« PreviousContinue »
thought the Attorney, as he descended one of his French words, and prothe road to Gylingden; “but she'll nounced by him with his usual accube precious sober by to-morrow morn racy, precisely as it is spelt)-a ing-and I venture to say we shall pleasantecclaircisement whenever that hear nothing more of that scheme of London excursion and its creditable hers. A reputable inmate, truly, and circumstances come to light !" a pleasant ecclaircisement (this was
IN WHICH DAMR DUTTON IS VISITED.
DULY next morning the rosy-fingered corner, however, when he popped his Aurora drew the gold and crimson head to the front and changed the curtains of the east, and the splen- direction. dorous Apollo stepping forth from his He looked at his watch. He had chamber, took the reins of his un- quite time to make his visit, and save rivalled team, and driving four-in- the down-train after. hand through the sky, like a great He did not know the city well. swell as he is, took small. note of the Many men who lived two hundred staring huxters and publicans by the miles away, and made a flying visit road-side, and sublimely overlooked only once in three years, knew it a the footsore and ragged pedestrians great deal better than the Londonthat crawl beneath his level. It was, bred rake who had lived in the westin fact, one of those brisk and bright end all his days. mornings which proclaim a universal Captain Lake looked peevish and cheerfulness, and mock the miseries dangerous, as he always did, when he of those dismal wayfarers of life, to was anxious. In fact he did not whom returning light is a renewal of know what the next ten minutes sorrow, who bowing toward the earth might bring him. He was thinking resume the despairing march, and what had best be done in any and limp and groan under heavy burdens, every contingency. Was he still until darkness, welcome, comes again, abroad, or had he arrived; was he and their eyelids drop, and they lie in Shive’s-court, or cursed luck! had down with their loads on, looking up he crossed him yesterday by the a silent supplication, and wishing down-train, and was he by this time that death would touch their eyelids closeted with Larkin in The Lodge ? in their sleep, and their journey end Lake, so to speak, stood at his wicket, where they lie.
and that accomplished bowler, ForCaptain Lake was in London this tune, ball in hand, at the other end; morning. We know he came about will it be swift round-hand, or a slow electioneering matters; but he had twister, or a shooter, or a lob, eye and not yet seen Leverett. Perhaps on hand, foot and bat, he must stand second thoughts he rightly judged tense, yet flexible, lithe and swift as that Leverett knew no more than he lightning, ready for everything, cut, did of the matter. It depended on block, slip, or hit to leg. It was the issue of the great debate that was not altogether pleasant. The stakes drawing nigh. The minister himself were enormous ; and the suspense by could not tell whether the dissolution no means conducive to temper. was at hand; and could no more post Lake fancied that the man was pone it, when the time came, than he driving wrong, once or twice, and was could adjourn an eclipse.
on the point of cursing him to that Notwithstanding the late whist effect, from the window. But at last, party of the previous night, the gal- with an anxious throb at his heart, he Iant Captain made a very early toilet. recognised the dingy archway, and With his little bag in his hand, he the cracked brown marble tablet over went down stairs, thinking unplea- the keystone, and he recognised santly, I believe, and jumped into the Shive’s-court. Hansom that awaited him at the So forth jumped the Captain, so door, telling the man to go the far relieved, and glided into the din station. They had hardly turned the quadrangle, with its square of smoky
sky overhead; and the prattle of chil- him-perhaps worse. He hated that dren playing on the flags, and the sly, double-dealing reptile of prey scrape of a violin from a window, the Arachnida of social nature-the were in his ears, but as it were un- spiders with which also naturalists heard. He was looking up at a win- place the scorpions. I dare say Mr. dow, with a couple of sooty scarlet Larkin would have had as little diffigeraniums in it. This was the court culty in referring the gallant Captain where Dame Dutton dwelt. He to the same family. glided up her narrow stair and let While Stanley Lake is thus scanhimself in by a latch; and with his ning the shabby, but dangerous image cane made a smacking like a harle- of the Attorney in the magic mirror quin's sword upon the old woman's before him, that eminent limb of the deal table, crying : “Mrs. Dutton; law was not inactive in the quiet Mrs. Dutton. Is Mrs. Dutton at town of Gylingden. Under ordinary home ?”
circumstances his “pride” would have The old lady, who was a laundress, condemned the Vicar to a direful entered, in a short blue cotton wrap term of suspense, and he certainly per, wiping the suds from her shrunk- would not have knocked at the door en but sinewy arms with her apron, of the pretty little gabled house at the and on seeing the Captain, her coun: Dollington end of the town for many tenance, which was threatening, be- days to come. The Vicar would have came very reverential, indeed. had to seek out the Attorney, to lie "How d’ye do, Mrs. Dutton ?” in wait for and to woo him. Quite well.”
But Jos Larkin's pride, like all his Have you heard lately from Jim?” other passions --except his weakness “No!"
for the precious metals-was under “You'll see him soon, however, proper regulation. Jim Dutton might and give him this note, d'ye see, and arrive at any moment, and it would tell him I was here, 'asking about not do to risk his publishing the you and him, and very well, and glad melancholy intelligence of Mark Wylif I can serve him again; don't forget der's death before the transfer of the that, very glad. Where will you keep Vicar's reversion; and to prevent that note? Oh! your tea-caddy, not that risk the utmost promptitude was a bad safe; and see, give him this, it's indispensable. five pounds; you won't forget ; and At nine o'clock, therefore, he preyou want a new gown, Mrs. Dutton. sented himself, attended by his legal I'd choose it myself, only I'm such a hench-men as before. bad judge ; but you'll choose it for “Another man might not have me, won't you ? and let me see it on come here, Mr. Wylder, until his preyou when next I come,” and with a sence had been specially invited, after courtesy, and a great beaming smile the-the---” when he came to define on her hot face, she accepted the five- the offence it was not very easy to do so, pound note, which he placed in hin inasmuch as it consisted in the Vicar's hand.
having unconsciously very nearly esIn another moment the Captain caped from his fangs; “but let that was gone. He had just time to swal- pass. I have had, I grieve to say, by low a cup of coffee at the terminus- this morning's post a most serious hotel, and was gliding away towards letter from London,” the Attorney the distant walls of Brandon Hall. shook his head, while searching his
He had a coupee all to himself. But pocket. “I'll read just a passage or he did not care for the prospect. He two if you'll permit me; it comes from saw Lawyer Larkin, as it were, re- Burlington and Smith. I protest I flected in the plate-glass, with his have forgot it at home; however, I hollow smile and hungry eyes before may mention, that in consequence of him, knowing more than he should the letter you authorized me to write, do, paying him compliments, and and guaranteed by your bond, on plotting his ruin.
which they have entered judgment, "Everything would have been they have gone to the entire expense quite smooth only for that d of drawing the deeds, and investigatfeilow. The devil fixed him precisely ing title, and they say that the purthere for the express purpose of fleec- chaser will positively be off, unless ing and watching, and threatening the articles are in their office by
twelve o'clock to-morrow; and, I turn flushed and very much elated, grieve to say, they add, that in the congratulated the poor Vicar on his event of the thing falling through, emancipation from his difficulties; they will issue execution for the and “now that it was all done and amount of their costs, which as I an- over, told him, what he had never ticipated, a good deal exceeds four told him before, that, considering the hundred pounds. I have, therefore, nature of the purchase, he had got a my dear Mr. Wylder, casting aside all splendid price for it. unpleasant feeling, called to entreat The good man had also his agreeyou to end and determine any hesita- ment from Lake to sell Five Oaks, tion you may have felt, and to execute and that was in such a shape that he without one moment's delay the arti- could recede from the purchase, in cles which are prepared, and which the event of its turning out to be must be in the post-office within half true, as he felt unaccountably certain an hour.”
it would, that Mark Wylder was Then Mr. Jos Larkin entered actually dead. pointedly and briefly into Miss Lake's The position of the good Attorney, offer, which he characterized as therefore, in a commercial point of “wholly nugatory, illusory, and chi- view, was eminently healthy and conmerical;” told him he had spoken on venient. For less than half of the the subject, yesterday evening, to the value of Five Oaks alone, he was young lady, who now saw plainly that getting that estate, and a vastly there really was nothing in it, and that greater one beside, to be succeeded to she was not in a position to carry out on Mark Wylder's death. that part of her proposition which No wonder, then, that the good contemplated a residence in the Vicar's Attorney was more than usually bland family.
and happy that day. He saw the This portion of his discourse he pork-butcher in his back-parlour, and dismissed rather slightly and myste- had a few words to say about the riously; but he contrived to leave chapel-trust, and his looks and talk upon the Vicar's mind a very painful were quite edifying. He met two and awful sort of uncertainty respect- little children in the street, and ing the young lady of whom he spoke. stopped and smiled as he stooped
Then he became eloquent on the down to pat them on the heads, and madness of further indecision in a ask them whose children they were, state of things so fearfully menacing, and gave one of them a halfpenny. freely admitting that it would have And he sat afterwards, for nearly ten been incomparably better for the minutes, with lean old Mrs. Mullock Vicar never to have moved in the in her little shop, where taffey, toys, matter, than, having put his hand to and penny-books for young people the plough, to look back, as he had were sold, together with baskets, teabeen doing. If he declined his ad- rips, straw-mats, and other adult vice, there was no more to be said, tie; and he was so friendly and but to bow his head to the storm, talked so beautifully, and although, and that ponderous execution would as he admitted in his lofty, way, descend in wreck and desolation. “there might be differences in for
So the Vicar, very much flushed, tune and position,” yet were we not in panic and perplexity, and trusting all members of one body? And he wildly to his protesting lawyer's talked upon this theme till the good guidance, submitted. Buggs and the lady, marvelling how so great a man bilious youngster entered with the could be so humble, was called to the deed, and the articles were duly exe- receipt of custom, on the subject of cuted ; and the Vicar signed also a “paradise" and "lemon-drops," and receipt for the fanciful part of the the heavenly-minded Attorney, with consideration, and upon it and the a celestial condescension, recognised deed he endorsed a solemn promise, his two little acquaintances of the in the terms I have mentioned before, street, and actually adding another that he would never take any step halfpenny to his bounty-escaped, to question, set aside, or disturb the with a hasty farewell and a smile, to purchase, or any matter connected the street, as eager to escape the therewith.
thanks of the little people, and the · Then the Attorney, now in his admiration of Mrs. Mullock.
It is not to be supposed, that hav- return, and particularly requesting ing got one momentous matter well that he would kindly abstain from off his mind, the good Attorney was mentioning to any one, during his to be long rid of anxieties. The absence, any matter he might intend human mind is fertile in that sort of to communicate to him in his profesgrowth. As well might the gentle- sional capacity or otherwise.” man who shaves suppose, as his fin This, of course, was a little critical, gers glide, after the operation, over and made his to-morrow's journey to the polished surface of his chin, London a rather anxious prospect. factus ad unguem-that he may fling In the meantime our friend, Caphis brush and strop into the fire, and tain Lake, arrived in a hired fly, with bury his razor certain fathoms in his light baggage, at the door of stately the earth. No! One crop of cares Brandon. So soon as the dust and will always succeed another--not very ashes of railway travel were removed, oppressive, nor in any wise grand the pale Captain, in changed attire, perhaps—worries, simply, no more ; snowy cambric, and with perfumed but needing a modicum of lather, hair and handkerchief, presented the looking-glass, the strop, the dili- himself before Dorcas. gent razor, delicate manipulation, Now, Dorkie, darling, the poor and stealing a portion of our precious soldier has come back, resolved to time every day we live; and this turn over a new leaf, and never more must go on so long as the state of to reserve another semblance of a man is imperfect, and plenty of possi- secret from you,” said he, so soon as ble evil in futurity.
his first greeting was over. “I long The Attorney must run up to Lon- to have a good talk with you, Dorkie. don for a day or two. What if that I have no one on earth to confide in mysterious, and almost illegible brute, but you. I think,” he said, with a James Dutton, should arrive while little sigh, “I would never have been he was away. Very unpleasant, pos- so reserved with you, darling, if I sibly! For the Attorney intended had had anything pleasant to confide ; to keep that gentleman very quiet. but all I have to say is triste and tireSufficient time must be allowed to some-only a story of difficulties and intervene to disconnect the purchase petty vexations. I want to talk to of the Vicar's remainder from the you, Dorkie. Where shall it be?" news of Mark Wylder's demise. A They were in the great drawingyear and a-half, maybe, or possibly a room, where I had first seen Dorcas year might do. For if the good Brandon and Rachel Lake, on the Attorney was cautious, he was also evening on which my acquaintance greedy, and would take possession as with the princely Hall was renewed, early as was safe. Therefore arrange- after an interval of so many years. ments were carefully adjusted to de “This room, Stanley, dear ?" tain that important person, in the “Yes, this room will answer very event of his arriving; and a note, in well,” he said, looking round. the good Attorney's hand, inviting can't be overheard, it is so large. him to remain at The Lodge till his very well, darling, listen.”
THE CAPTAIN EXPLAINS WHY MARK WYLDER ABSCONDED.
“ How delicious these violets are!" upon my honour, what Rachel has said Stanley, leaning for a moment been worrying me about.” over the fragrant purple dome that Dorcas sate beside him on the sofa, crowned a china stand on the marble and he placed his slender arm affectable they were passing. “You love tionately round her waist. flowers, Dorkie. Every perfect wo “ You must know, Dorkie, that beman is, I think, a sister of Flora's. fore his sudden departure, Mark You are looking pale-you have not Wylder promised to lend William, been ill? No! I'm very glad you his brother, a sum sufficient to resay so. Sit down for a moment and lieve him of all his pressing debts.” listen, darling. And first I'll tell you, “Debts! I never knew before that
he had any,” exclaimed Dorcas. He might well ask, for she ap“ Poor William ! I am so sorry. peared on the point of fainting.
“Well, he has, like other fellows, Dorcas had read and heard stories only he can't get away as easily, and of men seemingly no worse than their he has been very much pressed since neighbours—nay, highly esteemed, Mark went, for he has not yet lent and praised, and liked-who yet him a guinea, and in fact Rachel says were haunted by evil men, who enshe thinks he is in danger of being countered them in lonely places, or regularly sold out. She does not say by night, and controlled them by the she knows it, but only that she sus- knowledge of some dreadful crime. pects they are in a great fix about Was Stanley--her husband-whose morey.
character she had begun to discern, “Well, you must know that I was whose habitual mystery was, somethe sole cause of Mark Wylder's how, tinged in her mind with a shade leaving the country.”
of horror, one of this two-faced, “ You, Stanley !!
diabolical order of heroes ? “Yes, 1, Dorkie. I believe I thought Why should he dread this cabal, as I was doing a duty ; but really I was he called it, even though directed by nearly mad with jealousy, and simply the malignant energy of the absent doing my utmost to drive a rival from and shadowy Mark Wylder ? What your presence. And yet, without hope could all the world do to harm him for myself, desperately in love." in free England, if he were innocent,
Dorcas looked down and smiled if he were what he had seemed-no oddly ; it was a sad and bitter smile, worse than his social peers ? and seemed to ask whither has that Why should it be necessary to buy desperate love, in so short a time, off the conspirators whom a guiltless flown?
man would defy and punish ? “I know I was right. He was a The doubt did not come in these stained man, and was liable at any defined shapes. As a halo surrounds moment to be branded. It was vil- a saint, a shadow rose suddenly, and lanous in him to seek to marry you. enveloped pale, scented, smiling I told him at last that, unless he Stanley, with the yellow eyes. He withdrew, your friends should know stood in the centre of a dreadful meall. I expected he would show fight, dium, through which she saw him, and that a meeting would follow ; ambiguous and awful; and she and I really did not much care sickened. whether I were killed or not. But he “Are you ill, Dorkie, darling ?” said went, on the contrary, rather quietly, the apparition, in accents of tenderthreatening to pay me off, however, ness. “Yes, you are ill.” though he did not say how. He's And he hastily threw open the wina cunning dog, and not very soft- dow, close to which they were sitting, hearted ; and has no more consci- and she quickly revived in the cooling ence than that," and he touched his air. finger to the cold summit of a marble She saw his yellow eyes fixed upon bust.
her features, and his face wearing an “He is palpably machinating some- odd expression -was it interest, or thing to my destruction with an in- tenderness, or only scrutiny; to her fluential attorney on whom I keep a there seemed a light of insincerity watch, and he has got some fellow and cruelty in its pallor. named Dutton into the conspiracy; “You are better, darling; thank and not knowing how they mean to heaven, you are better.” act, and only knowing how utterly “Yes--yes-a great deal better; wicked, cunning, and bloody-minded it is passing away. he is, and that he hates me as he Her colour was returning, and with probably never hated any one before, a shivering sigh, she saidI must be prepared to meet him, and, “Oh! Štanley, you must speak if possible, to blow up that satanic truth ; I am your wife.
Do they cabal, which without money I can't. know anything very bad-are you in It was partly a mystification about their power ?' the election, of course, it will be ex “Why, my dearest, what on earth pensive, but nothing like the other. could put such a wild fancy in your Are you ill, Dorkie ?”
head ?" said Lake, with a strange