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THE CANON'S WARD 



VOL. III. 



NEW NOVELS AT EVERY LIBRARY. 

MAID OF ATHENS. By Justin McCarthy, M.P. 

3 vols. 

ALL IN A GARDEN FAIR. By Walter Besant. 

3 vols. 

THE LAND-LEAGUERS. By Anthony Trollope. 

3 vols. 

ANNAN WATER. By Robert Buchanan. 3 vols. 
THE FOREIGNERS. By E. C. Price. 3 vols. 
lONE. By E. Lynn Linton. 3 vols. 
BEATRIX RANDOLPH. By Julian Hawthorne. 

2 vols. 

THE CANON'S WARD. By James Payn. 3 vols. 
FRESCOES : Dramatic Sketches. By Ouida i vol. 

CHATTO & WINDUS, Piccadilly, W. 



THE CANON'S WARD 



BY 



JAMES PAYN 



AUTHOR OF ' BY PROXY ' ' HIGH SPIRITS ' ' KIT : A MEMORY ' ETC. 




IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOL. III. 



CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY 



[Ali rights reserved^ 



LONDON : PRINTED BY 

SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE 

AND PARLIAMENT STREET 



?^3 
V, 3 



CONTENTS 



OF 



THE THIRD VOLUME. 



CHAPTER. 

XXXV. UNMASKED 

XXXVI. THE THUNDERBOLT . 

XXXVII. RESIGNATION . 

XXXVIII. IN CONSULTATION 

XXXIX. THE REVELATION 

XL. THE WITNESS 

XLI. JEANNETTE CONFESSES 

XLII. ROBERT 

XLIII. ON THE TRAIL 

XLIV. HOME AGAIN 

XLV. ILL IN COLLEGE 

xLvi. sophy's letter 

XLVII. THE LAST INTERVIEW 

XLVIII. ABANDONED 

XLIX. THE FLIGHT . 

L. THE CONFEDERATES . 

LI. Willie's will 

LII. IN PORT . 



PAGE 

1 

22 

42 
58 
74 
89 
112 
1-28 
149 
IGl 
180 
196 
213 
22S 
242 
264 
283 
302 



THE CANON'S WARD. 
CHAPTER XXXV. 

UNMASKED. 

On their return to Albany Street, the Canon 
and Sophy sat talking over old times so late, 
expecting every moment Adair's arrival, that 
when he did come, his visitor had perforce 
retired to his own room to prepare for dinner. 
It was the habit of the master of the house 
to come in at the last moment, though that 
circumstance did not mitigate his indignation 
in case the meat was overdone. Adair 
looked worn and irritated, which, however; 
was by no means unusual with him. 

' What is it now ? ' he exclaimed, fretfully^ 
when Sophy came into his room. It was 

- VOL. III. B 



2 THE CANON'S WARD. 

plain, by the surprise in his tone, that she did 
not often intrude upon his privacy. 

' The Canon arrived this morning,' she 
answered, sententiously. ' He dines, and is 
going to sleep here to-night.' 

' The devil he is ! ' was the hospitable 
rejoinder. ' What on earth brings Mm ujd to 
town ? ' 

' I don't know. Some little matter of 
business, he said.' 

' Tut! What does he know of business? 
He had much better stop in college, with his 
musty old Milton.' 

This was a little ungrateful, considering 
what Milton had done for the speaker, and 
also sardonic ; for if Milton, considered from 
the point of age, was musty, the other objects 
of study affected by the Canon should have 
been in an advanced state of decomposition. 

' I couldn't tell him that,' answered 
Sophy, ' though I was well aware you didn't 
want to see him.' 



UNMASKED. 3 

' And I don't want/ replied her husband 
(his English grammar was not on a par with 
his mathematical acquirements). ' Why does 
he come poking and prying about our house? 
Perhaps he'll do it one day once too often.' 

' What do you mean, John? Surely you 
would never let him see, of all men, that he 
was not welcome.' 

' Oh, he's welcome enough; as long as he 
behaves himself I don't want to quarrel with 
him,' was the dogged reply. ' But I '11 have 
no interference in my affairs, if that's what 

he's after. Shut tlie door, will you, 

because there's a draught.' 

Sophy closed the door, as requested, but 
left herself on the other side of it. Eemon- 
strance with lier husband at any time she knew 
to be futile ; when he was put out, as was 
just now obviously the case, it was dangerous. 
She had long known that he had lost all 
regard for the Canon ; but up to this moment 
he had never spoken of him with absolute 

B 2 



4 THE CANON'S WARD. 

antipathy. What could he mean by that 
phrase, * Perhaps he will come here one day 
once too often ? ' Was it his mtention to 
break with her guardian altogether? She 
would then be friendless and isolated indeed. 
As regarded Adair himself, his words had no 
power to harm her. He was her husband 
only in name. She knew him thoroughly for 
what he was. Her illusions about him had 
not been destroyed, because she had never 
had any ; but all hope of even that moderate 
degree of happiness to which she had ventured 
to look forward in their married life was over. 
She was weak, as we are well aware ; but 
she was not a fool. Whatever happened of 
evil to her at his hands was borne without 
murmuring. ' It is my punishment,' she 
would wearily say to herself, ' and I have 
deserved it.' AYhat chances she had had, and 
how she had missed them all! How the 
pleasure of her youth had turned to dust and 
ashes ! Her charms, her wealth, the love of 



UNMASKED. 5 

kind and lionest hearts, how they had all 
been flung away by her own reckless hands ! 
That there was some new trouble in store 
for her was certain, though she could not 
guess its nature. 

Adair received his guest with that mixture 
of warmth and deep respect which he always 
threw into his tone when the Canon came 
to Albany Street ; but, to Sophy's eye, there 
was more effort in it than usual. She noticed, 
too, that her guardian's manner was unusual 
— stiff and guarded. It was always difficult 
to the Canon to conceal his feelings ; but the 
remembrance that the other was his host en- 
abled him to do so to some extent. 

The dinner passed off without a hitch ; 
the topic of conversation was chiefly Cam- 
bridge, in which there were few discords. 
The influence of good wine, as was its wont, 
operated upon the Canon favourably. When 
i^ophy left them, and the cigars were produced, 
he was certainly disposed to take a more 



6 THE CANON'S WARD. 

sano'uine view of thinofs. Thoucrli he beofart 
at once upon the matter that had brought 
him up to town — it had, indeed, been fizzing 
and seething in his brain for so many hours 
that it was impossible longer to suppress it — 
it was without heat ; his tone was quiet and 
conciliatory. 

' I am come here, Adair, upon rather an 
unpleasant errand — a matter concerning your- 
self, but which I earnestly hope you mil be 
able to explain to my satisfaction.' 

' I hope so, indeed,' replied the other. 
His lips smiled, but his brow had darkened ;. 
his face had a resolute yet apprehensive look, 
such as a man might wear about to be attacked 
by more than one assailant, but who has his 
back to the wall. 

' It is only an advertisement in a news- 
paper, but it has given me great distress of 
mind. I do not wish to recall a certain event 
which happened two years ago, or more ; you 
cannot have forgotten it.' 

' Indeed I have not, sir,' put in Adair ^ 



UNMASKED. 7 

quietly. ' I well recollect your generous 
conduct on that occasion to me and mine.' 

^ At all events, I showed very great trust 
and confidence in you, which you assured me 
would not be misplaced. You gave me your 
word, also, that under no circumstances 
would you ever embark in any undertaking 
which even the most prudent person could 
call speculating. In this advertisement ' — he 
had taken the paper from his pocket, and 
pointed at the place — ^ I see your name pub- 
lished as the director of the Susco Railway 
Company, in South America.' 

' True : but in British Gruiana, you will 
allow me to add,' said Adair, suavely. 

* Good heavens ! what has that to do with 
it?' 

'Well, if you were a man of business. 
Canon,' said Adair, smiling, ' I could show 
you that it had a good deal to do with it. 
r^et me say, however, generally, that an in- 
vestment in that country would be as safe as 



« THE CANON'S WARD. 

in the debenture stocks of any English rail- 
way ; indeed, it is English. But, as it happens, 
I have not even invested in it. For certain 
reasons which, perhaps, you could not easily 
understand, but which are very valid and 
reflect no little credit upon my position in the 
City, it has been worth the company's while 
to put me on its direction, and also to pay me 
handsomely for the use of my name.' 

' That explanation is not satisfactory to 
ipie, Adair,' said the Canon, firmly. ' It is 
true I am not a man of business ; but I know 
enough of such matters to be convinced that 
it wouldn't be worth the while of any safe and 
stable company to do anything of the kind.' 

Adair shruo^sred his shoulders, and smiled 
a pitying smile. 

^ Really, Canon, I scarcely know what to 
say. I could give chapter and verse for 
everything I have stated about this Susco 
project ; but it is a long business, and if you 
will not take my word ' 



UNMASKED. 9 

' I have taken your word already, Adair ; 
your solemn promise, in return, I must need 
say, for a very great favour, that you would 
never have anything to do with Speculation — 
that is. Risk. Do you mean to tell me there 
is no risk in your being a director of the 
Susco Railway Company? ' 

* Not one atom, not a scintilla, I pledge 
you my word of honour.' 

The Canon was staggered by the other's 
earnestness and emphasis. 

' Well, of course, I cannot imagine for one 
moment that you are deceiving me. I must 
needs believe you. But still I do not like it. 
I must ask you to withdraw your name at 
once from the official list, and to give up all 
connection with the undertaking.' 

' Very good, sir,' returned Adair, frankly. 
* Since nothmg else will satisfy you, I will do 
so. I shall lose two hundred pounds a year by 
it ; but I need not say I would make a much 
greater personal sacrifice to meet your wishes.' 



lo THE CANON'S WARD. 

'It is not, you know, on my own ac- 
count,' said tlie Canon^ greatly mollified, ' that 
I demand this of you. It is nothing to me 
whether you risk your money or not.' 

A sneer passed over the face of his com- 
panion as these words were uttered. He 
played with his wine-glass, and muttered a 
noiseless something in a menacing tone. 

' If you yourself were alone concerned in 
the matter I should say nothing,' continued 
the Canon. ' A bachelor may do what he 
likes with his money ; if he makes a slip he 
can pick himself up again. But there is 
Sophy to be looked after, and little Willie. I 
will have no risks.' 

' I have never had to do with anything but 
the safest speculations, sir,' said Adair. 

' Pardon me, but that is a contradiction in 
terms, my friend. A speculation cannot be 
safe. However, as you have passed your 
word to withdraw from this one, and — if I 
understand you aright — to enter upon no 



UNMASKED. ii 

others (Adair inclined his head), ' let us say no 
more about it. — This port is very good, Adair, 
and reminds me of our Trinity cellar.' 

The matter for the present seemed settled; 
things were tided over, and the boat of friend- 
ship, which had been in grave danger, was 
got afloat again. 

But it had been done, as it were, with a 
dead lift ; there was no margin. Moreover, 
the reconciliation was not really genuine on 
either side. Though Adair had given way to 
the other's wishes, or had appeared to do so, 
he secretly resented his interference exceed- 
ingly. Malefactors of all degrees have been 
found to make a clean breast of their crimes 
save in one instance. No one, it is said, has 
ever owned himself to be ungrateful. Mr. 
John Adair was no exception to this general 
rule ; but in his heart of hearts he knew that 
he was an ingrate, and hated the Canon as 
such men do hate the benefactors whom they 
have wrono^ed. 



12 THE CANON'S WARD. 

On the other hand, the Canon was not 
quite honest when he had said, ' Let us say 
no more about it,' for the words implied that 
silence was to be preserved on all hands, and 
not only between those two, whereas he was 
firmly resolved to make a confidant of 
Frederic Irton on the morrow. He would be 
able to tell him whether the Susco Railway 
Company was what Adair had represented it 
to be, a respectable undertaking, or (as he 
still strongly suspected it to be) a bubble 
concern. 

In the meantime he behaved to his host 
with such friendliness as was possible, address- 
ing himself, however, for the most part to 
Sophy, and listening to her stories of the 
wondrous intelligence of little Willie with 
relief as well as interest. Making allowance 
for maternal exao-o-eration, the child seemed to 
be a very Malkin for premature sagacity. It 
seemed amazing that in such a father (for no 
one could deny to him the possession of great 



UNMASKED. ij 

intellectual gifts) such a daughter seemed to 
excite so little sympathy. 

The Canon was so indiscreet as to rally 
him, though very good-naturedly, upon this 
circumstance ; upon which Adair remarked, 
in a very different tone, that ' he had some- 
thing else to think of than infant prodigies ' 
— an observation that did him more harm, 
and evoked more suspicion in the Canon's 
mind, perhaps, than all that had gone before. 

It was with eyes more than half opened to 
the true character of his former protege., and 
with an impression of the domestic relations 
between his ward and her husband which 
gave him infinite pain, that he took his leave 
next morning as if for the railway station. As 
soon as he reached Oxford Street, however, 
he put his head out of the cab window and 
bade the driver take him to Bedford Row. 

The young solicitor gave him a hearty 
welcome. 

' I only wish it was my house,' he said, 



14 THE CANON'S WARD. 

^ instead of my office, that this pleasure might 
be shared by Henny. Now, Canon ' (here he 
assumed the legal manner), ' what can. I do for 
you? ' 

' Well, it isn't settlements ; I am not 
going to be married again,' said the Canon, 
characteristically hiding his anxiety with a 
joke. ' I am not even come for legal advice, 
but merely for your opinion as a man of 
business. A certain friend of mine is con- 
nected with the Susco Railway Company, in 
British Guiana. What do you think of it as 
an investment? ' 

' For yourself ? ' 

' I don't say that. Put it as generally as 
you please.' 

' Well ; such things are not much in our 
way,' was the quiet reply. ' Our clients' 
investments ' (he looked up at the yellow tin 
boxes that ornamented the office walls) ' are 
not, as a rule, in British Guiana securities ; 
but I do happen to know something about 



UNMASKED. 15 

the Susco. If I had not a shilling in the 
world I would perhaps accept fifty shares of 
such a company, as a gift, provided tliey were 
fully paid up ; but not a hundred, because 
that would put me on the direction.' 

' And why not? ' 

' Because my name would be then made 
use of, and might induce ignorant persons to 
invest in the undertaking, which is, in my 
opinion, thoroughly unsound.' 

' Do you mean to say it's a bubble com- 
pany? ' 

' That is a strong expression, and sugges- 
tive of fraud. Let us call it a balloon com- 
pany — it is all in the air.' 

' My dear Irton, you alarm me more than 
I can say. John Adair, Sophy's husband, is 
a director of it.' 

Irton shrugged his shoulders. ' That 
that should be a matter cf regret to you, 
Canon, I can easily believe ; but surely it is 
not one of surprise.' 



i6 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' It has shocked and surprised me beyond 
measure. You don't mean to tell me that it 
is Adair's practice to mix himself up with 
such undertakmgs? ' 

' My dear Canon,' returned Irton, gravely, 
4t is quite contrary to my custom to interfere, 
unless I am professionally consulted, in other 
people's affairs. Moreover, Mr. Adair and I 
are not on very good terms. I would there- 
fore much prefer you to go elsewhere for in- 
formation about him.' 

' But I am here to consult you profession- 
ally. I wish, for Sophy's sake, to know the 
whole truth. Tell me all ; it will be the 
truest kindness.' 

' I can only speak from hearsay,' returned 
Irton, after a moment's pause ; ' but it is a 
matter of common report — and has been for 
these many months — that Adair is a great 
speculator. That he has a finger in almost 
every new-made pie, and some of them, I am 
sorry to say, dirt pies. He is a man of great 



UNMASKED. 17 

ability but of overweening conceit : one, in 
my opinion, wlio would never be content 
with tlie moderate profits of a legitimate 
business. It must be admitted that he has 
peculiar advantages in the fact of his money 
being settled on his wife ; that fe always a 
great temptation to such men to gamble. 
Ruin can never touch him, he has always his 
wife's principal to fall back on, no creditor can 
■claim it, and that will assure him a certain 
income. These companies are unaware of 
that. He is known to be a partner in a re- 
spectable firm and to live in good style, and it 
is worth their while to purchase his name. 
That is the long and short of it.' 

The Canon grew not only grave but grey; 
he looked ten years older than he had done 
^^^ minutes before. 

' Adair assured me with his own lips last 
night that he was connected with no under- 
taking except the Susco Railway, which, 
moreover, lie stated to be a perfectly safe con- 

VOL. III. c 



i8 THE CANON'S WARD. 

cern ; " as safe as any English railway deben- 
ture stock," were his very words. Did he 
deceive me wilfully, or is it possible he was 
deceiving himself ? ' 

' If you compel me to give you a categori- 
cal reply,' feturned Irton, with evident reluc- 
tance, ' the latter supposition is impossible.' 

' He lied to me ? ' 

' Undoubtedly he did.' 

' That is enough,' sighed the Canon, rising 
slowly from his seat. All vigour seemed to 
have gone out of him. He looked a broken 
man. 

' I do hope, my dear Canon,' said Irton, 
gently, 'that you will not take this matter 
too much to heart. Mrs. Adair is, of course, 
quite ignorant, and therefore innocent, of her 
husband's proceedings ; and, thank Heaven, 
into whatsoever hole he falls he cannot drag 
her and the child after him. The law, so far 
as material matters are concerned, has made 
them safe.' 



UNMASKED. 



19 



The Canon answered nothing ; his sad 
and lustreless eyes seemed to be looking into 
some Inferno of the future. ' Deceived, de- 
ceived ! ' he murmured. 

' Now, my very dear sir, I do entreat you 
not to let that annoy you,' urged the solicitor, 
earnestly. ' You have lived out of the world,, 
but if you had lived in it you would know 
that to be deceived is man's normal state. His 
only remedy is to consult a respectable 
solicitor, and he is not to be found in every 
street. Whatever the law can do for you in 
this matter (if you will trust me) shall be 
done, and with a will, I assure you. But it 
can do nothing (except in breach of promise 
of marriage cases) to assuage the feelings. 
What amazes me is that you should allow 
yourself to be wounded by the duplicity of 
this man. What else could be expected of 
him? Did I not assure you on the very first 
day I met him that he told me a most distinct 
and wilful lie about his being in a certain 

c 2 



20 THE CANON'S WARD. 

place in the City (I've got a note of it) on a 
particular Tuesday morning ? That, of course, 
was not his first lie, nor was it likely to be 
his last.' 

If Mr. Frederic Irton flattered himself that 
it was an abstract love of truth, or hatred of 
falsehood, that caused him to be so vehemently 
antagonistic to Mr. John Adair, he was mis- 
taken : what Hemiy had told her husband of 
Adair's conduct at home — his rouo;hness to 
Sophy, and indifference to his child — was 
really what fed the flame of his indignation. 
In business matters no private considerations 
have any place, but they affect them just as 
strongly as if they had ; it is onl}^ that tlie 
lever is not in sight. 

To the young lawyer's philosophic view of 
matters the Canon had replied nothing ; to 
judge by his sad preoccupied face, it is doubt- 
ful whether he even heard it. 

' I don't think I can come up here again 
just yet, Irton,' lie murmured, as they shook 



Ui\' MASKED. 2i 

hands ; ^ I may want you to come down to 
me at Cambridge ; you will oblige me so far^ 
I know, if necessary.' 

^ And much further, my dear Canon,' re- 
turned Irton, warmly. ' At any hour of the 
day or night, you may depend on my attend- 
ing to your summons.' 

He saw his visitor into his cab, and again 
the Canon shook hands with him ; not be- 
cause he had forgotten he had already done 
so, but as if to assure himself that here was a 
man apt in affairs, yet of a kindly nature, on 
whom he could rely. 

As the vehicle rolled away, Irton looked 
after it with troubled looks. ' What can be the 
matter with the dear old fellow ? ' he thouo:ht 
to himself. ' It is something much more 
than ^s^hat he has told me, I'm convinced^ 
He surely never could — no, no, that is impos- 
sible. Human folly is as deep as plummet 
can sound, but it has its limits.' 

He was wrong ; it is unfathomable. 



22 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XXXYI. 



THE THUNDEKBOLT. 



Sad as had been the thoughts of Canon 
Aldrecl on his way up to town, they were 
almost pleasant ones in comparison with those 
which consumed him on his return journey. 
In the former case he was not so preoccupied 
as to]^have been oblivious to the inconveniences 
of travel. He had felt the cold, he had been 
conscious of the annoyance and trouble to 
whi ;h he had been put. But none of these 
things moved him now. A fellow-passenger, 
shivering in the other corner of the carriage, 
inquired of him whether he had any reason 
for keeping the window down. He had not 
even known that it was down, or that he was 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 23 

travelling thirty miles an hour m the teeth of 
an east wind. 

And, as he felt no personal discomfort, so 
was he unconscious of any misfortune that his 
conduct might brmg upon himself. His 
misery was caused by remorse for what his 
weakness — his culpable weakness — had 
brought on others. He would have been 
wretched enough had they been strangers, 
but they were very dear to him ; persons 
who had been committed to his safe keeping 
by the dead, whose trust he had abused ; and 
his agony was none the less because he had 
never dreamt of harming them. He was 
suffering, in fact, as Sophy suffered, from the 
effects of his own wilfulness (for he had acted 
upon his own impulse without asking the 
advice of any man) and weakness and folly. 
He had done, indeed, the very thing which 
Frederic Irton, with all his knowledge of the 
world, had said to himself that no man would 
be fool enough to do. Xo fatal consequences 



24 THE CANON'S WARD. 

need of necessity, indeed, ]3roceed from it r 
the one thing that comforted him was the 
hope that they would not do so : but they 
might do it. It was not necessary to say any- 
thing about it yet ; it might even never be 
necessary ; but he felt that it would never be 
absent from his thoughts — never, never. How 
should he meet his sister with such a weight 
upon his mind and not let her perceive it? 
He had a letter in his pocket from her, re- 
ceived in answer to his telegram, full of dis- 
appointment at his stay in town, tender ap- 
prehensions for his health, anxious love and 
messages for Sophy and the child. Such 
letters as kind folk write, full of groundless 
though not fictitious grief, when there is really 
nothing the matter. It was only too probable 
that A ant Maria would soon have cause to 
grieve, indeed. 

He resolved to tell her something of the 
unpleasant impression he had got of the 
position of the little household in Albany- 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 25; 

IStreet; that would account for his bad spirits, 
and at the same time be a humiliation to him- 
self. His punishment, as he remorsefully 
thought, could not begin too soon, though, 
alas ! he had not the remotest notion of the 
possible extent of it. Then, so soon as he 
had once made his arrangements for warding 
olf the immediate trouble, he grew a little 
calmer, as often happens when we get our 
heads above the sea of calamity even for a 
moment : there now seemed a ray of hope. 
After all, matters might not be so bad as Irton 
had suggested ; and, since his own out-spoken 
words had not apparently been without their 
effect upon Adair, who can tell what a letter 
of urgent remonstrance and appeal might not 
effect ? He would write such a letter to him 
that very niglit. No one could say he had 
not the right to do it. And he would not 
mince matters ; upon that he was deter- 
mined. "Wliile carefully avoiding anything 
like offensive language, this young man 



26 THE CANON'S WARD. 

should be told what he thought of him — no, 
not that, for that would make a breach 
indeed — but what he thought of his conduct. 

' My dear William, what has happened? ' 
were Aunt Maria's first words. ' I am sure it 
must be something very serious ; how pale 
and fagged you look ! ' 

' Nothing has happened, my dear Maria ; 
but I am certainly tired, and, to say truth, I 
have been worried as well.' 

' About business ! Now what a pity it is 
you should ever meddle with business ! Why 
don't you get some sensible — that is, I mean, 
not a sensitive scholarly person like yourself 
— to do all that sort of thing for you ; Mr. 
Irton, for example ; it would save you a world 
of trouble, and money too, I believe, in the 
long run.' 

The observation was full of truth, though 
the speaker did not know how true it was. 
The poet's remark, ' we are wiser than we 
.know,' would have fitted her to perfection. 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 27 

The Canon winced as the random shaft struck 
hhn. 

' It is not exactly business which has 
annoyed me : I am sorry to say I found 
domestic matters in Albany Street not at all 
satisfactory.' 

^ Is little Willie worse?' put in Miss 
Aldred, anxiously. 

' It is not little Willie, though the poor 
child is no better. Sophy isn't happy in her 
married life, Maria, and that's the long and 
short of it. I am very, very much dis- 
appointed in Adair.' 

There was silence for a little while ; the 
Canon expected at least some expression of 
surprise, or perhaps (which would have been 
worse) not of surprise ; some feminine ejacu- 
lation of ' who can wonder ? ' or \just what I 
expected.' 

But all Aunt Maria said was, and that 
very gently, ' I am very sorry, William ; I 
am sure you acted for the best.' 



28 THE CANOA'S WARD. 

Nothinfi: was further from lier tliouo^hts 
than to reproach him. She mtended to con- 
sole hmi. Yet this speech wounded him 
even more cruelly than the other had done. 
It took the part he had taken in Sophy's 
marriage so entirely for granted. The re- 
mark was only natural, nor could the fact be 
gainsaid ; but it is one thing to accuse one • 
self and another to have one's offences pre- 
supposed by another. 

' It has turned out far from well,' he 
answered, gloomily ; 'he is an indifferent 
husband and a careless father, and she is not 
a happy wife.' 

' Poor Sophy, poor Sophy ! ' murmured 
Aunt ]\Iaria, tenderly. ' Well, well, it's no 
use crying over spilt milk. We must pre- 
tend, for her sake, not to see it, and we must 
not quarrel with her husband. It would add 
bitterness to her cup, indeed, should she 
thereby be estranged from us.' 

The Canon looked at his sister with 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 



29 



aifectionate admiration. He liad not given 
her credit for such sagacity. If he had told 
her Sophy had been already cut off from 
Henny's society through Adair's dislike of 
Irton, he would not have been astonished ; 
but this prescience staggered him. As a 
matter of fact, no superhuman wisdom, but 
Aunt Maria's ill opinion of Adair, had sug- 
gested this sage advice. ' The man is brute 
enough for anything,' was the thought that 
was passing through her mind. 

' True ; we must take care of that,' he 
said. 

' Thank goodness,' observed Aunt Maria, 
^ it is only necessary to be barely civil to him. 
Self-interest is his god, and since you have 
some command of her money, that will always 
keep him on good terms with us. How 
dreadfully pale you do look, William ! How 
stupid I am to be asking you all these ques- 
tions, when it is clear you are ready to faint 
for want of food ! ' 



30 THE CANON'S WARD. 

And she bustled out to get him a glass of 
wine, and to hasten the preparations for his 
luncheon. 

Of the wine he indeed stood in need, but 
the food he found it difficult to partake of ; 
and as soon as the meal was over he went to 
his college rooms. He craved to be alone, 
for when we are in trouble the tenderest 
companionship, where confidence cannot be 
reposed, is irksome ; and there was also the 
letter to be written to Adair before the post 
went out. He had proposed to himself to 
write to his son upon that day, but with this 
weie'ht on his mind that was not to be 
thought of It almost seemed to him — the 
idea was a flash of despair, however, rather 
than an actual apprehension — that he never 
could write to Robert now as he had intended 
to do ; that he never could have the spirit for 
it ; he had had enough of bringing young 
folks together into the bonds of matrimony. 

The Canon had the pen of a ready writer, 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 31 

but it was over two hours before he had 
composed his communication to his satisfac- 
tion. It was embarrassino' even to beoin : 
that ' My dear Adair ' stuck in his throat ; 
the man was no longer ' dear ' to him ; and 
embarrassing to end. How could he sign 
himself ' Yours sincerely ' even, without tell- 
ing a lie? But his chief difficulty lay, of 
course, in the contents. He had helped 
many a fellow- creature along the rough path 
of life, but this was the first time he had 
ever reminded one of what he had done for 
him ; ever appealed to his sense of gratitude.. 
In this case he felt compelled to do so, and, 
indeed, he had done for Adair more than 
most men do even for their dearest friend ; ' I 
have rot only helped you to the utmost of 
my ability,' ran one pregnant sentence, ' but 
even as we say here, ultra .vires^ beyond what 
the law in its strictness would perhaps have 
justified me in doing. It is surely not much 
to ask of you some prudence in retui^.' He 



32 THE CANON'S WARD. 

stated, tliouo'li without i^ivino' the name of 
his informant, what he had heard of his 
speculative undertakings ; but he abstained 
from reminding him that in every such in- 
stance he had broken his pledged word. He 
^poke plainly, in short, but carefully avoided 
giving any personal offence. His fingers 
itched to write something of Adair's be- 
haviour at home, but he withstood the tempt- 
ation. . 

In conclusion, he reminded him, with a 
pathetic ignorance which should have touched 
the correspondent's heart (only he had none) 
more than all the rest, that he could have no 
personal interest in the matter on hand what- 
ever, but was merely actuated by his love 
for Sophy and her child. ' If I have un- 
wittingly said anything that pains you, for- 
give it, Adair, for their sake.' 

It is one of the most hateful necessities of 
human life, tliat good and honourable men 
often feel themselves obliged, for the sake of 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 33 

others, to use the language of conciliation to 
scoundrels ; it is never of the faintest use. 
They might just as well speak the truth — 
' Sirrah, you are a vile hound ' (and, oh, the 
rapture of telling them so!) — at once; but 
for the moment it seems to be of use. 

When he had finished that letter, the 
poor Canon got up and rubbed his knees ; he 
had a sensation of having been walking on 
all-fours ; his brow was damp with the dew 
of humiliation. 

^ There, I've done it,' he sighed ; ^ I've 
held out the olive-branch to the brute ; even 
the hippopotamus is graminivorous, so let us. 
hope he'll take it.' 

All things invite 
To peaceful counsels, and the settled state 
Of order, how in safety best we may 
Compose our present evils, with regard 
Of what we are and where, dismissing quite 
All thoughts of war. 

The words occurred to him quite naturally,, 
and not till he had uttered them did it occur 
to him from whom he was quoting. It was- 

VOL. III. D 



THE CANON'S WARD. 



part of the speech of Mammon to the fallen 
angels. 

' Gad, if I had thought a little more (jf 
Mammon in this business,' mused the Canon, 
ruefully, ' it would have been better for 
Sophy.' He posted his letter to Adair with 
his own hand, so that no mishap should 
occur to that, and then, not wishing to return 
home early, yet finding no restfulness, as of 
old, amongst his books and pictures, and 
feeling, for obvious reasons, disinclined to 
seek the society of his friend Mavors, he took 
a solitary walk in the Eoundabout. This 
was the very spot, as we know, in which 
Sophy had been so imprudent as to give a 
meeting to her first husband ; a circumstance 
from which she could, not indirectly, trace all 
her misfortunes. It is not only our pleasant 
vices which scourge us ; but sometimes even 
our indiscretions. Little guessed the Canon 
of how the train for her marriage with Adair 
(for which he blamed himself as the sole 
cause) had been laid there. 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 35 

It was winter now, but the place was full 
of evero'reens and well sheltered : it was not 
old, yet it had seen many generations of 
scholars and students. They had been wont 
to walk there sometimes in company, but for 
the most part alone ; the youDg ones (just 
come into their fellowships as into a kingdom, 
and proud of their privilege of being there) 
full of hope, revolving each their scheme of 
classical and mathematical aoibition ; the old 
ones (who had seen its folly) taking a consti 
tutional and getting up an appetite for ' Hall.' 
The Canon had belonged in his time to both 
parties, without quite sharing the feelings of 
either. His thoughts strayed down the vista 
of departed years without much regret for 
them. ' I have almost got to the end of 
my tether,' was his reflection ; ' and, but for 
Maria (who would miss me, I fear), I don't 
care how soon I reach it.' The trouble which 
he had, as he felt, brought upon poor Sophy 
depressed him and made him very unlike 



36 THE CANON'S WARD, 

himself. He felt, as indeed he looked, much 
older than he had done forty-eight hours ago. 
He flattered himself that he was nearing his 
rest, whereas (if he had but known it) he 
was about to begin life again under changed 
conditions. All that he now beheld he would 
see again, but they would never awake in 
him the same emotions. He would have 
other things to think about. 

At present the idea had not so much as 
crossed him that it might be so. As far as 
his own affairs were concerned, he did not 
even see the cloud in the sky of the size of a 
man's hand ; there was no warning. Indeed, 
what happened did not take place on the 
morrow, nor on the day after. It is generally 
so, when Fate overwhelms a man : she is 
sure of him, and is in no hurry. 

There was no answer from Albany Street 
for three days. This silence irritated the 
Canon exceedingly, as well it might. That 
Adair should take no notice of such a letter 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 37 

as he had written to hmi was nothing less 
than an insult. He had been requested to 
address his reply to college, not to ' The 
liaurels,' so that his correspondent might not 
be taken by surprise, and led into showing 
more feeling before Aunt Maria than was 
judicious. On the fourth morning, as the 
Canon eagerly ran his eye over the letters 
lying at his room (literary correspondence 
chiefly, with ingenious suggestions as to 
Milton's meaning, which, if correct, would 
have gone much further than was intended, 
and put him side by side in the category 
with the mad poets), it lit upon a legal docu- 
ment. It was enclosed, of course, but the 
handwriting on the long blue envelope pro- 
claimed it as a communication from Themis. 
^ There were her very c's, her m's, and her 
t's ; and so makes she her great C's.' 

' What the deuce is this? ' he murmured, 
partly because he hated law, partly because 
he was annoyed at not getting the letter he 



SS THE CANON'S WARD. 

expected, and tore it open. The contents of 
it were as follow : — 

' Sir, — We are instructed, on behalf of 
Wilhelmina Adair, the infant daughter of 
Mr. John Adair, of Albany Street, London, 
to apply to you as one of the trustees of 
Mrs. John Adair's marriage settlements, dated 
June 14, 18 — , for a statement of the property 
subject to the trusts of such settlement at the 
date thereof, and of what such trust property 
now consists. 

' We are informed that the sum of fifteen 
thousand pounds has been paid out of the 
trust property by you to Mr. and Mrs. John 
Adair. 

' According to our view of the trusts of 
the settlement, such payment ought not to 
have been made ; and our instructions are 
to see that the trust property is protected for 
the benefit of our client, the said Wilhelmina 
Adair. We must ask you to let us have the 
information required in the course of this 



TH1-: THUNDERBOLT. 39. 

week ; and will be obliged if you will put 
us into communication with your solicitors, 
as, if we are compelled to take proceedings to 
protect the trust property, we do not wish to> 
trouble you personally in the matter. 
' We are, sir, your obedient servants, 

' Sine & Seele.' 

The Canon stared at these words, boldly 
written and very legible though they were, as 
though they were some Belshazzar warning- 
He felt in his heart that they boded rum ;, 
but he required an interpreter to get at their 
meaning. As his heated eyes reperused the 
document, its own words, ' we shall be obliged 
if you will put us into communication with 
your solicitor,' suggested to him the very- 
person of whom he stood in need. Hardly 
knowing what he was doing, yet afraid to 
trust another with such an errand, he put on 
his hat and gown and hurried to the telegraph 
office, where he ^^ rote this message : — 



40 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' From Canon Aldred, Trinity College, to 
Frederic Irton. 

' Can you come to me by next train ? 
Most urgent ; reply jDaid.' 

Then he tottered back to his rooms, and 
sported the door. 

Half an hour — an hour — he spent the 
time he knew not how ; but not in thinking : 
on the contrary, in trying not to think. All 
that he dared suffer his mind to dwell upon, 
lest it should leave hiui altogether, was, 
' When shall I hear from Irton ? ' 

At last relief came to him ; there were 
steps on the stairs, and a careless whistle. 
(Little do those telegraph boys know what 
messengers of Doom they are ; the postman, 
by comparison, is a mere valentine purveyor.) 
The yellow envelope was dropped through 
the letter- slip, and the Canon seized it as 
some starving prisoner clutches his daily 
dole. 



THE THUNDERBOLT. 41 

' From F. Irton, London, to Canon 
Aldred, Trinity College. 

' I shall be at your college rooms at five 
o'clock.' 



42 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XXXYII. 

EESIGNATION. 

With the roajority of men, when a great 
misfortune happens to them through the base- 
ness of a fellow-creature, it is the private 
wound — the personal catastrophe — which they 
feel the most ; but with nobler and simpler 
natures it is the baseness itself which most 
affects them. It is a revelation to them of a 
depth of infamy in human nature of which 
they have never guessed, and they start back 
from it aghast. It seems as though all their 
lives they had been walking on the brink of 
a chasm overgrown with brushwood, or even 
flowers, so that the existence of it had never 
been suspected. When it is suddenly revealed, 
the hideous suspicion strikes them that 



RESIGNATION. 43 

the whole world may be full of such 
hidden fissures, that no path is safe, no 
friendship to be trusted. This unphilosophic 
state of mind arises in reality from a certain 
sort of philosophy (much accepted in these 
late years) which takes it for granted that, 
though there may be such things as ' good ' 
and ' bad,' they shade oif and mingle with 
one another by almost inperceptible grada- 
tions ; and especially that there is ' a great 
deal of good in everybody,' notwithstanding 
what seems pretty strong evidence to the con- 
trary. Even if folk don't go to that length 
in their fatuous charity, they will assert with 
confidence, ' You may depend upon it that no 
man is quite a brute.' That is, of course, 
true ; but there are men much more unfeeling, 
much more selfish, and much more worthless 
than any four-legged creature. More cruel 
than the tiger, more brutal than the bull, and 
(ten times) falser than the fox. Xo one can 
doubt this who has had any really large 



44 THE CANON'S WARD. 

experience of life. The experience of most 
people is very limited, and they take their 
views at secondhand ; and, again, an expe- 
rience may be great, and even varied, with- 
out dipping deep. It is astonishing how little 
those who have been in smooth waters all 
their lives (and have had no natural inclina- 
tion to dive) know of the real nature of their 
fellow- creatures. 

The Canon prided himself, and not with- 
out reason, on being a judge of character : he 
could detect a weakness with great facility ; 
he could hit off the various traits in liis ac- 
quamtances with much accuracy and humour ; 
he could even, wdth opportunity, recognise a 
Scamp ; but he was totally ignorant of the 
genus Scoundrel. For the first time in his 
life, he had suddenly been brought face to face 
with a villain, and it shocked and horrified 
him, as though a traveller in a forest accus- 
tomed only to meet with marmosets and 
monkeys should suddenly be confronted with 



RESIGNATION. 45 

a gorilla. He had been a great student, but 
never, even in his readmg, had he come across 
such an example of utter depravity as was 
now presented to him in the flesh. Ingrati- 
tude of the deepest dye, falsehood unimagin- 
able, fraud of the vilest sort, were only a few 
of the components of it ; it was a mixture 
from which the Devil himself might have 
turned away, as being a little too strong for 
his stomach. 

It was no wonder, then, that the Canon 
shrank from it. Alone, and with the haunt- 
ing recollections of the past to intensify his 
disgust, he could not trust himself — urgent- 
though it was — to think over the matter on 
hand. He shut it from his mind as much as 
possible, and busied himself in making such 
preparations for his expected visitor as would 
facilitate his understanding of the subject 
concerning which he had been summoned. 

He took from his desk two little packets 
of letters, the larger in the handwriting of 



46 THE CANON'S WARD. 

Adair, tlie smaller in that of his wife, and 
arranged them on the table in the order of 
their dates. As the former fell from his 
fingers an expression of disgust passed over 
his featm^es as though he were handling per- 
force some reptile or loathsome insect : over 
Sophy's letters he lingered with a look of 
ineffable pity. 

' She never meant to harm me,' was his 
reflection. ' How terribly all this will pain 
her, poor girl ! poor girl ! ' 

Once he took up one of these letters and 
made as if he would open it ; but, after an 
inward struggle, he put it down again, sigh- 
ing, ' It will be time enough when Irton 
comes.' 

He took the book of accounts — those very 
accounts in which Adair had made himself so 
useful years ago — out of its drawer ; and a 
copy (made for him within the last two 
months for a special j^^^^pose) of the settle- 
ment of which he was trustee. 



RESIGNA TION. 47 

Then, with a sigh, he reached down his 
favourite volume from its shelf, and for a 
time, wrapped in the wondrous Tale of Hell 
and Heaven, shut out importunate Care and 
gaping Ruin. 

The lawyer found him, book in hand, to 
all appearance composed enough. 

' This is so kind of you, my dear Irton,' 
was his cordial greeting, 'yet nothing less 
than I expected.' 

' " A friend should show himself friendly," ' 
returned the other earnestly ; then added, 
with a smile, ' it is a bad sign when a lawyer 
quotes Scripture, but you must needs under- 
stand that I come as a friend.' 

This delicate disclaimer of his visit beinof 
a professional one was lost upon his com- 
panion, or we may be sure he would have 
combated it. 

' I believe I never stood in greater need 
of one,' was his earnest reply. ' This is the 
communication received this moi-nino- which 

C3 



48 THE CANON'S WARD. 

has caused me to put you to so much incon- 
venience ; ' and he placed in his hands the 
lawyers' letter. 

' Sine and Seele ! ' exclaimed Irton, glanc- 
ins: at the sio^nature ; ' what on earth have 
these gentlemen to do with you ? ' 

' You know the firm, then? ' 

Irton nodded. So far as a gesture could 
convey at once assent and dissatisfaction, the 
nod conveyed it. He read the letter through 
without comment ; then observed, with ex- 
treme gravity, ' Can this be true, Canon ? ' 

^ Can what be true ? ' 

' That you have paid fifteen thousand away 
of Mrs. Adair's trust-money?' 

' To herself, yes ; at her earnest and re- 
peated entreaty, in order to make her husband 
a partner in his own firm.' 

' Great heavens ! ' cried Irton, starting 
from his chair, ' you must have been stark 
staring mad ! ' 

A red spot came into each of the Canon's 



RESIGXA TION. 49 

cheeks. ' I see now that it was a very foolish 
act,' he answered, gently. 

' Ten thousand pardons, Canon,' returned 
the other, with sincere contrition ; ' any weak- 
ness that involves great risk appears to a 
lawyer madness — that is, to a young lawyer. 
As experience widens, the thing is too com- 
mon, no doubt, to evoke surprise. It is pos- 
sible, too, I should have remembered, that 
matters may have been left more than is usual 
to your discretion. Have you a copy of 
Mrs. Adair's settlement? ' 

The Canon pointed to where it lay. 

' I am afraid that will not help us much,' 
he said, disconsolately. ' I was aware when 
I advanced this money that I was exceeding 
my powers.' 

Irton shook his head ; the gesture was 
this time on€ of pity. 'How could you do 
so?' it seemed to say, and not ' How could 
you have been such a fool? ' 

' There is not a word in this. I am sorry 

VOL. ITT. E 



50 THE CANON'S WARD. 

to say/ said tlie lawyer presently, tapping the 
document with his fingers, ' that authorises 
any such use of the trust-money as you have 
put it to. I suppose what you did was done 
under great pressure.' 

^ There are poor Sophy's letters and the 
man's,' said the Canon, wearily. ' Judge for 
yourself 

The lawyer read the former first ; when 
he had done with each he folded it up and 
replaced it in its envelope with mechanical 
precision ; not a word of what was written 
escaped him, nor the signification of a word ; 
but it produced no more external effect upon 
him than if he had been perusing the County 
Directory. 

And yet Sophy's were very touching 
letters. In many of them there was ample 
acknowledgment of the affection with which 
the Canon had treated her. Allusions to the 
past, full of tender feeling, with now and 
then, as it seemed, an involuntary pang of 



RESIGNATION. 51 

regret. From none of them was absent some 
reference to his constant solicitude for her 
welfare, and in connection with it the earnest 
hope that he would crown his benefits by 
advancing to her husband out of her own 
money a sufficient sum to enable him to be- 
come a partner in the house with which he 
was already connected, but by a less binding 
tie. 

^ This will put John in his proper place/ 
said one of these letters, ' and enable him to 
use more freely the talents with which I know 
you credit him, and which are at j)resent 
hampered by his subordinate position.' 

It was clear that the Canon had made a 
fight for it, for besides entreaties there were 
arguments pointing out not only the perfect 
safety of the arrangements suggested, but the 
advantage that must needs flow from it, which 
it appeared were so prodigious that ' John 
would have no difficulty in repaying in a 
few years the whole amount thus so kindly 

e2 

SSnToMUiHOl 



52 THE CANON'S WARD. 

advanced to him, though when even that is 
done, it would be impossible indeed for him 
ever to escape being your debtor.' 

' What do you think of those letters ? ' in- 
quired the Canon, hoarsely, as Irton pushed 
Sophy's last letter under the elastic band that 
kept them all together. 

' They remind me of the old Scripture, 
with a difference,' answered the lawyer, 
gravely. ' The hand is the hand of Jacob, 
but the voice is the voice of Esau.' 

' You think that Adair dictated them? ' 

* No doubt of it. In some of them, 
where he saw that her affectionate pleading 
would have more force with you than his 
specious arguments, he let her write as she 
pleased, though always with a tag of his own ; 
in others he suggested — nay, insisted upon 
— every word.' 

' Do you mean that, in your opinion, there 
was actual compulsion, Irton?' inquired the 
Canon, frowning. 



RE SIGN A TION. SJ 

' No doubt there was. I don't mean to 
say that he stood over her with a stick ; but 
she was no more a free agent than if he had 
done so. She was not to blame — I am very 
sure you do not think she was to blame ; but 
" the trail of the serpent is over it all." ' 

' Read his own letters, Irton.' 

' I will ; though I can guess what they 
contain. Protestations of respect, the grati- 
tude that is the sense of favours to come ; the 
most solemn assurance that the money will be 
as safe as in the Bank of England, and that 
anything in the way of speculation is foreign 
to his character and offensive to his principles.' 

The young lawyer read them through, as 
he had read the others, but with a contemp- 
tuous lip. 

' Yes,' he said, ' they are just what I 
expected, only stronger. He calls Heaven to 
witness to his prudent intentions. I wonder 
that didn't excite your suspicions.' 

' But if it comes to a trial, Irton, and these 



54 THE CANON'S WARD. 

letters are read in Court ? They will surely 
•damn him.' 

' Damn him ? yes/ said the lawyer, with 
some unction. ' But what will he care for 
that ? When a man takes a step of this kind, 
do you suppose that he has not long ago 
j)arted with the last rag of self-respect? ^ 

' At the least, he must acknowledge the 
debt, however.' 

' You may sue him, of course, for the 
money you have lent him ; but you may be 
very sure he has not one penny he can call his 
own. I have not the slightest doubt that he 
is in debt up to his eyes, and that there is a 
bill of sale out upon his furniture. This is the 
last throw of the ruined gambler ; and I am 
afraid, sir,' added the lawyer, with great 
gravity, ' he must need win his stakes.' 

The Canon's face grew very pale. 

' Do you mean to say that I shall have to 
refund the money which this man has so 



RESIGNATION. 55 

urgently pressed me to advance to him — the 
wliole fifteen thousand pounds ? ' 

' I very much regret to say. sh*, that, in 
my opinion, you will find yourself liable for 
the whole amount.' 

* Then I am a ruined man,' said the Canon, 
bitterly. 

Irton walked to the window. The leafless 
trees and the cold river formed a scene which 
in its desolation was in too much harmony with 
his reflections. It was terrible to think that 
a man like the Canon should thus be stripped 
of means in his old age by this ungrateful 
hand. He strove to shut out what his com- 
panion was unconsciously ejaculating in a tone 
that would have wrung a harder heart than 
his. ' My poor dear Robert, your father's 
folly has ruined your life. My dear Maria, 
your brother has brought your old age to 
poverty. And Sophy— poor little Sophy, 
whom we used to love so — how it will wring 



56 THE CANON'S WARD. 

your heart when you learn what you have 
done.' 

Such expressions — that is to say, the giv- 
ing way to the emotions for which they stood 
— may be thought to have been signs of weak- 
ness in the poor Canon. They were, at all 
events, not signs of selfishness ; nor were 
they of long duration. He had a simplicity 
of character which has got to be very rare 
among us. Use was not second nature with 
him, because he required no substitute for the 
first ; his wont had always been to be natural- 
Many persons in his position, albeit both hi& 
inferiors in morals and intellect, would, with- 
out doubt, have repressed these evidences of 
sorrow ; or, if they had given way to them it 
would have been at the cost of dignity. With 
the Canon this was not the case. Frederic 
Irton, who lived to have a considerable ex- 
])erience of these scenes, which only fall to 
the lot of the family lawyer to behold, used to 
say that he had never seen a picture so 



RESIGAA TION. 57 

pathetic. And in two minutes it was all 
over ; through all that followed no human 
eye ever saw any weakness in the Canon. 
Indeed, Irton remarked even then an expres- 
sion come into his companion's face that spoke 
not only of resignation but of a certain sub- 
lime content. His lips still moved, but the 
words did not reach the lawyer's ear. This 
was, perhaps, fortunate ; otherwise it might 
have struck him that among the engines of 
the law about to be set in motion against his 
unfortunate client there might appropriately 
enough be one termed de lunatico inquirendo. 
These were the Imes he murmured : — 

Undoubtedly he will relent and turn 
From his displeasure, in whose look serene 
When angry most he seems and most severe, 
What else but favour, grace, and mercy shine ? 

Then rising from his chair, the Canon, ob- 
served, with calm serenity, ' Well, Irton, at 
all events we now know the worst. I am in 
your hands. Let me know what is best to be 
done.' 



58 THE CANON'S WARD, 



CHAPTER XXXYIII. 

IN CONSULTATION. 

A WEEK has passed, uneventfully, so far as 
action is concerned ; but bringing great 
changes with it. Figuratively, the Canon has 
bowed his head to the inevitable ; but, to all 
outward seeming, he holds it gallantly. There 
are more grey hairs on it than there were ; to 
those who behold them and know the reason 
of their presence it is only more revered on 
that account. He has told Aunt Maria all, 
but has looked in vain for the indignant re- 
probation that was his due. 

' I have been your ruin,' he added ; ' my 
bhnd confidence and folly have brought me 
from competence to poverty, and have dragged 



IN CONSULTATION. 59 

you down with me. AYe must exchange our 
pleasant home for one of a very different kind. 
You will have to pmch and spare, to cut and 
contrive, to eke out our narrowed means. At 
a time of life when you are least fitted for 
such a change you will have to occupy your- 
self with sordid cares ; and for all this you 
will have to thank your natural protector — as 
you imagined me to be — myself.' 

He had said this leaning with his hand 
upon the mantelpiece, and looking down into 
her face as she sat in her chair, making a pre- 
tence to work at some small garment for 
Sophy's child. Her fingers had trembled a 
little as she had listened to him; she answered 
nothing till he had quite done. Then she rose 
and kissed him on both cheeks. 

' My dear brother,' she said, softly, ' what 
you have said is very true, except the last 
few words. I have to thank you, it is true, 
for very much ; for a life of ease, of too much 
ease, perhaps — the very breath of heaven 



6o THE CANON'S WARD. 

has not been suffered to visit my cheek too 
roughly ; for a brother's unselfish devotion, 
for affectionate forbearance and solicitude — 
but not for this. Your goodness and gene- 
rosity have been imposed upon, it is true ; 
but that is not your fault, but another's 
villany. For what has happened I thank 
Mr. John Adair alone — not you, dear. One 
can scarcely say ' (here she smiled a smile as 
sweet as that of the maiden who murmurs 
^ Yes' to her first love) ' that we have climbed 
the hill together, because the ascent has been 
accomplished (with your money, for I never 
had any) in a chariot with C- springs ; but 
we have always sat side by side, and now we 
shall descend it hand in hand. What does it 
matter, dear, since we shall soon come to our 
journey's end, whether we travel on foot or 
not?' 

As there is a nobility of nature's own, far 
beyond what can be purchased of minister, or 
mherited from another, so there is a beauty 



IN CONSULTATION. 6i 

l)eyond that of form and feature, or even 
which youth itself can bestow — the beauty of 
the soul ; and something of that divine come- 
liness now shone on Aunt Maria's kindly 
face, with its halo of silver grey. For the 
moment it seemed to the Canon that the 
revelation of such undreamt-of love and 
faith was full repayment for all his woes 
and worries. He had always esteemed his 
sister ; but, as he now confessed to himself, 
for these many years he had been entertain- 
ing an angel unawares. 

' If you have taken me for something even 
weaker than I am,' she went on, noting the 
Canon's ' hushed amaze,' ^ have a better 
opinion of me for the future, my dear ; and 
now let us talk no more about our own mis- 
fortune, but do our best, since we cannot 
mend it, to bear it.' 

The couraofeous behaviour of Aunt 
Maria had all the effect which she hoped 
for upon her brother. Mr. Irton, who had 



62 THE CANON'S WARD. 

paid more than one flying visit to Cam- 
bridge, and was there at that very time, 
was full of admiration at the Canon's 
phick ; for, indeed, there was nothing in 
his present circumstances to afford either 
comfort or encouragement. A reply had been 
written to Messrs. Sine & Seele to express 
his astonishment and righteous indignation 
at their letter, and setting forth in detail 
how the money had been borrowed by Mrs. 
Adair herself for her husband's use. But the 
answer, as Irton had predicted, was cold and 
formal enough. They had nothing to do 
with ' the parties ' of whom he spoke, they 
said, but were acting, on instructions, on 
behalf of Wilhelmina Adair, an infant, whose 
moneys, as they had reason to believe, had 
been misapplied ; and they concluded by 
announcing that the Court of Chancery would 
be at once applied to for the enforcement of 
their claim. 

Over this letter the Canon and Irton were 
now sitting in consultation in the Canon's 



LX CONSULTATION. 63 

rooms. All hope of defiance or even defence 
was over, however, and the conversation had 
chiefly turned upon the means to be adopted 
for realising the fifteen thousand pounds which 
would have to be paid into court. When it 
was done the Canon would find himself with 
a bare subsistence, that was all. 

* You think you were quite right in not 
havino; written to Adair himself? ' said Irton, 
tentatively. 

^ Right or not,' said the Canon, emphatic- 
ally, ' nothing should have induced me to 
address him ; there are depths of humiliation 
to which a man cannot stoop and hold up his 
head again.' 

' Yes ; I felt that I could not advise you 
to that step,' answered the lawyer ; ' more- 
over, it would have been humiliation in 
vain.' 

' I wonder whether he knows what a 
villain he is ? ' mused the Canon. 

' Certainly ; better even than we know it ; 
because this is only one of his knaveries. I 



64 THE CANON'S WARD. 

am much roistaken if the man is not steeped 
to his lips in them. This is his last lawful 
throw. Henceforward, unless he has such 
luck as will render it unnecessary, he will 
use cogged dice ; he will take to fraud.' 

' You don't call this using cogged dice ? ' 
observed the Canon, bitterly. 

' No, because he has still the law upon his 
side, and many examples of the like nature — 
precedents, as he would call them — to excuse 
him ; I remember a precisely similar case 
where the counsel for the unfortunate trustee, 
finding all was hopeless, observed to the 
Judge — " At all events, my Lud, you will 
admit that my client had no ends of his own 
to gain, and was actuated by only the most 
generous motives in «idvancing the money." 
" Certainly," answered the Judge ; " and if it 
is any satisfaction to the gentleman, you may 
tell him that there are scores of others who 
have suffered from misplaced confidence in 
their fellow -creatures in the same way." ' 



IN CONSULTATION. 65; 

'I consider that a very heartless speech 
from any one,' exclaimed the Canon, indig- 
nantly, ' and a most improper one from a man 
in the position of the speaker.' 

' He was a good Judge, however,' said 
Irton, smiling. 

' Pardon me ; he may have been a good 
lawman, as distinguished from a layman, but 
he could not have been a good Judge. A 
man sitting on the bench of justice ought to 
have been ashamed of himself for speaking so 
cynically of what was, in fact, a gross mis- 
carriage of it.' 

' Well, it was not a pleasant speech, I 
must allow ; but he spoke the truth, though 
in a somewhat brutal fashion. Few persons 
outside our own profession are aware how 
many people are going about this world, and 
even sitting at their ease in it, who deserve to 
be in Newgate. Some people do so to the 
end, and die very rich, and, consequently, 
" respected ; " but the majority come to grief,. 

VOL. III. • F 



■66 THE CANON'S WARD. 

and meet with their just reward, sooner or 
later. This Adair, unless I am much mis- 
taken, will be of the latter class ; he is very 
reckless as well as audacious, and when the 
pinch comes will stick at nothing. Then we 
shall have him.' 

' I wish for no revenge,' said the Canon, 
calmly. 

' Of course not ; when I said we I meant 
the law. Mark my words, that man will 
-come into its clutches one day ; he will be a 
convict.' 

^ My poor Sophy ! ' sighed the Canon. 

' By-the-by, that is another matter, about 
which, though we have discussed it, I have 
still some doubt. Though you could not 
write to her husband, ought you not to have 
written to her ? ' 

The Canon shook his head. 

' Xo, Irton ; 1 feel my sister's instinct 
was the true one, when she spoke to me on 
that point : *' Whatever you do, William, do 
not let Sophy know." ' 



IN CONSULTATION. 67 

' It is unwise to import sentiment into 
these matters,' returned Irton ; ' she should 
surely know how she has been made a cat's 
paw of to injure her best and dearest friend.' 

' To what end, my dear Irton ? ' replied 
the Canon, calmly. ' If she knows, any word 
from me would only make her regret more 
poignant ; if she does not know, she will be 
the happier in her ignorance. No appeal 
from her to her husband would, we are very 
sure, be of the slightest use, while it would 
undoubtedly widen the breach between them.' 

' Still, she must know of all this almost 
immediately ; as soon as we take proceedings 
against him.' 

' What proceedings ? ' 

' Well, of course, when tliis money is paid 
into court, or even before — indeed, I have 
already put matters in train for it — we shall 
sue him for the fifteen thousand pounds you 
have lent him.' 

' Good heavens ! I never thouglit of that,' 

F '2 



68 THE CANON'S WARD. 

said the Canon, rising from his chair with 
great energy. ' Why, on earth, did you not 
tell me that we had that remedy ? ' 

' I really could not conceive any one — wh}^, 
my dear sir, it's not a question of law, but of 
common sense ; you have lent the money — • 
though, it is true, you had no legal right to 
do so — and this man has borrowed it. Of 
course, therefore, he owes it you.' 

' Then why have we made all this fuss 
about the matter ? It seems as plain as 
ABC. A has lent money — B's money — ta 
C, and can compel C to return it.' 

' Not if he has not got it,' returned Irton, 
grimly. ^ Can you suppose that Adair would 
have taken such a step as this if he was not 
already a ruined man ? I am firmly persuaded 
that he has not a shilling he can call his own, 
I have made inquiries, and found, just as I 
suspected, that he has even given a bill of sale 
for the very furniture in his house.' 

^ Then what can be the use of suing him ? ' 



IN CONSULTATION. 69 

' Well, there is no use ; on the other hand, 
to sit down under such an infamous wronsf 
as this, with a mere protest addressed to the 
man's solicitors, would argue some justification 
in the offender. Besides, it is your obvious 
duty — as, I confess, it will be my pleasure — 
to make things as unpleasant for the rogue as 
possible.' 

' But that must needs involve unpleasant- 
ness for Sophy and the poor child,' answered 
the Canon, quickly. ' No, Irton ; if anything 
of which I have been robbed could be recovered 
by such a process from the man himself, of 
course I should not hesitate ; but no material 
advantage can, by your own showing, result 
from it ; while, on the other hand, it will 
inflict injury on the innocent. I must, there- 
fore, ask you to abstain from any such step.' 

' I confess this seems to me Quixotic,' said 
the lawyer, drily. 

' It's the ruling passion,' pleaded the 
Canon, smiling. * I have been a fool from 



70 THE CANON'S WARD. 

the first, you see. How worthy of Cervantes,, 
by-the-b}^, this whole afFau^ would have been ! 
How full of humour ! The idea of poor 
innocent Willie being my prosecutor and 
persecutor ! ' 

' Yes ; the Settiky trust.' 

' The tvhat ? ' 

' Well,' returned the other, with some 
embarrassment, for he was loyal to his pro- 
fession, and never gave occasion for the 
' enemy to blaspheme ' if he could help it, 
' the fact is we have got no name in law for 
the antithesis of a trustee ; there is the re- 
versioner, indeed, and the tenant for life ; but 
they are particular cases ; we have no general 
term except the " ce^^tm que trust," a relic of 
the Norman- French, which we pronounce 
" settiky." ' 

' Do you, indeed ? ' said the Canon,, 
grimly ; 'it's quite as like the original, how- 
ever, as law is to justice.' 

Though Mr. Frederic Irton was thus 



IN CONSULTATION. yi 

compelled to stay the proceedings lie had 
initiated, he made it his business to inform 
himself very particularly of Mr. John Adair's 
affairs. His inquiries convinced him that 
these were in a desperate state ; that the man 
was over head and ears in debt ; and that his 
estate, bankrupt though it was, had become 
liable through his various speculations for 
enormous sums. 

The difference between speculation and 
peculation is but a letter ; the partitions that 
divide peculation from fraud, and fraud from 
crime of all kinds are as low and as easily 
overstepped ; and when necessity sharply 
urges, they are taken at a bound. The 
lawyer's knowledge of this fact, joined, it 
must be owned, to his own vehement pre- 
judice against Adair, caused him to entertain 
the keenest apprehensions concerning that 
gentleman's future, which disturbed him 
greatly upon Sophy's account ; but, for the 
present, he kept this to himself. To tell the 



72 THE CANON'S WARD. 

Canon would have been to till his cuj) of 
sorrows to the brim ; and he was draining 
that bitter draught so bravely. 

His Trinity chambers he, of course, re- 
tained ; a college knows nothing of men's 
circumstances, but keeps its gate wide open 
to all who have the right of entry, and gives 
the same welcome to prince and pauper ; but 
' The Laurels ' was disposed of by private 
contract, and its late imnates moved into a 
little cottage upon Parker's Piece, an open 
space where Aunt Maria professed to find 
better air and more sunshine. She never lost 
her pleasant smile, which she saw reflected 
much more often than she could have hoped 
for in her brother's face. When it was 
clouded she knew that he was thinking of 
his boy, and of that sad letter he had had to 
write to him, which, if it had not ' made 
Cyprus ' of his Alma's ' orange-flower,' must 
needs delay their happiness indefinitely. 
Sometimes, too, the Canon would fall into 



AV CONSULTATION. 73 

fits of abstraction, which lasted so long as to 
compel his sister from sheer anxiety to break 
into them with a pretence of cheerfulness. 
^ My dear William/ she would say, ' what are 
you thinking about ? ' 

On one occasion he returned (involun- 
tarily, we may be sure) a most enigmatic 
reply :— 

' I was thinking of poor little Settiky.' 

^ And who is Settiky ? ' 

^ Ah ! to be sure. I forgot I had not told 
you,' he said. 'It's a pet name that little 
Willie goes by.' 



74 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

THE EEVELATION. 

Some people find it difficult to keep silence 
tinder any circumstances ; but total silence — 
just as tipplers say of moderation versus 
excess — is much more easy to preserve than 
reticence, especially upon a particular subject, 
when speech in other respects is free ; and 
the same is true, though in a less degree, of 
correspondence. To write a letter to one 
near and dear to us and not to hint at 
the particular topic which is most in our 
minds, is a feat in composition. Bluebeard's 
castle was not ' a bijou residence,' yet, huge 
as it was, he could not trust to Fatima's over- 
looking the chamber in which he kept those 



THE REVELATION. 75; 

' trivial, fond records ' of his matrimonial 
experience ; and Aunt Maria, in ending her 
usual affectionate letters to Sophy, was always 
saying to herself, ' I have been most careful, 
I am sure, yet, sooner or later, I know I shall 
let it out.' 

Weeks, however, passed by without any 
such catastrophe, the very escape from which 
was a fact in itself deplorable, since it showed 
how absolutely poor Sophy was cut oiF from 
her husband's confidence. That he had not 
thought it worth while to inform her that he 
had used her as an instrument to effect the 
ruin of her friend and guardian was signifi- 
cant indeed. It was clear that she must 
know it one day, however long deferred might 
be the date, and yet (leaving excuse and 
justification out of the question) he had not 
troubled himself even to break the shock to her. 

One morning Sophy called on her friend 
Henny, with looks, not only sad as usual, but 
perturbed. 



76 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' The child is no worse, I trust ? ' was the 
hitter's first anxious inquiry. 

WilHe had been worse of late ; so much 
so that Henny had been a frequent visitor in 
Albany Street, notwithstanding that it was 
very disagreeable to her to intrude into a house 
to the master of which she was not welcome ; 
no considerations of a personal nature would 
have weighed with her where Love and Duty 
were in the other scale, but the reflection 
that Mr. Adair was her husband's enemy did 
weigh with her. Nevertheless she went, to 
comfort Sophy and to tend the child. A 
man would have thought of his dignity, and 
kept away out of ' self-respect ; ' but Henny 
did not think of such things. 

' Willie is no worse,' returned Sophy, 
^ though, I fear, no better. It is not on her 
account, poor darling, that I have come to- 
day, but upon another matter that troubles 
me only second to it. Oh, Henny, what has 
happened to the dear Canon and Aunt Maria? ' 



THE REVELATION. 77 

' Happened to tliem, my dear ? ' said 
Henny, trying to look surprised, and feeling 
excessively frightened but not surprised at 
all ; for she had expected some such terrible 
question any day during the last two months. 
' They are quite well ; indeed, I heard from 
Miss Aldred only yesterday.' 

' But they have left their house ; so Dr. 
Newton tells me. I took your advice and 
wrote to him the other day about my darling, 
and he says in his letter — after promising in 
the kindest way to come up and see her this 
very day — that the Canon has taken a house 
upon Parker's Piece : one of a row of quite 
little cottages. AYhat can be the meaning 
of it, and why have 1 heard not one word 
about it ? ' 

* \Yell, they didn't wish to increase your 
troubles, dearest Sophy, by telling you bad 
news. The truth is, the Canon has lost a 
great deal of money.' 

'How?' 



78 THE CANON'S WARD. 

A little word, but not so easy to reply to. 
Henny had almost all the virtues of her sex, 
but she was deficient in strategy. Cynics 
have said of women that though some of 
them tell tarradiddles with less grace than 
others, there is no such thmg as a woman 
who cannot tell them at all. Perhaps the 
exception proved the rule in Henny' s case, for 
she could not speak an untruth. When it was 
required of her, as in the present case, she 
could only turn very pale, and remain mute. 

' You are hiding something from me,' 
exclaimed Sophy, vehemently. ' Have I, 
then, lost the confidence of every human 
being but my dying child ? Am I quite 
•alone in the world ? I have deserved it, 
Heaven knows,' she added, drop23ing her 
voice ; ' I have deserved everything ; but my 
punishment is almost greater than I can 
l3ear.' 

Henny' s heart melted within her, as well 
it might. Her loving arms were thrown 
.•about her friend in an mstant, and she burst 



THE REVELATIO.Y. 79 

into tears. But Sophy, though, she returned 
her embrace, did so with dry eyes. 

' I am tired of weeping,' she answered, 
bitterly. ' I have shed tears enough for a 
lifetime, and there are no more to come. I 
want to know the worst — the worst that is 
which has happened as yet. The worst I 
shall never know till I am in my grave, and 
receive the just doom of the wicked ! ' 

The despair in her voice froze the other^s 
.very blood. 

' Dear Sophy, don't talk like that ; there 
are happy days in store for you yet Heaven 
will take pity on you.' 

' You don't know, Henny,' was the quiet 
reply. ' You have never angered Heaven as 
I have. Let us not speak of that. Tell me 
about my dear guardian ; the truth, the truth ! ' 

' I cannot, and I dare not,' said Henny, 
desj)erately. 

' You dare not. Then it is something 
that concerns my husband. It is he who has 



8o THE CANON'S WARD. 

injured the Canon. I have suspected it all 
along ; this is the last and worst ' 

Poor Sophy never finished that sentence ; 
perhajDS she had been about to say, ' the last 
and worst proof of his vileness/ or perhaps 
only, ' the last and worst of my misfor- 
tunes ; ' but her emotions, only too well dis- 
ciplined as they were, had proved too much 
for her. She had fainted. 

To a situation of that kind Henny was 
fully equal ; and, without sendmg for assist- 
ance, soon restored her friend — though, as she 
sorrowfully reflected, it was doing her small 
kindness — to consciousness. Sophy's first 
words when she opened her eyes were, ' ^ow 
tell me all.' And Henny had to tell her. 

It was done with the tenderest considera- 
tion. She prefaced her task with the Canon's 
absolute acquittal of Sophy herself, his certain 
conviction of her innocence of any responsi- 
bility in the matter in question ; his know- 
ledge that she would rather cut her right 



THE REVELATION. 8i 

hand off than have persuaded him to do any- 
thing that might entail harm upon himself. 
He even stretched a point, and denied that 
Sophy had persuaded him. His wish to 
benefit her and hers had, of course, been at 
the root of the transaction ; but he had acted 
as he had done because he himself had be- 
lieved it to be the best course to adopt. It 
was a mere error in judgment. She concluded 
lier tale by saying that though the blow to the 
Canon had been doubtless a very heavy one, 
it had been bravely borne, so that its worst 
effects were already over ; and that the reflec- 
tion that Sophy was distressing herself with 
vain regrets, and perhaps remorse, would only 
add to her guardian's troubles. Sophy heard 
her to the end without interposing one word ; 
but her face, which now and then she hid as 
if for very shame, was a picture of agony and 
humiliation. 

' Great Heaven ! ' she cried, at last, clasp - 

VOL. HI. G 



82 THE CANON'S WARD. 

ing her hands, ' how they must despise and' 
loathe me ! ' 

^ On the contrary, they pity and love you^ 
Sophy/ 

' Give me pen and ink, Henny, and let 
me write to them ; let me write to them from 
here, your house — not from that man's house.- 
Let me tell them that I know all, and still 
live to know it. Then they will understand 
that the fool who has done them this inexpi- 
able wrong has not escaped her punishment/ 

' Sophy, Sophy, remember what I told 
you,' pleaded Henny ; ' all that will only add 
to their troubles ; for my own sake I entreat 
you to be patient. It was especially enjoined 
upon me never to speak to you of this.' 

^ Speak to me ! How can you speak to- 
me at all ? ' cried Sophy, bitterty. ' How 
could you enter my house as you have done,, 
knowincr it to be a den of thieves? Your 
Stevie is there now ; I left him sitting by m}^ 
child's pillow. There is contagion there for 



THE REVELATION. 83 

him. She is a thief's daughter ; I am a 
thief s wife.' 

It was terrible to see such fire and feeling, 
such humiliation, such remorse and agony, 
proceed from so frail and small a creature. 
What shocked Henny most was that last 
sentence, 'I am a thief's wife.' It was true 
of course, but that a wife should confess it — 
nay, assert it voluntarily — seemed to her, to 
whom the tie that bound her to her husband 
was only less sacred than that which linked 
her to her God, something monstrous and 
unnatural. 

'Hush! hush! dear Sophy,' she entreated, 
' Why should I hush? Why should I not 
proclaim him for what he is ? ' continued the 
other, vehemently. ' Why did you not men- 
tion the thief when you spoke of his crime? 
Because you would not pollute your lips with 
his name — the name he has given me — my 
name.' Then, perceiving her companion's 
pained and frightened looks, she added, with 

G 2 



S4 THE CANON'S WARD. 

passionate tenderness, ' Xo, no, no ; forgive 
me, Henny, I know it was to spare me.' 

' Of course it was to spare you, my dar- 
ling,' returned the other, earnestly. ' That 
is what we all want to do. You have been 
deceived, cajoled, but you have done nothing 
wrong.' 

Sophy shook her head in vehement denial. 

' Then if you have, the best reparation 
you can make to those who have suffered, the 
amends that will be the most welcome to 
them, is to forget it all. To behave as though 
it had never happened. To feel that your 
relations with those you loved, and never 
meant to harm, are just as they were before 
this misfortune happened. I have been to 
blame to tell you of it. Do not let me 
suffer for my weakness — for the love that 
compelled me to give way to your importu- 
nity.' 

' I will do whatever those I have ruined 
wish me to do,' said Sophy, humbly. 



THE REVELATION. 85 

' You dear, good girl, that news will in- 
deed please them. There is another thing 
which I know they most earnestly desire ; 
do not speak with Mr. Adair about this 
matter. It can do no good, dear Sophy, 
and will only be the cause of a quarrel or 
estrangement.' 

^ Estrangement ! ' echoed the other, bit- 
terly. ' How little you, who have a husband 
who respects and loves you, know the life I 
lead ! Respect and love are not for me.. 
AVhat were those lines we used to read to- 
gether in the old times, those dead and gone 
old times, at Cambridge ? — 

Others there are whom these surround, 
Smiling they live and call life pleasure, 
To me that cup has been dealt in quite another measure. 

Estrangement ! Do you suppose, then, except 
for the one frail link of my little Willie, that 
anything binds me to that man. No ; not a 
pack-thread. If that link were to snap, and 
life were still left in me, not another hour, 



86 THE CANON'S WARD. 

when I had once seen my darling laid in her 
restful o^rave, would I remain beneath his 
hateful roof. I would starve ; nay, I would 
sin first.' 

Henny sat aghast at her, shocked at these 
terrible sentiments, wretched in the reflection 
that the woman who entertained them was 
about to return to such a home, and to the 
man she must needs call husband. She ran- 
sacked her kind heart in vain for a word of 
comfort. There was nothing there but pity 
and sorrow. 

' I must go back now,' said Sophy, 
wearily. ' Dr. Newton may come at any 
moment. Nothing but my anxiety upon my 
dear guardian's account could have induced 
me to leave home. I have been used to think 
that anxiety was the hardest to bear of all 
troubles ; but I was mistaken. Kiss me, 
Henny.' 

Henny threw her arms about her friend 
.and strained her to her heart. 



THE REVELATION. Sj 

' ( )h, if 1 could but help you, my darling 
— if I could but help you ! ' 

Sophy shook her little head despairingly, 
and closed the mouth that once seemed to 
have been made for smiles and kisses. 

' I feel so wicked,' sobbed Henny, to be so 
kindly treated, and so loved and spoilt, when 
you are suffering such terrible things so 
undeservedly.' 

' No, not that, Henny,' answered Sophy, 
gravely. ' Do you remember Hogarth's pic- 
tures, which I persuaded you to look at, 
though Aunt Maria had forbidden me to do 
so, of the good and bad apprentices? As it 
was with them so it is with us. We have 
both got our deserts. If I could but feel 
that my fate would be a warning to all reck- 
less, deceitful girls like me, then, I think, I 
could bear it; for I have deserved it all.' 

' I don't believe it,' cried Henny, vehe- 
mently. ' All will come right again, some 
•day, if there is justice in Heaven.' 



88 THE CANON'S WARD. 

Henny lifted her sweet eyes as if to 
invoke the power of which she spoke ; and 
when she turned them again on the place 
where her friend had stood. Sophy had gone. 



89 



CHAPTER XL. 



THE WITNESS. 



Man is a selfish animal, but, in comparison 
with his father (as Wordsworth calls him), 
the boy, he is the embodiment of self-sacrifice 
and self-denial. ' Xo boy knows how his 
mother loves him,' says a modern writer^ 
who has evidently studied his subject. ' Xo 
mother knows how a boy loves himself ; ' and 
nobody else knows. His devotion to that 
idol is without limit. 

It must be admitted, however, that there 
are exceptions. Many boys who have not 
been to school and learnt the law of the 
stronger, are kind and gentle to their sisters 
and to girls generally, are not ashamed of 



90 THE CANON'S WARD. 

a partiality for that most charming of do- 
mestic pets, the cat ; and are even fond of 
children. ' The boy that loves a baby ' (justly 
extolled by the author of ' Lilliput Levee') 
is, however, a very rare specimen. In this 
respect — namely, for the love of his small, 
helpless fellow-creatures — Stevie Helford was, 
as a schoolboy, almost unique. He had lost 
that precocity of intelligence, too often the 
companion of disease and the precursor of 
death, that had so charmed Aunt Henny, but 
his mind was still strangely mature and old- 
fashioned. At school, no doubt, in ' form ' 
if not in ' gloss,' he lost his picturesqueness, 
and was commonplace enough ; but in the 
holidays he became in many ways himself 
again, to the alarm of his grandmother (who, 
having suiFered from a mad spendthrift, im- 
agined there was safety in the commonplace), 
and to the great content of Aunt Henny and 
the delight of Uncle Fred, to whom the boy's 
naive but pronounced opinions upon the most 



THE WITNESS. 91 

abstruse topics were an unfailing source of 
amusement. 

It was as natural to Stevie to pass an hour 
in little Willie's nursery as it would have 
been with most boys to blow themselves up 
with fireworks, or out with greengages. He 
did not do it because it was right, or because 
his aunt wished it (he was not a goody-goody 
boy at all), or for ' tips ' or ' sock,' but for the 
reason that is, on the whole, more powerful 
than any which actuates the human breast — 
because he liked it. Fido (Fred's dog) and 
he were constant companions, but he never 
showed himself so devoted as when Fido fell 
ill of an obscure mange and needed tendance. 
Again, when Henny's canary was moulting, 
it was difficult to persuade him it was not a 
malady which care could cure, and that he 
could do no good by sitting up with the 
bird all night. For which reason, and also 
because his Latin was very indifferent 
(' Ulpian at the best') Fred insisted upon 



92 THE CANON'S WARD. 

it that the boy was cut out for the medical 
profession. 

Wilhe had been a'great favourite of Stevie's 
from the first, but after the accident which 
crippled her there were no bounds to his de- 
votion. He would sit by the side of her 
little cot, reading to her or talking to her for 
hours — nay, what is still more unusual with 
those who visit their sick friends, listening to 
her. He was not so fond of talking as he 
had been, or perhaps he had become more 
prudent in the use of his tongue. Uncle 
Fred was wont to ruffle his dignity not a 
little by quotations from his early speeches, 
which he now regretted, as a Minister of State 
regrets his utterances on platforms before he 
had responsibilities and took office. One of 
them, when cast up against him, had all the 
effect of a red rag on a bull. The subject of 
conversation being the popularity of authors, 
he had remarked, with childish gravity, ' I 
have observed that the Bible is a great deal 



THE WITNESS. 93 

•read ; I think, Fred, it would be a capital 
plan if you were to write another Bible.' 

Poor little Wilhelmina had no such plans 
for the enrichment of her friends. She lis- 
tened to all that was said with intense atten- 
tion and sagacity ; but her conversation was 
mainly confined, like that of Socrates, to 
questions (Fred called her technically the 
Interrogatory), and some of them were such 
questions ! 

' Stevie,' she would ask in a hushed 
whisper, as the boy sat with his hand in hers 
by her curtained pillow, ' is it right to pray 
Heaven to bless wicked people ? ' 

' One might pray to make them better,' 
answered Stevie, cautiously. 

' I have done that, and it's no use,' was 
the grave rejoinder. 

' Then I'd leave the blessing alone, Willie,' 
answered her spiritual adviser ; ' that's not 
your business.' 

Here there was a long pause, during 



94 THE CANON'S WARD. 

which some pictures were investigated : you 
would have imagined the subject to be 
dropped ; but that was not Wilhelmina's 
way ; she might let go of it, but only as an 
Irishman may allow a bottle of whisky to 
escape temporarily from his hands ; her mind 
once fixed upon the matter, she was never 
satisfied till she got to the bottom of it. 

^ It is right to pray Heaven to bless your 
parents, is it not, Stevie? ' 

' Of course it is, my dear — that is, when 
you have any,' added Stevie, with a sudden 
recollection that he was unprovided for in 
that respect. 

' Then if you are to leave the blessing 
alone when people are wicked, and a parent 
is wicked, you are not to ask Heaven to bless 
him? ' 

The logic was pitiless. Poor Stevie, who 
thoroughly understood what she meant, re- 
plied, much embarrassed, ' You should ask 
Heaven to make him better.' 



THE WITNESS. 95 

Then, with the air of saying ' You are 
arguing in a circle, and are confused besides/ 
' You have said that before,' said Willie. 

The idea of making supplication for Mr. 
John Adair had certainly never entered into 
Stevie's mind, which was not as yet disciplmed 
into praying for his enemies. He disliked him 
as much as he liked Sophy, and took care to 
time his visits to Albany Street so as to 
avoid meeting with the master of the house. 
If Adair had known he came so often he 
might have forbidden his visits ; but, as it 
was, he permitted them, because they amused 
the child as much as a new toy and cost him 
nothing. One day, however, when* Stevie 
came as usual, Adair, as it happened, was at 
home. A letter had come that morniner for 
Sophy from Cambridge, but in an unfamiliar 
hand ; and this had excited his suspicions. 
There was nothing now of novelty that did 
not excite his suspicions. A mind ill at ease 
with itself and conscious of wronof-doing-, is 



•96 THE CANON'S WARD. 

always more or less in this condition. Even 
to the good man chance is a thing to be appre- 
hended, ' how much more then to the wicked 
and the sinner? ' When Adair heard from his 
wife that Dr. ]N^ewton had announced his 
intention of coming up to town that day, to 
see little Willie, his brow grew very dark. 

' You must have sent for the man,' he 
exclaimed, passionately. 

^ I told him that Willie was ailing,' was 
the quiet reply, ' and that I should be glad of 
his opinion upon the case, as an old friend, 
and one in whose judgment I had the greatest 
confidence.' 

' If*he is coming as a friend that is an- 
other matter,' returned her husband, con- 
temptuously (she had anticipated an outburst, 
and wondered what restrained it ; she only 
knew for certain that it was no consideration 
for her feelings) ; ' but as for his opinion I 
wouldn't give a shilling for it. What can a 
mere country apothecary have to say against 



THE WITNESS. 97 

the treatment approved of by sucli a man as 
Dr. Baow? ' 

' It is said that two heads are better than 
one,' faltered Sophy ; ' at all events, when 
my child's health and perhaps her life ' 

' What threatens her life ? ' broke in the 
other, with angry vehemence ; ' there's 
nothing more amiss with her than has been 
any time these three years. And as for two 
heads, madam, let me tell you that in this 
house, at least, there is only one head. Never 
let me hear of a doctor being sent for again 
without my permission.' 

To this Sophy answered nothing ; she 
never did answer her husband unless com- 
pelled to do so. Upon the whole, she was 
thankful that for this once, at least, Dr. 
Newton was permitted to come. Had she 
asked leave to send for him, she well knew 
that it would have been refused ; she knew, 
too, that her sending for him would anger her 
husband, and his wrath was terrible to her, 
VOL. III. H 



98 THE CANON'S WARD. 

not only because she feared it, but because 
it reminded her of the mad folly which had 
placed her in his power. 

She noticed, to her great disappointment, 
that hie sent off a telegram or two, doubtless 
to explain his absence elsewhere, and re- 
mained at home that morning. She foresaw 
that there would be difficulty in getting 
speech with Dr. Newton alone. What could 
it matter to her husband, as she bitterly re- 
flected, what report should be given of her 
child, or by whom, since he was absolutely 
indifferent to it? 

When Dr. Newton arrived, Adair himself 
received him, and with some pretence of 
cordiality. He did not meet his gaze di- 
rectly — it had never been his custom to look 
folk in the face, but of late he gave his profile 
to every one, as though he was sitting 
for his silhouette — but furtively scanned him 
with minuteness. He wished to gather from 
his expression whether he knew how he had 



THE WITNESS, 



99 



wronged the Canon or not ; and the deduc- 
tion he drew was that he did know. As a 
matter of fact, the doctor did not know. The 
Canon had kept his secret from all outsiders, 
partly, perhaps, for his own sake (for he was 
not one to write himself down an ass, even 
though he might have behaved like one), but 
chiefly for Sophy's sake. The doctor, how- 
ever, had no liking for Mr. John Adair (and 
showed it in his honest face) for another 
reason. 

He had been informed by Miss Aldred 
of the accident that had happened to little 
Willie, partly in consequence of her father's 
ill-judged economy ; he was aware that Sophy 
had had money, and that Adair had had none, 
and he looked upon him as a mean hound. 

' Some business called me up to town to- 
day, Mr. Adair,' he said, stiffly, ' and at your 
wife's request I have looked in to see your 
little girl.' 

' You are very kind, Dr. Newton ; I am 

n2 



loo THE CANON'S WARD. 

^ afraid, however, you will say little can be done 
for her beyond what we are already doing.' 

*At all events, there will be no harm 
done. I come here only as an old friend.' 

' Just so,' said the other, quietly. If the 
doctor had meant to give him a dig, it showed 
no signs of having penetrated anywhere. 
^ You shall see the child at once.' 

Sophy and Jeannette were both in the 
nursery, and Stevie also. When the boy 
heard Mr. Adair's voice upon the stair, he 
drew back behind the heavy curtain that 
shielded his little friend from the draught 
from the window, and remained during the 
interview unseen. Curiosity, however, com- 
pelled him to form a peep-hole, through 
which he could see what was going on. 

Dr. Newton entered, shook hands warmly 
with Mrs. Adair, and sat down quickly beside 
the patient. He asked a great number of 
questions, as to symptoms, treatment, &c., 
and presently for the prescrij3tions. 



THE WITNESS. loi 

' This is all very right/ he said, looking 
at one of them ; ' but I hope you are 
careful about the proportion of water ; it is a 
dangerous medicine by itself.' 

' Dr. Bagge warned us of that/ said 
Sophy. ' We keep the medicine in the cup- 
board, and instead of mixing it every time, 
we keep a portion in the bottle here ready 
mixed. When it is finished, we mix it again, 
so that no mistake can possibly occur through 
inadvertence.' 

' Umph, that's curious,' said the doctor. 
^ There are certain symptoms here — the very 
ones that have given you anxiety, and not 
without cause — which I should have attri- 
buted to an overdose. Who administers the 
medicine ? ' 

' Either Jeannette or myself,' said Sophy ; 
* and I mix it, when it is necessary to do so, 
with my own hands.' 

' Well, you can't be too cautious. The 
limb is better — better than I could have 



I02 THE CANON'S WARD. 

hoped for, considering the nature of the 
accident. It is the general health that is 
suffering.' 

' Am I going to die, doctor ? ' inquired 
little Willie. ' I should like to know, because 
I have got things to do first.' 

' Bless my soul ! what a strange child,' 
exclaimed the doctor, whose practice lay- 
chiefly among infants of a larger growth — 
undergraduates. ' Why, she reminds me of 
what little Stevie Helford used to be. No, 
my dear, you are not gomg to die ; I hope 
you are going to get well and strong.' 

' Do you think I shall live to be twenty- 
one ? ' inquired the patient, with great 
gravity. 

^ Ah, you want to come of age and see the 
ox roasted whole in Albany Street, do you ? ' 
returned the doctor, cheerily. ' Of course 
you'll live to be twenty-one — live to be a 
hundred and one very likely. What a very 
funny child! Well, there is nothing to be 



THE WITNESS. 103 

alarmed about ; but the case wants watcliiug. 
How often does your medical man come, 
Mrs. Adaii'?' 

' Not very often,' said Sopliy, firmly, but 
avoiding her husband's eye ; ' once in three 
weeks, not more.' 

' That is not enough, in my opinion. The 
symptoms I have noticed should be attended 
to and checked at once. Have you had any 
other opinion — .has any other doctor seen her 
beside Doctor Bagge ? ' 

Here Stevie noticed that Mr. Adair threw 
a glance at Jeannette, unperceived by the 
other two ; to the boy's quick intelligence it 
seemed to say, ' Don't speak.' 

' No,' said Sophy. ' No one but our own 
medical man has seen her.' 

Then the doctor rose and left the room 
with Sophy, her husband following close 
ujDon their heels. 

' What am I to do ? ' cried Jeannette, de- 
spairingly. 



I04 THE CANON'S WARD. 

^ What is the matter ? ' whispered Ste- 
vie, looking out from his place of conceal- 
ment. 

' Lor, Master Stevie, I cpiite forgot you 
were there,' said Jeannette, growing very 
white ; ' you gave me quite a turn.' 

' But what is the matter ? ' 

The waiting-maid v/as too well acquainted 
with the importunity of youth to attempt to 
evade the question. ' Why, my poor mistress 
wanted to have a few words with Dr. Xewton 
alone ; and I am afraid that she w^ill never 
get them. Hush ! be quiet, listen.' 

The others had gone into the drawing- 
room and closed the door. Nothing w^as 
heard save the ticking of the clock upon the 
mantelpiece, and the occasional dropping of a 
coal from the grate. Fatigued with the doc- 
tor's investigation, and lulled to rest by the 
silence, Willie sank into a deep slumber. 

Presently there was a gentle knock at the 
door. ' My mistress wants you downstairs, 



THE WITNESS. 105 

Jeannette/ said one of the maids. ' Shall 1 
stay with the child ? ' 

' No, it is unnecessary ; she is asleep.' 
Then, in a hushed whisper, ' Keep where 
you are, Master Stevie, unless Willie cries,' 
said Jeannette, and noiselessly left the room. 

One minute, two minutes, and then there 
was a cautious click of the door-handle. 
Stevie lay close, with a presentiment of some- 
thing about to happen ; to his horror, Adair 
stole quietly in. The boy's heart beat fast ; 
but fascinated, rather than curious, he kept 
his eye at the loophole. What could have 
brought the master of the house back to that 
room alone ? No affection for the child, 
that was certain. He stepped lightly to the 
foot of the bed, and gazed earnestly at the 
little occupant ; then, having, as it seemed, 
convinced himself that she was asleep, he 
took up the phial that stood upon the table, 
marked well how far it was filled, and 
emptied its contents into some vessel he had 



io6 THE CANON'S WARD. 

brought with him. Next, going on tiptoe to 
the cupboard, he took out a bottle, and filled 
the phial from it to the same height as before. 
Then replacing bottle and phial where he had 
found them, he glided noiselessly from the 
room. The whole transaction scarcely took 
up a minute : it would have been plain to any 
person of mature judgment that such dex- 
terity could only have been acquired by prac- 
tice. If but few opportunities had been 
aiforded him for such proceedings, it was 
certain he had lost none. 

Stevie stood petrified as he watched all 
this, and when it was over began to tremble. 
It seemed to him that he had been on the 
verge of crying out something horrible — 
perhaps ' Murder ! ' — without knowing exactly 
why. He did not comprehend what had 
occurred, but he felt that if the man had 
attempted to give Willie what was now in the 
phial he would have rushed out and stopped 
him at all hazards. But now his nerve had 



THE WITNESS. 107 

left him and almost consciousness itself. The 
contemplation of a crime by an innocent 
person is almost as shocking as the first com- 
mission of one. 

Even when Jeannette returned, the boy 
still remained where he was, and without the 
power of speech. 

^ You may come out now, Master Stevie,' 
she said, cheerfully. ' Mr. Adair has gone 
away with the doctor, but not before my 
mistress had a private word with him ; why 
master left us alone together, though it was 
only for five minutes, I can't imagine.' 

'7 can,' sad Stevie, putting back the 
curtain, and disclosing a white face and star- 
ing eyes. ' He left you to come up here.' 

' Here ! Good heavens ! He didn't do 
anything to the child ? ' 

' No ; he left you to do it.' 

Then he told her what had happened from 
beginning to end. 

Jeannette listened, with horrified face. She 



io8 THE CANON'S WARD. 

took up the pliial. The medicine was as 
colourless as the water with which it should 
have been mixed ; but she took out the cork, 
and smelt it. 

' That would have gone nigh to kill 
her/ she said, solemnly. She poured back 
the contents of the phial into the bottle, and, 
mixing more medicine with water in the 
proper proportions, replaced the phial as 
before. 

^Now, as you love little Willie, Master 
Stevie,' she said, earnestly, ' not a word of 
this to my mistress or to any one else. I will 
answer for it that it shall never occur again ; 
but nothing must be done in a hurry. If he 
thought we knew of this, my master would 
kill us both, and the child, and my mistress 
too.' 

It is probable that Jeannette did not in 
reality apprehend this wholesale slaughter ; 
her object was to make sure of the boy's 
silence. 



THE WITNESS. 109- 

' But we must do sometliing,' urged Stevie. 
He had as great confidence in Jeannette's 
sagacity as in her honest intentions ; and 
quite believed that any person who could 
injure Willie was capable of quadruple as- 
sassination. But he could not see how a 
' masterly inactivity ' could meet so extreme 
a case. 

'You must do this, Master Stevie : go 
home and ask your aunt to invent some 
excuse for getting me to her house this after- 
noon. Tell her that I have something very 
particular to communicate to Mr. Irton. If 
you can't trust me to do what is best,' she 
added, noting the boy's hesitating look, ' you 
can surely trust your uncle.' 

' Yes, I can trust Uncle Fred to do what 
is right,' said Stevie, naively, ' because I 
know he dislikes Mr. Adair, to begin with.' 

' And do you suppose that I like Mr. 
Adair ? ' inquired Jeannette, with a strange 
smile. 



no THE CANON'S WARD, 

For an instant there flashed upon Stevie's 
mmd the remembrance of that significant look 
which she had exchanged with her master 
when Sophy had been engaged with the 
child ; but he put the suspicion from him 
loyally. 

^ No ; you can never like the man that 
would have harmed little Willie,' he said. 

These words came hissing through her 
clenched teeth — 

' I hate him ! ' 

Then the door opened, and Sophy entered. 
Her mind was too full of the events of the 
morning to take notice of how the boy had 
disposed of himself during the late interview. 
He had little difficulty in effecting his de- 
parture, since his hostess wanted to confer 
with Jeannette about the child ; but not till 
he had got clear of the house (which hence- 
forth became terrible to him) did he begin to 
breathe freely. 



THE WITNESS. in 

' Cram ' and competitive examinations 
burden young gentlemen's wits in these days 
pretty considerably ; but never had boy so 
much upon his mind as Stevie had as he ran 
home that day. 



112 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XLL 



JEANNETTE CONFESSES. 



Jeannette's attendance upon little Willie since 
lier illness had been almost incessant. She 
was not one of those domestics who grudge 
their extra service in time of trouble ; and, 
on the other hand, Sophy was not one of 
those mistresses who treat their servants as 
though they were machines. Though hardly 
ever leaving her own threshold, she insisted 
that Jeannette should take a certain amount 
of open-air exercise every day, and that this 
should take as much as possible the form of 
relaxation. When a note came from Henny, 
shortly after Stevie's visit, inviting Jeannette 
to take tea with her maid that afternoon. 



JEANNETTE CONFESSES. 113 

Sophy was very glad of the opportunity of 
mvinfi: her the treat. She would be left alone 
with little Willie for an hour or so, which was 
a greater satisfaction to her than ever. 
Strange as it may seem, she had, in a fashion, 
communicated to the child the terrible news 
she had received from Henny. To make her 
really understand what had happened with 
respect to the Canon was, of course, impossible, 
but she had impressed her with the fact that a 
grievous wrong had been committed against 
this best of friends and benefactors, and that 
if it should ever lie in her power to make 
amends for it, her first duty, in the eyes of 
God and man, would be to do so. It was a 
foolish thing enough to tell a child, but then 
poor Sophy was not wise. Moreover, she had 
no one else to whom she could pour out her 
passionate sorrow and remorse for what had 
happened save this little confidante, who saw 
her mother's tears not as another child might 
have done, with mere wonder and awe, but 

VOL. III. I 



114 THE CANON'S WARD. 

with the keenest desire to staunch them, and 
with intense interest in their cause. Thoue^h 
she had spoken of her father to Stevie, she had 
never spoken of him to her mother ; it was a 
topic that neither of them discussed, but upon 
which they were tacitly agreed. Sophy did 
not even tell the child who was the actual 
wrongdoer in the Canon's case ; and from 
what seemed happy instinct, but which in 
reality was reticence born of premature sa- 
gacity, little Willie forebore for once to ques- 
tion her upon the point. 

"While this loving couple were exchanging 
their confidences that afternoon, they little 
guessed how deeply they were occupying the 
thoughts of a certain friend of theirs, who, if 
he had made no sign of late of the interest he 
had in them, had by no means forgotten them. 
He had his own affairs and the affairs of many 
clients to think about, for he was a very 
rising young solicitor ; but ever and anon 
when tidino's reached him of Mr. John Adair's 



JE ANNETTE CONEESSEC. ,115 

' goings on ' (which they indirectly did) in the 
City and elsewhere, he was wont to swear 
softly to himself, and make remarks of the 
following description : ' You have stolen my 
client's money, you scoundrel, in spite of my 
teeth — and lost it. You are stealing other 
people's money (but that's their look out), 
and losmg that. As you get deeper and deeper 
into the mire, you take it out of that un- 
fortunate little wife of yours for every failure 
of your thievish plans ; the more desperate 
are your circumstances, the more miserable 
you are resolved, it seems, that she shall be. 
Even the innocent child whom you have made 
a thief by proxy has suffered from your mean- 
ness, and — well, some day or another you 
shall pay for all this, as sure as my name is 
Frederic Irton.' 

Irton's character was not Quixotic (or he 
could never have been ' rising ' in his profes- 
sion), but he was swayed, as most men are, 
despite much twaddle talked to the contrary, 

I 2 



ii6 THE CANON'S WARD. 

by other motives besides self-interest. Though 
he had loyally defended the action of ' the 
Court ' against the Canon, he had felt that his 
client's case was a hard one, and his very 
respect for his own calling made him exceed- 
ingly resent its powers having been made use 
of to enforce a wrong. His wife, who had 
great influence over him, had communicated 
to him her own impressions of the tyranny 
that prevailed in Albany Street. Despite his 
calling, he had not so much patience with 
cruelty and meanness as lawyers gene- 
rally exhibit (not because they are de- 
ficient in feeling, but because they think it 
shows a logical mind). If he had ever been 
called to the Bench, he would have taken 
what is called, I am given to understand, 

in legal circles, ' the d d shame ' view of 

matters brought before him, and been a terror 
less to law-breakers than to villains. Nor was 
a personal motive wanting for his hostility 
to Mr. John Adair ; he had secretly never 



JE ANNETTE CONFESSES. 117 

forgiven liini the lie which (as he was still 
convinced) he had told him on the very first 
day he had the honour of making his acquaint- 
ance. 

Henny had not hesitated to summon her 
husband home by telegraph that afternoon ; 
he had come, as it was understood, to ' five 
o'clock tea ' m the most ordinary and natural 
fashion, nor was there anything to excite 
comment in Jeannette's being sent for up to 
the drawing-room to give an account of how 
the little invalid was progressing in Albany 
Street. 

First, however, Stevie had told his story, 
which Uncle Fred transferred to his notebook 
word byword as being matter of grave import- 
ance indeed, which might be wanted after- 
wards : but this witness, upon Jeannette's ap- 
pearance, was directed to withdraw, while 
Henny remained in court to watch proceed- 
ings. The waiting-maid at first was very far 
from communicative ; she had had some hours 



ii8 THE CANON'S WARD, 

for reflection since the events of the morning, 
and her views were not what they had been 
when Stevie had left her. That Adair had 
altered the child's medicine, and with, of 
course, some evil intent, she was well con- 
vinced ; but she felt sure, being forewarned, 
that this could never occur again ; while to 
make a further scandal of the matter would 
be to entail she knew not what upon her 
unfortunate mistress. Moreover, should her 
master ever discover that she was hostile to 
him, he would turn her out of doors upon the 
instant, when her mistress and the child would 
be left without that protection which she alone 
knew to be so necessary to them. Like most 
persons with a turn for intrigue, she had too 
great confidence in her own resources. 

Irton saw at once that she had repented of 
her offer to make a clean breast of it to him, 
and shaped his course accordingly. 

' What Stevie has stated to me is a matter 
so very serious, Jeannette,' he said, gravely, 



JEANNETTE CONFESSES, 119 

' that it must be gone into, whether we will or 
no. An attempt to murder cannot be hushed 
up, out of regard to the feelings of anybody, 
remember.' 

' But why should it be murder, sir? ' she 
argued. ' For all we know, the doctor may 
have altered his opinion, and Mr. Adair have 
done what he did by his advice. Besides, 
what good could master get by killing the 
poor little darling ? — his own flesh and blood, 
too.' 

'When murder is done, Jeanne tte,' returned 
the lawyer, coldly, ' it is not only the mur- 
derer who puts his neck in the loop, but the 
accessory who is in collusion with him. No 
one who knows you could suspect you of 
doing little Willie any harm ; but you will 
not be known to the Judge and jury who will 
try this case. I warn you, that if you are 
concealing anything that may throw light on 
this matter, you are playing a very dangerous 
as well as foolish game.' 



I20 . THE CANON'S WARD. 

' I am concealing nothing, sir/ said 
Jeannette, obstinately ; and then, with that 
superfluity of assertion so characteristic of her 
class, added, ' I never did.' 

' What, not when you concealed from your 
mistress that another physician had seen little 
Willie besides Dr. Bagge? ' 

' If you know so much about it, there was 
two on 'em,' muttered Jeannette, grudgingly, 
but with a sob in her voice. It was not so 
much alarm upon her own account that had 
thus caused her to break down in her resolu- 
tion to keep silence, but perplexity and dis- 
tress of mind. 

' Then why did you, in collusion with 
your master, keep this visit secret from your 
mistress and Dr. Newton? ' 

' Because I durstn't speak of it,' cried the 
wretched Jeannette. ^ Master told me if I 
ever breathed one word of it, out of the house 
I should go. How do you think my poor 
mistress and Willie would get on without me? 



JEANNETTE CONFESSES. 121 

What sort of husband and father do you take 
Mr. Adair to be that I should let him work 
his wicked will upon them? You may call it 
collusion ; you may just as well accuse dear 
little Willie herself of such a thing, whom I 
begged to be silent about this very matter for 
her mother's sake ; and she did so, because, 
child as she is, she has a deal more sense in 
her than some people as are grown up. And, 
after all, what did it matter about more doc- 
tors coming? They were kind, honest gentle- 
men, and, as I should judge by their manner, 
none too fond of master.' 

' Just so,' said Irton ; ' you were quite 
right in suj)posing there was no harm in them. 
Still, I must know who they were.' 

' I know nothing about them, except that 
one called the other Woodruffe : and if ever 
master comes to hear that I told you even so 
much as that, whatever happens afterwards 
will be at your door, not mine, sir.' 

' He shall never know, Jeannette, be as- 



122 THE CANON'S WARD. 

sured of that. If you will only confide in me 
we shall be able to spoil all his schemes, and 
make him harmless. But we cannot fight 
against him in the dark.' 

' I know no more, sir, than what I have 
told you ; only remember that in dealing with 
him you have to do with the wickedest and 
most heartless man that ever drew breath, 
and one that is as cunning as the Devil.' 

' You have described the gentleman to a 
hau',' said Irton, drily. ' What on earth,' he 
added, turning to his wife, ' could have ever 
induced Sophy to marry him ? ' 

Henny held up her hands, and shook lier 
head. Though she was so fond of Sophy, the 
girl had always been an enigma to her, and 
the object of her afi^ection a matter of amaze- 
ment. Badly as Adair had turned out, he 
had not, in his bachelor state, been more 
objectionable to Henny than Mr. Perry had 
been. 

' She married him because she couldn't 



JEANNETTE CONFESSES. 123 

help it, Mr. Irton,' said Jeannette, warmly. 
' Heaven forgive me for the hand I had in it, 
but I doubt if I could have stopped it anyhow. 
She did it to prevent an exposure.' 

Mr. Frederic Irton emitted a low whistle ; 
a whistle full of feeling as well as significance, 
but still a whistle. 

' You are wrong, Fred,' said Henny, firmly. 
' I am quite sure Sophy never misconducted 
herself as you suppose. She may have been 
weak but never wicked.' 

' That's just it, ma'am,' said Jeannette, a})- 
provingly. ' My mistress was very foolish, 
and bitterly, indeed, she has paid for her folly, 
but she never went wrong. She had a secret, 
which Mr. Adair possessed himself of; and, 
rather than it should be known to her friends, 
she married him.' 

^ And what was the secret ? ' inquired 
man and wife together. 

^ She had been married before to Mr. Her- 
bert Perry.' 



124 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' What ! Sopliy a widow ! ' exclaimed 
Henny, in shocked amazement. 

Irton expressed no astonishment — it was 
beneath the dignity of his profession : but he 
murmured, ' What a deuced clever girl ! ' be- 
tween his teeth. 

' But are you quite certain of this,' Jean- 
nette ? ' inquired Henny. 

^ I saw them married myself in St. Anne's 
Church, in the City ; it was against my will 
from first to last. I had nothing to do with 
it except holding my tongue. I wish,' she 
added with a sigh, ' I could say as much of 
her second venture.' 

There was a long silence. Henny was 
recalling the words Sophy had uttered during 
her last visit, the reproaches she had heaped 
upon herself, the acknowledgment she had so 
passionately made that her sorrows were de- 
served, and only her righteous punishment. 
^It was no wonder,' she felt, and yet she 
pitied her, from her soul she pitied her. 



JEANNETTE CONFESSES. 125 

Irton's thoughts flowed in quite another 
channel. Was it possible that little Willie 
was not Adair's^ child after all ? — a circum- 
stance which, though it could excuse nothing, 
might explain much. 

* When did the second marriage take place 
— how soon after she was a widow ? ^ he in- 
quired. 

' About six months, sir. It was not my 
poor mistress's fault that it was so soon : the 
Canon hurried it I think, poor man, little 
knowing what he was about ; and of course,' 
she added, her hatred of her master stinof. 
ing her into unaccustomed satire, ' Mr. Adair 
was very anxious to make sure of her 
money.' 

Here the clock on the mantelpiece struck 
six. 

' I must be going,' said Jeannette, rising ; 
* if my master comes back and finds me away 
from home — and especially here — he will 
suspect something.' 



126 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' Quite right/ said Irtoiij approvingly ; 
' we must contrive to see you again, wlien 
necessary ; but in the meantime we cannot be 
too cautious. One moment ; how do you 
know that Mr. Adair knew your mistress was 
a widow? Did he ever say so in your hear- 
ing? 

' No, but it was very well understood be- 
tween them.' 

' Still you have no evidence that he knew 
it?' 

' He knew it,' said Jeannette, after a mo- 
ment's reflection, ' because he read a letter of 
Mr. Perry's which spoke of his marriage, and 
he enclosed it with a letter of his own to my 
mistress.' 

^ Is Ihat letter — Adair's letter — in ex- 
istence ? ' 

' I think it is.' 

' I will give fifty pounds for a sight of 
it.' 

' I don't want your m^oney, sir,' said 



JEANNETTE CONFESSES. 127 

Jeannette, doggedly ; ' I have had enough of 
doing underhand things for money.' 

' But iihis is work for a good end, work 
that may possibly be the means of rescuing 
your mistress from her slavery, as well as 
causing your master to get his deserts.' 

^ That would be a sight for sore eyes in- 
deed,' answered Jeannette, earnestly, mopping 
her own with her handkerchief, as she arose 
from her chair. ^ You shall have that letter, 
sir, if I have to break open missus's desk to 
get at it.' 



128 THE CANON''S WARD. 



CHAPTER XLIL 



ROBERT. 



The p. and 0. boat has just arrived at 
Southampton. Her deck is crowded by a 
motley crowd, but the expression of their 
faces is, for the most part, wonderfully similar. 
There are some invalids, so ill that even the 
thought of ' coming home ' cannot bring back 
' the vermeil hue of health ' to their bronzed 
but shrunken cheeks ; there is a glitter in 
their eyes, but it has moisture in it, like the 
light of the sun -dew. And there are others 
in mourning, who have been beckoned across 
the ocean by the hand of death. The rest are 
bright and radiant : some eager to revisit 
their own homes, others chiefly to enjoy them- 
selves after long and enforced abstinence from 



ROBERT. 129 

pleasure, in ' the village/ as we term, with 
mock sentiment, the metropolis. 

There is one exception, however ; a young 
man, neither an invalid nor in mourning, but 
who wears a grave and preoccupied expres- 
sion. He does not scan the faces of those 
ashore who have come to meet the boat ; he 
has friends, dear ones at home ; but he knows 
that no one will be here to welcome him, for 
they do not know of his arrival. His fellow- 
passengers crowd around him to shake hands 
of farewell, for he has made himself popular 
on the voyage ; he accepts their civilities and 
reciprocates them, but with a somewhat distrait 
air ; his mind is far from them. He is glad 
when they have streamed away, and he can 
follow after them and mix unobserved with 
the crowd at the railway station. It is early 
spring, and the darkness of evening is already 
falling. 

^ First class, sir? ' inquires the porter,, 
who is looking after his luggage. 

VOL. III. K 



I30 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' No ; third class.' 

The porter stares, for the young man is 
well dressed and has an aristocratic air, and 
notwithstanding this discovery he shows him 
to his carriage. 

' I thought so,' murmurs the official, as he 
leaves the door with a shilling in his hand ; 
^ once a gentleman always a gentleman. Now, 
some fools would have said, " There's your 
carriage," and taken no further notice of him. 
He's out o' luck, that's all, and I hope it 
will return to him.' 

The subject of this aspiration pulled his 
railway rug around him, pushed up his coat- 
collar, drew down his travelling- cap over his 
brows, and prepared himself for silence, if not 
for slumber. He was in no mood for talk, 
nor, in any case, would the appearance of his 
fellow-passengers have invited conversation. 
There were but two of them ; one a rough- 
looking fellow, but without the wholesome- 
ness that often accompanies roughness ; the 



ROBERT. 131 

other with the appearance of having seen 
better clays, the remembrance of which he 
had made efforts to drown in the usual man- 
ner ; they spoke to one another in hoarse 
whispers, and seemed to be on intimate terms 
— what the world at large calls friends, and the 
sporting world ' confederates.' Presently one 
of them produced a huge spirit flask, which 
drew the ties of their amity still closer and 
still more loosed their tongues. They had 
seemed at first to be suspicious of their silent 
companion, but, as he gave no sign of wake- 
fulness, they soon disregarded him. As ap- 
peared from their talk, they had recently re- 
turned from some distant land, where, though 
they had accomplished their errand, they had 
encountered some hardships, spent all their 
money, and received some slight which had 
wounded their amour propre. 

' What I hate, most of all, in the governor,' 
said Xo. 1, in discontented tones, ' is his want 
of confidence in a fellow. AVlierever one goes 

k2 



132 THE CANON'S WARD. 

there is always some one else going, unbe- 
knownst, to look after one.' 

^ That's his kind consideration for our 
welfare,' returned No. 2, whose language 
showed a much higher type of education than 
that of his companion. ' He's so fond of you 
he can never trust you out of his sight.' 

' He don't trust you a bit more than he 
does me ; don't think it,' sneered No. 1. 
Why, you was searched twice between the 
mine and the 'otel.' 

' But nothing was found upon me, my 
friend ; I left the court without a stain upon 

my character, whereas you dear me, I felt 

quite ashamed that a pal of mine should have 
so bemeaned himself for a few ounces of 
silver.' 

' I am not a hostrich, like some people, as 
can s waller silver,' returned the other, angrily. 
^ For my part, I wonder you don't jingle as 
yon move.'* 

' And a very pleasant music it would make/ 



ROBERT, 133 

returned the other. ' Autoinaton pianos 
would be nothing to it ; there is only one 
pleasanter chink to my ear — that of gold.' 

'It's high time we heard it,' grumbled 
No. 1. ' The idea of our havin' to come home 
in the steerage, and now in this 'ere third class, 
with the tagrag and bobtail ; ' and he nodded 
his head in the direction of their sleeping com- 
panion to illustrate his remark by application. 
' Fellows as have done what we have done to 
our employers' satisfaction.' 

' It was the euchre, however, to give the 
devil his due, which took away our ready 
money,' observed No. 2. ' The governor has 
behaved square enough.' 

' And so he ought to do,' answered the 
other, angrily. ' For every ten pounds he has 
put into our pockets he expects to land a 
^ thou ' at the very least.' 

' That depends upon how the company 
stands. Without the help of that swell in the 
€ity the wheels could never have been moved 



134 THE CANON'S WARD. 

at all ; and it's my opinion he has not much 
money to grease 'em with.' 

' But he knows where to get it,' observed 
No. 1, ' and he won't be so particular how it's 
got.' 

' Got ? who is? ' returned the other, con- 
temptuously ; ' but let me tell you it's not so 
easy as Dawson thmks for a swell in the City, 
if he has been once blown upon, to raise 
12,000Z. anyhow. And Master John Adair's 
reputation is not virgin ; no, nor anything 
like il — 'um ! ' 

This inarticulate sound was a note of 
warning. The 3'oung gentleman in the 
corner had suddenly given a start, which was 
perceptible through his wraps. Nor though 
he feigned to strike out a limb mechanically as 
though it were ^2iYt and parcel of the other 
performance, and to breathe heavily, like one 
fast bound in slumber, did he succeed m lull- 
ing the once aroused suspicion of his com- 
panions. He overheard, indeed, Xo. 1 anathe- 



ROBERT. 135 

matising No. 2 in a muttered tone for being 
such a blank fool as to name names in a public 
conveyance, and No. 2 defending himself with 
the vehement irascibility of a man who 
knows he is in the wrong ; but their confi- 
dential communications were over. Only one 
other observation passed between them from 
which any information could be gathered. As 
they neared the end of their journey No. 2 
bought a newspaper, and produced from his 
pocket a small lantern, by means of which he 
contrived to spell out a word or two, though 
the chief effect of the light was to illumine 
his own countenance in a Rembrandtish and 
unattractive fashion. 

' Well ; what's the noose? ' inquired his 
more illiterate companion. 

' None. There are no quotations yet, of 
course.' 

' Why, I thought they was a laying five 
or six to one against the Briar-root filly.' 

' Tut ! your mind is always feeding on 



136 THE CANON'S WARD. 

horseflesh,' returned the other, contemptuously. 
* I meant there are no quotations of the S.S., 
stupid.' 

Not till the train stopped at the ticket 
platform did the young gentleman in the 
corner begin to awaken, which he did with 
much yawning and stretching ; one would 
have said that he had either been undergoing 
great bodily fatigue of late, or must have been 
a very lazy man indeed. Xo sooner had he 
parted from his companions, however, and 
found himself in a cab, than all trace of sleepi- 
ness vanished. There was an angry light in 
his eye, and an angTy ring in his voice, as he 
exclaimed to himself — 

' That man again ! How strange that his 
cursed name is the first to meet my ear in 
England ! What scoundrels those two fellows 
looked ! His accomplices, no doubt, in some 
scheme of villany. It is too late to get on to- 
night, and I can't stop all these hours alone, 
eating my heart out with bitter thoughts. No 



ROBERT. 137 

donbt Henny will give me a bit of supper, 
and — what I crave for infinitely more — some 
news of Cambridge. Her husband is a clever 
fellow, by all accounts, and his advice may be 
worth having.' 

He put his head out of window, and sub- 
stituted for the address he had first given to 
the cabman that of the Irtons' house in Maida 
Vale. 

It was past eight when the cab drew up 
at the door ; he rang the bell, and gave his 
card to the servant for Mrs. Irton. Henny 
was still in the dining-room, where her hus- 
band was smoking his after-dinner pipe (she 
was much too good a wife and wise a woman 
to object to the smell of tobacco). She read 
the card, jumped up with a cry of pleasure, 
and ran into the passage, where Mr. Frederic 
Irton heard her exclaim, tumultuously, ' You 
dear, good fellow ! ' These words, so distress- 
ing to a husband's ear, were followed by an 
unmistakable kiss. 



138 THE CANON'S WARD. 

The next moment she reappeared, leading 
by the hand a very handsome young man, 
looking not so much ashamed of himself as- 
embarrassed. 

' I owe yon an apology, Mr. Irton,' he 
began, smiling. 

^ It's quite out of the question,' said the 
lawyer, gravely. * The matter must go to a 
jury, who will assess damages.' 

^Why, it's Eobert,' cried Henny ; ^Ro- 
bert Aldred, from India : I knew he 'd come ;' 
and then this extraordinary young person, 
who had quite a reputation for self-control, 
burst into tears. • 

' I am very glad to see Robert,' said Irton, 
shaking hands with the new comer warmly. 
' This is indeed friendly of you. You are 
come to stay with us, of course.' 

' Nay, I was going to Cambridge this very 
night, but found I was too late ; so I just 
looked in.' 

Henny was in the passage again in an 



ROBERT. 139 

instant, giving orders about his luggage being 
taken down, and carried to the spare room. 

' You will have to stay, Aldred,' said 
Irton, smiling. ' If I were master here I 
would add "and welcome " ; but Henny pre- 
sides over the establishment. This sad new& 
of the Canon has brought you over, I con- 
clude?' 

' Yes ; I am come on short leave instead 
of long ; but I could not leave him to bear his 
misfortune alone.' 

' I have always heard you were a good 
fellow, and now I'm sure of it,' exclaimed the 
lawyer, approvingly ; ' sit down, and you 
shall have some dinner at once.' 

In Henny' s house matters were never run 
so finely that there was difficulty in suitably 
providing for an unexpected guest ; and if 
viands were not wanting on the occasion, we 
may be sure there was still less lack of con- 
versation. 

The three sat far into the night, conferring 



I40 THE CANON'S WARD. 

and discoursing on many things ; and, as 
generally happens when a traveller has come 
from the ends of the earth, the first topic of 
Robert's talk was upon his latest compara- 
tively unimportant experience in the railway 
carriage. 

' How odd it was that I should hear of 
this Adair so soon; was it not?' he said. 

'Well, a good many people are talking 
about him, and none to his credit,' replied 
Irton. ' I have no doubt, as you suggest, 
that the men are engaged in some scheme — 
probably a nefarious one — in which he is in- 
terested. I dare say it's no worse than many 
another in which he is mixed up. But I'll 
just make a note of the expected quotation of 
those S.S. shares.' 

' And don't you think his having to find 
12,000^., apparently at some early date, was 
rather significant? ' 

' Why, yes. I 've got that down already,' 
returned the lawyer, drily. ' It's evident that 



ROBERT. 141 

he's approaching a crisis — probably a very 
dangerous one.' 

' He can't do my poor father any more 
harm ; that's one comfort,' observed Robert, 
grimly. 

' No ; he can't do him any more harm,' 
said the lawyer, slowly. Perhaps he was 
thinking of the Canon's wrongs, as Robert 
was doing ; for both remained silent for a 
little while, with compressed lips ; or perhaps 
he was thinking, ' Though he can't hurt 
your father more, he may hurt others.' 

^ It is quite marvellous how well the dear 
Canon and Miss Aldred have borne it all,' 
observed Henny. * Of course your coming 
will be an immense delight and comfort to 
them ; but it was not really necessary.' 

' Alma thought it was,' said Robert, 
simply. * So far from combating my resolu- 
tion to come home, she said it was my obvious 
duty.' 

' You have got her portrait, of course ? '' 



142 THE CANON'S WARD, 

said Henny, gently. ' You must let me see it 
before you leave us.' 

' I have got it here,' answered Kobert, 
with a blush ; and he produced it from his 
breast-pocket. 

At this, Henny's look grew so very 
tender that Irton interposed with, ' You 
really mustn't kiss him again ; ' which made 
them both laugh very heartily. In reality, 
Irton had not the least objection to their 
kissing ; but he was averse to sentiment, or, 
rather, to the display of it. 

The photograph presented a charming 
face, a little darker than common, thanks to 
the Indian sun, but exquisitely feminine ; 
though full of gentleness and feeling, it had, 
however, a very noticeable expression of reso- 
lution, which Henny remarked upon at once. 

' Oh, yes ; Alma is not easily subjugated,' 
said Robert, smiling. ' When I got the bad 
news from home, the General was for breakinof 
off the engagement. ' " I gave you m^T- per- 



ROBERT. 143 

mission," he said, ''to pay your attentions to 
my daughter under certain circumstances, 
which no longer exist." But Alma said that 
she had given her promise without conditions. 
She had a very bad quarter of an hour with 
the old General ; but she got her way.' 

' They generally do,' observed Irton, drily, 
^ and they go on getting it, let me tell you, 
after marriage.' 

' Xot in all cases,' said Henny, sorrowfully. 

' If you think that sigh is on her own 
account, Aldred,' interposed Irton, ' you are 
very much mistaken.' 

' I w^as thinking of poor Sophy, Fred.' 

' To be sure,' said Irton, growing grave at 
once. ' That is a matter which, I think, 
Aldred, you should be informed about. I am 
acting, or trying to act, as the friend of the 
family with respect to certain circumstances, 
without any proper authorisation. They are 
such as I cannot communicate to the Canon 
without causino; him the o-reatest distress of 



144 THE CANON'S WARD. 

miiid, which you will agree with me he ought 
to be spared. I should not have shrunk from 
the responsibility if you had remained in 
India ; but, as you are here. I must ask you 
to be our confidant and adviser.' 

' I shall, I fear, be of very little use in 
the latter character,' said Robert, modestly; 
^ but if, by sharing the burden of what you 
have so kindly taken on your own shoulders, 
I can lighten it in any way, pray make use of 
me. I am come home to be of use.' 

Then Irton narrated all that he had learnt 
respecting Sophy's two marriages. 

Robert did not interrupt him, but now 
and again he could not repress an expression, 
of amazement — ' Sophy secretly married ! ' 
' Our little Sophy ! ' ' It is impossible ! ' 

He was, perhaps, thuiking less of Sophy 
than of the lengths to which an innocent and 
perfect creature like his Alma could possibly 
go in the way of deception, and hence his 
incredulity. _^ 



ROBERT. 145 

' As to the fact of Sophy's first marriage,' 
returned Irton, ' there is no room for doubt 
about it, though Jeannette has not as yet 
been able to put me in possession of Herbert 
Perry's letter, or of the letter which accom- 
panied it from Adair.' 

' Why should you want that ? ' interrupted 
Aldred. ' I can understand the value of 
Perry's letter ; but, surely, anything that 
Adair asserts, whether by word or in writing, 
must be valueless.' 

' Not necessarily ; they may be admissions, 
or they may be corroborated by other evi- 
dence. However, I have made myself inde- 
pendent of all that. I have been to St. 
Anne's Church, and found the entry of 
Sophy's first marriage in the register.' Here 
it seemed that the young lawyer had intended 
to stop. Indeed, he knew so little of Robert, 
and his capacity for keeping secrets, that for 
prudent reasons he had left out many things 
in hm narration — what Stevie had witnessed 

VOL. IJI. L 



146 THE CANON'S WARD. 

in the child's sick-room in Albany Street, for 
example ; but suddenly, as if from an un- 
controllable impulse, he added, ' It was the 
drollest thing, that visit to the registry office.' 

' Droll ! How was that ? ' 

' Well ; when I had found what I wanted^ 
I produced a photograph of our friend Adair. 
The man is very peculiar-looking, I must tell 
you, keen and hatchet -faced, and blacker than 
you are — as black as the Devil — and asked 
the clerk whether he had ever seen the 
original of it. Yes, he said, he had ; and 
taken particular notice of him, because he had 
given him half a sovereign instead of his usual 
fee. The fellow is a mean hound enough by 
nature ; but I suppose his joy at findmg that 
his information as to Sophy's secret marriage 
was correct, and that consequently she was 
in his power, was too much for him, and he 
had fallen into a lit of generosity. At all 
events, not only did the clerk recollect him, 
but he had made a note of the date of his 



ROBERT. 147 

visit. Now, I saw Adair for the first time 
that very afternoon in London at some 
luncheon rooms, and when I met him at 
your father's table, three days afterwards, and 
recognised him, he denied that we had ever 
met before. He swore that he was in the 
country on the day in question ; and every- 
body but myself — here Irton cast a trium- 
phant look at his wife — believed him.' 

' And my dear Robert,' put in Henny,, 
quietly, ' I do believe that that corroboration 
of his own astuteness has given Fred almost 
as great satisfaction as if he had got your 
father's money back.' 

' But, perhaps, the fact w^as of import- 
ance,' observed Aldred ; ' I am sure your 
husband would not have been so gratified 
from mere self-complacency.' 

' How you men do hang together,' smiled 
Henny. 

' You are an uncommonly sensible young 
fellow, Robert,' exclaimed Frederic. ' Excuse 

l2 



148 THE CANON'S WARD. 

my calling you by your Christian name, but 
you seem like an old friend, and I am sure 
one who can be trusted. And, since you 
have proved yourself so intelligent, I'll tell 
you something which otherwise I should not 
have confided to you just at present.' 



149 



CHAPTER XLIII. 



ON THE TRAIL. 



^ The law of England, Aldred/ observed 
Irton, puffing slowly at liis pipe, ' admirable 
as it is in all respects (as yoii are doubtless 
aware, though living at so great a distance), 
has its peculiarities. It permits a marriage to 
be valid if one of the parties concerned is 
married under a feigned name, and the other 
is not aware of it ; but, for certain good and 
wise reasons, it does not permit it if both are 
conscious of that inaccuracy. You open 
your eyes, my friend (I do not resent it in the 
least, one of the great objects of the law is to 
open people's eyes), but you now understand, 
perhaps, that, next to our being assured of 



I50 THE CANON'S WARD. 

Sophy's first marriage, it was most important 
to know that Adair was aware of the fact 
before he became her husband.' 

' I see the importance/ answered Robert, 
thoughtfully, ' but do not see the ground for 
satisfaction ; since if you could have proved 
he had not been aware of it, the marriage 
would be invalid, and Sophy could at once be 
extricated from his clutches.' 

' True ; but at what a sacrifice. She 
would be a mother, and no wife.' 

' But if the man is such a husband as you 
describe,' urged the young fellow, ' and such a 
villain as I know him to be, would not any 
position be preferable ' 

' Xot in Sophy's view,' interrupted Irton ; 
^ not in any woman's view. Ask my wife 
here.' 

' It is the child,' said Henny, gently. 
' She might bear it for herself, but there is the 
€hnd.' 

' She means that in the case you are sup- 



ON THE TRAIL. 151 

posing,' explained Irton — ' that is, if the 
marriage were annulled — the child would be 
rendered illegitimate.' 

' I see,' said Robert, thoughtfully ; ' but 
what I again fail to see is what we have to 
congratulate ourselves upon.' 

' Why, because the fool was married by 
banns. It is curious what stupid mistakes 
even the cleverest knaves are always making. 
Why didn't he marry her at a registry 
office ? ' 

' How could he, Fred ? ' put in Henny, 
remonstratingly. ' Do you suppose the 
Canon would have permitted such a thing ? ' 

' Well, he ought to have made a fight 
for it. If he had been aware of his danger he 
would have done it ; but his error was — and 
it is the most fatal of all errors, my dear 
Aldred — he did not consult a lawyer.' 

' But what difference could it have made 
whether Adair was married by banns or not ? ' 

^ Well, the making a false entry before a 



152 THE CANON'S WARD. 

registrar is an offence that can be got over^ 
but to make one after the publication by- 
banns is a more serious affair. The law in 
that respect is a little peculiar/ 

' Peculiar ! Idiotic, I call it/ exclaimed 
the young fellow. ' Dear me, what a queer 
profession ! ' 

' How like Ids father ! ' murmured the 
lawyer. ' He could never get over that 
Settiky trust.' 

' But if this scoundrel has committed a 
felony,' exclaimed Robert, vehemently, ' why 
not try him, and trounce him ? ' 

' Well, in the first place, it is not a felony ;. 
and also there is just this difficulty. He has, 
without doubt, performed a criminal act, so 
far as connivance goes ; but, unfortunately, 
the chief offender, m the eye of the law, would 
be the ''party" Avho signed herself "Sophy 
Gilbert, spinster." ' 

' Good heavens ! she must have been 
stark, staring mad! ' ejaculated Robert. 



ON THE TRAIL. 153, 

^ Not a bit of it. Having entered upon a 
certain most unjustifiable, but by no means 
unnatural, course of conduct, she felt herself 
compelled to go through with it. One lie 
more or less, poor soul, seemed of no great 
consequence, and of no greater importance 
than another. That is one of the great dis- 
advantages of habitual deception — one loses 
one's sense of proportion. However, though 
matters really are as I have described, Adair 
knows nothing of it ; and, though we cannot 
actually bring him to book, it may be possible 
to frighten him. There is a story told (no 
doubt by an enemy of the Church) called the 
*' Six Curates of Cornerton." These divines 
were shady as to character, and by no means 
spotless as to conduct, but the Bishop had a 
difficulty in getting rid of them. At last he 
hit upon a device — he sent each of them an 
anonymous letter, with these words of warn- 
ing : " All is discovered ; flee." And the 
next day the diocese was clear of the whole 



154 THE CANON'S WARD. 

half-dozen. Now we have something more 
tangible to go upon than His Lordship had. 
We know of one offence that this gentleman 
has committed ; and I suspect that he has 
done infinitely worse things. A similar warn- 
ing, should the necessity arise for it, may 
have the like effect. Omne ignotum pro 
magnifico ; he may take our hint at this 
ecclesiastical peccadillo as referring to some 
much more serious matter, and show us a 
clean pair of heels at once. It is not a strictly 
professional way of going to work, I admit/ 
added the lawyer, with a slight blush, 
' but ' 

' Oh ! who cares twopence about that ? ' 
interrupted the young man, contemptuously. 

' I thought you wouldn't,' said Irton, 
drily. 

' I can't imagine any human being having 
scruples in dealing with such a wretch as John 
Adair,' said Henny. 

' I kneiv you wouldn't,' said Fred, com- 



ON THE TRAIL. 155 

posedly. ' Still, permit me to feel a pang of 
compunction. Nothing but the reflection 
that the Law is intended for the widow and 
the orphan — though in this case it is the wife 
and child — could reconcile me to such a 
course of action ; but it may be the only one 
open to us, and in that case, my dear Aldred, 
you may be very useful.' 

' So that is the reason why you have made 
me your confidant, is it ? ' said Robert, 
smiling. 

' Well, it's best to be frank, my dear 
fellow,' returned the other, a little discon- 
certed, but this time without a blush. He 
was naturally chary of those proofs of em- 
barrassment, having but a very few in his 
possession altogether ; and the plate, as it 
were, havmg been destroyed. 

When the young man had departed, taking 
with him the high esteem of both host and 
hostess, Henny could not help remarking to 
her husband that he had not been so very 



156 THE CANON'S WARD. 

frank, after all ; inasmuch as he had never 
mentioned to Robert one word of those 
terrible suspicions of Adair as regarded his 
child. 

• I dared not do it,' returned Irton. ^ Not 
that I have the least doubt, of course, of 
Robert's honour, or his good intentions, but 
because I know nothing about his tempera- 
ment. I can remember a time, when I was of 
this young man's age, had I heard such news, 
nothing would have prevented me from going 
straight to this scoundrel's house and telling 
him what I thought of him. I would have 
told him,' exclaimed the lawyer, rising from 
his seat and pacing the room, 'if anything 
happens to that sick and helpless child, you 
shall never come to your natural end — the 
gallows. I'll take you by the throat and 
squeeze the life out of you, you villain, with 
my own hands ! A very injudicious obser- 
vation, I admit,' he continued, in apologetic 
tones ; ' but of the fruit of wisdom and 



ON THE TRAIL. 157 

prudence Man is not an early bearer. If I 
liave taken stock of our young friend aright, 
he is naturally impulsive ; though lie spoke 
so quietly of his father's wrongs, he put, I 
noticed, a great restraint upon himself. More- 
over, they are his own wrongs, which a noble 
nature (such as he inherits from the Canon) 
regards more patiently. But if he knew 
about little Willie, if ever there was an excuse 
(which of course there never is, my dear) for 
taking the law into one's own hands, he would 
find it there ; I think he might break out, 
and T couldn't blame him ; no, I couldn't 
blame him.' 

From under her drooping eyes Henny 
regarded her husband with intense admiration. 
She esteemed him higher for the passionate 
indignation that obviously consumed him, than 
for the prudence which subdued it and pre- 
vented him from giving it play. 

' After what you have heard from Dr. 
Woodruffe,' she sighed, after a pause, 'there 



158 THE CANON'S WARD. 

can be no moral doubt of this man's real in- 
tentions, I suppose ? ' 

' Not a shadow. He is at heart a mur- 
derer, and nothing less. But there would be 
the greatest difficulty in proving it. Stevie's 
testimony — the evidence of a nervous boy, 
under circumstances, too, so exceptional — 
though conclusive to us, is not to be depended 
upon in the witness-box. Woodruflfe was 
very reticent, as I told you ; and I don't 
blame him for it, since I dared not speak out 
to Mm, Hitherto matters have not been 
ripe.' 

' But, in the meantime, are you sure, Fred^ 
that there is no danger ' 

^ There is great ^danger,' he interrupted^ 
quickly. ' The fear of it is never absent from 
my mind ; my responsibility is, I am well 
aware, tremendous. Still, until to-night I 
have not dared to stir.' 

' But what have you heard fresh to-night, 
Fred ? ' 



ox THE TRAIL. 



159 



^ The corroboration, as I believe, of our 
worst suspicions. That conversation over- 
heard by Robert in the railway carriage is, in 
my opinion, of the last importance. If it is 
necessary for Adair to raise such a sum of 
money as those men spoke of, and at once, the 
end — his end I hope — should be very near. 
He must be upon the verge of some desperate 
step. I must find out if possible about this 
Dawson and the S.S. scheme ; but when I 
have once got my threads together, look to 
yourself, Mr. John Adair, for as sure as there 
is law in England' (which he uttered as though 
he were saying 'Justice in Heaven') 'you 
will find yourself in Queer street.' 

' My dear Fred, you quite frighten me,' 
exclaimed Henny. ' All this is so terrible, 
and yet you almost seem to enjoy it.' 

' I do enjoy it,' was the frank rejoinder. 
' I have read that the pursuit of wild animals 
is a passion engrafted in human nature ; for 
my part — who have never bagged so much as 



i6o THE CANON'S WARD. 

a rabbit — I bave bitberto disbelieved it ; but 
now I feel its trutb. I understand tbe ex- 
citement of tbat patient nigbt-watcb for tbe 
tyrant of tbe jungle, tbe rapture of tbe 
moment wben, rifle in band, one marks bim 
croucbing for bis spring upon tbe tetbered 
and belpless beifer, and tbe vengeful triumpb 
tbat fills tbe bunter's soul wben bis bullet 
crasbes to tbe tiger's brain.' 

' But tbe beifer ? ' suggested Henny, 
anxiously. 

^ Yes ; tbere is a difference tbere,' an- 
swered ber busband, sobered in an instant, 
^ Tbis buman ti2:er must fall witbout bis 
victim.' 



i6i 



CHAPTER XLIY. 



HOME AGAIN. 



It was a subject of wonder to many of the 
Canon's acquaintance that on that sudden loss 
of fortune caused by ' injudicious speculation ' 
he had not hidden his head in some out-of-the- 
way locality, instead of remaining in a place 
where he had been wont to be thought so 
highly of. The idea had, indeed, occurred 
to himself ; though more upon his sister's 
account than his own. He thought it might 
be an addition to the stmg of poverty for her 
to have to bear it among those who knew her 
in her prosperous days. A woman, he re- 
flected, however sensible, is more dependent 
upon circumstances than one of the sterner 

VOL. III. M 



i62 THE CANON'S WARD. 

sex, has her little pride of place, and feels, to 
some extent, the loss of means as a loss of 
dignity. He laid the greater stress on this 
because he was conscious of his own personal 
leaning the other way. Cambridge was in- 
expressibly dear to him, and the thought that 
he must quit it had greatly aggravated his 
misfortune. 

Oh, unexpected stroke (was his reflection), worse than 

of Death, 
Must I thus leave thee, Paradise ? Thus leave 
Thee, native soil ? These happy haunts and shades, 
Fit haunt of gods ! where I had hoped to spend, 
Quiet if sad, the respite of that day 
That must be mortal. 

The possession of his college rooms was, 
of course, a great attraction to him, but under 
the circumstances, as he could not but feel, a 
somewhat selfish pleasure. It is probable 
that Aunt Maria was not ignorant of her 
brother's feelings, for she combated his pro- 
posals for change with arguments that at 
once pleased and pacified him. Cambridge, 



HOME AGAIN. 163 

she averred, was dear to her also. Elsewhere, 
in their changed circumstances, she would be 
nobody ; but here, at all events with old 
friends, she would still occupy her former 
position. A sentiment which, as involving a 
certain vulgar view of life quite foreign to her 
nature, might have awakened suspicions in a 
less simple and more unbiased mind than that 
of the Canon. As it was, he had accepted 
Aunt Maria's choice with thankfulness and 
without misgiving. 

He had taken a house in Providence 
Terrace — which, he said, with his old smile, 
ought to show that, notwithstanding the evils 
Fate had dealt him, he had ' no bad feeling ' 
— a little row of buildings on Parker's Piece, 
an airy space enough to look upon, but 
dangerous as a pleasure-ground by reason of 
the missiles (ranging from a football to the 
small shot used at rounders) always flying 
about. It was a very tiny dwelling ; \h^ 
door opened upon a passage so narrow that 

]£ 2 



i64 THE CANON'S WARD. 

the terDi seemed a misnomer, since no adults 
could pass one another in it ; when a visitor 
called, the maid had to back to admit him, 
unless (which, of course, was not to be 
thought of) she lay down and let him walk 
over her, like the stag on the precipice in Mr. 
Browning's poem. Though little furniture 
had been reserved from the sale at ' The 
Laurels,' it was more than sufficient for the 
new tenement, and was, of necessity, much 
too large for it. As compared with their 
present surroundings, the old bookcases and 
tables were too tall ; the Canon used cheer- 
fully to call attention to them as indicating 
their flood-tide of prosperity, the old high- 
water mark ; and, indeed, a place where the 
tide is out is no bad metaphor for a household 
that has seen better days, except, alas ! that 
in the latter case it seldom comes in again. 
That the dining-room should be so diminutive 
was of small consequence, since the hospitality 
that had been exercised at ' The Laurels ' was- 



HOME AGAIN. 165 

no longer possible ; but that the room behind, 
which was the Canon's study and smoking- 
room, should be siich a nutshell, was de- 
plorable. 

The accommodation for literature providec! 
for the ordinary mhabitant of Providence 
Terrace was one shelf below stairs, supple- 
mented by a bookslide in the drawing-room ; 
•so that the Canon's numerous tomes had to be 
piled against the wall, while one especially 
lordly volume played the humiliating part of 
a footstool. Moreover, the Canon passed 
much more of his time at home than had 
been his wont ; chiefly from a disinclination 
to leave Aunt Maria, but partly, perhaps, from 
his greater distance from Trinity. He had 
been always averse to exercise, but now all 
exertion had become distasteful to him ; the 
springs of existence had grown weak. A 
new trouble too had of late assailed him in the 
illness of his friend Mavors. While spending 
a few days in Paris, the tutor had contracted 



i66 THE CANON'S WARD. 

a fever from which, though he had rallied at 
the time, he seemed unable to recover. His 
spirits, once so equable, had fled, and given 
place to a melancholy which Dr. Newton 
(who knew his patient well) held to be one 
of his gravest symptoms. Since his friend 
had been ailing, the Canon had never failed to 
visit him once a day, and always returned 
depressed. Fate had given too obvious 
proofs of her malice of late to permit of his 
being sanguine. Moneyless, childless, he 
already saw himself friendless. For, though 
many held him dear whose affection he re- 
ciprocated, there is no friend like an old 
friend. When such a one is about to depart 
upon the Unknown Road, we are wont to feel 
that it is time for us, too, to be going — that 
we have been overstaying our welcome. Even 
Milton failed to be the solace that he had 
been to the Canon. He could not always 
dissociate those sublime poems from the man, 
who, through their means, had become con- 



HOME AGAIN. 167 

nected with himself. The trail of the serpent 
was over them all. 

One morning the Canon was sitting, as 
usual, in his little study, a book on the swing 
desk before him, but not at the reading angle. 
He kept one always open, lest Aunt Maria 
should look in and suspect him of the very 
vice he was at that moment indulging in — 
Reverie. A great student of human nature 
has taught us how blessed a thing is Memory, 
even to the unfortunate ; but it is no less 
true that ' a sorrow's crown of sorrows is 
remembering happier things.' An old man 
deep in thought is always a pathetic spectacle, 
and, but too often, a discouraging one. 

While the Canon thinks — and sighs — there 
is presently a sharp ring at the bell. Visitors 
are few in these days, and he neither expects 
nor desu-es any. The little maid, who is a 
survival of the old household at ' The 
Laurels,' is aware of that fact, and deals 
diplomatically with all comers. 



i68 THE CANON'S WARD. 

'' Miss Aldred is at home,' she answers ; 
which imphes that the master of the house is 
not^ without going so far as to affirm it. On 
the present occasion, however, this subterfuge 
is denied her, as Miss Aldred happens to be with- 
out doors. So to the strange young man who 
so confidently demands speech with her master 
she replies that he is 'particularly engaged.' 

' Still, I think, if he knew who I was he 
would see me,' said the visitor, gravely. ' I 
am his son.' 

' You're never that, sir ! ' cries the maid. 

^ I really am,' returned the young man, 
smiling at her undisguised amazement. 

* Why, sir, he don't expect you no more 
than the Queen. He was a talking of you at 
dinner only last night — not that I listens to 
the gentlefolks' talk ; but, with potatoes in 
one hand and the sauceboat in the other, to 
stop one's ears is difficult. He's always 
talking about you, but not a word 'as he 
dropped about your coming home.' 



HOME AGAIN. 169 

' Where is he ? ' inquired the young man, 
in a hushed voice. 

' In his study ; the second door on the 
right, sir.' 

' Is he pretty well ? To see me so unex- 
pectedly will not hurt him ? ' 

' Lor bless you, no sir, not it ! It will do 
him a world of good.' 

The little maid knows nothing of ' shocks 
to the system,' and cannot understand that 
the sight of so handsome a young gentleman 
can be deleterious to anybody. 

' Don't announce me,' he says, softly. ' I 
will announce myself And he knocks gently 
at the study door. 

The Canon settles the swing desk before 
him, and begins to be absorbed in the open 
book. He has his back to the door, and takes 
it for granted that the new-comer is his 
sister. 

' You are come back very soon, my dear, 
are you not ? ' 



I70 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' I can scarcely say that,' answers a voice 
which, though its tones are hushed and gentle, 
electrifies him. ' I have been away for more 
than five years.' 

' Robert ? My boy — my dear, dear 
boy!' 

For some moments the poor Canon (for 
all his ' culture ' ) can only reiterate those few 
words with their one variation, ' My boy,' 
and ' My dear boy.' He hugs him, he kisses 
him, the tears roll down his withered cheeks 
without check. Then, suddenly perceiving 
that his son is about to betray a similar weak- 
ness, he cries out, ' Don't mind me, Robert. 
I was getting an old man ; but you will make 
me young again. There is something to live 
for now.' Then, in an altered voice, he 
added, ' Why is it yoLi have come back ? 
But I need not ask, alas! You have lost 
your Alma, thanks to me — and there was 
nothing to keep you in India. Can you ever 
forgive your father ? ' 



HOME AGAIN. 171 

' My dear Dad,' exclaimed Robert, using, 
in an outburst of Nature's self, the old childish 
term, ' What is there to forgive ? I come 
here to comfort you. Alma sent me over 
herself; if I hadn't come she would have 
thrown me over, which, I do assure you, she 
has not done. " Your father is in trouble," 
she said, *' therefore your place is by his side." 
Was she not right ? Are you not glad to 
have me ? ' 

' Glad ? Was I ever so happy before ? 
I, who thought it was impossible — Heaven 
forgive me for doubting of its goodness — that 
I should ever be happy again.' 

For the moment all his misfortunes were 
forgotten. The ' days in which he had seen 
evil ' had melted away. While looking at his 
stalwart son he seemed to derive from him 
some of his health and strength, and looked 
ten 3^ears younger. 

' And Aunt Maria ? ' inquired the young 
man. 



172 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' Wonderful,' returned his father. ' You 
know what a good soul she always was, but 
she has developed into an angel. Not a word 
of reproach — nay, of regret — has ever dropped 
:&'om her lips. One cannot gauge the good- 
ness of a good woman, Robert, it is beyond 
man's plummet.' 

The young man nodded adhesion. 

^ Alma is just like that,' he said, simply. 

' Did you see any one as you came through 
London ? ' inquired the Canon presently, with 
averted face. 

* Do you mean Sophy ? No. I saw 
Henny and her husband, however, and of 
course heard about her. Irton thought it 
better that I should not see her for the 
present.' 

' Poor girl, poor girl,' sighed the Canon. 
^ You must not think hardly of her, Robert ; 
it is I, not she, who am to blame.' 

' For my part, father, I blame neither of 
you. How could you have imagined the 



HOME AGAIN. 173 

possibility of such villany? How could 
honest people be expected to construct such 
an ineffable scoundrel as this Adair out of 
their own consciousness ? It is a very hard 
case for both of you, but I pity Sophy most.' 
' That is what Mavors says. As for our- 
selves, the man has done his worst ; but she 
is still in his power. Poor girl, poor girl! 
Now tell me, my dear boy, about your Alma, 
and those prospects which your unhappy 
father has darkened, if not destroyed. 

Then Robert told him what he had already 
told the Irtons, but at greater length. He 
lingered over all that concerned his betrothed, 
as though to speak of her brought her nearer 
to him ; and the Canon, usually so impatient 
of detail, took as tender an interest in it all 
as though he had been mother instead of 
father. 

Yet one things Robert did not tell him, 
but reserved for the ear of Aunt Maria. 
From his father's letter, written, perhaps ^ 



174 THE CANON'S WARD. 

with some incolierence, ere he had recovered 
from the first effects of the blow fate had 
dealt him, he had not been able exactly to 
gather to what extent his fortunes had been 
reduced ; whether, indeed, he might not find 
himself absolutely penniless ; and on receipt 
of it he had started for home, taking with him 
all his savings — amounting to ^y^ hundred 
pounds. Considering that the disbursement 
of this sum must needs mean a proportionate 
postponement of his happiness, already in- 
definitely delayed, it was a sacrifice such as is 
seldom offered on the paternal altar. 

' He will be as pleased,' said Aunt Maria, 
laying her hand upon the young man's head 
(a gesture that had something of benediction 
in it, as well as approval), ' as though it had 
been five millions — and indeed more pleased. 
But he would never take one farthing of it. 
He already reproaches himself with having 
robbed you of your birthright ; and do you 
suppose ' 



HOME AGAIN. 175 

' There is no reason to suppose anything, 
dear Aunt Maria,' interrupted the young man. 
^ I don't want him to know. Things are not, I 
am thankful to say, so bad as I feared they 
might be ; but it is plain to me that there are 
many comforts wanting here to which both 
you and my father have been accustomed 
These, at least, can be supplied, and you can 
take the credit — and you know you always 
prided yourself upon your domestic economy 
— of having saved the money for them out of 
the housekeeping.' 

^ That is all very well,' said Aunt Maria, 
smiling ; ' but only consider how my credit 
would suffer when I did not provide luxuries, 
not to mention the suspicions of what I must 
have done with the surplus up to the time 
when I began to provide them. Moreover, 
Robert, I could not be a party to such a pro- 
ceeding — feeling as I do in the matter exactly 
as my brother feels — upon any account. If 
there had been really any such need for help 



176 THE CANON'S WARD. 

as you had in your mind, it would have been 
forthcoming from at least one quarter ; I 
cannot be doing wrong in telling you that 
much, though it was proffered in the strictest 
confidence. Directly Mr. Mavors heard that 
your father had suffered some pecuniary loss 
he behaved in the noblest manner.' 

' I always thought old Mavors was a 
trump,' observed Robert, approvingly. ' I 
can imagine him coming to the governor, and 
saying, " We have shared many things in our 
time, from apples upwards (for they were at 
school together, you know), and now you 
must share my fortune ; " and I can see the 
governor shaking his dear old head, because 
he could not trust himself to speak.' 

' Just so, Robert ; and because Mr. 
Mavors knew he would shake his head, he 
never broached the matter to him at all, but 
came straight to me. It was the last day he 
was seen out of doors, poor man, for he has 
been ill, very ill, ever since ; and never did a 
man come on a nobler errand.' 



HOME AGAIN. 177 

^ " Miss Aldred," he said, "you and I are 
old friends, but your brother and I have been 
so all our lives ; I know all about him, and 
(though that is reason good why I should 
love him) it follows that I know his weak- 
nesses. He is a very proud man, not of his 
many excellences, but in that sort of foolish 
way in which sensitive people are proud. A 
way that robs friendship of its advantage, 
and friends of what should be their hio^hest 
pleasure. He has lost his money, it seems, 
without perhaps quite knowing how, and I 
am very certain without knowing how much. 
Now, my dear madam, he has heaps of friends 
who will offer help, no doubt ; but, having 
become poor, he will be ten times prouder 
than ever, and will take nothing. You smile 
as though you would say, ' And I agree with 
him ; ' perhaps you may be right in their case, 
l3ut I am a man who has only one tie in the 
world, that of friendship ; and I may almost 
add that I am bound by that tie to almost a 

VOL. III. N 



178 THE CANON'S WARD. 

single object. Now, you must so contrive it 
— and T am sure it can be done — that your 
brother shall think himself much better oiF 
than he really is, and I will be his banker 
without his knowing it." 

' Of course, it couldn't be thought of,' con- 
tinued Aunt Maria ; ' but it was curious that 
Mr. Mayors' proposition was, in fact, precisely 
similar to that which you have just suggested 
to me yourself, Robert, and (here she smiled") 
exhibited the same duplicity of character.' 

' What is also curious,' answered the 
young man, slily, ' is that each of these 
ruffians and rascals should have selected you 
as the confidant of their nefarious schemes. 
Seriously, however, old Mavors must be a right 
good fellow. It is so much more to his credit, 
too, to show such sympathy, since he has 
never moved out of his college shell ; never 
knew, I suppose, a serious trouble, never been 
in love, nor even in debt.' 

' Perhaps,' sighed Aunt Maria, softly ; 



HOME AGAIN. 179 

^ still, should he die, the world, to which he 
seems so little to belong, will be the loser.' 
' Is Mr. Mavors, then, very ill? ' 
' I fear so. Dr. Newton thinks, I am 
convinced, worse of him than he tells the 
Canon. I wish Mr. Mavors would let us do 
something for him ; but he is so peculiar that 
it is difficult. 

' Do you think he would see me ? ' 
' Most certainly. I am sure he would 
like to do so. Why not go down to college 
this afternoon, instead of your father, since he 
will not be able to see both, and brinsr us 
word of him ? ' 

To this Robert willingly agreed : it was a 
small thing enough — this visit to inquire after 
his father's friend — but in the end, like many 
another small thing, it had important results. 



N 2 



i8o THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XLV. 

ILL IN COLLEGE. 

When Aunt Maria said that Mr. Mavors was 
^ peculiar ' she was speaking from a good 
woman's standpoint. To her it seemed quite 
contrary to nature that any human creature 
being ill should be attended by hirelings, 
when loving service was within his reach. It 
was as natural to her to tend the bed of sick- 
ness as for the average man to flee from it ; if 
a servant fell ill in her house she exchano^ed 
positions with her at once, and became her 
servant. The man who wrote 

When pain and anguish wring the brow 
A ministering angel thou, 

used no hyperbole. When disease has smitten 



ILL IN COLLEGE. i8i 

their dear one, and death is hovering over 
him, there is something more than angelic 
about women, something that is Divine. 
That ' sentiment ' which men attribute to 
them so scornfully, at such times disappears ; 
the tenderness that lies at the root of it 
remains without a trace of weakness. They 
are actuated by love unspeakable, which is 
nevertheless in complete subjection to duty. 
I once saw a mother mixing some sort of 
nourishment for her dying child. There was 
not the shadow of hope for his life, he had 
been ' given over,' it was ' a question of 
hours,' and she knew it. But if her soul's 
salvation had depended on it (which it did 
not, for it was already assured) she could not 
have given more attention to the concoction 
of that useless meal. She worked at it dry 
eyed ; she had never indeed shed a tear, since 
it was bad for the darling to see his mother 
* giving way ; ' but those eyes, ' homes of 
silent prayer ' indeed, and of unanswered 



1 82 THE CANON'S WARD. 

prayer, I sliall never forget them as they 
looked in the performance of that last loving 
duty. 

Miss Aldred had all the instincts of her 
sex for smoothing the couch of sickness, and 
her services would have been freely offered to 
Mr. Mavors, had there been the slightest hope 
of their acceptance. But, as Dr. ]N^ewton 
said, the very idea of such a thing would have 
frightened the Tutor mto a fit. The doctor, 
his gyp, and Mrs. Murdoch (who had been 
transferred to him as having a better gift of 
nursing than his own bedmaker) were surely 
sufficient, he would have argued, to look after 
any one man, and the suggestion that he 
should accept the ministrations of the Canon's 
sister, if it had not thrown him into a fever, 
would certainly have produced febrile symp- 
toms or rose-rash. 

An old bachelor and scholar, but who had 
not even been familiar with female authors 
(for the women of Greece and Rome did not 
rush into MS. as ours do into print), he 



ILL IN COLLEGE. 183 

shrank from the notion of being attended by 
any one of the softer sex. To Mrs. Murdoch, 
indeed, he had no objection, perhaps because 
he did not consider her to come under that 
category, in which lie was quite mistaken. 
It was she who received Robert Aldred at the 
Tutor's door, and no sooner heard the young 
man's name than she began to wipe her 
mouth on her apron. 

' Why, Master Robert ! I've known you 
ever since you were so high. Don't you 
remember your father's poor old bedmaker?' 

To have ignored such a relationship would 
have been a brutality. He compromised 
matters, and held out his hand. 

' Dear, how pleased the Canon and your 
aunt must have been to see you,' she ex- 
claimed, ' all the way from the Ingies ! ' 

She regarded him admiringly, and also 
thankfully, as if he had been something rich 
and rare imported for her special benefit and 
delectation. 

' And Mr. Mavors ? How is he to-day ? ' 



1 84 THE CANON'S WARD. 

The good lady's smile disappeared at once.. 

' Poorly, sir, very poorly ; leastways 
that's my opinion. When one has been 
ordered " a generous diet " — for those were 
the doctor's own words — and sticks by choice 
to tea and slops, it's contrary to nature, and 
a bad sign.' 

' But he's no worse than he was, I hope.' 

^ Perhaps not, sir ; but he's no better. 
The clock's a-going, but there's nothing to 
keep it so ; the key as ought to wind it up is 
mislaid somewhere. I saw it with my own 
old Jacob, and I see it with Mr. Mavors ; 
only he don't like being talked to, as Jacob 
did. He holds up his finger, and thinks, and 
thinks ; and he don't speak hisself much, 
except in dreams. He's asleep now, but it's 
near his usual time for waking, if you'd like 
to stop." 

' I will certainly stop, if it will do no 
harm.' 

' Harm ? Lord love you, no, sir ; any 



ILL IN COLLEGE. i8s 

one as belongs to the Canon will be as 
welcome to him as flowers in May. Them 
flowers yonder, by-the-by, was sent by your 
Aunt Maria yesterday. The sight on 'em 
brought the tears into his eyes, which shows 
how very, very weak he must be, poor 
man ! ' 

The sitting-room was a large and hand- 
some one, looking upon Neville's Court. The 
door, which communicated with the much 
smaller bedroom, stood wide open. Robert 
took a chair in front of it, and a book to 
while away the time. Mrs. Murdoch sat over 
the fire at some distance ofl*, and, instead of 
fatiguing her mind with literature, refreshed 
it with a little nap. All was quiet, save for 
the coo of a pigeon on the stone balustrade 
outside the window, and the footfall of some 
solitary undergraduate in the cloisters beneath. 
The book Robert had taken up was Plutarch's 
' Lives,' a work of the highest reputation ; but, 
notwithstanding its attractions, he had fallen 



1 86 THE CANON'S WARD. 

into a reverie, from which he was suddenly 
aroused by the words ' Sophy, Sophy ! ' At 
first he thought he must be mistaken, and 
that the sound was a part of his own day- 
dream, with which, in fact, the name had been 
connected ; but, on looking up, his eyes fell 
upon the sick man, now broad awake and 
staring at him from the bed with stern 
suspicion. 

'Is your name Adair?' whispered the 
Tutor, hoarsely. 

' No, sir,' said Robert,' rising softly and 
approaching the bed. ' My name is Aldred. 
I am the son of your old friend the 
Canon.' 

' Why are you so black, then, like the 
other?' 

' It is the Indian sun,' said Robert, smiling. 
* I was white enough when I wished you 
good- by, five years ago.' 

' True ; I remember now,' said the Tutor. 
' Pray forgive a sick man's fancies. Your 
father did not say he was expecting you.' 



ILL IN COLLEGE. 187 

' No ; I came home without giving him 
notice.' 

' Because he was in trouble ? ' 

' Why, yes. It struck me that I might 
be, if not of service, at least of some comfort 
to him.' 

' Just so ; a good son,' murmured the 
Tutor, looking at the young man wistfully. 
^Sons and daughters — "Blessed is the man 
that has his quiver full of them." That is 
not a disputed passage.' 

This was said in monologue, and by no 
means in the Tutor's usual voice — which, 
indeed, in health was distinct and somewhat 
strident. Robert thought to himself that, 
had he met his father's friend under chance 
circumstances, he would no more have recog- 
nised him than Mr. Mavors had recognised 
himself (Robert). It was not only that the 
Tutor had grown grey, nor even that his face 
showed the ravages of sickness ; he looked a 
broken man. 

* Alma mater. Alma mater ! ' he continued, 



1 88 THE CANON'S WARD. 

softly. ' Yes, 3'es ! I owe her everything, 
and she shall be repaid ; yet, oh ! yet ' — here 
his voice dropped to a whisper. ' Where's the 
nurse, Kobert?' 

^ The poor old soul has fallen asleep, sir. 
She knew I was here.' 

' Quite right ; think of the poor and the 
old, and shield them. That will comfort you 
some day, when you come to lie as I am. No, 
not as I am. There will be children about 
your bed, a wife to smooth your pillow ; 
loving faces, tender hands ; better so — better 
so.' 

The sick man's voice was firm, thouofh 
very low ; but while he spoke there came into 
his face something that caused the young man 
to avert his own : tears, large tears, were 
rolling silently down the Tutor's cheeks. 
There were furrows there, but they had never 
been so used before. With some of us they 
are river-beds ; in the present case it was 
only that water had found a road that way. 



ILL IN COLLEGE. 189 

There was a long silence, and then the 
same name was softly breathed that had 
already fallen on the other's ear. 

^ Sophy, Sophy ; have you seen her? ' 

' No, sir ; I passed too rapidly through 
town ; but I saw the Irtons, who told me a 
great deal about her. Not good news, I am 
sorry to say.' 

' Unhappy ? ' 

' Yery ; at least I fear so.' 

' Poor girl, poor girl ! ' 

' It is not only — as you are doubtless 
aware, sir — that she has a bad husband ; but, 
unfortunately, she has some little knowledge 
of the full extent of his baseness, which until 
lately has been kept from her.' 

^ How was that?' 

Then Robert, who thought the question 
referred to the means whereby Sophy had 
learnt what her husband had done to the 
Canon, described them to his companion as 
Henny had narrated them to himself. 



I90 THE CANON'S WARD. 

The Tutor listened with closed eyes ; but 
it was plain, by the movement of his brow 
and lips, how the narration affected him. 

^ Then the poor girl knows at last,' he 
murmured, when it was finished. ' What 
anguish, what remorse she must be enduring ! ' 

* Indeed, sir, I fear so. It has just struck 
me, however, that I have been very indiscreet 
in speaking of all this to you. I have been 
distressing you — smce Sophy is an old friend 
of yours — by telling you the very thing which 
I have been enjoined to keep fi:"om my father, 
namely, that Sophy is aware of having been 
made the instrument of his ruin. His object 
throughout has been to spare her that know- 
ledge.' 

' That is so like him ! ' exclaimed the 
Tutor, with a flush on his worn cheek : 

A man who bears without abuse 
The grand old name of gentleman ; 
Defiled by every charlatan, 

And soiled with an ignoble use. 

' Young man, you are a gentleman's son.' 



ILL IN COLLEGE. 191 

' I know it, sir,' answered Robert, simply. 
' If I cannot imitate him, I hope I shall never 
disgrace him.' 

' No, no, you will not do that. He will 
live again in his boy.' 

Presently, after another pause : ' You 
spoke of ruin, Robert. The exact sum which 
the Canon had to pay twice over — one forgets 
these things in sickness.' 

' It was fifteen thousand pounds.' 

' Just so. And never to have told her. 
A true gentleman. Bene natus, bene vestitus — - 
no, that's not it ' 

' I don't think you must talk to Mr. 
Mavors any more, sir, just now,' interposed 
Mrs. Murdoch, awakened from her nap, and 
perceiving a necessity for silence. 

A smile crept over the sick man's face, as 
the mellow twilight falls upon a ruin. 

' Quite right, quite right. Nurse ; ' then 
putting out his wasted hand to Robert. ' Give 
m}^ love to my old friend.' 



192 THE CANON'S WARD, 

' And you will be sure not to tell him 
what I have told you, sir/ whispered the 
young man, as he leant over him. 

' You may trust me, my lad. I am going 
where secrets are well kept.' 

It was not those mournful words only 
which impressed Robert Aldred with a sense 
of the gravity of the Tutor's illness. His 
whole interview had tended in that direction ; 
and he told Aunt Maria as much without 
circumlocution. 

* If it is really so, Robert, it will be a sad 
blow to your father,' she answered, gravely ; 
' but I can hardly think it is so. Mr. Mavors 
seems to take such interest in matters — that 
is, in college matters.' 

• And not only in those,' put in Robert ; 
' I had no idea he was such a friend of 
Sophy's.' 

' He spoke of her, did he ? ' said Aunt 
Maria, with interest. 

' Yes, indeed ; he seemed wonderfully 



ILL IN COLLEGE. 193 

wrapped up in lier. He thought it such 
an excellent plan — and so like my father to 
think of it — that the knowledge of her 
husband's baseness should have been kept 
from her.' 

' But you did not tell him of what her 
husband had done ? ' 

' Tell him? No. I spoke of it as a matter 
of course. You don't mean to say that he 
was not aware of it ? ' 

^ Indeed he wasn't. No one is aware of it 
except the Irtons. I am afraid you have 
done mischief.' 

' But how was I to know? I thought in 

the case of an old friend like Mr. Mavors ' 

^ Just so. It was not your fault, dear 
boy. But the thing was kept from everybody, 
and especially, for a certain reason, from Mr. 
Mavors. Did he not seemed surprised and 
distressed?' 

* He was distressed, undoubtedly, but that 
seemed only natural. His surprise, as I now 

VOL. III. o 



J 94 THE CANON'S WARD. 

understand, he purposely concealed from me. 
I am afraid I told him everything.' 

' Poor man, poor man ! and he loved her 
so.' 

' Loved whom ? Not Sophy ? ' 

' Yes, he proposed to her, and she refused 
him. What fools girls are ! ' exclaimed Aunt 
Maria. The idea of her rejecting Mr. Mavors 
for John Adair ; Hyperion for a Satyr ! ' 

' Don't abuse his personal appearance, my 
dear Aunt, because I have just been taken 
for him. Mr. Mavors said I was '' black, like 
him." ' 

' Yes, Robert ; but your blackness is but 
skin deep. That man is black to his heart's 
core. Poor Sophy was always — well — sus- 
ceptible. There Avas another young man, but 
that is no matter now. He had, at all events, 
2:ood looks to recommend him. Bat this 
fellow ' 

' The one that is like me,' murmured 
Robert, plaintively. 



ILL IN COLLEGE. 195 

* I cannot conceive,' continued Aunt Maria, 



taking no notice of this interpolation, ^ what 
she could have seen in him. Why on earth 
did she marry John Adair? ' 

Robert shook his head. He could have 
enlightened Aunt Maria upon that point, but 
he very wisely held his tongue. A burnt 
child dreads the fire, and he had had enough 
of telling family secrets. 



o2 



[96 THE CAjSiON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XLVI. 



SOPHY S LETTER. 



The effect of his son's presence on the Canon 
was something marvellous. His brightness 
and his tenderness worked upon him for good, 
as the sunshine and the rains revive the droop- 
inf flower. A sort of Indian summer seemed 

o 

to have set in with him ; and but for his old 
friend's illness I think he would have been as 
happy as he had ever been, though not quite 
in the old fashion. 

' You may tell your Alma, Robert,' said 
Aunt Maria, ' that her dutiful advice to you 
has saved your father's life.' She knew that 
way of putting it would please him better 
than if she had praised his own unselfishness 



SOPHY'S LETTER. 197 

in coming to England. ' If you were not 
liere lie conld hardly stand these distressing 
visits to dear Mr. Mavors.' 

And, indeed, the spectacle of his old friend 
and contemporary gradnally losing his hold 
npon life gave him nnspeakable pain. There 
was nothing, of conrse, terrible in such a 
man's decease; no haunting fears or distrust 
of the All-wise and All-merciful. Indeed, it 
would have been curious to those imac- 
quainted with the turn of thought prevailing 
among men of their stamp at Cambridge, that 
between these two men — being both clergy- 
men — the subjects so commonly dwelt upon 
under such circumstances were rarely alluded 
to. They spoke of old times with which 
they were conversant, rather than of the 
Unknowable ; of their lifelong (though un- 
demonstrative) friendship, rather than of their 
reunion hereafter ; of their common friends, 
alive or dead. Once, however, a something of 
bitterness in some remark made by the dying 



198 THE CANON'S WARD. 

man suggested the inquiry from his com- 
panion, ' You are at peace, I trust, Mavors, 
mth all men? ' 

' With all that are worthy of the name of 
man/ was the stern and unexpected reply. 
Then, as if regretting his harshness, the 
Tutor added, with a smile, ' There is not 
much malice and hatred in my heart, Aldred, 
I do assure you — nothing, I trust, to be re- 
pented of in that way ; a little envy of 
yourself, my friend, that's all.' 

' How so ? ' 

' Because you have great possessions — a 
son, a wife.' 

' Nay, my poor wife is dead,' said the 
Canon, soothingly, as one speaks to a sick 
man whose mind has gone astray a little. 

^ Yes ; but you have the memory of her. 
Believe me, my friend, it is well to have such 
memories to dwell upon.' 

That was the only hint the Tutor gave of 
having suffered loss or disappointment; to 



SOFHV'S LETTER. 199 

the Canon he never spoke of Sophy. It was 
strange that he should have shown less of 
reticence to Robert ; but perhaps liis youth 
and the circumstance of his beino; eno-aored 
to Alma (of which he was cognisant) had 
encouraged the confidence. It is true that 
custom is strong even in death, but, also, 
thoughts that have been stored up, as in a 
locked casket, by men m health, will often in 
their last hours find utterance, and that to 
ears which least expect them. 

There was nothing in the Tutor's manner 
to suggest to his old friend any immediate 
danger ; on the contrary, there was a certain 
contentment in his speech and manner that 
bespoke even more than usual the absence of 
any pressing anxiety or apprehension ; nor 
was there any procrastination in his parting, 
such as there is wont to be when we feel that 
it may be for the last time. Hovr terrible is 
the sense of it to the about-to-be-survivor! 
How he regrets the hours, the days, the 



200 THE CANON'S WARD. 

3^earSj wherein he has voluntarily separated 
himself from that dying dear one, and which 
in the aggregate, perhaps, would have repre- 
sented another existence passed in his com- 
pany — a twin life. 

The Canon had no forebodins: that he had 
beheld his friend for the last time when he 
walked home one afternoon with thoughtfid 
steps that grew nnconscionsly more free and 
buoyant as he neared the little home which 
held his new-found treasure. 

On his study table, however, was a letter, 
the contents of which, for a momeiit, put even 
Robert out of his mind. It was in his ward's 
hand writ in o; which in itself argued nothinc^ 
strange (for she had never ceased to corre- 
spond with him in a suppressed mechanical 
fashion); it had not, as usual, been sent on to 
him from ' The Laurels,' but was directed to 
his present address. It must have come to 
Sophy's knowledge, therefore, that he had 
removed to Providence Terrace. Though tliis 



SOn/V'S LETTER. 201 

was a piece of iLifurmation that might have 
oozed out any day, he opened tlie envelope 
with no little apprehension that she might 
have gleaned still further knowledge, and the 
first sentence convinced him that it was so. 

' Kindest and best of friends, whom I have 
robbed and grieved — dear Guardian, whose 
care and love I liave repaid by falsehood and 
ingratitude — pity if you cannot pardon me. 
If I came to you in person (wliich 1 dare not 
do. for the si^ht of vour dear face would kill 
me ; and my life, otherwise worthless, is 
necessary to my child) — I say, if I came into 
your presence and grovelled at your feet with 
tears and prayers, I could not, believe me, 
feel a greater abasement than 1 do as I sit 
here and write these shameful words. 

' Until recently, though fully conscious of 
my base behaviour to yon in other respects, I 
was not aware of the ruin I had brought upon 
you. I thought that I had only lies and 
deceit to rej)roach myself with — transgressions 



202 THE CANON-'S WARD. 

that have brought their own punishment upon 
me, and concerning which I thought, there- 
fore, that I had some sort of right — as if such 
a wretch as I had rights at all ! — to be silent. 
But now I know what an irremediable injury 
I have done to you and yours, it seems to me 
that no suffering in this world can be in- 
flicted on me commensurate with my offences. 
That I was but an unconscious instrument in 
the hands of another is no excuse for me, for, 
but for my own misdoings, I should never 
have fallen into his hand. The history of 
them you will find enclosed (there was a paper 
in the envelope containing a short narrative of 
her first marriage, and the causes which had, 
as she thought, compelled her to make the 
second), and when you have read it, after the 
first sharp pang of anger and regret is over, 
one source of sorrow will be dry for ever. 
This is one of the reasons why I have written 
to you, notwithstanding that it has been 
enjoined upon me not to do so. As you, in 



SOPHV'S LETTER, 



503 



your great kindness and consideration for my 
feelings, would have hidden from me the real 
cause of your ruin, so it was judged by those 
who knew of my ill behaviour under your 
roof, that it was best to spare you that know- 
ledge ; but my hope is that, though you ma}^ 
still pity me (as we pity the worst of crimi- 
nals), it will be henceforth impossible for you 
to feel pain upon my account. 

' I cannot ask you to forget me, because every 
hour must bring to you some bitter reminder 
of the wrong I have done 3^ou, but think of me 
as dead, as having died years ago, when ^^our 
Robert was my playfellow. Alas ! what evil 
may I not have done to him also — sundered 
him, perhaps, from his promised bride, de- 
stroyed his prospects ! It is terrible to think 
that not only here at home am I justly con- 
demned and despised, but that across the 
ocean, thousands of miles away, ni}^ name 
must needs be held in abhorrence. Oh, if I 
could be once again as I was when Robert left 



204 THE CANON'' S WARD. 

you ! There is nothing, ahis ! llie same with 
me now ; even my love for yon, th.onoli it will 
cease but with my latest breath, is something 
different : I feel unworthy to entertain it. It 
seems blasphemy to take your name within 
my lips even in my prayers. 

• You will w^onder, perhaps, w4ien you 
have read the record of my life, that such a 
one as I should dare to pray. But then, dear 
Guardian, there is little Willie ; when I sit by 
her bedside wdth her thin small hand in mine, 
I still seem to have some link with Heaven. 
It is scarcely credible, considering her tender 
years, but there is nothing her mother can 
teach her w^hich my little darling cannot 
understand. I say it is scarcely credible, but 
she has been made aware that she has been 
made the pretext for her godfather's ruin. 
She clings to her fragile life, and believes that 
she will live to put things right. She has 
questioned me a hundred times, and " w^hen I 
come of age," she says (which she w^ill never 



SOPHY'S LETTER. 205 

live to do, and if she did, it would be too late), 
" I will pay all their money back to godpapa 
and Annt Maria." When Dr. Newton came 
to see her, her chief anxiety was to learn 
whether she Avoiild live to be twenty- one. I 
suppose the good Doctor thought the dear 
child's mind was wandering, but it was as 
bright and clear as it is pure. We have no 
secrets from one another, Willie and I. I 
have told you one of the reasons for my 
writing to you, but the chief is after all a 
selfish one — to bespeak, should anything 
happen to me, your sympathies for my inno- 
cent child. I know you will never visit upon 
her, even in your thoughts, the sins of her 
rmrent, but I beseech you to try to love her 
for her o^vn sake ; she is as worthy of your 
love as her mother has proved herself un- 
worthy. What higher eulogium, alas ! can 
1 pass upon her ? Henny will take care of her, 
I know, if permitted to do so. But the law 
— there is no one, alas ! who *has better cause 



2o6 THE CANON'S WARD. 

to know it than yourself — is hard and cruel. 
Dear Guardian, I would rather see Willie dead 
at my feet than trust her to the hands in 
which the law would place her. I will say no 
more upon this matter, for ''that way madness 
lies," only if anything should happen which 
should sink me still lower in your disesteem, 
do not judge me too hastily ; I am in such 
straits as you cannot guess. 

' You will show to Aunt Maria what I 
have written ; I do not ask you to plead with 
her for me, I trust to that tender heart of 
hers, whose trust I have so shamefully abused, 
for charity and pardon. 

' Your Loving and Penitent Ward.' 

At first even the contents of this letter, 
significant as they were of much, had less 
effect upon its recipient than the enclosure 
(with its confession of Sophy's previous mar- 
riage) which accompanied it, and from which 
he received a shock that for the moment 
utterly overwhelmed him. The operation of 



SOPHY'S LETTER. 207 

moral coucliing — the opening one's eyes to 
what human nature is really capable of — is, 
after the age of fifty, a very trying one. To 
find oneself so mature, and yet so ignorant, 
is painful to one's amour propre. But after all 
we may have travelled much, and yet not be 
well acquainted with our own country, and 
the Canon, who knew " men and cities," 
might well have been excused for not under- 
standing the character of a young girl, or 
the ways of her lovers. Those who plume 
themselves most on their knowledge of the 
world often know least of those about them, 
and while they have the keenest appreciation 
of the farce next door, are unaware of the 
more serious drama that is being performed 
under their own roof. 

In the Canon's case, the having been ' made 
a fool of was a small thing, however, as com- 
p[ired with other matters ; nor did it even 
enter his thoughts that Aunt Maria must have 
played the part of watch-dog very carelessly. 



2o8 THE CANON'S WARD. 

He set down her emotion at this strange sad 
news whoUy to sorrow, whereas she was 
bowed to the earth by self-reproach. But 
for her laxity of discipline, as she bitterly re- 
flected, Sophy could hardly have had the 
opportunities of going so far astray. Many 
an incident, to which she had at the time paid 
little attention, now occurred to her, which 
she felt would have excited her suspicions had 
she been less careless, or less credulous. 

It was a fortunate thing — since in such 
cases of catastrophe each recipient of the in- 
telligence adds fuel to flame — that this revela- 
tion told nothing new to Robert. He was 
able to put the story of the past aside, and 
give his mind to the present. Sophy's letter 
iilled him with vague but serious apprehen- 
sions, not so much from what it revealed, but 
from its reticence. It seemed to him, having, 
perhaps, his Alma in his mind, and the sup- 
position of what she would have done under 
similar circumstances, that the writer's total 



SOPHY'S LETTER. 209 

silence respecting her husband was something 
portentous. She had only once alluded to 
him, and that in the most distant way, where 
she had spoken of her having been ' an un- 
conscious instrument in the hands of another ;' 
and thus ignoring, as it were, of his very ex- 
istence had something eerie about it, which 
augured worse than even the speaking of 
him as he deserved would have done. That 
concluding sentence, ' if anything should 
happen to sink me lower (if possible) in 
your disesteem, do not judge me too harshly: 
I am in such straits as you cannot guess," 
was also terribly significant, and seemed to 
hitn to hint at some desperate contingency. 

All three were aware that Sophy's rela- 
tions with her husband were unsatisfactory, 
and even more ; but Robert only guessed as 
much from the tone in which Irton had 
spoken of them (for it will be remembered 
that the lawyer did not fully confide in him), 
while both the Canon and Aunt Maria were 

VOL. II r. p 



2IO THE CANON'S WARD. 

disposed to minimise what might be amiss 
between the young couple. Not, of course, 
that by this time they were in any doubt as 
to the real character of Mr. John Adair, or 
that they underrated the hardship of Sophy's 
lot ; but they regarded marriage not only as 
a bond, but as an indissoluble bond. In their 
eyes, marriage was not made for man so much 
as man — and especially woman — was made 
for marriage. Whatever inconveniences — nay, 
whatever wrongs and wretchednesses — might 
result from that solemn engagement, they 
were to be endured and made the best of. 
Under these circumstances, it was quite suffi- 
cient for them, in the way of apprehension, to 
imagine that Sophy's vague reference to some 
change in her present circumstances might 
relate to an intention on her part to separate 
from her husband. Her allusion to the cruelty 
of the law, which would in such a case give 
him over the custody of the child, seemed to 
them to corroborate this idea. But to Robert's 



SOPHY'S LETTER. 211 

ears Sophy's words liad another and much 
more serious meaning. He gathered from her 
despairing tone, and especially from her appeal 
to the Canon on behalf of her child, as of 
something extraneous to herself, that she was 
contemplating suicide. 

There was no need for him to dismiss 
from his heart any thought of disappointment, 
or delay of happiness, of which she had been 
the unwilling cause ; he had long ago for- 
given and forgotten all that ; but no sooner 
did this awful apprehension dawn upon him 
than the recollection of earlier days, when 
Sophy and he had been half lovers, half 
playfellows, also awoke within him. A pro- 
found pity for her unhappy lot, a vehement 
abhorrence of the man who had turned the 
sweetness of that young life to gall, took 
possession of his soul. Nothing, however, 
was further from his nature ihan any indul- 
gence in heroics ; his reflections found a very 
practical vent. He sauntered out that evening 



2 12 THE CANON'- S WARD. 

and bouoflit a ' Bradshaw,' and, havino; selected 
the same train by which his father liad tra- 
velled some few months ago on a scarcel}^ 
less painful errand, started for London before 
the household were astir the next morning, 
leaving a few commonplace lines behind him, 
to say that, ' without wishing to make a fuss 
about it, it had struck him to see with his own 
eyes how things were going on in Alban}^ 
Street.' 



2Ij 



CHAPTER XLA'II. 

THE LAST INTERVIEW. 

In tlie records of old prison life there is a 
ghastly story of two lifelong- enemies, who, 
having been sentenced for their crimes to the 
same punishment, find themselves chained 
together and fated to pass the remainder of 
their existence in each other's company. It 
ends comparatively liapi)ily, or, at all events, 
])etter than might have been expected, for the 
stronger in a fit of uncontrollable passion 
nuu'ders the weaker, and is promptly hanged 
for it. In married life, the fetters which unite 
the miserable pair who abhor one another are 
not so easily loosed. On the other hand, the 
bond is not quite so close. If they are poor, 



214 THE CANON'S WARD. 

indeed, it is terribly near : to have to share 
the same bed and board with one we fear or 
despise must be a torture beyond the imagina- 
tion of an inquisitor ; this is the chief reason, 
no doubt, why murders occur in domestic life 
among: the lower orders so much oftener than 
among the well-to-do. In the latter case there 
is room for man and wdfe to live, and breathe, 
and have their being, apart from one another ; 
they are married only in name, and co- 
existence is made endurable. I am speaking 
of course of sensitive persons. The majority 
of mankind, fortunately, are not ' dowered 
with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorns,' or 
indeed with any very delicate feelings ; to a 
great many men one wife is as good as 
another (though perhaps not so good as two), 
and to a great many women one husband is 
as good as another, just as one acquaintance 
is as good, to most people, as another. ' We 
are not perfect ourselves, and must not expect 
perfection in others,' was a remark once made 



THE LAST INTERVIEW. 21^ 

to uie by a good womaD, with reference to 
one Avho for his treatment of her deserved the 
gallows. 

Sophy Adair was not a wife of that kind. 
Little as she saw of her husband, she would 
have gone mad had it not been for the pre- 
occupation of her mind with her sick child. 
That was the tie that bound her to exist- 
ence ; everything else prompted her to escape 
from it. 

For weeks, of late, Adair had been scarcely 
ever at home. He breakfasted early by 
himself, and left the house only to return to 
it after its inmates had retired to rest. Some- 
times he sent a telegram from his office, 
' Shall bring: a friend this evenino; who will 
dine alone with me.' Upon the first occasion 
Sophy had understood this to mean that, 
though her husband did not wish to see her 
at table, he meant her to welcome their guest 
in the drawing-room. An unpleasant task 
enough, yet one which, however, she did not 



2i6 THE CANON'S WARD. 

shrink from ; not from any notion of pleasing 
her husband (for such an illusion had long 
vanished), nor from any sense of duty, nor 
even from fear of him, but from a mere 
mechanical impulse on Avhicli she now always 
acted, except in matters which concerned her 
child. 

The guest arrived, a tall, stout, florid 
personage, covered with jewellery, and smok- 
ing an immense cigar. lie was a few paces 
in advance of his host. ' Hullo! petticoats! ' 
he exclaimed, not, ' in hushed amaze,' by any 
means, but with naive and very undisguised 
astonishment. 

Adair's thin face, behind him, grew pale 
with fury. 

' That is my Avife, Mr. Dawson. I sup- 
pose my telegram miscarried,' addressing 
himself with cold precision to Sophy. 

' Glad it did. Wanted to keep you dark, 
I reckon, from yours truly,' observed the new 
comer. ' Your husband is one of them as is 



THE LAST INTERVIEW. 217 

all for business, ma'am. For my part, I like 
it mixed.' 

The manner of the man was odious, yet 
not so had as his expression. The one 
suggested coarse vulgarity, the other villainy. 

To do Adair justice, he had -not intended 
to introduce this man to his wife's society ; 
bat that he should have invited such a person 
to his own house was significant indeed of the 
social depths to which he had sunk. It could 
not have been boon com[)anionship that had 
caused him to do so, for he had no taste for 
it ; it must have been downright necessity. 
The very parlour-maid was cognisant that 
there was ' something queer ' in her having to 
wait on such a guest. 

Mr. Dawson's conversational powers (often 
in inverse ratio to the personal attractions of 
their possessor) seemed to recommend him to 
his host, for he came again and again. On 
the other hand, things did not always go 
smoothly with them. Mr. Dawson's voice 



2i8 THE CANON'S WARD. 

was sometimes pitched in a higher key than 
is used for anecdote, and lie was more than 
once heard to thump the table with an em- 
phasis too great for mere appreciation. There 
were certainly disagreements, possibly quar- 
rels. On one occasion a very strange 
circumstance came under the notice of the 
parlour-maid. Her master had brought a 
new friend home, Avith whom he dined alone, 
as usual — a much older and less talkative 
gentleman, but in w^hose voice and manner 
there was something, nevertheless, familiar to 
her. His behaviour, too, was familiar, for he 
chucked her under the chin at parting, exactly 
as it had been Mr. Dawson's wont to do ; and 
in the performance of this ceremony — which, 
according to her own account, she strenuously 
resisted — his long white beard came off and 
revealed Mr. Dawson himself A wig is a 
common ornament enough, but a false beard 
hung on by the ears is an unusual addition to 
the human countenance, and excites comment. 



THE LAST INTERVIEW. 219 

It was concluded, even by those of his 
own household, that Mr. John Adair was 
getting into bad company. 

One morning, instead of leaving home, as 
usual, directly he had swallowed his early 
meal, Adair sent for Sophy to the breakfast - 
room. She had not seen him for some days, 
and even to her eyes (in which there was no 
wifely interest) the change in him was very 
remarkable. His face was thinner and more 
haggard than she had ever seen it ; it looked 
pale and anxious, but with a certain deter- 
mined ferocity about it, like that of some 
hunted wolf that listens for the cry of the 
hounds. He had a telegram in his hand 
which he had just received, and which he was 
turning and twisting nervously. He glanced 
up at her white steadfast face as she entered 
the room, and then walked to the Avindow, 
keeping his back to her. 

' How is the child ? ' he said, in hoarse, 
quick tones. 



220 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' Better ; I trust certainly better, though 
she gains strength very slowly.' 

' That's well,' he said, with an unmistak- 
able sigh of relief ; ' we must leave home 
to-day.' 

' Leave home ! You have surely not the 
doctor's sanction for that.' 

' I have,' he answered positively ; ' and if 
I had not, still we must leave home. Please 
to give me your best attention, madam, instead 
of asking questions or making objections. 
Something has gone wrong in the City ; it is 
useless to attempt to explain it — women know 
nothing of such things — but it has become 
necessary for me to go abroad until the thing 
has blown over. You need not fear for the 
child, for she will travel with the utmost com- 
fort. Here is some money.' He thrust his 
hand into his breast pocket, and pulling out a 
great sheaf of bank-notes threw one of them 
towards her without looking at it. ^ You 
may take an invalid carriage for her, if you 
please, but you will go by the two o'clock 



THE LAST INTERVIEW. 221 

train to Gravesend, and wait at tlie (Treen 
Drao;on Hotel for my arrival. Jeannette will, of 
course, accompany you. Do you understand?' 

She did not reply, and lie wheeled round 
and confronted her impatiently. His brow 
was knit, his features were working convul- 
sively ; he looked anxious, yet furious, like a 
gambler who is watching his last stake. 

John Adair had never been good-looking ; 
but it was curious how every trace of youtli 
and culture had by this time gone out of him, 
leaving only the desperado. 

Nor was Sophy, in her turn, less changed. 
She was still very comely, but her comeliness 
was the last thino; about her that would have 
struck any observer above the level of the 
clown. Her characteristic had been wont to 
be her vivacity ; her sprightliness of air and 
manner had been so marked as to be a some- 
thing peculiar to herself ; all this was gone. 
The delicate colour on her cheek, the laughter 
in her eyes, even the agile movement of her 
fairy limbs, had vanished. Although the mere 



222 THE CANON'S WARD. 

ghost of her former self in these respects, 
there was, however, a determination in Sophy's 
face as it met that of her husband which it 
had never possessed in youth, and which the 
other shrank from. Ever since she had known 
that Adair had made use of her to rob the 
Canon, her loathing of him had cast out her 
fear of him. He had perceived the change, 
but mistaken the cause of it. He thought that 
she must long ago have become acquainted 
with his behaviour to her guardian. He had 
wiped that crime from his own mind with the 
ease with which the commercial philosopher 
wipes out a bad debt ; he had committed so 
many offences since — offences, too, that had so 
much more dano:er in them — that the remem- 
brance of it had ceased to trouble him. He 
attributed Sophy's new-found courage to quite 
another cause. His conscience led him to 
suppose that, somehow or other, she had be- 
come acquainted with his designs against little 
Willie, or, at all events, that she had some 
suspicion of them. Face to face with her, he 



THE LAST INTERVIEW. 223 

was almost afraid of her — afraid that she 
should suddenly cry aloud, ^ Villain ! you 
have been plotting murder against your own 
child, and I have found you out/ Nothing, 
indeed, but an extreme and urgent need 
could have induced him to talk to her upon 
the subject of little Willie at all. But, as it 
was essential that they should leave the house, 
and the state of the child's health, as he had 
foreseen, was her chief objection to that step, 
it was necessary to speak upon the topic. His 
furious manner — though he was angry enough 
— was half- simulated ; he put it on to intimi- 
date her, or, perhaps, to hide the trepidation 
with which he was himself agitated. He was 
no coward, but he had tried and failed to kill 
something else besides little Willie — his 
conscience. 

'Do you understand me, madam?' he 
repeated. 

* Yes,' she answered, firmly ; ' I understand 
you very well.' 

There was no satire in her tone ; but the 



224 THE CANOM'S WARD. 

simple triitli she spoke was a far worse sting 
than any satire. 

' Tlien you know that I will be obeyed. 
You and Jeannette can pack up all that is 
necessary in a couple of hours, I suppose. In 
order that there sliall be no excuse, however, 
you sliall have four.' 

' It shall be as you please.' 

This submission was too prompt, too easy, 
and it excited his suspicions ; his mind was 
like a sentinel who has outstayed his watch 
and lost his nerve. Every sound suggested 
an alarm, and even the absence of sound. He 
thought that she was only promising to obey 
him to gain time. 

' Mind you,' he said, in a menacing voice, 
* I shall be here myself to see that all is ready. 
In the meantime I will order the invalid car- 
riage for the two o'clock train. Though I 
shall not accompany you, I shall be sure to be 
at the Green Dragon. You may not see me, 
perhaps, to-night, for I shall arrive late — by 
water. You need say nothing of that to 



THE LAST INTERVIEW. 225 

anybody ; but I wish to repose confidence in 
you.' 

Across Sophy's face flitted the distorted 
shadow of a smile. He noticed it, and frowned 
heavily. 

' We are man and wife,' he said, ' and must 
sink or swim together. Things have gone 
badly here, but they will go better elsewhere. 
"\Ye must roost elsewhere, but our nest will be 
feathered for us,' and he tapped his breast 
pocket exultingiy. ' Where we are going the 
child will recover more quickly. It is the 
very climate which the doctor recommends.' 

If he expected her to ask where this salu- 
brious spot was situated, he was mistaken. 

Her manner was anything but indifferent. 
It was plain that she was paymg attention to 
every word he said ; but her face was cold 
and stifi" as a stone. 

' Have you any further commands ? ' she 
inquired. Patient Griselda could have said no 
more, but her tone jarred on his ear. 

VOL. III. Q 



226 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' You speak like an automaton,' he 
answered, angrily. ' No, I liave nothing 
more to say ; it will be the easier to remem- 
ber. At one o'clock I will be here with a 
large carriage, so that the child can lie at 
length. You will be sure to be ready by that 
time.' 

'I shall be ready.' 

He went out without another word. 

If he could have looked into the future — if 
he could have known what that very day was 
to bring forth — would he have parted from her 
thus ? It is difficult to say. But if Sophy 
could liave foreseen what was to hapj)en, I do 
not think her behaviour would have been 
different. Things had gone too far with her 
in the way of misery, of which this man was 
the chief cause, for any retrograde step towards 
tenderness or even pity for him. The tre- 
mendous issues of futurity itself were dwarfed 
beside the contemplation of her wrongs and 
wretchedness. What he had done now was 



THE LAST INTERVIEW. 227 

merely anotlier drop added to that cup of 
bitterness wliich he was always holding to her 
lips. As it happened, he had unconsciously 
caused it to run over ; that was all. As she 
turned to leave the room, she saw the bank- 
note lying on the table. She picked it up 
with a gesture of abhorrence, as though it 
were some infectious rag. It was a note for a 
hundred pounds. She felt that he had had no 
intention of entrusting her with any such sum ; 
that he had thrown it at her without thought, 
out of his unaccustomed superfluity, as one 
might inadvertently, out of a full plate, throw 
to a dog meat instead of bone. For an instant 
she held it in both hands, with the evident 
intention of tearing it in pieces, when suddenly 
a reflection occurred to her. ' It is not his,' 
she murmured ; ' it is the Canon's.' And 
folding it neatly up, she placed it in her purse, 
and went upstairs. 



Qi^ 



228 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XLYIIL 



ABANDONED. 



Though Robert Aldred had announced his 
intention of seeing ' with his own eyes how 
things were going on in Albany Street/ he did 
not on his arrival in London drive thither 
directly. He had as modest a confidence in 
his own powers as concerned business matters 
as the Canon himself, and it was clear to him 
that his influence with Sophy would be much 
less than that of his father. He wisely 
resolved to take no action without the 
approval of Frederic Irton, of whose judg- 
ment he had the very highest opinion, and 
therefore drove straight to that gentleman's 
office in Bedford Row. Irton received him 



ABANDONED. 229 

with great cordiality, but with a serious air. 
To his apologies for troubling him about what 
might after all turn out to be of no great 
consequence — referring to Sophy's letter to 
the Canon — he answered unhesitatingly, ' You 
have done quite right.' 

' Do you really think then that she is on 
the brink of some desperate step ? ' 

' On some decisive step she may be,' he 
replied, thoughtfully ; ' the desperation will 
be the other way — I mean upon her husband's 
side.' 

' But will not that involve her in peril?' 

' Undoubtedly, if certain precautions had 
not been taken. He is like some wild beast 
over whom a net has been thrown. It is 
scarcely visible to him, and seems slight 
enough, but if he attempts to escape, to 
struggle ' 



' But if he finds he cannot escape,' inter- 
rupted Robert, apprehensively, ' is there no 
fear of his doing mischief to innocent people ; 



230 THE CANON'S WARD. 

those who are within his power, and whom 
he may confuse, perhaps, with his enemies ? 
I am prejudiced, of course, but it seems to me 
that this Adair is a sort of man who will stick 
at nothinof.' 

' That is so, or rather, I should say, he 
has become so. One does not become a 
villam, even though one may commit a 
villainy, upon a sudden. I have had this 
reptile under the microscope for months, and 
it is amazing how he has developed in tooth 
and claw. He was always that way inclined ; 
his face from the first was set as thouo-h he 
was going to the gallows. Still, if things had 
turned out well with him — if luck, that is, 
had favoured his speculations, which were 
specious and likely-looking enough — it is my 
opinion he would never have gone wrong, 
except morally (for the man has no principle 
whatever). He would have died worth a 
plum, the chairman of innumerable companies, 
and much respected by the majority of his 



ABANDONED. 231 

fellow-creatures — that is, by all those who 
didn't know him. But he met with disasters 
from the first, and repaired them with the 
nearest means that came to hand, and they 
were foul means. Once on that road, the 
descent is easy.' 

' Do you think he has done anything 
absolutely criminal? ' 

^ Certainly. He has been on the verge of 
such crimes — or at all events of one crime — 
as convince me he must have committed 
intermediate ones, without the faintest scruple. 
He has become the immediate associate of the 
vilest wretches — this man Dawson, for one, 
whom your fellow-travellers in the railway 
carriage so injudiciously mentioned. What 
you overheard on that occasion has been of 
great service in our investigations. We have 
found out all about the S.S. mine. It is the 
notorious San Sobrano silver-mine, concerning 
which such revelations have been recently 
made. Your two friends had just returned 



232 THE CANON'S WARD. 

from Soutti America, on a confidential mission. 
They had been "salting" the mine. There 
is a warrant out for Dawson's apprehension 
npon a much more serious charge — but, as 
regards the mine, there is no doubt that Adair 
is implicated. He was unable to raise the 
money to float it, on which the promoters 
depended.' 

Here a cab drove rapidly up to the door, 
and the office bell rang with violence. 

' I should not wonder if that was some 
news about our friend,' continued Irton, with 
his finger raised for silence. ' Clients, unless, 
indeed, they are ladies who have suffered 
wrong, do not try our bell wires so se- 
verely.' 

' Are you expecting news about him? ' 

^ Not this morning in particular — but it 
must needs come soon.' 

A clerk entered with a card in his hand. 
He gave it to his employer, who passed it on, 
with a significant look, to Aldred. 



ABANDONED. 233 

' Good heavens I Irton ; it is the man 
himself.' 

' Yes ; I think I can guess what he has 
come about,' returned the lawyer, grimly ; 
' sit down at yonder desk with a pen in your 
hand, and you will hear what the gentleman 
has to say for himself — show him in. Mason.' 

The next moment Adair was ushered into 
the room. He looked pale, as he always did, 
but with a difference ; his colour was leaden, 
even to his lips. He might have been a 
corpse but for his eyes, which, after an angry 
glance round the room, fixed themselves like 
two burning coals upon the lawyer. 

' You are not alone,' he said ; ' what 1 
have to say to you must be said in private.' 

' The gentleman yonder is in my confi- 
dence,' returned Irton, coldly. ' If you object 
to his presence you can say what you have to 
say in writing. I will not see you alone.' 

' You are afraid, are you? ' sneered 
Adair. 



234 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' Not the least, since I am neither your 
wife nor your child/ 

' Ah ! your words convince me that I am 
on the right track. Since you will have a 
witness, so much the worse for you. I am 
here to say that you have committed an 
infamy.' 

' Indeed ! I do not confess it, but I admit 
that you should be a good judge of what is 
infamous.' 

' Where are my wife and child? ' exclaimed 
Adair, passionately. ' They have been lured 
away from home by your machinations. 
Where are they? ' 

' I cannot tell you ! ' 

' That is a lie. With your witness there, 
it is, perhaps, actionable to say so. No 
matter, I repeat it again.' 

' You can do so without fear, sir,' 
answered the lawyer, indifferently ; 'one does 
not bring civil actions against criminals.' 

' Criminals ! That is of a piece with your 



ABANDONED. 235 

whole behaviour to me ; you have gone about 
defaming my character. Wherever I turn I 
find you have been beforehand with your '' Do 
not trust him." ' 

' As for instance? Can you give me an 
example, Mr. Adair?' 

' There is Dr. Woodruffe, for one.' 

' What ! do you dare allude to that trans- 
action? Then I admit it. I told him some- 
thing which caused him to put the insurance 
company on their guard. And now, in your 
turn, answer me this ; where did you propose 
to yourself to get the twelve thousand pounds 
requisite for floating the San Sobrano scheme ?' 

Adair answered nothing ; his white lips 
moved a little, and he moistened them with 
his tongue. 

' Did you not, at a monstrous premium, 
insure your sick child's life for that sum ? ' 

' What of that ? ' murmured Adair, hoarsely. 
' The law had nothing to say against it, 
and therefore no one had a right to complain.' 



236 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' That does not always follow, Mr. Adair. 
This gentleman here, whom you have taken 
for one of my clerks, may claim to be an 
exception to that rule.' 

Robert rose, and confronted Adair. ' My 
name,' he said, ' is Robert Aldred, the son of 
your benefactor whom you have robbed and 
ruined. You have marred my future like- 
wise ; yet let me tell you that I do not loathe 
you for the wrong you have done to him and 
me so much as I despise and detest you for 
your cowardice and cruelty to your unhappy 
wife.' 

' Ah, I remember,' said Adair, contemptu- 
ously, ' you were one of her old flames. A 
pretty sort of connection for her husband to 
be schooled by. Of course it would have 
been a nice thing to have kept her money in 
the family, only she preferred somebody else.' 

* That was not you, you cur,' said Aldred ; 
* she married you out of fear.' 

' You seem to know a great deal about my 



ABANDONED. 237 

dorocstic affairs/ answered the other, scorn- 
fully. 

^ We do, interposed Irton, in solemn tones, 
^ more, much more, than you have any idea of. 
We know, or, at least, / know, not only how 
you have treated your wife, but how you have 
attempted to treat your child? Do you 
remember what happened on the day that Dr. 
Newton called to see her?' 

^ I remember he did see her.' 

* Yes, but something else. The thing I 
speak of had happened before, no doubt ; but 
not often. There were not many opportunities 
for it to happen, though you never let one 
slip. One offered itself that day ; you made 
an excuse to leave your wife and the doctor 
below, and returned to the nursery alone.' 

Here Adair, who had been standing up 
throughout the interview, began to tremble. 
He stretched out his hand like one who 
gropes in the dark, and placed it on the back 
of a chair. 



238 777^ CANON'S WARD. 

' I have no recollection of the circumstance 
you mention,' he murmured, huskily. 

^ I know some one who can refresh your 
memory. When ^^ou entered that room you 
made a slight mistake.' 

' It is possible,' ansAvered the other, 
eagerly ; ' the room was darkened ; there 
were several bottles on the table.' 

' Who said anything about bottles ? That 
is a most damaging admission on your part. 
It was no mistake you made with them^ 
however ; you had done the same thing too 
often for that. The mistake you made was 
in concluding that there loas nobody in the 
room.'' 

A cold sweat broke out on Adair's forehead ; 
he swuno' from side to side like a drunken 
man, and would have fallen to the floor but 
for the chair-back, which he clasped con- 
vulsively. 

* Jeannette was below with the rest,' he 
murmured, after a long pause. 



ABANDONED. 239 

' She was, but there was another person m 
the nursery behmd the curtain. It is lucky 
for you that you are not in the dock at this 
moment, for your face would hang you. For 
my part, there is nothing that would give me 
greater pleasure than to see you there ; but 
we are not all like you, we sometimes deny 
ourselves a personal gratification for the sake 
of others. It is for another's sake, in order 
that your innocent child may not have to say 
to herself, " My father was a convicted felon," 
that I give you this warning. You are in 
danger of the law. To-morrow may be too 
late for escape ; you must leave England 
to-day.' 

Again the dry lips moved, but without 
speech ; he bowed his head, however, in token 
of acquiescence. 

' Have you money — money, I mean, 
sufficient to take you across the Channel?' 

Adair lifted a trembling hand and touched 
his breast-pocket. 



240 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' To be sure,' continued Irton, drily ; ' I 
ought to have known that you would have 
feathered your own nest in any case — now go. 
If you take my advice, you will not return to 
Albany Street — there may be people there on 
the look-out for you.' 

Without a word, without a look — for he 
did not raise his eyes from the ground — and 
with a fumbling for the handle of the door as 
if it were dark and it were hard to find, the 
man shambled out. 

^ What a despicable hound ! ' exclaimed 
Robert. ' It makes me feel humiliated and 
unclean even to have been in his company. 
How could my dear father have been attracted 
to such a person ? ' 

' Five years of greed and fraud change a 
man pretty completely, Robert. His ways 
were always shifty ; he told me a lie the very 
first day I ever set eyes on him, but he was 
not then like yonder creature. Where is now 
cunning there was then intelligence ; a fellow 
who might have been tutor of Trinity, one 



ABANDONED. 241 

day, like dear old Mavors. All the wits in 
the world will not keep a man straight who is 
born crooked. No, he was not like that, at 
one time. I remember Henny herself took 
his part against me, at first.' 

' But what has he done ? How comes it 
that you have such a hold upon him ? ' 

' He thinks I can prove something, which, 
as a matter of fact, I only know and cannot 
prove.' 

' How abject he looked, Irton ! I never 
saw conscious guilt put on so debased a 
form.' 

' You are mistaken there, Kobert ; it is 
not the consciousness of guilt, but the fear of 
its consequences, which has so paralysed 
him. He has got plenty of ill-gotten gains in 
that breast-pocket of his, and when he once 
ofets abroad and finds himself out of the reach 
of punishment, he will lift up his drooping 
head again and start afresh on his road to 
the Devil.' 

VOL. III. R 



242 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER XLIX. 



THE FLIGHT. 



When Jolin Adair left his home and hiid that 
injunction upon his wife to pack up all that 
was necessary for departure within a few 
hours, he was not disobeyed. She had been 
in readiness for some such emergency for 
many days. Even that idea of his of an 
invalid carriage for little Willie had been in 
some sort anticipated. In less than two hours 
after he had left the house everything was pre- 
pared for flight, including arrangements for 
the transport of the sick child. There was 
haste, but no precipitation, and, above all, no 
fear. When Irton said to Adair, ' If you take 
my advice you will not return to Albany 



THE FLIGHT. 243 

Street, there may be people on tlie look-out 
for you/ he had not spoken less than the truth ; 
he referred to people in Sophy's interest. There 
had been help within call next door for weeks. 
Adair had held his liberty on sufferance, and 
would have been arrested on the instant had 
despair or fury driven him to menace Sophy 
or the child. ' A masterful inactivity ' had, 
however, been the policy which had seemed to 
Irton better than any other. Sooner or later, 
as he had foreseen, it would become necessary 
for Adair to leave the country ; and though a 
warrant had been taken out against him, at 
the lawyer's instigation, it was held in sus- 
pense, since to execute it would have been to 
precipitate exposure, and to cover the innocent 
with life-long shame. If Sophy had known 
of what Stevie had witnessed in her nursery, 
it would have been impossible for her to be 
patient ; she would not have permitted little 
Willie to remain one hour beneath her 
husband's roof. 

r2 



244 THE CANON'S WARD. 

It would have been difficult to persuade 
her that the cancellmg of the insurances which 
had been effected upon the child's life had put 
all further attempt upon it out of the question ; 
nay, it had rendered little Willie's existence 
of the highest consequence to Adair as being 
the only asset — though it had hitherto proved 
impossible to realise it — except Sophy, which 
he possessed. 

It is not every absconding bankrupt who 
is so solicitous to hamper himself in his flight 
with wife and child, but to Adair they were 
really very precious. If anything should 
happen to either of them the survivor would 
be simply invaluable, since, with the ex- 
ception of that store he had in his breast- 
pocket — which if everybody had had their 
rights (a Utopian and optimist phrase, quite 
unsuited to practical life) would certainly not 
have been there — he would have no other 
source of income. 

It is difficult, therefore, to underrate the 



THE FLIGHT. 245 

sense of loss which Mr. John Adah' ex- 
perienced when, on coming home at one 
o'clock (he had one virtue — he was punctual), 
he found both wife and child had flown. He 
had a notion at first that they might have 
preceded him to the railway station — that 
they were ^ not lost, but gone before,' but the 
parlour- maid assured him to the contrary. 
' Missus and Miss Willie, with Jeannette, had 
gone two hours ago,' as she supposed, to join 
him ; she was loud in her admiration of the 
vehicle which had conveyed the child away in 
an easy and recumbent posture, and apparently 
in high spirits. As to their destination, 
Jeannette had given out that they were 
' going to the sea ; ' a rather vague address, 
even supposing it was a correct one, and one 
which certainly did not satisfy the inquirer. 
As a matter of fact, Sophy had no more 
knowledge of where they were going than had 
the parlour-maid. Jeannette, who had long 
been head of the intelligence department as 



246 THE CANON'S WARD, 

regards all outside matters, was, now com- 
mander-in-chief. From the moment when her 
mistress informed her of the injunctions her 
husband had laid upon her she took the con- 
duct of everything into her own hands. 

^ Do not take on about it,' she exclaimed, 
' my dear Miss Sophy ' (in moments of ex- 
citement she always thus addressed her 
mistress, notwithstanding that she had been 
twice married), ' for this is only what we 
have been expecting, or something like it, for 
ever so long. We will take the dear child 
away, safe and sound, a couple of hours be- 
fore master returns ; and, if he ever sets his 
eyes on either you or her again, I'll forgive 
him.' 

To anyone who knew Jeannette and the 
feelings which animated her with respect to 
her employer, this alternative seemed im- 
probable enough. 

' But where are we to go, Jeannette, 
whither my husband cannot follow ; and 



THE FLIGHT. 247 

what friends have I — though it is true I have 
good friends — who can protect me against the 
strong arm of the law ? ' 

^ As to that matter,' returned the waiting- 
maid, confidently, ' I have reason to believe 
that master has something to settle with the 
law upon his own account ; so that, for once 
and away, it will be found on the side of the 
weak. While as to friends, you have got one, 
Miss Sophy, that loves you as well as I do — 
loves you more than you have any idea of, 
only, for the present, she doesn't wish her 
name known — so let's call her Johnson.' 

' I have only one woman friend, Jeannette 
— save dear Aunt Maria, whom I myself have 
rendered powerless to help me — and that is 
Mrs. Irton. I have done harm enough to 
those who love me already, and nothing will 
induce me to accept any help which may 
bring Henny into trouble. Why, the first 
place your master ' (it was very significant 
that she should have avoided saying * my 



248 THE CANON'S WARD. 

husband' when speaking of Adah^) 'will turn 
to look for us will be her house.' 

' To any question where you and little 
Willie are gone, Mr. Irton can, I assure you, 
lay his hand upon his heart and honestly say 
— though, being a lawyer, he would say it, 
of course, in any case — that he knows nothing 
about it. Don' t trouble your head, my dear 
Miss Sophy, about anything but packing 
your things.' 

Their preparations for departure were pro- 
ceeding, indeed, throughout the conversation, 
during which Jeannette maintained an air of 
confidence that was not without its effect 
upon her mistress. Poor Sophy's one idea 
was to get away wdth her child from a miser- 
able home and a hateful husband, and she was 
willing enough, without much questioning, to 
entrust her future to such faithful hands. The 
vigour and animation which had taken posses- 
sion of the waiting-maid — though, to do her 
justice, she had always ' kept up ' for Sophy's 



THE FLIGHT. 249 

sake under all their troubles — were remark- 
able. She was like a good soldier, who, tired 
of inaction, at last receives the route. Nay, 
there was something even bellicose about her, 
as though war had been declared ; and, in- 
deed, the idea of battle was by no means un- 
welcome to her. Next to the preservation of 
her mistress and little Willie, the thought 
nearest to her heart was that it was about to 
be permitted to her to pay off old scores with 
Mr. John Adair. 

She had been in slavery to him for six 
long years, and the hour of emancipation and 
revenge had come at last. Intrigue was her 
delight, she had a natural bent for it (though 
straightforward enough in every other direc- 
tion, she was a little crooked in that) ; but, 
up to this time, her diplomacy, so far from 
being successful, had filled her with remorse 
and regret. Moreover, she had had no co- 
adjutor, her mistress had had enough of 
deception, and only in one thing had played 



250 THE CANON'S WARD, 

into Jeannette's hands. They had agreed 
together to conceal the fact that little Willie 
had recently taken a decided turn for the 
better. As this circumstance, however, for 
certain excellent reasons, had been hidden 
from Adair, his proposition that the sick child 
should be carried from her bed to take a 
railway journey had, in Sophy's eyes, lost 
none of its brutality. It acted as a spur to 
the alacrity with which she prepared to leave 
her husband's roof. Such a sense of en- 
franchisement and relief took possession of 
her as she drove away — her hand fast locked 
in little Willie's, who lay stretched at ease by 
her side — that for some minutes she forebore 
even to speak, like one who is recovering 
from some long and acute disorder, and who 
finds happiness enough in being quit of pain. 
She was content to enjoy her freedom in 
silence. 

Presently, however, she inquired of Jean- 
nette whither she was taking her. ' To a 



THE FLIGHT, 251 

cousin of mine out Hammersmith way,' ex- 
plained the waiting-maid. ' Of course it would 
not do to stop there, though you would be as 
welcome as flowers in May ; master would 
soon find out where the invalid carriage 
dropped us, but after that I flatter myself the 
scent will be cold enough.' 

' And then are we going on to this good 
Mrs. Johnson's ! as you call her? ' 

' Yes ; it's her cottage as has been got 
ready for you.' 

' What care^ and trouble you must have 
taken, Jeannette,' murmured Sophy, grate- 
fully. 

' So I had need, ma'am,' was the waiting- 
woman's reply. The tone, as well as the 
words, were significant enough, but Sophy 
was too wrapped in her own thoughts to pay 
attention to either. The hour in which the 
captive breaks his chain is even more critical 
than the one in which it first was riveted 
on him ; the beginning of a new life, liowever 



252 THE CANON'S WARD. 

preferable it may seem to that which we have 
done with, is momentous. 

After a long drive, they drew up at a 
house in a very modest terrace where Jean- 
nette's cousin — a homely, matronly woman — 
gave them a hearty welcome. Some tea and 
refreshments were put before them, of which 
Sophy could hardly be persuaded to partake, 
so afraid was she of j)ursuit and capture. In 
twenty minutes they were again on their way, 
this time in one of those flys peculiar to the 
suburbs and country towns. Their way lay 
now clear of the streets, among villas and 
market gardens. At last they stopped at 
a pretty cottage, with bay windows looking 
over a well-kept lawn bordered by flower-beds 
already redolent of the spring. Little Willie 
was enchanted with their colour and perfume. 

^ Dear mamma, I should like to live here 
all my life,' she whispered, softly. 

^ You shall live here as long as you like, 
you dear,' said Jeannette. 



THE FLIGHT. 253 

To Sophy, as to the child, though for a 
different reason, the prospect seemed too 
alkiring to be reahsed. ^ It looks most sweet 
and quiet,' she whispered. ' But shall we be 
safe, Jeannette? ' 

' Do you see that building yonder, Miss 
Sophy, with the ivy round it ; it is only a 
stone's throw, and we shall be secure under 
its shadow.' 

The suburb was one of those highly deco- 
rated ones which are certainly exempt from 
the charge of monotony of architecture ; each 
house was not only different from the other, 
but often distinguished by some startling pecu- 
liarity of its own. Even the churches were 
less ecclesiastical-looking than artistic. ' Is it 
the church?' inquired Sophy, not without 
some doubt in her mind of even the security 
of the proximity of the sacred edifice, against 
the machinations of her husband. 

' The church ! Lor bless you, no. Miss. 
It's better nor that ; it's the police station.' 



254 THE CANON'S WARD. 

It was plain that Jeannette put greater 
confidence in the power of the secular arm 
than in ecclesiastical authority. 

A neat, cheerful woman having the ap- 
pearance of a housekeeper received them, and 
showed them over the cottage, which was 
very prettily furnished ; the nursery arrange- 
ments were exceptionally pleasant and appro- 
priate. When tired little Willie had been put 
to bed, and was lying asleep watched by the two 
fond women, Jeannette expressed a hope that 
her mistress had found thin2:s to her likinof. 

' I dare not say what I think,' said Sophy. 
' I feel as though I were looking upon some- 
thing far too restful and beautiful to last — ■ 
like sunset in the skies. To whom am I in- 
debted for this charming haven? in which, 
however, it is out of the question, Jeannette, 
that we can remain. You don't understand 
that in leaving Mr. Adair I have deprived 
myself of the means of livelihood.' 

' I am not so sure of that, Miss Sophy ; at 



THE FLIGHT. 255 

least, those who know a great deal more 
about such matters than me are not so sure. 
But, however that may be, don't you fret 
yourself about the cost of things. Money 
will be provided — at all events for some time 
to come — by one whose greatest pleasure will 
be to spend it upon you.' 

' It must be Henny,' murmured Sophy ; 
^ dear, generous Henny ! ' 

' Mrs. Irton is as good as gold,' returned 
Jeannette, earnestly, ' and her purse will be 
the same as yours, I warrant ; but just at this 
moment Mrs. Irton don't even know you're 
here.' 

^ Then who is it, Jeannette ? ' 

Sophy's face flushed to her forehead. It 
had suddenly struck her that Mr. Mavors was 
her unknown benefactor, and then the shame 
of having entertained such an unjustifiable 
suspicion overwhelmed her. It was probable, 
indeed, that the Tutor had forgotten all about 
her, or, if he had thought of inquiring, had 



256 THE CANON'S WARD. 

heard perhaps, not altogether without coai- 
placency, that the man she had preferred to 
him had turned out to be not altogether the 
best of husbands. 

' If I tell you who it is, Miss Sophy, T shall 
be doing the very thing the person in question 
— Mrs. Johnson, as I have called her — wishes 
me not to do.' 

' I am very much obliged to my unknown 
friend, whoever she is, Jeannette,' returned 
Sophy, resolutely ; ^ but I cannot consent to 
be under obligations to a stranger, or, what is 
worse, to some one who may be returning to 
me good for evil.' 

Her mind had reverted to Aunt Maria. It 
was highly improbable, of course, that that 
lady should possess the means for any such 
act of generosity ; but, at all events, as Sophy 
was well convinced, the will would not be 
wanting to her : when we cannot find what 
we search for elsewhere, we look for it in un- 
likely places. 



THE FLIGHT. 257 

' Well, Miss Sophy, I will do your bidding 
if you will, on your part, listen with patience 
to something I have got to say about myself, 
and when you have heard it try your best to 
forgive me.' 

' I have nothing, alas ! to forgive any one, 
my poor Jeannette; throughout my life things 
have been quite the other way.' 

^ You have done some foolish thiiigs, no 
doubt, Miss Sophy,' returned Jeannette, 
naively ; ' and grievously have you suffered 
for them. Your marriage with Mr. Perry 
was, of course, the beginning of it all ; but 
still your misfortunes might have been ended 
there but for my meddling. But for me you 
mio;ht have made a clean breast of it to the 
Canon, and at least prevented matters from 
going from bad to worse.' 

' No, Jeannette ; no,' put in her mistress, 
mournfully ; 'I had not the courage for it ; 
anything seemed easier to me than to tell the 
truth.' 

VOL. III. s 



258 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' You were hesitating about it, Miss Sophy, 
at all events, and I threw all the weight I had 
with you into the wrong scale. I did not know 
it was the wrong one, but I ought to have 
done, had not my eyes been blinded by the 
glitter of gold. Miss Sophy, I was bribed 
by Mr. Adair to help him.' 

' Bribed ! Oh, Jeannette ! ' 

* Yes, Miss Sophy, well you may look at 
me like that ; only don't suppose that I was 
betraying you. I have thought the matter 
over a hundred times since then, and though 
I take blame and shame to myself, it was not 
so bad as that. I never put wrong into your 
head, but I was enticed by Mr. Adair's money 
to encourage you in what was not right. You 
were always a liberal mistress to me ; Heaven 
knows I had not the excuse of want ; but 
Mr. Adair was very free-handed, and thinking 
it was generosity and not self-interest (as, of 
course, it was), I endeavoured to persuade 
myself that such a man could never make a 
bad husband ; what I was more certain of, 



THE FLIGHT. 259 

liowever, was that lie would make a lavish 
master. Xor in the last (though generosity 
had even less to do with it than before) was I 
mistaken. And here, dear, dear Miss Sophy, 
lies the bitterest shame of all. I took his 
money for years for seeming to be on his side 
against your dear self and little Willie. There 
was some excuse even for that, for in deceiving 
him I was enabled to remain your friend. But 
when the sums he gave me — at the very time 
he was telling you he had no money — became 
larger and larger, my heart sank within me 
to think what villainy I might in his eyes be 
abetting.' 

' I don't understand, Jeannette,' said 
Sophy, pitifully. ' Perhaps it is only just 
that I, who have deceived others so dear and 
near to me, should have been myself deceived. 
"What could he do, as you say, against us 
more than what I know he did ? ' 

' Don't ask, Miss Sophy ; I beseech you, 
don't ask. It was not what he did, but what 

s 2 



26o THE CANON'S WARD, 

lie tried to do ; and as I knew, in my heart of 
hearts, he gave me the money to hold my 
tongfue about it. It was bad enouo^h to take 
what dear Miss Aldred gave me when you 
married, "as a remembrance of my faithful 
service under her roof" — mine, who had 
thrown dust in her eyes from the very first, 
and at last sold her darling to a scoundrel ; 
but to take blood money ! ' 

' Blood money ! ' echoed Sophy, aghast 
with horror. 

' Well, it was almost as bad, though I 
didn't know how bad ; and when I took it I 
had no other idea in my mind. Heaven knows, 
than to thwart and hinder him. And I did 
stand between him and the little darling, dear 
Miss Sophy, and would have laid down my 
life sooner than have let him injure a hair of 
her sweet head. Thank Heaven! you never 
knew of it, and I do beg of you not to seek to 
know, at least from my lips. Mrs. Irton, who 
knows all, will tell you, perhaps, some day ; 



THE FLIGHT. 261 

slie does not think that I was so mucli to 
blame. And you have been yourself in straits, 
Miss Sophy, when it was difficult to know 
what was right.' 

' Indeed, indeed, I have, Jeannette,' j)ut in 
her mistress. ' I have no right to cast a stone 
at any human being for acting crookedly. I 
am sure you meant well (w^hich I did not) ; 
and if you stood between my child and harm, 
I am yonr debtor for ever.' 

' Oh, no ! no ! Nothing that I can do. 
Miss Sophy, can ever make things that way,' 
said Jeannette, vehemently. ' But if— out of 
the thought of happier times, and the knowledge 
that I have loved you and yours from first to 
last, and because you see a miserable creature 
on her knees before you — you can forgive 
me ' 

' Hush ! hush ! you must not kneel to me,' 
interrupted Sophy, greatly agitated. ' If I 
have anything to forgive you, of course it is 
forgiven.' 



262 THE CANON'S WARD. 

^ I thank you for that blessed word, Miss 
Sophy,' cried the sobbing girL ' I draw my 
breath for the first time freely for the last live 
years. While life is in me, I will do my best 
to repair the misery I have brought upon you; 
I will work for you and little Willie as no 
woman ever worked before.' 

' You dear, faithful creature ! ' said Sophy, 
tenderly. ' At present our fortune is in the 
clouds, through which, however, let us hope 
some streak of sunshine may presently find 
its way. But you have not yet told me what 
you promised : how is it we are lodged in this 
pretty place? Who has made these arrange- 
ments for our comfort? How did we get here 
with sueh ease and safety? AVho but Henny 
could have done it ? ' 

' Mrs. Irton could have done it, Miss 
Sophy, no doubt,' returned Jeannette, gently; 
' but it was so all -important you see, that 
neither she nor her husband should know 
anythmg about your whereabouts when Mr. 



THE FLIGHT. 263 

Adair makes his inquiries of them, as he is 
sure to do.' 

Sophy cast an involuntary glance at her 
sleeping child, and shuddered. 

' I see, of course, the absolute necessity of 
that,' she said ; ' but things do not happen 
in this world according to our necessities. If 
Henny has not been our guardian angel in 
this matter, who can it have been ? Who is 
good Mrs. Johnson ? ' 

' There is no guardian- angelship and no 
sort of goodness about her,' returned the 
waiting- maid, vehemently. ' All that you 
see here are the mere proceeds of her wages 
of iniquity. But such as she is, she is Jenny 
Perkins.' 



264 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER L. 

THE CONFEDERATES. 

Whex he once found himself abroad and out 
of the reach of immediate danger, Irton had 
said of John Adair that he would hold up 
his head and be himself aoain. Nor did it 
require the air of the Continent to revive him. 
Miserable as was his aspect as he slunk away 
from Bedford Row, he seemed, like Antaeus, 
to gather strength and confidence with every 
footfall. He had been in a good many ugly 
holes, it was true ; and, what was worse, 
Irton was aware, it seemed, that he had been 
on the brink of one which, as compared with 
the rest, was as the Bottomless Pit itself. 
He had suffered a terrible penalty for having 



THE CONFEDERATES. 265 

been so near it, the thought of which had 
utterly quenched his spirit ; but, on recon- 
sideration, he now felt assured that there was 
no intention on the lawyer's part to pursue 
that matter to the bitter end. This might 
arise, as Irton had said, from an unwilling- 
ness to disgrace those belonging to him, or 
from the difficulty of establishing the charge ; 
and, if the latter, the sooner he left England, 
and the longer he kept away, the less likely 
it was to be brought home to him. Who 
the witness of his attempted crime could be, 
Adair could make no guess. Perhaps there 
had been no witness ; though the suspicion 
against him must have been strong indeed to 
have induced the invention of such testimony. 
But it was evidently resolved by his enemies 
(as he termed those whom he had wronged 
and ruined) that he should either fly the 
country or make acquaintance with the dock 
of a criminal court ; and there was no hesita- 
tion on his part which to choose. He had 



266 THE CANON'S WARD. 

already been contemplating flight on other 
grounds ; and should he be arrested, no 
matter on what charge, his seizure would be 
the signal for half a dozen other prosecutions. 
He had long been prescient of this evil day, 
which nothing but the success of the San 
Sobrano scheme (which had come to the 
ground with a crash that could not be stifled) 
could have staved off, and had made his 
arrangements accordingly. 

As even a small income can be made to 
go a good way if we are deaf to the claims 
of others, and spend every penny of it upon 
ourselves, so even among the ruins of failure 
there is money to be picked up by the unscru- 
pulous ; and Adair, as the lawyer had fore- 
seen, had feathered his nest pretty completely, 
or, in other words had laid his hands upon 
everything that could be realised and turned 
it into portable property. Whenever he 
touched that breast-pocket of his, he ex- 
perienced a pleasurable glow which with 



THE CONFEDERATES. 267 

some people is the substitute for all generous 
emotions — the consciousness of the posses- 
sion of capital. For all that had come and 
gone, he still had a complacent confidence 
in his own natural abilities. Backed by the 
experience of the last five years — which, 
though acquired at great cost, had neverthe- 
less been paid for by other people's money — 
he felt himself capable of great commercial 
enterprises. These, however, would be of a 
diiferent kind from those with which he had 
hitherto been connected, and which had failed 
(as he persuaded himself) by the pusillan- 
imity and want of enterprise of others. His 
own hand and brain should for the future 
direct them ; and, in particular, he would 
take care to separate himself completely from 
these coadjutors, or rather confederates, with 
whom perforce he had of late consorted. He 
would put them to one more use, and then 
have done with them. 

It was in company with one of these — 



268 THE CANON'S WARD. 

the man Dawson — that he was about to leave 
England that very evening ; and by hhn all 
arrangements had been made for that pm^- 
pose. Dawson was not only aware that 
Sophy and the child were going with Adair, 
but had suggested their doing so. He knew 
all their circumstances, and had pointed out 
how important it Avas to his future prospects 
(in which Mr. Dawson flattered himself he 
would have some share) that he should keep 
his wife and his daughter (whom he playfully 
termed the goose and the gosling with the 
golden eggs) under his own eye. 

' If you once leave your wife,' he naively 
said, ' her own people will get round her, and 
you will find it difficult to reopen relations 
with her ; ' and as her income was paid into 
her own hands, this would be obviously in- 
convenient. 

There were certain circumstances which 
rendered it injudicious for Adair to be seen 
travellmg in a railway carriage in the direc- 



THE CONFEDERATES. 269 

tion of the sea-coast ; while for Mr. Dawson 
such a step would have been still more haz- 
ardous. It had therefore been settled that 
Mrs. Adair and the child should journey to 
Gravesend alone, while her husband and his 
confederate were to drop down the river at 
night and join them in the morning. A boat, 
manned by a crew Avhom they could trust 
(i.e. who were well paid for the job), was to 
await them at midnight by the stairs at the 
bottom of Miller Street, where Dawson had 
some place of business. The two men, though 
united by the band of common interest, were 
far from being on good terms : their natares 
were antipathetic. Dawson was a coarse and 
brutal ruffian, whose society could not but 
revolt a man of education, however morally 
degraded; he enjoyed himself after his fashion, 
which Adair never did ; but he was not a 
whit less suspicious and cunning. It had 
been agreed that they were to meet together 
at a water-side tavern in the East of London 



270 THE CANON'S WARD. 

that afternoon, to make their final arrange- 
ments, and thither Adah' now bent his 
steps. 

The rendezvous itself was characteristic 
enough of one of the two men ; a rickety 
erection with beetle brows (like a villainous 
low forehead), its wooden walls bulging on 
the river and overhanging, at low tide, mud 
and slime ; the haunt of profligate and noisy 
sailors. Adair, who though unscrupulous, 
was fastidious in his way, surveyed the place, 
which he had never entered before, with a 
shudder of disgust. As he walked down the 
narrow lane of which it formed the termina- 
tion, his heart was full of bitterness. The 
old houses almost meeting over his head as 
they leant forward in age and weakness, made 
a shadow above him, which, though there 
was no other point of likeness. Heaven knows, 
suddenly reminded him of the lime walk at 
Trmit}'. Six years ago he had trodden it in 
cap and gown ; a man of mark and promise, 



THE CONFEDERATES. 271 

with a future before him, and now he had 
become the companion of thieves. Without 
one pang of remorse, he felt an excessive 
repugnance to the thing he had become ; a 
pent-up fury raged within him against cir- 
cumstance, fate, whatever it was that had 
brought him to such a pass. It was not his 
own fault, of course ; the knave out of luck 
is seldom aware that he has chosen the very 
worst profession in the world \ he only knows 
that he is ' cursed unfortunate.' What most 
excited his wrath was the fact that his own 
flesh and blood had deserted him, though 
they had in fact only escaped him. Next to 
them, he loathed the man to whom it had 
become necessary to disclose that humiliating 
circumstance. 

He found Dawson awaiting him in a 
bow-windowed room looking on the river, 
smoking a pipe, and drinking hot brandy- 
and-water. 

^ Punctual, as usual, Master Jack,' was 



272 THE CANON'S WARD. 

his familiar address. ' That's well ; sit down 
and have a glass.' 

^ No ; I have neither time nor taste for 
drmking. Matters are getting hot for us, 
Dawson. For my part, I wish we were 
well off.' 

' It is always safer — which means quicker 
— to wait for night, when it comes to run- 
ning. Besides, the men have their orders, and 
could not be got together all in a moment. 
What has happened to frighten you ? ' 

' I have reason to believe that there are 
people looking for me at home.' 

' Indeed ! ' said the other, laying down his 
pipe and dropping his careless manner. ' I 
hope you have got your women folk well 
away.' 

' They are not coming,' said Adair, sul- 
lenly ; ' they have fled the house, and I don't 
know where they have gone.' 

' Come, come, Mr. Adair ! ' exclaimed his 
companion, menacingly ; ' this will not do. 



THE CONFEDERATES. 273 

Miles Dawson is not the man to be made a 
cat spa w of.' 

' I tell you I know no more than you do 
where my wife has gone. I wish I did know. 
It's more my loss than yours, I suppose.' 

' If it is your loss ; but how am I to be 
certain of that ? You are not so very 
straightforward that I should take your bare 
word for it. We sink or swim together, my 
young friend, mind that. It is very well for 
you to have a certain income safely invested 
in this country to be drawn upon at your 
convenience j but what's to become of me in 
the meantime, while our schemes are ripen- 
ing. While the grass grows the steed starves ; 
and I am not the sort of animal that takes to 
starving kindly.' 

' I have money enough for both of us for 
a month or two,' said Adair, with a flush on 
his face. 

' Oh, you have, have you ? ' sneered the 
other ; ' in spite of its being so deuced diffi- 

VOL. III. T 



274 THE CANON'S WARD. 

cult to raise a few pounds ? Well, if I don't 
see my way to a thousand pound dow^n, I 
don't start to-night, Mr. Adair.' 

' A thousand pounds ! I wouldn't give 
you a thousand pence to save your neck from 
the hangman.' 

It was not a pleasant observation for one 
gentleman to m.ake to another supposed to be 
in his confidence ; moreover, it was accom- 
panied by a tone and manner so obviously 
genuine that to explain it away in any ^ par- 
liamentary sense ' was out of the question. 

For an instant a very ugly look indeed 
crossed Mr. Dawson's face, which, when the 
coarse honhom.ie was out of it, was always 
far from prepossessing, but the next moment 
he burst out laughing. 

' Upon my life, Adair,' he said, ' for a 
keen, clever fellow, I never saw one so slow 
to take a joke as you are. Yoa need hardly 
have flown out so, even if an old pal like me 
had asked for the money in earnest, whereas 
I asked you for nothing of the kind. I said 



THE CONFEDERATES, 275 

I should like to see it ; since without the 
sinews of war it would be useless to be2:in 
our campaign at all, and we might just as 
well stop where we are and take our chance.' 

For an instant Adair seemed to hesitate, 
then he threw open his coat and pulled out 
his bundle of bank-notes. 

' There is a thousand pounds there, and 
more,' he exclaimed, sullenly. ' Xow, look 
here, I'm safe till-to-morrow ; but don't let's 
have any more cursed nonsense about not 
going to-night.' 

' Certainly not,' returned the other, quietly. 
' Only there is nothing like being frank and 
above-board with friends.' 

If this moral axiom was meant as an 
encouragement to his companion to go into 
figures, it failed of its intent, for Adair rolled 
up the notes again, and placed them in his 
breast pocket. 

' At midnight, then, at Miller Street stairs, 
the boat will be waiting ? ' 



276 THE CANON'S WARD, 

'As sure as death, or at least clockwork/ 
was tlie dry rejoinder. ' As you can't go 
home, it seems, why shouldn't we pass the 
time together?' 

' No, I have something to do,' said Adair, 
taking up his hat. 

' Well, don't be late ; but, on the other 
hand, it won't do to be much too early. To 
be hanging about the stairs before the boat 
arrives will excite suspicion.' With that curt, 
sidelong nod which is the sign of adieu be- 
tween familiars who are not friends, the two 
parted. Hardly had the door closed behind 
Adair, when Dawson stamped twice upon the 
floor, a signal which was promptly answered 
by the younger of the two men who had been 
passengers in the tram with Robert Aldred. 

' Quick, follow that fellow, and tell me 
where he goes to.' 

Within five minutes the emissary returned, 
with a long face. 

' Fool ! has he given you the slip?' 



THE CONFEDERATES. 277 

' It is not that ; there's some one after 
him already.' 

* Ten thousand devils ! not one of our 
people, surely ? ' 

' No such luck, it's a detective. I've seen 
his face in Scotland-yard, and, what's more to 
the purpose, he's seen mine.' 

' You white-livered hound ! No matter, 
that will do.' 

Left to himself, Dawson fell a musing. 
'He's safe for to-night, is he? That means 
that they are conniving at his flight ; for 
Madam's sake they will not arrest him. A 
virtuous woman is a crown to her husband. 
A thousand pounds? He had five thousand 
pounds about him if he had a penny. I 
caught the figure on the inside note ; they 
were hundred-pounders.' 

It was not easy to find a cab in those water- 
side regions ; but, when he had done so, Adair 
drove to an hotel in Covent Garden — the same 
he had put up at when he had come up from 



278 THE CANON'S WARD. 

Cambridge to make that little investigation at 
St. Anne's — and secured a private sitting- 
room. A bedroom he did not need, and to 
sit in the coffee -room among strangers would 
have been intolerable. He had in reality 
nothing to do, for his arrangements for de- 
parture were complete ; but a sense of danger 
— marvellously increased by the little fortune 
he carried with him — warned him to lie close, 
as it had disinclined him for his late com- 
panion's society. The time lagged on his 
hands like lead ; there were two books upon 
the table, and, though he had never taken any 
pleasure in reading, he carelessly took up one 
of them. It chanced to be a Cambridge 
Calendar, left, no doubt, by some under- 
graduate who used the house. He turned to 
his own name, second on the list of Wrang- 
lers. The sight of it was wormwood to him. 
What chances he had flung away ; from how 
high a promise he had fallen, and to what a 
depth ! He threw the book away with a curse, 



THE CONFEDERATES. 279 

and took up the other. It was a Post Office 
Directory. He turned to his own address in 
Albany Street, and in the City. In the next 
edition, he bitterly reflected, they would not 
be there — nor anywhere. It was doubtful 
whether he would ever dare to set foot in Eng- 
land again ; yet if Sophy and her child would 
not obey his orders, and come out to him, he 
would dare ; and then so much the worse for 
them. As he idly turned over the leaves he 
read a page of ' trades ; • then, half closing the 
book, repeated the names in their order, with 
only two mistakes. He read it again, and this 
time accomplished the feat without an error. 
What an amazing memory he possessed, what 
grasp of mind, and talent for detail ! It was 
impossible, with the funds he had to start 
with, that he should fail a second time in 
utilising such gifts. 

He dmed, or rather supped, at a late hour, 
and at a little before eleven started for the 
rendezvous. Bearing in mind the warning 



28o THE CANON'S WARD. 

Dawson had given him against being too 
early, he went on foot, notwithstanding that 
it was raining heavily. There was also a 
strong wind blowing. This reminded him of 
the night when he dogged the footsteps of 
Herbert Parry when they came away from 
the ball. 

There was another point of resemblance of 
which he was unaware ; his own footste^^s 
were being dogged, and with much greater 
cunning ; he had been but an amateur detec- 
tive, and this was a professional. Along the 
Strand and Fleet Street, and then into the 
narrow thoroughfares by the river- side, this 
man pursued him — save that he always kept 
upon the opposite side of the way — like his 
own shadow. At the corner of Miller Street 
Adair stopped and took out his watch. It 
wanted but five minutes to midnight. Then 
he turned the corner of the street and made 
rapidly for the ri\er. His pursuer, seeing 
him pause, had slunk into a gateway, and. 



THE CONFEDERATES. 281 

taken unawares by his rapid movement, was 
thrown more behind him than he had been 
heretofore. When he also turned into the 
street, which was of no great length, Adair 
had almost reached the bottom of it, when he 
suddenly lost sight of him. The detective 
hastened his steps, and quickly reached the 
very spot, as he imagined, where Adair had 
disappeared. It was a large warehouse, with 
a huge crane depending from it, and its huge 
doors were closed. It was impossible, he felt, 
that they could have been opened and shut 
within so short a time. Yet the man was 
gone. The detective placed a whistle to his 
lips and gave a shrill signal, twice repeated. 
Withm three minutes there were two police- 
men, with their bull's-eyes, assisting him in 
his search. He told them hurriedly what had 
happened, and one of them ran on to the river 
brink. As he reached it, a light boat, with six 
men in her, four of them rowing, and two in 
the stern, shot out from under the stairs. 



282 772^^ CANON'S WARD. 

'He has got away, sir/ said the policeman, 
running back to make his report, ' in a ship's 
gig down the river.' 

' I don't believe it,' said the detective. 
' He never moved a yard beyond this spot,' 
and he struck his foot upon the ground. The 
sound it gave was dull and hollow. They 
were standing on a cellar trap. 



^83 



CHAPTER LI. 



WILLIE S WILL. 



Weeks elapsed before the secluded home 
which Jeannette had found for her mistress 
received any visitor. Security from the pur- 
suit of her husband was the one aspiration of 
her soul, and while that remained in doubt 
she was unable to enjoy the full fruition of 
her freedom. The quiet of the place and its 
environments, the scents and sounds of spring, 
the marked improvement which the change 
had already effected in little Willie, filled her 
with joy and thankfulness ; but from this new- 
found happiness, the sense of its transient 
character — the possibility of some misfortune 
befalHng her worse than all that she had hereto- 



284 THE CANON'S WARD. 

fore endured — was never absent. Jeannette 
could not be persuaded to speak further of the 
peril which had hung over little Willie ; but 
although her ignorance of business affairs 
prevented her from understanding how her 
darling's death could have benefited any 
human creature, Sophy knew that her child 
had been in danger, and from the hands that 
nature itself should have taught to defend her. 
Under these circumstances, and looking to 
the fact that while Irton and his wife could 
conscientiously aver that they were unaware 
of her place of concealment, her husband, 
even with the law to back him, could scarcely 
discover her, she enjoined upon Jeannette an 
absolute silence. The two women and the 
child were as absolutely cut off from those 
who had an interest in them — kindly or other- 
wise — as though they were in ' some summer 
isle of Eden, where never comes the trader 
nor floats the European flag.' Eor utter iso- 
lation there is nothing, indeed, like your 



WILLIE'S WILL. 285 

London suburb ; wliere gentility reigns 
supreme, and into which not even the criers 
of the 'latest intelligence' think it worth their 
while to penetrate. These voluntary exiles 
knew nothing of what was going on in the 
world, and their dearest hope was that that 
ignorance should be reciprocal. 

Everything, however — including murder 
— comes out at last, and Mrs. Johnson, under 
which name Jeannette continued to conceal 
her identity, received one morning a startling 
piece of intelligence through the butterman. 
He did not tell it her with his lips — the news 
was too stale for that — but brought it by 
accident, in print, wrapped round a parcel of 
the ' best Dorset.' It is a method by which 
imaginative literature, alas ! is often con- 
veyed ; but this was a matter of fact. There 
had been a time when Jeannette would have 
gone straight to her mistress and discoursed 
of the sensational incident with infinite gusto : 
but the poor waiting-maid had lost her nerve ; 



286 THE CANON'S WARD. 

she had no longer any confidence in her own 
judgment ; and so far from rejoicing, as of 
yore, in handling the ribbons of an intrigue, 
could hardly drive a gig as a free agent. She 
did, however, take certain steps, the result of 
which was that two ladies — the elder in deep 
mourning, the younger in that attire which 
the milliners describe as one of ^ mitigated 
grief,' presented themselves the next morning 
at the cottage. At the sight of the former, 
Sophy uttered a piteous cry, and ran into her 
stretched- out arms. 

' My darling ! ' murmured Aunt Maria 
(for she it was); 'welcome, welcome to the 
old haven ! ' 

' ISTo, no ! not that,' sobbed Sophy ; ' I 
have no right to it.' 

And, indeed, though the well-springs of 
love and gratitude were at the full with her, 
she had sought the refuge in question only to 
hide her face in shame and sorrow. 

' That is not your Aunt Maria's view,' said 



WILLIE'S WILL. 287 

Henny, coming to tlie assistance of them 
both — for, in truth, it was needed — Hhough 
she and I have certainly a bone to pick with 
you, dear, for having hidden away fi'om us for 
so long. We knew, of course, since Jeannette 
was in charge of you, that you must needs be 
safe.' 

' No, no, no ! ' interrupted Sophy, in 
affrighted tones ; ' not safe ; that is what 
embitters every moment to me. As for me, 
I do not deserve to be safe from him, but I 
tremble for my innocent child.' 

The two visitors exchanged significant 
glances. 

^ Dismiss that fear from your mind, dear 
girl,' said Aunt Maria, assuringly ; ' there are 
none but friends about you now, nor will 
there ever be.' 

Sophy shook her head. 

' How did you find me out? ' she answered, 
vehemently. ' He can do as you did ; he is 
cunning and very patient in evil-doing. Once, 



288 THE CANON'S WARD. 

when I was quite a cliild, I lived in tlie 
country ; I saw a poor tired hare running 
through a wood, and many minutes afterwards 
a slim, cruel stoat following on its track. 
That is how it will be with us. Sooner or 
later, poor little Willie and I will be overtaken 
and devoured.' 

' But I tell you, dear Sophy, it will not be 
so,' urged Henny, confidently. ' Do you 
think that I would deceive you in a thing like 
that, or speak so positively if I was not quite 
sure ? ' 

' No, Henny, I don't think that ; you 
believe in what your husband has told you. 
He has found out, perhaps, that the law is 
upon our side ; and so it may be. But he 
doesn't know the man he has to deal with : 
what is law to Mm ? He does not even fear 
God Himself. A man without natural affec- 
tion, and without mercy.' 

' Hush, hush ! ' said Henny, imploringly. 
Again the two women looked at one another ; 



WILLIE'S WILL. 289 

they had agreed together, it seemed, upon 
some course of action, but were now doubtful 
as to its advisability. 

' Had we not better tell her? ' whispered 
Henny, over the still bowed head. But ere 
Aunt Maria could nod assent Sophy had 
started from her embrace with an affriofhted 
cry. 

' Hark ! hark ! ' she cried. ' A man's voice 
in Willie's room ; he has found us out, and 
has come to murder her.' 

Before either of her companions could put 
out a hand to restrain her she had rushed 
from the room to the upper floor. The others 
followed as quickly as they could. Sophy's 
ears had not deceived her ; there iva^ a man 
in the room above, where the child lay, sitting 
by the side of the child with a huge picture- 
book in his hand, which she was regarding 
attentively. An old man in deep mourning, 
but with a face of quiet content and exquisite 
tenderness. Little Willie and he were 

VOL. III. u 



290 THE CANON'S WARD. 

obviously on the best of terms, and she was 
prattHng away in the most confidential and 
heartless manner. For once the mother's face 
did not turn first to her darling ; she flung 
herself at the new comer's knees and burst 
into tears. 

The Canon caressed her in silence for some 
moments. He had no great confidence just 
then in his own j^owers of speech, and when 
he used them was careful to avoid too pro- 
nounced a tone of tenderness. 

' You mustn't give way like that, my dear 
Sophy,' he said, reprovingly. ' We shall have 
the Court of Chancery down upon us for 
frightening the Settiky Trust.' 

And indeed that important little personage 
looked amazed enough at her mother's 
emotion. ' I was told to wait below till Aunt 
Maria had prepared you for my visit,' he went 
on ; ' though why I should have become such 
a formidable person to you I'm sure I 
can't tell, but I thought in the meantime I 



WILLIE'S WILL. 291 

would renew my acquaintance with my 
godchild.' 

Still Sophy did not speak. She had got 
hold of one of the Canon's hands, and, in spite 
of his efforts to withdraw it, was kissing it, to 
his intense embarrassment. 

* My dear Sophy,' he went on, ' I am not 
the Queen, nor yet the Pope. But if you do 
really attribute to me any superiority or 
authority I entreat of you to rise, and — dear 
me, I am not used to have ladies kneeling to 
me, but ' (here was a spasmodic attempt at his 
old smile) ' quite the contrary. We have had 
a bad time all round ; there's no doubt of 
that, and of late weeks,' he added, with a deep 
sigh, * the worst of all.' 

' Good heavens ! what has happened 
afresh ? ' cried Sophy, starting to her feet. 
' You are in mourning, and Aunt Maria is in 
mourning too. It is surely not dear Robert ? ^ 

* No, no ; thank God, it is not he,' said 
the Canon, earnestly ; ' but we have lost an 



'292 . THE CANON'S WARD. 

old friend — a friend who was dear to all of us, 
and to whom you, Sophy, were especially 
dear.' 

Sophy put back her hair from her eyes, a 
familiar gesture, which brought her back to 
the Canon's mind more than anything had yet 
done, for she was greatly changed. The 
expression of her face was that of bewilder- 
ment. For the moment — so little of re- 
ciprocity there is sometimes even in devoted 
love — she was unable to recognise the loss of 
which he spoke. Then in a trembling voice, 
and with a faint flush, she murmured, ' It is 
not, I trust, good Mr. Mavors.' 

' Yes, he has gone from this world to a 
better ; but this world would have been a better 
world to hiui if things had turned out 
differently as regards yourself, Sophy. I was 
blind to it, but Aunt Maria was not ; he sent 
to her when he was dying, and told her all 
about it. His last words were a blessing 
upon you ; the dream of his heart was that 



WILLIE'S WILL. 293: 

you should escape your unhappy fate ; and 
his prayer has been answered.' 

*Is my husband dead?' inquired Sophy, 
in trembling tones. 

' Yes, don't ask about it just yet ; you 
shall know all in time. You are no longer a 
bond- slave ; yes ' (her eyes had turned to little 
Willie with yearning and thankfulness), ' and 
your child is safe ; henceforth she will be 
yours without fear.' 

Once more Sophy fell on her knees, but 
this time not to the Canon. There are times 
when even to the tenderest hearts the loss of 
our dear ones is a source of happy release, and 
a cause for thankfulness. A melancholy 
gratitude, indeed ; but this was a case 
infinitely more deplorable — that of a woman 
who recognised Heaven's mercy in the blow 
that cut off her husband in the midst of his 
sins. 

' And the past,' said Sophy, solemnly, 
taking the child's hand in hers ; ' some repara- 



294 THE CANON'S WARD. 

tion for even tlie past can now be made. We 
have thought a good deal about godpapa and 
how he has been treated, have we not, 
Willie? ' 

The Settiky Trust, sitting very high up in 
her little bed, well propped by pillows, nodded 
adhesion. ' I have left godpapa all my 
money,' she said. 

' Good heavens ! what does the dear child 
mean? ' inquired the Canon, with a distressed 
look. 

^ It is quite trae,' said Sophy, gravely ; 
*my darling and I are both of one mind in 
the matter. Her chief anxiety, when Dr. 
Newton came to see her, was to know whether 
she would live to be twenty-one, because I 
told her that she would then be able to repay 
you all that you had been robbed of.' 

' And if I was to die in the meantime,' said 
little Willie, ' I should like to leave it to liim.' 

^ I don't suppose your good husband, 
Henny,' said Sophy, smiling, ' would think 



WILLIE'S WILL. 295 

very imicli of the validity of the will of a child 
of six ; but, at all events, it shows the 
" intention of the testator." ' 

With that she produced from her desk the 
document in (juestion, written in a large round 
hand. 

^ There was no undue influence,' said 
Sophy, ' though I admit that I sometimes 
steadied her wrist, not that we can't write,' 
she added, with maternal pride, ' but because 
w^e were so very Aveak at the time. Indeed, it 
was when we thought that we should never 
2:et well and strono; as^ain that we did it.' 

The Canon sat with this juvenile testa- 
ment spread out before liim, as reverently as 
though it had been an original MS. of Milton. 
The tw^o women stood looking over his 
shoulder making pretence to read it, but their 
eyes were too full of tears. 

' This is the last will and testament of me, 
Wilhelmina Adair, spinster,' it ran, in due 
legal form, and bequeathed ' all my worldly 



296 THE CANON'S WARD. 

goods, of whatever kind, to William Aldred,, 
my godpapa.' 

' And where on earth did AVillie get all 
this legal knowledge ? ' inquired the legatee. 

' Jeannette had a sixpenny book of general 
utility,' explained Sophy, 'among the contents 
of which was the form of a will. She and I 
were the witnesses, but you will please to 
observe that the signature is Willie's own.' 

' I did that all by myself,' remarked the 
testator, with complacency ; ' mamma did not 
guide my fingers.' 

' We thought that might invalidate the 
bequest,' said Sophy, smiling. 

' It is worth a good deal more than if it 
was valid,' cried the Canon, enthusiastically. 
' It ought to be in the College library with the 
" Paradise Lost." ' 

'Unhappily, however,' sighed Sophy, 'it 
is only a proof of good intentions. When I 
said that some reparation even for the past 
was now rendered possible, I was alluding, my 



WILLIE'S WILL. 297 

dear guardian, to the interest of the money 
that has been stolen from you ; only a small 
portion of it will now be necessary for our 
needs, and the rest will, of course, be paid you 
as we receive it ; but, as to the principal, I 
don't see how it is ever to be refunded.' 

' You may make yourself quite easy upon 
that score, my dear Sophy,' said the Canon, 
with tender gravity ; ' for, as a matter of fact,^ 
it has been refunded.' 

' What — what — did the person who- 
wronged you of it repay ' 

Astonishment and incredulity checked 
her utterance. 

' Why, no, my dear,' put in the CanoUy 
drily ; ' it was not quite that way. The 
money came indirectly from your hands. Our 
friend Mavors had, in fact, left you a large 
sum. His lawyer tells me it had been 
originally intended for the College, but that 
some time ago — hearing that matters were 
not going prosperously with you — he made a 



298 THE CANON'S WARD. 

new will. Then quite lately he saw Robert, 
and for the first time was made acquainted 
with the matters in connection with my 
trusteeship — how the money had to be paid 
twice over, and so forth.' 

' Good heavens ! How vile and base he 
must have thought me ! ' groaned Sophy. 

' Quite otherwise, my dear ; he esteemed 
you so highly that he at once understood the 
sorrow and remorse you were suffering, from 
having been made the instrument of my ruin. 
He felt that if he left you this money the first 
use you would put it to would be to repay 
me ; but that under the circumstances you 
would not have the power to do so, that your 
husband, in short, would have prevented it. 
That it would have been like pouring water 
into a sieve. He therefore bequeathed the 
15,000/. that I had advanced to you to myself, 
taking care, however, to explain to Aunt 
Maria why it was done. He felt as sure as if 
he had consulted your own wishes that such 



WILLIE-' S WILL. 299 

a disposition of his property would be satis- 
factory to you.' 

' Heaven bless him ! ' murmured Sophy, 
gratefully. ' He has lifted a burden from me 
which I should otherwise have carried to my 
grave.' 

' That was the very feeling for which he 
gave you credit,' put in Aunt Maria, softly. 
' He read your heart, my dear, though he 
could not win it.' 

' It was never worth his winning, Aunt 
Maria,' she answered, bitterly. ' I was not 
fit to be the wife of an honest man.' 

' Nay, nay ! ' said the Canon ; ' if it comes 
to honesty I shall have little to say for 
myself. Not only has the sum been be- 
queathed to me which was evidently intended 
for you, but Mavors has left money to my 
boy Robert. Myself and family have become 
receivers, as it were, of stolen goods, well 
knowing them, as Fred would put it, to have 
been stolen.' 



300 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' Tlien Robert will be able to marry the 
girl of Ills choice ! ' exclaimed Sophy, delight- 
edly. ' He will no longer have reason to 
accuse me of having wrecked his happiness.' 

' If it has been wrecked, it must have 
been amply insured,' smiled the Canon, 'to 
judge by his face when I last saw him. He 
has telegraphed for his Alma, who will be at 
" The Laurels " in a week's time.' 

' But I thought you had left " The Laurels " 
— been driven — elsewhere — all through me.' 

' Tut, tut ! let bygones be bygones. Money 
that makes the mare to go has the same effect 
(if judiciously administered) upon a tenant. 
We have gone back to the old house, Sophy, 
and to the old ways ; only one thing is 
wanting, we must have our Sophy back in 
her old home.' 

* No, no, that can never be,' she answered, 
bitterly. ' She can never be your Sophy 
again, the Sophy that you once believed her 
to be.' 



WILLIE'S WILL. 301 

* Well, of course, tliere will be some dif- 
ference, said the Canon, smiling. ^ There's 
the Settiky Trust to be taken into account. 
What does little Willie say to coming down 
with mamma to live with godpapa and Aunt 
Maria ? ' 

' AVillie will come, only Jeannette must 
come too,' said the child, with the air of one 
who confers a favour, upon conditions. 

^ Come, there's judgment without appeal,' 
cried the Canon, exultingly. ' Neither you 
nor I, my dear, require Fred Irton to tell us 
that the Settiky Trust always has everything 
her own way.' 

' Perhaps — in time, dear guardian,' said 
Sophy, hesitatingly. 

Which was a promise. 



302 THE CANON'S WARD. 



CHAPTER LIL 

m PORT. 

When Sophy went down to Cambridge, slie 
was in deep mourning ; but the heaviness of 
heart within her was caused by the sense of 
her own un worthiness, and not by her recent 
loss. The notion that the death even of the 
worst of husbands is a matter of regret is a 
very general one, and is recorded on many 
enduring substances — tombstones. But the 
truth is that there is no relation in life 
which can hold its ground against persistent 
wrong- doing. That of the dead we should 
say nothing but good is an excellent maxim ; 
but, unfortunately, it takes too much for 
granted — namely, that there is some good to 



IN PORT. 305 

say about them. Of John Adair it might, 
indeed, have been stated that he had an ex- 
cellent head ' for figures ; ' but even that 
eulogium, since it included the art of falsify- 
ing accounts, was of a doubtful value. For 
my own part, I never feel the slightest regret 
when offensive persons of my acquaintance 
are removed to another sphere (of course T 
may be mistaken in my estimate of them ; 
but, in that case, it is a consolation to feel 
that they are gone where their merits, which 
escaped my limited observation, will be ap- 
preciated) ; and therefore I cannot blame poor 
Sophy that she felt so little sorrow for her 
bereavement. 

Some distress and pain, however, she did 
feel by reason of the manner of his departure. 
John Adair, it was generally understood, was 
murdered. He Avas found dead under that 
cellar flap in Miller Street ; and 'the theory ' 
of what would have been ' the prosecution,' 
had there been anybody to prosecute, was as 



304 THE CANON'S WARD. 

follows. Mr. Dawson, as lias been mentioned, 
had an establishment in this street, which 
-consisted, however, only of certain under- 
ground premises used for storage — probably 
of stolen goods. When Adair so indiscreetly 
exhibited to him that parcel of bank-notes, 
it came into his mind that he would rather go 
:abroad with ill-gotten gains than with the 
possessor of them, from whose custody he 
might (and doubtless would) have had some 
difficulty in extracting them. With the aid 
of a confederate, he therefore planned a simple 
scheme for acquiring them ; the only thing 
necessary to the success of which was that 
Adair should take the right hand of the 
street. There was no reason, indeed, why he 
should take the left hand ; but if he had 
chanced to cross the road, the scheme would 
have been a failure. In that case, Adair 
would have simply walked down the river 
stairs where the boat was awaiting him ; as 
it was, instead of embarking on the Thames, 
he crossed the Styx. 



IN PORT. 305 

Dawson's confederate on the other side of 
the way was thought to have given some 
signal for the bolt of the cellar trap to be 
withdrawn just as Adair stepped upon it, 
when, as we know, he suddenly disappeared 
from the sight of the detective. At all events, 
he was found there dead, and with only a 
few shillings in his pocket ; and within five 
minutes the boat was hurrymg down the 
stream with six men in her instead of seven. 
I have not a word, of course, of excuse to 
offer for Mr. Dawson. His conduct was un- 
doubtedly reprehensible ; but, on the other 
hand, I have not the faintest sympathy for 
his victim, wdio himself, as we know, would 
have sacrificed an innocent life without much 
scruple. I must confess, indeed, to expe- 
riencing a certain satisfaction when thorough- 
paced rogues fall out and rid the world of 
one another. I fail to be touched with the 
burning indignation with which informers 
are just now regarded. They seem to me 

VOL. HI. X 



3o6 THE CANON'S WARD. 

most useful people. And as for this Mr. 
Dawson — wlio Avill, no doubt, come to be 
hanged in time, with all due propriety — 
in his rough and ready and, so to speak, extra 
judicial fashion, he certainly made life worth 
livinof for some honest folks, to whom it had 
become well-nigh intolerable. 

Sophy was received at ' The Laurels ' with 
open arms, but not at all like a returned 
Prodigal. Matters were made to go on as 
much as possible exactly the same as they 
had been used to do ; those half a dozen 
years of absence and misery were treated as 
though she had been away on a week's visit, 
and was now come home again. So many 
stitches cannot, however, be dropped in the 
web of life without leaving a very ugly hole. 
The contrast between what was and what had 
been was sharp and clear to her, for all their 
care, as a jagged rock against a summer sky. 
Bitterest of all were her reflections upon the 
what might have been. Even for Sophy's 



m PORT. 307 

sake Robert could not conceal his love when 
Alma came — a girl dutiful as beautiful, tender 
as pure, born for the admiration of all, for 
the devotion of one. Xot one spark of 
jealousy of her glowed in Sophy's bosom ; 
but in her supreme happiness she recognised 
all that she herself had so recklessly thrown 
away. She did not envy her as the chosen 
bride of an honourable and worthy young 
fellow — ' all these things had ceased to be ' 
with her as though she was on her dying 
bed, but for the gifts which made her so 
precious in his eyes ; some of these, at least, 
she had had in her own power to bestow, and 
she had flung them into the gutter. Young 
as she still was in years, the joys of youth 
were already over with her ; it was as though 
she belonged to two generations back, and for 
the future could only hope to find her happi- 
ness in the happiness of others. 

And she did find it in them. In whatever 
relation of life she had gone astray, no fault 

X 2 



3o8 THE CANON'-S WARD. 

^\^as ever found in her as a mother — except 
indeed that Mrs. Helford pronounced her to 
be too indulgent, a weakness she called Heaven 
to Avitness she had never given way to in the 
case of her own sainted boy. Even if this 
charge was true, however, no harm came of it ; 
for little Willie not only became in time 
strong and well, but a blessing to all about 
her. With Henny Irton — who, although she 
never bore a child, was a mother to many — 
Willie was the chief of all her favourites. 
Her affection for the little lassie prompted her, 
indeed, to such lengths — such as kidnapping 
and deportation to Maida Yale — that Sophy 
had sometimes to remind her that, after all, 
the child was hers, and to threaten to invoke 
the protection of the law, through Mr. 
Frederic Irton, solicitor ; the fact of Master 
Stevie Helford' s services, however, being 
retained upon Henny's side made the re- 
capture of the Infant always difficult. Willie's 
admiration of him, which was quite recipro- 



IN PORT. 309 

cated, though m a very different fashion, was 
something unique in a young lady of such 
very tender years. Mrs. Helford, however, 
who, to do her justice, was very fond of 
AYilHe, did not think it inexplicable. ' My 
dear Henny,' she would say, ' that little dot 
of Sophy's is a born flirt, like her mother 
before her.' 

In no other respect, however, did Willie 
show the least sign of heredity ; unless, indeed, 
it is maintained by the believers in that 
convenient theory that peculiarities of dis- 
position can be handed down from a godpapa. 
In her dislike to figures and her predilection 
for poetry she resembled the Canon, who 
entertained an extravagant regard for her. 

Sophy's past was never alluded to in her 
presence, not even by Jeannette ; but the 
latter's devotion to her mistress and child (far 
beyond what is usually exhibited even by the 
most faithful of 'retainers') bespoke the re- 
morse she felt for such hand as she had had 



3IO 777^ CANON'S WARD. 

in it. She too has received a lesson which 
renders intrigue and duplicity impossible to 
her for the rest of her days. 

The Canon and Aunt Maria are as reticent 
behind Sophy's back as when her still pretty, 
but sad and sobered, face reminds them of the 
light that has fled from it. Certain painful 
memories can never be dismissed from their 
minds, but their gentle natures shrink from 
the discussion of them. It is not so, of 
course, with the world at large ; and many 
hard things are said of Sophy by those to 
whom the sight of the bruised reed always 
suggests the desire to break it. Her own sex 
(with certain exceptions I need not name) 
are especially hard upon her. 

' You may say what you like, ma'am,' 
said old Dr. Newton, in reply to one of these 
censors ; ' but I maintain that with even an 
average husband that girl would have turned 
out the best of wives, as she is the best of 
mothers.' 



IN PORT. 311 

The character of Mr. John Adair, we may- 
be sure, was handled with still greater freedom ; 
but even he had his apologist. 

'If he hadn't got into bad hands,' Mrs. 
Helford was wont to say (a shibboleth which 
the good lady used with reference to most 
scoundrels, in unconscious extenuation, per- 
haps, of her own sainted offspring) , ' he 
would have been an honour to his profession, 
whatever it was. I am sure, when I first 
knew him, he behaved himself with the 
greatest propriety.' 

To which her son-in-law would reply, with 
an injured air, ' I can only say that the very 
first time I met him he told me one of the 
most ' 

At which point Henny would place her 
damty little palm on her husband's lips, and 
cut short the well-worn accusation. 

Irton always asserts that his wife is the 
only woman in the world who has ever sym- 
pathised with Burns' aspiration, that even 



312 THE CANON'S WARD. 

' auld Hornie ' may somehow or other get out 
of his difficulties, and find all forgotten and 
forgiven ; and, in truth, she is one of the 
tenderest souls that ever ' wore earth about 
her.' 

After Robert's marriage he returned to 
India, from whence, at intervals, two baby 
boys were forwarded to the care of Grandpapa 
and Aunt Maria ; it is needless to say that 
they were received with rapture, but they 
never put little Willie's nose out of joint in 
the affections of the Canon. 

' Boys may come,' he was wont to say, as 
bending over some picture-book together, he 
mingled his silver with her golden hair, ' and 
even girls may come ; but they will never 
come between me and the Settiky Trust.' 

And they never did. 

THE END. 



Spottiswoode & Co., Printei's, New-street Square, London, 



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