverings for malpractices. The bishop's wig had, he thought, disappeared as being too ridiculous for the times; but even for the judge's wig he had no respect. Judge Bramber was to him simply pretentious, and a Secretary of State no better than any other man. In this frame of mind how was it probable that he should do any good at the Home Office?
But in this frame of mind he went to the Home Office, and asked boldly for the great man. It was then eleven o'clock in the morning and neither had the great man, nor even any of the deputy great men, as yet made their appearance. Mr. Caldigate of course fell back upon his old opinion as to public functionaries, and, mentally, applied opprobrious epithets to men who, taking the public pay, could not be at their posts an hour before mid-day. He was not aware that the great man and the first deputy great man were sitting in the House of Commons at 2 A.M. on that morning, and that the office generally was driven by the necessity of things to accommodate itself to Parliamentary exigencies.
Then he was asked his business. How could he explain to a messenger that his son had been unjustly convicted of bigamy and was now in prison as a criminal? So he left his card and said that he would call again at two.
At that hour precisely he appeared again and was told that the great man himself could not see him. Then he nearly boiled over in his wrath, while the messenger, with all possible courtesy, went on to explain that one of the deputies was ready to receive him. The deputy was the Honourable Septimus Brown, of whom it may be said that the Home Office was so proud that it considered itself to be superior to all other public offices whatever simply because it possessed Brown. He had been there for forty years, and for many sessions past had been the salvation of Parliamentary secretaries and under-secretaries. He was the uncle of an earl, and the brother-in-law of a duke and a marquis. Not to know Brown was, at the West End, simply to be unknown. Brooks's was proud of him; and without him the 'Travellers'' would not have been such a Travellers' as it is. But Mr. Caldigate, when he was told that Mr. Brown would see him, almost left the lobby in instant disgust. When he asked who was Mr. Brown, there came a muttered reply in which 'permanent' was the only word audible to him. He felt that were he to go away in dudgeon simply because Brown was the name of the man whom he was called upon to see, he would put himself in the wrong. He would by so doing close his own mouth against complaint, which, to Mr. Caldigate, would indeed have been a cutting of his own nose off his own face. With a scowl, therefore he consented to be taken away to Mr. Brown.
He was, in the first place, somewhat scared by the room into which he was shown, which was very large and very high. There were two clerks with Mr. Brown, who vanished, however, as soon as the squire entered the room. It seemed that Mr. Brown was certainly of some standing in the office, or he would not have had two arm-chairs and a sofa in his room. Mr. Caldigate, when he first consented to see Mr. Brown, had expected to be led into an uncarpeted chamber where there would have been half-a-dozen other clerks.
'I have your card, Mr. Caldigate,' said the official. 'No doubt you have called in reference to your son.'
The squire had determined to be very indignant,—very indignant even with the Secretary of State himself, to whose indifference he attributed the delay which had occurred;—but almost more than indignant when he found that he was to be fobbed off with Mr. Brown. But there was something in the gentleman's voice which checked his indignation. There was something in Mr. Brown's eye, a mixture of good-humour and authority, which made him feel that he ought not to be angry with the gentleman till he was quite sure of the occasion. Mr. Brown was a handsome hale old man with grey whiskers and greyish hair, with a well-formed nose and a broad forehead, carefully dressed with a light waistcoat and a checked linen cravat, wearing a dark-blue frockcoat, and very well made boots,—an old man, certainly, but who looked as though old age must naturally be the happiest time of life. When a man's digestion is thoroughly good and his pockets adequately filled, it probably is so. Such were the circumstances of Mr. Brown, who, as the squire looked at him, seemed to partake more of the nature of his nephew and brothers-in-law than of the Browns generally.
'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Caldigate; 'I have called about my son who, I think I may undertake to say, has been wrongly condemned, and is now wrongly retained in prison.'
'You beg all the questions, Mr. Caldigate,' said the permanent under-secretary, with a smile.
'I maintain that what you call the questions are now so clearly proved as not to admit of controversy. No one can deny that a conspiracy was got up against my son.'
'I shall not deny it, certainly, Mr. Caldigate. But in truth I know very little or nothing about it.' The squire, who had been seated, rose from his chair,—as in wrath,—about to pour forth his indignation. Why was he treated in this way,—he who was there on a subject of such tragic interest to him? When all the prospects, reputation, and condition of his son were at stake, he was referred to a gentleman who began by telling him that he knew nothing about the matter! 'If you will sit down for a moment, Mr. Caldigate, I will explain all that can be explained,' said Mr. Brown, who was weather-wise in such matters, and had seen the signs of a coming storm.
'Certainly I will sit down.'
'In such cases as this the Secretary of State never sees those who are interested. It is not right that he should do so.'
'There might be somebody to do so.'
'But not somebody who has been concerned in the inquiry. The Secretary of State, if he saw you, could only refuse to impart to you any portion of the information which he himself may possess, because it cannot be right that he should give an opinion in the matter while he himself is in doubt. You may be sure that he will open his mouth to no one except to those from whom he may seek assistance, till he has been enabled to advise her Majesty that her Majesty's pardon should be given or refused.'
'When will that be?'
'I am afraid that I cannot name a day. You, Mr. Caldigate, are, I know, a gentleman of position in your county and a magistrate. Cannot you understand how minutely facts must be investigated when a Minister of the Crown is called upon to accept the responsibility of either upsetting or confirming the verdict of a jury?'
'The facts are as clear as daylight.'
'If they be so, your son will soon be a free man.'
'If you could feel what his wife suffers in the meantime!'
'Though I did feel it,—though we all felt it; as probably we do, for though we be officials still we are men,—how should that help us? You would not have a man pardoned because his wife suffers!'
'Knowing how she suffered, I do not think I should let much grass grow under my feet while I was making the inquiry.'
'I hope there is no such grass grows here. The truth is, Mr. Caldigate, that, as a rule, no person coming here on such an errand as yours is received at all. The Secretary of State cannot, either in his own person or in that of those who are under him, put himself in communication with the friends of individuals who are under sentence. I am sure that you, as a man conversant with the laws, must see the propriety of such a rule.'
'I think I have a right to express my natural anxiety.'
'I will not deny it. The post is open to you, and though I fear that our replies may not be considered altogether satisfactory, we do give our full attention to the letters we receive. When I heard that you had been here, and had expressed an intention of returning, from respect to yourself personally I desired that you might be shown into my room. But I could not have done that had it not been that I myself have not been concerned in this matter.' Then he got up from his seat, and Mr. Caldigate found himself compelled to leave the room with thanks rather than with indignation.
He walked out of the big building into Downing Street, and down the steps into the park. And going into the gardens, he wandered about them for more than an hour, sometimes walking slowly along the water-side, and then seating himself for a while on one of the benches. What must he say to Hester in the letter which he must write as soon as he was back at his hotel? He tried to sift some wheat out of what he was pleased to call the chaff of Mr. Brown's courtesy. Was there not some indication to be found in it of what the result might be? If there were any such indication, it was, he thought, certainly adverse to his son. In whose bosom might be the ultimate decision,—whether in that of the Secretary, or the judge, or of some experienced clerk in the Secretary's office,—it was manifest that the facts which had now been proven to the world at large for many days, had none of the effects on that bosom which they had on his own. Could it be that Shand was false, that Bagwax was false, that the postage-stamp was false,—and that he only believed them to be true? Was it possible that after all his son had married the woman? He crept back to his hotel in Jermyn Street, and there he wrote his letter.
'I think I shall be home to-morrow, but I will not say so for certain. I have been at the Home Office, but they would tell me nothing. A man was very civil to me, but explained that he was civil only because he knew nothing about the case. I think I shall call on Mr. Bagwax at the Post-office to-morrow, and after that return to Folking. Send in for the day-mail letters, and then you will hear from me again if I mean to stay.'