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THE CANON'S WARD
NEW NOVELS AT EVERY LIBRARY.
MAID OF ATHENS. By Justin McCarthy, M.P.
ALL IN A GARDEN FAIR. By Walter Besant.
THE LAND-LEAGUERS. By Anthony Trollope.
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THE FOREIGNERS. By E. C. Price. 3 vols.
lONE. By E. Lynn Linton. 3 vols.
BEATRIX RANDOLPH. By Julian Hawthorne.
THE CANON'S WARD. By James Payn. 3 vols.
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THE CANON'S WARD
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LONDON : PRINTED BY
SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
AND PARLIAMENT STREET
THE THIRD VOLUME.
XXXVI. THE THUNDERBOLT .
XXXVII. RESIGNATION .
XXXVIII. IN CONSULTATION
XXXIX. THE REVELATION
XL. THE WITNESS
XLI. JEANNETTE CONFESSES
XLIII. ON THE TRAIL
XLIV. HOME AGAIN
XLV. ILL IN COLLEGE
xLvi. sophy's letter
XLVII. THE LAST INTERVIEW
XLIX. THE FLIGHT .
L. THE CONFEDERATES .
LI. Willie's will
LII. IN PORT .
THE CANON'S WARD.
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.'
' 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
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
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
' 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 ^
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
'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 '
' 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
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
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
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
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
' 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
' 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
' 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
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-
' 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
' 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
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
' 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
' It is not exactly business which has
annoyed me : I am sorry to say I found
domestic matters in Albany Street not at all
^ Is little Willie worse?' put in Miss
' 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
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
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
' 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
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-
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
^ 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
' 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
' 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
' 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
' 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
THE THUNDERBOLT. 41
' From F. Irton, London, to Canon
Aldred, Trinity College.
' I shall be at your college rooms at five
42 THE CANON'S WARD.
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
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
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
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
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
' 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
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
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
' I believe I never stood in greater need
of one,' was his earnest reply. ' This is the
communication received this moi-nino- which
48 THE CANON'S WARD.
has caused me to put you to so much incon-
venience ; ' and he placed in his hands the
' 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
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
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
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
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
^ 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
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
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-
' 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 ? 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
' 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
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,
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
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
58 THE CANON'S WARD,
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
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
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,
^ 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
' Yes ; I felt that I could not advise you
to that step,' answered the lawyer ; ' more-
over, it would have been humiliation in
' 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
' 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,
' 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
^ 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
' 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,'
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
' 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
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
' 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.
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
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.'
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
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
' 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,
' 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
' 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^
' 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
'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
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
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-
' 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 ! ' 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
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
' 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 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
' 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.
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
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
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
' 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
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
' 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
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
^ 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
' 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
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
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
' You are very kind, Dr. Newton ; I am
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
' 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
' 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
^ 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,
' 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-
I04 THE CANON'S WARD.
^ What is the matter ? ' whispered Ste-
vie, looking out from his place of conceal-
' 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
^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
It is probable that Jeannette did not in
reality apprehend this wholesale slaughter ;
her object was to make sure of the boy's
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
'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
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
^ 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
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.
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
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,
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-
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
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,
' 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,
'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
' 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-
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-
' 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
Here the clock on the mantelpiece struck
' I must be going,' said Jeannette, rising ;
* if my master comes back and finds me away
from home — and especially here — he will
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-
' No, but it was very well understood be-
' Still you have no evidence that he knew
' 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
^ Is Ihat letter — Adair's letter — in ex-
istence ? '
' I think it is.'
' I will give fifty pounds for a sight of
' 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.
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
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
^ 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
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
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
' 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
' And a very pleasant music it would make/
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 ? 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-
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
' Well ; what's the noose? ' inquired his
more illiterate companion.
' None. There are no quotations yet, of
' 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.,
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
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
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
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
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-
' I owe yon an apology, Mr. Irton,' he
^ 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
Henny was in the passage again in an
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-
' Yes ; I am come on short leave instead
of long ; but I could not leave him to bear his
' 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-
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
' 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
he's approaching a crisis — probably a very
' He can't do my poor father any more
harm ; that's one comfort,' observed Robert,
' 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
' 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
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-
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,
' 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
' 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
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
' You are an uncommonly sensible young
fellow, Robert,' exclaimed Frederic. ' Excuse
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.'
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
' It is the child,' said Henny, gently.
' She might bear it for herself, but there is the
' 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
' 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
' 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,
' 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,
' 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
• 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
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
' 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.
^ 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,
^ Yes ; tbere is a difference tbere,' an-
swered ber busband, sobered in an instant,
^ Tbis buman ti2:er must fall witbout bis
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
Oh, unexpected stroke (was his reflection), worse than
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
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
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-
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
' 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
' 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
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
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
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
* 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
' 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
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
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
^ 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.
i8o THE CANON'S WARD.
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
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
' 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
' I will certainly stop, if it will do no
' 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
'Is your name Adair?' whispered the
' No, sir,' said Robert,' rising softly and
approaching the bed. ' My name is Aldred.
I am the son of your old friend the
' Why are you so black, then, like the
' 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
' Because he was in trouble ? '
' Why, yes. It struck me that I might
be, if not of service, at least of some comfort
' 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
* 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
^ 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
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-
' 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
' 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
* 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
' 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
' 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
' 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
* 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
' 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
' 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
' The one that is like me,' murmured
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.
[96 THE CAjSiON'S WARD.
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
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
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
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}^
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
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
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
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
Adair's thin face, behind him, grew pale
' 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
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,
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
' 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
'Do you understand me, madam?' he
* 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
Across Sophy's face flitted the distorted
shadow of a smile. He noticed it, and frowned
' 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
'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.
228 THE CANON'S WARD.
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
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
' 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
' 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
' 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
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
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-
' 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.
' Good heavens I Irton ; it is the man
' 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
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
' Indeed ! I do not confess it, but I admit
that you should be a good judge of what is
' 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
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
' 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
' 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
dorocstic affairs/ answered the other, scorn-
^ 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
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-
* Jeannette was below with the rest,' he
murmured, after a long pause.
' 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
Again the dry lips moved, but without
speech ; he bowed his head, however, in token
' Have you money — money, I mean,
sufficient to take you across the Channel?'
Adair lifted a trembling hand and touched
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
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
' How abject he looked, Irton ! I never
saw conscious guilt put on so debased a
' 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
VOL. III. R
242 THE CANON'S WARD.
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
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
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
To anyone who knew Jeannette and the
feelings which animated her with respect to
her employer, this alternative seemed im-
' 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
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
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-
' 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
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
^ 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-
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
' 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
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
' 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
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
' 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
' Hush ! hush ! you must not kneel to me,'
interrupted Sophy, greatly agitated. ' If I
have anything to forgive you, of course it is
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
264 THE CANON'S WARD.
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
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-
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
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
He found Dawson awaiting him in a
bow-windowed room looking on the river,
smoking a pipe, and drinking hot brandy-
^ 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
' 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
' 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
' I have money enough for both of us for
a month or two,' said Adair, with a flush on
' 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
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
' 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
' 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
' 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
* 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
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
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.
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
' 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
^ 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
' 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
' 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
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
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
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
' 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,
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
^ 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
^ 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,,
' 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
' 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
' 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
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
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
Which was a promise.
302 THE CANON'S WARD.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Spottiswoode & Co., Printei's, New-street Square, London,
UNIVERSITY OP ILLINOIS-URBANA
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