Imatges de pÓgina



no longer fitted. We turned, therefore, determined my future destiny, and that for into the wood, the stranger leading the me Accident had ceased and Fatality had horse, and bumping the coucou over the begun ! grass clumps and sand hillocks without mercy. I had leisure to examine him as he walked before us. He was a tall, stiff

CASTAWAY. looking individual, with an exaggeration of military swagger; his hat was set janntily

PORT," &c. &c. on one side, and his hair cropped close, while his moustache was tremendously ex

BOOK III. uberant, which gave a coarse brutality to

CHAPTER III. THE CIPHER TELEGRAM. the expression of his countenance, accord- Sir GEOFFRY was walking in the grounds ing well with the rest of his person. He at Wheatcroft when a fly with Madge and was attired in a tight-fitting coat with low her luggage drove up to the little lodge collar, and his nether garments, of white gates. The old general looked up, and corded stuff, were strapped and tightened recognising the visitor, walked to the door over thick heavy boots. Nothing about of the vehicle and courteously assisted her him betokened the gentleman, and yet his to alight. pretension to military rank was evident. If you are not tired, Mrs. Pickering,” Before I could make up my mind as to said he, “ you may as well let the man go his social position, we had come upon the on with your luggage to the house, while scene of the disaster. A hackney-coach we stroll up there quietly together; it is a was lying on its side, overturned in a beautiful evening, and there are one or two ditch; the coachman was standing by the things which I have to say to you.” horses, which had been anharnessed, and a He spoke to her with doffed hat, and young man was seated amongst the tall holding her hand in his, treating her as he grass and flowers on a rising bank, gazing always treated her, as a lady and his equal on the scene with evident impatience, but in rank. without the smallest endeavour to render Looking at him with the evening sunassistance.

light falling full upon his face, Madge was At the sight of the coucon he arose much struck with the alteration in Sir languidly, and, while his companion settled Geoffry's appearance. His cheeks, never the account, to the evident satisfaction very full

, were now quite hollow ; his lips of the hackney-coachman, he scrambled seemed more tightly set and more rigid into the vehicle, ensconced himself in the even than usual, and there was a strange, corner best shaded by the striped cur- strained, seared look round his eyes. tains, and laid his head backwards, as it “ I shall be delighted to walk with you,” wearied out with the fatigue and exer- said Madge," for I am cramped with long tion he had undergone. The military-look- railway travelling. Has anything haping man, carrying a long green-baize bag pened, Sir Geoffry, during my absence ?" under his arm, stood for a moment upon the she asked, suddenly. iron step, plunging his head into the in- “What could have happened ?” he reterior. Then exclaiming that the smell of plied, turning to her abruptly. “What the new paint, the varnish, and the leather makes you inquire ?” rendered it insupportable, he demanded of “Something in your appearance," she me, somewhat peremptorily I thought, if said ; “ a look of care and anxiety, mingled I would give up my place for an inside with a certain amount of rebellious oppocorner. To this I assented at once, for the sition, which I have never before perceived sun was beginning to dart with a terrible in you. You are not annoyed at my frankglare upon the polished leather of the har- ness, I hope ?” ness, and my eyes were blinded by the “On the contrary, I am gratified at the flashing of the new brass ornaments. So interest you are good enough to take in I cheerfully leaped down from my seat upon me; and more than ever impressed with the swing-board. The stranger thanked the quickness of your perception." me grimly, climbed to my place, laid the “ 'T'hen something has happened ?" long bag of green-baize across his knees "Exactly, something sufficiently diswith the greatest care, pulled up the cor- agreeable. I will tell you about it when ners of his moustache, and set his hat over you have had some refreshment; you must his brow to shade his eyes from the sun; be faint after your long journey." while I jumped lightly into the vehicle, “ I would very much sooner hear it now. little dreaming that this simple action had I had some luncheon at Salisbury; besides, being kept in suspense as to the cause of myself from her and killing her seducer. your annoyance, would quite deprive me of When George Heriot raved before me my any appetite."

heart told me that his conduct was mere Well, then, I will tell you, and do my boyish bravado and unfilial insolence. best to make my story as short as possible. When he came here yesterday -" You have never asked me any particulars “ Did he come here yesterday? Was of my early history, Mrs. Pickering, nor Gerald-George here yesterday?" have I volunteered them to you; but you “He was; and when he stood there know that I have a son—I say you know it, boasting that he had succeeded in what he because on two or three occasions when I had undertaken, and that he had proofs of have expressed myself as to the ingratitude his mother's innocence, my heart told me of children, I have seen your eyes fixed that it was a lie; and that he had returned upon me with that quiet, searching gaze with some trumped-up tale to endeavour to which is peculiar to yourself, and which reinstate himself in


favour." showed me you guessed I was not speaking The general was very hot and very much on a subject of which I had not had ex- flushed when he came to a conclusion. He perience. I have a son

looked towards his companion, as though “Gerald ! I-I mean George.”

expecting her to speak; but finding she “I beg your pardon,” exclaimed the old did not do so, he said, after a pause : gentleman, with surprise, “ your informa- "You are silent, Mrs. Pickering !" tion is more complete than I imagined. “Do you wish me to speak, Sir Geoffry ?" You seem to know my son's name?”

He paused again, and, apparently after “From seeing it subscribed to a few some slight internal struggle, he said: boyish letters, and one or two water-colour “I do, though if I guess rightly, what sketches, which were amongst the papers you have to say will not be quite consonant you bade me empty from the bullock-trunk with my feelings, not quite agreeable for and destroy,” said Madge.

me to hear. Nevertheless, say what you “Quite right, I recollect them,” said the have to say, and I will listen to you: there general. Yes, I have one son, George is no other person in the world from whom Heriot. His mother died when he was a I could take as much." lad. Ten years before her death I sepa- This last sentence was only half heard rated from her, believing her to have been by Madge. She was revolving in her guilty of an intrigue with a man whom I mind whether she should confess to Sir shot; the boy lived with her during her Geoffry her acquaintance with Gerald, and lifetime, but on my return to England I in- | the important part which she had played tended to make him my companion and my in the drama of the boy's life. Her first heir, when by the commission of what I con- idea was to confess all; but when she sider one of the worst of all crimes, an act recollected the old general's infirmity of of cowardice, he forfeited all claim upon temper, she thought that such an admission my affection. I forbade him my house, wonld lead him to look upon her in the telling him at the same time—not mali- light of a partisan, and thus irretrievably ciously, but as an incidental portion of our weaken her advocacy. quarrel with which I need not trouble you “I had no right to speak until requested -the story of his mother's disgrace. The by you to do so, she said ;

" and as you lad declared I had been befooled by my have rightly divined that I do not hold own jealousy and temper, and swore that he with your views in the matter, I would would never rest until he had convinced me willingly have held my peace.

Bidden to of my error, and cleared his mother's name. speak, I tell you frankly, Sir Geoffry, that

“That was good and brave !” said I think you have been wrong from first to Madge. “A lad who could undertake such last. Of course the whole affair, the sepaa championship and in such a spirit could ration from your wife, the disinheriting of be no coward.

your son, all hangs upon the one question “ You think so, said Sir Geoffry, look- of whether Mrs. Heriot were innocent or ing sharply at her.

guilty. You say that you convinced your- . “I am sure of it !” said Madge. “ Ask self before the fulfilment of your revenge; yourself, Sir Geoffry; what does your own but your son declares that he has obtained heart tell you?"

proofs of his mother's innocence. You are My heart tells me what it told me at hasty, Sir Geoffry, apt to jump at conthe time I discovered my wife's intrigue; clusions without due deliberation, impatient that thoroughly well informed as I was of of contradiction, and from what I know of her guilt

, I acted rightly in separating your son, or rather I mean of course from

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what I have heard, and from what I gather Sir Geoffry,” said Madge, with a quiet from your account of him, he would not, I smile. “ You must write to him, and tell imagine, be likely to come forward without him to come here." ample grounds for his assertion.”

“Write to him !” cried the general. “I The general had been pacing slowly by have not the least notion where he lives.”' Madge's side during this colloquy, his “I dare say we can manage to find out,” hands clasped behind him, his head bent said Madge. thoughtfully forward. As she progressed

“It is


to do his face grew dark and stern, and when she anything you wished,” said the general. paused he said:

• However, we will talk this matter over He would come forward for the sake of further; and there is another subject of great getting into my good graces and reinstating importance which I want to discuss with you himself in his position in this house."

later on.

Now let us go into dinner.' “ If he had that object in view, would he The tone of his voice showed that his not have served his purpose better by pre- heart was softened, and Madge was inextending that he had discovered the truth pressibly gratified at the idea that she, of of your story, pleading his mistake, and whom Gerald had once been so fond, and throwing himself on your mercy?” who, as he thought, had treated him so

" He is starved out and forced to capitu- badly, might become the means of his relate; he is at the end of his resources, and instatement in his father's house, and in

comes with the best story he can to his proper position in society. make terms."

The subject was not alluded to by either “ The length of time that has elapsed Sir Geoffry or Madge during the rest of between his enforced departure from his that evening. The short conversation with home and his attempted return to it, im- his housekeeper during their walk in the presses me decidedly in his favour,” said grounds had afforded the old general sufMadge. “During the greater portion of ficient matter for reflection, and he sat this time he has doubtless been occupied in buried in thought, dispensing with the making the research which he says has ter- reading of the newspaper, which he had minated so favourably, and as for his having missed so much during Madge's absence, come to the end of his resources, I ask and which he had intended to resume on you, Sir Geoffry, whether it is likely that her return. Madge herself was thoroughly a young man who has maintained himself, tired out, and at a very early hour the little whether honestly or dishonestly, well or ill

, household was at rest. we know not, but still who has maintained The next morning brought Mr. Drage, himself for such a length of time, is likely who came up brimming over with news of to be at his wit's end in the very flower of the church congress, and intending to his youth ?”

demolish Sir Geoffry in certain theological “You think then I ought to have listened questions over which they were at issue, by to him?"

cunningly devised arguments which had “Unquestionably, for your own sake. If been used in the course of the clerical he had produced the proofs which he stated debate. But finding Mrs. Pickering had himself to possess, the remorse which you returned, and that the general was engaged must have felt would have been tempered out of doors, Mr. Drage availed himself of hy the thought that you had acted in good the opportunity to make his way to the faith, and by the recovery and reinstate- housekeeper's room. There he found ment of

your discarded If he had Madge, and after a few warm greetings on not those proofs, or they were insufficient both sides, received from her a full account to convince you, you would have had the of her memorable visit to Sandown. satisfaction of knowing that you had been Mr. Drage listened with the deepest inright throughout. At present-" terest. Impressed as she was with the

" At present I have only lost my temper, gravity of the crime about to be comand made a fool of myself. That is, I mitted, and its probable consequences to suppose,


would say," said the herself and the wretched woman who was general, looking up rather ruefully at his about to become a participator in it, Madge companion. “So I did, raised the whole could scarcely avoid being amused, as she house, and told Riley to put the boy out. watched the various changes which played But what on earth did you go away for, over Mr. Drage's face during the recital of Mrs. Pickering?


you had been at the story. That such a crime as bigamy home this would not have happened.” had been contemplated was horrifying to

• It will not be difficult to remedy it yet, the simple country clergyman, whose ex


perience of law breaking was derived from “I will not have you talk in that manner, occasional attendance at the magistrates' said Madge, laying her hand lightly on his meetings, where poaching and affiliation arm, and looking up earnestly into his face. cases were the only troubles to the bench. The Reverend Onesiphorus Drage had But that a woman could be found who not for some months past told himself that merely did not shrink from the man who he had conquered his wild absorbing had endeavoured to entrap her into an illegal | love for Mrs. Pickering, and that he only alliance, but actually announced her in- regarded her as a sister. There are so tention of fulfilling the contract and defy- many of us who on certain subjects are ing the world, was entirely beyond Mr. frank and loyal to all others, and eminently Drage's comprehension.

deceitful to ourselves. When the rector “And now you have heard all, and are left Mrs. Pickering's presence, he made his in full possession of each circumstance of way to Sir Geoffry, whom he found still the case as it now stands, what do you engaged in colloquy with the gardener. recommend should be done?” asked Madge. The old general was very pleased to see his

"I confess,” said the rector, with a very clerical friend, shook him warmly by the blank and perplexed look, " that I am quite hand, and promptly declined to enter into unable to advise you. I have never come any of the church-congress questions or across so determined a character as Mr. arguments which Mr. Drage had eagerly Vane appears to be; and this woman seems, submitted to him, alleging that he had from what you say, to be a perfect match for business of more pressing importance, on him. It is, of course, most horrible to have which the rector's advice was required. to sit by and witness an open infraction of Up and down the carriage sweep in front the law, but we have at least the satis- of the house walked the two gentlemen for faction of knowing that we have done our more than an hour; the subject of their best to prevent it, even though the warn- conversation being the same as that which ing was not attended to.”

had occupied the general and Mrs. PickerAs you say, we have done our best, and ing on the previous evening. Even at there it must end. I am heartily sick of greater length than he had spoken to his the trouble and vexation it has caused me. housekeeper, Sir Geoffry explained to his If there bad remained in me one lingering friend the story of his earlier life, the sepaspark of affection for my husband, it would ration from his wife, the duel with Mr. Yeldhave been extinguished by this last and ham, the interview with Gerald when he greatest insult. My pride tells me that I bade the boy renounce his name and his have already proceeded too far in this position, and the recent interview when he matter, and that when he hears what I ordered Riley to turn him from the door. have done, as he will hear, sooner or later, If he had any doubt of the feelings with he will ascribe my actions to my continued which this narrative would have been reattachment to him, and my unwillingness ceived, the behaviour of his companion to see him taken by another woman.” would have soon settled his mind. Mr.

"Your pride may teach you that, but I Drage listened silently to all from the have been reflecting as you spoke,” said commencement of the story until the end. Mr. Drage, “and my conscience teaches | He never made the slightest verbal interme that we should not suffer this sin to be ruption; but as Sir Geoffry proceeded, the committed without one further attempt to rector's head sunk upon his breast, and his preventit. You have seen Mrs. Bendixen, hands, which had been clasped behind him, and she has refused to listen to you. I will at last formed a refuge wherein his agitated go to London and search for Mr. Vane; face was hidden. he is a man of the world, and will more When the story came to an end, there was readily comprehend the difficulties which a long pause, broken by Sir Geoffry's saying: beset him, and the danger in which they “ There is not much need to ask your are liable to result."

opinion of my conduct in this matter, I see “ He is a desperate man,” said Madge, plainly that you are of the same mind as “and one who would flinch from nothing Mrs. Pickering, and consider that I have where his interests were involved or his acted wrongly.' safety at stake. I should dread any meet- “I do," said Mr. Drage, raising his ing between you."

head, "most wrongly, and unlike a parent, “I am grateful for your interest in me,” unlike a Christian, unlike a gentleman!” said the rector, with the hectic flush rising

"Sir!” cried the old general, stopping in his cheek, “but I do not fear much for short in his walk, and glaring fiercely at myself; and even were he to kill me his friend.

“I repeat what I said, Sir Geoffry Heriot, in his most irrational moments. She did and defy you to disprove my words. Was not say this to the rector, with whom she it like a gentleman to watch and spy upon simply condoled, but she felt tolerably the actions of your wife and her partner in certain that the day would not pass over the ball-room; was it like a Christian to without the subject being again broached shoot down this man upon the mere sup- to her by the general. position of his guilt ?"

She was wrong.

In the afternoon she “Shoot him down, sir ?-he had his received a summons to the library, and chance,” cried the general.

found Sir Geoffry awaiting her. “His chance!" echoed the rector, “I will not trouble you to commence severely. “What chance had a dilettante reading just now, Mrs. Pickering,” said he, poet, painter, musician, what not, a lounger as he saw Madge opening the newspapers in drawing-rooms and boudoirs, who pro- which had just arrived from London. bably never had a pistol in his hands in his “ I want to talk to you upon a matter of life? What chance had he against you, a some importance, not quite in your

line trained man of arms ? Was it like a father perhaps, but one in which your strong for you to condemn this lad for keeping the common sense cannot fail to advise me oath which he had sworn to keep at his well and usefully. You have heard me dying mother's bedside; to hunt him from mention my friend Irving ?” your house when he came with his long- “Mr. Irving, of Coombe Park ?” sought proofs of that mother's innocence ?" “ The same; I have told


my long "You are a hard hitter, sir,” said Sir friendship with him, and of his determinaGeoffry, eyeing him sternly. "You don't tion made long ago, and abided by ever spare your adversaries !"

since, to enter into no speculations which “Not when I think that there is a chance I do not approve of. Strange to think of rousing in them a spirit of remorse, or that a man of a City position and financial prompting them to actions of atonement.' knowledge should choose to be governed in

“ Pardon me one moment,' said Sir his investments by an old Indian officer, Geoffry. “Before we talk of remorse and who knows little of money matters, and atonement, I should point out to you that has never been on the Stock Exchange in I am not the only one to blame in this his life ! However, Irving is a Scotchman, question. I am hot-tempered, I allow it. and a great believer in luck; and as the first Nature and the life I have led settled that dabble on which I advised him turned out a for me; but this boy is as hot tempered as lucky hit, he has relied upon me ever since, I am, and has an insolent way with him, and has not done badly on the whole.” which is in the highest degree provoking. "Surely that is a mild way of putting However, we have talked enough on my it,” said Madge. “I think I have heard family matters for the present. Let us go you say that Mr. Irving is one of the richest in and see what Mrs. Pickering has pro- men in England ?” vided for luncheon.”

“So he is; and that is so well known The rector knew his friend's peculiarities that the mere advertisement of his name is too well to attempt to renew the conversa- a mine of wealth to any affair with which tion at that time, and silently followed him he may happen to be connected, such coninto the house.

fidence does it inspire. Rich as he is, Before he went away the rector found though, he still likes making the money, an opportunity of telling Mrs. Pickering still takes a pleasure in adding to his heap, the subject of the conversation he had had crescit amor nummi-what was it we used with Sir Geoffry, and spoke earnestly about to say at school? Irving has been specuits unsatisfactory termination.

lating very little lately; indeed, I began to Mr. Drage imagined from Sir Geoffry's fancy that he had given it up altogether. tone, and from the abrupt manner in which But of late I have had several letters from he had brought the discussion to a close, him, each increasing in warmth and keenthat he was still highly incensed against ness about a certain mining company his son; but Madge was much more called the Terra del Fuegos, in which he is sanguine on being able to bring Gerald half persuaded to embark.” back to his proper place in his father's "The Terra del Fuegos?" repeated Madge. heart. She knew that, however harsh and “ That is the name. Surely, Mrs. Pickercurt the general's manner might be to Mr. ing,” said the old general, jocularly, “ you Drage, or to any other of his friends, she are not a shareholder in that promising had a mollifying power over him, which, undertaking ?” duly exercised, never failed to soothe him “No,” said she, “and yet the name

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